Dangerous Command Sample
six months earlier
Everything seemed perfect at the Adler House, but I still couldn’t let go. Earlier, the brothers had destroyed the Midnight Miles Corporation Headquarters with Miles Muro still inside of it. For the first time in a long while, we had reasons to celebrate, but I wasn’t used to this. Still, I leaned against the wall and forced the tension away, because the three Adler brothers were relaxed in front of me, so I knew I should be too. The youngest brother discussed blackjack strategies with his wife, and the next brother put his arm around a young woman with faded unicorn hair. The oldest brother, Derek, looked at me with a gleam in his eyes, as if he wanted to tell me something important. Despite my worries, I smiled back, because there was no reason for any of us to dread the night anymore. Not even me.
Derek handed me another glass of white wine, opening up a can of beer for himself. We clinked our drinks together, both of us more tired than tipsy, but neither of us wanted to end the night of celebration. His hair matched his brown eyes at that moment, dark and haunting. His broad shoulders flexed as if he could shield his family from evil and carry them up to the top of the world.
“How long have you been working for us?” Derek asked.
“I don’t know,” I laughed, throwing my red hair over my shoulder. “A year? Maybe more?”
He beamed at me like he had been keeping track of every second since I had first walked into his penthouse.
“You’re good, you know that?” he said, resting on the wall next to me. The woodsy scent of eucalyptus came from his body, heavier now that we were drinking late into the night. I wanted to bury my nose into his neck, to never let go of that scent, that overwhelming sense of security. Protection. Safety. Derek would die to make sure his family lived, and somehow, I knew he would do the same for me.
I wanted to give in. And now, with Miles Muro gone, maybe I could.
“I’m good?” I asked, a sly grin crossing my lips. “Tell me the ways, Mr. Boss.”
“Mr. Future Boss,” he corrected. “My father hasn’t retired yet.”
“You run the show already,” I said. I shoved his shoulder playfully, an electric wave of heat zapped from my fingers to my neck, making me flush. His eyes twinkled down at me, proud of what he had done for his family’s business. Proud that I had been a part of it.
“You’re dedicated. Loyal to my family. And you’re incredible,” he said, his eyes drinking in my body. “And no matter what I do, you never play into this.” He gestured between us. “Why is that?” He leaned in, our faces so close that his breath tickled my lips. “There’s something here, Mads. We both know it.”
Mads. He was the only one who called me that, and only when we were alone, like it was our secret. It gave me chills. Was it irritating that he was so confident in himself? Or was it hot that he knew that I wanted him too?
“You like your women to bow down to you,” I said, blushing all over. “I can’t do that.”
“Not bowing,” he said. “Kneeling.” He tucked a finger under my chin, making me look up at him. “And there hasn’t been another woman. Not since you first came here.”
How could that be true? He could have had anyone.
“You’re just saying that,” I stammered.
I studied his expression. He was in line to take over his family’s mafia. Women must have thrown themselves at him. I didn’t want to believe him, but somehow, I knew it was true. Derek didn’t falter. He wasn’t afraid. He knew his truth. My breath caught in my throat, his gaze capturing me. I wanted Derek, more than I had ever wanted another man in my life. But I had responsibilities, someone who depended on me, and I couldn’t give in. Not until I could guarantee everything would be all right.
“While I expect my woman to kneel, I always treat her like a goddess,” he murmured. “You know that.”
Those words caught me. Maybe now, now that everything was fine, it would be okay. To give in to him. To us.
Just this once.
He stepped closer, dipping a hand behind my back, cupping my ass. A shiver ran through me. Derek and his family terrified me. Most of the time, they were good people, but everything could change in a second and I couldn’t let that happen.
But I wasn’t sure about that anymore. I closed my eyes, ready to let it happen. To finally let him take me like I had been dreaming about for months. To see if his lips felt as soft as they looked. If he could make my heart stop with that gaze while he fucked me.
“What’s holding you back?” he whispered. He leaned down to me, about to meet my lips.
“You,” I breathed. “You don’t want to screw your employee. You have your rules.”
“That’s right,” he said to himself, remembering those rules he had told me. “But you’re not working right now.”
