The Right to Remain Silent

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He never expects to find her there...



Officer Quinten Blackthorne is working undercover to bring the Rudnikov Mob Empire to its knees. He never expects to find his best friend’s baby sister, Becca, in the center of a powder keg situation at the infamous mobster’s home. With her life on the line, he does the only thing he can think of to save her – he pretends that she’s his fiancée, who knows nothing of his clandestine activities with the criminal enterprise, and stands as her stalwart protector.



Forced into marriage...



But Quinten never expects the mob boss to force them into marriage at gunpoint as a test of loyalty. Not to mention, the idea of her belonging to him isn’t unappealing, nor is he as averse to the prospect as he lets on. Becca, with her sweet curves and take no prisoners attitude, fascinates him, stirs him, and leaves him craving her submission. Yet his past is fraught with broken dreams and death, so he uses his friendship with her brother as a shield against his yearning to claim her as his own.



Resistance is futile...



However, circumstances soon compel Becca and Quinten to become the most unlikely allies in a deadly game of deception. Now they must depend on one another for survival. As they race to unlock the keys to breaking the case, will Quinten be able to maintain his hands-off policy with Becca? Or will he surrender to the earth-shattering passion and turn their marriage of convenience into the real deal?

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Published 23 January 2020
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EAN13 9781947132764
Language English

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THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT
Crescent City Kings - Book Three
ANYA SUMMERSPublished by Blushing Books
An Imprint of
ABCD Graphics and Design, Inc.
A Virginia Corporation
977 Seminole Trail #233
Charlottesville, VA 22901
©2020
All rights reserved.
No part of the book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and
retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The trademark Blushing
Books is pending in the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Anya Summers
The Right to Remain Silent
EBook ISBN: 978-1-947132-76-4
v2
Cover Art by ABCD Graphics & Design
This book contains fantasy themes appropriate for mature readers only. Nothing in this book
should be interpreted as Blushing Books' or the author's advocating any non-consensual
sexual activity.C o n t e n t s
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Epilogue
Anya Summers
Blushing Books
Blushing Books NewsletterChapter 1
ecca hid her disquiet as best she could while the sleek black stretch limousine
pulled up in front of a mansion with distinctive Italianate architecture, in a
sandstone red that made her think of mesas in Arizona. The grand houseB
stood out in a neighborhood and city that was already filled with flashy spectacles.
Arched windows with elaborate bracketed cornices that dominated the home reflected
the setting sun. From the center rose a tower a good story-and-a-half above the rest of
the house. It stood sentinel like a guard tower at a prison. The circular drive sported an
ivory marble fountain which, with its marbled depiction of angels, was reminiscent of
ones she’d passed in Rome years ago.
But Becca wasn’t here to admire the architecture, or the glossy interior of the limo.
Far from it. The aerobatic tumbling in her belly resembled a gymnast hyped up on
steroids. She pressed her palm over her abdomen, attempting to quell the mad riot
stirring inside.
Before today, she’d thought each week leading up to one of her art shows was
fraught with terror and anxiety, wondering if the critics would love her latest pieces or
relegate her work to the level of the mass production line available at discount furniture
stores. In reality, the self-doubt and terror of failure of those occasions was miniscule
compared to the unease she was experiencing now. The short drive from her gallery on
Royal Street in the French Quarter to this house that was beyond the Garden District
made the standard unease before her openings look like a kindergarten playground.
Once the car came to a complete stop, her belly executed a little flip as the driver
opened the back door. The droning hum of crickets infused the muggy evening,
foreshadowing the coming storm forecasted later tonight.
Becca was overtly aware of the lethal man, Konrad, beside her in his dark charcoal
gray suit, the black and silver handle of his firearm peeking out from a holster at his
waist. His face reminded her of a bulldog’s, with its bulbous nose and square cut jaw
and a slight jowl beneath. His receding hair of blond bleached almost platinum was
complemented by jade eyes that were full of death, much like a snake before it struck.
He waved his beefy hand toward the open door and said, “After you, Miss O’Malley.
The boss is awaiting your arrival.” His voice was like an organ bellow competing with a
running woodchipper.
