He thinks I’m his innocent bride, but I’m hunting for his secrets.
To fulfill a debt to the yakuza, my uncle offered my hand in marriage: his innocent niece.
But I’m not innocent; I grew up in a life of crime. My uncle wants me to marry Kenzo so that we can sell the yakuza’s secrets.
Kenzo is a criminal like me, and yet, he’s possessively protective of me too. As he exposes my darkest desires, my attraction grows stronger, until I forget what I’m searching for.
Then Kenzo sees through my lies.
Kenzo is ordered to kill my family for our betrayal, and I know we’re in deep trouble.
In the end, love is all that matters.
But an arranged marriage isn’t love, and now, a yakuza gangster is after my life.
Author’s Note: Cunning Lies is the first full-length book in the The Endo-kai Mafia Series. It is Kenzo and Vi’s story. It contains disturbing content. Reader discretion is advised.
Triggers: graphic violence, sexual abuse (by secondary characters, between family members), interrogation, torture, dubious consent
Kinks: breath play, degradation, dubious consent, electro play, exhibitionism, forced orgasms, praise, restraints, squirting, toys
Interconnected Standalone: The couple gets their HEA, but the mafia plot continues throughout the series.
“A damn shame,” I mutter, flipping through the vinyl records. “No appreciation for the classics.”
Orchestral music plays on the speakers, each note vibrating through my veins. It’s technically classical music, and although it’s not my genre, it pairs nicely with the idiot bound and gagged on the floor. There’s a cut on his cheek, exposing those red stained teeth, and his gag is soaked. It drips onto the hardwood floor, leaving a pink puddle that glimmers in the sunlight.
I turn up the volume, letting that textured sound of the record player wash over me. I want it to compensate for what’s lacking in this murder, but it doesn’t.
“No Eagles?” I ask. “No Styx? Tell me you have Aerosmith.”
He moans through the cloth, but I can’t hear a thing over the music. Mild excitement bubbles in my veins as I adjust the camera on the tripod, then crouch down. Usually, I’m more creative than this—I like having fun, pushing these corporate big shots to their limits, seeing how far they can go before they beg for mercy—but the record player is distracting. I want music and murder, not humiliation and work.
The strings crescendo, and I drum my fingers above him, using my switchblade to conduct the imaginary orchestra—but it’s still not right. I lean down, putting our ears closer to each other. Better to hear over the music.
“How old are you, Mr. CEO?” I ask.
“Sixty-two,” I whistle. This CEO has thirty-two years on me, and yet I’m the one who can appreciate music from his youth? He should be killed for that alone. I run my thumb across my switchblade. The metal gleams, and the poor bastard winces.
I’m not supposed to kill him; I’m supposed to humiliate him. Teach him a lesson. Motivate him to do what we ask. It’s not much: sell your assets and give the money to us, or we’ll tell your humble stockholders what you actually do on the weekends. They won’t appreciate their CEO spending their company’s charity money on Shabu Eight and strippers.
“Sixty-two-years-old,” I continue, “and you still don’t know how to keep your bad habits a secret.”
He sobs into his gag. My ears throb, adrenaline buzzing in my fingertips. Blood on the floor. Music in my chest. My mind racing. Does it amuse me, or bore me?
I’m not supposed to kill him, but it’s not off the table. I grip that option in my pocket like a life preserver.
“At least you have vinyl,” I say, thumbing through his records again. But it’s all classical music, and that irritates me. I squat down again, my white suit jacket falling over my knees.
“You know,” I run the blade over the side of his neck, his loose skin bunching up under the tip, “we were only trying to help you. The Endo-kai wants nothing more than to see you succeed.”
“Ya-caa—” he tries to scream. “Yo-ya-coo—”
He’s right. I am from the yakuza.
A tear runs down the side of his cheek, burning through that peek-a-boo cut I gave him, and I chuckle, increasing the pressure on the blade, letting it break his neck skin. Blood sprays me, marking my suit, which is why I wear white. Everything is bland, but with red on white, it’s like a sunset in paradise, a blank canvas made into art again.
But the stains are monotone today. I’ve done this exact kind of kill. I want something different, something more. I’m on a journey to his grave, but I want a little satisfaction this time.
I smack my side with my free hand. The song pops into my head and I can’t think of anything else. It’s the best way to make this more entertaining. Blood seeps down from his narrow cut, trailing down his neck. I leave him there like that.
“Wait here!” I shout.
I grab the Three Dog Night album from the trunk of my car. I’m quick, waving to one of the grocery runners a few houses down, and he doesn’t blink at my red-splattered suit.
Back inside, there’s a trail of blood leading away like little flakes of bread, but the Mr. CEO is gone—must have wormed his way somewhere. I groan, but at that moment, music is my priority. Mr. CEO will get what’s coming to him, but I need my song.
I place the record in the player, then adjust the needle to the right track. Three Dog Night’s “Shambala” blasts through the speakers, the guitar strumming me awake. I increase the volume until the notes thump in my chest.
“Yes!” I shout. The boredom evaporates. I rip the camera from the tripod and follow that Hansel and Gretel trail of blood. It grows thinner the deeper we get into the house. It’s a nice home—four thousand square feet, smack dab in the heart of Henderson. He’s even got one of those nice, green turfs out back. Nothing beats a plastic lawn in the desert.
Too bad Mr. CEO won’t be able to enjoy it.
Finally, I see him. He’s all the way inside of the master bedroom with his phone lit up next to him. He smashes his nose into the screen, but nothing happens, and those tears crash against his cheeks, mixing with blood. I can hear my oyabun—my boss—saying it now: Damn, Kenzo. Why do you always make such big messes?