“Mads,” he leaned closer, his lips almost brushing mine.
My phone buzzed in my front pocket, vibrated against Derek’s leg. There was only one person who would be calling this late.
“You need to get that?” he asked. He pulled back but left his hand on my ass.
“I do,” I said. It was past three a.m. “I’ve gotta go anyway.”
“Don’t leave,” he said.
The truth was that I didn’t want to leave. I could take the call, and stay the night. Experience what it was like to have that trimmed facial hair against my bare skin. Fall asleep in his arms, one of the safest places in the world. Protection I had never experienced before. Not before him.
I glanced at the phone. I had missed the call. I needed to go.
“It’s urgent,” I said. They wouldn’t have called otherwise.
Derek nodded, accepting my answer. “You’re in town for the next few days?”
“Your dad has me cleaning while he’s off with his ladies.”
A small huff came out of Derek’s mouth; he didn’t care for the fact that his father was married to his mother but openly had a mistress, but it wasn’t his place to decide his father’s romantic life. Instead, Derek made it clear that he would never be like that. Loyalty to his family mattered above all else.
“I’ll walk you to your car,” he said.
In the driveway, Derek opened the car door for me. I slid inside, then rolled down the window, leaning on the door.
“See you tomorrow?” I asked.
“Tomorrow,” he said. His hand lingered over mine, his eyes focused on my lips. “Take care, Mads.”
“Night,” I said.
He watched as I reversed out of the driveway. My heart sank as I crossed out of view. I quickly called back. There was no emergency, nothing that would require me to drive all the way home that night. But it was better this way. If I was going to sleep with Derek, I wanted it to be on our terms. When we weren’t high from the victory. When it was only us. Because we wanted to.
Still, I fantasized about him as I drove. Those soft lips. His strong jaw. Hair I could run my fingers through. A body so hard and intimidating I didn’t know where to start.
At the extended-stay motel, I went to the second floor to my room for the last few months. It wasn’t much, but it was cheap and gave me a place to crash. I liked the view of the woods beyond the parking lot. Setting my bags down, I looked out of the large window. The pine trees stretched up toward the dark sky. They reminded me of Derek, of the woods that surrounded the Adler House, where Derek’s presence alone made me want to kneel. Because the sight of me kneeling would bring him to his knees too.
The window curtain fluttered beside me. Had I opened it earlier that day and forgotten to shut it? I closed it quickly, then checked the room, making sure that nothing had been stolen. The closet looked the same. The shower stall too. There was hardly any space in that small room to hide, and yet my skin crawled.
Still, I went through the motions; I laid down in bed, then turned off the light. You opened the window earlier to get some fresh air, I told myself, It’s nothing. It had been storming recently, and I wanted to bring in the sunshine.
I stared at the ceiling, then closed my eyes. I thought of Derek. And once I felt safe, like his arms were wrapped around me, my mind started drifting off to sleep.
The bed creaked. I opened my eyes.
“You thought you could hide from me?” a familiar, raspy voice asked.
Then a knife dashed across my cheek.
Despite the raging gambling hall on the other side of the walls, my brother’s office was quiet. It was after midnight; the night was getting started. He preferred to play amongst the crowd, but I was business, and business came first, especially when it came to our family’s legacy.
My family came first. Always.
“It’s a small load to start,” I said, handing the order to my brother. Our father, and the boss of our family’s mafia, had never seen the potential in dealing arms. But once we had destroyed Midnight Miles Corporation six months ago, I had used that time to look into Miles Muro’s business operations at a closer level. While Muro had dealt in drugs, protection, and trafficking, most of his company’s value was in weaponry. Be it guns or brainwashed soldiers, there was no doubt that it was a lucrative business, and we had the option to take over his clients. There was an unlimited potential for our family’s growth. My father didn’t see that, but I did. He may have been the boss, but he expected me to run the mafia.
“Risky,” my brother, Wil, said. This was why I dealt with the shipments and distribution, as well as regulating the protection, and overseeing my brothers’ duties. Wil controlled the gambling hall, and Axe, our other brother, took care of enforcing. We all had our part in the business.