Becca wished she could turn back time—rewind it somehow to that morning and her
decision to head into the gallery: something she did only rarely, because while she
wished she was more hands on in the day to day running of the business side of things,
she was typically immersed in her art, in the midst of creation, away from the rest of theworld, not knowing what time it was or even what day. It would have been better if she
had stayed home in her studio, working on the pieces for her next art showing
scheduled for this spring.
“Miss,” Konrad pressed, his hand on the butt of his handgun.
Becca steeled herself, saying a prayer to whatever deity would listen. Her heart
pounded and she felt like a startled rabbit as she exited the limo, ignoring the driver’s
outstretched hand. This wasn’t a pleasant invitation or a night out.
She’d be lucky if she lived through the night. Hell, through the next hour.
Betrayal weighed heavy upon her heart. It was thick and putrid, and curdled her
stomach to the point where she wanted to vomit. She cursed her inability and
limitations that she couldn’t do it all, that she had to trust someone to run her store and
she’d chosen wrong. She almost choked on the sensation.
How had the bitch hidden her intentions so well? Was Becca just that oblivious?
It was a classic Becca O’Malley mess. The latest in a long line of mistakes not just
this year, but over the course of her life. Sometimes she thought all she did was make
huge gaffes. She attracted crud of this magnitude and tenor like she was sending out a
magnetic homing beacon. Her family would merely shake their heads in disappointment
at her latest miscalculation. And that was only if she made it out of this one alive.
The manager of her art gallery, Sasha Brevard, had used Becca—used her place of
business, the O’Malley Art Gallery, to launder drugs and money for the infamous Anton
Rudnikov, Mob boss of Louisiana. Sasha had turned Becca’s life’s work into a mere
cog in a criminal enterprise.
Anton was the boss Becca would meet tonight, with a little persuasion from Konrad
and his Glock forty-five.
Curiosity and excitement about the latest shipment of art coming into the gallery had
driven her into the shop. But Becca’s desire to see the new art Sasha had ordered had
set off a chain reaction of unfortunate events.
It was ironic in a way, since Becca normally didn’t work at the gallery. As the owner
and artist, she filled in if they were short staffed. Most often, she was in her home
studio, painting her latest creation and oblivious to the rest of the world. Becca had
opened the gallery two years prior, when the demand for her art had grown beyond just
a few showings. Her own artwork that was available to purchase was displayed in one
half of the gallery, and she rented out the remaining space to other artists for a nominal
fee. It was a system that ended up being highly profitable. Renting space in the French
Quarter was monumentally expensive, even despite the constant stream of tourists into
the city.
She had never imagined that, when she opened the crate to see the latest pieces,
she would find kilos of cocaine bricks in with the artwork.
Horrified beyond measure, Becca had fumbled for her phone to call the police.
Except Sasha had stopped her. Becca didn’t think she would ever recover from looking
down the barrel of the handgun into Sasha’s cold, dead eyes and seeing her entire life
flash before her.
Sasha had promptly organized tonight’s little meet and greet with the prominent
crime boss. Konrad had arranged for two more big, burly, armed men to join their party,
both men had faces that could have been blocks of granite for all the warmth and
expression in them. With their size and physiques, the men could give professionalwrestling a try. The trio escorted her inside the mansion while she tried not to think
about the amount of firepower each man carried.
Becca searched for a potential exit. Guards were stationed in groups of two at
doorways and stairwells, each guy more terrifying than the next, with hard faces that
probably wouldn’t blink if she was shot dead where she stood. The further into the
mansion she trod, the more Becca felt like she was heading to her own funeral. Bile
threatened in the back of her throat. She hated that a part of her was impressed by the
interior of the home because of the artwork on display. The paintings and sculptures
were museum quality. If she wasn’t mistaken, they passed an original Renoir.
The heels of Becca’s black leather boots clicked against the hardwood flooring. Her
heart thumped in time with those clicks, like a ticking clock winding down to zero.
Konrad and company ushered her up a grand staircase that made the one in Gone with
the Wind look cheap and insignificant. At the top, they steered her to the right, down a
wide hall with glossy hardwood floors and high ceilings.
When they reached the end of the hall, the two henchmen who had joined them
opened a pair of double doors that must have belonged to a Buddhist temple at one
time. Becca’s clasped hands shook as she entered what amounted to a sitting room
parlor with an enormous ivory marble hearth. The fire inside intended to ward off the
chilly night couldn’t make the cold terror in her bones dissipate. Every piece of furniture
and décor in the parlor spoke of wealth. There was a Louis XIV desk in one corner. But
the room held all the warmth of a mausoleum.
