One stolen mob princess. Two men who will stop at nothing to get her back.
As the daughter of Russian mob royalty, Risa lives on the outskirts of Philadelphia society. True friends are hard to find. Women ignore her unless they want her money. Men pursue her for her ice-queen looks and her father's favor. She might as well be a born-again virgin, since the only two men she desires want nothing to do with her and one-night stands have lost their appeal.
When a new friend invites her out for a night, Risa jumps at the chance to unwind and have a few drinks somewhere no one knows her. She enjoys the company and the drinks but doesn't realize someone is lying in wait...
Kidnapped and put up for auction to the highest bidder, Risa needs a hero. She gets two.
Gens has wanted Risa for years. But her father took him in after his parents were murdered and Gens owes him everything. He's buried his love for Risa behind brotherly affection.
Tony left behind the Philadelphia underworld when he became a cop and moved west. But after a shocking betrayal, he returns to Philadelphia disgraced and unemployable. Until his boyhood friend Gens gets him a job as a bodyguard...and Tony falls hard for his employer's daughter.
And when they have her, Gens will give her whatever she wants to help her heal...even if that means pushing her into the arms of his best friend. But Risa wants them both. And she's not going to take no for an answer.
Read an excerpt ...
“Have you given him your answer yet?”
Tony tipped back his head and let the rest of his drink spill down his throat.
Yeah, he was avoiding the question, but Gens knew Tony didn’t want to answer.
Of course, he knew Gens wouldn’t let the subject go, either.
“You know, it’s not like he’s gonna make you disappear if you don’t say yes. You’re allowed to say no.”
The problem was, Tony didn’t want to say no. He just wasn’t sure he should say yes.
“I’m not sure it’s a good idea.”
“Because you want her?”
Yeah, that was part of it. But it wasn’t the biggest part.
Tony turned and looked directly at Gens. “Don’t you?”
It was a rhetorical question and Gens knew it, but Gens still shook his head.
“Never gonna happen and you know it. She wants you, man. I say go for it.”
“And you know that’s never gonna happen. I don’t belong in her world.”
He didn’t want to belong in Larisa’s gilded cage.
He’d kept himself out of the gangs growing up. Became a cop, duty sworn to uphold the law.
And look where that got you.
The irony that he’d lost his career because of a crooked cop wasn’t lost on him. Neither was the fact that he could afford to drink at the swanky bar in Haven Hotel because of the money he’d made as a bodyguard for a crime lord’s secret daughter.
In the past year, he’d made friends with Haven’s owners, a pair of brothers he had nothing in common with but who he genuinely liked. He and Tyler, especially, had hit it off. Tony wouldn’t be surprised if Tyler joined them later for a drink.
“Christ, you gonna start singing Disney songs now?”
Tony shot Gens a what-the-fuck look. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“What? You never saw that Disney movie, Aladdin?”
“You seriously think I’m quoting Disney movies?”
Gens shrugged and tipped his glass Tony’s way. “Point taken.”
“What I want to know is how you know it?”
Gens’ gaze slipped away. “It’s one of Risa’s favorites.”
And that, right there, was why he wouldn’t ask Risa out on a date.
He and his best friend wanted the same woman. And neither of them would ever have her.
So, they drank. Every week, they chose a bar and had dinner and drinks. Sometimes they talked for hours. Sometimes, they couldn’t manage more than a few sentences.
When Tony had returned to Philly from San Antonio, he’d been a little…antisocial. Gens had just called him a fucking cave dweller and badgered him until he agreed to meet for drinks. And their weekly date had been born.
Considering neither of them had actual dates with women just made it more pitiful.
“You ever call that woman from the bar two weeks ago?”
Gens frowned, his gaze unfocused as he dug through his memory, which pretty much answered the question.
Tony snorted. “Don’t be getting on my ass about dating, man. You’re just as bad.”
With a shrug, Gens gave him the finger. “Maybe I’m just not interested in dealing with all the bullshit right now.”
Tony gave Gens a more thorough look and noticed the bags under his eyes and the fatigue that seemed to press down on his shoulders.
“You wanna tell me what’s wrong? You look like shit.”
Gens huffed out a laugh, which he drowned with a swig of beer. “Been a few long nights lately.”
Since Gens worked for the head of the Russian crime organization in the city, Tony’s stress level immediately jacked. “Something going on? Is Dorrie in danger?”
