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Vow to the King: A Dark Mafia Romance

Vow to the King: A Dark Mafia Romance PDF

Author: Shanna Handel

Publisher: Independently published


Publish Date: July 19, 2022


Pages: 266

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

TONIGHT IS THAT NIGHT IN MY HOUSE. THE ONE TERRIBLE NIGHT OF THE YEAR THAT THE MEN IN MY family lock themselves in my father’s study and drink too much whiskey, thereby avoiding their emotions. Not that the other nights around here are great or anything. This one is just particularly disturbing.
It’s the anniversary of my mother’s death.
They won’t talk about their feelings or admit they miss her. Instead, they pour one another deep, cut-crystal tumblers of the amber liquor. I, on the other hand, do my best to avoid them. I choose to cry my eyes out alone, hiding in the library, my face buried in one of the last few things I own of my mother’s. Her books. They’re the only things of hers my father didn’t remove from this house in his attempt to scrub the place of her memory when she died.
These aren’t quite all of her books. One rainy afternoon I was exploring our dusty old attic and I found a bunch of paperbacks hidden in a corner behind an old chair, stacked neatly in brown paper grocery bags. Pages and pages of dark romance, the women falling for men with harsh hands and handsome faces. Those books found a new hiding place.
Under my bed.
Holding my mother’s leather-bound book in my hands makes me ache for her.
A single tear trails down my cheek, falling from my chin and dampening the page. My brothers hate when I cry. They see it as a woman’s weakness, to shed tears. They like to punish me when they find me crying.
My heart falls as I hear heavy footsteps headed right to me. Ignoring the closed door, Antonio, my oldest and most vicious brother, disturbs my peace. With bold green eyes, straight dark hair down to his shoulders, and high cheekbones, he’d almost be handsome if his heart weren’t so charred. He throws open the heavy door.
The hard look on his angled face berates me before he even opens his mouth. His green eyes glitter with meanness. “Ah, the little bird is reading.”
I’m slight but strong and he calls me little bird. It’s his joke about me being small and held in this cage that is our crumbling mansion.
“You know I hate when you call me that.” I dip my nose deeper in my book. “Please, go away.”
He rips the book out of my hands.
My chest tightens at the sight of him holding such a precious belonging. Antonio has a habit of destroying beautiful things.
“Don’t!” I grab for it, terrified he’ll toss it in the fire.
He holds it just out of my reach, a cruel smile curling at the corners of his tormenting lips. He tosses it to the floor. It flutters open, landing facedown. I scoop the book up, grateful it’s safe in my hands and not in the fireplace.
“There’s a special place in hell for people who disrespect books like you do.” I smooth the pages, close it gently, and lay the leather-bound book on the table beside my wingback chair.
My brother moves in close. Too close. I can feel heat and anger coming off him. The scent of whiskey pours from his mouth.
The tips of his fingers dig into my skin as he pulls me from my chair. I try to pull myself from his grasp but he’s too strong.
He grips my upper arm, holding it tight. “You need to get over her.”
“I’m fine. I was just reading, minding my own business—”
“No,” he sneers. “You were crying.”
“Get over her? Is that what you’re doing with all that whiskey? Forgetting her?” I stare at Antonio, remembering when we were kids how he begged my mother to tell him stories about her childhood, growing up in the countryside. “Why do you all drink yourselves silly on this night, then? Is it random, or are you hurting too?”
My words anger him. How dare I suggest that he, too, is weak in the absence of our mother. I see venom rising in his face. Fury flashes in his gaze.
“Shut up.” He gives me a hard shove, his hand returning between my shoulder blades as he pushes me out of the library. “And go to bed. You don’t need to be down here.”
“Fine. I’m going. Enjoy your poison.” I move toward the stairs.
He watches me briefly to be sure I obey. I turn my face away, grabbing the smooth banister. I release a deep breath when he finally leaves me, turning down the hall to rejoin our brothers.
The door to my father’s study closes, the lock clicking behind him. Deep voices rumble down the long, dark hall. Funny. Usually when they drink, they get loud, laughing or fighting. Tonight, their tones are dull, serious. What are they discussing? Leaving the stairs, I creep down the hall, pressing an ear against the wood.
My heart hammers against my ribcage, fearful of what Antonio will do to me if he catches me. I focus on their voices, but I can’t make out the words. Maybe the surname Bachman? They’re another mafia family, more powerful than mine, that recently moved to the lakefront.
The men are talking so low, I can’t be sure that’s what I heard. The only sound I hear clearly is the blood whooshing past my eardrum. They’re up to no good, I’m sure.
Hate and nerves prick at my skin, making me uneasy. I need to get out of this prison. I need to feel the night air on my skin, release some endorphins. I need a run. Time for this little bird to fly from her cage.
I’m wearing biker shorts and a cropped tee from my earlier bodyweight workout in the garden. I just need to grab my shoes, and I’ll be gone. I’m experienced at going unnoticed.
Leaving the door to my father’s study, I tiptoe toward the massive foyer. My worn sneakers sit ready by the front door. I slip them on. I grab the ornate metal doorknob, its carvings cold in my hand. The door creaks as I open it.
I flinch, squeezing my eyes shut tight and freezing in place like a little kid. If I don’t move, they can’t see me.
No one comes.
I glide through the door, pulling it softly closed behind me.
Please let them all be passed out by the time I get home.
The cool night air wakes up my skin as I jog down the gravel drive, pebbles and stones crunching beneath the thin soles of my shoes. Picking up speed, I run through the tall iron gates they’ve left open. I make it to the paved road, the feeling of my long ponytail swishing behind me, swinging like a pendulum as my feet hit the road, one after the other. It’s a steady rhythm and it lulls me into a sense of peace, even though my life feels anything but peaceful.
The moon is almost full, and it lights my way, casting a blue glow against the dark pavement. It’s my own world. There’s no one out here but me. I push myself a little harder, chasing those endorphins I’m lusting after. I love a good runner’s high. My family keeps me locked away from the world. Working out is my only joy.
I’m so lost in keeping my pace, it’s not till the car is right behind me that I hear it.
My impulsive decision to take this run settles heavy in my stomach. Out by myself on the road at night. Not smart. Who’s out this late? Very few people use this road. We live deep in the forest, hundreds of untouched acres in our name. Ours is the only house for miles. The road leads to the lake, to the gorgeous estates that dot the shore.
Please pass me. My skin crawls as the car slows.
It pulls up to my side, keeping time with me. I try to pretend it’s not there. Ignore it and it’ll go away. I peek at it out of the corner of my eye. A black SUV with dark, tinted windows.
Staring straight ahead, I keep running.
I don’t know what else to do.
Please don’t let it be men sent by my father. I’d been so quiet. The study door was closed. They were all drunk and engaged in whatever they were talking about. Surely, they didn’t hear me leave.
There’s the whirr of the motor of a window rolling down. My body goes tight, as rigid as a wire drawn taut from two ends. I keep running.
A low voice comes to me, rumbling through the night. “Little girls should be safe at home. Don’t you know the kinds of men that prowl through these woods?”

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