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Cruel Heir

Cruel Heir

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I’ve been taken captive by a man who wants to destroy my family. There’s no escaping him–or the way he makes me feel.


I was born a mafia princess, the only daughter of the most powerful man in Italy. My purpose has always been to marry well, to be used to form an alliance that will benefit my father–and the man he chooses for me.


But now I’m being used for revenge.

For two years, Andre Leone has been kept as my father’s prisoner, under house arrest on one of his estates. For two years, he plotted how he would bring my father down. And now, he’s taken his first step.

He’s taken me.

Andre intends to wed me, bed me, and ensure that I have his child. And when that’s done? He’ll make sure my father’s reign as head of the Italian mafia ends–and his begins. He’ll stop at nothing to ensure that happens, and from the moment he touches me, I hate him. But what I don’t expect is that I want him, too. There’s more to him than meets the eye, and as much as I try not to see it, I can’t ignore that not everything is as black and white as I always believed.


The cruel Leone heir owns my body. And now that I’m his, he might just claim my heart, too.

Cruel Heir is a full-length standalone enemies to lovers romance. If you like dark mafia romances, enemies to lovers, or boss/employee dynamics, you’ll love this new book! 

Main Tropes

  • Enemies To Lovers
  • Arranged Marriage
  • Billionaire

Synopsis

I’ve been taken captive by a man who wants to destroy my family. There’s no escaping him–or the way he makes me feel.

I was born a mafia princess, the only daughter of the most powerful man in Italy. My purpose has always been to marry well, to be used to form an alliance that will benefit my father–and the man he chooses for me.

But now I’m being used for revenge.

For two years, Andre Leone has been kept as my father’s prisoner, under house arrest on one of his estates. For two years, he plotted how he would bring my father down. And now, he’s taken his first step.

He’s taken me.

Andre intends to wed me, bed me, and ensure that I have his child. And when that’s done? He’ll make sure my father’s reign as head of the Italian mafia ends–and his begins. He’ll stop at nothing to ensure that happens, and from the moment he touches me, I hate him. But what I don’t expect is that I want him, too. There’s more to him than meets the eye, and as much as I try not to see it, I can’t ignore that not everything is as black and white as I always believed.

The cruel Leone heir owns my body. And now that I’m his, he might just claim my heart, too.

Click Here To Read An Excerpt

 Chapter One

Lucia

I’ve seen the grand ballroom in my family’s home many times before, but never like this. I’ve seen it full of tables for galas, string music filtering upstairs where I’ve always had to stay after catching a glimpse, isolated away from the adults and their parties. I’ve seen it draped in black for wakes and funeral receptions–once again, only a glimpse before I’ve been shuffled upstairs, never a part of things for very long. I’ve been kept carefully sheltered and tucked away, here in my father’s grand estate in the Sicilian countryside. But tonight, all of that changes.

I hover at the top of the staircase, looking down. The room is already full of guests, that familiar string music drifting up to where I’m standing, waiting for my father to announce me, waiting to make my entrance. Two days ago, I turned eighteen–and tonight, I’m being presented to the Sicilian mafia elite and their guests, friends, and trusted acquaintances. I am my father’s most prized jewel, and tonight, I’m being allowed to glitter in public for the first time. 

Nervously, I smooth my hands over my full skirt, feeling the carefully embroidered lace flowers scattered across it under my fingertips. I’ve had beautiful clothes and fine things all my life, but never anything this grand. The dress was handmade over the course of the past year by the finest seamstresses my father could commission–a light blue ball gown that matches my eyes exactly, almost Cinderella-like in its construction. The bodice is reinforced satin, the neckline high enough to preserve my modesty, but shaped in a bustier-style to show off my slender curves. The sleeves are puffed tulle, draped just below my shoulders, showing off the delicate line of my throat and collarbones. Enticing, but not too seductive. Every man in that room below will be looking at me, some of them intending to make my father an offer. 

I could be married to one of tonight’s guests in a matter of months.

My father’s voice booms out from below, encouraging his ‘esteemed guests’ to gather around. I feel my pulse flutter anxiously in my throat as I stand poised to descend into the crowd, this night that I’ve anticipated for so long finally here. I see my father standing at the foot of the staircase with a glass of champagne in his hand, his iron gray hair smoothed back, dressed impeccably in a bespoke tailored suit. Everything about tonight, from the masses of fresh flowers decorating the ballroom to the hand sewn embroidery on my gown, the elite string quartet and the fine china and crystal used to serve canapes and alcohol–all of it is meant to display my father’s power and wealth. He is the head of the Family, the most powerful man in the Italian mafia, and I am his daughter. All of this–and the man lucky enough to claim my hand in marriage, is my birthright.