“And most of the force is out right now?” Wil asked.
Besides the few still on guard at our family’s house? “The ones that are on the clock.”
Axe had an appointment with his girlfriend, otherwise, he would have been there too, guiding the shipment. This was our first arms deal and first new negotiation since taking over Muro’s shipments. It was better to be cautious. We had power over Sage City, but you never knew who would try to steal a product, especially an item as valuable as weapons. Luckily, since the war with Midnight Miles Corporation was over, we had less to deal with lately.
My phone buzzed in my pocket. Assuming it was my uncle, the one I left in charge of the arms shipment, I didn’t glance at the phone before answering it.
“Yeah?” I asked.
“Derek?” my mother’s weak voice called from the other end. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. She never called this late, and not with that voice.
“What happened?” I asked.
The line was silent. Then she howled so loudly that I pulled the phone away from my ear. Wil’s eyes widened. My heart thudded in my chest.
Once she quieted, I said, “I’ll be there soon,” then hung up.
“She was supposed to be at the spa today, wasn’t she?” Wil asked. I stood and nodded. Our mother never cried like that. Wil knew it was an emergency too. “I’m going to find Ellie.”
“I’m heading to the Adler House now,” I said.
“Give me a call.”
At my parents’ house, my mother’s cries drifted down to the driveway. She was a quiet, subdued woman, who pretended like family’s business didn’t exist. To hear her sound like a wounded animal made my blood boil. Though the next house was some distance away from ours, the neighbors likely heard her too, like an echo haunting the neighborhood.
I followed the noise up the stairs to the master bedroom. My mother was on her knees, her face in her hands, her blond-white hair matted to her cheeks. On the bed, the comforter and sheets were disheveled, strewn with blood. A woman lay at an angle, her dark hair splayed across the bed, dashing across my father’s face. Both of their necks were cut. Giant Ms were carved into their stomachs. My chest tightened. There were his initials.
My mother, Clara, sobbed, her cries reverberating through the house. Anger swelled inside of me—not because my father was dead, but because I hadn’t killed that fucker with my bare hands. Miles Muro. My father had insisted, time and time again, to build a relationship with Muro, claiming that he could be an important business connection. Slowly, we could take over his empire.
All because my father was fucking Muro’s wife. He was afraid Muro would kill her.
And he was right. Here they were: dead.
I called Axe and Derek, telling them that they needed to get here immediately. Then I pulled the rest of our men that weren’t on the arms shipment to patrol the perimeter of the property, ordering them to search for the men who were supposed to be protecting the house. Muro had to be close. We had destroyed his building and had confirmed that he was inside of it. How was he still alive?
My mother’s cries heightened. She needed sleep, but her bedroom was destroyed. Instinct told me to call Maddie again. She was—or had been—our family’s cleaner. I trusted her to get the job done and be discreet. And she was good with my mother. She was good with everyone, actually. But she had disappeared a few months ago; my calls went straight to voicemail now.
Still, I called. I had to try.
You have reached the voicemail box of—
I hung up and grabbed a blanket out of my old bedroom and placed it around my mother’s shoulders. She shook out of it. I tried again, wrapping it around her tightly this time, and she snatched it out of my hand, throwing it to the ground, then threw her arms around me. Her eyes were bloodshot, her skin blotchy.
“We need to get you into bed,” I said. “This isn’t a good place for you.”
“I can’t,” she paused, gathering the will to say it through the sobs, “I can’t leave him.”
She collapsed on the ground. What did it do to her to see her husband and his mistress dead inside of her wedding bed? She had accepted my father’s relationship with Muro’s wife. But seeing death like that, with how insulated we kept my mother, must have broken her.
I kneeled beside her. “What happened?” I asked.
“They were like this when I came home.”
“You were at the spa today?”
She lifted her chin, staring me in the eyes, her body stilling into calmness.
“You think I did this?” she asked.
There were two Ms carved into their stomachs. It was clear who it was.
“I’m asking if there was anything strange that happened at the spa today.”
Her shoulders returned to those jerky movements, her whole body heaving.
“I did the full treatment. Nothing unusual,” she said.
