Two couples. One HEA and one Prequel Cliffhanger.
Our marriage cemented the alliance between our families. Emotions shouldn’t come into it, but I fell in love with the ruthless underboss I married. Only to him, I’m nothing more than incubator to carry his heirs. I adore our son, but I’ve been putting off having another child. Raff is going to flip when he finds out about the birth control.
She is smart and beautiful, but there is no room in the life of a mafia underboss for tender emotions. At least that’s what I thought when we got married. Six years has changed a lot, but my wife thinks I’m the same merciless man she wed. To everyone else, I am. But not to her. She’ll forgive me for sending her to a fertility specialist. She has to, because I will never let her go.
Giulia and Raffaele’s story is a steamy mafia romance with a guaranteed HEA. No cheating.
My sister is engaged to the don that sets my senses ablaze. I have no choice but to make plans to run. To escape my father and this incessant physical need Severus sparks in me.
Someone is attacking my mafia. I have to protect la famiglia at all costs, even if that means agreeing to marry a woman I have no feelings for. I just have to ignore the way my body reacts to her sister.
As the prequel to Urgent Vows, this is the only book in the Syndicate Rules series that is not a standalone. Because it is a prequel, Catalina and Severu’s story ends on a cliffhanger.
CW: explicit intimacy, graphic violence, foul language, fertility issues discussed, and domestic violence (past reference and on the page – not between the main characters)
Scroll down to read the first two chapters.
Readers outside the US, click here for your Amazon link.
Want to buy your copy signed? You can get it from Jan’s bookstore in Beaverton. Lori is fabulous to work with and she ships. Order here.
I read Book 2 of this series first and with that being said – this is a perfect companion. This book gives us some insight into the characters actions and behavior in the second book that was valuable to the story. This book was well written and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series – can’t wait. – 5 STAR Reader Review
Awesome. That is all I can say. Awesome. – 5 STAR Reader Review
This is the first book in the series and it is explosive. I love this author and this is the 1st time I have read this type of book from her. It’s fantastic, the characters and plot was very well developed. I couldn’t put it down. I love that the female characters were strong even though they were from Mafia families. I am looking forward to the next book in the series. – 5 STAR goodreads Review
Lucy has done it again! I love the backstory between Catalina and Severu!! It closes the loop for me with the unanswered questions from their book. Guilia and Rafe are amazing. I love their interaction and how Guilia handles her man. – 5 STAR goodreads Review
COPYRIGHT © 2023 LUCY MONROE
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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 https://lucymonroe.com.
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.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Busy finalizing the guest list for the next celebrity charity poker tournament, I’m not paying attention when the car stops.
All proceeds will go to funding research for heart disease in women. By all, I mean what is left after the mafia takes its cut.
As the wife to the Las Vegas Cosa Nostra underboss, it is my responsibility to organize four events like this every year. Not only does the mafia take its cut, but the events launder less legitimate income from the Mancini mafia businesses.
My father, who was a don in New York would never have allowed my mother to materially participate in mafia business. My father-in-law has different expectations. While I am not allowed to know anything else about the business, I am given a dollar amount for each event I am supposed to wash.
My husband shows his appreciation for me organizing each event. Sometimes with a piece of jewelry. Sometimes with a short trip abroad. Which I go on alone. Naturally.
Raffaele Mancini is too busy with his position in his family’s mafia empire to accompany me. It’s not as if we love each other. Well, not as if he loves me.
I stupidly fell for Raff soon after our engagement was announced when I was sixteen. All right, at first, it was probably just a crush on the gorgeous, charismatic man I had been promised to since I was twelve.
However, those feelings matured as the years went on. First, because he treated me with respect every time we were together. Then because he fought his father so that I could attend university before the wedding. It helped that my own father insisted on it as well.
But the Mancinis could have pushed for the marriage to take place as soon as I turned 18, and for me to attend university online. However, Raff understood how important it was to me to have the full college experience. Or so I thought.
I also didn’t want to be a teenage bride, and looking back, I realize he had no more interest in having a teenager for a wife.
When I got married, I thought it was a fairytale. I was a mafia princess, and he was my prince.
Unlike other arranged marriages in the mafia, we were going to be happy. We were going to love each other.
Like my parents.
My bubble burst on the second day of our honeymoon when he left me with bodyguards in Paris to return to Las Vegas to deal with something that to this day remains a mystery to me. I soon learned that no matter what, mafia business took precedence over our marriage.
