I’m done with my life under my father’s brutal thumb. I’m running from the mafia right after my sister marries the Don. It doesn’t matter that one touch from him sparks all sorts of things it shouldn’t. That’s only one more reason to leave. But when my sister disappears the morning of her wedding, I’m left in her wedding dress, standing in front of the priest. With him. The man I thought I could never have. The man who could break me.
For the stability of la famiglia, I need to marry. I don’t want a wife that will disrupt my life, but I crave this woman. Once her sister runs, nothing will stop me from having her. She’ll marry me to protect her sister, but who is going to protect her from me?
This is a standalone steamy mafia romance with a guaranteed HEA. No cliffhangers. No cheating.
CW: explicit intimacy, graphic violence, foul language 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.
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URGENT VOWS is Lucy Monroe’s first mafia book and wow did she get it right. … would give a fair warning to readers – when you pick up URGENT VOWS do so when you have time to read it. Though I guess in this case sleep is so overrated. In fact, when I finished, I wanted to turn around and read it again! Great job Ms. Lucy Monroe – and please bring us more. – Fresh Fiction Reviews
I was emotionally invested in their lives and this is one of those stories that wreck you emotionally while putting you back together again. (Have tissues ready.) You may also need a fire extinguisher handy because the chemistry and heat between these two is explosive. – 5 STARS goodreads
Now this book was awesome! Definitely recommend to those who love a good mafia romance. Could not put it down and when I had to I was itching to start reading again!!! – 5 STARS goodreads
The chemistry between Catalina and Severu is off the charts…Lucy Monroe kept me on the edge of my seat and I read this book in one sitting! Definitely a great read! – 5 STARS goodreads
Nikki Young, goodreadsThe book was a page turner because once I started reading the book I couldn’t put it down. – 5 STARS
Amazon Reader Review
The thing I love most about this storyline is the passionate attraction and romance between the Don, Severu and his surprised bride, Catalina. – 5 STARS
Bookbub Reader Review
I love that this couple challenges each other almost at every turn. Sometimes you don’t always get what you think you want, sometimes you get what you need, and Severu and Catalina needed each other. – 5 STARS
Bookbub Reader 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.
The wedding march begins its sonorous tones from the organ, but the doors at the back of the cathedral remain closed.
The flower girl is standing alone on the other side of the altar, looking nervous. The maid of honor is supposed to be with her, but Catalina Jilani, my bride’s older sister, did not walk down the aisle as she was supposed to do.
“What is going on?” My brother and best man, Miceli, asks me. “Where is the maid of honor?”
“I don’t know.”
Then the doors open and my bride steps in beside her father. She’s not carrying her bouquet, nor is she holding onto his arm.
This is not what we decided on at the rehearsal either.
She takes one slow, halting, wedding march step and then two. Are my eyes playing tricks on me? Wishing cannot make it true, but the woman walking toward me does not move like Carlotta.
Even if she’s wearing shoes with no heel at all, she’s too short. Her veil hides her bustline, but I know those curves. They’ve been turning me on and featuring in my dreams for three months. They don’t belong to the woman who promised to marry me.
It is not Carlotta walking toward me, but the missing maid of honor, Catalina. Miceli’s harshly indrawn breath says he realizes it too.
My first reaction is relief.
I am not going to be forced by my honor to marry a woman I do not want while craving her sister. Quickly on the heels of that relief comes fury. Francesco is trying to perpetuate a bait and switch on me. Me? His don?
Why? And how the hell does he think he’s going to get away with such an insult?
My consigliere often thinks he’s smarter than anyone else, but there is no way he believes I will not notice I married the wrong woman. Is he relying on me staying silent because I don’t want to look like an ass? Clearly, he assumes I won’t notice it is Catalina until after the vows are spoken. My consigliere thinks I’m a fucking idiot.
More importantly, why in the hell is Catalina going along with this? The thought that she would try to dupe me pisses me off even more than her father’s treachery.
I wait in silence, letting my consigliere and his oldest daughter dig the hole they are going to fall in deeper and deeper with each deceitful step. This wasn’t supposed to be a red wedding, but I’m going to kill one of my top men today.