“No calls? No texts?”
“Uncle Ray came by, brought me a bouquet from Gerard. Gerard usually brings them himself, but—” she started shaking uncontrollably. “Was Gerard already like this by then?”
I wasn’t a coroner, but the bodies were wet; they seemed fresh to me. Muro couldn’t have left more than an hour ago. Could have been hiding in the woods right then.
Clara started crying again, and Wil stood in the doorway with his wife tucked under his arm. The three of us moved to the hallway, giving Clara space.
“Muro,” Wil said. The front door opened, and Axe carried his girlfriend to his old bedroom before joining us on the top floor. He looked at the bodies, then quickly went back downstairs.
“Where is he going now?” Wil asked. Axe found his old room, then returned from it, holding his girlfriend in his arms. She opened her eyes wide, staring at the noise coming from the bedroom. Suddenly, she was awake.
My mother’s sobbing quieted. I glanced inside; she was lying in a heap on the floor. Growing up, I had always assumed my parents loved each other, and perhaps, in some ways, they did. But I was surprised to see her like this. My father had cheated on her repeatedly. And though he treated her well at other times, I never thought he deserved that kind of devotion. Loyalty, yes. That was part of being an Adler. But this sorrow?
Then again, my mother had never come home to a bed filled with two butchered bodies before.
“The rest of the men are patrolling,” I said. My brothers nodded.
“Have you told Ethan?” Wil asked. Ethan was our half-brother.
“I’ll deal with him later,” I said.
“Muro,” Axe said.
“How the hell did Muro survive the explosion?” Wil asked.
I took a deep breath. How would any of us know? All I knew was that I wanted Muro’s head impaled on a spike. Proof that he could never come back to hurt my family again.
Because our family’s legacy depended on his death. And now, it was up to me to make it right.
I gathered my mother in my arms, carrying her like a child down to one of the guest bedrooms, where she could be away from everything. She cried silently into my shoulder. I let her down on the bed, found one of the spare blankets in the closet, then tucked her inside of it. Got her a glass of water.
Her eyes were open, but her gaze was lost, like nothing was there. I wanted to ask if she would be alright, but I knew she wouldn’t be.
Instead, I said, “Call me if you need anything.” She didn’t move.
My phone buzzed again. Uncle Ray blinked on the screen. I closed the bedroom door behind me, then answered.
“Yeah?” I said.
“Got the shipment, Boss,” he said. The word ‘boss’ weighed heavily on my shoulders for the first time. Many of our men had called me ‘boss’ for years. Now, it wasn’t an affectionate name for the soon-to-be leader. With my father dead, I was the leader.
“Everything all right?” Uncle Ray asked.
“Did anything strange happen today?” I asked.
“You dropped off flowers at the spa,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said. “Your father looked busy with Margot. I offered to deliver them. I wanted to say hi to Clara.”
My cheeks flushed with heat. “Why the fuck did you want to say ‘hi’ to my mother?”
“Look, man.” He lifted his hands in defense. “I wanted to catch up with her. Nothing suspicious about that. Besides, Gerard always gets Clara flowers on days with the mistress. Why do you ask?”
Uncle Ray, and the rest of the staff, would know what had happened soon enough, but something itched at my brain. Why had it been Uncle Ray to drop off the flowers? Something about that seemed off.
“And you took all of the men from the Adler House for the new shipment?” I asked. “Even the ones who were supposed to be on watch here?”
“Yeah. We needed them,” he said. “They’re here.”
“And you’re at the warehouse?”
I headed straight there, and as soon as I saw the four fuckers who were supposed to be guarding the house waiting to the side, I pulled out my gun. Square Face, Pouty Lips, and the Twins. None of them deserved names anymore.
Pouty Lips raised his hands in defense.
“Boss, we were just—”
“We didn’t know. I swear—”
“We’re sorry, Boss. Sorry that we—”
Square Face grabbed his gun, ready to shoot me, but the rest of my men pulled out their weapons, ready to kill those four men for me. But I shot all of them in the chest, knocking the four of them backward. There was no time for forgiveness. Not when my family’s legacy was on the line.
