An armed guard opens the engraved wooden door, and with a curt nod, he steps to the side so I can enter the house. Its only my second time visiting the Salvatore home, so the place is still foreign and intimidating. Ill never get used to all the guards littered over the property.

A couple of weeks ago, my mother got engaged to the retired Godfather of the Greek mafia. We
e having our first family dinner tonight, and needless to say, Im feeling anxious about meeting Adam and Athina, Peters children.

The couple of times Ive talked to Peter, it always ended with me fidgeting like a little girl. The man has a serious set of eyebrows that makes him look threatening and short-tempered. Even though hes never been hostile toward me, it always feels like Im waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Moms assured me hes sweet and caring, and I have nothing to worry about. As much as I don like the idea of my mother marrying PeterSalvatore , its her choice to make. She deserves to be happy.

My dad died during a skiing accident when I was eight, and my mom spent all her time raising me. She only resumed socialising after I started classes at the Vancouver Film School.

If Peter makes her happy, Ill do my best to support their relationship. But I want no part of the mafia. After Dad died, we didn associate with the mafia that much. Not that Dad played a very active role in the mafia. He was just one of their bookkeepers and never took part in the violent side of things.

Its Moms choice, though. Me on the other hand, Im going to continue focusing on my studies, and once I graduate, Ill pursue a career as a producer.

Like a deer waiting to be pounced on, I cautiously glance around the entrance hall with its impressive staircase and sparkling gold chandelier, wondering which way I should go. The last time I was here, I came with Mom. I think the dining room is to my right. Even though the lights are on, everything feels dark and foreboding.

The apprehensiveness is mainly because I dread meetingAdam in person. I might not have anything to do with the mafia, but Ive heard Adam is brutal and merciless. Whenever his names brought up, its always in fear.

”Theresa, agápi mou. ” Hearing Mom call me my love, my head swivels to the left, and a relieved smile splits across my face. She looks beautiful in a mermaid dress that looks like its been spun from pure gold.

”Mamá, ” I grin as I move closer for a hug. I press a soft kiss on her cheek. ”Wow, you look gorgeous. ” Standing back, I make a show of taking in the dress.

”Tonights important. ” Her gaze sweeps over my off- shoulder, cream satin dress, and she brushes the styled strands away from my bare shoulder. ”We match. Good. ”

I already feel uncomfortable in the dress because Im not the skinniest and have struggled with my weight all my life, so when Moms eyes lock on the slit that ends mid-thigh, and it looks like shes going to disapprove, I start fidgeting.

Before she can make a remark, Peter comes down the sweeping stairs. ”Theresa, ” he smiles. ”Welcome. ”

I force a polite smile to my face. ”Thank you, Mr.Salvatore. ”

”Soon, well be family. Call me Peter. ”

The front door opens, and I glance over my shoulder.

”Really,Adam ? Look at the mess, ” a woman scolds, then a beauty in her early thirties breezes into the house like a queen. She must be Athina, Peters daughter. She makes a beeline for Peter, a smile chasing the scowl from her face. ”Mpampà mou, sorry we
e late. ”

A man follows after Athina, chuckling, ”Glad Im not the one in the hot seat tonight. ” Im assuming hes Basil, Athinas husband. He has a friendly face that can easily set a person at ease.

”What happened? ” Peter asks his daughter just as Adam walks into the house.

My eyes zoom in on the blood staining the sleeves of the formal white shirt hes unbuttoning, exposing a chest I can only describe as holy freaking shit. Golden skin spans tightly over muscle that looks like its been carved from precious metal.

Hes the tallest in the room, with the magnificence of a fallen angel. A firm jaw covered in a dusting of dark bristles, high cheekbones, and sharp eyes – the color of sinful nights – rob me of the ability to breathe. I take in every way-too- handsome inch of him in a split second.

A grim expression darkens his features, giving me the impression of a vengeful God out for every drop of blood he can get his hands on.

