Anthony, p.1Part #7 of Lucian & Lia series by Sydney Landon
Copyright 2018 Sydney Landon
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, establishments, organizations, and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously to give a sense of authenticity. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Also by Sydney Landon
ALSO BY SYDNEY LANDON
THE DANVERS NOVELS
Not Planning on You
Fall For Me
Fighting For You
Betting on You (A Danvers Novella)
No Denying You
Always Loving You
Watch Over Me
The One For Me
Wishing For Us
* * *
THE BREAKFAST IN BED SERIES
Keeping it Hot
Room For Two
* * *
THE PIERCED SERIES
Marco (Fall 2018)
I lean my hip against the second-floor balcony and glare at the dark-haired woman below. “What in the fuck is she doing?” I snap to my club manager, Jax Hudson.
Jax shrugs his shoulders indifferently. “Don’t know for sure, boss. Seems like a weird place to hold a job interview, but that’s what it looks like. She’s got people filling out paperwork, and hell, there’s even a pen stuck in her hair. She’s hot, though, so maybe I should apply for whatever this position is. I’ve always had a thing for the nerdy accountant look.” He licks his lips in a way that makes me want to punch his face. “That’s smoking.”
Rolling my eyes, I then shake my head in resignation. If I’ve learned nothing else in my time as the owner of one of the hottest clubs in town, it’s that people are basically nuts. I’m rarely surprised anymore, but seeing the woman below collecting papers from the group of men surrounding her table is a first. But she’s vaguely familiar. Her slim build and the curve of her neck stir something in my conscience, but I can’t place what. My body is reacting to her, which is downright insane. Scantily dressed women surround me every night, and most of them throw themselves at me regularly. So why in the fuck would I look twice at some uptight broad who’s obviously picked a bad place to conduct whatever business she has? “Go see what’s going on. Her little enterprise is blocking the entrance to the bar.”
Jax straightens away from the banister, saying, “You got it, boss.”
I remain where I am out of curiosity as he reaches the bottom floor and approaches the table in question. He weaves his way through the group of men and leans down to speak in the woman’s ear. She nods a few times, then looks up. Her eyes search the area before locking on mine, and I hiss. Holy fucking shit.
Jacey. The hair is different, but I know the face. It’s haunted my dreams for longer than I care to admit. Powerless to stop it, my mind drifts to the day we met. I was helping my friend, and the man I consider a brother, Lee Jacks, deal with the man known as the father-in-law from hell. Luckily, the monster in question is dead, and there is one less piece of shit in the world thanks to the woman below.
Jacey Wrenn, sister of Lee’s wife and former assistant, Jade, killed her father that day in a move that surprised us all. And considering the men in the room, that was no easy feat. Fuck, my cousin, Marco Moretti, still speaks of her in a voice filled with awe—and lust. At every mention of her name in the past eleven months or so, I’ve wanted to kick his ass.
After discovering their mother was murdered by their dad and didn’t die in a car accident as the police record had shown, Jacey had lost it. She’d spent most of her life believing one thing only to find out it was a complete fabrication. And her father made the mistake of gloating. The bastard had also bragged about having my father, Draco Moretti, killed along with his business partner and best friend, Victor Falco. The kill should have been mine. Every man in that room acknowledged the unspoken rule. Revenge. The Morettis lived by a code. And even though I’ve distanced myself from the daily operations of the family, I’ll never completely be free of them—nor do I want to be. I’d played with Wrenn, letting his ego write checks that his body couldn’t possibly cash. His admission caught me by surprise. How he managed to cover his involvement in my father’s death was astounding. I still believe someone within the family was paid off to look the other way, and eventually, I’ll find out who. But for now, Jacey has my sole focus. The delicate, beautiful vixen who shot and killed her father before passing out in my arms.
I took her home with me that night. She stayed for a few weeks before she walked out when I refused to give her what she wanted. I knew she wasn’t ready for what she was asking me for. Truthfully, I’m not sure she’ll ever be. I have no idea exactly what she did as the right hand of her father, but I have a sick feeling that it was more than she could physically and emotionally deal with. Add in murdering her father in cold blood, and you get one colossal, fucked-up mess. And she’s been in denial about pretty much all of it. She smiles at the right moments, acts rationally, and appears normal. All of which is bullshit. She is anything but.
I’ve seen her at family gatherings over the past year thanks to my friendship with Lee. But she’s largely ignored me. One of my guys keeps an eye on her. Even dead, a man like Wrenn could still have enemies, and Jacey is an enticing target as the head of Wrenn Corp. She sold off a lot of holdings since taking over the company, but that means nothing to those harboring grudges. I also fear she has a death wish, and given she makes zero effort to keep a low profile and doesn’t have security of her own suggests I’m right. Sadly, that’s left me in the position of protecting her from not only unknown enemies but from herself as well.
