I didn’t know what it was about this man that had me following commands blindly.
He was so cocky and sure of himself, it was disgusting. It was all too obvious how spoiled he was by his lifestyle. He assumed that every woman wanted him. Even me.
Did I want him?
One moment he was threatening me, the next he was complimenting me and giving me gifts. It made no sense. He chose the most random of times to behave like a gentleman.
Then he asked me to strip for him, basically forcing me to put on a show. I never would have done it – believe me.
It was the look in his eyes that got me. A fire burned in his hazel irises, making me feel confident. The moment I released that towel, I realized I had all the power. Luca was the one holding back for once.
I could tell whenever he gripped the edge of the seat cushion and downed a large swallow of his scotch. Each time I did what he asked and let him ogle me like a trophy, I got more excited.
And when he gathered me in his arms and looked at me like I was the only woman in the world, I admit I felt a tiny bit special.
Which, of course, was ridiculous. I knew I wasn’t. Men like Luca didn’t have special women in their lives. They had a different woman every night. Just because Luca was obsessed with getting what he couldn’t have didn’t mean I was important to him in any way. We were just two people who were attracted to one another.
And after tonight, the mystery would be gone.
When Luca revealed his plan to take me back to his penthouse tonight, I had been furious. He had assumed that just because I’d agreed to his silly terms, he could choose the time and the place things would go down.
He treated our first potential sexual encounter like a damn business meeting. The man didn’t know the first thing about impressing a woman.
I hadn’t planned to give in tonight, but something about his primal behavior upstairs changed my mind. Watching him watch me was surprisingly a turn on. I liked being in control like that.
We sat in the back of his large SUV, our bodies only inches apart and his large hand resting on my thigh casually. It was a simple gesture, yet it held so much meaning. Was I his date? Or was I simply an accessory he wished to carry on his arm, showing off his endless wealth and power through the beautiful woman at his side?
Probably the latter.
The car suddenly jerked to a stop and Ricky’s voice could be heard through the partition. Luca pushed the button on the ceiling above him, removing the boundary between his driver and us.
“What is it?”
Fear suddenly gripped me when I saw Ricky’s face in the rearview. “There’s an unmarked car speeding through our territory,” he grated, concern in his tone, “slipped right past the others and is coming our way.”
Luca growled a string of curses under his breath before reaching forward and wrapping his fingers around a small ring on the car floor. Pulling it up, he revealed a hidden compartment which had three automatic rifles hidden inside. My eyes widened.
“What’s going on, Luca?” I did my best to hide my fear, but watching him grab the large gun, load it up, and swing it over his shoulder made me feel nauseous. Something was definitely going down.
“How close?” Luca called out, ignoring me completely.
“About a minute,” Ricky said, his ear against the walkie-talkie he had. “There are two more. They’re coming in from all sides.”
“Fuck,” Luca grumbled, pulling me out of my seat and into the one across from it.
He pulled the center console between the rear seats open, revealing another hidden compartment. I watched as he pulled a bulletproof vest from it, turning to strap it onto my body.
Now my heart was palpitating.
“I don’t have any time to walk you through this,” he said gruffly, “just do exactly as I say.”
Gunshots went off in the distance, making me jump in my seat.
“Get face-down between the seats and cover your ears. Don’t move a muscle until I tell you to.”
He practically threw me onto the floor of the car before pressing himself up against the passenger door. Cracking his window, he slipped the barrel of his rifle through the opening and began to shoot.
A barrage of gunshots and clinking metal sounded, obscuring my senses. I couldn’t hear myself think.
I could hear the metal crash into the car, stopping short. I realized the car was bulletproof and silently thanked whatever higher power was listening.
After a few more shots from his weapon, I heard Luca yell over the gunfire.
Tires squealed, and the entire vehicle jerked forward as Ricky peeled off. I wanted to see what was going on, but Luca’s instructions were clear: stay down.
“What’s happening?” I called to him, keeping my cheek pressed to the ground.
“There’s no time to explain,” he said. I felt him kneel in front of me and peeked up at him. “Take this.” He handed me a pistol just as the vehicle came to a stop.
“What am I doing with this?” I asked incredulously. I was far from dressed to go into battle. Wearing this skin-tight black gown and five-inch heels, I was certain to make it nowhere fast. I didn’t even have underwear on.
“My security detail is arriving at any moment. I want you to stay in the car and stay down.” He emphasized the last two words. “This car has been reinforced with military-grade armor. Just wait until I get back…I have to take care of this.”
I clutched the pistol in both hands and fought against the tremors that vibrated through me. This was not the best time to have a meltdown. I sat up, pressing my back to the passenger door so I could at least see my surroundings.
Luca was still kneeling in front of me, his eyes trained on me as he held his rifle to his chest. “I’ll be back, Raven.”
I nodded, doing my best to keep my composure. I’d never been caught in the middle of a shootout before. I had no idea what to expect. Luca could jump out of the car and die right in front of me.
He leaned in and kissed my lips briefly. “Stay down.” I watched him hop out of the car and slam the door shut.
I started to panic almost immediately. It was ridiculous to think that my past had caught up with me. Why would He of all people know where I was? As far as I knew, he wasn’t associated with any crime lords in Chicago.
It couldn’t be him. He was 800 miles away, probably scouring the streets of New York looking for me. It’d been a year…he probably gave up by now. Maybe he even assumed me dead.
Luca had plenty of his own enemies. This had nothing to do with me. That’s what I had to keep telling myself, at least. It was the only thing that kept me calm throughout the whole ordeal.
