Dangerous Deviance Sample Chapters

 CHAPTER 1

Wil

Everything, including the man in front of me, had its own unique attributes. The coward wasn’t a friend, but business. A spineless rat. Target practice.

“I thought we were friends,” the man said. “We are friends, right, bro?”

Friends. The word almost made me laugh. I’m good at making people think that we’re friends. As the networker for my family’s business, I’ve put a lot of time into honing my image, making myself the important connection and face of the family’s crime syndicate. 

But that doesn’t mean I’m anyone’s friend. The man, Brad, flicked his tongue over his lips as he tried to think up an excuse. We had known each other for years, but still, he bailed on me when it came time to pay. After we had taken his two fingers, I had almost expected it, which would make the finality of this interaction all the more satisfying. What a birthday present. 

This is what it meant to be an Adler. Conquer. Annihilate. Rule. Birthday or not, everything was in the name of family. And if you didn’t have Adler blood? I would cut you in half. And if you hurt my family? Everyone you loved wouldn’t stand a chance.

No one messes with an Adler.

Brad bit his fingers, the ones that were left anyway, the nail beds bloody and torn. He shivered and looked down at his hands again, as if a gun could magically appear in his palms. But he didn’t need magic: Don’t want to die for your bad decisions? Don’t spend money you don’t have. 

Sometimes, I thought of myself as a god. I dealt in chance in the gambling hall, helping men thrive or wash away their lives, and back here, dealing with business matters, I chose between their lives and their deaths. Their fate was up to me.

“Look, man,” Brad mumbled, “I told you, I have the money, I just need time. I was going to get it for you. Just not here. I’ve got an uncle—”

“Word has it that your step-daddy cut you out of the family business,” I said. Brad cowered. “So tell me. Why were you in my gambling hall?”

“Look, man. I know I can get back into the business.”

“I talked to your family. You’ve been cut off. They’re not willing to help you pay.”

Tears welled in his eyes. The poor asshole. But debts were debts, and if he didn’t have the cash or the capital, then he had to pay in one way or another. We had already taken two of his fingers. It was time to move on.

“Can’t we work this out?” His fishbowl eyes pleaded up at me. “Can’t you take one of my cousins instead? We’ve been friends for a long ass time, man. You’re like a brother to me.”

Brad reached over and slapped my arm, two of his fingers missing. I glared at the touch, then removed his hand as if it were dirty. Axe, my actual brother, was leaning against the door frame, the only exit out of the room. His eyes were blank, staring forward. He had delivered Brad. Now it was up to me to finish the job. 

He knew I liked it too. Playing god. I knew it was a birthday present from him. 

“You’re right,” I said to Brad, my voice low. “We were friends. And if we were in a different line of work, maybe I would let a friend slide.” I shook my head, pretending to be sad. “But you know that what we do here is different. And if I let you slide, then everyone will expect a free pass.” I tossed a hand to the side. “And I can’t let that happen.”

“I’ll do anything, Wil. Anything.”

I took my pistol from the desk and pulled the hammer back. Brad’s eyes widened. Power surged within me. 

“Shit, man,” he stuttered. “Take my hand. Break my knees. Not a fucking gun.”

I aimed at his forehead and he lifted his hands like the flesh and bones of those eight fingers could defend him from a bullet. 

“Please, Wil, I—”

The bullet went straight through his forehead, clean and efficient. His body fell back against the chair in a thud. 

Axe adjusted against the wall, then nodded at me. 

“Where’d you find him again?” I asked.

“In the line for TSA.”

The bastard had almost gotten away.  “What’d you tell him?” I asked. Axe had a reputation for getting his point across quickly. I could picture him whispering a thousand nightmares in a few words. 

“That I knew where his wife lived.”

I whistled. That would get a man to move. At least his wife wouldn’t be held back by him anymore. 

“You’ll take care of him for me?” I asked.

Axe nodded, then slipped out through the back hallway, presumably to get his supplies to dismantle the body. While Axe was the main enforcer, the family’s gambling hall was mine. It was a place to network. I was supposed to be an enforcer too, but I had wanted my own branch of the business.

I went out the door to the main banquet hall of Jimmy’s. The atmosphere was full of smoke and wood and alcohol being poured like rain from the sky. Dark-paneled walls surrounded us, without a window in sight. It didn’t matter what time of day it was; it was always night when it came to Jimmy’s. You could get lost in there, and I often did.

There was a restaurant in the front, but this ‘banquet room’ was hidden in the back. There was a bar along the back wall, and the rest of the space was set with various tables: poker, craps, blackjack, roulette, and in the back, another door that led to a luxury theater with plenty of sporting events on display.

An older gentleman smacked my back. He was a regular here who liked to spend his hard-earned retirement funds. Who was I to stop him? 