I half expected her to go wild—regressing into teenage rebellion with her father gone—but that didn’t happen. Even though I wouldn’t have liked that scenario, I would have at least understood it to a degree. People deprived of a decent childhood often attempted to recreate it later in life. But instead, she threw herself into the family business as if nothing else existed. Maybe she’s still trying to prove her worth to her old man, even though she put him in the ground. Bottling your shit up isn’t healthy, I can attest to that. Eventually, you need an outlet, and if you don’t find one, your body will force the issue. Jacey has been a ticking time bomb since the day she pulled the trigger, and I’ve been doing my best to stay close so I can put the pieces back together if she explodes.
Who would guess that Tony Moretti is such a noble guy? Fuck that. I’m no one’s knight in shining armor or even close. But she’s been under my skin for longer than I care to admit. Hell, since before I ever laid eyes on her. Sounds fucking insane, right? In all the time I’ve been obsessed with the woman below, never once have I imagined how we officially met. Nor have I believed that I’d be in the unfamiliar position of wanting to save her. She has a sister who, although the relationship has never been close, would step in and do anything necessary to help her. So why was I, a virtual stranger, the one enduring the sleepless nights worrying about Jacey Wrenn? Her father had your father killed. She was innocent of that crime, but by rights, I should want her dead. Fuck, there are those within the family who desire that very thing. Thank fuck Lee’s married to her sister, Jade. There isn’t a Moretti brave enough to go after Lee. To touch a single hair on his wife’s head would bring down something comparable to the apocalypse, and the family knows it. But if Lee is the devil, then I’m his cousin the Grim Reaper. When I handed down the verdict that neither Wrenn woman be harmed, it became law. Some may not like it, but they fucking know what their disregard of my command brings. They would burn.
My relationship with the Moretti organization is complicated. My father, Draco, founded what is now one of the largest crime syndicates in the South. He lavished his family with power and prosperity, thus earning him a type of loyalty that few could imagine. Even years after his death, his name is still revered. I used my inheritance to open my first nightclubs in Asheville, North Carolina, as well as South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Even though I’m not active in the daily operations, I’ll always be the prince. When I need something, it’s granted. My word is law, and every man in the organization will do my bidding without question. It is a strange and complex association, but it works. I’m not a fool. I know there are those within the family who resent the fact I’ve more or less turned into a law-abiding citizen instead of assuming my rightful place as the head of the Morettis. If it is within my power and influence—and it often is—I take care of my brothers by greasing the right palms and having ties with those in a position to look the other way when needed. The family has grown so large since my father’s death that there are some I don’t trust. Some who may have helped cover up when Hunter Wrenn killed my father.
A hand on my shoulder has me whirling around and biting back a curse. I must remain vigilant simply because I’m a Moretti, and allowing someone to sneak up behind me could be
What the fuck? To buy some time as I try to process this, I ask distractedly, “The Duchess? She gave you that name?”
He smirks. “We didn’t get that far. But she reminds me of that hot Kate Middleton. Isn’t she the duchess of something? Plus, she’s sitting on that barstool like it’s a goddamn throne.” His eyes literally roll back in his head when he adds, “She’s hot as fuck and smells like a mixture of heaven and sin. What I wouldn’t give for a little taste of both.”
I snarl before I can stop myself. I bare my teeth at the man I consider a friend as well as a trusted employee and advisor. “That better never happen,” I say in what’s considered my deadly quiet voice. Anyone who knows me would attest that you’d rather me yell at you anytime. When I’m calm, you run. It’s a trait my father also had. He killed men without ever raising his voice.
He throws his hands up and takes a step back. He’s been with me since the beginning, so he knows when to back off. “She’s yours,” he says simply, while looking surprised. I’ve staked a claim. There’s always been plenty of pussy to go around. But unlike others, I avoid shitting where I eat, and even though I don’t forbid it, I prefer my management team do the same. One-night stands and romantic entanglements are a fucking nightmare in a place that serves booze and a good time. No good can come of it. You’re not likely to meet your future wife while she’s drunk and grinding against you on a dance floor. But who am I to judge? I certainly don’t come from a conventional family, so I’m not the man to make that call. He clears his throat and resumes his place at my side. He leans closer to be heard above the loud beat of the music. “Boss, you catch the part about her hunting for someone to knock her up? That’s carrying it a bit far, right?”
