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Velvet Cruelty WHOLE CHAPTER excerpt!

For anyone curious about my modern-day Snow White novel here's an entire chapter of Velvet Cruelty! Come meet my four twisted heroes. and my sweet girl, January Whitehall...


Chapter 3


January is balled up on Morelli’s dark red carpet, still unconscious from her sleeper injection. I lean against the banister of the main staircase, waiting for her to wake up. I’ve heard all brides are beautiful on their wedding day, but she’s a pretty little thing. She reminds me of a colt, all legs and lashes and long, dark mane. And those tits… Mama Whitehall did a good job hiding them away. My eyes almost fell out of my head when the brat walked down the aisle toward me.

A moan falls from her red lips. Even twitching on the carpet, she looks too pure to exist. Like she’s been kissed by angels. It makes a man want to violate her. Or at least it makes me want to do that.

On the other side of the room, her useless bodyguard is still out cold. He didn’t get a sleeper injection; Adriano just kicked him in the head. I would have slit his throat and pushed him out of the van, but Morelli wants him alive for now.

“Mmmmff.” The brat turns over, her fingers contracting like kitten claws. Her eyes flick open. They’re green. Not psycho green like Adriano. Pale green with a dark ring. The kind that make you think of Irish hills and secret gardens. I push myself off the banister. “Evening, Tits.”

January squints at me. “Father Monastero?”

I grin. When we got home, I changed into black jeans and a T-shirt. I’d have kept the priest robes on but Morelli told me to quit showing off. “Not a real priest, dipshit.”

Her lower lip trembles and I watch as today’s events replay in her brain. She touches the side of her neck. “You drugged me.”

“I did.” The needle pierced her so easily. I’ll never get over how simple humans are to penetrate. How quickly you can turn the living into the dead.

January sits up, her wedding dress spread around her like a white puddle. Her eyes scan the entrance hall, lingering on the oil paintings and the fire roaring away in the corner. “Where am I?”

I yawn pointedly. The kidnapped are so fucking boring. ‘Why am I here?’ ‘Please let me go?’ ‘I have a family…’ Things won’t get fun again until the others are back downstairs.

“Mr…” She blinks at me. “I don’t know your name?”

“You can call me Doc.”

“Doc, can you please let me go?”

With a sigh, I pull my butterfly knife from my pocket and flick out the blade. “What was that?”

She shuts up.

I pick my thumbnail with the point. There’s a little blood under the nail. Not from today. Probably from when Adriano and I worked over Nicci Fattore. I wish I’d cut Parker, sliced his eyelid, or taken a finger. But I did tongue his virgin bride and Adri pissed in his face. We have plenty of time to make the ugly fuck pay.

I can feel the brat watching me. I count the seconds until she asks another stupid question. One, two, three—

“What are you going to do to me?” Her voice is clear but there’s a little wobble at the edges. She’s a minute from tears, max. “Can you please tell me where I am?”

“Stop talking.”

“Please just… Why is this happening?”

“Tesorina, I don’t know why you think I carry a knife, but keep talking and I’ll bleed you all over the carpet.”

Her mouth snaps closed, and she starts whimpering into her hands like a bunny. I like when girls cry, but she’s not doing it properly. She’s sniffling like a five-year-old who lost her teddy bear.

I groan at the molded ceiling. “Fucking hell, can you quit your whining?”

She looks up at me. She’s even paler now—and she didn’t have a lot of color to lose. She looks half-dead. But then maybe she’ll be entirely dead by the end of the night. That’s Morelli’s call.

“How many people died?”

I frown. “The fuck do you mean?”

“The explosions. How many people died? Do you know?”

I lower my knife. I could tell her that her whole family’s dead, but looking at her grey complexion, the news might kill her, and then I’d be in the shit. “No one died, Tits.”

“But… the explosions?”

“C4 down in the sewers. So, I guess some NYC plumbing died. You gonna cry about it?”

January stares into the middle distance. “Everyone’s safe?”

“Yup. You’re the only person who got fucked over in this arrangement.”

“Oh.”

I expect her to start bawling, but she just blinks rapidly. “So, are you really a doctor?”

I stare at her. For a girl with unicorn stickers on the back of her phone, I wasn’t expecting this much backchat. “Does it matter if I’m really a doctor?”

