Synopsis: Only something as important as her best friend’s wedding to mob boss Gabriel Moretti could allow Nika Paynne a reprieve from captivity. Her abusive husband has kept her under his thumb with footage of her beloved brother, Caleb, killing another man. But the respite from her violent life isn’t the only draw. Vincente Romani—Gabriel’s deadliest guardian—will be one of the best men at the wedding, and Nika has lingering thoughts about the fascinating mobster…covetous thoughts that may put her life in danger.
With the heartbreak he’s suffered and the brutality he effortlessly delivers, Vincente knows he’s the last person who can offer Nika a happily-ever-after. But his vow remains. He will do everything in his power to free his redhead from her violent prison—even if that means losing her forever.
In the second thrilling and passionate Wanted Men book, a dangerous line is drawn between loyalty to the mob and loyalty to one’s heart.
EXCERPTS, TEASERS & MORE
Vincente didn’t pay much attention to the griping. The cops were always somewhere in the background. What was news about that? He was more concerned with reminding himself that this woman in front of him was married to some fucknut and Vincente led a shitty life and had nothing to offer her. She was Caleb’s little sister, for fuck’s sake, and the guy was standing right there!
And none of it fucking mattered at all. He still wanted to be wrapped around the redhead’s long, curvy body for a week straight. And given one sliver of a chance, he knew he’d take her. No. Matter. What.
The knowledge was . . . Well, he wouldn’t say shocking. Because he’d always pretty much lived by his own rules, taking what he wanted when he wanted it. But he’d never done so without first making sure any collateral damage was minimal. In this case, it wouldn’t be. And he didn’t care enough about that fact. That was unacceptable. He usually held himself to a higher standard than that. His mother and sister would be ashamed. He had to keep his distance from her.
He blinked when Nika stiffened. Noticed because she was all he was aware of. She took that step back that he should have taken a few minutes ago, blinking rapidly, her flawless skin paling.
Her voice came out just a whisper. “I’m going inside. You coming?”
She turned without waiting to see if Caleb, to whom the question had been directed, followed and then disappeared back into the house.
She pulled away from Vincente and did a ta-da motion with her arms that had all three of them—fucking Alesio looked a little too closely—peering down at the black tights and silky black shirt she wore, the neckline of which was so wide that it had slipped off one shoulder.
Her arms fell to her sides, and she seemed to lose her small burst of energy. “S’not as fun as I thought’d it’d be, though,” she grumped as she came to his side again. “Can’t do much. Not even play with someone like Vincente here, ’cause he doesn’t like me.”
He ground his molars to dust, while ignoring Alesio and Vito’s interested looks. He slipped his arm around her waist. “Come on, Red. Let’s get you home.”
She continued like he hadn’t spoken. “What’s your name?” she asked Vito.
She laughed, the sound musical and lovely. “Of course you are. And you?” she turned to G’s cousin. Vincente glared at him, the thread that was his control stretching.
Nika gasped, her widening eyes making her look like a guileless porn fantasy come to life. “You’re Gabriel’s Alesio? Oh, my God!” She launched herself at the handsome little shit, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him on the cheek—more like the corner of his very shocked mouth. “You helped save Eva! Thank you! You’re officially my new hero. Maybe we can get together one day and you can tell me what went down in that cabin. Eva won’t talk to me about it ’cause she’s afraid the bad stuff will tip me over this edge they seem to think I’m on . . .”
As she continued, babbling about how silly and adorable Eva’s protective instincts were, Vincente stared. At her. In another man’s arms. Her fingers absently playing with the hair at Alesio’s nape. Her body pressed against his. Her beautiful lips—which had now tasted Gabriel’s cousin!—mere inches from possibly doing so again. Her undivided attention on the handsome face that belonged to a guy closer to her own age than Vincente was.
This would eventually be his reality. Seeing her like this with someone else.
Alesio’s hands were up and out, in a pose of total surrender. His head jerkily shaking back and forth as though saying, “Wasn’t me. I didn’t do nothin’.”
The weakened thread holding Vincente’s control snapped with a dangerous twang, and without being conscious of it, his body took over. He reached out and clamped his fingers around Nika’s upper arm to pull her off the enemy—who was so lucky they were standing in the middle of a crowded club. He spun her around to face him, pulling her in until their noses were brushing against each other.
“Do not. Ever. Throw yourself into another man’s arms in front of me again. Do you understand me?” His voice sounded as if it had been dredged from the very pits of hell, his expression feeling like one he’d stolen from Lucifer himself.
And Nika, oblivious to the ominous cloud hanging like a pall around them, patted his cheek with her soft palm and smiled up at him. “Sure. Sure.” She turned back to the boys, or as much as she could because Vincente didn’t let her go. “It was nice to meet you guys. I guess I’ll see you again when I visit Eva. Ready?” she asked him.
Striving for calm, he slid his hand down to her hip and tucked her closer to his side. She came as easily as if they’d been doing this for years.
Yeah. Years—if he were to give in and take her as he was so tempted to do—that would wear on her. Steal her independence by nailing her to his side, giving her nothing but a front-row-center to an endless string of possibly violent, dangerous days she didn’t need or deserve. Maybe even get her killed in a wrong-time-wrong-place thing like the car bomb that had taken his mother’s life. All the while she would be shackled to a man with no heart or soul left to speak of.
That wasn’t what he wanted for Nika.
He curled his free hand into a tight fist and punched it into Vito’s thick chest and then flipped Alesio off, not wanting him to feel left out.
Vincente let himself back into the apartment, the reason he’d finally up and left in the first place held firmly in his right hand. Fan Boy smiled happily as he peered around for his redhead.