“I hear it’s your big day,” he said. “Congratulations on making it to the big three-oh, my good friend. Wait until you join me in the over-sixty hall of fame.”

I shook his hand. “You’re telling me you’re not fifty?” The dude was well into his seventies, but I knew how to butter him up. He cackled at the joke.

“I bet you’re making your dad proud,” he said. 

“Yeah! Happy Birthday, Wil!” another man said.

I flicked my finger at the bartender, and she started pouring us a round of shots. 

“What shall we do to celebrate?” I asked.

“Did you want Sarah?” he asked. He winked, then nodded towards a young woman with her legs tucked underneath her to the side of the room, a slim metal collar on her neck. Hearing her name, she sat up, her gaze pegged on me. “She’s been eyeing you for a while now.” The gleam in his eyes was like a lantern in the night. He must have wanted to watch us fuck. Perhaps he couldn’t please her like that anymore? I wasn’t sure. “She’s come prepared. I had her practice last night.”

With dark hair and eyes to match, Sarah was gorgeous, and decades younger than her husband. That old man had bought her outright, mail-order-bride shit, but Sarah didn’t care because she would live off of his money until the day she died. The idea of sampling her was a pleasant one, but unlike him, I wasn’t one to share. If a woman was mine, she was mine. And Sarah was far from that.

“I want one for myself,” I winked. The man slapped my back. 

“I can get you the number for Sarah’s house,” he said. “I got her from Brackston.”

Brackston was another big city a few hours away, controlled by the Midnight Miles Corporation, one of our biggest rivals, turned ally and connection. At least, that’s the way we had hoped to push it. The way my father, Gerard, wanted to. 

For a moment, I let the idea roll around in my mind; if I could buy a woman who was mine to take care of, mine to control, mine to play with when I wanted, why not? It made it simple.

But I wanted a woman who would fight me too. Taking control was only satisfying if you could feel the woman relinquishing it. If she gave it freely, like Sarah, then what did it matter? Most of the women from Sarah’s house would probably be obedient to the core. 

But again, it was my birthday. Why the hell not? 

“Sure, give me the number,” I said. “Now, are you going to take a shot with me, or are you too old for that now?”

“Do you know who you’re talking to?”

A cocktail waitress in black booty shorts and a corset brought us the round from the bar. I eyed her round ass, and she winked at me. That was an ass I could use and forget about. The only problem was they always wanted more. I needed someone who I could keep at a distance, someone to keep for myself.

“Get a shot for yourself,” I said to her. She thanked me and slinked away.

“To your big day,” the older man said.

“To thirty more,” another regular said.

“Cheers,” I said, lifting my shot. We clinked glasses, then threw back the alcohol, the liquid numbing my throat. Another day on the job, another shot guzzled down. It was my kind of career. I went to the side of the room, taking my place at my favorite felt-lined table, one with a view where I could watch everything from afar. The gambling. The dealers selling our products. The women strutting around. 

Derek appeared at my side. He was older than me and Axe; he was in his mid-thirties and kept his dark hair styled. His dark brown eyes judged the room, always watching everyone, always ready to fight at a moment’s notice. The man didn’t know how to have a good time; it was business, business, business with him. That’s why I was in charge of the gambling hall, and he wasn’t. Leave him to the leadership crap; give me the pleasure of crime. 

Derek nodded to the different groups, acknowledging the fact that Jimmy’s was in full swing. 

“Are they celebrating your birthday?” he asked.

I shook my head, then shuffled a deck of cards. “Just another day in paradise,” I winked. Derek smirked, then slid into the seat across from me. He hit the table, and I dealt: one card face down and a seven for me, and a king and an eight for him.

“You’ve done good with the place,” Derek said. The truth was that he was supposed to take over Jimmy’s, as well as the rest of the family business, with Axe and I as leading enforcers, but I hadn’t wanted that for myself. I didn’t mind killing; in fact, I enjoyed it. But when it came to the gambling hall, I wanted a piece of the pie for myself. Besides, I was Uncle Jimmy’s namesake. Wilhelm James Adler. What a name.

I didn’t respond to Derek’s comment. He was leading to something. He tapped the table and I dealt another card. A king, an eight, and now, a two. There wasn’t much of a chance of getting better than that. 

I hit as well, then flipped over my second card. A seven and a nine and a face-down mystery. If he was smart, he’d stand.

“You hear anything from Muro’s men?” he asked. He put a hand over his cards. Good man. I showed him my final card: a five. The house won again. I always did.

“You were close that time,” I said. He shook his head, smiling. “And about the Muro’s men, they weren’t giving their share.” 

