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Authors: Cristina Grenier

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BOOK: Marked For Love (Mob Romance)
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There was no wait, and no hesitation.

The moment all three men were fastened into their seats, they began to taxi; and five minutes later, they were in the air. Just like that, Grace had been taken away from everything she’d ever known – quite possibly forever. Her stomach dropped as the plane rose, and though she’d promised herself she wouldn’t cry anymore, she felt tears pricking at the corners of her eyes.

She managed to compose herself, slowly calming her breathing until they reached cruising altitude, at which a stewardess who looked like she’d brought her uniform at a Halloween supply shop served the three men glasses of champagne. The look she shot Grace could have frozen boiling water, and so the young woman looked away hurriedly.

When she raised her gaze, the blonde had disappeared to God knew where with the stewardess, and his dark-haired, smaller companion had leaned back in his seat, his eyes shut tightly as he clenched the armrests of his chair. It appeared that he didn’t like flying.

Only her captor stayed put, only undoing his seatbelt as he sipped at his champagne, before his gaze met hers steadily. The intensity of his eyes sent heat searing through the core of her, and her breath caught. “You will remain bound for the duration of the flight. If you need to use the bathroom, someone will accompany you. I expect little trouble from you, Grace.”

“Where are we going?”

She was suddenly very tired. Tired of being on edge, tired of contemplating her own demise, and tired of the way her body reacted to a man who could obviously give two shits about her. If he wanted to punish her for asking a question, so be it. She just wanted to know
something
.

For a moment he merely stared at her, and she thought he might ignore her question just as he had all of the others, but then, he spoke a single word that titillated her even as it harkened back to her sense of impending doom.

“Rome.”

Then, he closed his eyes, leaning back, his body language letting her know in no uncertain terms that the conversation was over.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four: Desire

 

Silence reigned for three or four hours. Grace, beyond sleep, tried to distract herself by watching the slumbering man across from her. His face was laxer, less stern when he wasn’t watching her every move like a hawk, and with him across from her, unconscious of her gaze, she could imagine what it might be like to feel the stubble over his jaw – to run her hands over a chest she was sure would be firm and unyielding beneath her fingertips.

She still hadn’t come to her senses.

She didn’t even know this man’s name and she found herself fantasizing about him whenever she had a spare moment. It would serve her right if he put a bullet in her head.

To distract herself from the notion, Grace allowed her mind to wonder to whether or not her father had even noticed she was gone. The prospect was unlikely – unless the man wanted her for something. If he hadn’t called to ask her for a favor, there was a good chance that no one was conscious of her absence.

Her boss, of course, would be the first to discover it. When she didn’t come into work on Monday, he would think less of her and be angry. Perhaps that anger would eventually develop into worry when she didn’t come back. He might call her mother, who, depending on her mood, might attempt to get the cops out and looking for her.

Or she might just burry herself in the nearest available bottle while she waited for her wayward husband to lavish her with attention that would never come. Either way, Grace was most definitely screwed. The only possible option available to her to save her life was escape – and her kidnapper wasn’t about to let that happen.

“You should sleep.”

She jumped as his voice came, low and coaxing, from the seat across from her. The man hadn’t even opened his eyes but it was apparent that he wasn’t sleeping – more extraordinarily, he knew she wasn’t sleeping without even laying eyes on her. It took a moment for Grace’s heart rate to return to normal, but when it did, she answered him honestly.

“I can’t sleep.”

The low sound of the engine swirled around them, and had she been in a more relaxed mood it might have helped lull her into a state of unconsciousness, but Grace was on high alert. The man who had made it his one mission to avoid speaking to her had addressed her of his own accord. The young woman waited with bated breath for his reply.

Slowly, her captor’s eyes slid open to fix her with his inscrutable stare. “You’re afraid.”

That was the understatement of the century. “You needn’t be. When we arrive in Rome, we will record a message to send to your father. He will receive it and deliver the money within two weeks, at which point we will return you to him. It will be as if none of this ever happened.”

Except it wouldn’t be that way. What would happen was her father’s refusal to pay such a sum – and everything that particular result implied.

Exhaling a shaky breath, Grace closed her eyes. “I told you, he’s not going to pay.”

The man across from her snorted. “If he values his daughter’s life, he will pay.”

Grace was already shaking her head slowly. “He doesn’t value my life.” She shrugged, shifting so that the zip ties she’d been bound with eased their pressure on her wrists. “So far as I know, there’s no one’s life he values more than his own.”

The man across from her stared as if she’d grown two heads before rising from his seat, his mouth a flat line of displeasure. “Ms. Trellis, I see you know very little of the human condition. I must assure you that however much you
think
your father hates you, he doesn’t. Men will always pay to free the ones they love.”

Would they? Of course, Grace would know nothing of such things. She had a hard time finding a guy willing to pay for her meals at McDonalds', let alone a sum of money that comprised most of what people made during the entire length of their careers. “I didn’t say he hated me.” She corrected her kidnapper mildly, her scowl matching his. “I said he didn’t care.”

“Of course he cares.” The words were snapped sharply, issuing from the man’s gorgeous mouth with the force of a gunshot. “What man doesn’t care for his own flesh and blood? Family are the ties that bind us…that
define us
.”

Grace bit back a groan, shaking her head. Figured that the moment the beautiful Adonis truly opened his mouth he had to go all idealistic on her. “Your father may define you, but mine doesn’t define me.”

A surprising, harsh bark of laughter emitted from the man. The sound was enough to make his twitching, fitfully sleeping companion shift his position, his frown deepening as he settled more comfortably into unconsciousness. “My father does not define me. He commands me.” Reaching out, the man poured himself a glass of cognac from the bottle the stewardess had left behind. “I am his right hand. His enforcer. But not his reflection.” He downed the small drought of liquor in a single gulp, and Grace watched the way his throat contracted almost hungrily.

