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ABOUT MAFIA MATE
Work hard. Keep quiet. No infighting. No leaving. No poaching the women.
Jimmy Savaggio made these five rules for his street gang when he was a teenager. Along the way, he met Danny, Max, Mario and Margot. Together, they turned that posse into a conglomerate of mafia crews and corporate sharks. But now, the rules are being broken, one by one, by Jimmy himself and then by his underbosses, too. Nothing is sacred now, except the spouses they find and keep.
ABOUT THE DON’S ENFORCER
Danny has looked after Jimmy’s interests since he was a boy. Lost after the death of his mother and unable to compete with his father’s grief, Danny was saved when Jimmy took Danny home one day after school to meet Jimmy’s mother. Danny never forgot that kindness, and never looked back. First with his fists and later in much more brutal ways, Danny has defended and protected Jimmy and all that belongs to Jimmy ever since. But now there’s Lucia, the too-young woman living next door to Nonna – Jimmy’s mother. Danny’s been fascinated by Lucia since the first sight he had of her, and Nonna wants her protected. But can he keep her for himself, protect her from those that stalk her, nurture her growing dreams and still be Jimmy’s iron fist?
Copyright 2017 by Elle Q. Sabine. All Rights Reserved.
“Listen to this, Danny.” Jimmy punched at the touch pad on his phone screen as he scowled. The expression on Jimmy’s face was so unlike the mellowed version of his friend-cum-boss-cum-brother that Danny had seen since his wedding three days earlier that Danny stiffened.
Jimmy hadn’t even sat down yet but was already cross. It was not a good sign.
From Jimmy’s phone, a recording from Nonna – Jimmy’s mother – played. Danny frowned, and that frown grew into a scowl as he digested what she was saying.
“You know I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think it was serious, Jimmy. But the poor girl, she’s beside herself. Lucia and her parents uprooted their entire lives in New Jersey to come here and left behind everything, but somehow this-this-this coglione has found them here.”
Danny sat up when Nonna mentioned the girl. He’d seen Lucia Venezia at Jimmy and Rosalia’s wedding three days earlier. She was perfection, an angel with dark brown curls that framed her face and full pink lips. She’d worn mascara that framed big dark eyes and tiny pearl stud earrings with a tailored, traditional white blouse and a matching pearl necklace. From the waist up, she’d been the epitome of traditional womanhood in a gorgeous package. But below the blouse? She’d had on a dusky pink pencil skirt that clung to her hips and thighs. The hem brushed the top of pink suede boots that stretched to mid-thigh. The skirt and boots were a stunning, daring contrast to the top half of her outfit, one that drew the attention of every man in the room, despite her age.
He’d gotten a painful hard-on just looking at the gorgeous, lush ass that swayed beneath that skirt, but her new role as companion to Jimmy’s mother and her obvious youth had made him grit his teeth and stay away. He’d been insistent when telling Nonna’s guards to keep their damn hands and eyes off her, too.
He and his dick had dreamed of her ever since. Every time he came in his own hand, he prayed she was legal. Despite the fact she wasn’t in school, she could easily have convinced any copper that she wasn’t even old enough to drive a car.
Danny uttered a low growl, one he disguised by choking out a cough and sitting heavily in the chair across from Jimmy’s desk.
“It’s Lucia Venezia, Danny,” Jimmy explained unnecessarily. “If it was one of the businesses, I’d send Lanz, but this is Mama. She’ll expect me or you. Max did a background on Lucia and her parents the morning after Mama was in the hospital, before we hired her. They are clean, but we’re still waiting on the extensive investigative report. No legal problems, money is tight but they aren’t in debt. Both parents work at the college over on the west side, so Lucia is home alone most days. That’s why Nonna suggested she would be a good fit for a part-time companion. The family didn’t move here until just before the fall semester started. Lucia had two perfect semesters at NYU last year, but she didn’t go back this year. She told her friends that she didn’t want to waste her parents’ tuition money until she decided what she was going to do with her life, even though she had already declared a double major in history and art restoration.”
She’d already done a year of college. So she was at least legal, even if she was still too fucking young for him. Danny thanked all the saints he knew, by name, one at a time. After that, he shifted in the chair and murmured, “So what do you think is going on?”
“I don’t know,” Jimmy returned grimly. “But I trust you to fix it.”