We had negotiated with Miles Muro of Midnight Miles Corporation a decent, but low cutback, since we had delayed delivering a man who had stolen a rather large diamond from him. Our response, to keep things civil, was to agree to terms in which Muro could spread his drug trade in our region without dealing with a large percentage cut. We each specialized in different substances, so it made sense to work together, and our cut was reasonable, as an apology for the lacking delivery. We were supposed to deliver the diamond stealer and his daughter. But my half-brother had fallen for the woman and ran off with her. So her father was delivered eventually. But not her. 

We needed to smooth things out with Miles Muro. That was part of my job.

“They didn’t pay?” Derek asked. “What’d you do?” 

I nodded towards the back doors. “Let them out.” I shrugged. Gerard, our mob boss and my father, insisted that we kept things civil. The Adler family had networked with other syndicates for ages; we had to keep that reputation. “Didn’t kill them. Just told them to get their shit and leave.”

“Have you talked to Muro about it?”

I shook my head. “I was waiting for you.”

I was good with networking and making connections, but Derek was still the next-in-line for the throne, which meant everything had to go through him. I could respect that. He had proven, repeatedly, that that’s what he had been raised to do. But it was boring bureaucratic shit if you asked me. I’d rather deal with the connections and numbers behind the scenes, with the drug fiends and the gambling addicts without a home to keep them in line.

“You want to set up a meeting then?” I asked. Derek nodded. “I’ll make the call.”

“Good,” he said. He nodded towards the exit. “We got you a present, by the way.” Then he shook his head, smiling to himself. “Axe got you a present,” he corrected. 

“It better not be—”

He smirked. “Not this time,” he said. He tilted his head. “Let’s go.”

I shrugged. What did I have to lose? 

After I left a few of my men in charge, we drove back to my place in a high-rise in the middle of Sage City. My home was on the thirty-sixth floor, a penthouse with the rooftop patio all to myself. Axe stood up from the kitchen island, his clothes as clean as ever. Had he already taken care of Brad, or was the body still in his car downstairs? 

“I hear you got me a present,” I said. 

He gestured towards the guest bedroom door. “She’s inside.”

“She?” I asked. He nodded. “Who is she?”

“Don’t know,” Derek said. “She could barely utter a sentence.” 

“Doesn’t remember where she came from,” Axe said. 

“It’s perfect,” Derek said. “You’re always talking about wanting to play god, right? This is it. This is playing god.”

“I never—”

But then I thought about it. Really thought about it. If she didn’t remember where she came from, and therefore, didn’t have a past, then who was I, but a god, to her? To mold and change and shape her life. To make her fit to serve me.

And if not, I would move on. She would be killed. Like any angry god would do.

Intrigued, I opened the door. On the bed, sitting on the edge of the bed, was a woman with light brown hair. Full pink lips. A toned, muscular body, but softness there too. Her breasts hanging and bare.

“Found her naked in the woods,” Axe said.

Her back was uneven, marked with patches of pink and white, like a rash or a scar that had healed over repeatedly. Glazing over, my eyes focused on the blush of her cheeks, the scratches of red across her stomach. She must have been running from something. From someone. But Axe had caught her.

And now? She was mine.

I stepped into the bedroom, closing the door behind me, coming towards her. She stiffened. As soon as I was close enough to touch her, she grabbed my shoulders, pulling me down with a hard crack, bringing a knee to my chest. Hard. I grunted.

A literal fighter, huh?

I grinned, then grabbed her leg and pulled through until she crumpled onto her back. I pulled out my gun, aiming it at her head. She didn’t move, her face stoic. She stared into the barrel, then shifted her eyes to me. Those blue gems pierced through me and saw to that spark within. 

I could kill her right then, and it wouldn’t make a difference. 

Or I could let her live, and explore that passion within her.

I took a step back, then headed to the door. I closed it behind me.

“Did you have to lift a hand when you were in the woods?” I asked. 

Axe shook his head. “She came willingly.”

“Well, I had to lay her flat just now,” I said, smirking. 

Derek laughed. “She’s perfect for you then.”

The passion of a caged lioness with blue eyes and light brown hair, and no expectations beyond being mine, was, in fact, perfect. She was simply a gift.

Yeah, birthdays didn’t get much better than this. 




CHAPTER 2

Ellie

You aren’t safe here.

I blinked. That voice sounded familiar. Male. With the authority of a father figure, but not quite family. I couldn’t place it. A dim light came from the windows. Steel-gray clouds covered the sky, the sun shining behind them, reflecting across their backs. The cityscape stretched far and wide to the coastline in the distance. The echo of a lighthouse. Traffic lights. Mist hovering over the woods near the coast. 

Here? I thought. Where are we?

You aren’t safe here. You need to be careful, Ellie. They’re watching you.

Ellie?

Where are we? 

We?