I figured out that Raff hadn’t supported me attending university because he understood me. He was happy to put off the wedding because work always came first and not having a wife was even more convenient than having one. Even one that cemented the alliance between the strongest of the Five Families in New York and the Mancini mafia in Las Vegas.
Lara opens my door and waits for me to step out of the car.
Six feet tall with a musculature many men would envy and the beauty of a cover model, Lara could have gone to college on a basketball scholarship. Instead, she joined the Marines, but delisted after making it into MARSOC. One of less than a hundred women in the Marines’ elite special forces, she was stuck in support job because she is a woman.
Returning to Vegas, she requested the opportunity to follow in her father’s footsteps as a Cosa Nostra soldier in the Mancini mafia. Though her mother is a schoolteacher from Nigeria, her father is the descendant of one of the original Sicilian Cosa Nostra families.
My father-in-law has many faults, but an inability to recognize talent for the life because of gender isn’t one of them.
He has a higher percentage of female soldiers working in his ranks than MARSOC and he doesn’t keep them in support positions.
My head bodyguard, Lara is in charge of my security team.
I unclip my seatbelt, slip my tablet into my Balenciaga hourglass tote and climb out of the back of the luxury sedan. It’s black, just like all the other luxury sedans in Las Vegas.
I could be the head of a casino, a celebrity, a high roller, or what I am…a mafia wife.
Looking up, I see that we are at a medical facility. Unsurprising. My husband put this appointment on my calendar. I assume I’m here to meet with one of the doctors involved in the heart disease research associated with the event I’m working on.
Raff isn’t always great at communicating, but I was raised in the life, and I’m quick on the uptake. My mother trained me well for my role as wife to the future don.
The driver stays with the car while Lara accompanies me into the building.
“Hello, Mrs. Mancini. If you will just follow me?” A woman around my age indicates a hallway off the main reception area.
I hadn’t even had to tell them why I was here. Which is a good thing, since I’m not absolutely sure what that is. However, I’m used to this treatment.
Keeping a Mancini waiting in Vegas is like expecting a member of the President’s family to check in with reception in Washington D.C. – it’s not going to happen.
I’m a little startled when I am led into an exam room rather than one of the doctor’s offices. Lara waits outside the door.
“Let’s get you into a gown and then we’ll check your weight and vitals.” The woman hands me a folded garment.
Not wanting to reveal my confusion, I take it.
“I’ll give you a minute to change.” She leaves.
I drop the gown on the exam table and whip my phone out of my purse to check my calendar again. Maybe I missed something. I’ve already had my yearly physical. So, what is going on?
The note in my calendar reads:
The Smithson Building
I do a quick search on Dr. Hewitt and find several in Las Vegas. One is a psychiatrist. Doubtful. Two are general practitioners. Possible. Another is a podiatrist. Unlikely. Another is a fertility specialist. Yeah, no. There is a physical therapist as well and even a naturopath by that name.
None of them list the Smithson Building as their location, but that doesn’t mean much since not all of them have locations listed, and those that do give physical addresses.
So, I search on the Smithson Building and find a physical address to compare. Is it ridiculous that I have no actual idea where I am in Las Vegas? Mamma would chastise me. I should always be aware of my surroundings and location.
I’ve grown lax, trusting Lara and my driver to get me where I need to be when I need to be there.
Usually, my personal assistant is with us as well, but not always and I hadn’t questioned when Janine wasn’t in the car. I’d assigned her several tasks for today and had assumed she was working on them.
I wish she were here now because I’m certain she knows why I am here.
Before I can cross-reference the physical address for the building with the Dr. Hewitts I found in my search, the door opens.
“Oh, you aren’t changed.” The woman isn’t smiling now. In fact, she looks annoyed. “Dr. Hewitt made time in his schedule for you despite being fully booked. Patients have to wait months to get in to see him, but Mr. Mancini insisted.”
Okaaay. “For what exactly?” I ask.
The woman’s mouth twists in a frown. “For an exam.” She says it like I’m not very bright.
Her attitude irritates me, but one thing a mafia wife learns to deal with is people, especially made men, thinking she’s not as smart as they are.
I’m no ornament, but this woman clearly doesn’t know that.
“I’ll change. Give me another minute.”
“I hope you mean that literally,” the woman says and then leaves in a huff.
