Valentino watched the group of women dancing provocatively in front of his table, the five scantily clad females trying to get his attention. He was in H20, the hottest nightclub on his island, a place where inhibitions were left at the door. It was overflowing with beautiful women, many giving him the impression they wanted to jump his cock. It was because he looked like his half-brother, Alessandro, a man-whore who did porn for kicks.
He knocked back another grappa, the strong taste of the brandy burning his throat, the way he preferred it. He wasn’t interested in riding Alessandro’s panty trail. He was a killer, not a lover, even more so after the mafia war had sent his wife to an early grave.
“You should be in hiding,” his best friend said over the techno music, “not walking around as though you don’t have a hit on your head. Pedro Landi won’t take kindly to you killing his men.”
The Landi were one of the five main mafia families on his island. Pedro Landi was their Don, and the man who’d ordered his wife’s murder. Pedro thought Maria’s family had a hand in his youngest daughters’ gruesome deaths, but even if they did, Maria had no part in what had happened. She’d been a gentle soul, someone who didn’t deserve to be riddled with bullets all because she was born into the wrong family.
Valentino slammed his empty glass down on the table, not interested in Niko’s advice. “Those men murdered my wife,” he snapped.
Niko threw worried glances around the nightclub. He wasn’t just Valentino’s friend; he was his bodyguard. He was a monstrous man, a six-foot-five wall of muscle, with receding brown hair and a burn scar that made his right eye droop, the latter courtesy of Iraq.
Niko returned his focus to Valentino. “Keep your voice down. You’re going to get yourself killed, you crazy figlio di puttana.”
“If I wasn’t a son of a whore, I wouldn’t have been born,” he retorted. His father was the Santini Don, while his mother had been a common prostitute.
Niko exhaled. “It’s an expression, and you’re still crazy.”
“I’m not crazy; I’m here to save my daughters’ lives.” Valentino indicated for the waitress to bring him another drink. “And no one’s crazier than my oldest brother,” someone he didn’t share a surname with. His father didn’t acknowledge him since he was an embarrassment to the family. Because of it, he’d grown up in a bordello, where men had paid for his mother’s affections—until one of them murdered her. It was what had turned him into a killer. He’d taken retribution on his mother’s murderer at the age of sixteen, tracking him down and placing a gun to his head. He’d pulled the trigger without an ounce of guilt, the man’s cries of innocence all lies. From then onwards, people hired him to take care of their ‘problems’, most of them mafia related.
Niko leaned back in his chair. His white button-down shirt pulled across his chest, revealing a glimpse of his bulletproof vest. “Ricardo may be a crazy bastardo,” he said, “but you’re going for his title by being here. The Landi are after your blood.”
“They wouldn’t dare set foot on Santini premises.”
Niko frowned. “H20 doesn’t belong to the Santini.”
“It does now. They’ve taken it, like they take everything they want. The twins needed a place for their band to play, so their mother bought it for them.” He sneered, hating the troia. Concetta Santini did everything for her sons, and everything against him.
“You’re still not safe. My source says that Don Landi has hired the Black Vipers to kill you. They’re female assassins—”
“I know who the Black Vipers are.”
Niko’s eyes flicked to the women dancing provocatively in front of their table. He leaned in closer to Valentino. “Any one of those donne could be a Viper.”
Valentino sneered. “I don’t give a merda about dying.”
“Don’t speak like that, your daughters need you.”
“It’s only a matter of time before I’m six feet under. That’s why I need Ricardo to take them in.”
“You can’t leave the girls with him, he’s evil.”
“He’s also loyal to famiglia.” Valentino wanted Ricardo to take them under his wing, rather than their mother’s family, who were on the run from the Landi. He was afraid the Landi would use his daughters as payback, crucifying them in retaliation for what had happened to Pedro’s daughters.
The waitress placed more grappa in front of Valentino. He picked up the glass, swirling the pomace brandy around before taking a gulp. He swallowed it down, his next words hoarse from the drink’s bite. “Ricardo won’t stop until every last Landi is in the ground. Only then will my bambine be safe.”
“Slaughtering a whole famiglia is the work of a monster, not a protector. He’s a madman.”
