Series: The Chicago War #2
Release Date: November 9, 2015
Genre: Dark Romance, Erotic Romance, Romantic Suspense
More Info: Goodreads
Play dirty. It’s the only way to win in a war.
Alessa Trentini follows the rules, or so it seems on the outside. A certain Conti has always been able to sway her inner rebel and keep her out of trouble, but even Adriano won’t be able to get her out of her brother’s mess. In a war, no woman is safe if her hand in marriage can advance her family in the world of the mafia. But mistakes of the past have a way of slipping into the present and Alessa will soon learn that even the most shameful of secrets can get her everything she wants.
Adriano Conti’s loyalties are torn as he’s forced to stand at his father’s side while Riley uses his wife’s murder as a way to get higher. Blood comes first and then the Outfit. The one thing he doesn’t question in the war between the families is Alessa Trentini and even that doesn’t seem possible when he’s forced to watch Alessa be used as another man’s pawn. Adriano has his own role to play to get what he wants.
The families in the Outfit have never been more divided than they are now. Blood continues to spill as revenge takes center stage and more lives are lost. But every man in the family is fighting for something different and no one’s intentions can be trusted. Playing a dirty game might be the only way to stay alive.
Even if that means ruining it all.
Reckless & Ruined
The Chicago War #2
Publication Date: November 9, 2015
Also in this series: Deathless & Divided
Genres: Contemporary, E
“You’re only young and stupid once.”
Alessa thought that had to be the dumbest thing she’d ever heard. “Exactly. You’re only stupid once, Dean. In my family, that means you only get one chance not to mess it up. Because if you do, you’re screwed.”
Dean laughed, taking another step toward Alessa. She backed further under the willow tree, keeping a safe distance between her and Dean. The guy was cute, as far as that went. It was just about the only thing he had going for him and cute didn’t add up to a whole hell of a lot when your personality was seriously lacking. Dean didn’t seem to understand the word ‘no’ when Alessa said it.
It was just too damn bad his father was a Capo in la famiglia. For Alessa, that put her in a bad situation whenever Dean showed up. Terrance, Alessa’s grandfather and the boss of the Outfit, didn’t mind Dean or the guy’s father.
Dean screamed bad news in the worst way.
She didn’t care that he was affiliated with the Chicago mob at only eighteen-years-old or that he was as arrogant as they came. No, that wasn’t it at all. Alessa’s biggest issue with Dean was that his interest in her only went as far as her position as Terrance Trentini’s granddaughter. Dean didn’t like Alessa because of who she was as a person, but rather, he liked the people she came from. The guy just wanted to situate himself with a pretty face, a good last name, and a piece of ass to get him higher in the mob.
Alessa wasn’t going to be that girl.
“Come on, Alessa,” Dean said, grinning as he took another step toward her. “Go out with me and have some fun tonight.”
“Like how you took my sister out last month?” Alessa asked.
Dean’s jaw tightened. “We’re just friends.”
Alessa loved her sister Abriella, as far as that went. But Abriella was a little on the wild side and didn’t know how to follow the rules. If she went out with Dean, it wasn’t because the two were friends. And if Abriella didn’t take Dean out again, he definitely wasn’t worth Alessa’s time.
“I didn’t realize I had the word idiot stamped on my forehead,” Alessa said, smiling as sweetly as she could manage. “Let me go wash that off for you so there’s no confusion the next time we meet.”
Using her sarcasm as an easy and obvious way out of the conversation, Alessa ducked under the low lying branch of the willow tree and headed back toward the Trentini mansion. She didn’t make it very far. Dean caught up to her before she could get out of the privacy of the tree, grabbed her around the waist, and pulled her back into his chest.
“Hey, let me go,” Alessa barked, jerking away from Dean.
Dean held tight. “Come on, Alessa. Don’t be like that. We both know—”
“—That you’re a fucking tool,” Alessa interrupted hatefully.
Dean grabbed even harder, squeezing the air right out of her lungs. Panic saturated Alessa’s insides, freezing her in place as Dean grabbed the ends of her wavy brown hair and tugged firmly enough for it to really hurt. All of the air in Alessa’s lungs rushed out in a whoosh.