“I… No. I just don’t know what to call you.”

I grab the front of my jeans. “You can use Father Monastero, if you want. That got me hard.”

She flinches. “I don’t…”

I laugh. “Or you can keep playing innocent, lurida sgualdrina. That gets me hard too.”

“I’m not a whore.” Her eyes widen and she claps a hand to her mouth.

For a second, I don’t understand, then it clicks. “You speak Italian?”

She shakes her head.

“You speak Italian,” I repeat more to myself. “Capisci cosa ti sto dicendo, vero?”

She keeps shaking her head, but I can see the comprehension in her eyes. I swear under my breath. How could we have missed this? She’s Anglo. Her whole family is Anglo. Mentally scanning our plans, her speaking Italian doesn’t change anything, but how did we miss it? “Who taught you Italian?”

She shoves herself backward on the carpet. “No one.”

I point the blade at her. “Who. Taught you. How to speak. Italian?”

“My Zia.”

“Your Zia?”

“She’s not really my auntie. She’s my housekeeper. My nanny. She’s lived with me my whole life. I call her Zia Teresa.”

There was an old woman around the house, but neither of us gave her a second thought. “Dyed hair? Smokes cigs?”

January blinks rapidly. “Yes. How—”

“This old girl taught you how to say, ‘filthy whore?’”

“No. Our gardeners… they were Sicilian. I used to overhear them sometimes.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. Sicilians are swine.”

A small smile creases her mouth.

“What?” I ask.

“Why do all other Italians hate Sicilians?”

She’s trying to be funny. Sweet. I drop to my heels beside her and flip the knife over my knuckles. Her eyes go glassy. Better. I jerk my head at the blackened windows. “It’s dark now, Tits. If you’d stayed at your wedding, you’d be married. Eating crab while Zachery Parker gropes your thighs under the table.”

She swallows, her eyes fixed on the blade. “I… I guess.”

“I know. And in a few more hours, you’d be on your way to the Ritz-Carlton to suck your ugly husband’s cock. Do think Parker’d fuck you like a dog the first time? Bend you over and nail you from behind?”

Her gaze skids away, coming to rest on the wall behind me.

“No, he’d want to see that perfect rack. But then he’d only last thirty seconds.”

I can almost see her thinking ‘don’t let him upset you.’ I laugh. I could tear her apart and watch her piece herself together again all night long. “You’re in luck, Tits. All four of us are better-looking than Parker and we all know how to make it last hours.”

Her ruby red lips tremble. I remember pressing my mouth to them at the cathedral. I was mostly focused on Parker, but it was a sweet kiss. Sugary. She didn’t want to like it, but she couldn’t help herself. I bet she’s the kind of girl who soaks her underwear while you’re making out. “When I stuck my tongue down your throat at the cathedral, was that your first kiss?”

She blinks her doe eyes at me. “I… What?”

“Was it your first kiss? Or did you practice with the girls at school?”

Her mouth twitches and I know she wants to tell me I’m disgusting. My cock thickens in my jeans. I lift the knife, examining the point again. “Tesorina, if you don’t tell me about your first kiss, I’ll give you another one. And this time I’ll bite.”

She shudders. “It was my first kiss.”

“Glad to hear it. I know Tweedledee and Tweedledum didn’t let anything with a cock within ten feet of you, but there’s always a chance someone slipped under the ropes.”

Redness rushes into her pale cheeks. I want to make her cry and then eat her pussy. Listen to her sob while she comes all over my face…

“Mr. Parker never kissed me,” she whispers. “He was a gentleman.”

“He was a weirdo playing fucked up games with his cock.”

Her face registers only confusion. Fucking virgins. “He was edging himself. Waiting for you to grow up. Fantasizing over your jailbait pussy like it’s an apple getting ripe enough to eat. He’s a freak.”

She shakes her head, dark curls whipping around her shoulders. “You’re a psycho.”

I roll my tongue across the inside of my cheek and grin. “Yeah, but I’d never piss ten years away waiting for a girl to get legal. Now you’re eighteen, I don’t plan on waiting ‘till the end of tonight.”

“Please leave me alone,” she whispers, beautiful tears collecting in her eyes.

