Sometimes love is worth dying for…
I was only trying to protect her…
That’s why I put her on the back of my bike… That’s why I took her to bed and showed her what a real man can do. I made her scream. I made her beg for more. But she wasn’t so innocent.
Her name is Gabby Loprinzi.
This pretty little thing is the daughter of the most infamous mob boss in the country…
And her desire for a taste of the forbidden is going to get both of us killed.
Ozone Park, Queens, NYC
FOURTH OF JULY BLOCK PARTY
“Step right up! See the World’s Tiniest Woman with your own eyes! A freak of nature, right in this very tent!” The tiny wrinkled man was missing a few teeth, his black hair cut into a deep mullet, with a long braid extending down his back. He leaned down to the little girl watching him, a slow sneer spreading across his pockmarked face, the stench of his stale breath stinging her green eyes.
“She’s even smaller than you, little one!” His laugh was short and jagged like the thin, dirty finger he pointed at her nose. She recoiled in horror, stepping back into her mother’s skirt.
“Come along, Gabriella,” her mother grabbed her daughter’s hand and pulled her away from the man quickly and together they threaded through the crowd.
“Mama,” the girl asked, “why is the woman so small?”
“I don’t know, darling,” her mother replied. “Some people are just born that way.”
The girl wrinkled her brow, hoping she didn’t stay this size. She was already taller than most of the kids in her class, and she was still growing. But she hated being little. It was so unfair. There were so many things you couldn’t do. You couldn’t see over people’s shoulders, for one, so that meant she couldn’t see how far away they were from the Ferris wheel her mother had promised to take her on before the fireworks later.
“Oh, hello, Vicky,” her mother said, stopping abruptly. The girl ran into her mother’s soft skirt, and her mom pulled her hand away to shake Vicky’s. They stood talking forever, about whatever mom’s talk about. Vicky had apparently just had a new dishwasher delivered, and she rattled on and on about it as the crowd streamed past them.
The smell of cotton candy drifted through the air, seducing the girl like a siren’s song with the promise of pink fluffy heaven. Her feet began moving as if they had a mind all of their own, or rather, a nose of their own. Gabriella was just an eager participant, along for the ride, her mother long forgotten behind her, still nodding politely at Vicky’s unleashed stream of consciousness, completely oblivious to the fact that her daughter was wandering off without her.
Gabrielle weaved through the sea of thighs like a snake – quietly, smoothly, efficiently. Her sight was blocked, so she followed her nose, her mind focused on one thing only – the anticipation of the blissful first moment when that sticky cotton candy touched her tongue.
She’d fallen in love with it last year at the Fourth of July block party that Mr. Giannetti organized for the neighborhood every year. Each Fourth of July, he closed down the entire block of 101st Street outside of the Bugotti’s Hunt and Fish Club in Ozone Park. He had all these amazing carnival rides brought in that you could ride for free and turned the street into a real bona fide carnival, inviting the entire neighborhood. Everyone loved it, and everyone loved him.
Nobody seemed to mind where the money came from. As far as they were concerned, he was a saint. He kept the crime out of the neighborhood and he helped out the families when they needed it.
Gabrielle’s mom, especially, loved him. She’d never say that out loud, of course. But the girl saw the way her mother batted her eyes at him, the way her hand flew to her heart every time he said hello to her. She actually blushed and she didn’t do that around her dad.
The girl was a little embarrassed about it. He was her father’s boss, after all. But her dad didn’t seem to notice, so the girl kept it to herself. She liked Mr. Giannetti too, but only because he was responsible for the carnival. It was her favorite time of the year.
The cotton candy was just one of the reasons.
The sea of thighs parted and she found herself near a large tent. She followed around behind it, mostly because there weren’t a lot of people that she had to maneuver through. Her mission had not wavered. Cotton candy was the only thing she could think about.
Gabriella looked around for other people but didn’t see anyone. She walked around the tent and saw an open flap at the back. Voices rose from inside and she peeked in.
Her father was there, standing proudly in his impeccable signature black suit. He was yelling at a man she’d never seen before. That man wore a brown suit and a brown hat like the man at the grocery store that Gabriella’s father took her to get ice cream on Sundays. Chocolate, always chocolate.
“Leo, I’m sorry, please…” the man pleaded, as her father pointed a gun at his chest. Another man, who she recognized as her father’s friend Tiny, entered the tent from the front, huffing and puffing as if he’d been running for a while.
“Boss says we gotta do it, Leo,” Tiny said, shaking his head.
With wild, desperate eyes, the man begged her father again.
“Please, Leo, you can’t leave my boy an orphan. I got a family, Leo! My wife!” the man pleaded.
“I’m sorry, Paulie. The Boss says so, and you know what that means,” her father said, shaking his head.
