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Captive Bride

Captive Bride

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I’ve survived marriage to one cruel man already. I’m no fragile princess. I know I can survive this. But the secrets of the Bratva are darker than even I realized, and the more I learn, the more desperate I am to escape.

Captive Bride is the first book in the Bridal Trilogy. The trilogy is complete. Reading order Captive Bride, Stolen Bride, Beloved Bride.

Major Tropes

  • Enemies To Lovers
  • Arranged Marriage
  • Billionaire

Synopsis

All I want is my freedom. But the Bratva leader won't take no for an answer…

My first husband is dead and buried.I’m left a widowed mafia princess—a dangerous title to hold, especially when one man already has his eye on me.

Viktor Andreyev.His own men call him Ussuri.

The Bear. Older than me, with a reputation for violence and a cruel exterior to match, he’s no one I would ever choose for a husband. In fact, I’d hoped that I’d never have to marry again at all.But he’s made the price for peace my hand in marriage. And it’s clear that I can’t refuse.

I’ve survived marriage to one cruel man already. I’m no fragile princess. I know I can survive this. But the secrets of the Bratva are darker than even I realized, and the more I learn, the more desperate I am to escape.Only one man, and the temptations he poses, stand in the way.

He holds my body captive. But he’ll never hold my heart.

Click Here To Read An Excerpt

Chapter One

Caterina

Every mafia bride knows that there may be a day when she has to dress for her husband’s funeral.

This is a dangerous life we all lead, after all, especially the men. This is a world of blood
and violence, riches and excess paid for with short, fast lives that burn hot and bright and flame
out just as quickly. I’ve always thought that was probably one of the reasons why love so rarely
factors into mafia marriages.
It’s easier to see a black dress hanging side by side in your closet with your wedding
gown if the marriage is made for convenience, and not love.
I hadn’t loved Franco. Not in the way that most people think of love. There was nothing
of romance novels in our relationship, very little in the way of passion. The roses and jewelry
and grand gestures were because they were expected, not because he was madly in love with
me. I was—am—a mafia princess, after all. Courting me meant pulling out all the stops, even if
the eventual decision about my marriage hadn’t really been in my hands at all.
It had been in my father’s hands, and I had always known that was how things would be.
My father.
It’s my late husband’s fault that my father is dead. That my mother is dead. That I’m
standing here in front of the full-length mirror in my childhood room, my knee-length black
dress still unzipped, the tulle of the half-veil I’m expected to wear to the funeral crushed in my
hands. This is the third funeral I will have gone to in nearly as many months. The third funeral of
someone close to me, no less.
How much is one person supposed to take before she breaks?
Gingerly, I touch my forearm. My dress is long-sleeved, not because of the weather but
because of the yellowing bruises running up and down my arms like grotesque bracelets.

Franco left his hands off of my neck and face, at least, although not all the other parts of my
body were so lucky. And it’s less than he did to poor Anastasia, at least. He knew at least
enough to keep the evidence from the one other man left who would have been furious to
know that Franco had laid hands on me.

Luca Romano. My father’s heir. My late husband’s supposed best friend. The don of the
Northeast chapter of the American mafia.
And now, my only possible protector. I am a woman without a close living male relative,
without a husband, and in the world I live in, that’s a dangerous, vulnerable position to be in.
Even my status as a mafia princess, the only daughter of the late former don, won’t save me
from any number of possible unfortunate fates if I don’t have someone to look out for me. If
anything, it makes my position even more tenuous. I’m a valuable hostage, an excellent
bargaining chip, a coveted bride despite being newly widowed.
But I hope that Luca will protect me from all of that. I’ll be able to come back here, to
the home I grew up in that now belongs to me, and grieve in peace. Not for Franco—I can’t feel
much grief for him after what he did—to my family, to Luca, to Sofia, to Ana. But I’m still
grieving for my parents, and now I’m grieving something else.
The life I’d thought I would have.
Slowly, I cross the room to the closet, ostensibly to get my shoes—sensible black pumps
with a pointed toe and short heel, nothing too provocative. But next to my shoes is a long flat
box, and I know what’s inside of it.
My wedding dress.
I know there’s no point in looking backwards. But I can’t stop myself from cracking the
lid anyway, reaching inside to touch the cool satin. Sofia Romano, Luca’s wife, helped me pick
that dress out, only a few days after my mother died. She was a good friend to me when I
needed one most, when I was jolted out of my grief into a hastier wedding than expected to
keep me safe from Viktor Andreyev, the leader of the Bratva here in Manhattan. And Franco
tried to kill her. He tried to kill Luca.
So no, I won’t grieve for him.
But what I am grieving for is the man I thought he was. The carefree, laughing, red-
headed, boyish man who my father chose for me. I’d known him already, of course. He’d been
Luca’s closest friend since childhood, and Luca’s father had been close to mine. We’d all grown
up together. I’d thought he was handsome, if reckless and a little childish. More boy than man,