Tony’s hands clenched into fists before he consciously relaxed them. For the eighteen months, Tony had been Dorrie’s bodyguard. Gens had gotten him the gig when he’d returned to Philly, unable to find work, his name blacklisted in every law enforcement office from coast to coast.
“No, Dorrie’s not in any danger. It’s nothing, just a lot of shit going down.”
And that was total BS. Gens was a consummate liar, but Tony’s bullshit detector was infallible.
“Thanks, asshole. Now I’m even more worried.” Tony turned to face him, watching Gens carefully. “What’s going on?”
Tony wasn’t sure Gens would talk, but finally, he shook his head and leaned closer, even though they were at the far end of the bar, the closest person out of hearing distance.
“There’ve been a few rumblings from different factions. One in particular. Nothing specific. And that’s it. But…Karel’s been restless lately. Dorrie’s incident didn’t help.”
That “incident” had happened while Tony had been recovering from a gunshot wound. The shooting had had nothing to do with Dorrie or her father. They’d just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, which pissed him off even more.
A second later, he realized he’d brought his hand up to rub against his side.
Gens’ gaze narrowed. “You still having pain?”
“No. Just force of habit.” He forced his hand back to the bar. “I’m fine. Tell me more about what’s going on.”
Gens didn’t immediately comply, just watched Tony with a steady stare, until Tony finally sighed.
“Jesus, I’m fine. You’re worse than my mother, I swear.”
“Did you even tell your mom you were shot?”
He rolled his eyes. “Of course not. I wasn’t dying. No need to worry her.”
Gens shook his head, his eyes closing for a brief second. “Right.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake. It wasn’t a big deal. I lived.”
“Yeah, but you haven’t been the same since.”
No, he hadn’t. But he hadn’t realized anyone had noticed. His mom, now retired to Florida, only heard what she wanted to hear. That he was fine, and everything was going well with his private security firm. His dad heard nothing at all, ravaged by the later stages of early-onset Alzheimer’s.
He should’ve known Gens would notice. There was a reason he was Antonoff’s most trusted lieutenant. And Tony’s closest friend since grade school.
Maybe it was the dim lighting or the soft music or the fact that Tony felt so out of his element here. Whatever it was, the words were suddenly on the tip of his tongue.
“I think maybe it’s time for me to move on.”
Gens didn’t speak right away, simply stared at Tony for several seconds.
“Because I’m not needed here anymore.”
Gens’ brows rose. “And what about that job offer from Oleksy?”
Now that was tempting. A local private security firm had offered him a job. They wanted to expand and needed men they could trust. For some reason, that included Tony.
“Maybe I want a change of scenery.”
“You get a job offer somewhere else?”
He shook his head. “You know I haven’t.”
“Then why are you running?”
Tony’s jaw clenched. “I’m not.”
“Yeah?” Gens snorted. “What do you call it?”
He had to think for a few minutes. “Seeking new opportunities.”
Another snort. “Uh huh.”
Tony’s jaw clenched. “What about you? I thought you wanted out, wanted to do something…else.”
Gens’ gaze fell to his glass. “Maybe this is where I want to be.”
Tony took another hard look at Gens. “Is it? What happened to the guy who wanted to be in control of his own life? The guy who wanted to go to college and be a fucking marine biologist?”
Gens shrugged. “I did. Wasn’t for me.”
“Really? The guy who aced every damn biology test and blew the curve for the rest of the class? The guy who wanted to save the damn rainforest and the whales.”
Gens’ jaw tightened. “That guy grew up.”
“And that guy wants to tell me that I shouldn’t leave and look for something else somewhere else?”
Gens huffed and took another swig of his beer. “Then I guess we’re both idiots.”
Tony lifted his glass and Gens shook his head as he tapped his bottle against it.
“Are you seriously thinking about leaving?”
“There’s not much holding me here.”
Gens’ gaze slipped away to stare out over the bar and Tony could’ve punched himself in the head for being a dick.
“Shit, I didn’t mean it like—”
“I understood exactly what you meant.”
“Fuck, Gens. You’re the only damn reason I’m still here.”
Which wasn’t totally true.
“Bullshit.” Gens smirked at him. “But if you wanna play it like that, go right ahead and keep kidding yourself.”
“Goddamn it, what the fuck do you want me to say?” Tony struggled to keep his voice subdued. “It’s never gonna happen. Why do you keep—” He paused, trying to rein in his frustration. “Just leave it.”
Gens took another swallow of beer, shaking his head. “Apparently, that’s exactly what you’re planning to do.”