Lucia’s fingers flicked over her cell phone screen. She wanted to call her mother and father immediately, but Mrs. Savaggio had convinced her to wait. The elderly woman had called her son and promised her that Jimmy would take care of everything. Lucia knew what that meant. She’d known since the day that Margot Willoughby had come to her front door and asked Lucia to become Mrs. Savaggio’s companion. In addition to the extremely fair salary that came with the job, Margot had explained, Lucia would be under the protection of Oswego Corporation, the firm that Jimmy Savaggio owned and operated.
What Margot left unsaid was that Jimmy Savaggio was the fucking mob boss, at least in this part of New York state. Oswego Corporation was the holding company he’d established to organize his branch of the mafia. She’d considered but eventually agreed. What other options did she have? They still didn’t know if they’d run from the Italian mob or some other version, but she didn’t think Savaggio territory could extend to New Jersey.
She choked back a silent laugh. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing, not if she – and by extension, her parents – now fell under his mother’s concern, and thus, his protection. Or maybe when he found out exactly why they’d picked up and fled New Jersey, Jimmy Savaggio would drop her and her parents like a basket of hot potatoes.
But where could they go if they left here? Her parents had spent a good part of their savings to relocate in secret already. Once they’d found jobs, the three of them left their New Jersey home sitting empty, and fled with nothing more than they could fit in their two cars and a small Budget truck rental that they’d loaded in the dead of night. They spent two weeks driving aimlessly around New England before the house they’d found in town was available to rent. The three of them had cancelled all their social media accounts, cut ties with friends and extended family, didn’t forward their mail, gotten new phones and phone numbers, and didn’t file a forwarding address with the post office. It all seemed to be in vain now, only three months later.
Lucia supposed it wasn’t easy to disappear in a world where everyone was connected, and it was entirely possible her parents’ enemies had connections in government or big data that made finding them even easier.
Despite everything, though, she liked upper New York, much more than she’d expected. She didn’t want to leave. Maybe it had to do with the warm and welcoming aura of their next-door neighbor, Signora Savaggio, who was achingly familiar – like the Italian grandmothers she’d only met a few times as a child. Her nonne had been left behind in Italy, and had both died while Lucia was in middle school. But when they’d moved in, Mrs. Savaggio had immediately sent them food, and a regular stream of invitations to visit had followed. Lucia had benefited most, although her mother was one of those modern Italian women who didn’t enjoy the kitchen. Lucia and her father did most of the cooking and were grateful for the bounty from the Savaggio kitchen that eased their daily chores.
“Danny!” From the family room at the back of the house, Lucia heard the signora’s exclamation of delight as she answered her own front door, something Lucia had been doing for the last few days, at least until a few hours earlier. “I knew Jimmy would send someone right away. Thank you so much for coming, mio figlio.”
Her son? Lucia stood, wrinkling her nose in confusion. Lucia had thought that the signora had only one son – Jimmy.
But the man walking into the room was not Jimmy Savaggio. She’d seen the mob boss, handsome as sin but oddly nervous, on the day of his marriage a few days ago. The man in front of her was something completely different. He was as hard and as solid as Savaggio, though larger. Not purely Italian, Danny had a square jaw and short buzzed haircut, as though he was active military instead of a mobster. His eyes were brilliant blue and his nose flat. He was dressed in dark jeans and combat boots, and a black leather jacket he hadn’t yet unzipped. His coloring was a dark gold that made her want to lick him to see how he tasted.
Lucia tried to swallow.
“Tell me exactly what’s wrong, nonna,” he demanded, his gaze on Lucia instead of the older woman.
Lucia tried not to bristle, but couldn’t help herself. He didn’t just fix on her face but his gaze swept over her entire body, all the way down her jeans to her pink chunky-heeled booties with their lacework tops.
The signora sniffed. “Lucia can explain much better, I think. Sit, Danny, and I’ll get you a hot drink.”
Lucia straightened. “I think that’s my job, signora,” she reminded the other woman. “You’re to sit and rest.”
“Everyone will sit now,” Danny insisted, directing a glare at Lucia as he took Mrs. Savaggio’s arm and guided her to a chair. “No drinks. Explanations, please.”
“Danny, that is quite enough attitude,” Mrs. Savaggio objected.
“It’s really not –” Lucia tried to demur.
“Explain, now,” the big man insisted, his brows lowering into a glower.
“I just need to tell my parents, then we can pack and leave –”
“Lucia, I said to explain yourself,” he barked.
“Danny, that’s quite enough,” Mrs. Savaggio intervened.
