Ruthless King Extended Excerpt – The Meeting

Ruthless King (Mice and Men Book 1)

Blurb:

After a decade spent claiming a throne for himself in the seething violence of the criminal underbelly, all Donatello Vanici craves now is peace.

Only a union forged between his heir and the most powerful mafiya family in existence could ever be strong enough to end the bloodshed for good, but the Stepanov head resists his overtures at every turn… 

Until tragedy strikes, and forces Donatello’s hand.

Haunted by a past that dogs her every thought, Willow Stepanov will do anything for the man who adopted her—until a chance encounter with the enemy lands her right in the middle of a dangerous power struggle and a war that grows more violent and vicious each day.

But it’s not just her future her captor holds hostage.

He is a man with nothing left to lose—while she may just lose everything. 

Her life, her family, and her heart…

Mice and Men is a new standalone series in the War of Roses Universe.

Extended Excerpt – The Meeting

Disclaimer: The following is copyrighted material.

Vinny, my sweet, cunning boy. He has taste after all—the little bastard went all out when picking his present for me. She’s perfect—a pretty, innocent-looking piece of ass every bit as beautiful as any pampered heiress.

Her dark eyes watch me, so fucking wide. Endless. I’m too drunk to be poetic about it, but if I weren’t, I’d describe her in the sexiest terms that get a man’s cock throbbing. Mine, at least.

Beautiful.

Dangerous.

Unsettling.

Psychotic.

She has that knife raised high before I even have the sense to pivot out of her reach. Undeterred, she swipes for me anyway, her eyes blazing, teeth bared.

Laughing, I grab her wrist, and she recoils, stumbling into a sideboard in her haste to wrench away from me.

“You aren’t a professional,” I deduce, sizing her up with a glance. Disappointment melds with the effects of my last whiskey, and my shoulders slump in defeat. So much for my good boy sending a naughty toy my way. “Sexually or otherwise,” I suspect, sounding like a child denied a treat. “Not a part of my gift, it seems.”

What a damn shame.

A second glance makes it more obvious that she’s no whore. She’s far too slight for one, no hint of muscle in sight. Her skin is paler than the style these days, and her hair looks to be a natural shade in between blond and brown—no hint of highlights or some shit most escorts adorn themselves with. But her hands give her away—slim, pale, struggling to grip the knife she holds.

She’s no assassin, either.

“Revenge, is it?” I ask as she whirls to face me, blade drawn. “Which loved one of yours did I kill? A beloved daddy? A brother? It can’t be your mother,” I add, easily parrying her next attempt to slash my throat. “I don’t kill women.”

Her eyes flash at that, and she lunges again, flailing more wildly with her blade.

“So, your mother then,” I deduce while twisting on my heel to avoid her attack. Unguarded, she doesn’t even try to stop me from gripping her waist, tugging her against me. It’s only as her eyes meet mine for a split-second that I realize I’ve fucked up.

Pain lances through my side, drawing a hiss as I buck out of her range. Shit. I don’t even have to look down to know she got me. I can feel the blood already starting to pool beneath this godforsaken suit. Fuck it. What a way to end the night. Hissing in irritation, I swipe at the wound without bothering to inspect it in full.

“So, you are trained, after all,” I rasp. “Fuck, playing games, then.”

I snatch a handful of her hair, using the grip for leverage to shove her away. Only when I let go, do I realize how rough I’ve been. She’s so thin that in theory, she could go right through the wall. At the last minute, she catches herself with her free hand, already spinning to come at me again.

Even as I brace myself for her next blow, I’m impressed. Someone trained her well.

But her skill eliminates about ten potential motherfuckers off the list of who her employer—or avenged family member—might be. None of those sons of bitches would ever have the balls to train a woman.

“So, I offended your mother,” I say, trying and failing to maintain eye contact. Her gaze is a viper, darting around the room in search of an exit. I barely manage to shift my stance enough to keep her from lunging for the door. “Did I fuck her?” I ask, raking my gaze over her body from head to toe. “Don’t tell me you’re my long-lost daughter.”

It’s sick, but as my eyes fall over the small breasts peeking beneath the neckline of her dress, I pray to God she’s not. Though, fuck. At least then, I’d have a daughter to carry on my legacy in addition to Vin.

Her cheeks flush with fury at the suggestion, her chest heaving. Wrong answer.

“Did I fuck you?” I sound as skeptical as I feel, and the answer seems to be a definitive no. I would remember her. Those eyes. Those lips. Her smell—one inhale and I’m high on the stench—roses.

“Did I hurt you?” I ask, noting the shift in my pitch. I sound damn near genuine. “If I did fuck you and never call, trust me—put the knife down, and I will be more than willing to make it up to you. I was probably drunk.”

