Authors: Scarlet Wolfe
Copyright © 2015 Scarlet Wolfe Books
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
is the third novel in
The Cassano Series
must be read prior.
is told from the points of view of Adrian, Victoria, Theo, Zev, Simon and Tara.
It is for a mature audience due to harsh language and descriptive sexual scenes, including aspects of BDSM.
Cover Photography by Ron Reagan Photography
Cover Design by Kim Black at TOJ Publishing Services
Cover Model Ivan Gabriel
To those battling a chronic illness. May you find healing and peace.
I miss her. I despise the pain I feel, and I want to fucking break something. My heart is bleeding, and some moments I wish it would stop beating altogether.
Picking up another lounge chair, I launch it into the inground pool at my home in Arizona. The sun has risen to that time of day when it will burn you, and I welcome it.
Shouting loudly, I throw another long metal chair into the pool. After all but mine land in the water, I take a swig of my beer and have a seat.
In no time, the sun is scorching my skin, so I lay my head back and rest. Let me rephrase that–I sit. I haven’t known rest since Victoria sent me away from her apartment.
No matter what I said, she wouldn’t budge. Maybe she would’ve let me in had I opened up to her, but I couldn’t disclose the most secretive details of my business right out in the open, in front of her neighbors.
So, I left. I flew to my home southeast of Tucson, and now I wait for the sun to bake me. I’m sweating profusely, torturing myself with the sweltering heat. I wish to feel anything other than heartbreak.
I couldn’t stay at my penthouse where everything has Victoria stamped on it. Stray hairs in the bed and shower. A coffee mug with a lipstick stain in the sink. Her rose scent on my pillow and tiny, soft shorts she slips on in the morning lying on the bench at the end of the bed.
I imagine it’s all gone now, but I couldn’t look at it even for a day. I’m sure she has moved her things out, and it’s something else I couldn’t bear to witness.
“Are you trying to get third degree burns out here?” Boone asks. Looking up, I see the head of my spec ops team standing next to me. His long blonde hair is pulled back into a ponytail.
As he scratches his head, his bicep shows below his t-shirt sleeve, revealing his tattoo from our Corps days. It makes me want to look away, so I stare out over the water in the pool. “Can I ask why all but one of the lounge chairs are floating in the pool?”
“That’s a unique way to manage it. Had you given me some notice you were coming, I would’ve found another place to crash.” He states this because he lives here when I don’t, which is most of the time.
“I told you when I got here not to worry about it. I didn’t know I was coming until the day I left.”
“I feel like you are running from something or someone and need your space, so I can sleep at a buddy’s.”
“No, we have a lot to discuss, and now we can talk freely without the worry of someone listening in. At least once I feel like it, which isn’t today.”
“OK, man, I will leave you be, but I’m here when you’re ready to tell me what landed our chairs in the pool.”
I’m working at my desk, catching up on paperwork. I have my back to Reggie, which is going to be every day if I have it my way.
It’s been four days since I found out about his betrayal. I came straight into the station and told Sergeant Bishop that he had to give me a new partner. After much pleading on my part, he agreed to a temporary change.
He thinks Reggie and I will work things out. If he only knew the truth, Reg and I would be without a job, and that would be the least of our problems with the law.
“Victoria.” The voice I hear sounds similar to one that normally sends a shiver down my spine. I whip my head up to see Theo standing before me. In a freakin’ police station.
Slowly, I peer over my shoulder and see Reggie staring at him. Turning back, I gaze at the man who looks too much like the one who destroyed my heart. No, he stole it, and I will never get it back to share with another man.
“Theo Cassano,” Victoria says quietly. “You have a mighty set of balls to stroll in here.”
“You won’t answer my calls or your front door, so I had no choice. I need to speak to you. I know you didn’t let Adrian explain. Please give me the chance to if you won’t let him.”
Seeming nervous, she glances around the room. Officers are busy rustling through papers on their desks, talking to people and walking around. The place is busy, and other than Reggie staring me down, no one is paying a bit of attention to us from what I can tell.
She looks like she thinks any second I’m going to be hauled off in handcuffs. It wouldn’t go down that way. A case with a shit ton of evidence would have to be laid out before I would ever be indicted. The Las Vegas police would make a production of it. It would be a bust they would want to go down in history.
I know people here besides Reg, but she doesn’t know that, and neither does he. It’s how I got right to her desk.
“OK. I need to get my shit out of the penthouse anyway. I can meet you before that in your office. Tomorrow at three. Will that work?”
“I’ll clear my schedule.”
“Uh, can you be sure Adrian isn’t around?”
“Trust me. That won’t be an issue. He left Vegas.”
Entering Hotel Submission and Casino leaves me covering my nervous stomach. A business meeting is more what I envisioned, so I felt the need to dress nicely. I want to have the confidence to stand my ground.
I was hurt and betrayed horribly, and no one is going to intimidate me to feel differently. Surely, Theo knows I have the power to crush their empire with the information Adrian revealed to me, but in case he’s forgotten or is unaware, I’m prepared to make it clear.
I feel so far from Adrian now that I know he left town. Hearing it made my heart ache, and that only made me angrier.
Sampson greets me at the private elevator. “Ms. Stuart, how are you?” His eyes are fixed on mine, showing a genuine interest.
“I’m good, thank you.” Lie. Coming off the elevator, the male administrative assistant at the courtesy desk smiles and pushes a button.
“Hi, I’m Ms. Ha–I mean Stuart. I have a meeting with Theo Cassano.”