Mob boss, Lucia reminded herself, or at least a high-ranking underling, someone that Mrs. Savaggio knew well enough to mother. She didn’t want to be on the bad side of this man, especially not now. “We’re just going to have to leave here.” She sighed. But before Mrs. Savaggio could dress down this overly masculine, dominant man again, Lucia decided to explain. Even as she spoke, she couldn’t help staring at him, taking in his magnetic presence. She wished she could touch him, to take some of his power inside of her and hold onto it tightly.
“My parents, before we moved here, worked for a corporate translation service. In the course of their work, they were – probably mistakenly – given a set of contracts of sale to translate from Italian to English that referenced certain art pieces that were reported as missing or stolen from museums in northern Italy and Austria – black market art. My mother is very much in touch with the art world and recognized the descriptions. Instead of staying quiet, however, my parents made secret copies of the contracts and turned them over anonymously to the FBI, along with copies of their translations. Later, they saw a news story that the feds intercepted the shipments and recovered the art, and my parents felt they had done this good deed.”
Danny nodded and leapt forward in the story several steps. “The importers didn’t agree.”
She nodded. “They must have worked out who had sold them out and came after my parents. I believe the anonymous evidence came up at trial – it wouldn’t have been hard to work out the unnamed informant once that evidence got into the hands of the defense lawyers. The problems escalated from threats to vandalism to an almost daily harassment, although why they are playing this game is beyond my comprehension. It’s not straight up revenge or we’d all be dead already. We did as best we could to conceal our whereabouts when we moved here, but I’m afraid they’ve found us again. When I went over to my house an hour or so ago, there was a note taped to the front door. I presume it’s still there. It said You can’t run away.”
“Fuck.” Danny sighed, his brows furrowing as he thought. “The bastards must not know your connection to Savaggio, at least not yet.” He glanced at Mrs. Savaggio. “I’ve already got Frankie and Gino next door, making sure no one’s inside. As soon as they’ve cleared the house, I’ll want to take Lucia over and go through the house, to make sure they didn’t get in and nothing’s missing. Then we’ll discuss next steps.”
“My dad is going to freak and try to take us away again,” Lucia whispered. “He wants to protect my mom and I, but he doesn’t know how, except to run.”
“I know how to protect you,” Danny said. “And running won’t help. As you described it, these people are international, probably as deep into the mafia as anyone else you know. I’m going to have to find out who they are and determine how best to stop them. But that’s getting ahead of the game. For the moment, Frankie will be the on-site commander. We’ll station a man here in Nonna’s house – Nonna, you’ll tell me if you prefer Gino or Robbie or if I should ask Jimmy to temporarily re-assign Lanz to the job – and preferably one inside your house, or at least on your front porch. I’ll want to install cameras on your porch and at the back, too, that we’ll monitor from here and off-site. We already have those here for Nonna’s safety but the range of vision won’t cover your parents’ house. We’ll also have two men on the street twenty-four-seven. If anyone comes back and approaches your house, we’ll know and at least get photos, although I’d prefer if we caught them and took them into our custody. I’ll have Frankie go and meet your parents and escort them home to pack. We’ll put you all in a safe house until this is over, and we’ll assign a pair of guards to escort them when they go out.”
Lucia’s head spun. She shook it slowly, trying to think what to say.
Danny’s phone vibrated in his hand. He glanced at it quickly and spoke again before she could. “Frankie says we’re clear. Lucia, let’s get your coat and go next door.”
He was on his feet and holding out a hand to her before Lucia could frame a reply. Automatically she put her hand in his and let him help her off the comfortably-worn sofa. His hand was large and heavy, but wrapped around hers with strength and support.
She trembled, awareness rippling over her in a concussive wave, until it reached her groin and heated her womb. She forgot to breathe. Lucia knew, just knew, that she’d somehow altered her entire future just by that small gesture and the touch of his skin against hers.
Danny’s eyes narrowed as he looked down on her, as though he saw into her soul and knew exactly how she’d reacted to his touch.
He didn’t let go of her hand as he guided her to the front of the house. Mrs. Savaggio followed them. After Danny and his wonderful hands slid her gray wool overcoat over her shoulders and buttoned the front in a strangely intimate gesture, Mrs. Savaggio greeted another man coming in off the front porch, someone she knew who would stay with the woman in Lucia’s place. When Danny turned to speak to him, his hand resting on the small of Lucia’s back, the older woman turned to her conspiratorially and whispered, “Go on, dear. Don’t hurry back. I’ve never seen Danny look at anyone just like that.”