Framed and imprisoned at eighteen, six years later Santiago ?Santo? Valentine is not the frightened teen he once was. Taught by Master Salvatore Moretti, and with walking papers in hand, Santo is determined to turn the family name around and distance it from the drugs and prostitution his father?s legacy is built on.
Santo seeks revenge on his father, the man who framed him, and the whereabouts of his younger brother, Luca.
When he finds him, in the worst place a child could ever be a children?s home simply known as ?The Pound,? where unwanted children disappear Luca has a friend he refuses to leave behind.
At the first sight of Ezra?s brilliant, ice-blue eyes, something shifts in Santo, and he knows he has to help this boy, too.
Ezra, dumped at The Pound when he was barely eleven years old, takes one look at Santo and knows his heart is lost. He also knows he has no chance with him. He might be seventeen, but he?s nothing more than Santo?s little brother?s best friend.
After a massive error in judgment, Ezra runs, obliterating all trace of him.
Santo, sent to investigate a dancer for his club six years later, crosses paths with Ezra. Santo?s reckless behavior shocks them both and leaves them stumbling to trust their hearts.
Dressed in black leather pants and a skintight, black T-shirt, I wait in my car for the right moment. An hour passes as I watch members of my father?s gang arrive at his club. As I count the last man in, I send the message out to my men.
As I walk up to the doorman, the man nods and slinks away. Joel and Mickey stride down the dark corridor leading to the club?s back room, which my father uses to sign the papers for the massive drugs deal he thinks he made. I find myself looking around a place that, even after all these years, is so familiar. I hear the voices of patrons in the bar, the clink of glasses, and the thwack of a cue hitting a ball on a pool table. As a child, this was my home; every day, I would be here after school, doing my homework in the company of prostitutes, crooks, thieves, and murderers. Now, everyone in there is oblivious of what is about to go down.
Joel knocks the door three times, pausing before knocking again. When the door opens, I see a pair of eyes I haven?t seen in a very long time. My cousin Arlo steps back to allow Joel and Mickey entry. I follow them and see the look on Arlo?s face. Confusion, as he tries to place me, changes to shock when he recognizes me. Gabriel and Manny follow me, and we spread out, facing the men sitting around the large, alcohol-laden table. The room is thick with cigar smoke.
There he is, a much fatter and more grotesque man than the one who sent me to prison. He seems startled and fidgets in his chair, his mouth opening and closing like a gaping fish.
?Not expecting to see me tonight?? I ask as he tries to gain his composure. I look at the men and send a silent signal to the ones who have joined me.
?What the fuck are you doing here?? He scans the room as men stand from the table and the perimeter of the room.
I stay silent as he attempts to work out what is going on. ?I don?t know what the fuck you?re doing out of prison, let alone why you?re standing here. I don?t have time for you. I?m busy, so fuck off and don?t come here again.?
?You waiting on someone? Someone to do a bit of business with? Someone you met in Vegas? Is that why you?re here tonight? I believe you brought some girls in for entertainment, too. Still dabbling in prostitution, or is it human trafficking now? Along with the drugs, you must be worth a bit now.?
?What the fuck are you talking about? Fuck off, Santiago; you?re not man enough to play with the big boys. Take your pretend hard men with you and get the fuck out of here.? He pushes himself up to stand as he waves an arm in the direction of the door.
?Oh dear, I was hoping this was going to be easy. Now, listen to me. You?re done here. Your time is up. I?m back and I?m taking what?s mine. I?m taking what you made sure I couldn?t have when you set me up to save your own ass. I know it was you who planted me in that girl?s apartment. I also know it was you who raped her, then beat her so hard she almost died. I know it was you who called the cops. And I know there?s only two ways you?re getting out of here.?
Observing the room, I know I have the backing of all but a few here. I notice Arlo going for his gun. ?Don?t even think about it, little cousin. You will be dead before you can take aim.? Manny reaches inside his coat and has his gun out faster than you can blink, aiming at Arlo?s head.
?What?s it gonna be, Pops?? I watch him snarl and turn purple with rage. ?A body bag or handcuffs? Which way will be less painful for you??
We walk into the busy diner, where Marcie, one of the waitresses, smiles when she sees me.
?Hi, Zee, be with you in two.? She runs her eyes over Santo and raises her brow at me.
?They know you here?? Santo leans over to mutter in my ear.
?They do.? I smile dryly.
Then Marcie comes over to us. ?Just the two of you, hon? Or are the others coming later??
?No, it?s just us, thanks.? I follow her and feel Santo close behind me.
We are seated in a booth at the back of the room; it?s quiet and semi-private. I order a sparkling water and Santo a coffee. Then I sit back and wait for him to talk. He mirrors me and stares. I refuse to squirm under his glare, but the sub in me wants to surrender.