“Be nice and stop acting like such a spoiled little bitch,” Dean said in her ear.
Alessa shivered, the disgust rolling thick. “Let me go, Dean.”
“No, I think we’re good here. First time I’ve actually been able to get you alone. I think you’re one of those girls that likes to tease and fuck around with a guy until he can’t take it anymore and just snaps. Then you get it rough just like you like, right?”
“No,” Alessa whispered.
She didn’t know what he was talking about, but she didn’t like it. Fear compounded in her heart. She was too far away from the back of Trentini mansion to be heard even if she yelled at the top of her lungs for help.
Alessa felt stupid for having left the afternoon party without taking someone with her, but everyone else was busy doing their own thing. She had just wanted to get the hell away from Dean and his constant badgering. When she thought Dean wouldn’t notice her missing, Alessa took the chance to slip out of the back of the house and take a walk on the large property. She needed the breather. Dean followed her like the creep he was.
Dean’s hand drove down Alessa’s back to her ass where he grabbed her through her summer dress. When he tried to stick his hand under her dress, Alessa yelped and pulled away from him fast enough to take him off guard. Spinning in her ballet flats, she struck him on the cheek with her open palm. The sound of the slap reverberated through the quiet hush of the wind whistling through the tree leaves.
“You bastard,” Alessa hissed, readying to hit him again if he came near her. “I am not some piece of ass for you to handle however you want. Don’t you understand that I don’t want you? I have never wanted you, Dean! You’re a self-righteous, entitled, disgusting little prick. And you’ll be lucky if I don’t tell my father and grandfather what you just tried to do to me!”
Dean laughed a dark sound. “Your father? You mean the guy who isn’t even good enough to be in with the Outfit, but just a used up lawyer for your grandfather? Get real, Alessa. What is he going to do to me, huh?”
“Your grandfather thinks I’m made of gold,” Dean interrupted with a cruel smile. “Go on ahead and whine to him all you want, but he isn’t going to believe you. In fact, if my father gets his way, I’ll be standing there to meet you at the end of an aisle while you wear a white dress. Keep holding onto your skirt like that’s going to protect you, Alessa. I’ll get it one way or the other.”
Alessa felt sick. “Fuck you.”
Like hell and over her dead body. She would never marry this man.
“That’s the plan, babe,” Dean said, smirking wickedly. “Even if it takes me a little while to get you there. You’re sixteen now, but eighteen is just around the corner. How long do you think you’ll last after that before your grandfather marries you off to the best man he can find in the Outfit? Right now, I’m looking mighty fucking good to him.”
Alessa barely held back the vomit. She trembled from her head to her toes as her hands balled into tight fists at her sides. “I’d slit my throat first.”
“So dramatic. I like a crazy girl. They’re always fun.”
What was wrong with this guy?
“Plus, you know Ben will make it happen,” Dean added with a wink. “He’s best friends with your grandfather and all. My uncle wouldn’t mind getting me a little closer to the top. You have to admit, we’d made a damn good pair.”
At Ben DeLuca’s name, Alessa barely managed to supress her shudder. Ben happened to be the right-hand man to Alessa’s grandfather and Dean’s uncle. Dean, being the son of Walter and Patricia Artino who were both thoroughly integrated with the DeLuca side of the Outfit, had a great deal of power behind him. Maybe even as much as Alessa had behind her. Patricia, Ben DeLuca’s younger sister, was also close to Alessa’s mother.
A marriage between her and Dean would put the Artino family front row and center for once. They were usually overshadowed by the DeLuca side of their family when it came to the mob. Alessa would not be that family’s way to the top, regardless of whatever plans Dean and his father might have had for her.
“Keep dreaming,” Alessa said, refusing to show Dean how his words affected her. Trentinis didn’t show fear, ever. Her grandfather wouldn’t marry her off to a man like Dean, right? “Because that’s all you’re ever going to get from me.”