I looked around, but there was no one there. It was a voice inside of my mind, like a detached part of me, always there, always filling in the blanks. What was going on? I touched my face, as if I could find the voice there. But my skin was cold. It felt strange, like I was touching myself for the first time. My head was filled with fog, like I had awoken from a deep, deep sleep. I closed my eyes tight, until tears started forming in the crevices, then opened them wide, staring out. Four posts at the corners of the bed. A large window. A closet to the side. A full-length mirror. An attached bathroom. 

I looked down; the blankets and comforters in shades of gray layered underneath me. So soft it almost hurt.

A bedroom. I was in someone’s bedroom.

You need to be careful, Ellie. They’re watching you, the voice said. A male voice. A familiar one. Like a father. Like a friend I trusted. Someone I knew.

That’s right. That was my name. Ellie. 

The bedroom door opened; a tall man with dark hair entered the room, his eyes shadowed. A navy blue suit jacket fit his arms, a red tie in the middle like a stripe of blood. His jaw was angular and tight, his muscles stretching the suit’s sleeves. His brown eyes lingered over my breasts, my waist, my hips, between my thighs. I touched my face again, suddenly hot, wanting to make sure that I was awake. That this wasn’t a dream. As the man’s eyes met mine, his face darkened, and it was as if I could feel his thoughts. What he wanted to do to me. What he would do, if I wasn’t careful. A shudder ran through me. 

Who was he?

The man came closer, and it took everything I had to hold still, to let him think that I wasn’t ready. 

Kill him, the voice said. Kill him now! 

Not yet. Not until he was closer.

As soon as he lifted a hand to touch me, I grabbed his shoulders, pulling him down until I kneed his stomach, but then he grabbed my leg and threw me back onto the bed, immediately pointing a gun at my forehead. 

So that hadn’t worked. 

I waited for him to shoot. 

But he backed away, closing the door behind him, and I was left alone once again.

I sat up, pressing my thighs together. A red and gold sash, tied into a bow, lay on the bed. I remembered it: a man had given that to me, asked me to wear it. For my brother, the man had said. He’ll take care of you.

But he won’t take care of you, the voice argued. He won’t take care of anyone. You need to get out, Ellie. Figure out where you are. Then find her.

Find her.

Who was she?

And who was that voice?

Sliding off of the bed, my bare feet clicked on the wooden floors. I went to the window and stared out. From the height alone, I could tell we were in a tall building, possibly near the top. Only one building off in the distance looked as if it might be taller, a round disk high in the sky, futuristic in its design. I knew that building. It was a landmark. I had been there before. Back when I was younger. Still a kid. When we were kids.

We. Who were we?

The door opened again, the airflow brushing against my bare skin. I looked down. I was naked, with my bare ass to whoever had just opened the door. I covered my breasts, crossing my arms in the front, and turned around. Act helpless, the voice said. The less they know about your capabilities, the better your chances are. 

It was the man from before, the one who had put me on my back. His eyes landed on me, his gaze hot. 

He sat on the bed as if it were his place. His lair.

“Let’s not fight this time, ” he said. “Come sit.” He patted the bed, waiting for me to come, like his pet.

No way. I didn’t obey anyone like that. 

Do it, the voice urged, You might not like it, but you need to play. Play his game. Figure out his motive. Then get out. 

It was the only conscience inside of me, so I listened to the voice, not the man in front of me. I sat on the bed, beside him, keeping my eyes cast off, not wanting to meet his gaze when I didn’t know where either of us stood. What was I doing here? Why was I obviously in his home? What did he want with me?

“I’m Wil,” he said, his voice smooth and deep. “Let’s start with your name.”

Don’t tell him. Don’t tell him anything.

I shook my head. “I- I-” I stammered, “I don’t—” I shook my head frantically, the voice getting louder in my mind: Don’t tell him. You can’t trust him. You can’t trust anyone.

“My brothers said you don’t remember much. Do you remember your name?” he asked. 

A sheen of sweat broke out over my body. Chills ran through me, my body shaking uncontrollably. He reached over to hold my hand. I froze at the touch. 

“It’s okay,” he said, “We can figure this out together.” His words were kind but I pulled away. Then the voice grew louder: It’s a lie. You can’t trust him. You can’t trust anyone. You need to get out. Find her. He put a hand on my thigh.

“Let me go,” I whispered. He didn’t hear me. He nodded at the door frame. A woman with dark red hair emerged. “Let me go!” I said louder, pulling my leg out of his grip. I bared my teeth, shifting back onto my haunches, ready to strike. 

He cocked his chin at me, as if he was amused.

“You were on our property,” Wil said slowly. “I hate to break it to you, princess, but we’re not letting you go. Not until we find out how you got there. What you were sent to do. You’re lucky it’s my birthday.” He smirked. “Think of me as your god. You’re going to abide by my rules until we figure out what to do with you.” 

