Donati Bloodlines, #1
Publication Date: May 2, 2016
Genres: Romantic Suspense, Erotic Romance, Organized Crime
PURCHASE (#Free with #KINDLEUNLIMITED!): Amazon
She was just a woman. That’s what Calisto wanted to tell himself; that’s what he wanted to believe. Emma was nothing more than a woman. There were other women for him to want. To obsess over.
It couldn’t be Emma Sorrento.
Not for Calisto.
She was taken.
She was claimed.
She was not his.
In a few days, Calisto would hand her off, and that would be that. He wondered why it wouldn’t be that easy to let her go.
What good had saving her done?
He had simply taken her from one monster to give her to another.
Emma slid on her mask. All someone would need to do was look close enough to see what was really beneath the sheer falseness of her smile.
At the other end of the table, Emma found her lies staring her right in the face.
Calisto Donati was her worst mistake, her greatest shame, and the one thing she still wanted more than anything. Emma could still feel him all over her, long after his touch and kiss was gone. In thirty days, her entire world had changed—he had changed her.
Emma had a feeling that if she played another game with Calisto, she would surely lose.
She had already lost once.
Wasn’t it enough?
WARNING: The first two books in the Donati Bloodlines Trilogy end on a cliffhanger, and are not considered safe romance.
THIN LIES - MUSIC PLAYLIST
“Duty” was the first word a Mafioso principessa learned growing up. Be good to the family. Bring them no shame. Smile for the crowd.
And when the time comes, do your duty.
At only twenty, Emma Sorrento was not ready to do hers.
“You look wonderful, Emmy,” Maximo said.
Somehow, Emma managed a smile for her uncle. “Thank you.”
Maximo waved her closer. Emma followed his unspoken demand until she was standing in front of him with her hands clasped behind her back. Maximo looked over the silver, flared dress that fell just above Emma’s knees, and the black pumps on her feet.
“Your hair is down,” Maximo said.
“You asked for it to be like this, zio.”
“I did. I like it better this way. I’m sure Affonso will appreciate it as well. And your mother made sure you toned down the red lipstick, I see.”
“Sì.” Emma swallowed back the disgust rising in her throat. It burned like bile on her tongue, acidic and full of shame.
“Smile, Emma. That frown does nothing for your pretty face.”
Her uncle’s words had been spoken lightly, as if he were amused, but a heavy ring of warning lingered right behind them. Immediately, Emma fixed her frown to a smile.
Fake and bright.
Enough to distract a man.
She could do this.
“She’s a little nervous,” came a voice from behind her. “It’s a big day for our little Emma.”
Emma found her father, George, leaning in the doorway with a cigar dangling from his fingertips and a glass of brandy in his other hand.
Maximo chuckled. “How much of a fight did she put up this morning, brother?” A single finger ticked under Emma’s chin, making her stare up at her uncle’s face. “What is there to fight about, hmm?”
“Nothing,” Emma said.
“Surprisingly, very little,” George said.
Maximo smiled. The sight was almost predatory in nature. Her uncle had always treated her well, especially considering that she was the only daughter in their small family. George had no other children but Emma, and the other Sorrento brother had died in a childhood accident when he rode a bicycle out onto the street and was hit by a car.
The Sorrento family was one of many Italian-based organized crime families in Vegas. Over the years, the Sorrentos and other syndicates across the country strengthened their ties by mixing their names and blood. In Cosa Nostra, girls were fodder to a bigger plan. That plan being a man, the one with the best last name for a contract, the family to push them higher, make them safer, or earn them business.
Because that’s all her life was worth.
Emma knew this day was coming.
“It’s just business,” Maximo said as if he could read Emma’s mind.“Business,” she echoed.
“Maximo,” Affonso said, “are we just about ready to leave for the church?”
Emma was shocked that her uncle was going to church at all. He hadn’t returned to the Catholic church since he divorced his first wife. Maybe it was another way for Maximo to extend a hand to Affonso in friendship. She wasn’t sure.
Her uncle nodded. “Yes, we are. The cars are waiting.”
“We’ll catch up in a minute,” Affonso replied to Maximo. “I want a second alone with Emma, if you wouldn’t mind, old friend.”
Maximo passed Emma a look as if to silently ask if she was okay with the request herself. Emma didn’t see how her opinion of things mattered at all. It hadn’t before, so why would it now?
Before long, the house had cleared of people but for Affonso and another man standing at the bay window. The color streaming in through the glass bathed him in bright light, showcasing a tall frame and broad shoulders hugged by a tailored suit. His dark hair was cropped short, but it was still long enough for him to run his fingers through as he lifted a glass of water in his hand to take a drink.