Regardless of her clear annoyance, I don’t rush removing my dark pink Chanel sheath dress and cream colored short cardigan. While February in Las Vegas is nowhere near as cold as New York City, it stays under seventy degrees most days, making a light jacket or sweater necessary.
I lay my clothes neatly over the back of a chair before donning the examination gown. I don’t take off my jewelry or shoes since I wasn’t asked to. Besides, there are no socks or booties provided.
I keep my purse nearby. Though I’m positive Lara wouldn’t allow me to be in a dangerous situation, I feel better having easy access to my gun.
The woman returns in just over the minute allotted and gives my shoes a dirty look but doesn’t tell me to take them off. “Good. Let’s get your weight and vitals, shall we.”
Her tone is less friendly and more officious.
I step onto the scale with a grimace. Although it has been three years since my son’s birth, I never lost all the weight I gained when I was pregnant with Neri.
The nurse, as I’m sure that is what she is now, tuts and then instructs me to sit on the exam table. She takes my blood pressure and I wonder, not for the first time, why it has to hurt so much when the cuff tightens.
Maybe I’m just sensitive.
The nurse checks my heart rate and oxygen levels before saying, “The doctor will be with you soon.”
Despite how put out she obviously is, I’m sure I won’t be kept waiting. I am a Mancini. And this is Vegas.
As expected, a light knock sounds a couple of minutes later.
I roll my eyes. The nurse hadn’t knocked once. “Come in.”
A tall, thin, grey-haired man wearing a white lab coat and stethoscope enters the room. He looks like a doctor, but I’m shocked that he is a man.
I haven’t had a male doctor or nurse treat me since my marriage. Per my husband’s requirement. Now, I’m not sure what to think because Raff arranged this exam.
“I am Dr. Hewitt.” He puts his hand out to shake. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Mancini.”
I shake hands with him. His palm is dry and cool.
“Why am I here?” I ask bluntly.
“We’re just going to run some tests and do a basic physical exam. Nothing to be afraid of.”
“I am not afraid.” But I am still confused. “What kind of tests?”
“Mr. Mancini wants us to determine if there is a physical and/or treatable reason for your infertility.”
“Infertility?” I gasp, stunned. “I have a son.”
“Whom you gave birth to over three years ago.”
“Yes.” I do not say: Thank you for stating the obvious. Sarcasm is not considered an attractive trait in an underboss’s wife.
But neither do I smile.
“Coupled with the two years it took you to get pregnant initially, Mr. Mancini is understandably concerned about the lack of a second pregnancy since your son’s birth.”
Is he kidding me? Embers of rage come to life deep inside me. “He made an appointment for me with a fertility specialist because he wants to know why I haven’t gotten pregnant?”
I keep my tone even. Just. When what I really want to do is yell so loud it bursts this condescending asshole’s eardrums.
“I understand how difficult and embarrassing this might be for you, but you need to understand that whatever the cause of the infertility, it does not make you less of a woman.”
This man counsels couples on their inability to have children? This man does? Those poor couples. Especially the women.
Embarrassing. Infertility. Neither are words that reflect any level of sensitivity.
What a jerk.
“The ability to have children has absolutely nothing to do with being a woman,” I grit out as calmly as possible.
His, “Hmm,” could be taken for either agreement or disagreement. “If left untreated, it could impact your marriage.”
Again, insensitive much?
“If what is left untreated?” Why does he assume the problem lies with me? If there is a problem. Which there isn’t.
What there is, is highly effective birth control.
“Your inability to conceive.”
“Have you had even an hour’s worth of sensitivity training?” I wonder out loud.
“I assure you. I am the best in my field. My success rate is higher than any other fertility specialist in the Western United States.”
I just bet he hates having to qualify that claim with a geographical designation. This guy just oozes condescending arrogance.
“And I assure you, this is unnecessary.” I put my hand up when he opens his mouth to say something else. “I have an IUD. I had it inserted the day after my son’s birth.”
It was either that or wait eight weeks. And the one area in which Raff does not and has never disappointed me is our sex life. I knew we’d be having intercourse as soon as I got the go ahead after my six-week check-up.
Dr. Hewitt’s eyes widen. “Mr. Mancini will be relieved to hear that, I am sure.” Judgement for me not telling Raff about the birth control laces his already supercilious voice.
I manage to hold back my angry retort. Dr. Hewitt is annoying, but he’s not the person I’m most furious with. That would be my husband.
If Raff wanted to know why I hadn’t gotten pregnant, why didn’t he talk to me about it? Instead, he’d made an appointment for me with a fertility specialist without consulting me.