Lucky? What was he going to do with me? 

A god? What an arrogant sonofa— 

They’ll kill you, the voice said, just like they would kill her.

I balled my fists. 

“I’m not—”

His hand curled around my fingers, crushing my knuckles, twisting them in pain, and he leaned in close to me. The smell of smoke and old leather surrounded me. Like he spent his days between walls with men who had far too much power, far too much money, and if I closed my eyes too much, I would fall deep within the rabbit hole, until I couldn’t see the sky anymore.

“If it were up to my brother, you’d be in a cage right now. But you’re not,” he said in a low voice. “You were gifted to me. Like an offering to a god,” he said. The man was obsessed, idealized himself in a way that made me sick. “Don’t forget, I want to be nice to you.” His eyes stared deep into my soul, and it felt like his fingers were wrapping around my heart, squeezing it until the muscle palpitated in my chest, making my breath catch in my throat. He wants to be nice to you because he’s filled with cruelty, the voice said. He wants what he can’t have. You can’t fight him, not yet. It will end badly for you. 

Unless I played by his rules. Let him play god.

“Don’t make me the bad guy, princess.”

The bad guy? Princess?

He is the bad guy, the voice said. He captured you. And he would do the same thing to her.

He tilted his head back, glancing behind us, and the woman with mahogany hair came forward again. “This is Maddie. She’s going to take care of you for a while.”

“Take care of me?” I asked.

“All right. Out of here. My turn,” Maddie said. Wil got off of the bed and whispered in her ear. “Of course,” she said. Then she sat on the bed next to me, placing a plastic grocery bag full of clothes on the comforter. She leafed through it. “Tell me your size and I’ll bring you better stuff tomorrow. These will do for now. They’ll either be too big for you or just about right,” she said. She glanced at my body, then turned back to the bag. “I think my hips are bigger. Do you work out?”

Work out? Why was she asking me about exercising when I had been ripped from my life and dropped into this one? A life where I didn’t even know where I was. All I had was my name. 

I couldn’t figure out what to say. I could hardly remember anything, and that was terrifying. 

I was a walking joke.

“Hey,” Maddie said, stroking my arm. I stilled, waiting to see what she did, trying to calculate how far away the nearest weapon was. A pen on the desk. A letter opener. A pair of scissors. I could break a glass and use the shards to stun her. Run away as fast as I could. “It’s okay,” she whispered. “You’re okay. You’re alive.” Because death was my only other option. She stared at me, her eyes softening, realizing how deep the fear ran inside of me. “What’s your name?”

Don’t think for a second that you can trust her. You can’t trust anyone.

But I wanted to. I needed to hold onto something to pull myself out. And she hadn’t tried to hurt me yet. 

Maybe she would know how to help me. 

“Ellie,” I whispered.

“Ellie,” Maddie said. “That’s a pretty name. Is it short for anything?”

No. Don’t tell her. It’s too much. Too much.

She put a hand on my arm and I froze again. “My name is Maddie. I’m here to help you.” 

“Who are you?” I asked.

“The housemaid,” she smiled. I glanced her over; jeans were tight over her thick thighs, a loose purple top on her busty chest. Makeup decorated her face, subtle but complimenting her. She didn’t look like a housemaid to me. “Wil hired me, but I work with all of them. Mostly just Wil and Derek though. Axe on occasion.” She shrugged. “Their parents once or twice too.”

Too many names. Wil? Derek? Axe? Who the hell were they?

Ask her, the voice said. Ask her who they are. She knows more than she’s letting on.

“Who are they?” I asked. 

“They’re brothers,” she said, nodding at the door, where I assumed they were waiting on the other side. “They’re here to help you. Wil is, anyway. I think Axe and Derek would have had other plans for you, but Wil’s got a soft spot for women like you.”

“Women like me?” I asked. What was that supposed to mean?

It means he thinks you’re weak. You’re helpless. And he’ll prey on you like he preyed on her.

“Vulnerable,” Maddie said. “And feisty,” she laughed. “I can’t believe you attacked him.”

It’s not like I had gotten that far. But the way she spoke about him made me stop; she was fond of him. They must have been close. 

“Are you married to him?” I asked.

“God, no,” she cackled. “Don’t get me wrong. They’re all gorgeous. But Wil? He’s like a brother to me. I’ve been his cleaner for a long time now. Become a friend of family lately.”

“They’re a family?”

“Brothers,” she said. 

Your sister. Where is she? the voice asked.

“My sister,” I whispered. “Where is she?”

It was weird to hear a voice, then repeat what it said, letting it control me. But it was all I had in a world of emptiness. And with those words, I knew. I was looking for my sister.