“Have a seat. The boss will be with you shortly,” Konrad indicated in a bullish tone
and pointed toward the chocolate Chesterfield sofas while his buddies shut the doors
with a resounding thud and sealed them all inside. Sealed Becca inside. She assessed
the room. Floor-to-ceiling inlaid shelves held first editions behind panes of glass. There
was a vase on a pedestal that looked to be from the Ming Dynasty, or was at least an
excellent reproduction. She studied her surroundings for a potential avenue of escape.
The only way out would be to jump from the large crenelated windows. Two stories up,
she could break something—like her neck. Only three guards were present in the room,
odds that weren’t great, but left her a fighting chance.
Konrad shifted his hand to the butt of his gun until she finally complied with his
order. Even if she escaped past Konrad and his two buddies, jumped out the window
and didn’t break anything when she landed, the boatload of guards stationed over the
grounds were far too numerous to outrun. The odds were not in her favor in making it to
the gate and beyond for help.
Becca said a silent prayer at the echoing clomp of multiple footsteps approaching.
Her anxiety ratcheted up to cataclysmic levels.
The double doors swung inward. Becca wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting, but
it wasn’t a relatively trim man with salt and pepper hair, dressed in gray tweed slacks
and a button up navy cardigan sweater over his ivory dress shirt. He looked much more
like a history professor than a criminal mastermind—at least, until you looked into his
eyes. They were cold, devoid of any humanity or warmth, and calculating. Rudnikov
assessed her from head to toe as she rose. That stare made her feel underdressed in
her jeans and Kelly-green chenille sweater. A sense of helplessness invaded her soul.
The uncertainty infused by doubt that she would live through the next hour.
Rudnikov didn’t travel alone. He had four of his paid thugs guarding him. Beccaskimmed her gaze over them. They were all similar in manner and form to Konrad, as if
they had come off an assembly line. But it was the last man her gaze landed on who
brought her up short. She kept her jaw from dropping to the floor, but just barely.
Quinten Blackthorne was a member of Anton Rudnikov’s mob team? What the hell?
Not six weeks ago, she’d danced with the man at her brother’s wedding. Quinten
was an officer with the New Orleans Police Department and one of her brother’s best
friends. He’d been a groomsman in the wedding party, and had looked downright sinful
in his tux, like a dark prince of the underworld.
Why was he here? What was he doing with Rudnikov?
Tonight, Quinten wore a charcoal gray suit, almost identical to the rest of the crime
lord’s hired goons. Shock flitted through his warm cognac eyes the moment his gazed
landed on her. The man was mister badass personified. The utter confidence Quinten
exuded in his pinky made the hired goons look laughable at best in their attempts to
seem imposing. He was the alpha of alphas, top of the food chain, and he knew it. The
suit, combined with the ivory dress shirt, was unbuttoned at the neck and stretched
over muscles that should be indecent. Becca knew that from experience. The night of
the wedding, as he’d held her on the dance floor, she’d had the good fortune to feel
those muscles flex beneath her hands. The man was ripped, and solid as a tank. He
wore his hair, black as midnight, in a military style cut. And he had one of those
masculine faces that tended to have perpetual dark stubble that, combined with his
strong angular jaw, full lips and dark slash of eyebrows, only served to make him
hotter. As in: five alarm fire, panties have disintegrated into ash and a woman was
ready and willing to do whatever the man wanted.
“Miss O’Malley, a pleasure to meet you. I thank you for coming to meet with me on
such short notice. I’m Anton Rudnikov. My associate, Sasha, speaks highly of you and
your gallery. I admit, I’ve not had the chance to attend one of your showings, but I am
impressed with your use of color in your art,” Anton Rudnikov stated with a friendliness
that belied the underlying air of hostility in the room.
“Thank you, Mister Rudnikov. You have a lovely home with some rather spectacular
artwork. If I’m not mistaken, you have an original Renoir in your entryway.” Becca
redirected her attention to the mob boss. She shook his hand, hoping she was hiding
the dread coursing through her.
“You’ve got a good eye. If we had more time, I would give you a tour,” Rudnikov
said with a frigid smile that didn’t reach his eyes. Did that mean her time was running
out?