“Allow me to introduce my daughter–Lucia Elysia Fontana!” His voice carries out over the room, deep and booming, and I feel the excitement spread through me. My feet carry me forward down the stairs one slow step at a time, my hand gliding down the banister rail like a princess in a movie. All of this feels like a dream–the pinnacle of what I’ve been waiting for, a day even more exciting than my wedding. My wedding day will be about the merging of two families, celebrating the rise in stature for whomever my father chooses and a close new ally for him, but tonight is about me.

This is my moment, and I’ll never truly have another like it.

I feel all of the eyes in the room on me as I nearly float down the stairs, feeling a flush of happiness and anticipation. I’ve imagined this moment over and over, and it’s finally here.

When I step down next to my father, he takes my hand, turning me to present me to the gathered guests. “My daughter,” he repeats, smiling broadly, clearly pleased with my performance–with the way all of the guests’ attention was riveted on me. My success tonight is my father’s success, proof that even without a mother to help raise me, I’ve become the perfect example of a mafia princess. 

“May I?” An unfamiliar man steps forward, tall and dark-haired, likely in his mid-thirties. I see faint lines at the corners of his hazel eyes and the slightest hints of silver in his hair, but he’s handsome enough, and I take his hand as he offers it. “It would be my delight to claim your first dance, Miss Fontana.”

I have no doubt that my father orchestrated this, that this man is someone who he sees as a possible match for me. I also know that I’m expected to accept.

“Of course.” I smile graciously, resting my hand in his palm. “Signore–?”

“You may call me Mattias.” He smiles, drawing me through the crowd towards the dance floor, where other couples are swaying to the music. “I must admit, I’ve already spoken with your father. I was very eager to be able to claim the honor of the first dance tonight.”

His hand rests on the small of my back, a respectful space between us as his other hand wraps around mine. The steps to the music are slow and practiced, leaving plenty of opportunity for us to speak to each other.

“I’m flattered that you were so eager.” Everything I say is as practiced as the dance, taught to me over long hours learning etiquette and conversation from the private tutors my father employed for me. Mattias, I expect, is choosing his words with as much care. 

I’m aware that arranging my marriage is a delicate matter. The man my father chooses must be from a family close enough to the highest ranks of Sicilian dons that he’s worthy of me, and he has to be someone with respect for my father, lest my father risk allowing a snake into our midst. He must be respected by others, so that the marriage doesn’t diminish my father’s standing. He must be wealthy enough that he won’t be tempted by his proximity to my family to take more than his share. He has to be fearsome enough that he will add to my father’s strength, not take away from it. 

Whether the man my father chooses is handsome, or kind, or loving–those things aren’t taken into account. Which means I’m relieved that Mattias seems to at least be respectful–and he’s certainly handsome. As we move across the dance floor, I can imagine kissing him. There’s no surge of desire or spark of chemistry, but when I imagine his lips pressed to mine, the hand on my back moving over me with more urgency, the idea doesn’t make me uncomfortable.

Anyway, even if my husband isn’t handsome, or kind, I won’t have to endure him for long. If there’s anything I’ve learned both from the women who taught me my role in this world and from the whispers of the maids around me, mafia husbands rarely spend much time in their wives’ beds. The purpose of fucking your wife is to produce an heir, not for pleasure.

As for how the wives feel about that–no one ever answered that question for me.

“Any man would be eager for the possibility to have you as his bride.” Mattias’ accent is thick, warm and rich as it fills the air around us, as thick as my father’s. A Sicilian man to the bone, I can tell. I think that’s what my father wants, to marry me to someone from one of the old mafia bloodlines, someone close to the heart of the Family.

There was a time when I know there was talk of marrying me into one of the families in the States–someone in Chicago or Boston, perhaps. But from what little I can glean from the gossip and bits of conversation I overhear, there’s been upheaval recently there. Enough to make my father reconsider, and lean more heavily towards a marriage closer to home.

“Would I be your first wife?” I ask, smiling up at Mattias as he guides me across the dance floor. It’s a bit of a brazen question, but it’s one I’m curious to have the answer to. A widower means the possibility of stepchildren, something that I feel terrified to handle at only eighteen. My own stepmother has stayed far away from the estate where I live, kept at a much more modern home in Rome. She had no interest in mothering me or my brother, and my father had no interest in giving her the task. She’s barely ten years older than I am, with children of her own now–my half brother and sisters.