I’m used to my husband being high handed. He’s a mafia underboss after all. But this is beyond ridiculous. This is insulting and hurtful.
My mind goes to the gun in a specially designed, concealed outer pocket of my handbag. All of my purses have them, regardless of designer. It makes it easy for me to access my gun quickly and discreetly without opening my purse.
If my husband was here right now, I’d shoot him with it. In the arm, or something. I’d want it to hurt him, but not leave him permanently incapacitated.
I bet my father-in-law has something to do with this, too. Now, him? I would like to kneecap. He’s always banging on about us having more children, but I’m not having another baby until I’m ready.
Ironically, I have an appointment with the OB/GYN who inserted the IUD to remove it when I visit my family in New York next month. I’m seriously tempted to cancel that appointment.
The doctor washes his hands and then puts on a pair of sterile gloves. “I need you to remove your shoes and lay back on the table.”
“Why?” I already explained I don’t need an examination.
“To remove the IUD.” He frowns. “I was not expecting this additional procedure.”
The nurse comes back into the room carrying a tray with some sealed hypodermics and empty vials for blood sample collection. She sets it down on a portable table near me.
“I need forceps,” the doctor tells her. “After I remove the IUD, I will still do the exam Mr. Mancini requested to make sure there are no complications.”
What is this guy’s damage? I am the patient. Not my husband, and sure as hell not the nurse.
“She’s on birth control?” The nurse glares at me reprovingly.
I don’t wait for him to answer her. “You are not touching me,” I tell them both firmly.
The nurse ignores me and reaches for my shoes. I was raised by my mother to be a lady, but my dad taught me to defend myself.
So, I kick my leg out just missing her because she jumps backward. She’s surprisingly fast.
“Get away from me. I am leaving.” I jump down from the exam table. “You both need to get out of here so I can get dressed.”
Dr. Hewitt opens the door and calls out for someone. Neither he, nor the now scowling nurse leave the room like I told them to do.
A couple of seconds later a man wearing scrubs comes in.
“Mrs. Mancini needs some help calming down. Prepare a sedative,” Dr. Hewitt says to the woman. “Dolph, help her back onto the exam table.”
Oh, heck, no.
Dolph reaches for me and it’s my turn to jump back. I grab my handbag and quickly pull out my Glock 19, training it on the big man. “Step back.”
“Put that away,” the doctor barks, not sounding worried at all.
Does he think I won’t shoot?
The female nurse approaches me with the hypodermic.
I let my gun’s barrel shift slightly so it’s pointing at her and I snarl. “Stay away from me.”
She retreats and Dr. Hewitt turns his condescending arrogance on her. “She’s not going to shoot you, Lynne.”
“Don’t bet on it,” I say.
I should call for Lara, but I’m angry with her. She brought me here. And though I’m sure she knew why too, Lara didn’t say a word to me about it.
Dolph leaps toward me and I quickly aim and fire. Lynne screams. Dr. Hewitt shouts and Dolph crashes backward, red blooming on the right side of his scrub top. I wasn’t aiming for a kill shot, but to stop him.
Lara bursts into the room, her gun drawn. As soon as she sees where I have mine aimed, the woman with the sedative, she trains hers on the doctor.
“Get this woman out of my clinic. When Mr. Mancini arranges another appointment, she needs to be sedated and cannot be armed.”
Lynne gasps. “You are going to let her come back? Why aren’t we calling the police?”
The doctor ignores her.
So does Lara. “Giulia?”
Almost everyone in the Vegas mafia calls me by my first name. They do things differently here than in New York. There is a lot about Las Vegas that is different from where I grew up.
The weather, for one thing. I like the sunshine, but the extreme heat in the summers is why I plan my longest trip each year to visit my family in August.
“Guilia?” Lara prompts me again.
Oops. My mind is wandering. I’ve never shot anyone before. It’s disconcerting. “Dolph needs assistance before he bleeds out.”
Neither Dr. Hewitt nor Lynne move to help their colleague, who is sitting on the floor, bleeding against a cabinet.
“Why did you shoot him?” Lara asks me.
“He was going to force me onto the exam table where he…” I indicate the still fuming doctor. “Planned to shove his fingers up my vagina without my consent.” I point to Lynne. “She was going to sedate me.”
Lara narrows her eyes at the doctor. “Explain.”