“Where’s who?” Maddie furrowed her brows. “Your sister? I—”

“I will cut anyone who hurts my sister.”

Maddie and I stared at each other, each of us waiting for the other to speak.

“Did you hurt my sister?” I asked. 

“Slow down, tiger,” Maddie said, raising her hands, putting them up. “No one is hurting anyone.”

“Did you hurt my sister?” 

She shook her head, her eyes cast down. I exhaled, letting my shoulders relax.

“Do you know where your sister is?” she asked.

“No.” My heart burned in my chest. Longing swept through me; I had been looking for her for a very, very long time. And now, I knew I was close, but I was far away too. I needed a glimmer of light to help me see through the tunnel. 

“No one is going to hurt your sister,” Maddie said. “We’re here to help you. I am. Wil is. But you have to be smart about it.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “To think in terms like Wil, you need to play your cards right. If you act too quickly, they’ll kill you. Because at the end of the day, you were trespassing. If it weren’t Wil’s birthday, you probably would be dead by now.”

“Wil’s birthday?”

“You were a gift to him,” she said, nodding. “Wil’s birthday present.”

“How can a person be a birthday present?” I asked. 

Because the birthday man doesn’t have a soul.

“When you’re the youngest son in a crime family, your birthday gifts get a little more elaborate each year.” She shrugged, her lips flat. “Trust me; you’re lucky.”

There was no way that being a man’s gift made me lucky. 

“I’m telling you the truth, Ellie. They will kill you if you’re not careful.”

She’s right, the voice said. Play the game. Figure out the players. She’s not your friend, but she’s not your enemy either. He is. He knows where she is. 

Your sister.

Footsteps passed in front of the room, going down the hallway, casting shadows from the crack underneath the door. Their presence seemed larger than life. 

Like a god.

“Who are they?” I whispered again. 

“Think of them as a family. It’s easier that way,” she said. She forced a smile. “Close brothers. Best friends.” She pushed the bag towards me, offering the extra clothes. She nodded in the brothers’ direction. “They’ll help you, but you have to give to them too, especially Wil.”

Listen to her. Play the game, the voice said. You always knew you would be subjected to this. 

I nodded. “Okay.”




CHAPTER 3

Wil

Maddie was talking to the nameless woman who could barely speak, while the three of us sat in the study. Half of me wondered if I should have felt guilty about what we were doing. The other half didn’t care. She was on our property without any rights to be; she should have been dead. 

Instead, she was mine.

My brothers were talking about a business matter while I zoned out, trying to figure out how best to control the situation. Playing a woman’s god was an interesting situation; you chose the outcome, but you had to get her to bow down of her own volition. Otherwise, any completed acts weren’t truly given. True loyalty resulted from rule. And what I wanted, through every fiber of her being, was loyalty.

“Dead?” Derek asked. My world came into focus with that word. 

Axe nodded slowly, then said: “Chopped to pieces.”

“Butchered?” Again, Axe nodded. Derek shook his head. “And you’re sure it was Lance?”

“I picked apart the pieces myself.”

I lifted a brow. Lance, one of the security members we had working on our father’s property for the last decade, was dead? 

“The hell is happening now?” I asked.

“I found Lance butchered to death,” Axe said. “Sliced up, like someone had used a cleaver on him. Slit his throat, then chopped him up.”

“Where?”

“In the woods.”

Our parents lived in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Sage City, resting against a vast forest. The property had been in our family for generations, the eldest son always moving in, taking over the leadership role of our family business, our mafia. We owned the acres surrounding the house, including most of the woods in the back, and had many guards placed throughout to monitor the property. When he wasn’t enforcing, Axe was one of them. He had his workroom camouflaged in the woods as well.

“So you found a naked woman and one of our guards dead on the same day?” Derek asked. “Shouldn’t we put two and two together and make the assumption?”

That woman? Nope. Didn’t make any sense. 

“Can that woman even talk?” I argued.

Axe shook his head. “I checked her for marks. There was nothing. No signs of distress. No signs of fighting.” I tightened my fist, thinking of Axe checking her body, but then I released it. He knew, even then, that she was mine. He hadn’t looked at her in that way. “But I take it that whoever put her there, might have had something to do with Lance.”

“Or maybe it’s bad luck,” Derek said. He shrugged. “Stranger things have happened.”

“Who the hell knows,” I said. “I’ll watch her now.”

“You still got your gun?” 

I nodded. I kept a pistol with me at all times and had several hidden in the penthouse. You never knew what would happen in our family, and you had to be prepared. “It’s not going to come to that.”

“What are you going to do then?” Derek asked.

It was always the same when it came to any person. Whether you were dealing cards or cocaine, people usually had one desire. All you had to do was figure out what it was that they wanted and dangle it in front of them. Keeping the hope alive, and the light flickering. A little reward and a little surrender, and she’d be mine. My offering.