Her words didn’t seem to faze Dean a bit. As he spoke, he moved toward her again. Slowly, one step after another, he came closer to Alessa like she was a mouse and he was a snake ready to swallow her whole. She felt cemented to the ground, unable to move or run.
“Think about it, Alessa. Your grandfather needs to set something up for when he’s good and done running the Outfit. Your father isn’t in with the family.”
Dean barked out a laugh that chilled Alessa to the core. “Joel? He’s such a fuck up. Get your pretty little head out of the clouds, girl. He’s not going anywhere. Terrance is going to go for the next best thing—marrying his granddaughters off to the strongest and best families he can find. Look no further, Alessa. I’m exactly where you’re heading in the foreseeable future.”
Dean was close enough to reach out and grab her again if he wanted. She refused to give him that chance. Alessa’s legs finally decided to catch up with her screaming mind and pounding heart. She turned to bolt out of the cover the willow tree provided and ran straight into something hard.
The strong arms of Adriano Conti caught Alessa before she hit the ground. Something akin to a sob caught in her chest as Adriano righted her without a word and moved her slightly behind him. Alessa fisted her hands into the back of Adriano’s T-shirt like it was the only lifeline she had left.
“You all right?” Adriano asked, never taking his glare off Dean for a second.
“Yeah,” Alessa mumbled. “I’m okay, Adriano.”
Alessa felt Adriano’s hand reach back and cover hers. He squeezed her hand and then let it go. Adriano Conti was the same age as Alessa. They even went to the same private school. His father was heavily involved with her grandfather and the Chicago mob, seeing as how Riley Conti was the Outfit’s front boss.
What Adriano had never done, was pay Alessa very much attention. He stuck to his side of the Outfit, and Alessa stuck to hers. They passed one another by from time to time at family dinners and parties but they didn’t make an effort to be friends. Adriano was the high school football star, a mob principe for the Outfit, and a player on and off the field. Every single girl Alessa knew had tried to get a piece of this guy—her not included.
That didn’t mean she never wanted to, though. Alessa would be a damned liar if she ever said Adriano wasn’t gorgeous and interesting to her.
The contrast between Dean and Adriano under the willow tree as they had a stare down was visible to Alessa. Adriano might have been two years younger than Dean, but he towered over the man by at least six inches. Dean was tall and lean, but Adriano was built like the linebacker he was with broad shoulders, thick arms, and a stance that screamed for someone to back off.
Alessa could feel the muscles in Adriano’s back tighten like coils ready to spring. He practically vibrated under her touch. His teeth bared as he sneered in Dean’s direction like the guy was nothing more than a worm to be crushed under his shoe.
“Artino,” Adriano said, tipping his chin in Dean’s direction. “I thought that was you I saw following Alessa out here earlier.”
Dean scowled. “What about it?”
Adriano shrugged. “Nothing. But when a girl says back off, it means get the fuck away before she decides to hand you over your balls.”
“We were just having some innocent fun. Right, Alessa?” Dean asked.
Alessa glowered at him. “Sticking your hand up my dress is supposed to be fun for me?”
At that admission, Adriano lurched forward, going straight for Dean with a fist raised. Because Alessa was still holding onto Adriano’s shirt, she went with him. Luckily, Alessa managed to catch herself and let go of Adriano. Dean flew backward, his hands raised high in the air.
“Whoa, careful there, Adriano,” Dean said, grinning like an idiot. “You wouldn’t want to piss your father off by messing with someone affiliated.”
“Not made,” Adriano said through clenched teeth.
“What is that?”
Adriano flicked his hand in Dean’s direction like he was dismissing him and his warning. “You’re not made which means, you’re not important. I don’t give a fuck about you or your father.”
Dean scoffed. “We both know that isn’t true.”
“Wrong. Your first mistake was fucking around with a Trentini, but your second was assuming you know a goddamn thing about me.” Adriano looked like he was ready and revving for a fight with Dean. Alessa didn’t want to get Adriano in trouble but she didn’t think speaking up would stop him from kicking Dean’s ass. “I suggest you make your way back to the house before you end up eating your teeth and you’re stuck with sucking your food through a straw for the rest of your life.”