His already bloody hands.

Instinctively, I inch closer to my mother.

Adam might easily be the most attractive man Ive ever laid eyes on, but knowing hes the Godfather of the Greek mafia, every nerve ending in my body tenses with apprehension.

Shit, I can believe this man is going to be my stepbrother soon. Its crazy just thinking about it.

The most feared man in Canada, and I have to associate with him. Pure madness.

Just laying eyes on him is enough to make fear trickle through my veins. The ruthless air radiating from him in waves has me swallowing hard, wishing I could find a spot to hide.

Peters dark, bushy eyebrows draw together, making him look like an eagle thats ready to swoop down on its prey. ”Adam ? ”

My eyes dart back to Adam, who only spares his father a pissed-off look before he heads up the stairs.

Peter sets off after his son, then a super awkward atmosphere falls over the entrance hall that has me itching to run for the safety of my apartment.

Athina turns to my mother. ”Im sorry, Theía Helena. ”

Mom waves a careless hand as if the head of the mafia didn just storm by us with someones blood staining his shirt and hands. She gives Athinas cheek an air kiss then turns to me.

A still stunned out of my mind me.

”This is my Theresa, ” Mom introduces me.

”Im Athina. ” She takes in my shocked expression, then says, ”Sorry for my brother. Its not always this crazy at family gatherings. ”

If you say so.

She tugs the other man closer. ”This is my husband. Basil. ”

”Nice to meet you both, ” I say, my voice strung tight. Where Moms a social butterfly, I take after my late father. Im an introvert who feels most at home behind a camera and screenplays, so tonight will definitely be exhausting.

I give Mom a look, clearly saying I don like this one bit.

Ignoring me, Mom says, ”Lets move to the dining room while we wait for the men. ”

She places her hand on my back, nudging me hard so Ill start walking. Leaning into her, I whisper, ”Seriously, Mamá? ”

”Hush! ”

Unlike the rectangular table we have at our house, the Salvatore family has a round dining table. Im shoved into a chair, then Mom takes the seat to my right.

The awkward atmosphere follows us from the entrance hall, hanging thickly over our heads. All my muscles are tense as if my body is ready to flee at the first sign of danger.

Then again, I shouldve made a run for it when Adam walked into the house covered in blood. Tonight is going to be torturously long, thats for sure.

Mom and Athina talk about the upcoming wedding while the harsh reality sinks in – theres a real possibility Adam killed, or at the very least, tortured someone right before coming here.

God, what was Mom thinking? Out of all the men she couldve chosen, she had to pick the retired Godfather of the mafia.

Honestly, although I grew up in the mafia, I don know much about it. Mom always sheltered me, especially after Dad passed away. Most of the things Ive heard were from my friends at school who were mafia princesses and my hateful cousin, Irene, who swooned over the man every chance she got. Some of my friends were madly in love with Adam as well, but the rest feared him as if he were death itself. Not wanting to find out for myself what kind of man he is, I kept myself separate from the murky waters of the mafia.

And I plan on keeping it that way.

Athina gives me a rueful smile while Basils busy on his phone. She notices and grabs the device from her husbands hand. ”No phones at the table. ” Then she turns her attention back to me. ”You
e studying film production, right? ”

”Ah… yeah. ” I clear my throat.

”I think its interesting. Ive never met someone in that field, ” Athina replies, her tone friendly and genuine interest shining in her dark brown eyes.

Now that I actually get to look at her, I have to admit shes gorgeous. She has plush lips and the same high cheekbones as Adam . If Im not mistaken, Athina is eleven years older than me. The age difference alone sets us apart, never mind the fact shes a mafia princess, and Im… Im the farthest thing from one.

”Unless you want more bodies delivered to your doorstep, youll get out of my **ing city, ”Adams voice carries on a dangerous growl into the dining room. My eyes snap to the entrance, and an icy fear slithers down my spine when I watch him end whatever call he was on as he comes into the room.