Quinten marched up beside Rudnikov, directing a scowl her way. His fury was
evident; he glowered, apparently angry that she was there. Well, that made two of
them. Becca wasn’t thrilled about the fact either. But he held her gaze, trying to impart
some indistinct meaning that went straight over her stunned head. If she were being
fanciful, she would have said he was pleading with her.
Quinten beg someone? Yeah, right.
She imagined even the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang moved out of Quinten’s way
when he approached. In front of the entire crime entourage, he snarled, “What the fuck
are you doing here, Becca?”
Rudnikov glanced between them, speculative interest and suspicion in his dead
gaze. “You two know each other, Quinten?”Quinten grabbed her hand and squeezed her fingers. Hard. Like he was trying to
pass along a meaning that she still didn’t understand—mainly because her entire day
had taken on a weird damn Twilight Zone bent, with danger and betrayal filtering in
through every crack. Quinten, with her hand still gripped in his much larger one, turned
to Rudnikov and said, “Yes, we do know each other. She’s my fiancée, sir. She doesn’t
know that I work for you.”
At the pressure on her hand, and Quinten’s declaration, Becca stared at Quinten
like he had gone mad. Fiancée? What the hell? What was the man playing at?
“Is that a fact? I don’t see a ring on her hand,” Rudnikov replied, his face an
inscrutable mask.
That was it. They were dead. Her story would end, here, now, holding Quinten’s
hand. On the bright side, Becca thought, she wouldn’t die alone. Tension oozed in the
room. She froze, and even forgot to breathe. The guards had their hands in position
against their firearms. Becca prayed she wouldn’t pass out or pee in her pants in terror.
“That’s because she’s miffed with me. We had a fight the other night and she took it
off. But she loves me.” Quinten stared down at her from his six-foot plus height, his
cognac gaze imparting a play along message while he pretended to be a man
besotted.
Becca didn’t understand—any of it. Not why Sasha had betrayed her trust, or
whether Quinten was a dirty cop and only coming to her rescue because he was friends
with her brother, or whether the mob boss intended to let her walk out of his house
alive.
“Is this true, Miss O’Malley?” Rudnikov asked like he was daring her to dispute
Quinten’s outlandish claim.
Pain shot up her arm from her hand as Quinten squeezed. Becca tried to keep her
expression serene. Doubt shrouded Rudnikov’s hard glare. Better to have the crime
boss believe she was with Quinten than alone and at his mercy. With a silent prayer,
she tossed her lot in with the devil she knew. “It’s true, Mister Rudnikov. I’m engaged to
the big lug—for now, at least.”
“And why just for now?” Rudnikov’s stare made her want to squirm. But she held it
together—barely. Staring Rudnikov in his eyes the color of mahogany, Becca knew
what it was like to stare evil in the face. The man would have no qualms about ending
her life, right here, right now. The bastard wouldn’t even flinch at the blood spilled in his
ornate sitting room.
“Because the blasted man keeps dragging his heels. Any time I try to set a date, he
gives me the runaround. He’s the one who proposed and made me all insane with
wanting the whole fairytale wedding deal. It’s almost like he doesn’t want to marry me,
and I took the ring off until he’s willing to set a date. And why didn’t you tell me about all
this, sweetie?” She glanced at Quinten and found approval there.
Rudnikov chuckled and said in a deprecating manner, “Because business is the
providence of men, Miss O’Malley… and to show that there are no hard feelings, I will
help you young lovebirds out. I can’t have one of my men breaking a vow with my
newest business associate, now can I? You’ll marry. Tonight, in fact. Robbie, call
Father Vincent. Ask him to be here within the hour to perform a marriage ceremony.”
“But, but… I don’t think—” Becca sputtered. Marry Quinten? Was Rudnikov serious?
Quinten’s hold on her hand tightened even more. She wondered if she would haveany bones left before the night was over, or if they would crack into jagged pieces.
Quinten protested, “Sir, that’s a generous offer. But she wants a big church wedding
and I don’t—”
Rudnikov waved him off. “Nonsense. It will happen tonight. You can always do the
fancy wedding later.”
Becca opened her mouth to refuse but shut it again at Rudnikov’s piercing glare. In
the game of chicken, he had called their bluff and was waiting to strike. Becca moved
closer to Quinten, choosing her side.