The rest of the group turned to me. I pointed the gun at Uncle Ray. Uncle Ray was family, but even with Muro supposedly dead, he knew better than to leave the Adler House unattended. What was he thinking? I didn’t care if the shipment was arms; the Adler House was never left alone. We had too many enemies, and now, one of our worst enemies was still alive.
“What the hell, Derek?” Uncle Ray asked. ‘Boss’ slipped from his words. He knew what was coming.
“Did you pull them from the house?” I asked.
“My lead gathered the group,” he said. The lead raised his hands in defense and I stepped closer toward him.
“He said to take what we needed,” the lead said, his voice in haughty pants like he couldn’t decide whether to attack me or to cower. “I just thought, you know, with the arms shipment, that we—” I grabbed him by the neck, putting the gun to his temple, and instantly pulled the trigger before he had a chance to process what was happening.
Then I grabbed Uncle Ray by the throat.
“Did you tell your lead to pull them from the house?”
“I swear, I didn’t—”
“Your brother died tonight.”
“My brother died?” The tears welled in his eyes. “I would never do anything to hurt my brother.”
“Don’t lie to me,” I growled.
“I would never. I would never. I would—”
But that’s all they were. Words. He had let his men get out of hand, and that mistake had cost my father his life.
I grabbed Uncle Ray’s hand and shot him in the palm. He howled in pain.
“Take care of your fucking men,” I said.
I headed back to the car, and they went back to work. My security sat in the car with me, more security tailing behind us.
After we had gotten rid of the Midnight Miles Corporation, we were able to start picking up the pieces and focusing on our growth. Everything was smooth, except for one thing.
Maddie had disappeared after the night we had destroyed the Midnight Miles Headquarters. Ghosted me completely. At first, she didn’t answer my calls. Then, it went straight to voicemail, like she had blocked my number. I wasn’t going to beg, but I couldn’t get my mind off of her; the kind of ass that rippled when you slammed into it, cherry candy hair, and eyes were like liquid shimmering in a green glass bottle. But it wasn’t just her looks—it was her. Maddie was a hard worker; I respected that. She had worked three or four jobs at once before working for us; I was more than happy to give her a salary so that she only had to focus on cleaning our homes. And still, she had that easy smile that never left her face, like she was always in the middle of something. Her posture spoke that she was listening, ready for the next step. Eager to do what needed to be done. No matter the cost.
Then she disappeared out of the blue. I could take the hint.
But now, I needed her help.
I dialed her again and got her voicemail. For the first time in months, I left a message.
“Mads,” I said. “Listen. I get it. You don’t want to hear from us.” From me, I thought. “But give me a call. It’s important.”
I clicked off, then dialed our researcher in Las Vegas.
“Yo, asshole,” Kiley said. It was her consistent greeting for everyone. “What do you want this time?”
“I need you to look up Maddie Vela,” I said. “I need her current phone number. All I’ve got is a disconnected line.”
“Maddie Vela?” she asked. “Is that short for Madison or Madeline? Or, do you not know?” she huffed. “Honestly, that wouldn’t surprise me.”
“Madeline,” I said. The keyboard clicked on her end.
“I’ve got a number.”
I wrote it down, then said, “That was fast.”
“What can I say? I’m a master at looking up the yellow pages,” she snarked. I held back a scowl. It wasn’t as easy as that. “You know that’s a fake name though, right?”
My chest tightened. “What?”
“Madeline Vela. It’s a fake name. No records and then suddenly, there she is. A phone number a few years ago, and a new one now.” She let out a sigh. “What’s her deal anyway? Who is she?”
She was using a fake name? What did that mean?
“No one,” I said, failing to hide the frustration in my tone. “Can you get her actual identity?”
“I could, but it sounds like you need to work out some bedroom problems.”
I hadn’t gotten that far with Maddie, and yet she had already betrayed me. I clenched my fist. I needed to change the subject before I lost my shit.
“Next, look up Miles Muro,” I said. “I need anything you can pull on him—”
“Miles Muro?” Kiley laughed. “Are you serious? The Miles Muro? Of Midnight Miles Corporation?”
