As a newly Made Capo in the Pivetti Crime Family, all eyes are on James “Mac” Maccari, and not for a particularly good reason. The way to his new position in the family was paved with blood, and that left some all too suspicious of where—or who—he might be going after next. Mac isn’t interested in playing to the politics of other Made men or Cosa Nostra. His only goal is to keep his promise and be waiting for his gun moll when she’s finally released from prison.
Until all hell breaks loose … again.
Fresh off her six month sentence, Melina Morgan is all too ready to get back to life, and Mac. The mafia life has been one learning curve after another, but with Mac at her side, there’s nothing that they can throw at her that she can’t handle. Even with a ring on her finger, and a new last name to go with it, Melina won’t be domesticated. But with a man like Mac, he wasn’t exactly looking for that kind of a woman, anyway.
Sometimes, wedding bells bring bloodstains …
When directed attacks start to happen, taking the lives of some of the highest Made men in the Pivetti family, distrust and unrest begins to breed throughout the ranks. Someone is making a move on the boss’s seat, and it seems far too easy to put the blame at Mac’s feet when every single attack is somehow connected to him. All over again, Mac and Melina find they’re fighting an uphill battle to keep each other safe and survive.
“Wake your lazy asses up,” a male voice said. Melina opened one eye and stared at the peeling gray ceiling above her head. A large piece of paint clung desperately to the ceiling. She was sure if she breathed too hard, the old paint would hit her in the face. Death by lead poisoning. Melina was sure that was what the pigs who ran the jail were hoping for. Too bad for them; she had other plans. “Melina, are you awake?” She opened both eyes, yawned, and stretched before she eased herself from the top bunk and down to the hard concrete floor. Melina did her best to ignore the guards walking up and down the block outside her cell. “Does this answer your question?” she said to her roommate. “Damn, girl. You don’t have to be so hostile. You should be happy.” Folding her arms, Melina stared at the brown-skinned woman sitting on the bottom bunk. With black hair done up in thick rope twists that hung midway down her back and a permanent warm smile, Erika’s morning cheer grated her nerves. It had from the moment they’d been assigned as cellmates. “And why is that, Miss Sunshine?” Melina asked. “Because tomorrow, you’re getting out of this dump.” Melina opened her mouth and then promptly closed it. Erika was right. Tomorrow she would be a free woman. “How could you have forgotten about something as important as that?” Erika asked as she stood and moved to brush her teeth. Melina shrugged nonchalantly. “I guess because I stopped counting the days a long while ago.” At least that was what she was saying out loud. Privately, the truth was a whole different matter. Five and a half months may not have been much time to Erika or some of the other women here, but to Melina it seemed a lifetime had been taken away. A lifetime of burning kisses. A lifetime of passionate lovemaking. A lifetime of Mac. Mac. The boyfriend she hadn’t seen or heard from since her sentencing. Melina swallowed the hot bitterness that threatened to well up in her. It wasn’t his fault. She knew enough about Cosa Nostra to understand why Mac had stayed away. As a newly minted Capo of the Pivetti crime family, it wouldn’t look good for Mac to be putting money on her commissary account, much less coming to see her on visitation days. It didn’t matter that they were in love. It didn’t matter that Melina would rather slit her own wrists than betray the man she loved. She wasn’t Mac’s wife and to Cosa Nostra, that made her a liability. Honestly, Melina was more than surprised that there hadn’t been a warning delivered for her to keep quiet or another less than subtle threat. No doubt, she owed the fact that she was still breathing to Mac sticking his neck out for her. It surely wasn’t because Luca Pivetti felt like being merciful. The man didn’t like her and the feeling was mutual. “Good thing I’m keeping up with it for you, then,” Erika said. She came close and placed her hand on Melina’s shoulder. “I guess so. I don’t know how you do it.” “Do what?” Erika asked. “Stay so upbeat.” “What good is being depressed or upset going to do? I did the crime and I have to do the time. Besides, maybe my good behavior will get me out of here earlier. You never know.” Facing three and a half years for marijuana possession with intent to sell, Erika’s glass-half-full mentality truly worked Melina’s nerves sometimes, but her cellmate was making some valid points. After all, Erika’s stellar behavior had kept her from being sentenced to one of the harsher women’s facilities and had gotten six months knocked off her initial sentence. There was even talk that the rest of her sentence could possibly be commuted down to strict probation. Perhaps if Melina had employed the same mentality, she’d have had some time shaved off her own sentence. In what universe? Melina wasn’t like Erika. She had a rap as a prostitute connected to Cosa Nostra and for that reason alone, she’d been made an example of. What the hypocrites who’d imprisoned her hadn’t realized was that she came from strong stock. Nothing was going to break her. Not this incarceration. Not even being separated from Mac. “I guess you’ve got a point,” Melina finally said. “But you’re not buying it.” “Let’s just say life has rarely worked out for me the way that I’ve wanted it to. You learn the easiest way to survive is not to have expectations.” “Seems like a sad way to live,” Erika said. “It is.” Melina moved around Erika in the tiny cell to brush her teeth before the guards would come to escort them to the cafeteria for breakfast. If you could call it that. The food was terrible. “You miss him, don’t you?” Melina stopped brushing and spit. “I don’t know who you’re talking about.” “Sure you don’t. I’ve heard you call out his name in your sleep.” “And whose name would that be?” Melina said before she continued brushing. “Mac,” Erika said. Melina rinsed her mouth out quickly with the bitter-tasting water while she tried to gather her thoughts. What could she say to her cellmate? A lie would be easier, so much easier than acknowledging the emptiness that had threatened to consume her during her imprisonment. For someone who’d vowed never to fall in love, she’d fallen and fallen hard. It was hard to remember the exact moment that Mac had wormed his way into her heart. Maybe it was when he’d posted her bail. Maybe it was when he’d defended her honor against Tip and Vin. Or maybe it was when he’d gone down on his knees and given her a glimpse of heaven. Melina didn’t know and she didn’t care. All she knew was that she missed him and wanted to be back in his arms more than anything. That is, if he still wanted her. “So what if I did say that name?” “After all the time we’ve shared in this cell, don’t you know by now that you can trust me?” Melina raised a brow. “I trust no one.” “Fine, you don’t have to trust me, but maybe talking about him will make you feel a bit better. Just think about it, okay?” The heavy doors slowly slid open and Erika turned away, waiting to receive the go-ahead from the guard that they could exit the cell. When they were finally allowed to leave the small space, Melina considered what Erika had offered. Was it time that she let someone in? Perhaps a good talk was all she needed to center herself in preparation for whatever came next.
