Ruthless King Extended Excerpt – Mischa and the girls

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 – Mischa and the girls

Disclaimer: The following is copyrighted material.

“Is your papa in his study, Marnie?” Ellen calls from the base of the grand staircase that serves as the heart of the manor. Lost in thought, I barely manage to catch my footing on the next step.

“I think so,” Ivan says, answering for his sister. “And Jona will be hiding behind him, of course.”

I chuckle internally, forgetting my dilemma for now. Mischa Stepanov strikes fear into the hearts of most men, and yet his daughters have the poor man wrapped around their fingers.

Sure enough, we round the corner to the mouth of his study and find him sitting at his desk in the center of the massive room, scanning a stack of documents. He’s aged slightly, the lines around his mouth growing more pronounced. But with his blond hair hanging loose around his shoulders and dark eyes narrowed in concentration, he’s no less formidable than the man I remember. Looking at him, I’d assume he’s hard at work if it weren’t for the hint of pink fabric peeking from behind his chair.

“Is Aljona with you?” Ellen asks though her raised eyebrow reveals that she’s spied the same telling clue I have.

Sighing, Mischa sets his papers aside and steeples his fingers. His brows draw together, enhancing the harsh planes of his face and the effect is admittedly intimidating. Most people only ever see this man, but as his gaze falls over the girl in my arms, his jaw twitches slightly, betraying a rare hint of softness no one could deny. As his eyes cut up to mine, he winks.

“Aljona would like to initiate a peace treaty,” he says to Marnie, his voice booming, accent heavy. “Will you hear her terms, Marnie?”

“No!” Marnie grumbles from my chest. “I don’t want stupid terms! I want my doll—”

“It was wrong of you to take her doll,” Mischa says over her, but a gentle edge lessens his otherwise stern tone. “And it was wrong of her to kick you.” He inclines his head, directing his voice to anyone who just so happens to be hiding behind him. “You both acted inappropriately. Therefore, the only way I can see to settle this matter is…” He throws his hands into the air with a sigh of defeat. “I will buy you two new dolls, and you can keep them separate—”

“Mischa!” Ellen shakes her head. From the firm set of her shoulders, I suspect this is just another battle in a longstanding war between them. “You can’t keep spoiling them. They’ll never learn.” Hands on her hips, she raises her voice, “I propose a punishment of no dessert for the both of you.”

“No!” With a cry of protest, Marnie wiggles from my arms. At the same time, another girl pokes her head from behind Mischa’s chair, scrambling to her feet. Straight brown hair and the fact that she’s nearly a foot taller sets her apart from her sister.

“But Mama!” they whine in unison.

“But Mama,” Mischa intones with a pained grimace. “Can we not have both punishment and peace?”

He reaches into his pocket and withdraws two brightly colored items that make the girls squeal and crowd him, jumping in excitement.

Ellen scoffs. “Sweets?”

Mischa doesn’t seem to catch the disapproval in her tone. “Apologize to your mother, both of you,” he demands, unnervingly stern once more.

“We’re sorry,” the girls sing in unison with twin smiles, the picture of sweetness.

Mischa can’t resist, sporting a grin to match. “Now, Mama…” He bats his eyes imploringly, drawing giggles from his cohorts. “One little treat?”

Ellen rolls her eyes. “It doesn’t matter what I say. You’ll just sneak it to them anyway—but still no dessert.”

With their current goodies—two lollipops—the girls don’t seem to mind.

“Mine’s bigger,” Aljona, the older of the two at the age of five, declares, shoving her lollipop into her mouth. She takes off with Marnie, nearly four, right on her heels.

“Not, uh!”

“I’ll make sure they don’t kill each other,” Ivan says before huffing after his siblings. “As payment, I want four lollies, Papa,” he calls back.

Mischa chuckles with pride as he watches them go. When he finally returns his attention to his wife, his eyes fall to her stomach rather than her disapproving stare. “How did I do?” he asks innocently.

Crossing her arms, Ellen shrugs. “Better than last time. At least you plied them with candy and not piles of toys. They will drain you dry if you let them. You need to learn to tell them no.”

He shrugs indignantly. “I can tell them no—”

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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