“Same thing I always do,” I smirked, “Deal her a hand, watch how she plays. She’ll see who’s in charge.”

As the words came out of my mouth, the door to the bedroom opened. Maddie’s deep red hair cascaded down her back. A curvy woman with large hips she flaunted, I had thought about her once, but good help was hard to find, and I had backed off once I realized how hard of a worker she was. She had been working for our family for over a year now. 

“She’s all yours,” Maddie said. Derek watched her turn towards the door, and though his eyes followed her, he said nothing. My chest tightened at those words: all yours. She was all mine. All I had to do was make her see that.

“How’d she do?” I asked.

“She’s frightened,” Maddie said, “Understandably so.” She shrugged. “But I think she’ll come around.”

“Good,” I said. I trusted Maddie’s instinct. “Her name?”

She paused, her hand lingering at her side as she clutched it to her jeans. “Her name is Ellie.”

“Ellie,” I said. “Short for?”

“She didn’t say.”

Those words floated in the air, a mystery about them. We said our goodbyes, and Axe and Derek walked Maddie down to the floor. 

Once they were gone, I opened the door, finding Ellie standing at the window, gazing out, wearing a loose sweater and jeans that were tight around her ass and loose at her calves. She had a muscular body with thick arms, but a delicate throat, like a swan’s. A ponytail held up her light brown hair, revealing a tattoo on her neck: four rounded hills crushed together, in red ink.

I hadn’t seen any other art on her body. The tattoo must have been important to her.

“Do you like the view?” I asked. I stood beside her, watching as her eyes flickered across the horizon. To the ocean. To the woods. To the streets that were alive with people and cars and everyday life. Ellie didn’t say anything. “Where are you from?”

She opened her mouth, her lips soft and inviting. The smell of moss and decay filtered to my nose. How long had she been in the woods? Had she seen Lance’s body after he had been murdered? Or had she never crossed his path? 

She faced me, her eyes fluttering about, unable to find a place to stop. “I don’t know,” she said quietly. “I don’t remember. I can’t—” she shook her head, “I can’t remember anything.”

I grabbed her chin, lifting it until her blue eyes met mine. Hard like sapphires, and deep like the ocean. Was her memory loss a lie? What was she hiding inside of there? 

“Your name is Ellie,” I said. “That’s a good place to start.”

A small breath escaped her lips. 

“My name is Wil,” I said again. She nodded her head. “I want to take care of you.” Because Ellie, you will learn that you’re mine. “But you have to work with me.” She nodded carefully. 

People never change, and most of them were awful, but at least with family, you had blood that linked you forever, and that loyalty was never forgotten. My brothers and parents were the only ones I trusted. Everyone else, including Ellie, could turn on you in a second. 

But that didn’t mean I couldn’t mold Ellie so that she was close to that level of loyalty. Because this was my chance to be different. To create a new set of rules specific to us. To show her how to surrender to me. To teach me how to be her god.

“My brother found you in the woods,” I said. “Do you remember any of that?”

Her eyes scanned the ground, searching for that memory. “No,” she muttered. “No. No, I don’t.”

“He found you naked in the woods,” I said. “You weren’t able to speak. Do you remember who brought you there? Left you in the woods?”

She closed her eyes, squeezing them shut. Her lips moved as if she was trying to think something through, but then she opened her eyes wide. 

“No,” she said, her tone flat. Stronger than I had expected. Almost defiant.

I clenched my teeth, my heart rate increasing at the urge to discipline her. To teach her a lesson.

“What do you need, Ellie?” I asked.

“I need to find my sister,” she said, her voice resolute, assured. She might not have been sure about many things in her life, nor about how she came to be here. But this? Her sister? She was sure of that.

“Where is she?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

“What’s her name?”

She touched her cheek hesitantly, a vein in her neck throbbing, making her whole face twitch. “I don’t know.” She wiped her palms on her sweater to get rid of the perspiration. “But I know she’s in trouble. And I have to find her. Please. You’ve got to help me.” She stared up at me, her eyes filling with tears.

Growing up in the mafia, you learned to see past the tears to the true, depraved soul underneath. It made death easier, knowing that everyone had their faults and that there was nothing different about one person from the next. I knew, without a doubt, that Ellie was just like anyone. Hiding wicked intentions. A devious past that would cut her down to size. Those tears? They might have been real. But I didn’t trust her. 

She would do well not to trust me either. 

But using her desire to make her bend the knee? That was exactly what I needed. 

“I’ll help you find your sister,” I said. And in some ways, it was the truth.

“Really?” her voice perked up.

“But you have to agree to my rules.”

