top of page
Dangerous Silence - Web Res.jpg

I’ll keep my future wife in a cage.

I promised my mentor that I’d marry his daughter and protect her from our enemies. But at his funeral, his daughter and I agree to go our separate ways. It’s for the best.

But then she sees me kill an outsider. I have no choice but to keep her in my dungeon, locked in a cage. To force her to watch my sadistic tendencies.

Demi is infuriating, and so damn sure of herself. She has no idea who her father was, but the more I torture her—the more I take care of her—the harder I fall.

Demi is stronger than I ever imagined, and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect her.

Even if that means destroying our future.


Author’s Note: Dangerous Silence is the second interconnected standalone in the dark mafia series, The Adler Brothers. The couple has an HEA, but the mafia plot continues. This book contains dark and disturbing content. Reader discretion is advised.

Content Warnings

Triggers: captivity, body mutilation, torture, graphic violence, murder, virginity, age gap, physical assault (when the antihero was a minor), dubious consent

Kinks: confinement, dubious consent, fear play, gun play, knife play, on top of corpse, scarification, toys, virginity

Interconnected Standalone: The couple gets their HEA, but the mafia plot throughout the series.


Age 7

I wasn’t supposed to be outside. The rule was to stay in the shop, but Shep gave me a popsicle and moved onto the customer in front of him. I might have been a kid, but I knew when an adult wasn’t paying attention.


With my blue popsicle, I leaned against the walls of the butcher shop, looking down the street. Not many cars drove back here, but Shep could work in this neighborhood. As the last real butcher in the city, people drove from all over to see him. A drop of the blueberry juice went down my wrist. I licked it up. 


Three men on the corner huddled together. I recognized a few of them, though I don’t know why. A car stopped. The one wearing a black sweatshirt talked through the open window, and handed the driver a small object, like a fidget disc or something.


As the car disappeared around the corner, the man, the biggest one out of them, looked over at me. He was big, like he could squish my older brother with his thumb. Each stomp was louder than the last, until he was standing over me. I looked him in the eye like my father taught me. Veins like spiderwebs crisscrossed over his pupils.


“What are you staring at?” he asked. Spit flew from his mouth, landing on my nose. I flinched. “You too good to answer, pussy boy?”


“Hey,” someone from his group said, “Ain’t that Gerard’s kid?”


“Shut up,” the big man said. “I know who it is.” I took a lick of the popsicle, still staring him in the face. “I know you’re Gerard’s kid.” I took another lick. He knew my father? So what? A lot of people knew my father. “Gerard’s got a pussy for a kid.” He kneeled down in front of me, our eyes meeting at the same height. “Where’s your daddy now?”


His face was round, his beard uneven. Why did he care so much about my father?


“Busy,” I said.


“Too busy for his own son.” The big man laughed, then stood up, blocking out the sun. He seemed taller than before. “You know, Gerard and I are good friends. He even took one of my fingers once.”


I glanced at his hand. At first, all I saw was his thick metal ring, but then I saw it. His pointer was missing.


I raised a brow, then licked my popsicle again. Father always said the business could be demanding at times, and missing fingers were common. I had never thought anything of it. But why would he take a finger? What did he want with it? I didn’t know what he did all day; only my big brother, Derek, was allowed in my father’s office. Wil and I weren’t allowed yet.


“Answer me, pussy boy,” the big man said. I blinked up at him.


“My father probably threw it away,” I said. 


A punch seared across my cheek, banging my head back into the brick wall. A ringing started in one of my ears, vibrating through my head, then disappeared. I instantly regretted saying anything.


As soon as the world came into focus, another punch hit me.


“Come on, Baby Adler,” the big man said, punching me again. “Stand up and fight me like a man.”


“He’s a kid, man.”


“I didn’t ask you.” He glared at his friends on the corner. “He’s still an Adler.”


I glanced at the other two men, but neither of them did a thing. 


“You’re not going to snitch, are you? Your daddy doesn’t like a snitch, does he?” the big man asked. 


Another hit knocked my skull against the brick wall, hurting worse than the one before. He was laughing hard, crouching down, yet still bigger than me, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t fight. My big brother had taught me how. Holding my popsicle in one hand, I made a fist with the other, then hit the big man in the eye. Like he had done to me.