“Are there any other Muros?”
“You know you asked me to do that a while ago. Do you remember my answer?”
“The answer is still the same. Ha, ha, ha. No. If he catches wind of anyone looking him up, they wind up dead. You know that, right? And I’m not about to be another statistic.”
As much as I hated being told ‘no,’ Kiley was one of our contractors. She was of better use to us alive than dead.
“We could send someone to protect you,” I offered.
“And have an Adler shadow following me until I die? Thanks, but no thanks. I’m good.”
There was something that made me pause. It wasn’t Kiley’s distrust of Muro, but of the situation itself. There was no evidence of Muro breaking into the Adler House; the property had been left untouched. And with the security gone on the day that my father was killed, it meant that someone had let him in. Maddie, hiding behind a fake name, was an obvious choice. But she hadn’t been around in months.
But there was a chance that the five men I had just killed were part of it, or that they could have been oblivious. Either way, they were dead now.
So who was it?
“We’ve got a rat,” I said to Kiley. “I might need you to look up the rest of our staff for any association with Muro.”
“I can start investigating, but once I poke anything that smells like Muro, I’m out,” she said.
“I’ll bill you,” she said. I hung up.
I headed back to the Adler House and made sure that my mother was all right. She was still, her back turned to the door. I closed it quietly behind me. Then I met my brothers in the study. They were sitting on the couches on either side of the coffee table; their women on the other side of the room, sleeping in the loveseats. I sat next to my brothers and spoke in a hushed voice.
“Did you know Madeline Vela is a fake name?” I asked.
Wil cocked his head at me. “You mean Maddie?”
“Who else would I mean?”
“How’d you find that out?”
“Kiley told me,” I growled. “She worked for you first.” I stared at Wil. “You didn’t do a background check on her?”
“Of course I did.” He crossed his arms. “But she’s a cleaner. I never keep anything at the penthouse. I didn’t think I needed to be that thorough with someone who was scrubbing my toilets.”
I clenched my fists, and Wil whistled to himself.
“Slow the hell down. It’s not like she cleaned our father to death.”
“You?” I turned to Axe, glaring at him. “Did you know?”
“A hunch I never confirmed,” Axe said.
“A hunch you never told me about,” I said.
“I was watching her,” he said. “If she was an issue, I would have spoken to you. But she disappeared, and I had other things to think about.”
His eyes fell to the back of the room to his girlfriend’s pink and purple hair. I grit my teeth. We had been having an easy time these last few months while Muro was leading us into his trap.
Why hadn’t I seen it coming? Had I been too distracted by setting up the new arms deals? By my blue balls from Maddie?
And Maddie was hiding something from us. What could it be?
“Damn it,” I said, pounding my fists into the table. The women startled awake. I ran a hand through my hair.
“Whoa there, big chief,” Wil said. “Why are you upset?”
“We’ve got a rat.”
“And you think it’s Maddie?”
I shook my head. We didn’t know anything about her. The only thing we knew was that she wasn’t who she said she was. Madeline. Maddie. Her name could be Christine for all I knew. But she had been gone; she wasn’t the person who had let Muro inside of the house. I would have noticed if she came back. Would have felt it.
My brothers looked at me expectantly, waiting for a verdict. Maddie had kept a secret from us, lied about who she was. And yet she had been good to me. I wanted to give her a chance to explain herself. To let her secrets come to the light on their own.
My brothers had decided to let their women live when we all agreed that it would have been easier to kill them. If they gave me shit about Maddie, I would remind them of their place.
And if anything came to Maddie, I would kill her myself.
“What’s next?” Wil asked.
I could trust my brothers, but I needed to do this by myself. Restoring our family’s legacy would only happen if I took care of it on my own. I had to prove myself; I was the new leader.
“Carry on as usual,” I said. “We’ll hunt within, quietly.” I sighed. “And I’ll deal with Maddie.”
Traitors to our family wound up dead. And if Maddie turned out to be a traitor, I wouldn’t hesitate to kill her. But until then, she was still the Maddie I had always known. Innocent, until she proved herself guilty.
I’d let her sleep until the morning, but then, she would have to answer my call.