Quinten released her hand and slid his arm around her waist. It shouldn’t feel
comforting. He was a dirty cop. He’d lied to all his friends. But she knew deep down, he
was doing this to protect her. With a slight nod, Quinten replied, “Very good, sir. Thank
you for giving us the opportunity. It will be a relief to have it done and legally make her
mine. Perhaps then she won’t be mad at me all the time.”
“Not bloody likely, but you can dream, sweetie,” she replied even as he squeezed
her waist.
Quinten loosened his grip and directed his attention to the mob boss. “If you don’t
mind, I would like to speak to my fiancée in private before we say our vows. I need to
apologize, and would rather she yell at me without an audience.”
Rudnikov shifted his suspicious gaze between them. “You have until Father Vincent
arrives. You can use my library, down the hall and to the left.” The crime lord gestured
toward the door, much like a king granting a boon to his subjects.
Quinten bowed his head in acknowledgement, totally playing the role of beta to
Rudnikov’s alpha. The thing was, the Quinten Becca knew—or thought she had known
—was entirely badass alpha. The man didn’t have a beta bone in his body. Then again,
perhaps what little she did know about him had been fabricated, a façade he showed
the world to hide that he was a dirty cop.
“Thank you, sir,” Quinten said then, without further ado, he steered her out of the
sitting room.
Becca had a surplus of emotions surging inside her. Beyond tense. Beyond
horrified. Beyond angry at his deceit. Her feet were like leaded weights on the journey
down the hall. She expected Rudnikov to order his guards to shoot them in the back at
any moment.
Married? She wasn’t going to marry Quinten. No way, no how. Except… what choice
did she have? Either she married him, or she died. She could die anyway, even if she
did marry him. She wracked her brain for another option. But all she kept coming up
with was door number one: she married Quinten in front of the crime lord and possibly
met her maker, or door number two: the mob boss had his henchmen kill her.
If there was a door number three, one where she didn’t die or end up married, or
both, she prayed that she’d find it in the small reprieve of time they’d been given.
Because without a door number three, she would be married before the night was done.
Married to Quinten? How the hell had she gotten here?Chapter 2
uinten ushered Becca down the hall, scanning the area for any potential
surprise attacks while at the same time attempting to look like he was
paying lavish attention to his f i a n c é e. He kept a covetous hand on herQ
back. The silken ends of her auburn hair grazed his skin, and he ignored
the stirring of unexpected lust at the innocent touch. He steered her forward toward the
library. There were cameras everywhere, monitoring their progression. He prayed
Becca would play along. That he could convince her to follow his lead and keep up the
pretense… even though the cost was getting hitched.
F u c k . They were neck deep in trouble, and sinking fast in the quagmire.
He’d not had a choice in acting like she was his fiancée. It was the only excuse he’d
been able to come up with on the spur of the moment. The surprised look on her face
and the questions blaring in her expressive gray eyes the color of storm clouds had
almost blown his cover. Rudnikov knew he was a cop. But over the last year, Quinten
had worked hard to convince him that he was in on the take, willing to look the other
way for the right price as Rudnikov conducted his business.
The moment he’d spied Becca’s hourglass form, with the air of fragility surrounding
her and the stark terror in her gaze, all alone in a sea of ravenous sharks, he’d been
forced into action. Even if Quinten hadn’t known her personally, he still would have tried
to protect her. The problem was, he did know her. She was his best friend’s baby sister.
Becca, of the huge eyes a man could drown in and the body of a sultry vixen. A wave of
protectiveness had slammed into him the moment he saw her, along with the distinct
urge to spank the hell out of her for putting herself in the line of fire.
When Rudnikov had mentioned a meeting with a new business associate tonight
that Sasha was sending his way, Quinten would never in a million years have believed
it would be Becca. While he’d been working undercover on this case for the last year, it
had only been in the last three months that he had been invited into the inner sanctum
of the Rudnikov Empire. Quinten felt that he had finally gained Rudnikov’s trust—at
least, as much as the crime lord trusted anybody.
The moment he intervened on Becca’s behalf, that measure of trust disintegrated
like smoke in a breeze.