My knuckles pulsed. His head was harder than I thought.


The big man’s mouth opened, then his eyes narrowed. 


“You actually got me,” he said.


I smiled, pleased with myself, but as soon as I saw his frown, I knew it was a mistake. He stood up. 


“Your daddy isn’t going to save you now,” he said.


His fists railed into me, his ring catching my lip. Then again. The metal digging into it. My mouth hurt—hurt worse than a brain freeze. Worse than getting the flu. I dropped my popsicle and rammed my punches forward, but the big man laughed and hit me harder. My head turned towards the men on the corner. Maybe they could help; they seemed to care. But where were they? I could barely focus before another hit landed on my face. I spit; deep purple saliva landed on the floor, a mix of blood and blueberry juice. Had I bitten my tongue somehow?


I couldn’t catch my breath. The more the man railed into me, his ring catching on my bleeding lips and brows, the worse it got. My head hurt. Blood oozed out of me like a slushie. The world was fuzzy, and in the half-second between punches, I looked around. Where had the world gone? There was no one there. Not my father. Not my big brother, Derek. Not even my little brother, Wil.


The bell on the door jingled, and the big man stopped. Shep came out, blood on his apron, his hands on his hips. He looked at the big man. Shep wasn’t tall like him, but he was built like a tire swing. The car sagged whenever he picked me up from tutoring. He was only about five feet tall, a lot shorter than my father, but sometimes I wondered if he was as strong. His gray eyes washed over the empty street. He pulled a cigarette from the pocket of his apron, resting it between his lips. 


“You proud of yourself?” Shep asked the big man. He ran a hand over his shaved head. “Beating up a child?” He picked me up off of the ground and leaned me against the wall, propping me up like before. But I slumped down; my knees were weak; I could barely stand. I opened my mouth, but Shep lifted a hand, to stop me from talking.


“Why do you care?” the big man asked. “He ain’t your kid.”


Shep scowled, then turned to the corner. “And you two. You didn’t help a child?” 


The other men shook their heads. 


“This ain’t none of your business, old man,” the big man said. He stood up, looking down at Shep. “I’ve got beef with his dad. This ain’t got nothing to do with you.”


A hint of a smile crossed Shep’s face. Had the big man said something funny?


“Oh, his dad?” Shep asked. “I know his dad.”


Shep immediately pulled out a cleaver from the pocket of his apron, bludgeoning it into the big man’s side. It happened so fast I almost couldn’t tell what was happening. With his other hand, he grabbed the man by his neck, pulling him down to the ground. Then the man didn’t move. Couldn’t move.


“Don’t die on me yet,” Shep said. 


The other two men looked at each other. “Fuck!” one of them shouted.


Shep pulled a gun from his back pocket, shooting them both in the eyes. The sound echoed in the empty street. The men fell to the ground. He went to their bodies, pulling them up by the short hairs on the top of their heads, then used the cleaver across their throats. But the knife wasn’t meant for that kind of motion, so he had to saw the blade back and forth until they bled like he wanted.


Each step he took rattled the earth. His shadow loomed behind him, stretching across the sidewalk. Shep looked down at the big man on the ground, whimpering beside me. He pulled him up by the head. 


“Good boy,” he said. “You didn’t die on me yet.” 


Shep was always covered in shades of red; he owned a butcher shop, and I knew what that meant. But I had never seen him do anything like this. It was like being inside of a dream. Everything was blurry; my left eye was swollen shut and my face was tender and puffy. But Shep hadn’t changed; the cigarette was still pressed between his lips. He motioned to me. 


“Come here,” he said. He offered me the handle of the cleaver. “Go on.” 


I took the handle, then stared down at the big man. He was more than twice my size, but I couldn’t tell anymore. And with those cuts in his side, he was going to die, no matter what happened to him now. Still, I knew I shouldn’t hurt him. 


But something inside of me wanted to. To be powerful like Shep. To show the big man that even a kid like me, a so-called pussy boy, could cut him down to size. Make him smaller than me.


“Finish him off,” Shep ordered.


The big man closed his eyes. Just like I had seen Shep do, I brought the knife down to the man’s neck. The man choked, blood sputtering from his mouth and landing on my cheek. But the knife wasn’t making a dent in his neck like it had done with Shep. 