“Leo, it’ll kill my Ma. Her heart can’t handle a thing like this, she’s so frail. Leo, please don’t!” the man kept pleaded.
“Daddy,” the girl whispered to herself, watching with wide eyes from her hiding place.
“Don’t beg, Paulie. Go quietly, while you still have your dignity,” Leo said.
“No!” The man screamed, and then took a step back, pulling a gun from his jacket.
Shots rang out and the girl ducked.
“Get down!” she heard a muffled voice just as arms wrapped around her waist and pulled her ten feet away. She landed on the ground under a shrub with a boy on top of her. Bullets whizzed by their heads as he covered her body with his.
When the bullets finally stopped, they looked up. A bullet had ripped through the tent exactly where she had been standing moments earlier. The flimsy door of the tent was flapping in the breeze and they could see the man in the brown suit lying there, his hat lying next to him, dripping with blood.
She turned her head and stared up into the darkest pair of eyes she’d ever seen. They were wide with fear and worry, scurrying over her body.
“Are you alright?” he whispered urgently. He couldn’t have been much older than her, she thought. His black hair was almost as dark as his eyes. His lashes were longer than hers and she stared up at him curiously.
“Yes, I think so,” she nodded. “Thank you. Are you okay?”
“Yes,” he replied, staring down into her big green eyes.
“We should get out of here,” he said.
“Gabriella!” Her mother’s voice broke the silence as they continued to stare into each other’s eyes, their gaze locked together. “Gabrieelllllaa!!”
Footsteps shuffled inside the tent, the sound of them disappearing out the front of the tent and fading away.
Are they going to come back? the boy wondered. He didn’t want to wait around to find out.
“Let’s go!” he said, pulling the girl to her feet.
“No, I can’t…” she shook her head, her eyes filled with fear as she looked back at the tent.
“It’s not safe here!” he insisted, attempting to pull her away with him. “Come with me!”
“Gabriella Loprinzi!” A man’s voice bellowed, startling them both with its closeness.
“Hide!” the girl yelled to the boy, pushing him away. “My father is coming!”
His brow wrinkled in confusion, but he followed his instincts and did as she said, hiding behind a dumpster just as the man rounded the corner.
“Daddy!” the girl cried, running to the man in the black suit who they had just watched hold a man at gunpoint.
“That’s your dad?” the boy whispered to himself, as goosebumps spread over his skin.
He watched the girl be led away, her tiny hand enclosed in the hand that had just taken a man’s life.
She looked back over her shoulder, their eyes colliding once again, neither of them knowing that their destinies had just been set into motion.
Gabriella Loprinzi… That was a name he would never forget.
I knew I shouldn’t have been here, but that rebellious streak was rushing through my veins even before I walked in, and I knew I couldn’t turn back now.
So, I didn’t even try.
I strutted directly into the eye of the storm with every intention to fully enjoy its wrath.
Thing is, I didn’t know what that truly meant at the time. Now, I do. Looking back, I see I had no clue what I was really in for.
I walked in that door with one thing on my mind, the self-assured cockiness that only comes with youth and blind faith in your own immortality wrapped around me like an invisible security blanket.
I was invincible, or so I thought.
And who could blame me? I’d been treated like a princess my whole life. Untouchable, because of my name. Because of my family. Because my family wasn’t just a family. We were The Family.
And if you were a member of the family, you always got whatever you wanted, did whatever you wanted, and went wherever you wanted – no questions asked.
So, yeah, I guess I’m a little spoiled in that way, but whatever.
That doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. I’ve still got a heart, for fuck’s sake. It just comes with a little baggage attached. I’m used to getting my way, that’s all I’m saying.
So, when I walked into the biker bar on the edge of Queens, I thought I knew exactly what I was in for. My best friend, Bella Balducci, had already tested the waters, and she came out relatively unscathed. Sure, she had a little trouble walking the next day, but it was a good kind of pain, she’d insisted.
All the raving I’d been forced to listen to had planted a little seed of curiosity. I decided I needed to find out for myself if banging a biker was really as thrilling as she said. Of course, I didn’t tell Bella I was coming. In fact, I hadn’t told anyone, because the information would have been relayed to my father quicker than lightening, and he’d find a way to keep me locked up inside his proverbial castle in Howard Beach under the watchful eyes of his goons for months and there was no way I was going through that hell again.
I’d learned the hard way just how unpleasant that could be.
So, I kept it to myself. Which only added to the wicked deliciousness that I felt as I strode through the doors of Otto’s and saw all heads turn my way.
I’d dressed the part. I’d worn a tight black tank that dipped to a low v in front. Tight jeans hugged my hips, and I had them tucked into a pair of black leather harnessed biker boots.