The last time he’d seen her had been at Ram and Sadie’s wedding. She’d been
decked out in an elegant burgundy bridesmaid gown and walked down the aisle with
Quinten. He liked Ram’s sister. That night, they’d laughed and danced together at the
reception and he had fought back a vicious tide of need that she engendered. She was
off-limits—not because he didn’t find her a ravishing beauty, but because he wouldn’tfuck his best friend’s baby sister.
And now he was going to marry her. Rather ironic that they were going to be forced
down the aisle at gunpoint tonight.
He resisted the urge to curse up a blue streak.
The objective tonight had been to escape with the plans he’d stolen from Rudnikov
that were currently in a thumb drive secreted away in his shoe, as well as getting a
verbal confirmation of the next drop shipment. Becca’s untimely arrival changed
everything, including the state of his bachelorhood for the foreseeable future.
His purpose had shifted. Instead of getting confirmation on the next shipment, he
had to get Becca out of here alive. They had to convince Rudnikov that they were
madly in love. It was the only way they were walking out of there under their own
steam. He’d have to get the verbal confirmation at a later date. If he pushed for it now,
with everything else, Quinten surmised things would head south, fast.
Quinten shepherded Becca into the vacant library, noting the cameras as he shut
the door behind him.
Becca whirled toward him, her mouth open, a scowl marring her beautiful features,
ready to blast him. Before she could utter a word, blow his cover and send them both to
an early grave, he yanked her into his arms. The soft material of her green sweater
beneath his palm, her magnolia scent surrounding him, and the lush feel of her in his
arms, with their torsos aligned, made his dick twitch.
He held her face steady with one hand and put his mouth beside her ear, using the
long waterfall of her auburn locks to shield his lips.
“Quiet,” he shushed her with a low growl. Her body went as rigid as a marble statue.
She pushed against his chest, fighting him until he spoke quietly into her ear. “Stop
fighting me and listen if you want to live. They have video feed of the room.”
Immediately Becca’s struggles ceased but her body remained tense.
“Why did you say I’m your fiancée? And what are you doing here?” she whispered,
her voice wavering. A tremor ran through her.
“It was the only way that either of us are going to survive tonight. Do you
understand? I need you to play along,” he murmured in a low voice, enunciating each
word with the hope that she would calm down and work with him. If she put up a fuss…
the outcome didn’t bear thinking about.
Becca’s body relaxed against him and she hesitantly circled her arms around him.
“So, you’re not really—”
“No. Don’t say another word about it. I need you to trust me, Becca. It’s the only way
we’re going to get out of this alive. Understood?”
“But do we really have to get married?” He heard the fear in her furious whisper.
“Yes. I’m sorry. I know it’s not what you want to hear. He’s testing us. If we balk
now, we’re dead.”
“I don’t want to marry you,” she replied raggedly.
Well, that made two of them. Like Quinten had woken up this morning with the
intention of marrying his best friend’s baby sister. His only goal for the day had been to
get one step closer to catching Rudnikov and the mole he and the DEA had been
searching for in his precinct, red-handed.
“And you think I do? Look, we can get the marriage annulled once we get out of this.
No one ever needs to know about it but you and me. But we have no chance ofsurviving if we don’t go through with the farce of a ceremony. Got it?”
Becca shifted her face and looked at him with eyes the color of storm clouds,
darkened with fear and uncertainty, surrounded by the black sweep of her long lashes.
She was an unconventional beauty, with auburn hair that made him think of the sunset
over the bayou with its multitude of reds and oranges—almost like a flame—combined
with her porcelain skin. Her nose had a slightly upturned tip, and she had a top-heavy
mouth. Quinten cupped her face with his hand and ran his thumb over the satin skin of
her bottom lip, playing it up for the cameras, shocked by the onslaught of lust that shot
through him at the simple touch.
Becca was his best bud’s sister. He couldn’t want her. Couldn’t think about what it
would feel like to taste her lips. But hers was a mouth that had fascinated him when
they’d danced together six weeks ago, with its plump upper lip he’d wanted to suck on.
Nor could he focus on the feel of her torso, her lush, ripe cleavage pressed against his
chest.
His dick wanted both those things and more to be his sole focus. And he was having
one hell of a time locating the normal stalwart control that made him one of the Masters
at Club Underworld, a BDSM lifestyle club where he was one of the founding members.
“Okay. Tell me what I need to do,” Becca murmured.
