“Up.” Chase motioned for me to stand. “Things to do, people to see, lives to ruin.”

  “Wow, you should be a motivational speaker,” I mumbled under my breath.

  “Nah.” Chase gripped my shoulders and whispered behind me. “I think I’m perfectly happy with being your husband instead.”

  What the hell? I whipped around so fast I almost fell over. But he was grabbing his bag so I couldn’t see his face, meaning I was left to wonder if he’d actually meant what he’d said or if he’d been joking. A large part of my heart begged for him to be joking, because if he wasn’t, that other part of my heart, the ten percent, was so heavily invested I knew it was only a matter of time before it spread to one hundred. And I wasn’t sure I’d survive that type of transformation.

  Chapter Twenty-Three


  We checked into our hotel without any sort of issues. Frank and Luca decided to go gamble before the big meeting. Something else Mil had failed to mention. We were meeting the day we arrived. What the hell kind of bright idea was that? Exhaustion did not bode well for negotiation or for getting information, and I still wasn’t totally convinced we should be talking to the wife of the freaking Godfather of everyone.

  Okay, so maybe he wasn’t an actual Godfather, but it felt like it. Especially when you knew the facts. He was a Sicilian-born immortal with loads of money and the ability to survive not one, but seven bullets to the head — all on different occasions, but still. In my book, that made him either a freaking vampire or so damn evil that even Satan didn’t want him in hell yet.

  I let out a sigh and pressed the button for the twenty-first floor.

  “You sound frustrated,” Nixon said with such a smug know-it-all inflection that I had to count to five before I answered with a voice that sounded cool and reflective.

  “Yeah well, not having sex does that to people.” Okay, so it was a low blow, but I didn’t care.

  Mil gasped next to me while Trace’s eyes darted to the floor. I’d officially made it so awkward even I wouldn’t have minded if the elevator plummeted to the ground.

  “Blame it on the alcohol,” Tex mumbled behind us while Mo pushed against him in disgust. He grinned. “Blame it on the al-al-al—”

  “I’ll genuinely shoot you in the ass if you keep singing,” Nixon growled.

  “Whoa.” Tex held up his hands. “Since when do both of you have sticks up your asses? Seriously, lighten up.”

  “Says the guy with two hickeys,” Mo grumbled.

  Tex stepped back and angled his body almost like he was about to protect himself from a blow. His mask slipped for a brief instant, face twisting in agony, as he begged. “I already told you it was—”

  “We know what a hickey is,” Mil said impatiently as the elevator dinged and then stopped at the eighteenth floor.

  The doors opened. A man with sunglasses walked in. Immediately I was on red alert, not because of the sunglasses, but because when he pressed the button it was for the floor above ours. And because the tattoo on his hand said Familia.

  “You’ve been staying here a while?” I asked, trying some small talk.

  Nixon’s eyes narrowed in on the guy as he stood in-between all of us.

  “A few days.”

  “How’s it been?”

  “What?” the guy asked.

  “The stay,” I said slowly. “How has your stay been?”

  He looked down at the floor, his hands slowly moving to his back. Nixon and I made eye contact, but Tex was already on it. He snatched the guy’s hands and pushed him against the doors, searching his body.

  “Aw, only one gun?” With a bark of laughter, Tex dropped it. The gun landed on the red carpeting with a dull thud, bounced and then stayed put. “No knives?” He shook his head, his lip curling in disgust. “And only one gun? Are you ten?”

  “Tex…” Nixon warned.

  “One gun,” Tex repeated as if he couldn’t believe it. “He’s not ours. Ours have at least three — and he isn’t De Lange.”

  “How do you know?” Mil asked.

  “Um, because there aren’t any shots fired, and you’re still standing,” Tex answered. “And because he’s too small.”

  The guy cursed. Apparently he didn’t like being called small.