“Harder, Axe,” Shep said. 


I wanted to do what Shep told me, to be more like him. With all my strength, I brought it down again; this time it went through, the flesh splitting to the sides. I don’t know why, but I was shaking. My whole body was numb. It looked like the man’s skin would rip apart from the inside.


Shep laughed, a deep, hearty sound, like the warm bowls of soup he heated for me after tutoring. I furrowed my brows, looking up at him. What was so funny?


“It’s time,” he finally said. He patted me on the back, then grabbed the cleaver from me, finishing up by sawing with it until the man went limp, his blood pooling in front of us. Shep stepped out of the way, somehow keeping the blood off of his shoes. I looked down, horrified. Mine were covered in it. I wanted to take them off now.


“Pick up his feet,” Shep said. “Let’s get him inside.”


The door to the shop jingled as we came in. The meat counter was full of the same cuts Shep had taught me: heels, rounds, shanks, rolled flanks, filets, brisket, sirloins, rumps, and shoulders. Underneath the counter was a hidden freezer full of popsicles for me. I had dropped mine earlier. Thinking about that made me sad, but I didn’t know why. It was just a popsicle. 


And those were just men. Men I didn’t know.


Why did I feel bad?


 Shep nodded to the swing door. He rarely let me inside of there. We went through.


As I heaved the big man, helping Shep get him on the stainless steel table, I glanced around at the empty sink and the carcasses hanging from the metal hooks. Shep wiped his hands on his apron, adding another streak of red.


Did Shep butcher people too?


“It’s time you learned,” Shep said, locking eyes with me. “I’ll teach you everything.”



Age 10


I was good at it now. Not as good as Shep, but almost. Shep was the best. Even my father thought so. 


“Shep can teach you better than I can,” my father said. “He’s the best enforcer we have.”


I had known since I could remember that my father wanted me to be the lead enforcer one day, but until Shep started teaching me, I didn’t know what that meant. For the following year after he saved me from those punks, Shep kept me in the backroom, showing me how to dismantle bodies for easier disposal. I still couldn’t cut through the bones without help, but the stomachs were easier for me. We’d put them in these industrial-sized vats full of acid, checking on them every once in a while like a beef stew. By the third day, the corpses would be gone. Sometimes, we buried the bodies in the woods with pig and cow bones to throw off the scent.


Once I got the hang of that, Shep took me on my first run. I did as he told me, standing in the corner, not saying a word until Shep said it was time to leave. As he held a man by the back of his neck, the blood gurgling out of his throat, he turned to me.


“You saw how I did that?” he asked.


Use the gun to keep him still and compliant, then the knife as the final weapon. Yeah. I saw that. 


I nodded.


“Good,” Shep said. He finished the man off by bludgeoning the knife into the back of his head, and the man slumped to the floor. I went to pick up the corpse, but Shep held up a hand. 


“We’re going to leave him. It’s a message,” he said. I looked up at him, waiting for an explanation. “You don’t mess with the Adlers.”


Shep wasn’t an Adler, but he had been working with my father since before he took over for my grandpa. He respected our family, and so we treated him like one of us. He always came to dinners at our house. My father would bring out the best whiskey, to celebrate in Shep’s honor.


We had one more stop; I didn’t catch much of the details. But as we walked up to the house, I recognized it. Our nanny’s house, Fran. I hadn’t been there in a long time. But when I was younger, if I wasn’t with my tutors or with Shep, my brothers and I were with Fran.


What had Fran done to us?


Shep barged into her place. I stood in the corner. Fran’s eyes flicked over to me. Shep spoke quietly to her, and when she raised her hands in defense, Shep put her into a chokehold. She gasped. Those wheezing breaths seemed louder than anything I had ever heard, begging for air. Her face turned purple, the veins in her eyes wide and red. Shep kept an elbow tight around her neck, but she pulled at his hand desperately. It was no use. Shep gestured for me to come forward.


I stayed still. It was Fran. Anyone else, maybe. But Fran?


With his free hand, Shep pulled a knife from his pocket. 


“In the heart,” he said, the handle pointed towards me.


I stared at Fran, her eyes so red they looked like apples. Why wasn’t she fainting? She pulled at his arm. Shep gave her enough room for a lung-full of air, then pulled tight around her throat once again. 