I look up the stairs. Where the fuck are the others? I was planning on saving this bombshell until my brothers were around but they’re taking too fucking long. For years I’ve watched this brat float around with her head in the clouds. Pearl earrings; summers in Paris; parties with nine different fucking birthday cakes. She’s a spoiled bitch. Already crying when nothing’s happened yet. She’s not cut or shot or getting it in all three holes.

I get to my feet. “Quick question. Do you think the first time I saw you was when you met with the Archbishop for marriage counseling?”

Her hand jumps to her throat. “What do you…?”

“If I could extort my way into being the priest at your fucking wedding, who do you think you’ve been confessing your boring, petty sins to?”

Horror stretches across her face. “No, you can’t…”

“I can’t?” I tap my chest. “I dunno. Do you have a weird thing about secretly eating tiramisu that you feel the need to tell priests about?”

She throws herself on the carpet and resumes her silent snuffling. My enjoyment is slightly deprived by realizing I should have put two and two together about the Italian housekeeper. This bitch had way too much access to tiramisu.

“Doc?”

Basher bounces downstairs, buttoning the sleeve of his navy shirt. He reeks of Tom Ford and his dark hair is ruffled with wax. I know exactly what he’s doing. “Dressing up for the little brat?”

Basher looks pointedly at my bare feet. “You know you’re not seventeen, right?”

“You know you’re not the bass player in a Midwestern wedding band, right?”

Basher rolls his eyes. “At least you’re not in the priest outfit.”

He doesn’t know January’s awake, otherwise he’d be making soppy eyes at her like always. I smile at him. “Whaddya think of the girl up close? Pretty scrawny, huh?”

“Have you gone blind? She’s stunning.”

I want to turn and see January’s reaction so bad, but I keep my eyes on Basher. “You get the tarp?”

He takes the wad of clear plastic from under his arm. “Where does Adriano want it this time? Because last time—”

“Bobby?”

The tarp falls to the ground. Turning on my heel, it’s hard to see who looks more horrified, him or her.

“You’re… awake,” Basher says in a strangled voice.

“Yes. What are you doing here?”

Basher doesn’t answer, just stares at her like her pussy invented cold fusion.

I clap my hands. “We’re losing traction here. Tits, your precious algebra tutor shouldn’t have been teaching you math any more than I should have been taking your confession. Basher, she’s been awake the whole time, sucks to be you.”

January looks like she’s going to pass out. Surely, she can’t be far from it. How many rugs can someone get pulled out from under them in one day?

“Bobby…” she whispers.

“It was his idea to tutor you,” I say, because I’m a prick.

Basher shoves me, but he can’t deny it. It was his idea. We needed someone in her school, and he had the master’s in computer science, so he bought some slacks and registered with the New York Board of Education. We laughed about it at the time. Then he actually started teaching Miss Priss quadratic equations and everything got a lot less funny.

Bobby presses a hand to his heart like he’s Romeo or something. “January, I mean it. I’m so sorry.”

I elbow his side. “Hey Basher, remember what she said about you in the confession box?”

January claps her hands to her mouth. She’s already learned it’s pointless to try and stop me. She braces herself for impact instead. Maybe she’s not so stupid after all. “You should have heard her go on about you, Bash. ‘He’s so nice, I hang around the library asking him about axels and shit just to see if he’ll talk to me.’”

Basher’s face is scarlet and he’s looking anywhere but at January.

“I wanted to know if she was rubbing her virgin kitty thinking about you. But they don’t let you ask questions when you’re the priest.”

Tears splash down January’s cheeks and into her tits. I could rub my dick through those tears. Make her taste them.

“How long have you been watching me?” she whispers.

“Years,” I say. “How do you think I know what your Zia Teresa looks like?”

Heavy footsteps pound down the stairs behind me. Adriano in a green Henley, heavy canvas pants, and boots. Looking, as always, like he shops exclusively at the military surplus store. I raise a hand. “Evening, brother.”

He ignores me, looking at Basher. “Tarp?”

“Here.” Basher bends and collects the plastic sheet.

There’s a strangled sound from January but Adriano doesn’t seem to notice. “Where’s Eli?”

“Still on his way,” I say. “You ready?”

He doesn’t reply. Adriano’s never been one for talking. At school, he was everyone’s pick for ‘most likely to shave his head, climb a cell tower and start gunning down strangers.’