She came back to herself seconds later, realizing that this pseudo conversation may present her with an opportunity she’d never had before. She might
actually
learn something about the man willing to take her life for the sake of his profession.

“What…” She started hesitantly, rushing on before she lost her courage. “What’s your name?”

His head darted to fix her with a wary gaze and Grace swallowed a sigh of exasperation. Alright, she got it, she was a prisoner. A hostage. She didn’t expect the man to give her his entire title and zip code. All she wanted was to stop referring to him by amorphous nicknames in her mind.

He, and the two other men he worked with.

“If you don’t tell me, I’m going to be stuck coming up with nicknames for all three of you. Trust me, you don’t want that.”

He scowled, pouring himself another drought before crossing the width of the jet to drop onto the sofa a good foot away from where she rested. Reaching down, he cupped her hands around a second glass before pouring a small measure of champagne into it. “My name is Vicente.”

Just as Italian as his looks. “The bottled blonde is Gio,” he jerked his thumb in the direction of the nervously sleeping man behind him. “And that’s Matteo.” His eyes narrowed. “And that’s
all
you’ll know of us.”

Grace nodded obediently, deciding not to push her luck at that particular juncture. However, she knew that if she would get their names from them, there was a possibility they might be willing to share more information…

“Drink.” She was startled from her thoughts by Vicente’s abrupt order and she glanced down at the champagne in her cup. “It will help you to sleep,” he added, sipping from his own drink as he watched her expectantly.

Grace forced herself to stare at the glass for the next ten seconds, but try as she might she couldn’t bring herself to lift the thing to her goddamned lips. She didn’t want to sleep. She finally knew Vicente’s name, and he was talking to her almost as if she was a decent human being. Why the hell would she want to sleep away time she could be talking with him?

Finally, she placed the glass on low table beside the sofa. “I don’t want to sleep.” She pronounced. “I want to stay awake. I don’t know how many waking hours I have left.”

“Right.” Vicente set his glass next to hers. “Because you believe your father would let you die before he would pay your ransom.” He sounded almost mocking, raising her ire to the point where she risked glaring at him.

“That’s exactly what I believe. And if you knew anything about my father, you would too.”

“I know nothing of your father. But I do know my business.” Vicente fixed her with his sharp, gray stare. “And I’ve never seen someone refuse to pay. Not once they realize the gravity of the situation.”

“And what is the gravity of the situation?” She managed in soft, bemused murmur. “I’ve been kidnapped, I’m on a plane out of the country, and I’m having a conversation with a man who would just as soon kill me as look at me; you’re telling me it gets worse?”

“It can.” The man’s tone was surprisingly neutral, considering he was expounding upon the difficulties she now found herself in. “But I’m sure that’s not what you want.”

He was a mind reader.

Slowly, Grace took him in from head to toe. Today he wore a crisply starched gray shirt that matched his eyes along with a pinstriped vest and pants that molded two long, muscular legs. His hair hung loose, framing his face, and he’d obviously cleaned up his stubble, framing it so that it accentuated all the right angles of his face. If there was one thing she’d noticed, it was that he and his companions were always impeccably dressed. Was that an Italian thing, she wondered, or just a straight up mob thing?

Because, by this point, she was pretty sure that was who Vicente and his pals were: part of some ring of the Italian mob.

Which didn’t bode well for her. “Will I be,” she paused, forcing herself to forge on despite her apprehensions, “will I be staying in Rome?”

“For a time, yes.” Vicente’s eyes moved over her slowly, analytically, as if he were trying to ascertain by her facial expressions exactly where the current line of questioning was headed. “Then you will be taken to Sicily to meet Giorgio.”

“Who’s Giorgio?” Now that the questions had started, there was no stopping them. Grace just let them fly, heedless of the danger. She doubted there was much Vicente or either of the others could do to her midflight. At this inquiry however, the man winced, appearing to diminish as he leaned back against his portion of the sofa.


You
will call him Signor Acconci.” Grace’s heart skipped a beat at the way his mouth formed the complex syllables. “Or you will die a very horrid death.”

He could have just said the man wasn’t to be tangled with. She’d far have preferred that to another death threat. “Who’s
Signor
Acconci?
” This time she made very sure to get all the titles correct. It was her hope that if she did what Vicente wished, he might open up to her more. If she was going to die in two weeks, she was going to make the most of it – at least during the time when she wasn’t consumed with fear.

“A very…very dangerous man.” Vicente’s words and eyes were dark when he answered her. While, at first, the young woman thought he might just have a flare for the dramatic, the wariness she saw in Vicente’s eyes when he spoke of his boss was very real. “Someone you don’t want to owe half a million dollars. “

Vicente spoke as if he himself owed this Giorgio much more, his tone stiff and formal; and Grace fell silent for a moment, watching an inner struggle play its way out in the subtle expressions of his face.

Since the man hadn’t really spoken to her since he’d taken her captive, Grace had taken it upon herself to find other ways to read him. The flare of his nostrils when he was irritated, the relaxing of the lines at the corners of his mouth when he was ready to sleep and the way his eyes shone at the prospect of a good meal.

There was, she realized, much more to this man than met the eye; and she vowed that, before she died, she would solve the mystery that had been set before her,

 

**

It was good to be back in Italia. Though he had only been away for three days, it seemed like an eternity since he had good coffee and pastries. No sooner were they settled in one of Giorgio’s establishments in the city than he made a trip to acquire copious amounts of both.

BOOK: Marked For Love (Mob Romance)
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