“Kill her Axe,” he commanded. “She was a traitor to your family. Spilled secrets to our rival.”


Her feet pushed on the floor, trying to maneuver herself out of Shep’s grip, but she kept slipping, the screech of her feet against the hardwood floor piercing me. My vision blurred. Those gasps. It was all too loud. I needed it to end.


“Now, Axe,” Shep said. “Like I taught you.”


I couldn’t think about it. I had to focus on what Shep told me. Fran was a traitor. She put us at risk. Gave our secrets to a rival.


We couldn’t have that.


I brought the knife down on her heart with as much force as I could muster, breaking through her ribs to the heart. Her eyes widened and Shep gave her one last breath. Power surged through me, her body twitching against the blade with fight, then simmering down, dissipating. I brought the knife down again, and then again, the wet sound of the metal plunging into her chest overpowering the rest, until everything stopped.


A wave of heat washed over me. Fran was silent. Finally. 


We were quiet on the way back to Shep’s workroom behind the Adler House, where my family lived. Though it was filled with tools for torture and dismantling, it was considered the lead enforcer’s office. One day, when Shep retired, I knew it would be my office. In the woods, we set the body in a hole Shep had dug the day before. It seemed strange; she had betrayed our family, and still, Shep knew how much she had meant to my brothers and me. It was almost as if he wanted to give her a proper burial. 


She looked small in that hole, all bunched up. We shoveled enough to put a few inches of dirt over her, then added some pig bones from Shep’s shop. Then we shoveled some more. 


“Remember, Axe,” Shep said, breaking the silence. “It doesn’t matter if you care about someone. If they’re not family, they’re no one.” He paused, leaning on his shovel stuck in the ground. Sometimes, I wondered if Shep meant blood relatives, or if he included himself with family. I was closer to him than I was to my own father; my father wasn’t around much. Still, I took Shep’s words seriously. Caring about someone, beyond your family, could be dangerous. Like it was with Fran. I continued on. Another shovel, then another. I wanted to get this over with. He grabbed his shovel again, resuming his part of the burial. 


“The only time you spare a person’s life is if they’ve saved yours,” he said, adding more dirt to the hole. “Otherwise, it doesn’t matter.” 


By the time we were finished, the fresh patch of dirt was flat, but noticeable. Shep grabbed some ivy vines from the sides of the trees and covered it. It wasn’t visible anymore.


“You never know when you’ll end up like this,” he said, gestured at the plot. “Always make sure your loose ends are tied up. You don’t want to leave someone in the middle of your life and end up like this.”


He said it like his stomach hurt, and I wondered if he knew Fran, if that’s why he made me kill her. What had she done, exactly? What secrets had she spilled? How many more people would die, because of what she had done?


He cleared his throat. “It’s easier to make sure you never have someone to leave behind,” he said. Dirt was smeared on his cheek. He wiped it away. “Trust me, Axe,” he said. “It’s easier this way.”




Age 15


The wail pierced through the room, damn near capable of shattering a window. I covered my ears until it stopped. My father held the red ball of flesh with glee in his eyes. The tiny little thing looked like she had goo stuck all over her body, crusted over on her hands and feet, peeling away in the crevices. I was jealous of my brothers for getting out of this. While Shep had stayed hidden in the house with this flesh ball’s mother for the last few weeks, he thought that we—my father and I—were worthy of her presence. Worthy. Of a baby’s presence.


This was coming from a man who told me to always have my bag packed, to never have anything I would miss if I left it behind. Because life didn’t wait for you to choose a time to die. 


Here he was, with a fucking baby. 


Shep beamed at her, a damn smile I had never thought was possible from a mafia enforcer. His cheeks were flushed, his chest pushed out. Flaunting himself. A daughter did that to him? I had a feeling he’d miss her if she was gone.


“She’s beautiful, Shep,” Gerard said, bouncing the baby in his arms. He made googly noises at the little pink ball. Her eyes wandered off, looking at the animals twirling in the mobile next to her crib. “You must be proud.”


“You’re damn right,” Shep said. The baby’s head was tucked into the crook of Gerard’s arm, and gently, with more caution than I thought was possible coming from a mob boss, Gerard turned to me. “You want to hold her, Axe?” 