?Why did you do it, Ezra?? His low voice pierces me.
?Self-preservation, Santo. I needed to get away from you.? I sigh.
?I don?t understand. What did I do wrong? I gave you everything you wanted.? He shakes his head.
?I know, but I wanted more. I wanted you.? I watch, waiting for a response.
?Ezra?? His eyes soften. ?I know you did. Luca told me.?
?Of course, you did.? I sigh, feeling like a dick, ?It wasn?t something I was ever going to do anything about. I mean, you were always busy. You had to get the club up and running. You had your brother to reconnect with. I was just Luca?s friend.? I stop as the server brings over our drinks and takes our food order. Santo?s eyes widen when I order a burger with everything. Then a genuine smile brightens his handsome face.
?Good to know you?ve still got a big appetite.?
?Yeah, well, I burn a lot of calories. And as you remember, I spent a long time hungry.?
?I wish you?d told me, Ez.? He gets back to the subject of my obsession.
?Why? You wouldn?t have done anything. I was still a kid. C?mon, Santo, we?re both adults now. There?s no way you would?ve touched me, even if I?d begged. And then, after that bastard in the club? I couldn?t face you. I was too ashamed.?
?Oh, Ezra, I?m sorry. Luca was devastated. He was angry with me for a long time. He misses you, even after all these years.?
My eyes flood. I locked my feelings away for so long, never allowing myself to look back; it hurt too much.
?I?m sorry, Ezra. I didn?t mean to upset you. I never expected to see you again. I?m here looking at a club I might buy. I was told to come and check out the best club dancer ever, that I needed to get him to come and work for me.? He shakes his head, smiling ruefully. ?I never expected it to be you.?
?Have you told Luca you?ve seen me??
?No. I didn?t know if you would want me to.?
?I don?t know. If he missed me so much, I thought it would?ve been the first thing you did. I?m guessing you?re not going to offer me the job, so I don?t really see the point of him knowing. You?re going to leave here, and that will be the end of it. We won?t see each other again.?
Our food arrives, and I tuck in, not really expecting him to answer.
?Would you consider it, if I offered you the head dancer position?? Santo picks up his fork and starts on his burger, too.
?No. I told you, I?m happy here.? I?m not going to tell him my feelings for him haven?t changed, but he looks at me shrewdly.
?Is it because of how you felt about me??
?It?s because my feelings for you, after all these years, are still the same.? I look down at my food and then back up at him, gulping at the intense look in his eyes as he locks onto mine. ?I need to go.? Dragging a twenty-dollar bill from my pocket, I drop it on the table. I daren?t look at him as I slide out of the booth.
As I walk across the parking lot, a hand grabs me, spinning me around. Santo?s eyes blaze, with what? Fury? Frustration? Hatred?
Then his mouth hits mine as his hands grip my arms. He groans as his tongue slides over the seam of my lips. His teeth nip, and I gasp. As my lips part, his tongue delves inside my mouth, licking everywhere. My teeth, gums, and the roof of my mouth are stroked. Then, as he slides his tongue over mine, I get the full flavor of the man I?ve only ever dreamed about.
I moan, and my body relaxes into his, letting him take what he wants as he growls, then bites on my top lip, tugging it hard. He towers over me, and his heavy, throbbing, meaty cock presses against my stomach.
?Get off me.? I push him away. Wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, I glower.
?Let?s go,? he snarls and grasps my hand tightly in his, dragging me towards his car.
?Wait!? I try and stop him, but he?s too strong. ?What the fuck is going on, Santo??
Slamming to a halt, he faces me, our chests close enough to touch as he leans down.
?You! You are the sexiest fucking thing I?ve seen in a fucking long time. I need to have you stripped and bound and ready for me. I?m going to fuck you so damn hard!? He pants, his eyes pits of fire again.
?Hey! I don?t fucking think so! I?m not your sub. You?re not tying me to anything, you asshole!?
?Ezra don?t mess with me. You were fucking made for me. Come on.? He releases my hand and cups my face. ?Please, Ezra. Please, come with me.?
?Where?? I tremble under his touch, the quiver in my throat apparent as I speak.
?My hotel.? His tongue dampens his lips as he leans in even closer, his forehead up to mine. ?Please??
JJ Harper likes nothing more than to lose herself in books, either reading or writing them. She spends her days dreaming about hot men and love stories, letting her imagination run away with her.
Living quietly in the South Lincolnshire countryside with her very patient husband and her uber-lazy dog she hides behind a sweet smile but really is a coffee-addicted, wine drinking, potty-mouthed girl with no intention of every growing up or growing old gracefully.