A Mafia Romance Aubrey Irons
“Looks like your luck’s run out, Aela.”
Rain pours in sheets outside, crashing like waves against the big factory windows of the old building. Graffiti tags the crumbling brick walls, glowing neon with each flash of lightning outside.
The flash also illuminates the silvery metal of the gun in his hand.
My chest feels tight, like I can’t breathe. My pulse pounds like a drum in my ears as I eye the gleaming metal and the grinning man holding it.
He shakes his head. “Aela, Aela, Aela. What are we going to do with you?”
It’s a rhetorical question. I’m not exactly going to answer with a gag in my mouth.
He lifts the gun, hefting the weight of it in his hand as he steps towards me. Thunder booms outside.
“You know, your father would be so disappointed in you.”
The rage comes flashing to the surface just as the lightning crashes, and I scream at him through the gag. I lunge toward him even though I know it’s a futile gesture, the plastic ties binding my wrists to the chair burn hot as they dig into my skin. My eyes squeeze shut as the fight drains from me.
“Headstrong and reckless as ever. You know, that’s what got you into this mess in the first place.”
He’s what got me into this mess in the first place.
He’s the one that set me up.
He’s the reason I’m here, and why my world is shattering around me.
He’s why the man I love is lying bleeding back in the church with a hole in him.
Or loved. Or still love. Or maybe it’s “love again.”
It’s a moot point now anyways, though.
This is what I get for coming back here. This is what I get for falling into him and his arms all over again — for letting go, for throwing caution and rational thinking to the wind and letting what always came natural to us carry me away again.
This is what I get for wanting him.
For surrendering myself to the man who already broke me once. For craving his touch. For being addicted to how sinfully dirty he makes me feel, how perfectly bad it is when I’m with him.
The way he shatters my world like he shattered my heart all those years ago.
The tears I’ve been swearing to myself I wouldn’t let this man see — the one holding the gun who stole that away from me — finally trickle from me eyes, trailing hot lines down my cheeks to drip onto the white wedding dress I’m wearing.
He grins smugly, as if my crying is a win for him.
“I want you to know this is nothing personal.”
He lifts the gun.
The tears are still falling, but I’m screaming in rage at him now. I’m straining against the binds, feeling the blood run hot down my wrists to stain the white dress, and not even caring as I stare fire, rage, and death at the man who’s about to murder me.
The man who took everything I’ve ever loved.
The man who’s leveling a gun at the center of my forehead, about to take the last of me as he slowly shakes his head.
“It’s nothing personal.”
The hammer draws back. This is the end of the line.
This is what I get for coming back here.
“It’s just business, Aela, that’s it. But for what it’s worth?”
“You never should have come back here.”
I close my eyes.
I think of the man I love.
And the gun roars.
“So, do we have a deal?”
The cherry at the end of Mick’s cigarette glows red as he puffs on it, smoke curling around his smug face.
I look away.
Even when I was a kid, back when my father ran the neighborhood and Mick was his second in command — back before everything went wrong — I never much liked him.
But I fucking hate him now.
“After everything my father did,” I say for the tenth time, feeling the last of the fight drain from my body.
“It’s because of your father that I’m going out on a limb and doin’ you this favor, you know.”
The word we’re looking for here is sentencing.
This is being pulled from the frying pan and shoved into the fire.
“Pretty sure this is your only option, Aela.” The leather chair creaks under his bulk as Mick Flaherty leans back. He shrugs again, as if this is some sort of casual conversation. “The Italians aren’t anyone you want to hold onto a debt with, but I think you already know that,” he chuckles.
I slowly shake my head as I turn to look out the dirty window of his office above the warehouse, tucking my long red locks behind one ear absently.
“Tommy’s a good kid, you know. You guys used to hit it off okay.”
I have never “hit it off” with Mick’s shit-head of a son. I hit him once, in high school when he tried to stick his hand up my skirt, but that’s possibly one of the friendliest encounters we’ve ever had.
“This is what family does, Aela.”
I turn back this time to see him tapping ash off the end of his cigarette into a dirty ceramic ashtray shaped like a basketball with the Celtics logo on it. He glances at me before picking up the pack on his desk and offering it to me.
I shake my head.
“Good. You know your dad woulda hated if you picked up the habit.” He pulls on the smoke, the end of it burning bright. “You turned out good, Aela.” He grins. “Well, aside from your gambling and borrowing habits.”
“But this is what family does. We scratch each other’s backs. I help you out with your financial problems, you help me out with my own situation.”