“Yes, you would be. I have not had the pleasure of marrying before.” Mattias looks at me curiously. “I hope that’s the answer that you were anticipating?”

A faint glow washes through me at the idea that he might care about my opinion on it. It’s not something I expected. “It is,” I tell him honestly. “At least we could both go into the marriage with equal inexperience.”

He laughs at that, a genuine sound that tells me he caught the joke I made. He’s certainly more experienced than I am in certain areas–I can’t imagine any mafioso being a virgin when he was wed–but in the matters of acting as husband and wife, we would at least be on equal ground.

“I have kept a woman at one of my estates,” he confesses, as the music begins to slow. “But I wasn’t there often. It wasn’t like living together.”

“Oh.” I’m not sure what to say–I didn’t expect him to tell me something so personal. His exploits both before and after our marriage are traditionally none of my concern. It makes me wonder how eager he is to secure my hand–and how much influence he thinks my wishes really have over my father. The latter thought makes me want to laugh.

I know that my father is a man others fear, in the vague sort of way that I also know the history of the country I was raised in and the ethos of Italian mafia culture. But I’ve never had cause to feel that fear or even witness it. I’ve spent my life being spoiled and pampered, lavished with every extravagance and the best of everything–lessons, tutors, clothes, jewelry, hobbies. My father is not a particularly warm man, but I’ve never felt less than treasured and cared for–even if it is somewhat in the way that I expect one treats a particularly precious and valuable possession.

But then again, I expect the same from my husband. It’s the way things are, and I’ve never thought to question it. If my life comes with gilded bars around it, those bars at least keep me safe from those who would wish to harm me. It’s a trade–my freedom for my security, my independence for my comfort–and it’s one I’ve always been happy to make.

Reluctantly, I feel Mattias release my hand as another tall, well-dressed man approaches us at the edge of the dance floor. “I regret that I must pass you off to someone else,” he says with a faint smile, stepping back and inclining his head. “But I will be speaking to your father tomorrow morning, so perhaps we will see each other again soon.”

I nod, returning the smile. “If I’m free tonight, I’d love to dance with you again,” I tell him, and he chuckles.

“I don’t expect I’ll be able to snatch you away for even a moment. But I will look out for an opportunity, just in case.”

An hour later, my feet are beginning to hurt. I’ve been dancing with one man or another since Mattias brought me out to the floor, and I pause as the latest man to claim a dance spins me, taking a slow breath.

“Are you alright?” the man–Fazio, I think his name is–asks concernedly, and I nod.

“I just need to sit down for a moment, I think. A little water wouldn’t hurt, either.”

He steers me eagerly towards one of the chairs at the edge of the dance floor–gold chiavari–and I sink into it with a sigh. “I’ll be back with some water in a moment,” Fazio promises, darting away without noticing the catering staff passing him by with a tray in hand.

On further inspection as the black-and-white uniformed man gets closer, I see that it’s not water on his tray, but champagne. I sweep a glass off anyway, taking a delicate sip of it. I’ve never had champagne before, and I’m delighted by the way the bubbles burst over my tongue, the dry sweetness spreading through my mouth. I’m also starving, and I snag a few hors d’oeuvres off of another passing tray, nibbling at them as I wait for Fazio to come back. They’re delicious–some kind of flaky pastry with soft cheese and spiced ground meat in one, and another that’s a flatbread with herbed cream cheese and a grilled shrimp atop it. It’s hardly a meal, but it will keep me from passing out until the end of the night when I can ask to have leftovers sent up to my room.

“Here you are!” Fazio reappears at my elbow, handing me the glass of water. “The champagne is delicious, isn’t it?”

I look at him sideways as I sip the water, nodding. He’s the youngest of the men who have danced and talked with me so far tonight–probably only a few years older than I am–and I find that I don’t prefer that as much as I would have thought. He seems immature, unlike Mattias and some of the other men that I’ve danced with, and I find myself hoping that my father will not take Fazio up on his offer.

As the night wears on, I realize Mattias was right–there’s no chance that he’ll get another moment with me. I’m handed off to an increasingly dizzying parade of men, enough that their features start to blur together after a while, some of the names drifting out of my head. Aside from Mattias, there’s one older widower named Leonardo who seemed pleasant and handsome enough–if a bit stiff in his manners–and a man called Alexis who was probably in his late twenties, and had a similarly respectful air to the other two. No one would dare manhandle me in my father’s house, or touch me in any way that bordered on inappropriate, but I can feel the difference in the ones who treat me carefully, and those who look at me as if they can’t wait to own me for themselves. I try to remember the names of the ones who made me particularly uncomfortable, in the unlikely event that my father does ask my opinion on any of them.