She lifted her chin, looking me in the eye. I put a hand around her neck, touching her there, feeling the movement of breath going in and out of her throat. She hesitated, but she wasn’t afraid. She stared at me, unmoved, and my cock swelled with heat. This was why I wasn’t a man who could have a normal life, a normal love interest; I wanted this. Control. Domination. A toy that I could use however I wanted. A strong woman I could destroy.

I dropped my hand.

“Your rules?” she asked.

“You have free rein of my property. I own this entire floor and the rooftop, but you may not leave unless I’m with you.”

“I can’t leave?”

I shook my head. “When we do leave together, you won’t speak to another man. My brothers and father? They’re the only exception. Anyone else—” I let a gleam fill my eyes. “Not a single word.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re mine, Ellie. If you want to live, you’ll obey me.”

Her eyes fell to her feet. I put an arm around her back and pulled her closer to me, the scent of decay and her musk heavy. I wanted to bathe her, to wash her from head to toe, bury my head between her legs and devour her completely. But first, she needed to fear me. To realize that I might have been a playful, mischievous god, but I was still a violent deity. 

“If I want you, then you will offer yourself to me,” I said. She bit her lip. “If I say ‘kneel,’ you kneel. If I say open your mouth, then you open your mouth. And if I say to spread your ass for me, you will pull apart your cheeks. And if I say to eat my come, you better lick every last fucking drop off until my cock, the floor, until everything is clean.” 

She sucked in a breath, her chest expanding. Her nipples hardened, forming points through her sweater. I licked my lips. 

“And in exchange, I’ll help you find your sister. And you’ll be treated like a queen.” I grinned. “I don’t take any offering lightly, Ellie. Think of me as your god.” I flicked a finger across my chin. “You can choose to disobey me. You can choose to resist me. But I’ll be watching, and punishment will be delivered swiftly.” I dragged a hand along the curve of her spine, the knit fabric pressed against her warm skin. The bumpy, scarred skin, weathered, hiding a story there. “You may not like your punishment, but I will.”

She shivered, understanding what I meant. She tucked her arms around herself. I had never had a woman here overnight before. I always dismissed them or met them in the back of Jimmy’s. On occasion, I met them in hotels where I could leave as soon as it was over. I had almost let my ex stay here once, but right before I made that call, I had found her ‘gathering information’ for one of our rivals. That ended our relationship. 

Ellie would be the first woman to sleep in my home. This forced us to move quickly.

“And if I say no?” she asked. 

“Of course you can choose to say no,” I said calmly. “That is your choice. But if you do, that means you will go back to living with my brother. And trust me when I say that I’m a fair man,” I said, narrowing my eyes. “I’m willing to give you a chance to prove your loyalty to me. My brother? He’ll see you as taking up too much space.”

She nodded, her eyes flicking down, then back up to me. “But you’ll help me find my sister?” she repeated. 

“If you agree to be mine,” I said, “with every rule obeyed.”

After a moment, she whispered, “I’ll do it then.” She looked up at me, her blue eyes vibrant. “I’m yours.”

“Then take off your clothes,” I said. She flinched. I motioned towards the bed, then turned my gaze toward the window, giving her a moment to follow my command. The world continued outside, shifting and working and twisting, making bets, taking chances. That’s what Ellie was. A chance. A new hand. “I want to see what’s mine,” I said. I turned my chin to the side so that she could hear me better, but I didn’t look in her direction. “Set your clothes to the side, then sit on the bed and wait for me.”

A moment of silence passed. Then the rustle of her clothing against her skin told me that she was obeying. Good.

Once the shuffling stopped, I turned slowly around. She was leaning against the bed, her bare ass on the comforter. A few freckles spotted her chest, right above her breasts, like a constellation written in her skin. Her chest was different from her back; it was blank, unmarked, as if whatever had happened had always been focused on her back. Her breasts were small in comparison with her firm body. Athletic, not slim, and muscular to the core. Still, the softness of her pink nipples matched her lips. Those electrifying blue eyes saw me, saw past the bullshit, and still wanted to fight me, but were holding back for now, surrendering to her god. 

I gestured behind her. “Lay on the bed.”

She shifted her weight, her back on the comforter, grimacing at the contact. I pressed on her thighs until her legs were spread before me. Her folds were covered in stubble, a small black line near her opening, her beaded clit and her pussy lips slick with moisture. 

With my hands, I spread her lips, looking at her in detail. That black line spread, a scar dashed across her skin, healed, but dark, marking her forever. Another on the inside of her lips too. And her ass? A pink scar on her hole, as if she had a cut there once too, but had healed over. Perhaps she had surgery. Or perhaps, it was far more sinister.

***

Thank you for reading this sample of Dangerous Deviance: A Dark Mafia Romance! Be sure to check out the full version when it goes live on Amazon in February 2021!