January is looking at him like he’s Frankenstein come back to life. Which isn’t far from the truth. Adri’s not bad-looking, but he got cut in Bolivia. Now there’s a silvery scar from his right eye down his cheek. It doesn’t do his ‘serial killer’ vibe any favors. But even before the scar, he scared the shit out of girls. I used to have to give them an ounce of weed before they’d agree to fuck us both.

Adriano points to the bodyguard piled in the corner like firewood. “Awake?”

“Nope,” I say. “The girl is, though.”

Only then does Adri turn to take in the slumped figure of January Whitehall.

She stares back at him as though she’s going to puke. “You’re the janitor from my dance studio.”

Adriano’s lip curls, revealing his gold incisor. “Is that right?”

I laugh. “January confessed about you too, Adri. She felt bad about your fucked up face. She was too scared to say hello. It’s probably the tatts.”

Adriano looks down at his hands, covered in mementos to hate and revenge. “You feel sorry for me, girl?”

“No!” she squeaks, but there’s an unmistakable softness in her voice. Pity is something we can sense like blood. We exploit it in others; we conceal it in ourselves.

Adriano takes a step toward her. “You talked about my scars?”

“N-No.”

I laugh. That’s the thing about Adriano. No matter who you are, he’s fucking terrifying, which means you can always count on him to liven things up. It would be something to watch him fuck her. That does it for me sometimes, watching ugly and pretty get crushed together. And God how precious January would cry getting fucked by Adriano Rossi.

“Adriano,” Basher warns. “We’re waiting for Eli, remember?”

“Eli’s taken long enough.”

“Have I?”

I sigh. Say what you will about Morelli, the prick knows how to make an entrance. He glares down at us from the top of the stairs in his tight white shirt and charcoal three-piece suit. His gaze finds January. “Miss Whitehall, you’re awake.”

January still looks terrified, but her eyes are feverishly bright as she takes in Morelli’s stupid mug. He smiles at her, and she looks like she’s going to swoon. I roll my eyes. Morelli has this effect on women. He’s pretty as a picture and the extra years in Naples gave him an accent that makes American pussy cream itself. I have to keep him away from the clubs on busy nights or the girls get distracted, and the bottom line goes way down.

Morelli comes down the stairs just slow enough to piss me off, adjusting his sleeves so his platinum cuff links glint like morse code in the fire light. January can’t tear her eyes off him, which is exactly what Eli wants. He reaches the landing and gives her one of his ‘come suck my cock’ smiles. “Miss Whitehall, my name is Elliot Velluto Morelli. It’s a pleasure to have you in my house.”

Her lip twitches. I bet some inborn politeness is trying to make her say ‘thank you for kidnapping me at my wedding.’

Morelli stares coldly at her. “I’m speaking to you.”

“H-Hello, Mr. Morelli.”

“Better. You’ve obviously already met my associates.” He waves a hand toward Adri. “This is Adriano Rossi.”

Again, silence, but now the girl is visibly shaking. Morelli snaps his fingers. “Greet Adriano, Miss Whitehall.”

“Hello, Adriano.”

“Good girl.” Morelli turns to me. “This is Domenico Valente—”

“Doc,” I snarl. “You’re not my fucking mother.”

“Domenico Valente who we call Doc,” Morelli finishes irritably. “He played the part of your priest today.”

January’s green eyes fill with tears, probably remembering her pathetic confessions—staying up too late on school nights, being jealous of her friends for going to the movies. I wave at her. She says nothing.

Morelli sighs. “Miss Whitehall, I was told you were polite. Do I need to teach you manners?”

She looks at Basher in a wordless plea for help.

“Do not look at him,” Morelli says in a silky voice. “Look at Domenico and greet him.”

January addresses my chin. “Hello, Domenico.”

I grin. “I’ve changed my mind. She can call me that all day.”

Morelli puts a hand on Basher’s shoulder. “And this is—”

“Bobby,” Basher interjects. “Just Bobby.”

Morelli pauses. Usually when people interrupt him, he has Adri break their fingers, but he loves Basher, treats him like a baby brother. He gives him a small nod. “Fine. Miss Whitehall, this is Bobby. Sometimes we call him Basher.”

January tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. “Good evening, Bobby.”