Francesco affirms that he is giving Madonna Jilani to me in wedded matrimony when the priest asks. He then shuffles away to take a seat in the front pew.
That was almost clever. Following the tradition in his family, both of his daughters have the first name of Madonna, but my bride’s middle name and the one she goes by is Carlotta.
Her sister is Catalina.
The deceitful bitch standing at the bottom step of the altar.
I’m supposed to go to her and hold my hand out to guide her up the steps. I don’t.
Seemingly unaffected by the slight, she takes each stair one at a time. She does not stop in front of the priest but continues until she is standing directly in front of me.
There, she stops and lifts her veil.
Hazel eyes turned green with strong emotion meet mine. “I need to speak to you.”
My first thought is that she’s not trying to trick me. My second one spawns from the hand size red mark on her cheek. I am going to kill that son of a bitch. He fucking hit her. Rage like I’ve never felt before turns my vision red.
I signal for six of my men to join us at the altar and to create a wall between us and the wedding guests, who have started whispering amongst themselves. Every single one of them has witnessed my consigliere‘s attempt to trick me into marrying his oldest daughter.
“Let me up there. I need to talk to the don. Take your hands off me.” Francesco is making a nuisance of himself. I signal to Luigi to keep him back. If he gets within striking distance, I will kill him in front of too damn many witnesses.
Catalina is biting her lip and looking everywhere but at me now. Her gaze lands on the ring bearer, my three-year-old nephew, Neri, and then goes to the flower girl across from us. Both are fidgeting.
“Can we let the children go to their parents?” she asks, her soft voice strained.
I incline my head and my brother takes care of it.
“You said you need to talk to me,” I prompt her.
She nods then looks directly into my eyes again and I’m struck by this small woman’s courage. Whatever her father’s plans and the violence he used to get her to agree, she is forging her own path.
“You need to save Carlotta.”
That is not what I expect her to say.
My muscles tense. “Was she kidnapped?” I ask. “How long ago?”
“No.” Catalina’s eyes shut, like she wishes she didn’t have to say what is about to come out of her mouth. “She ran away this morning while I thought she was in the other room getting ready.”
“How do you expect me to save her?”
“First, someone needs to find her. She’s too innocent to be out there alone.”
“I’m sure your father has that in hand.”
Catalina shakes her head. “He hasn’t sent men after her yet.” She sounds thankful for that fact.
Which makes no sense in light of her asking me to find my runaway bride.
“He was too busy getting you dressed up to take her place,” Miceli says, revealing his return and showing he has heard at least part of the conversation.
Catalina shrugs and then winces, holding her body perfectly still. Is she hurt somewhere besides her face?
“Will you look for her?” she asks me.
A plan forming in my mind. “Maybe.”
“Oh.” My lack of commitment seems to deflate her.
“You said, first.”
“Yes…” she lets her voice trail off, like she’s hesitant to continue.
I’m not a patient man so my next words come out harsh. “What else?”
“Can you order my father not to beat or kill her?” Catalina looks at me with appeal shining in her eyes, that poor bottom lip taking further abuse from her teeth.
“Under certain circumstances, I can, yes.” I reach out and tug her lip away from her teeth. “Whether I will, or not, depends on you.”
Confusion fills her pretty eyes. “Me?”
“Yes, you. I expected to get married today. Fifteen hundred guests expect to see me get married. I do not know if you have noticed, Catalina, but I am missing a bride.”
“Of course, I noticed. I’m stuffed into a wedding dress that’s three inches too long and a size too small because my sister has gone missing.” She sounds cranky.
“Ran away,” I correct.
She frowns, but concedes with a nod. “Ran away.”
“From me and her commitment to marry me.” I spell it out for Catalina so there can be no doubt how I see Carlotta’s actions.
Biting her lip again, Catalina studies me, but finally she nods her agreement. Not that I need her to agree. We both know the truth.
I remove her lip from her teeth again, this time brushing my thumb over it. “Stop that. You’ll do yourself damage.”