Very, very drunk, I decide as my gaze descends her shapely legs. Piss drunk. Vin had probably snuck something into my drink as a prank—it wouldn’t be the first time. His way of trying to convince me to stay sober.

But her eyes narrow, and more color floods her cheeks. Rather than peg her issue, I’ve insulted her.

And she comes for me again, eyes blazing.

For a heartbeat, she transforms into someone else. Someone even smaller, scrawnier, her honey-colored hair in pigtails, her expression so feral she resembled a stray mutt more than a little girl.

I’m almost startled into saying her name out loud. Almost…

But she’s dead. I know because I hand-delivered her to her killer.

Fire slices through the meat of my cheek, drawing my attention to an outstretched pale hand lashing through the air. The little bitch is quick, reaching me before I have the chance to block. She lands a good punch to my chest, already maneuvering her knife to go again.

Grunting, I ram my shoulder into her side, knocking her off balance. Before she can recover, I fist my fingers through that mass of hair, noticing just how damn thick it is. Soft too. Perfect for gripping. Pulling.

To test that theory, I use a handful of it to shove her onto the bed face down and pin her in place, jabbing my knee against the small of her back. I’m not gentle—she should gasp at least. Cry out.

But she doesn’t make a sound. Strange. I’m used to the theatrics that tend to color these situations. The screaming. The monologues. The listing of grievances and shouting.

She isn’t the first person I’ve found in my room willing to kill me. Not by a longshot.

Even as she struggles, grappling at the bedsheets with nails drawn, she doesn’t say a word. Doesn’t make a sound. It’s strangely…hot.

A series of thoughts flit across my mind—sick, twisted shit belonging to the old Don. The fucker who would relish in slipping his hand beneath her dress, palming that sweet, ripe little ass and seeing how silent she’d be then.

My hand is already moving, fingering the hem as her limbs quiver just beyond my reach. Groaning, I form a fist and brace it against the mattress beside her instead. As if to mock me, I catch a handful of condoms. The cake, I discover, is already smashed on the floor, having been knocked off the bed.

So much for Vin’s present.

“Who do you work for?” I demand of the woman.

She attempts to lift her knife in lieu of giving me an answer. With a sigh, I snatch her wrist, bending it back just shy of painful. She has to go still or risk injuring it. Her eyes cut up to mine, burning so hot it’s like they’re on fucking fire.

“Tell me, and I’ll let you go.”

She bares her teeth, desperately trying to buck me off.

I rip the knife from her grasp, eyeing it from end to tip. It’s a custom blade, one of damn good quality. Too good to be wasted on a murder, where common sense would dictate it’d have to be tossed or destroyed afterward. No, this has to be personal.

I inspect the blade’s leather hilt while running my finger over it for any clue. All I find is a scribbled engraved message in what looks like a child’s handwriting.

“Mouse?” I say, reading the inscription out loud. “That some kind of nickname?” When she doesn’t answer, I trace the curve of her squirming hip up the length of her back and wind up looking straight into those fiery eyes. “No. You aren’t a mouse,” I tell her. “I think you’re more like a wicked little kitty. A tiger. Huh, tigre?”

She rears up as far as she can with her arm still in my grasp. I recognize how her cheeks hollow, but I don’t try to avoid the glob of spit she lobs my way. It lands on the corner of my fancy lapel, relegating this suit as yet another casualty of this night.

After a decade spent claiming a throne for himself in the seething violence of the criminal underbelly, all Donatello Vanici craves now is peace.

Only a union forged between his heir and the most powerful mafiya family in existence could ever be strong enough to end the bloodshed for good, but the Stepanov head resists his overtures at every turn… 

Until tragedy strikes, and forces Donatello’s hand.

Haunted by a past that dogs her every thought, Willow Stepanov will do anything for the man who adopted her—until a chance encounter with the enemy lands her right in the middle of a dangerous power struggle and a war that grows more violent and vicious each day.

But it’s not just her future her captor holds hostage.

He is a man with nothing left to lose—while she may just lose everything. 

Her life, her family, and her heart…

Mice and Men is a new standalone series in the War of Roses Universe.

With all hope of the peace shattered beyond redemption, Donatello Vanici is waging his most violent, bloody war yet. 

And caught in the heart of the carnage is Willow Stepanova, the adopted daughter of his dangerous enemy and the girl who once adored him to the depths of her soul. 

Torn between her loyalty to her family and her volatile connection to Donatello, Willow quickly realizes that it’s not just her life at stake in this vicious battle…

But what will be left of her in the end?

Mice and Men is a new standalone series in the War of Roses Universe.

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