  “My bet’s on…” Tex pulled out the guy’s wallet, still pushing him against the doors. “Bingo. Not Italian, not anything. Just a punk wanting to be a made man. Isn’t that right, William Herald? Hmm? What type of name is that anyway? You may as well be John Smith. A nobody,” Tex released him and sneered, “Got a pretty little piece waiting for you back home? I bet she tastes good…” He closed his eyes. “Guess what I’m doing? Imagining a little Mrs. Herald on my mouth, damn is that—”

  William roared and fought against Tex, but Tex was a pro. He merely pushed the guy against the wall and sighed. “I’m already bored with you. Oh damn, I hope I didn’t just quote the missus. She tell you that just this morning before she put her mouth on your best friend’s co—”

  “—Tex.” Nixon rolled his eyes. “Enough.” He pressed the stop button on the elevator and turned all his rage towards William. The thing about Nixon? When he was pissed? Or itching for information? You could actually feel the air charged with his frustration. It was like sitting outside just before a thunderstorm. He rose to his full height and narrowed his eyes on William, tilting his head in a predatory stance. “You work for Campisi?”

  I grinned in amusement and pulled Mil to my side as the guy stuttered.

  “I do not recall that name.” A bead of sweat fell from William’s temple as his eyes darted to the buttons on the elevator, most likely seeing if he could hit the emergency button to get the thing moving again.

  “Cute. He’s scared shitless.” I tilted my head. “This your first assignment? Scope the elevators for the big bad Abandonatos and get some info?”

  William swallowed convulsively, not answering.

  “He’s quiet,” Tex murmured. “I’ll give him that.”

  Nixon pressed the stop button again, and the elevator moved. “You, shit for brains.” He snickered. “You’re coming with us.”

  Nixon quickly threw his head back and laughed then pointed to the camera in the corner and made a drinking motion as if the guy had had a few too many and laughed again.

  Herald paled, his lips trembled. “But, but—”

  I punched him in the jaw. He slumped to the floor.

  “Violent.” Mil nodded.

  “Always,” Trace agreed. “Like kids at a playground. Want some wine? This could take a while.”

  “Don’t forget about me!” Mo shouted from behind everyone. The minute the doors opened, the girls made their way toward Nixon’s suite.

  Nixon pulled out his phone and growled into it, “Sergio, we’re at the Hard Rock, elevators, security, yeah it’s a mess, deal with it why don’t you?”

  He pressed end, his eyes bright as they focused expectantly on mine.

  “So, I take it we’re interrogating in my honeymoon suite?” I grunted, pulling the bastard to his feet.

  “First year of marriage — interrogation. Yeah, sounds about right.” Tex laughed.

  I rolled my eyes and helped the guy to his feet, trying my damnedest not to stare at Mil’s ass as she walked away.

  “Interesting.” Nixon swiped his card.

  “What?” For being so small, William Herald was heavier than hell.

  “You lusting after a girl that isn’t mine.”

  “What? You like it?”

  He smirked, his lip ring pushing against his teeth. “I find it freaking hilarious and, just so you know, I’m glad I won’t have to kill you.”

  “Love you too, brother.”

  “Brother?” the guy asked, his words jumbled.

  Tex punched him again. His fist crushed against the guy’s jaw so hard I heard bone crack.

  “Thanks, man.”

  He smiled wide, his eyes crazy with excitement. Ah, he loved the kill
. “What are friends for?”

  We dragged William the rest of the way into the room and turned on the lights. Bonus: the Hard Rock Hotel had crazy-dark lighting as well as red carpeting. Blood? No problem. Clearly they were used to rock stars trashing the place.

  Nixon put William in a chair and started tying him.

  “Allow me.” I popped my knuckles.

  “Because?” Nixon’s eyebrows shot up.

  “Because I’m serious about the sex, and if that damn woman bites her lip one more time I’m jumping out of my hotel room window.”

  Nixon nodded, his laugh echoing throughout the empty void. “Have at it, rock star.”

  Chapter Twenty-Four


  On account of there being a bloody interrogation going on in my hotel suite — the girls and I unloaded everything in Nixon and Trace’s room.

  It was spacious, with red and black carpet and floor-to-ceiling windows facing the strip. In the early afternoon light everything looked kind of boring, not at all like I remembered Vegas looking like. Then again, I’d been young, stupid and, of course, an innocent girl in love with a green-eyed boy, who I’d thought would save me from my crap life.

