Home > Don't Make Me (Made Men #3)

Don't Make Me (Made Men #3)
Author: Renee Rose

 

Prologue

 

 

Sicily

 

 

Carlo

Blood soaks my clothes—too much to show up at my great-uncle Junior’s front entrance. I slip around to the back and tap the heavy wooden door. I hope Zia Maria doesn’t answer, not that the old woman can’t handle the shock. Sicilian women—at least those in La Famiglia—are as tough as the men.

The door cracks, and the muzzle of a Glock points through followed by my uncle’s bushy white eyebrows.

“Carlo.” The door swings wide, and my uncle grabs me by the shirt and hauls me inside.

“Only some of it is mine.” I can’t get my damn ear to stop bleeding from the bullet that went through. The bullet that missed my skull by an inch.

“Get cleaned up before your aunt sees you.” The old man propels me to the bathroom. “I’ll bring you some clothes.”

I strip, the metallic smell of blood filling my nostrils. Ferdi’s blood. Fucking Ferdi. I left him alive after I beat the truth out of him.

Who tries to kill their own cousin? Ferdi, apparently.

I won’t. I didn’t. Ferdi’s soldier, though, is another story. I left a bullet in the middle of his forehead. Closing my eyes, I try to erase the sight.

I wash in the shower and dry off, barely managing to keep the continuous drip of blood from my ear from staining Zia Maria’s towel.

My uncle comes in without knocking and drops some clothes on the counter. He gives me an up-and-down sweep of the eyes, probably checking for bullet holes. “Just the ear?”

“Yeah.” I yank on the clothes.

“Who?” Junior hands me a washcloth and lifts his chin toward my still-bleeding ear.

“Ferdi.”

My uncle’s bushy eyebrows drew together. “Your cousin Ferdi? What happened?”

“Mario put a hit on me.” I somehow keep the waver from my voice, unprepared for the sense of betrayal rocketing through my chest. My own fucking brother. My fucking brother ordered me killed.

Junior’s face turns to stone, his eyes black and dangerous. It’s an expression I’ve seen on my father’s face countless times. The Sicilian war face. Calculating, deadly. “What happened? Wait, come out of the fucking bathroom. I’ll get you a drink.”

At the kitchen table, Junior pours both of us a glass of grappa, and we sit down.

“My dad named me Consiglieri. I think Mario thinks he might pick me to lead when he dies.” My chest tightens at the thought of my father, so diminished from the cancer now.

“I see.” My mom’s uncle isn’t part of the Romano business in Palermo, but his family has ties to them and runs their own network of semi-legal or illegal operations. He understands the dynamics. “What’s your plan?”

That is the fucking problem. I don’t have one.

Junior reads into the silence. “Are you going to tell your dad?”

I give my head a decisive shake. “Hell no. He’s on his deathbed. It would kill him, and he would die brokenhearted.”

“Let me ask you this, Carlo. Do you want to lead the family? I mean, how old are you? Twenty-three?”

“Yeah.”

“I mean, I know you’re smart, and I’m sure you’re tough, but do you think the older guys are going to fall in line under you?”

I shrug. “I wasn’t trying to steal the power from Mario… or any of them.” Hell, I’m the fifth son, I never expected to be more than a capo. But as the youngest child, I have the special ability of reading people. Born from all that time observing from corners as a kid, I suppose. I see through bullshit, see into people. My father used that talent in the last few years, coming to me much more often than he did Mario or any of our other brothers.

We always were tight, me and my dad. I’m the baby of the family, after all. My dad wasn’t as much of a hard-ass with me as he was with my brothers; and more than that, my parents revered me as a special gift because I almost died during birth.

“Look, I don’t even know if my father would have shaken up the structure. But obviously, Mario was worried. So now I’m in a bad place.”

The soft pad of Zia Maria’s slippers scuffing the floor signal her approach from down the hall.

“It’s Carlo,” Junior calls to her.

“Carlo?” The joy in my aunt’s voice almost makes me tear up. Cristo. I’m going soft. Well, when your own brother wants you dead, it’s nice to know someone in the family still cares.

I stand and embrace the tiny woman, accept her clucking over my ear. I don’t try to stop her from pulling out all the food in the fridge and heating it up for a full meal. You can’t keep an Italian woman from that generation from feeding her family.

When I finish eating and successfully ward off Maria’s pressure for seconds, she sits down with us.

“Mamma.” Junior covers his wife’s gnarled hand. “Carlo’s in a pinch. His brother wants him dead because he’s worried about his stealing power when their father dies.”

I didn’t expect Junior to tell Maria. Usually, the women are left out of business discussions—no one wants to incriminate the innocent. But this is a family issue, and right now I need help from my family.

Zia Maria covers her mouth with her hand, but when she removes it, she already has a sharp look in her eye. She taps the table with her bony fingers. “Send him to my nephew Alberto, in New Jersey. Just until this all blows over. He could use a smart young man like our Carlo. He’ll take good care of our boy.”

I swallow the lump in my throat. I’d be away when my dad dies. Miss saying goodbye. And he wouldn’t know where I’ve gone. But there is no way around it.

I draw a breath. New Jersey. Well, it sounds better than any plan I’ve come up with. “Okay.” I nod. “That sounds good. Thank you.”

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

New Jersey

Four Years Later

 

 

Summer

I grip the pole and extend one leg up into a perfect split. A lifetime of ballet lessons is finally paying off. Heh. Well, it’s not like I can perform for real anymore, not since my injury.

I consider stripping at The Candy Store to be a form of sex therapy. That’s how I framed it to my best friend, Maggie, anyway.

I don’t strip for the money, and it sure as hell isn’t to meet nice guys. But I like the sense of power it gives me. Or is it the objectification? Either way, each time I take the stage and twirl around the pole, it repairs a small piece of my shattered sexual confidence.

I have my asswipe ex-boyfriend John to thank for my new career. Every night I work, I feed off the lust in the men’s eyes and send a psychic f-you to the guy who found me so unappealing. He barely managed to have sex with me once a month. When I found out he was cheating on me with multiple women—sometimes three different women in a week—I was ready to give up men altogether. But this is better.

So long as my father never finds out. Because Alberto LaTorre, don of the LaTorre Crime Family, would never recover from learning his spoiled principessa is taking her clothes off for money. He has some very old school Catholic ideas about women—they’re either whores or the blessed Virgin herself, and nothing in between exists. And, obviously, he wants me firmly in the blessed virgin category.

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