Her mouth parts on a slight gasp. I cannot help myself, I brush over her lip again. Her pupils dilate and I know my touch excites her, even under the current strained circumstances.
The attraction between us is too damn strong, which is the main reason I didn’t demand Francesco give her to me as my bride. I am not looking for a wife to disrupt my life.
However, it looks like that is exactly what I am about to get.
“It would be against our traditions for me to order your father not to beat your sister.” Catalina knows this, just as she is no doubt aware of my family’s stance against domestic violence.
My father refused to have men under him in positions of authority who could not control their anger within their own home. He believed that if his capos, underboss, consigliere and head enforcer kept the violence we dealt with on a daily basis away from their families, it would set a good example for the men under them.
I have followed the same practice. But that is as far as our traditions allow the don’s interference to go.
“As don, it is not my place to involve myself in family matters.”
“But she’s your fiancée. Doesn’t that make her family?”
I disabuse her of the belief that her sister is mine in any way. “No, Catalina, the minute she ran away, Carlotta broke the agreement between our families. She is no longer my fiancée.”
“So, you won’t help?” Her eyes are awash with disillusionment.
She believed I would save her sister and I will. For a price.
“There is a circumstance in which I can fully protect Carlotta, but it requires something from you.”
“Finally,” Miceli says under his breath.
I ignore him.
“What?” She looks genuinely puzzled. Even after my hints.
“I need a bride and you’re already wearing the dress, which fits you just right, by the way.” I let my gaze slide over her beautiful breasts displayed so perfectly by the tight bodice.
She won’t be wearing anything that shows so much cleavage in the future, but right now I’m enjoying the view. Her succulent hips are hidden by the full skirt of the gown, but that appeals to me too, that her sexy body is not on display for others to see.
“Right. If I try to walk without holding up the skirt, I’ll trip and fall flat on my face.” Choosing to take issue with my first statement, she ignores my comment about needing a bride entirely.
“If you are my wife, your family business becomes my family business.” I watch as comprehension dawns.
Too many emotions chase across her expressive features for me to know which way she is leaning. She goes from relieved to reluctant, with several others in between.
“I can’t marry you,” she says, but her voice lacks conviction.
“On the contrary. You can and you will. Your family owes me a bride and you will be mine.” Fucking mine. I like the sound of that too damn much.
“But it won’t be legal.”
I smile and whatever she sees in my expression makes her eyes widen. “The marriage license is for Severu E. De Luca and Madonna C. Jilani. So long as the priest uses your name and not your sister’s for the vows, it is all good.”
Not that the religious ceremony is necessary for the marriage to be legal and binding. All that is required is for both of us to sign the marriage contract along with witnesses and for the marriage record to be filed with the City Clerk’s Office.
“But you don’t want to marry me.” She says it kind of desperately.
I smile again, like the wolf that I am. “Don’t I?”
“Because you don’t want to be embarrassed in front of all of these people,” she says, like she’s worked it out.
“If the marriage doesn’t happen today, the only person that will be humiliated is your father. The person who will pay the highest price is your sister.”
I don’t believe him about the humiliation.
Being stood up at the altar will make him look weak and a don cannot tolerate appearing anything but fully in control. Especially the most powerful don in New York, the head of the Five Families.
I believe him implicitly about my sister paying the highest price, however.
My father will kill her, especially now that his plan to foist me off as Don De Luca’s unknowing surrogate bride has failed.
If I marry the don, my plans to run away will be ruined. But marriage to him will get me out of my father’s house and away from his abuse, with no risk of being caught and dragged back into my own personal hell.
As the don’s wife, I will be untouchable by anyone but him.
Unlike Carlotta, who has fantasies about living a normal life, away from la famiglia, I only ever wanted to be safe.
I never wanted to leave her, or our aunt and uncle, behind. Only our father. Marriage to the don will make it possible for me to keep my family in my life while putting me off limits to my father’s fists.
I would also be marrying the only man who has ever starred in the kind of dreams that have me waking with my lady parts pulsing. Once his engagement to my sister was made official, my need to run away became even more imperative.
How could I stay, knowing I wanted the man she would call husband?