  Amazing how history repeats itself.

  “Wine?” Trace called.

  I turned around and nodded. She held the bottle in the air and grinned.

  “I say we eat every damn thing in that mini-fridge and charge it to Tex’s card,” Mo said bitterly, though she did seem to at least be smiling.

  “We could do that,” I agreed. “Then again, it’s not like it would make a huge dent in his bank account.”

  Both girls stared at me like I’d just said I was the voice of Shrek and hailed from Scotland.

  “Uh, Mil?” Trace’s eyes drew together in concern. “Tex—”

  “Leave it,” Mo snapped.

  “What?” I uncrossed my arms and walked over to the bed. “Tex is what?”

  Trace’s eyes darted between me and Mo as if she was trying to get permission from Mo to give me Tex’s entire life story.

  “Fine!” Mo threw her hands into the air. “He’s not like us.”

  “Like he’s an alien?” I said jokingly.

  Trace giggled as she twisted the wine cork out and began pouring into small glasses. “Right. He’s an alien. Let’s just leave it at that.”

  Mo took her wine from Trace and swore. “It was such a big deal, me and Tex. Us being together. My own father was against it from the beginning, then again he wasn’t really my father, but still. I was so excited when—” Her lower lip trembled, and she looked into her wine glass.

  The room was thick with tension. I wasn’t sure if I should say something to make it better or let her get it out. I eyed Trace. She shook her head slightly and handed me my own glass. I took a sip and waited.

  Mo sighed. “We used to play together.”

  “You and Tex?” I sipped more wine. Damn, I envied the boys. At least they weren’t witnessing an emotional breakdown. I didn’t know what to say to make it better because the truth was, I didn’t know Mo well enough to pull the best-friend card and put my arm around her. And I didn’t know Tex at all; therefore, I couldn’t trash talk him and put his face on the wall for target practice.

  It left me in that awkward position that girls face, when you know you’re the third wheel but to leave means you’d be aimlessly roaming by yourself and damning yourself to a forever where you’re always on the outside looking in. And honestly, for the first time in my life, I needed friends, craved them. I needed in. I needed in bad.

  “Yeah. We used to play hide and seek all the time. I know it’s silly, but I loved the feeling that he was searching for me, made me feel important, you know? Like, I was the treasure he was just waiting to discover. The best part was I always knew he’d eventually be there for me. In the end, it was me and Tex. We grew up like that. I was lost — he’d find me. It didn’t take long for us to start developing feelings. Even then I had no idea how much of my soul he already owned, not until it was too late.”

  I gulped. The stories were too similar. She and Tex, me and Chase. It was petrifying to know that another human being held the keys to your heart and soul. Helpless. It left you defenseless, because the control shifted into another person’s hands, and you had to decide just how trustworthy those hands were. Only it didn’t matter, because in the end, if the hands dropped the key, if they messed up — even once — your heart was already lost, never to be unlocked again.

  That’s how I felt about Chase. How Mo felt about Tex, and I’m assuming how Trace felt about Nixon.

  They had so many damn pieces of us that losing them would be like losing yourself. How did a person ever recover from that?

  “Mo?” Trace cleared her throat. “He’ll come around, I promise. Tex is just — different. He needs time to adjust.”

  “He’s had five damn years to adjust, Trace.”

  “Adjust?” I whispered out loud. Crap. I totally meant to ask that question in my head.

  Both Trace and Mo turned with blank stares.

  “You really don’t know who Tex is? After everything that’s gone on? You’re not playing dumb?” Mo asked, her face unbelieving.

  “No.” I shook my head. “Guys, I was at a boarding school for like half of my life. I was tort—” My voice fell. They didn’t need to know my past, my reasons for doing what I was doing, for being what I was.

  Mo nodded. “She’ll find out tomorrow anyway. It’s fine. Just — just tell her. I’m going to use the bathroom.”

