Brutal Capo

Coming: 03/07/2024

Another steamy Italian mafia romance set in the New York Cosa Nostra by USA Today bestselling author Lucy Monroe.

I’m hiding in plain sight from the mafia. Working for the most brutal capo in New York might not be the best idea. Falling for him is even worse. But when he traps me in his apartment to take care of me, passion I didn’t know I could feel, burns my inhibitions to cinders. Until he throws me away. Then the don finds out who I am, and demands I marry the capo who broke my heart.

The plan? A single night with the alluring pole dancer turned cocktail waitress. When she’s attacked outside my club, I insist she recovers in my penthouse and if that gives me access to her beautiful body, so much the better. One night turns into weeks, but I don’t catch feelings. Not since I had to kill the object of my affection for betraying me. Then I discover Bianca has done the same. But instead of ordering me to kill her, my don gives me a choice. Marry her. Or death.

This is a stand alone mafia romance with a guaranteed HEA. No cliffhangers. No Cheating.

CW: explicit intimacy, graphic violence, foul language, reference to SA in the past, parental abandonment (in past for Bianca).

Scroll down to read an excerpt.

Readers outside the US, click here for your Amazon link.

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No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without express, written permission from the author Lucy Monroe who can be contacted off her website

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



Age 20
New York, New York

Her shiny blonde hair, the only genuine thing about her, hanging in messy clumps around her head, Monica’s eyes plead with me.

Have mercy.

Don’t kill me.

Don’t kill my lover.

Her mouth is gagged so she can’t beg for their lives out loud, but I hear the words in my head.

Until three days ago, I thought I was her lover and the only man she had in her life. I told her I loved her.

I  f🦆ing loved her.

I told her everything about my family, except that we are part of the New York Cosa Nostra.

I have to get my don’s permission to do that and Uncle Enzo insisted on a background check on Monica before giving it.

Since my dad is my uncle’s top capo, Big Sal got the job of investigating the woman I wanted to marry.

Criminals are excellent at finding the dirt on other criminals. But I was so sure Monica was clean, I gave every piece of information I had on her to my dad’s guy. Only to find out that Monica is five years older than she told me, and she’s not a botany student either.

She never even went to community college.

She’s been living with the same man since they were teenagers. They move around the country scamming unwary schmucks.

I’m just her latest her mark. A scemo like every other person they’ve bilked.

A $250,000 orchid plant is sitting in my apartment right now as irrefutable proof of what a scemo I am. Finding it was the hardest part, but I’m part of one of the most powerful Family in New York. We have connections. I bought the rare orchid believing the plant would protect Monica from getting kicked out of school, or being prosecuted.

She spun a f🦆ing good story.

Oh, Salvatore, I don’t know what happened, but I killed it. If the professor finds out, he’s going to press charges. I wasn’t supposed to touch it, but it was so perfect. So beautiful. Blue eyes shimmer with unshed tears. I don’t know what to do.

Not once did she ask for my help. When I offered, she adamantly refused it. Which only made me more determined to save the woman I loved.

I’m a De Luca, at the top of the mafia food chain. My father might not have as much money as his brother, our don, but his net worth would put him on the Forbes Real Time Billionaires list if so many of his assets weren’t hidden from the government.

“You thought you could steal from the Cosa Nostra?” I ask her, looking at Monica and her guy with disgust.

Her eyes widen with fear.

“Are you just now realizing I’m connected?” I shake my head. “What did you think? A regular student would drug you and your boyfriend and hang you up like a couple of punching bags from the ceiling?”

Like she thinks I’m going to start beating on her like the punching bag I compared her to, she starts screaming behind the gag and twisting her body. Her fear is a balm to my ego, but nothing can undo what a fool she made out of me.

“I’m not going to hit you.” Her lover on the other hand?

Him I punch in the nuts. F🦆er touched what was mine. That can’t go unanswered.

He goes green and retches behind the gag.

“You’d better get a move on, Salvatore,” one of my father’s men says. “Or he’s going to choke on his own vomit before you get a chance to kill him.”

We aren’t here alone because this isn’t just between me and the couple that tried to scam me. It’s Cosa Nostra business when an outsider comes for one of us. We can’t let it stand.

Reputation is everything in the mafia.

My father hands me a gun. “You know what needs to happen.”