“Promise me you will never raise your hand to me. Not in anger, not as cold, calculated punishment. Never.” I know what the rumors say, but if they were true, then my father would not be Severu De Luca’s consigliere.
And he wouldn’t have kept his position as the former don’s consigliere all those years either.
The don’s expression turns dark and forbidding. “The De Luca’s do not beat their wives.”
“I’m not concerned about your whole family. I want your personal vow.”
“You have it,” he grits out, obviously offended I need the assurance.
Too bad. This is the only thing I will ask for myself. Because I will not jump from the frying pan directly into the fire, not even for Carlotta’s sake.
“Any other conditions?” he asks, his tone implying there had better not be.
I shake my head.
He frowns. “Are you sure?”
I am shocked he asks and even more so that he seems to want me to think about it before answering.
“Then you agree to become my wife.” It’s not a question.
I nod anyway.
“Yes, I will marry you.” My ovaries sing the Hallelujah Chorus while my nerves jangle to an acid techno beat.
No matter how stressed I am, my ovaries are winning. I can only hope I’ll get a chance to change my panties before we consummate the marriage. If he discovers how soaked they have become just from being this close to him and talking about getting married, I’ll die of shame.
“I will find your sister and stop your father from punishing her,” he promises in return, reminding me and my unruly body why I’m supposed to have agreed to this in the first place.
“Where are the necklace and earrings I sent for Carlotta to wear? Did she take them with her?”
“No. I think she realizes pawning them would make her too easy to track.” Or that stealing them would be one step too far for the don. Anyway, I’m not sure my sister would even know how to pawn something. “They’re still in the dressing room.”
“Get them,” he says to his brother.
We stand in silence, waiting for Miceli to return. When he does, he hands the necklace to his brother. Don De Luca reaches out and puts it on me, his fingers brushing the back of my neck as he does the clasp. I shiver from the sensation. His lips quirk in response, like he knows what his touch does to me.
The necklace is cool against my throat and chest. Heavy with diamonds and emeralds in a chandelier setting of white gold, it feels like something a queen might wear. Although it was meant for my sister, I can’t help the sense of rightness that I am wearing it now. Because he put it on me.
The don removes the modest blue amethyst earrings I’m wearing that were meant to go with my maid of honor gown. Then he puts a drop earring that matches the necklace in my right ear. I make no move to try to do it myself.
It feels like he’s marking me as his and a primitive part of me wants that.
After he has affixed the second earring, he trails his finger over the outside of my left ear. “Beautiful.”
A shudder of desire cascades through my body. He’s talking about the earrings and not me, but I can’t help my reaction. And that look in his eyes?
It isn’t about pretty jewelry. It’s pure, hot sexual desire. I only know because it calls to a matching well of need inside me.
My knees nearly buckle. He wants me.
“My bride,” he says, his voice dark with possession.
I lick my lips, my heart beating a mile a minute. And I can no more stop the word that wants to come out than I can stop the earth from turning. “Yours.”
Satisfaction covers his brutally handsome features.
With a flick of his wrist, his wall of made men disperse, allowing the crowd of guests to once again gawk at us. He takes my hand in his big one and turns us to face them all. My skirt swishes against the floor but moves with me easily enough.
I notice my father is seated again, with one of Don De Luca’s men on either side of him. He’s shooting me a death glare, but I do not care. The deal I just struck puts me out of his reach and Carlotta too. Even if he doesn’t know it yet.
I look away from him to the other side of the church and my gaze lands on Don De Luca’s mother. Aria is smiling, like she’s really happy about something. Her daughter is sitting beside her and she seems equally pleased.
They both must realize that it is me standing here, and not my sister, so I don’t understand their apparent happiness. But I hope it means the don’s family will not resent the change in his bride too much.
I’d gotten to know them during my sister’s engagement while I helped with the wedding plans, and I really like the De Lucas.
“May I call you Severu?” I ask in a whisper to the man beside me, sick of referring to him as don, even in my head. He is going to be my husband.
“Yes, Catalina. I do not want my wife calling me don, though sir might be fun. In the bedroom.” His voice is low, like mine.