always. I’d never imagined he would be my husband. But I hadn’t been upset that he’d been
chosen for me, either. It could have been much worse—or so I’d thought at the time, anyway.
I’d always been aware of what the circumstances of my eventual marriage would be. I’d
always known that whoever I married would be someone who benefited my father. I’d come to
terms with that long before my engagement. It was why I’d never really dated, even though it
wasn’t expressly forbidden. There was no point, in my mind. Why date, when I knew I would
have no choice in my future husband? Why put temptation in my way, when I knew that my
virginity was a precious commodity, and not my own to give away as I pleased?
The most sensible thing to do was to not torture myself with crushes and flings that
could never be anything more.
And I’ve always been nothing if not sensible.
But what that meant was that Franco was my first kiss. My first everything. I’d thrown
myself headlong into the relationship after our engagement, wanting to please him. I’d
expected him to stray—I knew very well that almost all mafia husbands did. But I’d wanted to
delay his eventual unfaithfulness as long as I could. I went down on him in a limo just after he
proposed to me, for fuck’s sake.
The bitterness of the thought startles me. I hadn’t expected close emotional intimacy
between us, or faithfulness, or even real love. I’d thought that I’d been as practical as I possibly
could about what our marriage would be. But I had expected some things.
I’d been thrilled that my father had chosen someone my own age. Someone fun and full
of life. Someone who didn’t take things quite as seriously as so many of the other men around
me. I’d seen Franco as, if not a devoted partner, an adventure. Someone that could maybe help
me cut loose a little, lighten up. Someone that I could have fun with, laugh with, enjoy being
with. Someone who would be an adventurous lover, someone who I could unashamedly
explore all the things I’d always been curious about in bed with. A friend, maybe.
Very, very briefly, I’d thought that I’d had that. Our first nights together had been good,
even if he’d seemed slightly frustrated by my inexperience. My virginity hadn’t seem so much a
turn-on to him as an annoyance, but I’d told myself that was good. At least he wasn’t the type
of man to fetishize virginity. We hadn’t gotten a honeymoon, but we’d gotten a few days to

hide away in my family home, and I’d done my best to be a happy new bride, even at a time
when I was also a grieving daughter.
But Franco had had no patience for that. And our relationship had devolved quickly. I’d
seen his irritation, his impatience, his lack of caring for me almost immediately. I’d realized very
soon that I was a stepping stone for him, nothing more. That he hadn’t had any hopes for our
marriage other than to hope that I wouldn’t be too much trouble.
That hurt. But everything that followed hurt so much more. And the revelations that
came with his death?
Those nearly broke me.
I pull my hand back from the box, pushing the lid shut as I grab my shoes and stand up,
slipping them on quickly. Sofia told me to take as much time as I needed, but I know I’ll need to
emerge sooner rather than later. It wouldn’t do for the widow to be late to her own husband’s
funeral.
There’s a knock at the door, and I lick my dry lips, my mouth feeling cottony. “Come in,”
I call out, my voice cracking slightly as I turn to get my mother’s pearls from my jewelry box.
Next to them, my extravagant engagement ring glitters in the light, and I snatch the pearls up,
shutting the box before I succumb to the urge to grab it and throw it across the room. I wish I
could take off all the evidence that I was ever married to him at all, but it would be absolutely
scandalous to show up without so much as a wedding band on. Leaving my ostentatious ring off
will seem like a show of modesty, but a bare hand would be whispered about for months.
Sofia told me that Luca’s done his best to keep the extent of what Franco and Franco’s
father—his real father—did quiet, containing it to the upper levels of the mafia, Bratva, and
Irish hierarchies. It’s better for it to not spread too widely. It’s too insidious, too great of a lie
and too large of a betrayal to let the lesser men know about. It might give others ideas, if they
knew how long Franco and his father managed to hide it all, how close they came to bringing
down an entire family and their heirs.
“Caterina?” Sofia Romano, my closest friend now—especially after everything that’s
happened—steps into the room. She’s wearing a simple black dress, high-necked and knee-
length, with elbow-length sleeves and her dark hair pulled back into a smooth bun. It’s very

