Ruthless Passion excerpt

Releasing December 14th

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Violence

Prologue

Portia

Aged Fourteen

“Portia, bambina, do not tell your mama. She’ll kill me if she knows I’m giving you ice-cream before dinner.”

I smile at my father. His dark hair is so much like mine. Everyone always tells me how much I look like him. I find it a compliment. I adore my father. He’s the best man I know. 

“Mama won’t know, Papa. Don’t worry.”

Even though I’m fourteen, I’m still a daddy’s girl. Nothing will ever change that. 

He chuckles, and it’s deep and throaty, reminding me of so many happy memories. “Come along, bambina, we need to get into the house before your mama sees you.”

I flash a smile at him. “I know the way,” I tell him, and bite my lip when he gives me a sharp look. “I always hide from Mama,” I say, walking quickly toward the secret entrance. 

“Portia, mia carissima, your mamma loves you. I do not understand why you do not get along.”

I sigh as I skirt around the house, making sure to keep an eye out for Mama. “Papa, I don’t want to get into this.”

Thankfully, he doesn’t say a word and I manage to get us both into the house and into his office without being seen. I take a seat and eat my ice-cream, happy to be in one of my favorite places in the world.

Papa looks at me with a proud smile on his face, his eyes alight with humor as he studies me. “Very good, bambina, but you should realize that I have my own secret route into the house without being seen.”

I bounce on the balls of my feet as I watch him. “You do?”

He shakes his head, unable to take the smile from his face. “Of course I do. Portia, the life I lead, we have every precaution to ensure that you and your mama are safe if anything were to happen.”

My blood runs cold at the seriousness in his tone. 

“Don’t talk that way,” I snap. I hate it when he gets all serious and talks about what could happen.

I’m not stupid. I know that my father being a captain for the Famiglia means he’s a dangerous man who does things people would consider evil. But he isn’t like that to me. No, to me, he’s the best father and the best man a girl could ask for. He’s my biggest protector and supporter, and he’ll do whatever he can to make, not only me, but Mama happy.

He shakes his head. “Nothing will happen. Now, what’s going on with you and your mama?”

I sigh. “She’s being irrational,” I say as I finish my ice-cream and sit back in the chair, bringing my legs to my chest. “She’s always getting into my business. Whenever I’m texting Camille, she’s demanding to know who I’m talking to. Papa, she goes through my cell phone. It’s not fair. She’s being irrational and over the top.”

“She’s just worried. You’re young, mia carissima. Your mama is worried about you. But I shall talk with her, make her understand that going through your things is not okay. She’ll be saddened to know she has upset you.”

I nod, not wanting to tell him that she already knows, I hate that they argue about me. But my mama is determined to catch me doing something I shouldn’t be doing. It’s beyond weird and over the top, and it drives me crazy. I believe it’s because she was my age when she was promised to my father, she’s worried about me not living up to tradition. Ugh. I hate that one day I’ll be made to marry someone from the famiglia, but it’s who we are and it’s part of our life. Until then, I’ll enjoy everything in life.

“Now, tell me, how has your training been going?” he asks me as he sits back in his own seat and watches me with a soft look. It has the harsh, weathered lines on his face softening and makes him seem less intimidating. 

“You already know,” I tell him with a raised brow. “Don’t Amadeo and Umberto give you a run down after every session?”

He grins. “They do, but I want to know from your own mouth, mia carissima. How is it going?”

I shrug. “Fine. I’m able to use a knife and a gun,” I tell him without emotion. The thought of hurting someone with those weapons makes my stomach flip. “I can defend myself if needed, and according to Umberto, I can kill a grown man if the occasion ever arises.”

My father nods and smiles at me with so much pride it makes my heart clench. “That, bambina, is good. I would like you to continue with your training. As long as you are comfortable.”

“Is there a reason why?” I ask him. I know my father. He wouldn’t make me do this, not unless there was a need. That he’s pushing me to continue just cements that fact even more.

An alarm on his computer goes off, and my heart begins to pound.

What the hell is that?

“Papa?” I ask when I see his body go solid and his face void of emotion. “What’s going on?”

Mia carissima, I need you to listen to me,” he says sternly as he rises to his feet and reaches for his gun. “You are to go through the bookcase and stay there until I get you or Umberto does. Do you understand?”

I swallow back the fear but nod. “What’s happening?”

“The Scaffidi’s are coming,” he says, without missing a beat. “They’re coming for me, bambina. They’re coming for everyone I love. I need you to do as I say and go through the bookcase.”

There’s no emotion in his voice, which let’s me know he’s been waiting for this day to come for a long time. I heard the rumors that he killed Scaffidi’s son—his only son, Marco. But that was months ago, and there was no retaliation, so we’d all assumed it was over with. Now, they’re out for revenge, and they’re coming for my father.

“Papa.” I swallow hard at the thought of something happening to him. “Please,” I whimper.

He moves toward me and pulls me into his arms. “Ti amo, Portia. Non dimenticare mai che,” he whispers as he presses a kiss to my head. “Go,” he instructs. “We only have a little time. Now go.”

He pulls me toward the bookcase and ironically pulls out a vintage edition of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. There’s a slight whirring sound, followed by creaking, then the bookcase swings open like a door, and I see a barely lit tunnel behind him.

“Papa?” I ask as I turn to face him. I already know in my heart that I’m going alone through this tunnel while he stays here and fights those who are coming for him and our family.

“Go, bambina,” he instructs. 

Ti amo, Papa,” I whisper as I press a kiss against his cheek, then I hurry through the secret door. The moment I’m in the tunnel, I turn to see my father giving me a soft look as he closes the door.

My heart is beating wildly. I have no idea what to do. Should I run or stay? Everything in me is telling me to stay put and wait for Papa or Umberto, but there’s another side of me that’s urging me to run and find someone to help.

My inner musings are cut off when I hear deep voices talking. I step closer to the wall, trying to hear better.

“Davide,” I hear someone say, the masculine voice is unfamiliar to me. “You knew we were coming,”  The unknown man continues, his tone filled with displeasure. “How?”

“I’m surprised it’s taken you this long, Marco. You’ve known from the moment Marco Junior died that it was I who did it. Why wait so long for revenge?”

My lips part in surprise. Why is my father antagonizing him? He’s only going to make it worse. What is he doing?

Bone chilling laughter filters through the air. “Ah, Davide, I’ve heard the rumors. The man who is the hitman for the Famiglia. Do you think your family will miss you? What about that gorgeous daughter of yours?”

“Watch it, Marco,” my father warns. “My daughter is off fucking limits.”

“And my son wasn’t?”

“Your son was part of this life, Marco. He was on his way to becoming your underboss. You think we don’t know that he managed to work his way through the ranks? Hmm? What about the fact that he was raping girls from the Famiglia? The Outfit didn’t care. As long as your men were doing what they needed, that was all that mattered.”

“My son was doing what he wanted.”

“He raped a nine-year-old girl,” my father shouts. “Tell me, asshole, how the fuck is that normal?”

“You’ll die for the disrespect you have shown me,” the asshole growls. “For killing my son.”

“I killed an animal. One that needed to be put down. Had you been a decent father, you would have done it yourself.”

The laughter is back again, and this time it’s a lot more maniacal than before. “Your wife is going to become mine, and your daughter is going to be my whore.”

“Over my fucking dead body,” my father roars.

“That can be easily arranged,” the bastard retorts. 

A gunshot rings out, and it’s followed by a thud, then silence.

I crumple to the floor, tears flowing down my face as I press a hand to my mouth to stop my cry from escaping. 

Papa…

He’s gone.

Oh God, he’s gone.

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