Series: DeLuca Duet #2
Release Date: February 6, 2017
Genre: Erotic Romance, Mafia/Mob/Cartel, Romantic Suspense
More Info: Goodreads
Purchase: Amazon US
Purchase: Barnes & Noble
Purchase: Amazon UK
The Chicago Mob is the same as it has always been—violent, greedy, and excessive. The Outfit families have turned their backs when they were needed the most one too many times, but Dino DeLuca didn’t expect anything different.
His whole life has been lived for the Outfit—for his family.
He has a whole new set of reasons to live and fight now.
Karen Martin makes Dino change all the rules.
He’s finally ready to show everyone just how much waste is truly worth in the mafia, and just how far one will go for freedom from it all.
He’s learned these lessons well.
Title: Worth of Waste
Series: DeLuca Duet #2
Genre: Erotic Mafia Romantic Suspense
Cover Design: Simply Defined Art
Release Dates: February 6th, 2017
Karen leaned against the metal fence, tucking her own coat closer to her body to combat the chill. She watched J as he pushed himself up to a standing position, and tried to take a step forward. In his heavy boots, he struggled and fell, catching himself easily.
He didn’t try to walk again, though, instead crawling to where the sandbox was.
Another one of his favorite spots in the park.
Knowing her son would be fine to play, and seeing as how the park was mostly empty of children, given it was school day and not even noon, she found one of the park benches to sit on and try to relax.
While her attention was on her son and making sure he didn’t wander off or stick something in his mouth, her mind was somewhere else entirely.
He should be out.
His sentence is served.
Is he out?
Those questions plagued her as she watched J throw a handful of sand up into the air.
Karen had asked one thing of Dino’s lawyer, and that was to let her know the official date of his release. She had never gotten that phone call, and for good reason. When she called the office where Mike Hardy had worked, she learned exactly why she hadn’t been contacted by the lawyer.
He was dead.
It made her sick all over.
“Careful!” Karen shouted to her son as Junior balanced on the edge of the sandbox and leaned forward, trying to grab something from the ground. “Sit down, J!”
The baby plopped down on his butt with a laugh, but didn’t turn to look at his mother. So was their routine when they came to the park—he was always trying to get into some kind of trouble, and Karen damn near had a heart attack every time. She was sure the older he got, the worse it would be for her.
She still loved him for it.
He was far more adventurous than she had remembered being as a child.
Karen wasn’t quite sure what it was that made her feel like someone was watching her, but the hair on the back of her neck prickled. Strangely, it wasn’t a bad thing. She didn’t feel … unsafe like maybe she should have.
She didn’t even get the chance to turn and see if someone else had parked in the park’s lot before she felt his presence. And she knew in an instant exactly who it was.
Maybe it was the way his shadow fell over hers, the sizeable shape swallowing her whole. He had always been larger than her, making her feel so small but so important in his world.
Maybe it was the sound of his throat clearing, something he’d done time and time again when he felt like he was inserting himself into her time and life and didn’t deserve to be there, so he tried to give her warning.
Maybe it was the way her heartrate picked up.
Or the shaky breath she released.
Karen couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was that explained how she knew, she just did.
“I met a girl once,” he said behind her, “and she only had to talk to make me smile.”
Karen didn’t know what to say, but she knew he was talking about her. “Oh?”
“Fascinating woman, really.”
“I fucked it up, though.”
Karen blinked, her vision cloudy from gathering wetness. “You don’t know that.”
“Don’t I?” he asked softly. “I’m still trying to figure out how to tell her I’m sorry.”
Karen patted the seat beside hers on the bench. “Sit.”
Dino didn’t make her tell him again.
Ask anyone and they will all say the same thing about just who Dino DeLuca is. A criminal, the son of a traitor, and a mafia Capo who can’t be trusted. His past has shaped his life, creating demons he can’t escape from that live in his mind day and night.
He is all too aware of just how people see him.
He doesn’t care—keeping people out means no one can get close enough to hurt him again, and he already has one too many monsters with their claws stuck in his back that he’s still fighting off. His walls are so high, no one is climbing over them. Or so he thinks…
Karen came into his life like a spring shower, her light shining through the darkness and making him see something other than the hell that surrounded him for so long. She doesn’t know who he is or what he has done to become the man he is today. If he can help it, she’ll never know, and his monsters will never hurt her.
She sees his differences as beauty.
She never asks for more.
She is perfect.
The problem with happiness for Dino DeLuca is that his monsters don’t mind taking away what makes him happy. After all, what isn’t given cannot be kept.
These lessons will be the hardest he has ever learned.
Author’s Note: The DeLuca Duet is a two book tale following the same couple through their journey. It is a standalone Duet that can be read independently with a HEA ending.
Memories could make a monster out of a man.
There were times that seemed harder to deal with than others; a passing moment that could make Dino DeLuca’s chest tighten in pain, or his fists clench in anger.