I nod. My arm doesn’t want to lift though. Bile rises in my throat at the thought of pointing the gun at Monica. Less than twenty-four hours ago, I was buried balls deep in her cunt believing I had found my home.

Like a woman could be that. Especially an outsider.

Swallowing back my urge to vomit, I ruthlessly cut my feelings off, just like papà taught me. There’s no place for sentiment in a made man’s life and tonight I get made. With this act of judgment.

As I lift my gun, the front of the guy’s jeans turns dark from his piss. Monica is still screaming behind the gag, her legs kicking like she’s going somewhere.

I pull the trigger and the boyfriend’s head jerks back. His body goes limp in death.

“At least you’ll be together in hell.” I pull the trigger again and red blooms on the left side of Monica’s chest.

Her faithless heart destroyed by my bullet.

My father claps his hand on my shoulder. “Well done, my son. You’ll make a hell of an underboss for me.”

I stare at him. Is he saying what I think he is?

“You still have to finish school, but from tonight, you’re my second in command. I told Enzo you would do it.” Papà sounds proud.

He should be. I’m exactly the man he raised me to be. Loyal to the mafia. Ruthless to our enemies. Willing and able to kill when necessary.

Everything his son has to be.

And all I had to do was shoot the woman I loved and kill her boyfriend.

Chapter 1


I swipe my sweaty palms down the sides of my skirt and wish I’d opted for the black one with the zipper instead of the pleather designer knock off.

It’s three in the afternoon and the sidewalk outside Amuni is quiet, no long line waiting to get into one of the hottest nightclubs in New York.

After overhearing one of my roommates tell another that Amuni is hiring cocktail waitresses, I’m here to apply for a job. A job I need.

Even if my roommate hadn’t gotten the part in the off Broadway show she auditioned for last week, I’d still be here. Trying to get this job instead of her.

We share an apartment in Queens with another girl and the couple on the lease. They aren’t my friends, but roommates by financial necessity.

The same necessity that has me here, looking for a job. I can’t pay even the rent on half a sofa sleeper in the living room if I don’t have a job. And I can’t work at Pitiful Princess anymore.

Despite the generous curves I inherited from my nonna, I got hired to dance on the pole. I’m good at it and a favorite with the patrons because of the way my tits and ass bounce when I move.

I don’t make what the girls who strip, and then come down off the stage to work the patrons, do but I’m okay with that. My boss is not.

Gino is trying to force me to work the floor too. I know what that means. Lap dances and more in the private rooms in the back of the club. I don’t like being touched. And I sure as hell am not selling my mouth and ass so Gino can get his cut of the increased revenue.

Amuni is a nightclub, not a strip club and it has a strict policy against servers turning tricks on the side. A server can make bank on her tips without offering extras to patrons too.

I really, really want this job.

Now it’s time to convince them that they want me.

“I’m sorry for wasting your time, Bianca, but we aren’t a strip club.” Sierra, the waitstaff manager, sounds anything but sorry. More like bored.

I can’t let that get to me. Getting this job is more important than clinging to pride that won’t pay the bills.

“Believe me, I know.”

Sierra continues as if I hadn’t spoken. “We don’t use dancers. If you’re looking for a move up from the Pitiful Princess, try the club on 48th, Alladin’s Cave.”

I knew I shouldn’t have listed my current employment. “If you look at the job I held before that, I was a server at a bar. I have an excellent memory and lots of experience handling a packed house.”

“Yet you left to become a pole dancer at the Pitiful Princess.” The older woman isn’t quite sneering, but it is close.

“They offered more money and as I’m sure you are aware, living in the city is expensive.”

“Tips here are decent, but I doubt you’ll make more a night than you do stripping.”

I don’t strip. I dance the pole. Practically naked, but I don’t take what clothes I do wear off for the patrons. Not that Sierra is going to make the distinction.

“No one will expect me to work anything else here, though,” I tell her with honesty born of desperation.

Sierra’s eyes narrow. “Providing sexual services to patrons in grounds for immediate dismissal at Amuni.”

“Did you miss the part that I don’t want to provide anything more?” I ask, my temper getting the better of me.

This uptight bitch isn’t going to hire me anyway, so I might as well stand up for myself.