Basher goes bright red. He thinks an anglicized name makes him her type. He’s deluded. She doesn’t have a type. She’s a pretty little girl who doesn’t know her asshole from her elbow. The irony is, the only one with an Anglo name is Morelli. His dad called him ‘Elliot’ after a business partner. Word is, when the epidural wore off and Morelli’s mom saw the birth certificate, she went for his eyes.

A current is passing between January and Basher. She’s still screaming at him to rescue her. Makes sense. She’s spent the most time with him and now that we’re all together, she trusts him the most. It’s high time someone took a shit on that.

I whistle. “Hey, Whitehall. Did you know we call Bobby ‘Basher’ because his real name’s Roberto Bassilotta?”

January’s eyebrows pull together.

“Also, his parents farmed pigs in Ohio and his Nonno fought for Mussolini.”

Adriano lets out a snort of laughter. Basher looks like I stomped on his puppy. I shoot him a wink. “Sorry, Bash, but you need to have more pride in your heritage.”

Puttaniere psicotico,” Morelli mutters. Psychotic whoremonger. He flicks a finger at January, who’s risen to her knees. “You. Get back on the floor.”

She obeys, lowering herself down onto her ass. “Mr. Morelli, can I ask why I’m here?”

“You’re questioning me?”

He says it as though it’s a throwaway line, but the undercurrent zaps her. “No. Not at all, I just…”

He walks toward her, studying her face, her body. He’s fussy, Morelli. His taste in pussy is more expensive than his taste in clothes. And unlike the three of us, this is the first time he’s seen January up close. Unless you count her sliding around the van unconscious.

He takes her chin and turns her face this way and that. “Why did you have security guards, bella?”

January seems dazed by his attention and his touch. “To… keep me safe?”

“No. Lie back on my carpet.”

January’s eyes scan the room for an escape that isn’t going to come. Finally they land on Bobby. He jolts like an electric shock’s gone through him, but he doesn’t move. He’s not stupid. Even in his crushed out little heart, he knows January might come out of this evening a corpse. It would be revenge for him as much as any of us, but he looks fucking miserable all the same.

January’s gaze drifts back to Eli. “Mr. Morelli—”

“Is there a reason why you’re not doing what you’re told?”

She recoils and I’m sure she’s going to break—scream or jump to her feet and try to run. But then she lies back like a snow angel on the carpet. I head to the side table and pull out a chair, ready for the show. Adriano posts himself by the fire and Basher stays near Morelli, as though he still might be able to stop what’s about to happen.

Morelli studies the girl before him. “Since you’re determined to be helpful, Bobby, pull Miss Whitehall’s hem to her thighs.”

Basher’s mouth twists. I can practically taste his dilemma. He wants to protect January. He wants to obey his boss. He wants to see January’s body. He hesitates, before kneeling at her side, turning his face away as he tugs up the lace of her gown. I lean forward as January’s long legs are exposed.

She lets out a soft whine. The sound heats me through like whiskey. For years I’ve run strip clubs and pussy palaces, handled thousands of gorgeous women, but none have had this one’s palpable innocence.

I want to ruin her.

“Move away,” Morelli says.

Basher retreats, his face shadowed. He’s angry, but I’m pretty sure he’s hard behind his chinos too. How could he not be after finally laying hands on the girl he’s panted after for years?

Morelli steps between January’s legs. “Are you going to misbehave?”

She shakes her head, making her long hair rush against the carpet.

“Good.” He nudges her legs wider with the tip of his shoe. “Open.”

January squeezes her eyes shut, but she obeys, spreading her thighs.

“Good girl.” He presses his wingtip to her pussy and she lets out an involuntary moan.

I grin, shifting in my chair as I adjust my swollen cock. I wish I hadn’t worn jeans.

“This…” Morelli says, stroking his shoe against her. “This is why you had bodyguards.”

She screws her eyes up tighter, her cheeks flushing crimson. Across the room, Adriano growls. I know exactly how he feels. It would be one thing if she was scared, but she’s scared and turned on. We can all see it.

Morelli slowly rubs his shoe against her cunt. “I’ll tell you why you’ve come to us, bella. You were promised to a man my brothers and I have an unresolved conflict with.”

January’s eyes snap open and I can see her straining to concentrate on something that isn’t her virgin pussy being rubbed. I laugh. “Does that feel nice, Tesorina? Are you getting wet?”

Her head rolls across the carpet. “Leave me alone!”

