Queen of Thorns Extended Excerpt – The Shower

Queen of Thorns (Mice and Men Book 2)

Blurb:

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.

Extended Excerpt – The Shower

Disclaimer: The following is copyrighted material is unedited and subject to change.

I brace my hands against the smooth black tile and watch the water pour from me to circle the drain. This shower is as gaudy as the rest of the apartment, too sleek and modern to match the grim seriousness of Giovanni’s old hideout. Antonio took glee in erasing any trace of our old boss. In addition to the silver fixtures, he had the base of the stall made of white marble, making it the perfect backdrop to spotlight the rust-colored liquid washing off my skin. So much red.

Too much…

The hue triggers a million twisted images that dance through my skull. I see Vincenzo, my boy, bleeding from his head. Then Antonio, greedily gasping for his last breath. Last of all, I see her, the imposter Safiya and my chest swells with so much rage it’s painful. Her blood deserves to paint this shower floor, not Vin’s.

And it’s not her claim to be Safiya that makes her worthy of death. Not even her initial attack on me, not even her association with Mischa Stepanov. Violence is just the way of this brutal world we live in.

I could have accepted that.

But not the rest. Her real sin?

She came back to gloat over the pieces of me. Back to watch me burn.

But she couldn’t even let me strike the match.

More images flood my skull, becoming more vivid by the second. Her face. Her tiny hands wrenching at mine. Her desperation well before I attempted to set her alight as well.

It’s that look that causes the most pain, the most anger, the most hate.

How dare she pretend like she cared? Even more egregious—like she didn’t want me to die.

Not out of sweet, innocent mercy, either. This life? It’s worse than any hell.

The water itself feels hot enough to burn me alive more thoroughly than any fire. I don’t know how much time has passed by the time I finally shut it off.

But then I smell it. Roses and gasoline. Her presence infects the air like poison, impossible to overlook.

She demands acknowledgment without having to say a fucking word.

Groaning, I laugh into my hands before I turn. Even expecting her, the sight of that lithe figure watching from the doorway catches me off guard.

Her face is partially obscured by the steam coating the glass barrier between us—but nothing could ever disguise those eyes. They bore into me as I use my hand to clear a section of the door.

As maddening as it sounds to my own ears, I have to laugh.

Her eyes hold my stare fearlessly, but pink spots dot her cheeks and a quick swallow distorts her throat. For all her bravery, she’s still just a woman. A young woman.

One I know for a fact has never experienced a man.

Has she even seen one?

The distraction is too tempting, and my tired brain latches onto it greedily—anything to ignore the other shit in my skull. I grip the handle, testing the give of the metal. Slowly, I apply pressure, watching her expression all the while.

That damn stare remains constant, but her body… That body betrays her.

As the door opens, ushering in a burst of cool air, I can see her reaction clearly. Damp blond hair clinging to her shoulders. Trembling fingers gripping the front of my shirt closed around her. The bulk of it disguises most of her body, but what little of it I can see—shapely, pale legs—makes my breath catch. Every womanly curve and glimpse of ivory skin separates her from Safiya.

In this form, she’s a stranger.

“Take it off,” I command.

She flinches and those eyes cut away from me for the first time, her tongue flitting across her lips. Triumphant, I advance on her, letting the water drip from me freely, slicking the floor with every step. My nostrils flare, catching that scent again, but this time it doesn’t hollow me with shadows of the past.

She’s foreign without the old identity to hide behind. The closer I come the smaller she seems. The stranger, the less recognizable—and I can dominate this woman.

She won’t control me.

And the slight hitch in her breathing warns that she knows it.

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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