The situation at hand is Mick’s claim to the Boston operations of the Dark Saints — the Irish crime syndicate with deep roots back in Dublin. Here in Southie, Boston, my dad ran things until his death two years ago, and since then, Mick’s held temporary custodianship.
The problem is, Mick isn’t a Reilly.
The Reilly name has weight back in Dublin. And the Irish kings — the old-school bosses who run the whole thing from over in Ireland — have decided that the “temporary” placeholder needs to get more permanent, or Mick gets replaced.
Which means he needs legitimacy.
He needs my father’s only living daughter.
He needs me.
And that’s what brings me here today, back to Southie for only the second time in six damn years. I’d have never come back here at all if I could help it, but that was before I got set up.
That was before I owed a million freaking dollars to the Italian mafia out in Vegas.
I was the talent at that card table, Nico Vecchio was the bankroll, and the whole thing was supposed to be a sure thing — a rigged game.
And it was, just not the way I thought it was.
So now I’m here, about to sell my soul to the devil. Because how does Mick get legitimacy? By marrying into the family. Specifically, marrying his son Tommy into the family. Mick pays my debts, I get Nico and the Italians off my back, and I get my life back.
That’s an entirely debatable sentiment, though. Because in exchange for this, I have to do something for Mick.
I have to marry his son.
You know what, let’s just call this the worst day of my life, and that’s saying something.
“Do we have a deal, Aela?”
I turn and look out the window again, looking out at the grey, rain-slicked streets of Southie.
I never wanted to come back here, but here I am. Because I’m out of options. I’m out of moves, and out of cards to play.
“So, do we—”
I whisper the words, still not looking at him.
He raps his knuckles on the desk between us, blowing smoke out through his nose and sighing contentedly. “Good. Good. This is excellent news. You’re doing the family proud, you know.”
No, I’m not.
“I’ve got your dad’s house all set up for you — temporarily, of course, until the wedding. After that you and Tommy will move in together.”
My skin crawls.
“You’ll have whatever you need,” Mick goes on, oblivious or not caring about the sour feeling welling up inside of me. “You’ll be treated with the respect your father would have wanted. And protection, of course.”
“Protection?” I frown and glance back at Mick as he drags on his cigarette.
“The Russians,” he glowers. “Those commie fuckers have been pushing hard into our territory, trying to stir up some shit. You being back puts a bit of a target on your back Aela.”
Anything else want to happen to make this day worse?
“So, I got you a bodyguard.”
Mick buzzes his intercom to the waiting room outside his office. “Get in here,” he growls before glancing back at me with that big fake smile.
“Don’t worry, you two know each other.”
Behind me, the door to the office opens.
My heart freezes, and the floor drops out from under me.
Literally anyone but him.
Slowly, I turn, and slowly, the past comes rushing up to pull me back under.
Because there, standing in the doorway looking as gorgeous, and as dark, and as dangerous, and as beautifully broken as the day I ran away from him and this place, is the last man I wanted to see back here.
His ice blue eyes flash that dark, smoldering fire as they lock onto mine.
My name from Liam Roarke’s lips shoves me right back there. My name from that mouth sends shivers down my spine, and heat through my body, even six years later.
But this isn’t then, and I’m not that girl anymore. That girl was naive enough to want this boy to hold on to her, to ask her to stay.
This boy who took her innocence.
The one who was her everything.
Six years ago, this was the boy I loved.
But that was before it all changed. That was before my whole world shattered.
That was before he broke my heart.
Well, now it seems he’s my personal bodyguard.
Six years ago, I got as far away from Liam Roarke as I possibly could.
Something tells me, I’m about to be closer to him than ever.
The man standing in front of me is bigger, darker — a more intensely brooding version of the boy I used to know.
The one I loved.
His once shaggy dark hair is shaved short on the sides now, the top slicked back and to one side which only helps to accentuate his strikingly chiseled face. The shadowed hollows of his cheeks, the angular jawline, the strong chin, and those absolutely perfect lips. He’s older, of course, but there’s no mistaking the Liam I used to know, standing there in the doorway staring at me with all the fierce intensity of the last look he gave me that day six years before.
We were kids back then, and we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. Well, or at least I didn’t know what I was doing. All I knew back then was the forbidden temptation of the boy from the streets.
I mean, we were all from the streets in the neighborhood back then, but Liam Roarke was different.
Or maybe it was just the way he looked at me.
The way he stirred something in me.
The way I could never say no to him.