similar to the one I have on, but there’s one very noticeable difference between our
silhouettes—Sofia’s stomach is faintly rounded, the slightest hint of her pregnancy starting to
show. It’s just barely there, if I hadn’t known, I might just have thought she’d had a large
breakfast. But I know—I was the one who encouraged her to tell her husband.
Sofia and I have had each other’s backs for some time now. And I don’t expect that to
change anytime soon.
It’s a relief to have one person that I feel I can lean on. Two really, if I count Luca, but
I’m not certain that I can yet. I haven’t spoken to him since Franco’s death, or since he came
back from the hospital. I think Sofia would have warned me if Luca blamed me in any way, or if
he intended to hold me responsible for my husband’s crimes as well, but I still can’t help but be
afraid. Luca has never been as cruel, harsh, or commanding as most mafia men are—men like
my late father. But the title of don, the responsibility of it, changes men. My mother told me
that. And Luca has never been a particularly warm man, either. He’s always been kind to me,
but I don’t yet know if he’ll put the mafia first, or my happiness and safety.
I hope it’s the latter.
I simply want to be left alone to grieve, for the first time since my parents’ deaths. I
intend to square things with Luca today, after the funeral, and then hopefully I’ll be allowed to
retreat, into my own private sanctuary, a convent of one. I have no desire to remarry, or to
even really take part in this life anymore.
If I could disappear altogether, I think I would.
This life has taken far too much from me already.
“Are you alright?” Sofia looks at me sympathetically. “I know, that’s a loaded question.
Here, let me do up your zipper for you.” She comes to stand behind me, gently tugging up the
zipper and smoothing her hands down the back of my dress so that the crisp fabric lays
correctly. I look painfully thin, far more than I ever have been, although I’ve always been
slender. My cheekbones look as if they’re pushing at my chin, my jawline sharp, my eyes tired.
Even a generous helping of mascara and concealer couldn’t hide the fact that I haven’t slept in
what feels like months. Once a man lays hands on you, it’s difficult to sleep well next to him any
longer. But sleeping in another bedroom was never an option for me. Neither was telling

Franco no, when he required my attentions in bed. He’d wanted me to produce an heir for him
as quickly as possible, to solidify that hopeful son’s eventual rise to the seat that my father, and
now Luca, occupied.
I touch my stomach surreptitiously, letting out a sigh of relief for the thousandth time
that I didn’t get pregnant over the course of our short marriage. Sofia is glowing with her
pregnancy, and in the brief time that I’d had some happiness with Franco, I’d imagined myself
the same way—radiant and happy to be having his child.
Now I can’t imagine it. Not just Franco’s, but anyone’s. I’ve always loved children, but
the life of a mafia wife and mother feels light years away now, as if a different woman tried to
live it.
I’m done with men. I never expected love, but the thought of marriage, of being a
trophy on someone’s arm, of sex, makes me feel sick now.
If I have my way, I’ll never be married again.
“You don’t have to do anything,” Sofia tells me gently, resting a hand on my elbow.
“Everyone expects you to be grieving. Just you being there is all you need to do.” She reaches
for my hand, taking the crumpled half-veil out of it and reaching up to pin it into my hair,
smoothed back into a carefully pinned twist.
“Won’t I need to say something? A eulogy for my husband?” I lick my lips nervously,
looking at my reflection. I look as if I’m carrying the heavy weight of grief, because I am, even if
not for Franco. But I don’t know how I’ll get up behind a podium and look out across the
gathered mourners, most of whom aren’t even aware of Franco’s betrayal, and give a eulogy
appropriate for a grieving widow for a man that I now hate.
A man that, if I really look into the deepest, darkest corners of my soul, I’m glad is dead.
“I’ve already told Luca to take point on that,” Sofia says firmly, clipping the other corner
of the veil into my hair. The black tulle covers my eyes down to the pointed tip of my nose,
giving me an appropriately elegant air, and most importantly, hiding how truly awful I look
these days. I’m a long way from my homecoming queen days, from being the most beautiful girl
not just among the mafia daughters, but maybe even in greater Manhattan. I’d always been
aware of how pretty I was, maybe even a little vain about it. I’m sure it will return in time,

though I’m no longer interested in what I can buy with that currency. But today at least, I look
much older than my twenty-two years.
“So I don’t have to speak at all?” I glance sideways at her. “Won’t everyone think that’s
strange?”
“When he asks you to come up, just start to go, and then break down crying. Fake it if
you need to,” Sofia says encouragingly. “And he’ll say something about how heartbroken you
are, and Father Donahue will move things along.”
I let out a breath that I hadn’t known I was holding. “Thank you,” I whisper, turning to
face her and grasping her hands in mine. I can feel tears gathering at the corners of my eyes.
“Thank you for being here for me, through all of this. I know it hasn’t been easy for you.”
“It hasn’t,” Sofia admits. “But it’s better now—for me, for Luca. We’re better. We’re
finding our way through all of this. And you will too, Caterina, I promise. Things will get better.”
She reaches up underneath my veil, brushing a tear off of my cheek with her thumb.
“Franco is dead. He can’t hurt you, or anyone, anymore. You’ll heal from all of this. You just
need time. Just get through today, and then you’ll have all the time you need to grieve, and
heal, and find out who you want to be. Just a few more hours, and by tonight, it will all be
over.”
I cling to that, as I pick up my purse and rosary and follow Sofia out of the bedroom, out
to the waiting car.
By tonight, it will all be over.
I can put all of this behind me, and start fresh, as my own woman.
Caterina Rossi, a free woman.
It has a nice ring to it.

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