“It’s common practice at clubs like the Pitiful Princess and I’m not judging that,” Sierra says. “But it isn’t allowed here. This club is entirely legitimate.”

Someone else might not realize what she’s alluding to, but I grew up mafia, even if no one knows that about me anymore. Amuni is owned by the Cosa Nostra as one of their legitimate business fronts.

Making it the ideal place to work. It’s under syndicate protection, but dirty business doesn’t get done here.

“Good!” I emphasize. “I’m looking for a legitimate job as a server without a boss that will pressure me to start offering my body to patrons.”

Sierra sucks in a shocked breath. “Oh, I…that definitely would not happen here.”

“Please, Sierra, call my references. I’m a good server. You won’t regret hiring me.” And I need this job.

Like yesterday.

Her phone buzzes and she picks it up to look at the screen. Not a great sign when she’s willing to take a call in the middle of the interview.

She answers and steps away so I can’t overhear the phone call. As she’s talking, two bright color spots form on her cheeks. Then she looks up and around the club like she’s trying to spot someone.

The call only lasts a couple of minutes and Sierra turns to come back to me and sets the phone face down on the small round table we are sitting at.

“Excuse the interruption,” she says perfunctorily.

Kindness costs nothing. That’s something my mom used to say. She’s not so great at giving away that free commodity, but it is something I try to do. To prove to myself that I am not either of my parents.

“No problem,” I say.

Sierra’s phone buzzes again and she appears reluctant to answer. Picking it up gingerly she looks at the screen with furrowed brows. It must be a text this time.

Her shoulders stiff, she forces a smile that looks as plastic as one of my roommate’s tits. It looks like someone is using a hook on either side of Sierra’s mouth to draw her lips up.

She taps on her phone screen a few times and then looks up at me with that sick smile still in place. “Yes, well, I’ll check your references. Is this number good to reach you at?”

She rattles off my pay-as-you-go number.

“Uh huh, I mean yes.”

Sierra visibly swallows without meeting my eyes or looking around the club again. “Good. We…I’ll be in touch later today.”

That’s a lot more positive than I expect. I surge to my feet and offer my hand to shake. “Great. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.”

If she really does call my references, she will only hear good things. Even Gino won’t risk bad mouthing me, not after the last girl he did that to called the cops and dropped a tip about what goes on the back rooms.

Sure, the cops are paid off, but they had to pretend to investigate and having them around made the clientele nervous. Several regulars disappeared and didn’t come back to the club for nearly a week.

My temper is worse and my boss knows it. That’s the only reason he hasn’t yanked me off the stage and onto some guys lap for a dance.

Gino doesn’t know what I’ll do to retaliate.


I’m not supposed to be at Amuni today, but Franco needs to take his pregnant wife in for some tests. That leaves me here, accepting a delivery of flavored tequilas for this week’s specialty drinks.

When the gorgeous redhead walks in looking nervous. I can’t see what color her eyes are from across the club, but there’s no missing the burnished copper of her hair pulled back in a ponytail. I bet it reaches the middle of her back when it is down.

Little tendrils stick to her temples with sweat and the fake leather skirt that should hit her mid-thigh is riding higher, teasing at what I will see if it rises just a couple more inches.

A pretty little panty clad p🐈y? Or is she going commando? Looking that nervous, I doubt it, but a man can fantasize.

It doesn’t take superhuman vision to see that Sierra, the waitstaff manager, is giving the curvy job applicant a hard time. The beautiful woman’s face shows every emotion she’s feeling. Frustration. Hope. Anger.

I don’t know what Sierra’s problem with the woman is, but I’m lifting my phone to call her before I think about it.

“Hello. Mr. De Luca?”

“Yes. What is your problem with the woman you are interviewing?” She’s young, attractive and doesn’t have any of the physical tells that indicate regular hard drug use.

“Um…” Sierra looks around the club, but she won’t see me.

My vantage point allows me to see her and the beauty she is talking to without revealing my own presence.

“Does she have experience?” I demand.



“I haven’t checked them yet.”

“Call them. If they recommend her for the job, hire her.” I don’t plan for her to keep the job long, but I want her accessible.

She makes my cock hard and she’s not naked.

“Sir, that’s not—”

“Did I ask for your opinion?” My employees don’t talk back to me. Ever.

“No, of course not. I’ll call her references.”