“Now that we’re alone,” Affonso said, turning to Emma.
She shot the quiet man with his back turned a look. “Um—”
“My nephew always stays close by. Ignore him. As I said earlier, I was promised a girl who knew her place, Emma. I want to make sure you understand everything that means.”
“I think you explained it well enough.”
“Then why are you trembling like a little leaf?” he asked.
Emma stilled on the spot. She hadn’t realized that she was still shaking. “I’m nervous.”
Affonso frowned. “Calisto?”
The man at the window turned his head slightly, just enough to stare at his uncle and Emma. Dark brown, almost black, eyes and a strong jaw framed the man’s face. His sharp cheekbones and unsmiling lips hardened his features, but it still stunned Emma.
It stunned her because he was … beautiful.
A hint of something dangerous and sinful wafted from the young man as the corner of his mouth tugged upwards into something resembling a smirk or even a sneer. She couldn’t be sure. Long fingers wrapped tighter around the glass he was holding, drawing Emma’s attention to the fact he wore no wedding band and his hands seemed strong.
She could clearly see the resemblance between the younger man—Calisto, Affonso had said—and his uncle.
“Sì?” Calisto asked.
“Cal, ottenere vino. Fill a glass. Hurry, before someone comes back and bitches about her age and drinking.”
Calisto chuckled deeply. The sound came out dark and heavy, and his tall, fit frame rocked with movement. Emma thought he sounded almost musical, even if the man looked entirely bored with the situation and day.
“Whatever you need, zio.”
Then, Calisto was gone.
“Wine?” Emma asked.
“It’ll take the edge off for you,” Affonso said, smiling widely. “As long as you’re a good girl, Emma, I will always take care of you.”
A good girl.
Emma felt sick again.
“And of course, Cal will always be around to keep an eye on you when I can’t,” Affonso added. “He’s closer to your age, at twenty-seven. Too bad, really. Had he wanted what I wanted for him, then I wouldn’t need you at all, Emma.”
What was that supposed to mean?
“I prefer Emmy,” she said.
It was the only thing that came to her mind. She felt stupid for even saying it, but it was better than spitting out how disgusted the man made her.
“Emmy,” Affonso echoed. “Sounds a bit girlish and young, doesn’t it?”
Suddenly, a presence was behind Emma. She knew Calisto was back before he’d even said a thing.
“Here,” Calisto said, handing Emma a glass of wine.
Her fingers brushed his and warmth spread up her arm. She pulled her limb and the wine glass back as fast as she could, but not before dropping her gaze.
“Thank you,” she said.
“I prefer Emmy,” Calisto said quietly.
Emma’s head jerked up, finding Calisto watching her curiously.
“Pardon?” Affonso asked.
“Her name. Emmy. I like it.”
Emma tipped her wine glass up and gulped down a mouthful just to keep from smiling. Who was this man? A few minutes ago, he seemed like he didn’t care who she was or if she was even breathing.
“It’s got a nice ring, zio,” Calisto added. “Rolls off the tongue, if you know what I mean.”
Affonso scowled. “You would think so, Cal. Hurry up with the wine, Emma. We have things to do and people to see. A good Don doesn’t keep people waiting. You’ve spent enough time around Maximo to know this.”
Emma drank her wine a little bit slower.
“Shit,” he muttered.
Pushing up from the couch, Calisto went in search of the goddamn ringing phone. He checked his watch as he strolled into the kitchen with bleary eyes. Six in the morning.
In the last three weeks that Calisto had been watching Emma, he hadn’t known her to wake up earlier than eight. Maybe he should have woken her up the night before and gotten her back to her penthouse and into her bed.
Calisto found the cordless phone under a dish towel on the kitchen island. That confused him more than anything. He was ninety-nine percent sure that he had brought the phone into the living room the night before after talking to security, getting the popcorn set up, and turning the movie on. It shouldn’t have been in the kitchen, and it definitely shouldn’t have been covered by a dish towel.
He didn’t get a chance to answer the call before the ringing stopped. Calisto cursed under his breath again, noting it had been security calling. Quickly, Calisto hit the three digits for the fools downstairs and waited for someone to pick up.
“Good morning, Mr. Donati.”
“Morning,” Calisto grumbled.
It wasn’t a good morning. He was still tired, he probably shouldn’t have chugged six beers in a matter of a couple of hours, and his back still hurt from sleeping in an upright position on an uncomfortable couch.
Fuck the good morning.
“Someone called two seconds ago,” Calisto said. “What did they want?”
“Actually, we’ve called three times. Someone was just getting ready to come up and wake you.”