Fear that had gripped him the moment he spied her in Rudnikov’s sitting room
unclenched in his gut at her display of trust. Quinten was damn proud of her bravery.
She was facing their problem head on and not descending into hysterics. It would help
them survive. He flashed her a smile, trying to make it appear like he was sweet-talking
his woman. “Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to pretend like we’re madly in
love. We will go through with the ceremony and then get out of here alive. That’s all we
have to do tonight. Follow my lead. I promise I will protect you and do whatever I need
to do to get us out of here in one piece.”
“I trust you,” she whispered.
Then they might just make it out alive.Chapter 3
he knock on the door ripped through Becca’s hard-fought composure and she
flinched. She gripped Quinten tight, not ready to face the coming confrontation.
She’d spent the last hour surrounded by Quinten’s strength and assurance thatT
they would live to see another day. She wished she were as confident as he in that
regard.
“Come in,” Quinten said loudly, the timbre of his deep baritone vibrating in her
chest. Then he whispered in her ear as the door opened, “Deep breaths for me, Becca.”
“It’s time,” said a gruff voice she didn’t recognize.
Quinten released Becca and flashed her a smile. “Come on, love, let’s go get
hitched. Then we can go have our wedding night.” He even wiggled the dark slashes of
his brows in a suggestive manner. He was going all out in playing the part of besotted
fiancé.
Ignoring the guard, pasting a smile on her face, she replied, “I can’t wait. Lead the
way.”
The trip back to the sitting room was no less daunting than the first time she’d
entered, only now she knew without a doubt how high the stakes were. Quinten’s large
palm pressed against her lower back as he escorted her down the hall. His touch
steadied her, gave her the strength she needed to make it through the next hour.
Becca didn’t want to return to that room. She didn’t want to interact with the crime
lord and his minions. And she certainly didn’t want to marry the man at her side.
But if marrying Quinten tonight meant she could continue breathing, then what
choice did she have, really? None.
This was the way out alive. Marrying Quinten.
She wanted to curl into Quinten’s strength and reassurance. Becca had questions.
Loads of them. She had more questions than she had answers. She tried to absorb as
much of Quinten’s confidence as possible.
The guards at the door gave them a once over as they passed by. Becca steeled
herself, plastering a smile on her face that she prayed was convincing.
Inside, Rudnikov stood by the marble fireplace beside a balding priest in his black
finery, a bible tucked beneath one arm. The leather couches and Persian rug, the Ming
Dynasty vase on display near one of the windows—it suddenly hit Becca: for Rudnikov,
this room was about displaying his power. It was an extension of the man: wealthy,
cold, and calculating, given the way his guards were stationed throughout the room.
There was nowhere to hide, nowhere to escape. A person walked in here and either
walked out because Rudnikov allowed it, or left in a body bag. There was no other way.“Ah, I see the lovebirds have returned. Everything all right?” The iciness in
Rudnikov’s eyes sent torrents of uneasiness barreling through Becca. She almost lost
her nerve. If Quinten wasn’t at her side with a steadying hand on her back, she would
have turned and run.
With a prayer that she would give an Oscar worthy performance, she glanced at
Quinten, pretending that he was her world and that she loved him. “Yeah, I can’t seem
to stay mad at the big lug.”
Quinten’s hand tightened on her waist. “What can I say, sir? She loves me.”
“We can see that. This is Father Vincent. He is ready to perform the ceremony,”
Rudnikov said with salacious glee, like he believed they would back out of it and was in
fact waiting for the moment they called it off to strike. He reminded Becca of a scorpion,
dancing around them, looking for any weakness in order to administer a killing blow.
“I’m going to assume you are both God-fearing Catholics?” Father Vincent asked,
glancing at Quinten and then at her like he was piercing through flesh to uncover the
sin in their souls.
“I’m Methodist. I hope that’s all right,” Becca admitted and wanted to kick herself.
Why did it matter at a time like this? Who cared what religion she practiced? It wasn’t
like they were going to check which church she attended—when she remembered to
go.
“Well, no one’s perfect. And for this ceremony, it’s still a Christian faith and will be
fine. I would recommend converting but we can save that discussion for another time.
And the groom?” Father Vincent asked, looking at Quinten.
“Born and raised Catholic, Father,” Quinten replied, keeping his arm about Becca,
feeding her courage.