But my cheeks still go hot as fire at his teasing. I try to ignore the fact that the rest of my body reacts with a yes, please and how soon can we get to the bedroom? My grip on his hand tightens convulsively.
He squeezes back. “You like the sound of that.”
“Shh…” I hush him, so embarrassed I could combust with it.
He chuckles and then raises his hand to silence the loud whispers coming from the guests. “There has been a change in plans. Madonna Catalina Jilani has agreed to be my wife.”
With that he turns us back to the priest. That’s all he is going to say?
“You may proceed,” he adds to the priest.
“Madonna Catalina?” the older man asks, sounding dumbfounded.
“That is right.” Severu’s tone doesn’t leave any room for discussion.
The priest nods. “Did you still want me to say the mass?”
“Of course.” Severu laces his fingers through mine.
The priest asks for quiet so he can begin. The renewed whispers and rustling movements stop.
He starts the ceremony and after the opening prayer, Severu leads me over to the wedding bench on the left side of the altar. We sit in the pew designed for two people, while his brother joins their mother in the front pew on the groom’s side.
During the homily the priest talks about the sanctity of marriage and what it means to submit one to the other. It’s an interesting choice for a mafia wedding. I don’t think Severu has ever considered the idea of submitting in any way to his wife, but I’m sure he’s got lots of ideas on how the reverse should be handled.
I’m not sure how submissive I am after the last fifteen years dealing with my father. I’ve been practicing quiet subversion of his authority and dictates whenever I can since my mother’s body landed on top of mine at the bottom of the stairs because he struck her.
We return to the altar and stand before the priest for the Celebration of Matrimony. Severu speaks his vows in a confident, deep voice, that I’m sure even the guests at the very back of the church can hear clearly. Awed by the moment, my heart in my throat, I speak mine in a much quieter voice, but with no less commitment.
When it is time for the exchange of rings, I quietly panic. But I don’t need to. The circle of diamonds meant for my sister to wear with her engagement ring is the one item that fits perfectly. We both have our mother’s long, slender fingers, ideal for playing the piano. Severu brushes over the ring with his fingertip, seemingly happy to see it on my finger.
I choke up with unexpected emotion when it’s my turn to put his on and my voice shakes as I speak my vow. “With this ring, I thee wed.”
Whatever the priest says after is muffled in my head until it is time for communion. Then I watch with strange fascination as Severu drinks from the cup first, before offering it to me. He does the same with the wafer. It feels incredibly intimate. The priest seems flustered by Severu’s actions, but he doesn’t protest them.
After the nuptial blessing, he pronounces us man and wife and gives Severu permission to kiss the bride.
Severu turns me to face him and then cups the back of my head with one hand, while sliding the other around my waist, above my full skirt and pulls my body flush with his. I gasp at the near full body contact that I’ve never before experienced with a man, and his mouth slams down on mine, his tongue sweeping past my lips parted in shock.
It is no chaste kiss meant for a wedding. His mouth claims mine and my body goes up in a blaze of sensation.
I grab the lapels of his tuxedo jacket, holding myself up and pulling him closer at the same time. I have never kissed a man, but my lips instinctively mirror the movements of his and I am lost to a world he has created where only we exist.
He ends the kiss and steps back. I do not let go of his jacket. He smiles. “Later, cara.”
I nod, though I don’t know what I’m agreeing to. I’m still lost in the fog of desire created by his lips on mine.
When he begins to gently remove my fingers from his tuxedo, I come back to myself. Mortified, I let go immediately, not wanting to look out over our wedding guests and see the humor that is no doubt on several faces. I step back, but trip on the overlong skirt of my gown.
He doesn’t let me fall but sweeps me up into his arms and begins to walk down the aisle toward the back of the church.
“You can put me down,” I say with embarrassment. “I can walk.”
“I like carrying you.”
I’m not sure how to respond to that and my hip is already hurting from all the standing in heels during the wedding. My mom’s life wasn’t the only thing shattered by that fall down the stairs so long ago.
My hip was too, and it has never been the same.
So, I wrap my arms around Severu’s neck and let myself enjoy being carried like a princess.
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