“Fuck with someone else,” Adriano interrupted coolly. “She’s not your toy.”
Alessa watched in fascination and confusion as Dean turned around and stalked off. Once she knew he was out of hearing range, Alessa finally relaxed enough to step away from the safety Adriano had provided her.
“Thank you,” Alessa said.
Adriano sighed, crossing his arms as he stared in the direction Dean had disappeared. “He’s something else.”
“I was going to say something worse, but that works, too,” Adriano muttered. “Don’t thank me for getting you out of that, but where in the hell is your brother?”
Adriano nodded. “He’s the only brother you’ve got, right?”
“Somewhere. I just wanted to get away from the party.”
Adriano didn’t look like he believed a word coming out of her mouth. “Actually, you were trying to get away from that fucking piece of shit. I saw how he was following you around and pestering you. Speak the hell up, Alessa. Nobody will stand for his bullshit if you say something about it.”
“He’s never done anything like this before,” Alessa said.
She wasn’t trying to defend Dean. His actions were beyond contempt. But he had never once gone as far as he had today.
“Right, whatever,” Adriano said, shaking his head. “What was he going on about before I stepped in, anyway?”
Alessa cringed, not wanting to go into that. Knowing Adriano, he probably wouldn’t care about Alessa’s fears of being married off. “Nothing.”
“Yeah?” Alessa asked.
Adriano took a step closer to Alessa. Unlike before with Dean, she wasn’t bothered by his close proximity. He reached out and tipped her chin up by using two of his fingers. She was at least a foot shorter than him and looking up made her feel incredibly small.
“Speak up, Alessa,” Adriano repeated softly.
“Nobody around here cares what a girl has to say, Adriano. You know that.”
Alessa blinked, surprised. She didn’t know what else to say, but she wanted to get as far away from the topic of the Outfit as she could. “How’s football?”
Adriano cocked a brow, smirking. He watched her with his green eyes like she was the most important thing to grace his presence for the moment. The guy had skills. Alessa had to give him that.
“Boring,” he finally replied. “Football is boring.”
“Really? You seem to like it a lot.”
“I like a lot of things.”
“I noticed,” Alessa said before she could stop herself.
Alessa’s cheeks heated under his heavy regard. She dropped his stare. “I just … never mind.”
“Hey, don’t do that,” he said, ticking his fingers under her chin again. Alessa couldn’t help but look at him. “Never do that, Alessa.”
“I’m not doing anything.”
Adriano laughed deeply. “Sure you’re not. Don’t be embarrassed, Lissa.”
No one called her that except her close friends at school and her family.
“I notice a lot of things about you, too,” Adriano added.
“Do you?” Alessa asked.
“Mmhmm. You don’t like football all that much, do you? I never see you hanging around the team spots or showing up at games and whatever.”
Alessa wondered why he had looked for her at all.
“No, I don’t like it all that much,” she replied. “The football players at our school have big heads and little brains.”
“All of us?”
Alessa smiled at his question. “Some of you. Maybe you could convince me otherwise.”
“Maybe,” he echoed.
“Are you interested in trying?”
Adriano flashed his white teeth in a sensual grin. “Very.”
Lies and love. This is how a war starts.
A life for a life. That’s the mafia way. Damian Rossi owes his life to a man who is ready to collect. That payment comes in the form of an arranged marriage to the daughter of another leading family in the Chicago Outfit. He’s ready to follow through, even if that means making sure Lily knows she’s his.
Lily DeLuca isn’t being given a choice. Forced home to marry a man she doesn’t know and back into a life she’d rather forget, her world is full of half-truths, buried pain, and uncertainty. But Damian is nothing like she expects. His motives aren’t clear. Her beliefs are being tested.
When it comes to this world, no man can be trusted. Someone is ready to flip the Chicago Outfit on its side all for the promise of something better. But no one runs a clean game and these men play for keeps. When blood begins to paint Chicago red, four families will be divided by loyalty, hatred, and revenge. There is no hiding. There is no safety.
No one is deathless.