“Good. And what are the full names of the bride and groom?”
“Quinten Xavier Blackthorne, Father,” Quinten replied.
Father Vincent glanced her way. “And yours?”
“Rebecca Grace O’Malley,” she stated, and Quinten squeezed her hip in a
reassuring manner.
“Perfect. Why don’t we get started? I have the Eucharist adoration in church later
this evening and need to wrap this up as quickly as possible,” Father Vincent said,
opening up his bible.
“My dear, if you will come with me.” Rudnikov held out his arm for Becca to take.
What? Why? What game was he playing at now?
“Where?” Becca asked, keeping the smile plastered on her face, not wanting to
leave Quinten’s side for anything in the world.
“Just out to the hall. We’re going to do this in the proper fashion, as much as we are
able. In the absence of your father being present, I will walk you down the aisle and
give you away.”
Becca internally balked at the idea of going anywhere with Rudnikov. She looked at
Quinten for confirmation as to the right step to take. He nodded, trying to reassure her
that it would be okay.
“I’ll be waiting for you, love, with Father Vincent,” Quinten murmured, encouraging
her to let go. He even brushed his lips over the back of her hand as he released her.
“I will have her back to you in a moment, Quinten,” Rudnikov challenged, apparently
daring Becca to refuse his orders.As if her night had not been bizarre enough, she threaded her arm through his and
allowed the crime boss to escort her just past the doorframe. At a nod from Rudnikov,
one of his henchmen handed her a small bouquet of lilies, and Debussy’s Clair de Lune
began to play.
Rudnikov walked Becca toward Quinten and the priest. She kept the smile on her
face, using Quinten’s presence to keep herself focused. She just had to make it
through the next hour. Her skin crawled at Rudnikov’s touch. The night had certainly
taken on a surreal bent. She’d always been accused by her family of jumping in without
looking, of being too over the top with everything—from her emotions, to the way she
acted, to the way she spoke, even to the way she laughed. She had always been too
much. And in a family like hers, that was saying something. Becca figured accidentally
going into business with a mob boss and then being married shotgun style with
Rudnikov overseeing the ceremony would qualify.
Rudnikov passed her over to Quinten, who took her hand and gave it a little
squeeze.
Quinten became her anchor in a scene that would have made even Alice sweat
buckets if the White Rabbit had forced her hand this way. Becca spoke the words,
vowing to love and honor a man who was essentially a virtual stranger. He might be
one of her brother’s best friends, but he was her brother’s friend, not hers. What she
knew about him could fill a thimble.
Then Father Vincent proclaimed in a firm voice, “I now pronounce you man and
wife. Quinten, you may now kiss your bride.”
Becca was just glad she didn’t flinch when he shut his bible with a firm snap.
Quinten’s cognac gaze the color of well-aged brandy never wavered. She glanced
at his curved mouth and wet hers. He had very kissable lips. She’d noticed them when
they’d danced together in the required bridesmaid and groomsman wedding dance; had
even wondered that night what kissing him would feel like. She was about to find out.
There was nothing like kissing a man for the first time with an audience. With pride
filling his gaze, Quinten leaned forward and brushed his lips against her forehead. For a
split second, Becca was disappointed that she didn’t get a real kiss.
The night had completely flipped her brain. Who cared if she didn’t get a real kiss?
At least she was still alive to tell the tale.
Then Rudnikov burst that happy little thought. “That’s not a kiss, Quinten. No
wonder she was angry with you. Give her a real kiss.”
Becca felt a warm blush spread up her neck and into her cheeks. A flash of anger lit
Quinten’s eyes at the command, but he hid it—fast. A blink, and she would have
missed the unbridled fury.
But then Quinten’s big palms cupped her jaw and tilted her face up. With his gaze
on hers, he lowered his mouth. The need for survival spurred her on and she met him
halfway, wanting, needing this act of theirs to convince Rudnikov. She need not have
worried one iota. The moment Quinten’s lips grazed hers, electricity sizzled along her
spine to pool in her abdomen. An onslaught of desire flash-fried her system. She forgot
where she was and why. Her entire world centered on the heady, drugging kiss while
she clung to Quinten. She heard herself moan.
When he ended the kiss and lifted his head, the flash of lust in his eyes caused
every nerve ending in Becca’s body to ignite. Hands clapping shattered the moment