“I couldn’t stand him from the moment we met,” Melina confessed. “Why not?” Melina sat down next to Erika on a table in the recreation yard. In front of them, the other women of the facility played basketball, lifted weights and huddled together in clustered groups. During her stint in lockup, Melina had learned to keep her eyes and ears open and respect everyone’s turf. That didn’t mean that she wouldn’t defend herself, when and if the need arose. “Because he was so … so arrogant, I thought.” “Well, obviously things changed, so what happened?” Melina smiled. “I learned what I thought was arrogance was simply confidence and that we had a lot more in common than I thought we did.” Erika pulled her twists into an easy bun on the top of her head. “Like what? Go on.” “For starters, we’re both survivors. Somehow or another, no matter how hard life knocks us down, we always find some way to get back up. There’s an energy between us that I’ve never experienced before. It’s scary sometimes,” Melina confessed. “Now that last part sounds romantic to me.” “I didn’t really think of it like that, but I guess it is.” Erika rolled her eyes. “Call a spade a spade, honey. No one will think less of you because you’re a closet romantic.” Melina shuddered. “I am not, I repeat, I am not one of those sappy women in the romance novels, so don’t even think it.” “Whatever. So when did you go from detesting his entire existence to actually caring about him?” “I saw him at a club and I was dancing with another guy. A normal guy would have brushed it off. Not Mac. The next thing I know, he had the other guy on the floor and me over his shoulder.” “And you went for that alpha male shit?” Erika asked as she raised an eyebrow. “Hardly. I tried to beat the crap out of him, and then the next thing I knew, we were all over each other.” Erika opened her mouth to say something, but was cut off when two women started yelling at one another on the basketball court. Their voices were so loud, they drowned out practically all the other noise on the rec yard. A moment later, whistles were blown and the two women were separated and led away, no doubt back to their cells or worse, to confinement. “Both of them are dumb for getting worked up over a stupid pick-up game,” Erika finally said. “Yep. No telling how that little stunt is going to come back and bite them in the ass.” Melina tugged a fly away strand of hair back behind her ear. “Anyway, now back to your Mac. Please tell me the two of you had some dirty club sex afterwards.” “Sorry to disappoint, but no.” “You know you missed a prime opportunity right?” “Little Miss Good Girl is telling me I should have banged him at a club. I must have fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole.” Erika thumped her lightly on the arm. “Hey. I’m not that goodie-goodie. I am in here, aren’t I?” “Your point? You’re only here because the man you loved and trusted left you holding the bag. There’s no way you’d be mixed up in drugs otherwise. It’s not you,” Melina said. “And what about you?” Erika asked quietly. “What about me?” “Did Mac leave you holding the bag?” Melina rose to her feet, nostrils flaring. “I can’t believe you’d even ask me something like that.” Erika raised her hand in a defensive motion. “I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just asking.” “I’m done talking about him.” Without giving her cellmate a chance to respond, Melina walked away. Stuffing her hands in the threadbare pockets of her blue pants, she blew a breath. She’d overreacted. Like a damn jackass. If anyone didn’t have ulterior motives, it was Erika, but the younger woman had touched on a raw spot. Melina was the one holding the bag. There was no way she or Mac could’ve known Dulcea’s place would be raided the day she’d been arrested. But still, intentionally or not, she was the one left holding the bag. To do otherwise would’ve forced her to sacrifice the one person in her life who’d slowly come to mean everything to her. But was it fair that she’d been stuck in this Godforsaken place while Mac was free to live his life as if she didn’t even exist? Tears burned in her eyes, but Melina blinked them away. Cosa Nostra was everything. Cosa Nostra came first. But where did that leave her? In less than twenty-four hours, she would be a free woman with convictions tied to her name. A free woman who had nowhere to go and no one to depend on, if the man who loved her didn’t keep his word. Melina had never been one for praying much, but as she walked the length of the rec yard, she sent up a silent prayer that her fears were for nothing. That for once in her life, she’d found someone she could truly depend on, no matter where the chips fell. You’re worrying for nothing. Mac wouldn’t abandon you. She wanted to believe that. As the days went by, she’d held onto that belief. But here, now, right at the finish line, her conviction was faltering. Absence could make the heart grow fonder … or forgetful. Though she’d thought of Mac every single day, there was no guarantee that he’d done the same. Time and power always had a way of changing someone. Reflexively, Melina reached toward her neck, but her fingers only touched bare skin. Her necklace was gone, just like its prior owner, but she’d get both of them back tomorrow. That was her last thought as she was roughly forced to the ground and chaos erupted around her.
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