He’d finally dragged himself out of bed—hadn’t lingered between the sheets until noon in years—showered, and then walked out the door and down the block. He’d done his business as quickly as he could, pausing on his way back into the building to look suspiciously at two suits poking around the alley across the street. He’d left them to it because he hated to leave his target unprotected any longer than he already had—Alesio and Vito weren’t due back for another hour. And, yes, he was going to attempt to see Fan Boy’s redhead as nothing more than a target once again.
His recent purchase proved him a failure, but he didn’t give a fuck.
Holding his fist at his side, lest he give himself a punch to the side of the head, he tiptoed—tiptoed!—into the main room just as the bathroom door opened. He froze midstep, his knees almost buckling when he saw Nika pad out, a small towel wrapped around her obviously very naked, freshly showered body, dark, snaky ropes of her hair falling almost to her waist.
Holy fucking heaven on a killer pair of legs.
Fan Boy’s eyes rolled back in his head before he landed with his feet in the air. He jerked once before becoming still.
Nika must have heard the helpless sound that rumbled from Vincente’s chest because her head snapped up, causing her to wince at the fast motion.
“Shit, Vincente,” she gasped, rubbing her temple with her fingers. “I swear I’m going to buy you a bell to wear around your . . .” She trailed off, her chest practically glowing as a beautiful flush ran up from the edge of the towel, suffusing her neck and then putting some color into her pale cheeks.
Yeah, Red. Your body is hidden from me by nothing more than a large facecloth.
She inched toward the bedroom and threw a breathless “Lemme get dressed” over her shoulder before closing the door.
He didn’t want her dressed. He wanted her bared. Laid out before him, her entire body flushed and ready. He wanted to feast on her, gorge himself, until they were both too exhausted to do much more than breathe.
Wasn’t gonna happen.
The sound of the knob rattling had him streaking into the kitchen. Like he really needed to be caught still standing there daydreaming about the many ways he wanted to have her.
He grabbed the sugar bowl and had made it to the sofa when she entered, bringing with her a fresh blast of oranges and jasmine. Frickin’ hell. The scent slapped him silly as he plunked her coffee and the sweet stuff down on the coffee table.
Her softly indrawn breath made him want to punch something.
“You . . . got me . . . a latte?”
Vincente ground his teeth when her voice broke at the end. “Yeah, don’t get all excited. It’s just coffee,” he said roughly as he turned and, practically raising his hand to his temple as a blinder so he wouldn’t be able to see her, headed back to the kitchen. He hastily grabbed his gun from behind the toaster where he’d stashed it the night before; another had spent its time on the nightstand—
What. The hell. Is that sound.
He placed the SIG beside a bowl of grapes on the counter and slowly turned, a sinking feeling in his gut. His jaw still hit the dirt when he saw Nika sitting on the sofa, bent over, hands swiping over her cheeks as she tried to hide the evidence of her tears. He went over and was on his knees in front of her before he even realized he’d moved.
“Hey, hey,” he soothed as he pulled her into his chest. “What’s this? Why are you crying? Did they give me tea by mistake?” His voice came out weak as he attempted to throw out some humor. He never could stand when a woman cried. It always reminded him of the one time he’d seen Sophia break down, crying hysterically because some boy had two-timed her with a girl she hadn’t gotten along with. That had been only weeks before she’d disappeared.
He shoved the thought off and distracted himself by acknowledging how wildly good Nika felt in his arms. Warm—hot—fragrant. She shook her head and sniffled. So fucking adorable.
“Sorry. God, I’m such an idiot. You just caught me off guard. You’re so . . . sweet. I—I guess it just surprised me.” Her hands touched his shoulders, her palms searing him through his T-shirt, as she drew back. She wiped at her face while his heart bled for her, even as his body burned to ash. To get emotional at a kindness as simple as someone bringing her a hot beverage? “Sorry,” she repeated, taking a deep breath. “I’m just stressed, I guess. Thank you. For the latte.”
Vincente’s eyes landed on his hands. “S’okay,” he said distractedly as he took in the differences between them. Even though she was tall for a woman, she was überfeminine and so damned delicate. His heavy hands looked monstrous where they’d settled on the outsides of her slender thighs. She’d put on a pair of low-slung jeans—
Stand the fuck up and get the hell away from her!
He shifted his palms so that they rested on the tops of her legs, which brought his thumbs down between them. And didn’t the dirty bastards begin a slow caress, swiping lightly back and forth.
A small catch in Nika’s breath had him slowly raising his eyes.
Okay, look, she’s good. Not crying anymore, see? Now get up and get away.
He didn’t. He stayed right the hell where he was. Because she might not be crying, but those bright-green orbs were indeed glittering with curiosity and a yearning so irresistible, so hot and welcoming, Vincente actually felt himself falling. His gaze dropped to her mouth. Just a taste. Like the one he’d had in Seattle. He needed that. Badly.
Shit, V. No! You’re not going to soil this woman, who’s already been to hell and back, by using her because you can’t control yourself.
He stilled his movements. Fuck. Of course he wasn’t. What the hell was he thinking? He’d kiss her, and then what? Say, “Thanks, just wanted to see if you still had the ability to blow my mind”? No. Of course not.
His muscles tensed to move away.
Nika’s legs slowly parted. Just enough for him to actually feel a light rush of heat over his fingers, and his brain oozed and . . . and . . . he forgot . . . everything.
Vincente and Nika’s Playlist
About Nancy Haviland
Nancy Haviland writes about her alpha mobsters and their ladies from her home near Toronto, Ontario. She has three children, an arrogant but playful kitty named Talbot, and she adores her Tim Horton’s coffee, as any self-respecting Canadian would. She writes contemporary romantic suspense but will happily read anything that involves two people smooching.