Holy shit. This is really happening. I have to actually be social with a man who just threatened someone – a man who seriously looks like hell incarnate.

God help me.

He takes a deep breath then presses a kiss to the top of Athinas head. ”It won happen again. ”

”Better not, ” she mutters, but theres no bite to her tone.

Adam walks to Mom and air kisses her cheek. ”Sorry about the blood, Helena. ”

Mom pats his arm as if it was nothing, making my lips part and my eyebrows draw together.

How can she just pretend its an everyday occurrence and nothing to worry about? My God, he probably killed someone right before coming here and threatened another person right in front of us!

Peter comes in, taking a seat next to Mom, but I can tear my eyes away from Nikolas as he stops by my chair.

Oh, God.

My heart instantly scampers off at a crazy beat, and a chill spreads over my skin, making me feel cold even though its a warm spring evening.

Feeling smaller than a speck of dust about to face off with the winds of a category five hurricane, I somehow manage to stand up, my legs numb and threatening to give way beneath me.

Adams sharp and merciless gaze sweeps over the length of my body, then his eyes lock with mine. Definitely sinful nights swirling in those irises. Not the sexy kind but the ruthless and painful kind. I suddenly have the urge to swallow hard.

”I apologize for the first impression I made. ”

It doesn sound like an apology but more like a threat, his voice deep and dangerous.

Somehow, I remember my manners. I introduce myself, the tightness in my voice giving away that Im scared, ”Theresa Drakatos. I prefer to be called Tess. ”

He lifts his hand, and remembering the blood that coated his skin only minutes ago, I stare at it as if its a snake.

Yeah, no. Thats a hard pass for me. I don need that kind of bad karma in my life.

My gaze cautiously lifts to his, and I watch as those dark brown irises become even darker. Something akin to amusement flashes through them like a bolt of lightning. The kind of amusement a cat has while playing with a mouse.

He pulls his hand back. ”Seeing as well be family soon, lets forgo the formalities. ” Before I can take another breath, his hands grip hold of my bare shoulders, and Im tugged against his solid chest. Instead of air kissing my cheeks, his lips singe my skin.

Rich and woody with notes of spice, raw masculinity, mystery… and something edgy, his scent fills my nostrils.

Probably the scent of blood.

The scent of power


Im so caught off guard I can process whats happening until his mouth finds my ear. Goosebumps explode over my skin. ”Thats the last time youll disrespect me. Next time you take my **ing hand. ”

God, the threatening whisper sounds like velvet and thorns, causing a shiver of intense fear to rush through me.

Just as quickly as he took hold of me, he lets go, a menacing smirk plastered on his face. As if he didn just threaten me, he takes the seat to my left even though there are other seats available.

I don do confrontations. Ever. Because of how my cousin, Irene, tortured me, I struggle with anxiety and hence avoid any kind of volatile situation.Adam is as volatile as they come, though.

God, this is not going to end well for me. I can just feel it.

Dropping back down in my chair, I glance at Mom to check if she saw what just happened, but shes too busy staring lovingly at her fiancé.

”Everything okay, Tess? ” Athina asks, her eyes jumping between her brother and me.

Not wanting to start a fight with Adam and ruin Moms evening, I force my lips to curve up. ”Yes. ” She doesn look convinced, so I add, ”Its just overwhelming meeting everyone. ”

Overwhelming is the understatement of the year! Holy shit.

Just sitting next to Adam , it feels like the air is vibrating as if every molecule is terrified of him.

”By the end of dinner, well be one big happy family, ” Peter says, but it sounds more like an order. A server comes in to fill our glasses with champagne, then Peter lifts his. ”To new family. ”

My soon-to-be stepbrother already threatened me, and Ive only known him for a couple of minutes.

Yeah, Im dead sure I want no part of theSalvatore family.

Still, like the good girl Im expected to be, I raise my glass to the toast, hoping to God I make it through the dinner in one piece.

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