I lifted my chin, pushed out my tits, and threw my shoulders back, flipping my long black waves over my shoulder as I walked to the bar.
A sweet ripple of pleasure washed over me and I smiled to myself.
Tonight, I could be anyone I wanted.
I wasn’t Gabriella Loprinzi, daughter of the biggest mafia boss in Queens.
I wasn’t the devoted daughter who wouldn’t dare to step outside of her circle of friends and family for a good time. I wasn’t the girl that made every guy she was interested in run away as soon as he found out her last name. I wasn’t the girl that always made sure not to cause any waves so that I didn’t attract any undue attention to the family.
No, tonight I was just Gabby.
No infamous family. No baggage. No expectations.
Well, there was one expectation, but it was my own. I had every expectation of ending this night in one of these biker’s beds, and once I was safely returned to my perfect, boring life, I was going to regale Bella with every juicy detail.
“Whiskey, neat.” The bartender looked me over and I stared straight into his eyes, daring him to ask for my ID. I had one, of course. Two, actually. I was just two weeks shy of my twenty-first birthday, so I still had my fake one if he asked. The two ID’s were identical copies. You’d be amazed what high-quality fakes money can buy in New York City. I guess I passed muster because he turned away after snagging a quick look at my cleavage and began pouring.
I took a moment to scan the room, my eyes slowly raking over the crowd. Almost everyone but the bartender wore a patched leather vest. Men of every size and shape filled the room, but even the smallest of them looked tough as a pit bull.
Maybe tough was an understatement.
They looked worn, scarred, even a little dirty. More importantly, they looked as if they were no strangers to violence.
A thread of fear wormed its way into my heart and I swallowed hard.
These weren’t your normal men. At least not the kind of men I was used to…
The ones on every corner that nodded to me with respect when I walked by.
No, these guys were ruggedly masculine. They were rough riders born of an entirely different cloth than the spunky Italian boys I was used to.
And they had no idea who I was.
Heat flushed over me as my eyes clashed with a man standing in the corner. He looked like he could tear me apart with his bare hands and the intense look in his eyes was unmistakeable and undeniable.
I shuddered when I realized that was why I had come here, and yet now I wasn’t so sure I could truly handle it.
I tore my eyes from his intense gaze and continued sweeping the room.
It was then I noticed I was the only woman in the entire bar. Shit, I thought. I scanned the room one more time, hoping that wasn’t truly the case. I’d hoped for a little backup, but as far as I could make out, I was the only one foolish enough to put herself in this situation.
That thread of fear grew to a slow, terrifying throb and I gratefully took a sip of the whiskey as soon as the bartender sat it down in front of me. I threw down a twenty, and it was promptly scooped up by a hand that quickly descended from my right and plopped it right back in front of me.
“Put it on my tab, Tony,” a deep voice said next to me. I turned to my right and stared into a pair of very dark eyes that belonged to the most handsome face I’d ever seen.
He was huge, not just tall, but he had incredibly wide shoulders. He towered over me, his eyes peering deeply into mine, sending shocks of electricity through my limbs.
“Thank you,” I managed to utter, my voice catching as I stared up at him. He was handsome, sure, but there was something else about him. A confidence, a self-awareness that hit me hard. He wasn’t the kind of man you’d argue with. That’s why I allowed him to buy my drink, even though my first instinct was to protest. I didn’t want to owe him anything.
The set of his jaw told me his offer was non-negotiable.
“You look a little out of place, darlin’,” he mumbled. I tore my eyes from his, raking them across his face and down to his huge barrel-chest which was draped in a black t-shirt with a black leather cut slung across his wide shoulders.
“Dante?” I said, reading the name from the patch on the front of his cut.
“That’s right. And you are?” He raised an eyebrow, the light from the bar reflecting in his eyes, which I saw now actually consisted of endless pools of inky blackness, with tiny slivers of chocolate brown flecks. I wanted to stare into them forever. But I didn’t. It was too much. It was like staring into the sun.
My hands had been shaking with nervousness since I’d walked into the place, but now, under the heat of his gaze, I began sweating, my heart began pounding violently in my chest and my breath caught in my throat.
Luckily, we were interrupted before I hyperventilated.
What might have been a perfectly thrilling moment took a sharp turn. I’ll never know what might have happened if Dante and I hadn’t been interrupted… Maybe we would have had a few drinks, flirted a little, snuck off to the back for a little fun before going our separate ways. I’d have went back to my happy little life with a fun and sexy story to rival Bella’s.
But it didn’t go down like that.
Because what happened next hurled us into each other’s lives with the force of a rocket exploding into space.
It was earth-shatteringly loud.
It was violently messy.
It was monumentally life-changing.
And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.