Calisto blinked and then rubbed at his eyes. “Sleeping off a rough night. Sorry about that. Is she up and around?”
“That’s part of the reason we were calling. We noticed about a half hour ago that your sensors were activating from room to room before Miss Sorrento entered the elevator and went into her own suite. Approximately ten minutes later, the emergency door exit in her pantry was activated. We assumed you were awake as well because of the sensors in your suite, sir.”
It took Calisto far too long to realize what the man was saying.
“Wait one goddamn second,” Calisto muttered. “Are you telling me that you didn’t begin calling me the moment she stepped into the elevator and then entered her penthouse, like you’re supposed to?”
“Well, sir … You see, after last night, the morning shift was left a note that we weren’t to bother you with seemingly unnecessary calls. And again, we assumed you were also awake and knew that she was, too.”
“It’s morning! She entered her place alone! Yes, that is a necessary call.” Calisto’s agitation bubbled just below the surface. He was two seconds away from telling the fool right where he could shove his fucking note. “The exit door, you said?”
“Um, yes, sir. About ten minutes ago. We started calling you the moment it was opened.”
Calisto didn’t berate the man on that issue. It was his own damn fault for drinking before sleeping.
“Thank you,” Calisto said.
He hung up the phone, tossed it to the kitchen table, and made a beeline for the only bedroom in the suite. The moved phone and dish towel suddenly made sense to Calisto as he searched for his suddenly missing car keys. His suit jacket was hanging off the chair where he left it, along with his dress pants. The keys should have been in the inside pocket, but they weren’t.
Affonso would have a fit.
Calisto would be responsible.
Emma must have moved the phone. She likely tried to muffle the sound with a towel so that when it rang, it wouldn’t be loud enough to wake Calisto. She probably took his keys as well.
Damn, he had to admit it was a good play.
Emmy, you crazy girl … What are you doing?
“It does hurt me,” Calisto said before he could stop himself.
He wanted to take the words back immediately.
Emma stilled in the passenger seat. “Then why play?”
To punish himself.
“For a lot of different reasons,” Calisto settled on saying. “But tonight, I played so that you wouldn’t have to. You didn’t seem comfortable. I didn’t think you wanted to have everyone looking at you after what happened. It was a small sacrifice.”
“But you hurt now,” she said, seeming confused. “Don’t you?”
“But you didn’t have to.”
For Calisto, that was all that mattered.
Turning his head, Calisto stared out the opened driver’s window. He wondered if anyone had noticed that both he and Emma had left the dinner party without a goodbye. He supposed it didn’t make a difference.
Calisto didn’t mind Emma’s presence disturbing his peace, either.
“Calisto?” Emma asked softly.
Her hand rested on his thigh, and Calisto jerked in the seat at the innocent touch. The problem was, her touch couldn’t be innocent at all. Not with the way he currently felt, the things he had done, or the lines he had already crossed with a mighty “fuck you.” He hadn’t been expecting it, and he didn’t even hear Emma move in her seat.
Calisto barely had the chance to spin around and face Emma again before her mouth pressed against his. It was soft at first, smooth like her plump lips, and then her fingers dug into his leg like she was demanding something from him.
He didn’t know what it was.
Instinctively, Calisto wanted to push her away. He wanted to kiss her back, too. The crazy side of his brain won, the side that listened to his selfish wants and not his needs.
Or maybe he needed it, too.
Calisto didn’t know.
But he did grab onto Emma’s dress. He fisted the fabric around his taut knuckles, and pulled her a little closer. His tongue swept the seam of her lips, wanting more, needing to be deeper, seeking her heat and taste.
A little wouldn’t hurt, right?
Just a little more.
Emma sighed a sweet sound, giving into his unspoken demand by parting her lips. Calisto took the offering for what it was, kissed her harder, and let his tongue war with hers until she was gasping for air. Pulling away enough to catch a breath, Emma tipped her head up and hummed.
Calisto couldn’t help himself but lean forward and kiss her chin.
He was fucking stupid.
Why did she make him so stupid?
“I should go in and say goodbye,” he heard Emma say.
Calisto was too distracted by the flimsy fabric of her dress in his hands. A little pull with just enough strength and he knew that the dress would rip. She was close, and he could grab her around the waist before pulling her into the backseat.
The windows were tinted.
No one would see.A little more wouldn’t hurt.
ABOUT BETHANY-KRISBethany-Kris is a Canadian author, lover of much, and mother to three young sons, one cat, and two dogs. A small town in Eastern Canada where she was born and raised is where she has always called home.
With her boys under her feet, snuggling cat, barking dogs, and a hubby calling over his shoulder, she is nearly always writing something … when she can find the time.
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