“Tonight. I want her on the schedule by the weekend.” Saturday night is the next time I plan to be in Amuni.

I’m a busy man. I don’t have time to chase my prey, no matter how fun that might be. I have an itch and the beauty interviewing with my waitstaff manager is going to scratch it.

“I’ll talk to Mr. Colombo about it.”

“Sierra, do you like working at Amuni?”

“Yes, sir, very much.”

“And you like being the waitstaff manager?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Franco says good things about you.”

“That’s nice to know.” She sounds a little more confident now.

I nod to myself. “I’ll still fire your ass if you ever hesitate to follow my orders again.”

She gasps.

“Are we clear?”

“Yes, Mr. De Luca. We’re clear. I’m sorry, I didn’t intend to—”

“Save the f🦆ing apology. Don’t do it again.” I can be polite, but manners are a tool like everything else.

Right now they aren’t the tool I want to use. Intimidation works.

“What’s her name?” I ask.

“Bianca Russo.”

“Send me her application.” I want to know what there is to know about the woman I’m going to spend Saturday night balls deep in.

I hang up before Sierra can say anything else.

Russo? Huh. It’s a common enough Italian name. No way is she related to Detroit’s don.

Bianca wouldn’t be interviewing for a job here if she was. It’s a good place to work. Safe. A better place than a lot of our other businesses, but Russo would call in a favor for family. At the very least he’d send a message to tell me to look out for her.

She’s not New York Cosa Nostra either. I would remember her mouthwatering curves and that beautiful face. Mamma would say she has the face of an angel.

I’m too much of a devil to be interested in angels. Though she’s as beautiful as a painting of the Madonna, Bianca’s tight skirt and the sensual way she moves says she’s no innocent.

Good. Because I have zero interest in virgins.

I want to know more about the sexy beauty, but Sierra hasn’t forwarded the application to me. I text her.

Salvatore: Send the application. Now.

Less than a minute later, my phone dings indicating a message. It’s the link to Bianca’s application.

Reading her previous work history, my already hard cock twitches in my suit pants. She’s a pole dancer at the Pitiful Princess. We own that club too and it’s under my purview, but my underboss oversees the strip clubs, while I oversee our night clubs for the Genovese.

The rules for employee behavior at the Pitiful Princess are very different than at Amuni. No wonder Sierra is hesitant to hire Bianca.

The strippers and dancers there can offer extra curriculars to the customers and have a safe space to conduct their business. If they want extra income, and they all do, they offer hand jobs, blowjobs and f🦆ing. We provide rooms at the back of the club for their use, and in exchange they give us half their take.

Considering they get access to clients without the risk of being picked up for solicitation, it’s a fair trade.

We pay to keep vice out and they pay us to stay safe.

Bianca Russo was already a sure thing, but now I know I don’t even have to seduce her. It doesn’t bother me to pay for sex.

There are less complications that way.

Chapter 2


The strong techno beat thrums through me. It’s my third night on the floor at Amuni.

I had to leave the Pitiful Princess without giving notice. Tough on Gino. Too bad. So sad. Not.

He’s a greedy creep. Once he got promoted to assistant manager and put in charge of the dancers, he started pushing all of us to offer extra curriculars. Since only me and Candi with an i (real name Kathleen B) are holding out, he’s upped the pressure on both of us.

I don’t like leaving her to face him alone, but I have to get out of there to keep myself safe. No one else is going to do it.

My family taught me that lesson long before our capo tossed me on the street after executing my dad when I was sixteen.

Hoping I can protect my friend too, I’m keeping an ear out for any other job opportunities for Candi. She likes stripping, so moving to another club like the Pitiful Princess will be easier for her. I only dance the pole.

I don’t care about being mostly naked and dancing with the pole like it’s my only lover, but peeling my clothes off for an audience, bit by bit? That feels more vulnerable, and I can’t do it.

Finding another club that has pole dancers who don’t strip and that doesn’t require lap dancing is like looking for a unicorn. And I stopped believing in fairytales when I was thirteen and had to kill a man to protect my sister.

“The big boss is coming in tonight. Look lively.” Armando, the head server tonight, swats my ass.

I jump and glare at him. “Knock it off.”

“I’m desensitizing you. You jump like a startled giraffe any time someone touches you. That doesn’t make for good customer-patron relations.”