“Please, Ms. Stuart, have a—”
“I’ve got it,” Blanca says, entering the reception area. I recall her and her sour disposition when she measured me for uniforms for the Elite lounge.
“Ms. Stuart, please follow me,” she says with a fake smile. But her eyes give her away. They’re beautifully blue but squinting with a hint of frustration. Quietly, I follow her down the long hallway. “Mr. Cassano will see you now.” She pecks on the door and opens it.
Theo smiles faintly and stands from his chair.
“Thank you, Blanca. Good afternoon, Victoria. You look lovely.” I straighten my cream blouse that is tucked into a bright blue pencil skirt.
“Please, have a seat,” Theo says, pointing to the chair across from his desk. “Would you like something to drink?”
“No, thank you. What did you wish to discuss?”
“A great deal actually. Adrian disclosed some of what we’re doing here, but I’m under the impression he failed to tell you everything or why we do what we do.
“So, are you wearing a wire? Is this where I divulge it all to a detective, and you do your job?”
“What does your gut tell you, Theo?” I keep my eyes glued on his as he breathes in and out heavily.
“I don’t think you would do that to Adrian no matter how pissed you are at him, but I’ve been wrong before.”
“I am pissed at him and the predicament I’ve been put in, but no, I wouldn’t go to the police with what I know. Regardless of what he has done to me, I love Adrian. I won’t betray him the way he betrayed me.”
“If you love him, you will hear me out.”
Victoria is staring at me … waiting. I need to speak again. I’ve never had to tell this story from start to finish. My wife, Karen, moved to Vegas with us, so she already knew about some of our plans. I didn’t have to tell her the entire story.
Of course, my brothers didn’t want me to share with her about our illegal dealings when they began, but I told them I wasn’t losing her if it came out later. She had to be onboard. That took some convincing at various times, but I’ve always had her support.
Well, she has yet to be told about the drug deals or arms purchasing, but I’m hoping that goes away soon before I have to let her in on it.
Now, I want to kick my brother’s ass for leaving me in a position where I have to bare it all for Victoria Hart to see. He shouldn’t have left me here to manage our business and his love life, but I love him and will do whatever it takes to bring him back here in a happy state of mind. That means I have to speak.
“Uh, our father, Alvin, passed away during 9/11. He was a financial advisor, and his offices were in the South Tower. He made a lot of people wealthy, and I’m talking about immense wealth.
“Our family was also left extremely wealthy. We were each distraught, but Adrian lost it. He was consumed with anger and wanted revenge. He couldn’t focus on anything but the hatred he felt toward the terrorists.
“He joined the Marines, and even I have to admit that it seemed like people were placed in our lives to guide us to where we are today.”
Victoria sighs loudly, and I think she’s seeing this is going to take a while and give her much to consider.
“Adrian had been in the corporate world. He wasn’t wired for a life of combat, but he gave it his all. After a couple of years, his unit was fired upon with RPGs while traveling in Afghanistan. To make a long story short, Adrian saved Reggie’s life, along with a few other men.
“They were all injured, but Reggie was sent back to the States. Once healed, he became a police officer. When Adrian returned home, he seemed no better. For reasons I feel he should tell you, he wanted out of New Jersey.”
Leaning back in my chair, I entwine my fingers behind my head. “That’s when I feel like a chain reaction began and what is meant to be started taking over.
“Our father had many friends who gambled, and one specifically had operated hotels in Vegas. Dad’s friends felt indebted to him for the wealth they’d acquired while he managed their funds. They wanted to help our family any way they could.
“Reggie was in Vegas, and he and Adrian were still tight. We made the decision as a family to move here and start fresh. We planned to open the hotel and use profits to help combat terrorism. At that point, we only intended for it to be done legally.”
“What changed that?”
“Honestly, Adrian’s anger. OK, our anger. We couldn’t let it go. We wanted to avenge our father’s death, and once we realized the amount of money it took for anti-terrorism operations, we knew we needed to make more.
“A few of our members had hinted about how nice it would be if they didn’t have to claim their winnings on their taxes in our poker rooms.
“It gave us the idea to make the rooms more “elite,” hence the name, and before long, we were in over our heads in illegal activity but also money.”
I exhale a breath. “Money that has strictly been used for anti-terrorism, nothing else. All that we’ve acquired, such as our homes, cars, etc., have been purchased through the money we make legally. We at least have that much integrity.”
“OK, so you make this decision based on anger and hurt, not greed. It still doesn’t make it right, Theo. Wanting to avenge your father’s death still doesn’t change the fact that what you’re doing is illegal.”
Victoria’s hand gestures match her words, and she’s right.
“I’m fully aware of that. Things began to change for me. I had children, and it helped my healing. Simon was the youngest when our father passed away, so he wasn’t as tight with him.
“He has healed better, as well, but it’s a different story for Adrian and Zev. For Adrian that changed when you came into the picture. You’ve given him hope and happiness.”
I sit back up and rest my forearms on my desk, clasping my fingers. “Well, you had.”
“But it still doesn’t change anything. I can’t devote myself to him with the hope that he’ll stop what he’s doing. I mean, do you even intend on stopping?” she asks.
“It’s what I’ve wanted for some time, along with my sister and Simon. Our family was divided on the decision, but I feel Adrian has been changing since meeting you. He told me one day he wants something more, something different. He meant you and a family.”
“But when I gave him the ultimatum to choose, he didn’t say he would stop.”
“That’s because it’s now out of our hands. It’s not our decision to make. It’s the FBI’s.”