The sound of metal being dropped was one of the worst. He swore he could feel his back bruising and bleeding all over again at the simple tinging tone.
Whispered words made him jumpy—paranoid. Whispers were good for nothing but taunting, and he didn’t want to hear those mocking words anymore.
Had enough yet?
Learn to follow directions, Dino.
It should fucking hurt, kid.
The stench of vomit, clinging to the air and seemingly never letting go, would make his panic rush into overdrive, overwhelming him with an almost sense of itchiness all over his skin. As if the vomit was still soaked and dripping off his clothes in the darkness as he sobbed in a dank basement, curled in a corner and fighting off another round of sickness.
The reactions always came so swiftly they surprised him no matter the time or place. His memories weren’t much different when it came right down to it.
These times were the most difficult for Dino.
Those times came at night.
When the lights were off …
When the apartment was quiet …
When it was just him and his monsters …
When he was alone.
The most frightening thing about monsters was the fact that they could be anybody. The old man sitting outside the pizzeria, tipping his hat at the ladies passing by. The young woman on the city bus with her hair bleached white and her gaze distant, staring at anything but anyone. The mother pushing a stroller down the street, oblivious but focused.
Or a monster could be the man dressed in three-piece suit stepping out of the restaurant he owns, the ring of his key fob for his white Bentley spinning circles as he whistled Ave Maria on his way to church.
Dino caught sight of the lower portion of his reflection in the darkly tinted glass of his Bentley’s window.
He managed a smile.
It was more like a smirk.
Fact was, the expression he wore was neither. Dino found it incredibly hard to smile—something that came so easy for others was foreign to him. When he did try, it came off as a grimacing grin and that worked its way into a sneer.
Or a smirk.
He liked that better.
It was manageable.
The monster was definitely the man wearing the three-piece suit with the key fob in his hand, staring at himself in the window, Dino knew.
Slipping into the SUV, the noise of the busy Chicago city street was silenced instantly as Dino turned on his vehicle and checked his rearview mirror before he could pull out onto the road.
He regretted choosing the rearview almost immediately.
While his reflection in the window of his car had been partly obscured by the shadows of trees providing shade to the sidewalk, it was not concealed at all in the rearview mirror.
Dino didn’t like mirrors.
He didn’t like the face staring back at him.
The soulless brown gaze, emotionless expression, and silence was more than enough to make him look away.
Except he couldn’t.
Under the right edge of his strong jaw was a three inch scar that started three-quarters of the way up his throat and stopped just before his ear. The broad slope of his nose had the slightest crook in the middle. Sometimes the left side of his jaw ached when it rained.
Those were the obvious things—marks, scars, and reminders he could pick out instantly when faced with his reflection. The longer he stared at himself, the more he would find.
It was—without meaning to be—the most dangerous game he could play with himself.
Church, he told himself. You need to be seen at church.
It was only the ringing of his phone that finally drove his gaze away from the rearview mirror, making him check the caller ID, and breaking his cycle of self-loathing.
Dino was grateful for that.
Not so much the caller that interrupted him.
Sighing, he connected the call through Bluetooth as he pulled out onto the road.
“DeLuca here,” Dino answered.
“Why the fuck is Riley Conti calling me with demands about you, Dino?”
Dino counted back from five silently before he answered his younger brother. “Theo, good morning to you, too. Are you at church? I’m headed that way. We can talk then.”
Dino let the call drop.
Theo wouldn’t say two words to Dino at the church and he knew it for a fact. When it came to the public, Theo and Dino were constantly apart from one another—on opposite sides of the room where they didn’t have to speak.
It was the easiest way for Dino to handle Theo DeLuca.
Maybe that made him a coward.
The brothers’ history together was not an easy one, not when it had been shadowed by the death of their parents, and then the events that followed the murders. Unlike Dino, who learned quickly that trust was a beautiful myth in their lifestyle and in the Chicago Outfit, Theo was of a more stubborn mindset.
And so, the two were distant.
Dino tried with Theo, but it never really seemed to help the relationship.
He was all too aware that his younger brother blamed him for things that had been out of his control, though Theo thought his older sibling could have handled the past far better.
He probably could have—should have.
Dino thought he had, honestly. He’d taken years of abuse from the hands of their uncle Ben after their parents’ deaths. He’d lived separately from the family, sure, but he was not exempt from the beatings and the manipulation.
Of course, that was a story for another day.
If Dino got his wish, that day would never come.
Another call rang through to Dino’s cell phone.
He checked the caller ID again.
Ben DeLuca, it read.
Dino didn’t pick up the call, still driving toward the church.
He would see Ben soon enough.
Without even being told, Dino was already aware he would suffer for not picking up the call.
Years had passed since he’d suffered some form of physical harm from his uncle’s hard hand.
Dino’s chest tightened at the thought.
Truth was, he still wasn’t exempt from the manipulation.
Not when he was constantly haunted with it all.
He still wasn’t free.