“The patrons aren’t supposed to touch the waitstaff.” Sierra was very clear on that.

“In theory, that’s true. In practice, a harmless pat on the ass is not going to kill you.”

“I’m not letting anyone smack my ass and that includes you, Armando. Next time you do it, I’ll put ground glass in your shoes.”

Armando’s eyes widen almost comically. “What are you? Some kind of female assassin? Who even says stuff like that?”

“It wouldn’t kill you, but it would hurt like hell and make you lose a few days of work for sure. Don’t test me.”

“How do you know I won’t tell Sierra about your threat?” Armando asks, sounding more curious than threatening.

“Because then I would tell her about you touching me inappropriately.” I stress the word inappropriately and give him my best look of vulnerable innocence.

I haven’t been innocent in a long time, but I know how to project what I need to in order to protect myself.

“Wow. That’s good. Okay, I’ll leave your ass alone, but don’t come crying to me when the big boss finds a reason to fire you that isn’t about the customer patting your ass.”

“Franco’s not the big boss?” I ask. He manages the club and I’ve never actually spoken to him, only seen him from afar.

“No. That would be Salvatore De Luca. He comes in once a week to meet with Franco, but he does a walk through on the floor first.”

Salvatore De Luca. As in the don’s cousin? His dad, Big Sal, is the new consigliere.

I may not be part of the life anymore, but I keep my ear to the ground for any news about the Cosa Nostra in New York.

Salvatore De Luca is a capo now. I shiver when I think of the only other capo I’ve met. It’s not a good memory. I don’t ever want to run into Lorenzo Ricci again in my lifetime.

Capos have a lot of power. They answer to the don, but that’s it. Each capo has his own underboss and crew of soldiers. Salvatore must run the clubs for the Genovese, like Lorenzo runs the drug trade.

I don’t know what Salvatore looks like, but that doesn’t stop me watching all the men in suits who enter the club. None of them have the level of arrogant entitlement in their stance that I remember Lorenzo Ricci having.

Before the big boss arrives, Sierra sends me up to the VIP area to serve. I get a sulfuric glare from the server trading places with me on the main floor of the club. I shrug mentally. I don’t know why Sierra wants me in the VIP area on my third night as a cocktail server, but I’m not about to tell her how to do her job either.

I’m sure that as soon as I learn what I need to serving in the VIP area, I’ll be back on the main floor and the other server, or someone else, will be back working the VIP floor.

My ears, almost numb from the volume downstairs, adjust to the lower level of sound up here and I look around.

There are four different white leather sectionals with low tables to place drinks on up here. All are occupied.

One by a group of rich frat boys if I had to guess. Another has a mixture of businessmen and women dressed to impress in club clothes. They’re drinking from two opened bottles of champagne.

Yeah. No one is getting up here without at least a seven-figure annual income. And they’re probably considered the poor relations to most of the patrons drinking the top shelf whiskey and real French champagne.

My gaze snags on a man in the center of a group on one of the sectionals. And I can’t look away.

He’s lava level hot.

Even sitting, he’s a few inches taller than the other three men at the table. And they aren’t shrimps. Neither  is the woman I can see out of my periphery sitting to his left.

My eyes are stuck on the gorgeous guy with raven dark hair and close-cropped beard framing his chiseled features.

I need to look away before I get caught staring, but my eye muscles forgot how to shift. Until the woman lays her hand possessively on his arm.

Released from its imprisonment, my gaze flicks to a beautiful face framed by platinum blonde hair pulled into a tight bun. She’s talking to the man, but her eyes are on me. And they aren’t friendly.

Does she recognize me? Because I recognize her. Nerissa James, the woman Gino’s boss calls boss at Pitiful Princess. She doesn’t talk to the dancers, doesn’t even acknowledge our existence. But I know who she is.

Is she pissed at me for leaving without notice?

Menaggia! I need this job.

I might as well say damn. No one can hear my thoughts and I can’t get fired for what they can’t hear. But I’m so used to cursing in Italian, I even do it inside my brain.

Bea and I learned to swear in Italian young. Mom doesn’t speak it and she never wanted to learn, so we got away with saying stuff she would have washed our mouths out with soap for otherwise.

And this little walk down memory lane is an unproductive attempt at avoidance. The boss of my former boss isn’t going to disappear with any amount of wishing.