I could hear gunshots farther up the street, but they remained in the distance. Peeking through the window behind me, I realized Ricky had parked us in an alley. He and Luca went out into the fight, driving the attention on themselves rather than the car I was hiding in.
I just hoped his men were there by now, keeping him safe.
He might have been a dickhead, but I didn’t want to see him dead. He’d already done so much for me, and we were getting to know each other. Not that I expected that to go anywhere.
The point being, he wasn’t all bad.
He was a criminal, a murderer, and the king of his world. But he had shown me kindness on multiple occasions. He showed me mercy when he didn’t need to. He gave me a place to stay and made sure I’d never end up on the streets again.
What would become of me if he died? A lot of his men scared the shit out of me. At the gym, I caught a few of them staring at me with a mix of lust and hostility. I knew the rules Luca set in place, but that hadn’t stopped his men from threatening to rape me that night. In fact, I was certain they would have gone through with it if I hadn’t managed to fight my way out.
There was a lull in gunfire and I heard voices approaching. My eyes slipped shut as momentary relief swept through me. I hadn’t realized how badly I wanted Luca to come back until that very moment. I didn’t understand just how safe he made me feel until now.
“We’ve got a live one in here.”
My eyes snapped open and locked onto the man that stood at the opposite door. He had a bright flashlight and was using it to see me through the dark glass. My heart kicked into overdrive and I lifted my weapon, aiming it straight at his head. If he dared to open the car, I would blast his brains all over the leather seats.
But I hadn’t expected what happened next.
The door I leaned against suddenly yanked open and I fell back, landing on something hard. Looking up, I saw another strange man. He smiled eerily as he took in my dress and the gun clutched in my hand.
“What do we have here?”
I scrambled back to the other side, slamming the lock down on the opposite door so the other one couldn’t get in. The burly man smiled at me, his yellow teeth making my stomach lurch. I fired my weapon, hitting him right in the chest. He barely reacted, reaching forward and wrapping his thick fingers around my ankle.
“Didn’t realize the Bossman had a lady friend.”
His friend came around the other side, standing behind him – his grin just as sinister. The man tugged on my ankle, yanking me forward with enough force to make my dress ride up my body and my head slam into the car floor.
I aimed and fired again, this time hitting him right in the neck. Blood spluttered from the wound and he coughed, spraying more all over the cement as he fell on his knees. His companion stepped over him, grabbing me by the throat and twisting the gun from my grasp.
“You’re a feisty little bitch, aren’t you?” he growled, dragging me out of the car and tossing me onto the hard ground beside his dying friend. “I should teach you a lesson, but I think Don Salvatore is gonna like you.”
I scrambled to my feet, ready to put up one hell of a fight.
“And I’m gonna love slitting your throat.” I had no idea where my bravery came from, but it was certainly better than cowering in fear and letting this crook take me.
Footsteps sounded in the distance and Luca rounded the corner with a large group of his men. My knees nearly turned to jelly I was so relieved. They all raised their weapons, forming a circle around the asshole and myself.
“Raven.” I met Luca’s gaze, seeing his hand extend as he commanded me with just one word. I set my hand in his and he pulled me against him, his lips pressing into my temple. “Are you alright?”
I nodded, still trying to get my heart rate to slow.
He looked me over, his gaze darkening as he inspected me for injuries. Aside from the bandage on my shoulder, I was still unharmed. Satisfied, he pushed me behind him and took a step toward my assailant. He acknowledged the dead one, stepping over him like he was road kill before meeting the other’s gaze.
“On your knees.”
The man spit at Luca’s feet, his eyes full of hatred. Luca chuckled darkly, unbuttoning his jacket and handing it off to Ricky. Casually, he removed his diamond cufflinks, also handing them off before rolling up his sleeves. He made a gesture with his left hand, the motion almost graceful. Two of his men emerged from the crowd and came to stand behind the enemy. They forced him to his knees with a kick to the stomach, keeping him in place with a hand on each shoulder. His breathing grew labored and he continued to stare at Luca with loathing.
Luca kept his eyes locked on his target, reaching an open palm behind him. Ricky handed him a small item, seemingly a set of rings melded together. When he slipped them onto his fingers, I realized exactly what they were. Pulling a leather glove over his hand, he turned around and quickly slammed his fist into the perpetrator’s face. I actually winced.
The crunch of bone could be heard beneath the force of the blow, blood and saliva spraying all over the concrete. Luca pulled a handkerchief from the breast pocket of his button-down shirt and tossed it at the man.
“Wipe it off. Now.”
The man must have had a death wish, because he spit on Luca’s shoe…again. I knew things were about to take a turn for the absolute worst, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stomach it.
Luca wailed on him, his fist repeatedly beating into the man’s face until it was barely recognizable. I couldn’t understand how he found the strength to pummel this man for so long without feeling exhausted. It made me sick, but I couldn’t look away.
When the asshole could barely breathe, Luca removed the glove and brass knuckles, handing them off. He squatted before the man, resting his elbows on his knees as he leaned in.
“Wipe. It. Off.”
The man didn’t hesitate this time, his fingers trembling as he picked up the handkerchief and wiped it over the top of Luca’s designer shoes. His effort was weak, spreading the saliva around more than wiping it off, but Luca seemed pleased nonetheless.
Spinning on his heel and rising to his full height, Luca took back his jacket and cufflinks, replacing them on his body and buttoning the front of his suit as though nothing had happened at all.
“Take care of this, Vince,” he said casually, not bothering to look back at his victim. “I want him delivered back to Salvatore…in pieces.”
“No,” the man sobbed, the sound muffled by his broken jaw, “please. Have mercy.”
Luca actually laughed at that. “I’m fresh out.”