The way we got swept away in the type of forever romance you only think exists when it’s your first.
Ours was a secret, and I think that’s what appealed to us. The hiding away from everyone else. The looking over our shoulders. The knowing if my father found out there’d be hell to pay.
We thought we had forever hidden in the shadows back then, but that’s before things hit a boiling point.
That’s before Sheila died.
Things were rough back then, with the turmoil back in Dublin spilling over into the streets of Boston. There was the impending war with the Albanians, the Feds knocking down people’s doors, Liam’s brother Gray going to jail.
My older sister Sheila dying the way she did was the final breaking point for my father, and I was on the next plane to boarding school in Switzerland, leaving everything behind.
Everything like Liam.
But it wasn’t me leaving that did us in. It was him pushing me away before I even left.
It was the cold, nonchalant indifference that day, and the way he made sure to shatter my heart completely before I boarded the plane. And when I landed, I wasn’t the same girl I’d been.
I never was again.
Six years ago, Liam Roarke tore my heart out, and now he’s standing right in front of me.
The same damn glint in his eyes. The same fucking smirk on his face. The same dangerous, rough look that drew me in back then.
He’s not a boy anymore, either. He’s bigger, filled out, his shoulders broader, his chest and arms thicker. Scruff covers his grooved jaw, a shadow in his eyes that wasn’t there before.
But it’s him.
It’s the same man that wrecked me before.
Six years later, and those are our first words.
I ignore him, not trusting what I’ll say as I turn back to Mick.
“No, no protection.” I shake my head. “This is my neighborhood, I’m fine here.”
What I don’t say is, “I won’t be fine with him here.”
Mick shakes his head. “It’s a non-starter, Aela. The Russians are getting bold, and I’m not chancing it with you being here.” He sighs heavily, placing a dramatic hand over his heart. “I could never forgive myself or the memory of your father if anything happened.”
I almost roll my eyes.
It’s not me he’s worried about, it’s his claim. It’s his tenuous hold on the legacy my father built here.
It’s my deal with the devil.
I turn back to Liam, scowling. This is not how I imagined our first conversation going, and I did imagine it, many times, which I hate to admit. What we’d say to each other, what I’d say to him. How I’d be so much better than him.
Rich, glamorous, married maybe.
I’d be able sneer down at the asshole who broke my heart and show him how much more golden the world had gotten for me since him.
I never imagined it like this.
Not broke, in debt and indentured, sitting in Mick’s shitty office back here in Southie owing a favor of this magnitude.
Not needing his help.
“Is there anyone else?”
Mick laughs. “Jesus Christ, kid. You got your dad’s brashness, that’s for fuckin’ sure.” He chuckles. “You two used to be close when you were kids, didn’t you?”
That’s one way of putting it.
“But anyways, no. There’s no one else. Roarke’s my go-to guy for shit like this, and I want him on you.” Mick stabs the air with his dwindling cigarette. “All over you.”
I hate the blush that comes to my face, and I know Liam sees it.
Mick wouldn’t be putting him “on me” if he knew what we used to be. Not a chance — not with me supposed to marry Tommy. If Mick had an inkling how “close” we were back there, he’d have Liam on the next plane to Mars.
That or tied to a rock at the bottom of Boston Harbor.
“You’re not even gonna know he’s there, don’t worry.”
I frown. “Where exactly is he going to be?”
Mick shrugs. “Everywhere? He’s staying at the house with you.”
My jaw drops. “What?” I shake my head. “Look, I’m agreeing to this whole ridiculous thing, alright? I’m here, and I’m saying yes to this absurd agreement. But I do not need to be watched like this.”
“It’s protection, Aela.”
He says my name again, and just like before, heat glows through me.
But I close my eyes and shake my head, forcing myself to push the forbidden temptation of that voice out of my head.
I am not the girl from before. That girl died back there that last night with him. She lost herself in Switzerland. She recreated herself at the card tables of Monaco and Milan. She reinvented who she was in California, and Vegas.
Coming home breaks all that. Coming back to Boston brings that girl from before back from the dead. And seeing Liam Roarke breaks my heart all over again.
But like I said, I’m out of options, and I’m out of cards to play.
I take a deep breath as I turn back to Mick, and slowly, I extend my hand.
“We have a deal.”
He grins, taking mine. “This is good for everyone Ael-”
“Not him.” I jerk my finger at Liam. “Not him.”
I turn before either of them can say anything else, walk right past Liam, and out the damn door, the storm of all those years ago billowing after me.
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