Tony sighed hard. “Do you want me to hit you? It might be worth getting thrown out.”
Gens went silent, staring at him until Tony wanted to fidget. Instead he held himself completely still. His nickname Blank wasn’t only a short form of his last name. He’d been told he had a damn good poker face. It’d come in handy when the shit had been raining down on his head three years ago in San Antonio. Now it’d become his default setting.
With a sigh, Gens reached into his pocket, pulled out a wad of cash and threw a few bills on the table. Tony was pretty sure they were all fifties.
The sight of them jacked his blood pressure even higher.
“Let’s get out of here. You’re right. We need somewhere private for this conversation and I know a place.”
Because Gens was right, Tony followed him out the door, attempting to breathe through the anger. He had no idea where this rage was coming from, but it’d been building for a few weeks now. Maybe months.
As he and Gens made their silent trip to the garage, he tried to remember when he’d first noticed it. After he’d been shot? No, it’d been before that.
The night he’d seen Risa at the hospital fundraiser. He’d been there with Dorrie, watching her back as always. But he hadn’t been able to ignore Risa. Sleek, cool, beautiful Risa. Waist-length blonde hair in perfect waves down her naked back exposed by a pink dress that’d made his heart race. From the front, it’d covered her from collarbones to the tips of her toes, but the back was nonexistent.
Some magic kept it from sliding off her shoulders and he swore every time she moved, he swallowed his tongue.
She wasn’t built like a supermodel. She was a little too round in all the right places. Her breasts captivated his attention for their sheer perfection. Her ass was built for his hands to pet and that haughty expression she wore most of the time only made his dick that much harder.
That had been the first night he’d noticed how tightly wound he was becoming.
It hadn’t frightened him at first. But when it’d continued to escalate, as it’d done in San Antonio, he’d become worried. And after he’d been shot…
It’d gotten a hell of a lot worse. To the point that he knew he needed to make a change. And the only change he could make that would have any chance in hell of working was to move.
Away from her.
“So where are we going?”
Tony finally broke his silence as they slid into Gens’ car and he headed out of the parking garage.
“The gym. We both need to blow off some steam.”
“Lifting weights ain’t gonna—”
“Do I look like I’m stupid?” Gens shook his head. “We’re going to the hole.”
Yes. That was exactly what he needed.
Tony cracked a smile for the first time in what felt like weeks.
“Are you sure you won’t change your mind? It’s still early. I know my brother makes awful daiquiris, but we’ll do more shots. He can’t screw those up.”
From the wicked look in Mally’s eyes, Risa wasn’t sure if the other woman was kidding or not, so she simply laughed and shook her head.
Standing by the front door, Risa had already texted Daniel that she was leaving. He’d replied to say he’d be waiting.
She’d had fun tonight, more than she’d expected. But it was close to one a.m. and she’d had a long day. Her eyes burned, and she’d been battling yawns for the past half hour.
“As good as that sounds, I’m really tired and I can’t keep my eyes open any longer.”
Mally’s pout was cute and it probably got Max and Jesse to do anything she wanted. But it didn’t work on Risa. At least, it didn’t yet. Maybe someday.
Finally, Mally snorted and threw her arms around Risa’s shoulders for a hug. Risa barely had time to tense from the unexpected contact before Mally pulled away.
“Fine. Leave us. But I want a promise that you’ll come out with us again. If you didn’t find us too terribly boring.”
Risa shook her head, her lips twitching into a smile. “No one would ever call you boring.”
Which was the god’s honest truth. When they hadn’t been talking about sex, the women had talked about everything from politics to movies to sports.
Risa hadn’t always had something to add but the other women had never made her feel left out. There hadn’t been time. The conversation had moved at the speed of light.
Mally’s smile reappeared. “Then I’m glad you had a good time. You look like you could use more down time, Risa.”
She shrugged. “I like being busy.” Kept her mind from getting stuck on a particular problem. Or a particular man.
“Well, there’s busy and there’s avoiding. But I’m a little drunk and I probably shouldn’t be talking anymore.”
Mally’s expression made Risa laugh and she was still laughing when she stepped out of the bar seconds after another, less awkward hug from Mally.
Risa stopped for a second to suck in warm fall air, which had begun to clear out the rancidness of summer.
Still standing in the doorway, she looked to her left, expecting to see Daniel. And she did, no more than twenty yards away.
She took one step toward the car before she realized something wasn’t right.
The next second later, she felt a prick on her neck and everything went black.