Be real. Why would boss lady know who you are, much less that you quit her club without notice?

I wish I could be as confident of that as my inner voice. Forcing myself to look away, my gaze skims past the center of the VIP space where there are more low tables, each surrounded by four armchairs.

For smaller groups? Or just the ten percenters instead of the one percenters?

One of the bartenders waives me over and I go.

He tells me how the tables are numbered and expects me to remember. There are no convenient little maps tucked away where the customers can’t see like in the last bar I worked at.

Okay. I can do this. My memory is excellent.

“Watch the level of champagne at booth two. When a bottle is empty, open a new one and replace it. Standing order.”

“Will do.”

“Booth three just got their round, so you don’t need to check on them immediately, but both one and four need to be served.”

Calling the small sectionals that wouldn’t look out of place in a millionaire’s living room booths is weird, but what do I know? Maybe to the extremely rich, that kind of seating is a booth?

I walk quickly, but not too quickly, over to the group of women in booth four. There are two unfinished drinks on the table, but the rest of the glasses are empty or close to it.

“What can I get you?” I ask them, memorizing their order as they give it to me.

After relaying the order to the bartender nearest booth four, I make my way to booth one.

His booth.

He watches me approach with unnerving interest, trapping my gaze with his.

Nerissa is sitting several inches away from him now and nothing about their body language screams intimacy. That doesn’t mean she isn’t hoping.

I don’t blame her. I’m irreparably broken in that department, and I’m still drawn to him.

Encased in a Brioni suit, tailored to fit his muscular form, he relaxes on the leather sectional, one arm slung along its back.

Yet the aura of leashed power surrounding him makes me think he could spring into action any moment. From the heated look in his eyes, he might be springing in my direction.

My heart beats a rapid staccato in my chest while I struggle to get enough air. Who is this guy?

Instead of scaring the crap out of me like he should, my ovaries wake up screaming from their lifelong nap. I don’t feel sexual attraction. Not to men. Not to women. Not to anyone.

Tell that to my now weeping vagina. What the hell is going on?

Unable to break eye contact with him, I stop when I’m a foot away from the table. This close, I can tell that his eyes are the color of dark chocolate.

I force words past my tight throat. “What can I get you?” My voice is a husky timber I have never heard from my own throat before.

Caspita! Could I sound any more ready to go to bed with this man?

“Are you on the menu?” he asks.

It’s a totally cheesy line, so where is the ache in my core coming from? Why are my thighs pressing together with the power of vice?

“No.” Very cool, Bianca.

At least smile, or something to let him know you get the joke. Even if it is at your expense. No way does someone with VIP access not know the servers don’t fraternize with the club patrons.

“You sure?” he asks, his voice whiskey smooth.

My thighs clench tighter, and I go through an entire litany of Italian curse words in my head.

“I’m sure. Would you like a drink?”

He orders top shelf Frangelico in a rock glass. Nerissa James orders a specialty coffee I know we don’t offer.

When I explain that, she gives me a mocking glance and says, “I’ll just have a black coffee then.”

Something tells me she knows Amuni doesn’t do specialty coffees.  Ignoring her petty power games, I get the orders from the remaining people at the table. The two men sitting on either edge seat of the sectional want sodas, their hyper vigilant attitudes exposing them as bodyguards.

The man sitting across from Mr. Gorgeous orders a mixed drink with a smile that doesn’t reach his assessing blue eyes. That look crawls over my body like ants at a picnic and I have to suppress a disgusted shudder.

Mr. Gorgeous is deep in conversation with the skeevy guy when I bring the drinks back and doesn’t look up when I place his Frangelico on the table.

That is not disappointment I feel.

I refuse to let it be.

Leaving, I notice booth two needs more bubbly. a new bottle of bubbly for booth two. Fingers snap around my wrist as I’m returning from dropping the empty champagne bottle and some dirty glasses in the kitchen.

I yank at my arm and spin around to face my assailant, still trying to get loose.

“What the fu—” Realizing it’s the man from booth one, I cut myself off before I curse out a customer.

Letting go of my wrist, he puts his hands up, palms out, and smiles at me, even white teeth flashing in his handsome face. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

I am right. He is tall. Really tall. I’m five-foot-four and he’s got to be almost a foot taller than me.