Because I like messes.
The phone flashes with those three dots, then says, Your passcode is required to enable Face ID. The poor little idiot. With a gag in his mouth, the device doesn’t recognize him.
The music is quieter back here, but I don’t mind. It’s the perfect soundtrack to my actions. I set the camera on the floor next to Mr. CEO, aiming the lens to capture his agony.
He bucks his legs forward, kicking my shin, and I wobble, but keep my ground. A smirk dances on my lips. He’s got spirit in him; I’ll give him that. But I grab the knife again; it’s time to get this over with. The song is almost over anyway.
I’m not supposed to kill him, but I want to. And I always do what I want.
“Let’s hope your next-in-line has better listening skills than you,” I say. “And musical taste.”
Then I slice the blade across his neck, letting the rest of his blood pool on the floor. The song ends, and I let out a satisfied sigh.
I turn off the camera and check the area for evidence. The sheriff is on our payroll, but I do my due diligence to make sure that there’s no trail leading back to the Endo-kai. Then I grab the record off of the vinyl player, slide it carefully into the sleeve, and head to my bright red 1970s Dodge Challenger.
Blasting classic rock through the speakers, I merge onto the highway, heading back to the Strip. Samurai Castle Resort & Casino is smack dab in the center of Las Vegas Boulevard, across from the Bellagio Fountain and next to the Paris Resort. It’s a damn good spot; I honestly don’t know how Tomo, our yakuza boss and the owner of the resort and casino, figured that one out.
I fold my bloodied jacket over my arm, then toss the valet my keys.
“Kumicho? Doko?” I ask. Boss? Where?
The valet tilts his head. “Sports lounge.”
The sports lounge is surrounded by television screens, each hosting a completely different game. Horse racing. Football. Soccer. Even skiing. You don’t know how much you can actually bet on until you live in Las Vegas. And just like the valet said, the boss is in his favorite spot. He’s harsh and angular, with dark brown eyes. Gray hair frames his face, and like usual, he’s resting on a barstool, treating it like his throne, but in reality, it hides his limp.
Cherry, his only daughter, sits next to him. She’s hafu—half Japanese, half Polish—though she leans into her mother’s looks. Shoulder-length brown hair sits on her shoulders, tattoos wrapping around her arms, a septum piercing hanging from her nose. Dressed completely in red with red ankle boots to match. She’s ripped too. No one messes with Cherry when it comes to mixed martial arts.
“Where’s your jacket?” Tomo asks. I hold it up, showing off the bloody artwork; it’s a running joke between us. Cherry pretends to scoff, and Tomo laughs. “What about humiliating him? Weren’t you going to make him do Shabu Eight while he had to finger himself on camera?”
I lift my shoulders. “Got distracted. He had a record player.”
“Ahh,” Tomo nods, pleased with that development. “Did you let him off easy, then?”
“He didn’t have any classics.”
“Unappreciative bastard,” Tomo mutters. He’s the only one who gets that side of me, but that’s because he’s the one responsible for it. Instead of beating me when I stole from one of his protection rackets, he gave me a family and an addiction to classic rock. Though I don’t call him ‘Dad,’ he’s like a father to me. But he’s also our oyabun. Our kumicho. Our yakuza boss. Even as a kid, I respected him too much to call him ‘Dad.’
“You weren’t supposed to make a mess,” Cherry says dryly.
“How could I resist?” I joke.
“Try doing your job, bakayarou.”
She’s calling me an idiot for that?
“Or you can do it for me,” I wink.
She cracks a smile. “I wish.”
We each have our roles here in the Endo-kai. As our oyabun, Tomo has a lot on his plate. He makes the big picture decisions and makes sure that our exchange in Tokyo runs smoothly. We give this Tokyo-based yakuza group our smuggled guns, and they give us their meth mix, Shabu Eight. Cherry, a black belt queen of carnage, works as Tomo’s personal bodyguard. The old man can still handle himself in a fight, but not for long, which is why he’s got us, and why Cherry never leaves his side, though I know she wishes she handled more.
I’ve got three jobs. I manage our drug dealer relationships, but I’m also the face of Samurai Corporation, our legal resort group, and I work as a sokaiya—in short, a corporate blackmailer. We find failing companies with dark pasts and force them to sell their assets, giving us the payout. I need three jobs; I get restless easily. Music keeps me moving, keeps me light, and when I get into a situation like today, blood keeps me focused.
Tomo pinches the bridge of his nose. “You have a date for the Survivors’ Alliance Gala yet?”
“How about Candy?”
He mutters under his breath, on the verge of scolding me in Japanese, and I hold back my laughter. My last date—a stripper I hired from the Gilded Stage—worked perfectly, until she ended up screwing one of the other guests in the bathroom. Can’t say I blame her; she’s a hustler and she wanted her money. But Tomo was pissed. No one at the gala knew that she was a stripper, but if someone had caught her with that customer, it would have been a PR disaster for our company’s image, even if we are in Vegas.
“I’ve got someone better,” Tomo says. He gestures toward the heart of the building. There’s a set of offices and holding cells in the center shaft, always guarded by our soldiers.
“Dice has him?” I ask.
Tomo shakes his head. “Another enforcer. The man said something about ‘selling his niece.’” There’s a hint of laughter in Tomo’s voice. “With that gala coming up, you should hear him out. He seems eager to get her into our hands.” Tomo shrugs. “He thinks we’ll take care of her.”
“Consider my interest piqued,” I say. I put a hand on Tomo’s back. “Thanks for looking out.”