“The mad ones make the best rulers, and with this war, I’m hoping he’ll finally take over his household. He deserves to be Don, not that senile old man who’s too weak to stand up to his wife. That troia is responsible for my mother’s death.”
“You don’t know that for sure.”
“People saw one of her hitmen leaving the bordello—now he’s paying for it in Hell.”
“You said he denied killing her.”
“People lie to save their necks; it just didn’t work for him.”
One of the women dancing for his attention broke away from the pack, shimmying between a few people to get to him. She was wearing too much eye-makeup and a black dress that barely covered her ass. She leaned her tits towards Valentino, giving him a show of her wares, which were plentiful. “Hello, Alessandro,” she said.
“My name’s Valentino,” he muttered, running his hands over her body, making sure she wasn’t concealing weapons.
Instead of slapping him, she giggled, looking ecstatic with what he was doing. “You look just like the porn actor Alessandro Santini.”
“He’s my brother.” Valentino leaned back in his chair, satisfied she was unarmed. She was probably one of Alessandro’s legions of fans.
Her whole face lit up as though he’d made her day. She leaned closer, almost shoving her tits in his face, the things overflowing her brassiere. “You want to leave with me?”
“I have no interest.”
She straightened, looking aggrieved. “But you touched me.”
“I’m Mafioso. I always check for weapons.”
Her eyes widened. “You’re mafia?” she squeaked.
“You’re not a local, are you?”
She shook her head, appearing shell-shocked. People always reacted in three different ways when they were scared: fight, flight, or freeze—the woman taking the latter option.
He leaned towards her, not feeling an ounce of guilt for scaring her; if anything, he was doing her a favor. “Word of advice: stay away from anyone who looks like me. Now, leave.”
As though he’d said the magic word, she took off, tottering to her friends on her six-inch stilettos. The women surrounded her like the pack of cougars they were. A second later, they pushed through the crowd, looking like they couldn’t get out of the club fast enough.
He turned back to his friend. “As I was saying, Ricardo will protect my girls.”
“No, you need to get them off the island,” Niko replied.
“The Landi will still hunt them down unless my brother takes them under his wing.”
“The Santini are in this war too.”
“The Landi will only attack them if provoked—unlike the Rossos. They’re going after all of them, even defenseless children.” He picked up his glass of grappa and tipped it back, swallowing the rest down. He prayed that Ricardo would agree to help him; otherwise, his children would be hunted down like their mother. If they hadn’t been at a friend’s house that fateful day, they would’ve been killed too. The memory of his wife’s bullet-ridden body clung to his mind, torturing him.
Niko sighed. “Ricardo’s not the type of man you should have looking after girls. Females are terrified of him. He’s a violent bastardo.”
“His violence is only directed at men.”
Niko leaned across the table, his large biceps flexing from the movement. “I still think it’s a bad idea. Send the girls to America; I’ll go with them. I’ll protect your ragazze with my life.”
“I know you would, but Ricardo will guarantee their safety. He may be evil, but he’s also very powerful.”
“True, especially the evil part. Thank Dio he’s one of a kind.”
“I think it’s the Devil you should thank instead.”
The crowd suddenly surged, scared voices mixing in with the techno music. Like the red sea, they parted, their faces panicked. A group of large men dressed in dark suits appeared, heading for Valentino’s table. They were Santini soldiers, cutthroat bastards who wouldn’t think twice about killing the people surrounding them.
The two men at the front parted. Ricardo Santini stepped forward, surprising Valentino. He hadn’t expected his brother to come in person. Instead, he’d thought Ricardo would’ve sent his consigliere, the man who often represented the Don at meetings. Sí, Ricardo wasn’t a Don yet, but everyone was treating him as one.
Ricardo stopped in front of Valentino, their resemblance sealing their brotherhood. Like Valentino, Ricardo had olive skin and brown hair, though Ricardo was taller. He was six-foot-four inches of violence dressed in Armani, the man having impeccable taste in suits. And his face ... it was both terrifying yet stunning, his violet eyes almost glowing under the lights. Ricardo was the picture of raw masculinity, only his violent reputation stopping him from being swarmed by women. They feared him, as they should, because he was a bloodthirsty bastardo who would rather kill than take a woman to bed.Valentino breathed out, hoping he wasn’t making a mistake in choosing Ricardo to look after his daughters.
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