Basher lets out a shocked laugh and Morelli smiles. “Doesn’t like you, does she, Doc?”

I scowl. “She liked me fine when I was her priest.”

January wriggles back from Morelli. “Mr. Parker isn’t a bad man.”

Morelli’s smile fades. He presses his shoe a little harder against her. “What are you basing that on?”

Her lip quivers. “He knew my father.”

“Ah, your beloved daddy. Not to be insensitive, but your father died when you were eight. Your stepmother engineered your engagement to Zachery Parker against his wishes.”

Adriano spits into the fire.

“My mom wouldn’t do that.”

I snort. Her stepmother is a stone-cold bitch. If she wanted a smoke, she’d have sold January’s pussy for half a pack of cigarettes. Girls like January can never see that, though. They believe in happy families and forever love no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary.

“Mr. Parker and mom arranged a marriage for the benefit of both our families, but that doesn’t make him a bad person.”

Morelli smirks, working his wingtip a little faster between her legs. “I appreciate your loyalty, Miss Whitehall, but do not speak to me about Zachery Parker. The four of us have known him much longer than you have.”

January’s eyes are glazed. She looks like she’s about to come right on his shoe.

“Doesn’t that feel good, bella?”

She shakes her head as though she can wish this all away. I picture her little cunt swollen, tingling. Excitement mixing with panic and fear. Across the room, I hear Bobby swallow.

“I asked you a question, Miss Whitehall. Doesn’t that feel good?”

Her gaze moves from Morelli, to Basher, to Adri, to me. I’d give a lot of money to know what she’s thinking and exactly how tingly those thoughts are making her.

“You little liar.” Morelli removes his shoe from between her legs. “Here are the facts. You’ve been taken as an act of war. You are now the property of Velvet House. Mine and my business partners.”

January stares unseeingly at Morelli. “Are… Are you going to kill me?”

Adri gives a low chuckle. Morelli smiles. “You have no rights here. You are not a guest, you are our prisoner. If you do what you’re told and act as a woman should, then no harm will come to you. If you don’t behave, Miss Whitehall, then yes, we will kill you.”

Tears burst from her eyes like a broken dam. We watch her cry. Basher looks like he wants to hug her. Adri is disgusted—he can’t stand women’s tears—but Morelli just seems bored. “Stop crying.”

January sobs harder, her little shoulders shaking.

Morelli kneels beside her, cupping her cheek with a gentle hand. She looks up and hope flares in her eyes. The handsome man is being nice to her. Morelli traces a thumb over her upper lip. “My scared little girl…”

January’s mouth quivers so sweetly, I wish I had a cigarette.

Morelli stares into her hypnotized face, and then he slaps her. The sound snaps around the room like a firework.

“You will not manipulate us,” he says quietly. “You will not control us with tears. You’ll do what you’re told, or you’ll suffer. Understood?”

January raises a trembling hand to her face. “Yes, Mr. Morelli.”

“Good girl,” he says, and a smile curls the corner of his mouth.

He likes her. Fucking hell. I want Weepy Big Tits to myself. I’ve already got Basher sniffing around, I don’t need Morelli throwing his hat in the ring too.

“People will be looking for me,” January whispers. “The police. Mr. Parker…”

Morelli turns his back on her and points to Adriano. “Wake up the bodyguard.”

Adri yanks him up by his shirt collar and smacks him in the face. Cooper yelps, his eyelids flicking open. A scream slices through the room as January struggles to her feet. “Let go of him, please?”

“Doc, take care of her,” Morelli says, walking away.

I stride forward, pulling her back against my body.

“Don’t kill Kurt,” she gasps. “Please.”

I clap a hand over her mouth and the feel of her lips against my palm sends another hum through me.

Adriano drops Cooper onto all fours. He kneels, sputtering like a busted engine.

“Good evening, Kurt,” Morelli says as though the two of them are old friends.

Cooper’s face contracts. “You…?”

“Me. Welcome to Velvet House. You won’t be staying long.”

Cooper tries to scramble to his feet, but Adri puts a boot in his back.

January screams again into my hand. The sound is muffled but Cooper still hears her. His bloody face goes rigid. “January?” He looks at Morelli. “You took her.”

“We did.”

“Look, you can have her. You can do whatever you like, just let me go.”