When I finally have a moment to escape, I snatch it. My feet are aching, the room is beginning to feel close and hot, and the mingled scents of so many different colognes and perfumes and warm bodies is beginning to give me a headache. When one dance ends and someone isn’t immediately there to claim me for another, instead of looking for Mattias, I give a longing glimpse towards the doors that lead out to the garden. I can’t deny that I’ve enjoyed the attention, but I’m eager for a moment to myself. I cut a quick path through the guests, trying to dodge anyone who might want my attention before they can speak to me, and slip outside into the cool night air.

It’s late fall, and chilly at night. I shiver almost as soon as I step out onto the cobblestone path, but I keep walking anyway, wanting the privacy to collect myself. I feel more than a little overwhelmed by it all, and even though it’s felt good to have so many men eager to meet me, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being watched by someone in particular.

You’re being watched by everyone. I try to shrug off the creeping feeling that curls around my spine, brushing it off as ridiculous. There isn’t a pair of eyes in the room that isn’t mostly focused on me–that’s the purpose of the night. If it feels like someone is looking at me, it’s because everyone is. 

I walk all the way to the fountain in the middle of the gardens–a marble statue of a woman draped in fluttering veils, standing in the midst of the water with carved fishes leaping all around her. Water spouts from her hands and the fishes’ mouths, splashing merrily, and I turn my face up towards the moon, taking a deep breath of the fresh, clean air. I can feel a bit of the cool spray of the water as it splashes into the pool of the fountain, and it feels good on my flushed skin. Good enough that I linger, hesitant to go back inside. My feet ache, and I think even I might have reached the limit of my ability to make small talk with men I barely know. 

“Miss Fontana. Out in the gardens all alone without a chaperone? Scandalous.”

The voice behind me makes a tsking sound, and I freeze. For a moment I have the fantasy that it might be Mattias, here to sneak that moment that he promised to look out for, teasing me with more flirtatious banter. But I know before I even turn around that it’s not his voice. The accent isn’t as thick, or as rich. It’s the voice of someone who grew up elsewhere, whose Italian is muted by having been raised around American accents, American voices. I’ve talked with more than a few men tonight who sound just like that.

But when I turn, the man in front of me is no one I know, and no one I’ve danced with or spoken to.

He’s tall and lean, with dark blond hair and deep blue eyes, almost black in the dim light of the garden. He’s handsome in a sharp, chiseled kind of way, and he’s standing casually in front of me, hands stuffed into his tailored suit pockets.

Something about him sets off an alarm within me, a sort of instinctive fear that I think all women have when faced with a potentially dangerous man. He hasn’t done anything threatening yet, nothing that would make me think he intends me harm, but every sense I have is screaming at me to get away from him, to go back inside. 

“If you want a dance,” I manage stiffly, trying to mask my fear, “then just give me a moment. You can find me as soon as I go back to the party.”

The man laughs, a low, dark sound that makes the hair on the back of my neck rise. “I’m not interested in a dance, Miss Fontana,” he murmurs. I feel the fear in my stomach harden into a tight knot, a chill washing over me that has nothing to do with the night air. 

I draw myself up straighter, calling on every bit of poise and arrogance I possess as the daughter of Don Fontana, a man both respected and feared, the head of the Family. “It’s very rude that you seem to know who I am, and haven’t introduced yourself,” I tell him as haughtily as I can. “My father is willing to forgive some faults in a man who would truly cherish his daughter, but I can’t imagine that rudeness is one of them.”

Truthfully, I don’t think my father actually cares if anyone cherishes me. But it matters more what might make this man stand down.

He just chuckles again, his mouth quirking in a wry smirk. “I’ll introduce myself in time, Lucia. But for now–”

Fear takes over in that moment, when I hear the way he says my name, when I understand that this man wants something that has nothing at all to do with the party inside. He has no interest in the careful steps of the social niceties that can lead a man from one dance with me to saying I do in front of God and my father–one of whom is considerably more immediately terrifying than the other, as I understand it. 

Whoever this man is, he’s here to take something from me.

I snatch up my skirt in my hands, preparing to dart around him. The moment I try, his hand snakes around my waist, pulling me in closer against his side as he backs me towards the fountain, his mouth close to my ear.

“Oh no, Lucia,” he murmurs, his breath warm against my skin, his hand firmly against the small of my back in a way that no other man tonight has dared to hold me. “You’re not going anywhere, principessa. Except for where I choose to take you.”

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