I shook my head. 


The two of them talked, marveling over a baby that couldn’t even look straight yet. Crossed-eyed and grunting. Wow. How amazing. I pulled out my knife, flicking my thumb over the edge of the blade, wondering whether it was time to sharpen it yet. What was the point of bringing me here? I had no interest in a baby, even if it was Shep’s child.


“Not in here, Axe,” Gerard said. I held my thumb on the knife’s edge. Did he think I was going to murder it? I knew it was a precious baby. I wasn’t going to go anywhere near it with a knife. Gerard tilted his head. Shep glanced over at me, looking away from his baby for the first time since he had let us into the house. 


I put the knife away. 


Gerard gave the baby back to Shep, then came to my side, holding my shoulder, pulling me deeper into that nauseatingly pink room. 


“Shep’s retiring, son,” he said. He turned toward Shep, and Shep gave that deep nod that I knew well. 


“Why?” I asked. I grit my teeth. I knew exactly why, but I wanted to hear him say it. To admit the truth out loud.


“He thinks you’re ready,” Gerard said. That was bullshit. I tilted my head, narrowing my eyes at Shep. “He’s ready to—”


“I don’t want this life for her,” Shep said. He moved his arms, rocking the baby, never letting his eyes off of her. I don’t know what pissed me off more: that he was a contradicting bastard, caring about something that could easily be taken away from him when he taught me to do the opposite, or that he was giving up on a job that he had trained me in, as if he was too good for enforcing now. “But I need your help, Axe, for one more thing.”


What could he possibly want? He came towards me, holding her. These days, I was a foot and a half taller than him, towering over him like a bridge.


“If Demi doesn’t marry a good person by the time I die,” he said slowly, batting his lashes at her until she cooed in amusement. Demi. He beamed. I held back a gag. “I want you to protect her. Marry her.”


“Marry her?” I repeated, looking at Gerard. 


Gerard nodded. “We already discussed this.”


“Why can’t Derek marry her?” I asked. “Or Wil? They’re—”


“I would not trust them to protect her like I trust you,” Shep said. 


I hated this. Hated that I didn’t have a choice. What was I supposed to say? No, take your baby and your perfect, normal life and go back to your dream suburbia, while I kill all the traitors that you’re too good to kill now?


“The decision has already been made,” Gerard said. Because in our family, you didn’t get a choice if the boss ordered it. I crossed my arms. I knew I couldn’t fight it, but still, this was bullshit.


“If you say ‘no,’ I will find someone else,” Shep said calmly. That made me straighten. That tone of voice, both a warning and a compromise. He was giving me a choice, but one that had consequences. I stared into his gray eyes, trying to read him. 


“So you’re saying to marry her. If you die,” I said slowly. “That could be in a few decades.”


“Or that could be tomorrow,” Shep said, reminding me of his lessons. Always have your ends tied up. Don’t be in the position where you leave anyone behind.


The hypocritical bastard.


“Do you need to retire?” I asked. “You’re not that old. You could stay in the shop, taking care of disposal or something.”


“Think of this as a lesson in letting go,” Shep said. “You can’t get too attached to anyone. Not even to your father or to me.” He shook his head, his gaze gentle. “It weakens you. You never know when a person will be gone.”


Gone. Not dead. He was already going soft around her. 


“I’m not marrying a baby tomorrow,” I said.


Shep gave a hearty laugh. Gerard chuckled too, and the baby grunted. “I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. Not if I can help it,” Shep said. “Besides, she’ll have plenty of time to marry someone she loves.” He smiled at her, then turned to me. “But if the time comes, promise me you’ll protect her. Keep her alive. Marry her.”


Shep’s words always did something to me. Gerard was hardly ever around. Derek wasn’t even eighteen yet, but he was doing more for the mafia than I had seen our own father do. I respected Derek more than I cared about our father.


But when it came to Shep, I respected him. He had taught me everything, and he had saved my life. I knew that I would have died with blue-stained lips eight years ago if it weren’t for him.


A life for a life. That was the only time you owed someone. 


The room reeked of baby powder and piss, all radiating from her. I crossed my arms. I hoped she didn’t smell like that forever.


“Fine,” I said.

bottom of page