  Mo got up and walked the short distance to the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

  I got up from the bed and paced. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interfere or—”

  “It’s fine.” Trace waved me off. “But you may need more wine.” She grabbed my cup and filled it to the brim. “And I’d recommend sitting. I’m sorry. I really did think you knew.”

  “Knew what?” Okay, seriously. I was going to lose my mind and start shooting at things.

  Trace took a large gulp and bit down on her lip, her eyes wide with… something. Was it fear?

  “Mil… Tex is Vito Campisi’s biological son.”

  The wine fell from my hand to the blood-red floor. It happened in slow motion, the wine hitting the ground, my shriek, and then I saw it again, the blood. Hell, there was so much blood.

  “Mil!” Trace pushed me away from the wine as it splattered against my jeans. I stood motionless. Unable to really think clear enough to say anything or do anything — I stared.

  “I’ll get a towel.” Trace cursed.

  Time was still going by slow, so I wasn’t sure if she was gone five seconds or five minutes, but soon, white towels covered the mess: the red of the wine seeping into the purity of the white color, soaking every last thread until the towel was just as hellish as the liquid that filled it.

  I used to be that towel.


  “Maybe you should sit down.” Trace pushed me onto the bed just as Mo came out of the bathroom, her eyes puffy.

  “Wow, you took that news well.” Mo wiped her cheeks and smiled through fresh tears.

  “His son?” I repeated. “But—”

  “I’ll give you the short version,” Mo interrupted. “Tex was sent away when he was really little to stay with our family. A sort of mafia war or something broke out in parts of Sicily, and they thought the heir to the awesomeness that is the Campisi family would be safer in America with one of the most powerful families in the States.”

  Trace joined us on the bed, quiet as Mo continued the story.

  “I don’t know exactly what happened. I mean, we were all still in diapers, but the truce was broken by one of the families — either the Campisis or the Abandonatos. Nobody really knows, but in the end, um… in the end, Tex stayed until he was old enough to make a choice. See, he didn’t really know his own family. Again, I don’t know the whole story. Some say the Abandonatos stole the heir and caused an all-out war — a
nother fun reason we don’t ever deal directly with the Campisi family, but go through Luca, the minion, if you will.”

  I nodded, taking my time to process what she’d just said. “But what about five years ago? You said he’s had five years to adjust.”

  “Right.” Mo sniffled again. “Thanks to my jackass of a dad, nobody told Tex — or any of us — until five years ago. By then the choice was basically made for him. Turn his back on the family he’s known his entire life, never to see them again, move to Sicily and take his place… or stay.”

  “And be cut off.” Trace finished.

  “Cut off?” I repeated. “What does that even mean?”

  “He’s not an Abandonato, and he’s not technically a Campisi. — I mean, I guess he is. Blood and all that. He’s just not recognized by them. Tex is a made man. His birthright is bluer than anyone in America, but to claim it means—”

  “Losing everything,” I finished. “So he stayed.”

  “And he gets paid handsomely,” Mo said tightly. “But nothing like what he deserves.”

  After a few moments of silence, I giggled.

  Trace’s and Mo’s eyes widened with horror, but I couldn’t stop the fit of laughter erupting out of me.

  Wow, I wasn’t making any friends, but I couldn’t help it. “After all that, you still want to eat everything in the mini-bar and charge it to his card?”

  “Hey.” Mo cracked a smile and then started laughing. “He could be a freaking saint, and I would still charge to his damn card. That guy is a pain in my ass!”

  “But you still love him.” Trace smiled, patting Mo’s leg. “Admit it.”

  “I admit nothing.” Mo closed her eyes and crossed her arms, then with a loud laugh said, “Except… I’ve been eyeing those stupid M&M’s for the last ten minutes. I don’t care who pays for them. I just need food. Too many tears were shed, and chocolate cures everything.”

  “And wine,” I added. “Chocolate and wine.”

  “And hot men.” Trace winked at me.

  “Weird, because aren’t the hot men what drive you toward the chocolate and wine? Yet after you’re done with all that self-loathing, you crawl right back to the six-pack with a silly grin on your face and stars in your eyes.”

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