“Do you need something?” I ask, rubbing my wrist with my other hand.

It doesn’t hurt. It tingles. Where he touched me. What is happening to me?

He leans his shoulder against the wall, blocking my exit and creating a pocket of privacy for us. “When is your next break?”

“Not for a couple of hours. Don’t worry, I can get you whatever you need.”

“Two hours is a long time to wait.”

Uncomprehending, I stare up at him. “You don’t have to wait. I’ll get you another Frangelico now, if you want it.”

“I meant wait to taste your lips.”

Chapter 3


The penny drops and I groan. “Why are all your pickup lines so lame?” And still so freaking effective?

“You think I’m lame?”

I give him a once over, ignoring the way my body wants to lean toward his. “You’re gorgeous, I’ll give you that, but you don’t have game.”

“No one has ever complained before.”

Arrogant much? “And were you paying these women for their time?”

I can’t believe I’m teasing him. I’m going to get myself fired and I need this job.

His laughter is rich and dark. It goes straight to my cooch, and I stifle a gasp as unfamiliar feelings ricochet through me.

“Sometimes. I’ll pay you for some of your time.”

I shake my head. “No can do.”

He pulls a money clip from his pocket and pulls five crisp hundred dollar bills off.  “I’ll pay you five hundred to let me kiss you.”

“Do you even realize what a creeper you sound like right now?” I ask.

His dark eyes narrow and his jaw tenses. “I am a businessman. Money talks.”

“And you want me to listen.”


“No, thank you. My time is not for sale.”

As if he doesn’t even hear me, he pulls another five bills off. “A thousand. For one kiss on your break.”

“Now, you sound desperate.”

He jerks away from the wall, towering over me, his relaxed demeanor gone. “I am not desperate.”

“And yet you’re offering me a thousand bucks for a kiss.” I won’t pretend that money wouldn’t come in handy, but at the cost of getting me fired?

So not worth it.

“I prefer the expediency of transactions.”

“Makes sense.” I don’t blame him. If I wanted sex, I’d probably like paying for it too.

You can’t be betrayed when there are no expectations other than the give and take of a business transaction.

“I’m glad you think so,” he purrs. “Take half now and I’ll give you the other half after the kiss.”

I ignore his outstretched hand and shake my head. “My kisses aren’t for sale. Neither is anything else, in case you were wondering.”

Though I’m hella tempted and that? Is so far out of the norm, I’m seriously freaked out.

“I need to get back to work.”

His fingertips brush down my neck and instead of jumping a mile and taking off like I would with anyone else, I shiver. Pleasure sparks from one nerve ending to the next until I’m ready to press myself to him and offer my lips for that kiss.

I cannot believe this. My body is on a whole other wavelength when it comes to this man.

“Do you need something?” My voice breaks on the word need and I want to sink into the floor. “Other than to harass the help, that is.” At least I end strong.

“You know what I need.” His eyes burn into me with hungry fire, leaving no doubt what that is. “I’ll pay you five thousand to sleep with me tonight.”

“Are you for real?” We’re up to five thousand? I shake my head even though I’d rather say yes. And please. “I. Am. Not. For. Sale.” I enunciate each word of my refusal, making it its own sentence. “No.”

“Do you want me to seduce you? Would you rather that than money?” He sounds intrigued by the idea, like I just increased my attractiveness to him.

Who is this guy?

Clearly someone who isn’t used to being told no and taking it as a personal challenge when it happens.

“You’re not as irresistible as you think you are,” I inform him. Lying.

Everything about this situation should reinforce my lack of desire for physical intimacy.

The opposite is happening. My nipples are peaked and achy. My breasts feel heavy in my bra. My lips keep parting like they’re getting ready for the kiss he wants. And I’m not even going to think about how wet the gusset of my panties is.

“I will exhaust you with orgasms,” he promises me.

I roll my eyes, but my core clenches. “Why don’t you try your luck with that lady at your table? She seems interested.”

Che palle. Why did I say that? I don’t want him to start macking on Nerissa James while I’m serving them their drinks.

His face twists with genuine revulsion. “Nerissa is my sister, or as good as.”

Totally inappropriate relief floods me. The beautiful and successful Nerissa James is his sister. Or as good as. Which means she isn’t really. The relief sours in my belly.

For whatever reason, that finally breaks the stasis in my body. Unwilling to give the gorgeous stranger a chance to offer me any more money for a kiss, or more…I scoot around him.

Because I might take it. And not for the money I legit need, but for the pleasure he promises. Pleasure I have never once experienced or craved in my adult life.

The next time I come to booth one to get drink orders, Franco, the man I thought was the big boss, is sitting with them. Tension invades my limbs. Is the dark-haired Adonis part of the mafia too, or is this the club manager schmoozing a wealthy patron?

“Bring a chilled bottle of Belvedere, unopened. And shot glasses from the cooler,” Franco says to me.

“Of course, sir. Anything else?”

“I’ll have another coffee, and if you could bring it while it’s still hot, that would be great,” Nerissa says.

Franco frowns. “Your coffee was cold?”

“It was fine,” Mr. Gorgeous answers before the woman can.

She smiles at Franco. “I’m sure your new waitress will get the hang of things.”

The words sound like she’s trying to be nice, but she’s not. She’s undermining me in front of my boss and she knows it. I’d like to pour the next cup of hot coffee over her head.

Forcing a smile, I say, “I’ll do better.”

Mr. Gorgeous is frowning, and the look isn’t directed at me. “Knock it off, Nerissa.”

“I only pointed out that my coffee was cold last time. If she served it like that to a regular patron, it would be a problem.”

She’s not a regular customer? How so?

I don’t stick around to find out. If I do, I’m more likely to tell her where to shove her supposedly cold coffee.

The two years I danced on the pole, I forgot how much I hate customer interaction. It’s one of the reasons I went for the dancing job in the first place. As long as I stayed up on the stage, I didn’t have to deal with entitled or bitchy customers.

I return to the table with chilled vodka and shot glasses and cup of coffee, still steaming.

Giving the hot drink to Nerissa first, I offer her the fakest smile in my repertoire along with it. Candi says that smile is as good as saying f🦆 off. I’m more likely to say che palle, but the meaning is pretty much the same.

Nerissa’s eyes narrow. She’s reading my facial expression fine.

I dismiss her with a subtle shift of my head and offer the vodka and glasses to Franco.

“You want to do the honors Salvatore?”

Salvatore. As in the real big boss, Salvatore De Luca?

Suddenly this whole situation takes on new meaning. He is testing the new girl, trying to tempt me into screwing up.

Che palle. The bastard.

I know how serious the club is about the no turning tricks on the side, or dealing drugs. You’d have to be an idiot to try to deal drugs on mafia territory anyway. But Salvatore is trying to set me up to fail. To get fired.

Why? Does he do it to all the new servers? Or am I special?

It doesn’t matter. I didn’t fall for it. Even if I was close to doing so, he’ll never know that.

Something inside me cracks. For the first time since puberty, I wanted to kiss someone.

No sloppy lips forcing mine apart, just hazelnut liquor flavored goodness that could set my body on fire.

But that someone isn’t really into me. For all I know, Nerissa is his girlfriend and as good as a sister to him. After all, they don’t share a last name.

I hold the drinks tray so tightly, my knuckles turn white.

“Would you like anything else?” I ask Franco, ignoring everyone else at the table.

My boss’s gaze takes in the way I’m holding the tray and his eyes narrow. He thinks I’m annoyed with Miss Bitchy for complaining about my service. Or maybe he realizes I’m pissed at Salvatore.

Doesn’t matter. I force my fingers to relax their grip and a smile that feels more like a grimace to curve my lips.

Franco gives a tiny nod of approval. “That’s all for now.”

I don’t wait for someone else to stop me, but quickly turn away.

Was Franco in on the plan to test me tonight? Was Sierra? Is that why I got put on the VIP floor my third night on the job? Is this their way of weeding out servers who don’t abide by the rules?

Hell, maybe there wasn’t a plan at all. Maybe Salvatore De Luca gets his kicks out of trying to trip up unsuspecting servers when he’s bored.

If that pile of rat pellets accosts me by the kitchen again, I’m suing this place for sexual harassment.

Letting myself fantasize about taking Amuni to the cleaners, I serve the other tables in the VIP lounge. By the time I circle back to Salvatore’s table, rational thought is overriding my temper.

I’m not suing a mafia owned business. I like breathing too much.

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