January sags in my arms. Poor little Tesorina. Betrayed by the man who’s protected her half her life. Even I didn’t see that coming. I haul her upright. “It’s okay, baby. He’ll pay for saying that.”

But the little brat shakes her head. “Nuuuh. Pleaghs?”

I press my hand harder to her lips.

Morelli smiles at Cooper. “We expected security to be weakened by the handover, but you and your partner were an embarrassment. Drunk in broad daylight. And why were you hanging around the back of the cathedral? I assume you were calling your dealer?”

Cooper’s expression is pleading. “Mr. Morelli, you can have her. You can—”

Adri kicks him in the side. He collapses onto the carpet, spitting blood.

Morelli raises a furious hand. “Christ, Adriano! Where’s the tarp?”

“Shit. Here.” Basher rushes forward with the plastic wrap.

Jesu Cristo. What’s the point now?” Morelli says, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You’re supposed to lay it out beforehand.”

I can’t help but laugh.

“You think this is funny, Valente?”

“Obviously.” I take my hand off January’s mouth. “What about you, Tits? Do you think this is funny?”

“Please! Please don’t kill Kurt.”

“Thank you, Janie,” Cooper slurs, dripping blood. “Thank you!”

Adriano kicks him again, and there’s an audible crack of ribs.

“Nice one,” I say.

January gives a yipping little scream. “Mr. Morelli, please let Kurt go!”

Eli frowns. “Bella, this man was assigned to protect you and not only did he fail miserably, he just betrayed you. He doesn’t deserve to live.”

“But you can’t kill him!”

I lower my mouth to January’s ear. “What do I get if I help you? Will you blow me in front of your bodyguard while everyone else watches?”

She squirms and I tighten my grip around her.

Morelli clucks his tongue. “Doc, stop teasing her. Basher, get the plastic under Cooper before the carpet becomes even more fucked. Adriano, kill this idiot.”

“What about me?” I ask Morelli. “Why can’t I kill Cooper?”

“Because I’m not staying up all night, watching you flay this moron. I need some fucking sleep.”

“Killjoy.”

January lets out an ear-splitting scream. Adri looks murderous. If there’s one thing he hates more than women crying, it’s women shrieking. I clap a hand over her mouth. “Sorry about that.”

Adriano shakes his head and turns to Morelli. “Make Basher do it.”

“Fuck off,” Basher says at once. “You fucking do it.”

Morelli holds up a hand. “Why Bobby?”

Adriano jerks his head at January. Morelli looks from her to Basher, who’s too slow to get the look of righteous horror off his face.

Morelli inclines his head. “Bobby, kill the bodyguard.”

All the color rushes from Basher’s face. He glances at January. “Can she go in the other room?”

“No.” Morelli reaches into his waistband and hands him his Walther PPS. “Now.”

“But—”

His nostrils flare. “Think of your mother. Your sisters. This is everything. Ten years of planning. Don’t fail us.”

Basher’s face hardens. He’s a cute kid. A nice guy. But that’s not all he is and no one struggles with that more than him. He gives January one last look and then his shoulders slump. “Fine.”

She struggles against me as Bobby approaches Cooper, her ass rubbing against my jeans. I press into her, and she bites me. Hard.

“Ow,” I say, shaking my palm. “Little bitch!”

“You’re evil,” January spits. “Evil, horrible men!”

I press my hand back over her mouth. “You think we mind being evil, Tesorina? You think we care?”

Morelli pulls a handkerchief from his jacket. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, Miss Whitehall. You’ve been sheltered your whole life. Told what’s right and wrong. Your morals are like your pussy. Completely untested. You’ve never had to make a choice. Doc, take your hand away.”

The moment I do, January screams and Morelli shoves the cloth between her lips. She gives a noise of muffled outrage, and he slaps her again.

“Remember what I said, Miss Whitehall. Behave yourself and live or disobey and die.” He turns to Basher. “Kill him.”

Basher presses the gun to Cooper’s head. The plastic contains the spray and the body jerks twice before going still.

January slumps in my arms. I’m pretty sure she’s passed out.

“So that’s done,” I say. “Can we eat? I’m fucking starving.”

Morelli sweeps a hand through his model-perfect hair. “Not yet. Set up a camera and put a chair into the middle of the room. Time to show Parker what we’ve done.”


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