With that one word, Lara puts herself firmly in the same doghouse as my husband. Instead of threatening the doctor, she requests an explanation. As if there is anything that could justify the man’s actions.
Apparently, like Raff and Dr. Hewitt, Lara doesn’t believe my body belongs to me.
It’s not about being a woman. It’s because I’m the wife of the underboss and any children I have are heirs to the don.
“She has an IUD. Mr. Mancini wants her to get pregnant and she won’t as long as it’s in her uterus. I was going to remove it, per his instructions to treat her infertility.”
Furious, I say, “I am the patient. You don’t do anything to me without my permission. And also, the use of the word infertility could be triggering, as I’m sure you are aware.”
This man needs more than a weekend seminar on sensitivity. He needs to have his brain rewired.
“Mr. Mancini knows that in order to do the exam, I would have to touch Mrs. Mancini’s vaginal area. Even if she did not have an IUD he is unaware of,” Dr. Hewitt further explains to Lara, completely disregarding my words.
He thinks Raff will approve of his actions. He may be right.
But I am livid. “I should have shot you.”
“Perhaps psychiatric treatment is in order,” Dr. Hewitt says, still speaking to Lara. “Tell Mr. Mancini I can refer him to someone discreet.”
I shift my gun and pull the trigger. The bullet whizzes past the doctor’s head and hits the wall behind him. Dr. Hewitt scream is just as high pitched as Lynne’s. He’s not so sanguine when the gun is pointed at him.
“Shut up,” I demand with a fierce glare. “Or the next bullet goes right through your mouth.”
Dr. Hewitt blanches and shuts his mouth tight. Good. A puddle of urine pools around Lynne’s feet. That shouldn’t make me as happy as it does.
Lara sighs. “I knew the boss should have talked to you about this before making the appointment.”
“You think?” I put my gun down at the end of the exam table closest to me and rip the exam gown off.
“What are you doing?” Lara demands, showing her first sign of shock.
“You shouldn’t be doing that with everyone in the room.”
“Really?” I roll my eyes. “My husband was going to let that man feel up my coochie. I don’t think him, or his staff, seeing me in my bra and underwear is a problem.”
I pull my dress on and do the zip with an angry jerk, and then put on my sweater. After smoothing my hair as best I can with my fingers, I grab my purse and my gun. “Let’s go.”
Not waiting for Lara, I sail out of the exam room. The lack of an audience outside is testament to the quality of sound proofing in the exam rooms. Which is not a comforting thought, honestly.
Now that I’m no longer in a room with people intent on sedating me, I tuck my gun back into my handbag.
Fertility clinic, my backside.
This place should be shut down. Trying to treat a patient without consent.
Thinking they can sedate me.
Assholes, every one of them. But the biggest one is my husband, the underboss.
Lara is right behind me by the time we get outside. “Our people will take care of this. The doctor and nurses know not to talk.”
I get into the back of the car without a word to my bodyguard.
Lara isn’t doing me any favors.
Dr. Hewitt and his medical staff are not going to talk because if they report my actions to the police, they will need to answer hard questions about why I felt threatened. Why they aren’t HIPAA compliant.
Doing so and revealing such an egregious breach of my privacy could lose him his license and shut the clinic down.
There’s no point in me filing a complaint though. Because, at the very least, my father-in-law will have it suppressed. That doesn’t mean I’m okay with letting things stand.
But right now, Dr. Hewitt and his nurses aren’t the ones I’m focused on. That would be my husband. The rat.
“Take me to the casino,” I instruct the driver.
Although he has an oversight manager for the casino, Raff and his top lieutenants have their offices there.
“The boss is in a meeting right now. I will let him know you want to talk to him,” Lara says.
I don’t reply. As soon as we are back in Vegas proper, I wait for a red light. When the car slides to a stop, I get out. We’re near the back side of the Luxor. I head to their taxi stand.
“Guilia!” Lara is right behind me. “Stop.”
I listen to her just like everyone in that clinic listened to me today. Which is not at all.
Walking right to the front of the line of guests waiting for a taxi, I say, “I am Giulia Mancini. I need a taxi to…” I name the Mancini owned casino.
The concierge whistles up a taxi and opens the door for me. Lara runs around to the other side when it becomes clear to her that I’m not sliding over to make room.
I tell the taxi driver where I want to go.
“Guilia, you know he can’t see you right now.”
I know that Raff won’t prioritize seeing me right now. It is not the same thing. He can see me, and he will.