And just like that, my calm is gone, and I’m clenching my hands at my sides. I want to march downstairs, throw the Duchess over my shoulder, and take her somewhere to give her what she needs—a spanking. She fucking knows this is my club. Hell, she stayed here with me. Jax has seen her in my apartment—he just didn’t recognize her with the dyed hair. I refused to father her child, so she’s getting back at me by pulling this stunt right under my nose. Despite the anger humming through my veins, I smile. You’ve fucked up, Duchess. Jax is right; that name is perfect for her. There is a regal bearing in the way she holds herself. Spine ramrod straight. Nose turned up as if no one in the vicinity is worthy of her. She begged the Moretti prince to be the father of her child. Couldn’t get much lower than that, baby. Without taking my eyes from her, I say, “I heard what you said, Jax, and it’ll be taken care of. Just ignore her unless one of her applicants gets out of hand.” I glance at my friend before adding, “She won’t be back tomorrow. At least not in that capacity.”
He nods once before walking off, and my attention returns to her—always her. “Just remember, you started this, Duchess,” I murmur as she glances up, and her eyes lock onto mine. There’s defiance there—which fucking turns me on. But it’s the hint of vulnerability that has me wondering if I’m capable of saving her from herself without destroying the last piece of humanity we both possess.
* * *
This seemed like a good idea earlier—but now I’m not so sure. I knew he was watching me before his manager arrived at my table. Bringing this battle to his doorstep felt like a mistake—a deadly one. But I’m desperate. I need him the way air is necessary to breathe. He is the blood pumping through my veins and the only thing keeping me from falling apart. I didn’t want to leave him, but I put it all on the line, and he flatly turned me down. I wasn’t a fool; I knew he wanted me—but not in the same way. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been capable of maintaining the tight hold on his control. And God knows, I did everything in my power to make him lose it. If only he simply found me unattractive, that would be easier to deal with. But I’m damaged goods to him. Broken. He thinks eventually I’ll shatter into a million pieces—and I’m terrified he’s right. That very fear was the driving force that made me say such obnoxious things to him when I last saw him. A shudder runs down my spine as I recall my final words to him. “I might be the daughter of a murdering bastard, but you’re the son of a fucking mafia thug. How dare you consider yourself above me? You should be jumping at the chance to father my child instead of passing judgment.”
He was angry, which was what I wanted, but I didn’t count on the other emotion I caught a brief glimpse of before he shut down—hurt. And as crazy as it seems, that bothered me more than killing my father had.
Oh wait—maybe I should start with that. My name is Jacey Wrenn, and a year ago—give or take a few weeks—I gunned down my father when he gloated about murdering my mother and her lover. When I pulled the trigger the first time, it had been pure reflex. A reaction to the lies and years of hell he’d put me through after having taken the only good thing in my life away. The second time, I knew exactly what I was doing. I wanted to ensure he couldn’t terrorize my sister and me any longer. That the power he wielded over us was eradicated.
I passed out in the arms of Anthony Moretti—Tony. The man whose father slept with my mother. By all rights, I should hate him, but I don’t. In the short time I stayed with him, he showed me something I hadn’t had since my mother died. Love. Which is absurd to even think. He was a total stranger to me. We hadn’t met before. Yet he held me in his arms when I woke from nightmares screaming. I can still feel the warm press of his lips against my forehead as he murmured words of comfort—promising me that no one would ever hurt me again. Whether he knew it or not, he saved me. If I had been left on my own, I might not have had the strength to face the road ahead. But he sheltered and cared for me until I was ready to carry on. I’m not saying two weeks cured me. Far from it. But I was functional again—more fucked up than ever—but functional. One step above batshit crazy. Yay me.
The second week with him, an idea—or a longing—took root that I still haven’t shaken. I wanted something of my own. Someone to love. Someone to build a life with and around. The timing might have been odd, considering recent events, but my biological clock had picked that exact moment to go haywire. My inner voice had laughed hysterically, considering how I avoid children like they’re the plague. Why on God’s earth would I want one of my own? They were messy, smelly, loud, and basically everything I’d never wanted. I’m almost certain they don’t make a Prozac dose big enough to deal with all that motherhood entails. So why do I want it so badly? And not with just anyone. It had to be him—Tony. Probably the man least likely to agree to my request. No doubt his views on parenthood are similar to what mine have always been. He is the son of a freaking mobster and owns several nightclubs. Although, from what I observed while staying with him, he rarely slept. That’s a plus when you have children. Isn’t it? What does it matter? I’m after a sperm donor, not a husband. Even if he agreed to help me get pregnant, he certainly wouldn’t want anything more to do with me after that… Sadly.
Anthony by Sydney Landon / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes