Brutal Prince Pages 1-50 - Flip PDF Download (2024)



CONTENTS 1. Aida Gallo 2. Callum Griffin 3. Aida 4. Callum 5. Aida 6. Callum 7. Aida 8. Callum 9. Aida 10. Callum 11. Aida 12. Callum 13. Aida 14. Callum 15. Aida 16. Callum 17. Aida 18. Callum 19. Aida 20. Callum 21. Aida 22. Callum 23. Aida 24. Callum 25. Aida 26. Callum 27. Aida 28. Callum 29. Aida 30. Callum Brutal Prince Epilogue Emerald Preview Colors of Crime 1-4 Boxset Sapphire – Chapter 1 Thanks For Reading! Meet Sophie

F 1 AIDA GALLO ireworks burst into bloom above the lake, hanging suspended in the clear night air, then drifting down in glittering clouds that settle on the water. My father flinches at the first explosion. He doesn’t like things that are loud or unexpected. Which is why I get on his nerves sometimes—I can be both of those things, even when I’m trying to behave myself. I see his scowl illuminated by the blue and gold light. Yup, definitely the same expression he gets when he looks at me. “Do you want to eat inside?” Dante asks him. Because it’s a warm night, we’re all sitting out on the deck. Chicago is not like Sicily—you have to take the opportunity to eat outdoors whenever you can get it. Still, if it weren’t for the sound of traffic below, you might think you were in an Italian vineyard. The table is set with the rustic stoneware brought from the old country three generations ago, and the pergola overhead is thickly blanketed by the fox grapes Papa planted for shade. You can’t make wine out of fox grapes, but they’re good for jam at least. My father shakes his head. “It’s fine here,” he says shortly. Dante grunts and goes back to shoveling chicken in his mouth. He’s so big that his fork looks comically small in his hand. He always eats like he’s starving, hunched over his plate. Dante is the oldest, so he sits on my father’s right-hand side. Nero’s on the left, with Sebastian next to him. I’m at the foot of the table, where my

mother would sit if she were still alive. “What’s the holiday?” Sebastian says as another round of fireworks rocket up into the sky. “It’s not a holiday. It’s Nessa Griffin’s birthday,” I tell him. The Griffins’ palatial estate sits right on the edge of the lake, in the heart of the Gold Coast. They’re setting off fireworks to make sure absolutely everybody in the city knows their little princess is having a party —as if it wasn’t already promoted like the Olympics and the Oscars combined. Sebastian doesn’t know because he doesn’t pay attention to anything that isn’t basketball. He’s the youngest of my brothers, and the tallest. He got a full ride at Chicago State, and he’s good enough that when I go visit him on campus, girls stare and giggle everywhere he goes, and sometimes pluck up the courage to ask him to sign their t-shirts. “How come we weren’t invited?” Nero says sarcastically. We weren’t invited because we f*cking hate the Griffins, and vice versa. The guest list will be carefully curated, stuffed with socialites and politicians and anybody else chosen for their usefulness or their cache. I doubt Nessa will know any of them. Not that I’m crying any tears for her. I heard her father hired Demi Lovato to perform. I mean, it ain’t Halsey, but it’s still pretty good. “What’s the update on the Oak Street Tower?” Papa says to Dante while slowly and meticulously cutting up his chicken parm. He already knows damn well how the Oak Street Tower is doing, because he tracks absolutely everything done by Gallo Construction. He’s just changing the subject because the thought of the Griffins sipping champagne and brokering deals with the haute monde of Chicago is irritating to him. I don’t give a sh*t what the Griffins are doing. Except that I don’t like anybody having fun without me. So, while my father and Dante are droning on about the tower, I mutter to Sebastian, “We should go over there.” “Where?” he says obliviously, gulping down a big glass of milk. The rest of us are drinking wine. Sebastian’s trying to stay in tiptop shape for dribbling and sit-ups, or whatever the f*ck his team of gangly ogres does for training. “We should go to the party,” I say, keeping my voice low.

Nero perks up at once. He’s always interested in getting into trouble. “When?” he says. “Right after dinner.” “We’re not on the list,” Sebastian protests. “Jesus.” I roll my eyes. “Sometimes I wonder if you’re even a Gallo. You scared of jaywalking too?” My two oldest brothers are proper gangsters. They handle the messier parts of the family business. But Sebastian thinks he’s going to the NBA. He’s living in a whole other reality than the rest of us. Trying to be a good boy, a law-abiding citizen. Still, he’s the closest to me in age, and probably my best friend, though I love all my brothers. So, he just grins back at me and says, “I’m coming, aren’t I?” Dante shoots us a stern look. He’s still talking to our father, but he knows we’re plotting something. Since we’ve all finished our chicken, Greta brings out the panna cotta. She’s been our housekeeper for about a hundred years. She’s my secondfavorite person, after Sebastian. She’s stout and pretty, with more gray in her hair than red. She made my panna cotta without raspberries because she knows I don’t like the seeds, and she doesn’t mind if I’m a spoiled brat. I grab her head and give her a kiss on the cheek as she sets it down in front of me. “You’re going to make me drop my tray,” she says, trying to shake me loose. “You’ve never dropped a tray in your life,” I tell her. My father takes f*cking forever to eat his dessert. He’s sipping his wine and going on and on about the electrical workers’ union. I swear Dante is drawing him out on purpose to infuriate the rest of us. When we have these formal sit-down dinners, Papa expects us all to stay till the bitter end. No phones allowed at the table either, which is basically torture because I can feel my cell buzzing again and again in my pocket, with messages from who knows who. Hopefully not Oliver. I broke up with Oliver Castle three months ago, but he isn’t taking the hint. He might need to take a mallet to the head instead if he doesn’t stop annoying me. Finally, Papa finishes eating, and we all gather up as many plates and dishes as we can carry to stack in the sink for Greta.

Then Papa goes into his office to have his second nightcap, while Sebastian, Nero, and I all sneak downstairs. We’re allowed to go out on a Saturday night. We’re all adults, after all —just barely, in my case. Still, we don’t want Papa to ask us where we’re going. We pile into Nero’s car because it’s a boss ‘57 Chevy Bel Air that will be the most fun to cruise around in with the top down. Nero starts the ignition, and in the flare of the headlights, we see Dante’s hulking silhouette, standing right in front of us, arms crossed, looking like Michael Meyers about to murder us. Sebastian jumps and I let out a little shriek. “You’re blocking the car,” Nero says drily. “This is a bad idea,” Dante says. “Why?” Nero says innocently. “We’re just going for a drive.” “Yeah?” Dante says, not moving. “Right down Lake Shore Drive.” Nero switches tactics. “So what if we are?” he says. “It’s just some Sweet Sixteen party.” “Nessa’s nineteen,” I correct him. “Nineteen?” Nero shakes his head in disgust. “Why are they even— never mind. Probably some stupid Irish thing. Or just any excuse to show off.” “Can we get going?” Sebastian says. “I don’t wanna be out too late.” “Get in or get out of the way,” I say to Dante. He stares at us a minute longer, then shrugs. “Fine,” he says, “but I’m riding shotgun.” I climb over the seat without argument, letting Dante have the front. A small price to pay to get my big brother on team Party Crashers. We cruise down LaSalle Drive, enjoying the warm early summer air streaming into the car. Nero has a black heart and a vicious temperament, but you’d never know it from the way he drives. In the car, he’s as smooth as a baby’s ass—calm and careful. Maybe it’s because he loves the Chevy and has put about a thousand hours of work into it. Or maybe driving is the only thing that relaxes him. Either way, I always like seeing him with his arm stretched out on the wheel, the wind blowing back his sleek dark hair, his eyes half-closed like a cat.

It’s not far to the Gold Coast. Actually, we’re practically neighbors—we live in Old Town, which is directly north. Still, the two neighborhoods aren’t much alike. They’re both fancy in their own ways—our house looks right over Lincoln Park, theirs fronts onto the lake. But Old Town is, well, just what the name implies—pretty f*cking old. Our house was built in the Victorian era. Our street is quiet, full of massive old oak trees. We’re close to St. Michael’s Church, which my father genuinely believes was spared the Chicago Fire by a direct act of god. The Gold Coast is the new hotness. It’s all pish-posh shopping and dining and the mansions of the richest motherf*ckers in Chicago. I feel like I sprang forward thirty years just driving over here. Sebastian, Nero, and I thought we might sneak in around the back of the Griffin property—maybe steal some caterers’ uniforms. Dante, of course, isn’t participating in any of that nonsense. He just slips the security guard five Benjamins to “find” our name on the list, and the guy waves us on in. I already know what the Griffins’ house looks like even before I see it, because it was big news when they bought it a few years back. At the time, it was the most expensive piece of residential real estate in Chicago. Fifteen thousand square feet for a cool twenty-eight million dollars. My father scoffed and said it was just like the Irish to flash their money. “An Irishman will wear a twelve-hundred-dollar suit without the money in his pocket to buy a pint,” he said. True or not as a generality, the Griffins can buy plenty of pints if they want to. They’ve got money to burn, and they’re literally burning it right now, in the form of their fireworks show still trying to put Disneyworld to shame. I don’t care about that, though—first thing I want is some of the expensive champagne being ferried around by the waiters, followed by whatever’s been stacked into a tower on the buffet table. I’m gonna do my best to bankrupt those snooty f*cks by eating my weight in crab legs and caviar before I leave this place. The party is outdoors on the sprawling green lawn. It’s the perfect night for it—more evidence of the luck of the Irish. Everybody’s laughing and talking, stuffing their faces and even dancing a little, though there’s no Demi Lovato performing yet, just a normal DJ. I guess I probably should have changed my clothes. I don’t see a single girl without a glittery party dress and heels. But that would have been

annoying as hell on the soft grass, so I’m glad I’m just wearing sandals and shorts. I do see Nessa Griffin, surrounded by people congratulating her on the monumental achievement of staying alive for nineteen years. She’s wearing a pretty, cream-colored sundress—simple and bohemian. Her light-brown hair is loose around her shoulders, and she’s got a bit of a tan and a few extra freckles across her nose, like she was out on the lake all morning. She’s blushing from all the attention, and she looks sweet and happy. Honestly, out of all the Griffins, Nessa’s the best one. We went to the same high school. We weren’t exactly friends, since she was a year behind me and a bit of a goody-two-shoes. But she seemed nice enough. Her sister on the other hand . . . I can see Riona right now, chewing out some waitress until the poor girl is in tears. Riona Griffin is wearing one of those stiff, fitted sheath dresses that looks like it belongs in a boardroom, not at an outdoor party. Her hair is pulled back even tighter than her dress. Never did anybody less suit flaming red hair—it’s like genetics tried to make her fun, and Riona was like, “I’m never having one goddamned moment of fun in my life, thank you very much.” She’s scanning the guests like she wants to bag and tag the important ones. I spin around to refill my plate before she catches sight of me. My brothers already split off the moment we arrived. I can see Nero flirting with some pretty blonde over on the dance floor. Dante has made his way over to the bar, cause he’s not gonna drink froofy champagne. Sebastian has disappeared entirely—not easy to do when you’re 6’6. I’m guessing he saw some people he knows; everybody likes Sebastian, and he’s got friends everywhere. As for me, I’ve got to pee. I can see the Griffins brought in some outdoor toilets, discretely set back on the far side of the property, screened by a gauzy canopy. But I’m not peeing in a porta potty, even if it’s a fancy one. I’m gonna pee in a proper Griffin bathroom, right where they sit their lily-white bottoms down. Plus, it’ll give me a chance to snoop around their house. Now, this does take a little maneuvering. They’ve got a lot more security around the entrance to the house, and I’m skint of cash for bribes. But once I throw a cloth napkin over my shoulder and steal the tray

abandoned by the sobbing waitress, all I have to do is load up with a few empty glasses and I sneak right into the service kitchen. I drop the dishes off at the sink like a good little employee, then I duck into the house itself. Jiminy Crickets, it’s a nice f*cking house. I mean, I know we’re supposed to be mortal rivals and all, but I can appreciate a place decked out better than anything I’ve ever seen on House Hunters. House Hunters International, even. It’s simpler than I would have expected—all creamy, smooth walls and natural wood, low, modern furniture, and light fixtures that look like industrial art. There’s a lot of actual art around, too—paintings that look like blocks of color, and sculptures made of piles of shapes. I’m not a total philistine—I know that painting is either a Rothko or supposed to look like one. But I also know I couldn’t make a house look this pretty if I had a hundred years and an unlimited budget to do it. Now I’m definitely glad I snuck in here to pee. I find the closest bathroom down the hall. Sure enough, it’s a study in luxury—lovely lavender soap, soft, fluffy towels, water that comes out of the tap at the perfect temperature, not too cool and not too hot. Who knows —in a place this big, I might be the first person to even step foot in here. The Griffins probably each have their own private bathroom. In fact, they probably get tipsy and get lost in this labyrinth. Once I finish up, I know I should head back outside. I had my little adventure, and there’s no point pushing my luck. Instead, I find myself sneaking up the wide, curved staircase to the upper level. The main level was too formal and antiseptic, like a show home. I want to see where these people actually live. To the left of the staircase, I find a bedroom that must belong to Nessa. It’s soft and feminine, full of books and stuffed animals and art supplies. There’s a ukulele on the nightstand, and several pairs of sneakers kicked hastily under the bed. The only things not clean and new are the ballet slippers slung over her doorknob by their ribbons. Those are beat to hell and back, with holes in the satin toes. Across from Nessa’s room is one that probably belongs to Riona. It’s larger, and spotlessly tidy. I don’t see any evidence of hobbies in here, just

some beautiful Asian watercolors hanging on the walls. I’m disappointed that Riona hasn’t kept shelves of old trophies and medals. She definitely seems the type. Beyond the girls’ rooms is the master suite. I won’t be going in there. It seems wrong on a different level. There has to be some kind of line I won’t cross when I’m sneaking around somebody’s house. So, I turn the opposite direction and find myself in a large library instead. Now, this is the kind of mysterious sh*t I came here for. What do the Griffins read? Is it all leather-bound classics, or are they secret Anne Rice fans? Only one way to find out . . . Looks like they favor biographies, architectural tomes, and yes, all the classics. They’ve even got a section dedicated to the famous Irish authors of yesteryear like James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Yeats, and George Bernard Shaw. No Anne Rice, but they’ve got Bram Stoker at least. Oh look, they’ve even got a signed copy of Dubliners. I don’t care what anybody says, no one understands that f*cking book. The Irish are all in on it, pretending it’s a masterwork of literature when I’m pretty sure it’s pure gibberish. Besides the floor-to-ceiling shelves of books, the library is full of overstuffed leather armchairs, three of which have been arranged around a large stone fireplace. Despite the warm weather, there’s a fire going in the grate—just a small one. It’s not a gas fire, there are actual birch logs burning, which smells nice. Above the fireplace hangs a painting of a pretty woman, with several objects arranged along the mantle underneath, including a carriage clock and an hourglass. Between those, an old pocket watch. I pick it up off the mantle. It’s surprisingly heavy in my hand, the metal warm to the touch instead of cool. I can’t tell if it’s brass or gold. Part of the chain is still attached, though it looks like it broke off at about half its original length. The case is carved and inscribed, so worn that I can’t tell what the image used to be. I don’t know how to open it, either. I’m fiddling with the mechanism when I hear a noise out in the hallway —a faint clinking sound. Quickly, I slip the watch into my pocket and dive down behind one of the armchairs, the one closest to the fire. A man comes into the library. Tall, brown hair, about thirty years old. He’s wearing a perfectly tailored suit, and he’s extremely well-groomed.

Handsome, but in a stark sort of way—like he’d push you off a lifeboat if there weren’t enough seats. Or maybe even if you forgot to brush your teeth. I haven’t actually met this dude before, but I’m fairly certain it’s Callum Griffin, the oldest of the Griffin siblings. Which means he’s just about the worst person to catch me in the library. Unfortunately, it seems like he plans to stick around a while. He sits down in an armchair almost directly across from me and starts reading emails on his phone. He’s got a glass of whiskey in his hand, and he’s sipping from it. That’s the sound I heard—the ice cubes chinking together. It’s extremely cramped and uncomfortable behind the armchair. The rug over the hardwood floor is none too cushy and I have to hunch up in a ball so my head and feet don’t poke out on either side. Plus, it’s hot as balls this close to the fire. How in the hell am I going to get out of here? Callum is still sipping and reading. Sip. Read. Sip. Read. The only other sound is the popping of the birch logs. How long is he going to sit here? I can’t stay forever. My brothers are going to start looking for me in a minute. I don’t like being stuck. I’m starting to sweat, from the heat and the stress. The ice in Callum’s glass sounds so cool and refreshing. God, I want a drink and I want to leave. How many f*cking emails does he have?! Flustered and annoyed, I hatch a plan. Possibly the stupidest plan I’ve ever concocted. I reach behind me and grab the tassel hanging down from the curtains. It’s a thick gold tassel, attached to green velvet curtains. By pulling it out to its furthest length, I can just poke it in around the edge of the grate, directly into the embers. My plan is to set it smoking, which will distract Callum, allowing me to sneak around the opposite side of the chair and out the door. That’s the genius scheme. But because this isn’t a f*cking Nancy Drew novel, this is what happens instead:

The flames rip up the cord like it was dipped in gasoline, singing my hand. I drop the cord, which swings back to the curtain. Then that curtain ignites like it’s paper. Liquid fire roars up to the ceiling in an instant. This actually does achieve its purpose of distracting Callum Griffin. He shouts and jumps to his feet, knocking over his chair. However, my distraction comes at the cost of all subtlety, because I also have to abandon my hiding spot and sprint out of the room. I don’t know if Callum saw me or not, and I don’t care. I’m thinking I should look for a fire extinguisher or water or something. I’m also thinking I should get the f*ck out of here immediately. That’s the idea that wins out—I go sprinting down the stairs at top speed. At the bottom of the staircase, I plow into somebody else, almost knocking him over. It’s Nero, with that pretty blonde right behind him. Her hair is all messed up and he’s got lipstick on his neck. “Jesus,” I say. “Is that a new record?” I’m pretty sure he only met her about eight seconds ago. Nero shrugs, a hint of a grin on his handsome face. “Probably,” he says. Smoke drifts down over the bannister. Callum Griffin is shouting up in the library. Nero gazes up the staircase, confused. “What’s going on—” “Never mind,” I say, seizing his arm. “We’ve gotta get out of here.” I start dragging him in the direction of the service kitchen, but I can’t quite take my own advice. I cast one look back over my shoulder. And I see Callum Griffin standing at the head of the stairs, glaring after us with a murderous expression on his face. We sprint through the kitchen, knocking over a tray of canapés, then we’re out the door, back out on the lawn. “You find Sebastian, I’ll get Dante,” Nero says. He abandons the blonde without a word, jogging off across the yard. I run in the opposite direction, looking for the tall, lanky shape of my youngest brother. Inside the mansion, a fire alarm starts to wail.

N 2 CALLUM GRIFFIN essa’s party starts in less than an hour, but I’m still holed up with my parents in my father’s office. His office is one of the biggest rooms in the house, larger than the master suite or the library. Which is fitting, because business is the center of our family—the core purpose of the Griffin clan. I’m fairly certain my parents only had children so they could mold us into our various roles within their empire. They certainly meant to have more of us. There’s four years between me and Riona, six between Riona and Nessa. Those gaps contain seven failed pregnancies, each ending in miscarriage or stillbirth. The weight of all those missing children lays on my shoulders. I’m the eldest and the only son. The work of the Griffin men can only be done by me. I’m the one to carry on our name and legacy. Riona would be irritated to hear me say that. She’s infuriated by any intimation that there’s a difference between us because I’m older and male. She swears she’ll never get married or change her name. Or bear children, either. That part really pisses my parents off. Nessa is much more pliable. She’s a people-pleaser, and she wouldn’t do anything to annoy dear old Mom and Dad. Unfortunately, she lives in a f*cking fantasy world. She’s so sweet and tender-hearted that she doesn’t have the tiniest clue what it takes to keep this family in power. So she’s pretty much useless. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about her, though. She’s so genuinely good that it’s impossible not to love her.

I’m pleased to see her so happy today. She’s over the moon about this party, even though it barely has anything to do with her. She’s running around sampling all the desserts, admiring the decorations, without a clue that the one and only reason for this event is to secure support for my campaign to become Alderman of the 43rd Ward. The election takes place in a month. The 43rd Ward includes the whole Lakefront: Lincoln Park, the Gold Coast, and Old Town. Next to the mayorship, it’s the most powerful position in the city of Chicago. For the last twelve years, the seat was held by Patrick Ryan, until he stupidly got himself thrown into prison. Before that, his mother Saoirse Ryan served for sixteen years. She was much better at her job, and demonstrably better at not getting caught with her hand in the cookie jar. In many ways, being an Alderman is better than being a mayor. It’s like being the emperor of your district. Thanks to Aldermanic Privilege, you have the final say on zoning and property development, loans and grants, legislation, and infrastructure. You can make money on the front end, the back end, and in the middle. Everything goes through you and everybody owes you favors. It’s almost impossible to get caught. And yet, these greedy f*cks are so blatant in their grift that they still manage to bring the hammer down on themselves. Three out of the last four Aldermen in the neighboring 20th District have gone to prison, including the current incumbent. But that won’t be me. I’m going to secure the position. I’m going to take control of Chicago’s most wealthy and powerful district. And then I’m going to parlay that into mayorship of the whole damn city. Because that’s what Griffins do. We grow and build. We never stop. And we never get caught. The only problem is that the Alderman position is not uncontested. Of course it isn’t—it’s the crown jewel of power in this city. The two other main candidates are Kelly Hopkins and Bobby La Spata. Hopkins shouldn’t be a problem. She’s an anti-corruption candidate, running on a whole lot of bullsh*t promises of cleaning up City Hall. She’s young, idealistic, and has no idea that she’s swimming in a shark tank wearing a meat suit. I’ll decimate her easily. La Spata, on the other hand, is a bit of a challenge. He’s got a lot of support, including the electrical workers’ and firefighters’ unions, plus the Italians. Nobody actually likes him—he’s a

blustering fat f*ck, drunk half the time, and getting caught with a new mistress the other half. But he knows how to grease the right palms. And he’s been around a long time. A lot of people owe him favors. Paradoxically, he’ll be harder to get rid of than Hopkins. Hopkins is relying on her squeaky-clean image—once I dig up some dirt on her (or invent some), she’s sunk. By contrast, everybody already knows La Spata’s flaws. They’re old news. He’s so debauched that nobody expects anything better from him. I’ll have to find another angle to bring him down. This is what I’m discussing with my parents. My father is leaning up against his desk, arms crossed over his chest. He’s tall, fit, gray hair cut stylishly, horn-rimmed glasses giving him an intellectual look. You’d never guess that he came up as a bruiser, smashing kneecaps at the Horseshoe when people failed to pay their debts. My mother is slim and petite, with a sleek blonde bob. She’s over by the window, watching the caterers set up on the lawn. I know she’s anxious to get out there as quickly as possible, though she won’t say anything about it until our meeting is over. She may look like the consummate socialite, but she’s as deeply invested in the nuts and bolts of our business as I am. “Make sure you talk to Cardenas,” my father is saying. “He controls the firefighters’ union. To get his support, we’ll basically need to bribe him. Be subtle about it, though, he likes to pretend he’s above that sort of thing. Marty Rico will need promises that we’ll change the zoning on Wells Street so he can put in his condos. We’ll waive the affordable housing requirement, obviously. Leslie Dowell will be here too, but I’m not sure what she—” “She wants an expansion of charter schools,” my mother promptly answers. “Give her that, and she’ll make sure all the women on the board of education support you.” I knew she was listening over there. “Riona can handle William Callahan,” I say. “He’s had a thing for her for ages.” My mother’s lips tighten. She thinks it’s beneath us to use sex appeal as a lever. But she’s wrong. Nothing is beneath us if it works. Once we’ve gone down the list of people we’ll need to hobnob with at the party, we’re ready to break and get to work. “Anything else?” I say to my father.

“Not about tonight,” he says. “But sometime soon we need to discuss the Braterstwo.” I grimace. As if I didn’t have enough to worry about, the Polish mafia is also becoming an increasingly aggressive thorn in my side. They’re f*cking savages. They don’t understand how things are done in the modern era. They’re still living in a time when you solve disputes by cutting off a man’s hands and throwing him into the river. I mean, I’ll do that if I have to, but I at least try to come to an agreement before it reaches that point. “What about them?” I say. “Tymon Zajac wants to meet with you.” I hesitate. That’s serious. Zajac is the big boss. The Butcher of Bogota. But I don’t want him coming to my office. “Let’s figure that out tomorrow,” I tell my father. I can’t have it on my mind tonight. “Fine,” he says, straightening up and tugging the hem of his suit jacket back into place. My mother gives him a once over to make sure he’s looking sharp, then she turns her eyes on me. “Is that what you’re wearing?” she says, raising one perfectly manicured eyebrow. “What about it?” I say. “It’s a bit formal.” “Dad’s wearing a suit.” “She means you look like an undertaker,” my father remarks. “I’m young. I want to look mature.” “You still need style,” he says. I sigh. I’m well aware of the importance of image. I recently started wearing some closely-trimmed facial hair, on the advice of my assistant. Still, it gets tiring changing your clothes three times a day to perfectly tailor your appearance to the occasion. “I’ll sort it out,” I promise them. As I leave the office, I see Riona in the hall. She’s already dressed for the party. She narrows her eyes at me. “What were you doing in there?” she says suspiciously. She hates being left out of anything.

“We were going over the strategy for tonight.” “Why wasn’t I invited?” “Because I’m the one running for Alderman, not you.” Two bright spots of color come into her cheeks—the signal since childhood that she’s offended. “I need you to talk to Callahan for me,” I say, to smooth it over. To let her know she’s needed. “He’ll support me if you ask.” “Yes, he will,” Riona says loftily. She knows she has the Police Chief wrapped around her finger. “He’s not bad looking, really,” she says. “Shame about his breath.” “Don’t stand too close, then.” She nods. Riona is a good soldier. She’s never let me down. “Where’s Nessa?” I ask her. She shrugs. “Running around god knows where. We should put a bell on her.” “Well if you see her, send her my way.” I haven’t actually wished Nessa a happy birthday yet or given her my present. I’ve been too damn busy. I jog up the stairs, and then all the way down the hallway to my suite. I don’t love the fact that I’m still living with my family at thirty years old, but it makes it more convenient to work together. Besides, you’ve got to live in the district to be an Alderman, and I don’t have time for house hunting. At least my room is on the opposite end of the house from the master suite. And it’s large and comfortable—we knocked down a wall when I came back from college, giving me my own suite and adjoining office. It’s almost like an apartment, separated from everybody else’s rooms by the massive library in between. I can hear guests already starting to arrive down below. I change into my newest Zenya suit, then I head back downstairs to mingle. Everything goes smoothly, as it always does when my mother is in charge. I can see her sleek blonde bob across the lawn, and hear her light, cultured laugh as she makes a point of circulating through all the most boring and important guests. I’m working my way down my own list of Cardenas, Rico, and Dowell as each person arrives. After about an hour, the fireworks start. They’ve been timed to coincide with sunset, so the brilliant explosions stand out against the newly-darkened

sky. It’s a calm night, the lake as smooth as glass. The fireworks reflect in double on the water below. Most of the guests turn to watch the show, their faces illuminated, and their mouths open in surprise. I don’t bother to watch, taking the opportunity to scan the crowd for anybody I was supposed to talk to that I might have missed. Instead, I see someone who definitely wasn’t invited—a tall dark-haired kid standing with a bunch of Nessa’s friends. Towering over them, actually —he’s got to be 6’5 at least. I’m pretty sure that’s a f*cking Gallo. The youngest one. But the next minute I’m distracted by Leslie Dowell coming up to talk to me again, and when I glance back at the group, the tall kid is gone. I’ll have to speak to security, tell them to keep an eye out. First, food. I’ve barely had time to eat today. I grab a few shrimps off the buffet, then look around for a proper drink. Waiters are circulating through the crowd with flutes of bubbling champagne, but I don’t want that sh*t. The line at the bar is too long. What I really want is my Egan’s TenYear Single Malt, up in my office. Well, why the hell not? I already made the rounds of the most important people. I can sneak away for a minute. I’ll come back down when that pop singer gets here. That was a splurge from Dad. I don’t know if it was to make Nessa happy because she’s his little angel, or if it was just to show off. Either way, the guests will love it. I’ll be back in plenty of time. I head back inside, climbing the stairs to my end of the house. I’ve got a little bar in my personal office—nothing showy, just a few bottles of highend liquor and a mini icebox. I pull out a nice heavy tumbler, throw in three jumbo-sized ice cubes, and pour a heavy measure of whiskey on top. I inhale the heady scent of pear, wood, and smoke. Then I swallow it down, savoring the burning in my throat. I know I should go back down to the party, but honestly, now that I’m up here in the peace and quiet, I’m enjoying the break. You have to have a certain level of narcissism to be a politician. You have to feed off the gladhanding, the attention. I don’t give a sh*t about any of that. I’m powered by ambition alone. I want control. Wealth. Influence. I want to be untouchable. But that means the physical act of campaigning can be exhausting.

So as I’m walking back down to the hallway, instead of heading to the stairs as I intended, I turn into the library. This is one of my favorite rooms in the house. Barely anyone comes in here, except for me. It’s quiet. The smell of paper and leather and birch logs is soothing. My mother keeps the fire going in the evenings for my benefit. The rest of the house is so heavily air-conditioned that it’s never too hot to have a small fire in the grate. Over the mantel is the painting of my great great-great-grandmother, Catriona. She came to Chicago in the middle of the potato famine, like so many other Irish immigrants. Just fifteen years old, crossing the ocean alone with three books in her suitcase and two dollars in her boot. She worked as a housemaid for a wealthy man in Irving Park. When he died, he left her the house and nearly three thousand dollars in cash and bonds. Some people said they must have secretly had a relationship. Other people said she poisoned him and forged the will. Whatever the truth, she turned the house into a saloon. She was the first Griffin in America. My parents like to say we’re descended from the Irish princes of the same name, but I prefer the truth. We epitomize the American dream: a family rising from house servant to the Mayor of Chicago. Or so I hope. I sit quietly for a minute, sipping my drink, then I start scrolling through my emails. I can never be idle for long. I think I hear a sound, and I pause for a moment, thinking it must be one of the staff out in the hall. When I don’t hear anything else, I return to my phone. Then, two things happen at the same time: First, I smell something that makes the hair rise up on the back of my neck. Smoke, but not the clean smoke from the fire. A harsh, chemical burning smell. At the same time, I hear a sound like a sudden intake of breath, but ten times louder. Then there’s a flash of heat and light as the curtains ignite. I jump up out of my chair, shouting god knows what. I like to think that I know how to keep my head in an emergency, but for a moment I’m confused and panicking, wondering what the hell is happening, and what I should do about it. Then, rationality asserts itself. The curtains are on fire, probably from a spark tossed out of the grate.

I have to get a fire extinguisher before the whole house burns down. That makes sense. Until some person leaps up from behind a chair and darts past me out of the office. That startles me even more than the fire. Realizing I wasn’t alone in the library is a rude shock. I’m so surprised that I don’t even get a good look at the intruder. All I register is that they’re medium height, with dark hair. Then my attention is dragged back to the rapidly multiplying flames. They’re already spreading across the ceiling and the carpet. In minutes, the whole library will be ablaze. I sprint down the hallway to the linen closet, where I know we keep a fire extinguisher. Then, dashing back to the library, I pull the pin and spray the whole side of the room with foam until every last ember is extinguished. When I’m finished, the fireplace, the chairs, and Catriona’s portrait are all doused in white chemical foam. My mother’s going to be f*cking furious. Which reminds me, there was someone else involved in this debacle. I dash back to the head of the staircase, just in time to see three people making their escape: a blonde girl who looks a hell of a lot like Nora Albright. A brunette I don’t know. And Nero f*cking Gallo. I knew it. I knew the Gallos had snuck in. The question is why? The rivalry between our two families goes back almost all the way to Catriona. During Prohibition, our great-grandfathers battled for control of the illegal distilleries in the north end. It was Conor Griffin who won out, and that money has been fueling our family ever since. But the Italians never go down easy. For every shipment of booze Conor cooked up, Salvator Gallo was waiting to hijack his trucks, steal the liquor, and try to sell it back to him at double the price. Later, the Griffins took control of gambling at the Garden City racetrack, while the Gallos ran an illegal numbers game inside the city. When liquor was legal again, our families ran rival pubs, nightclubs, strip joints, and brothels. While continuing to supply less-legal party drugs, guns, and stolen goods. Nowadays, the Gallos have moved into the construction industry. They’ve done pretty well for themselves. But unfortunately, our interests

always seem in conflict with theirs. Like right now. They’re backing Bobby La Spata for my Alderman seat. Maybe because they like him. Maybe because they just want to stick their thumb in my eye one more time. Did they come here tonight to talk to some of the swing vote guests? I’d like to get my hands on one of them to ask. But by the time I track down the security we’ve hired for the night, the Gallos are long gone, including the tall kid. God DAMN it. I head back to the library to reassess the damage. It’s a f*cking mess—a smoking, stinking, soggy mess. They destroyed my favorite part of the house. And why were they even in here, anyway? I start looking around, trying to figure out what they were after. There’s nothing of significance in the library—any valuable papers or records would be in my father’s office, or mine. Cash and jewelry are stored in the various safes scattered through the house. So what was it? That’s when my eye falls on the mantle, spattered with decelerant foam. I see the carriage clock and the hourglass. But my grandfather’s pocket watch is missing. I hunt around on the ground and even in embers of the birch logs, in case it fell inside the grate somehow. Nothing. It’s nowhere to be found. Those f*cking wops stole it. I storm back downstairs where the party is just getting going again after the interruption of the fire alarm. I see Nessa giggling with some of her friends. I could ask her if she invited Sebastian Gallo, but there’s no way she’d be clueless enough to do that. Plus, she looks so happy despite the commotion—I don’t want to interrupt her. I don’t extend the same courtesy to the rest of her friends. Catching sight of Sienna Porter, I seize her by the arm and pull her a little way off from Nessa. Sienna is a skinny little redhead from Nessa’s college. I’ve caught her sneaking looks at me a time or two before. More importantly, I’m pretty sure she was one of the girls talking to Sebastian earlier in the night. Sienna doesn’t protest me hauling her away— she just blushes tomato red and says, “H—hi Callum.”

“Were you talking to Sebastian Gallo earlier?” I ask her. “Uh, well, he was talking to me. I mean, to all of us. Not to me specifically.” “About what?” “About March Madness, mostly. You know his team played in the first round—” I shake my head, cutting her off. “Do you know who invited him tonight?” “N—no,” she stammers, eyes wide. “But if you want, I could ask him . . .” “What do you mean?” “I think he’s meeting us at Dave and Buster’s later.” “What time?” I say, squeezing her arm a little too hard. “Uh, ten o’clock, I think?” she says, wincing. Bingo. I let go of her. She rubs her arm with her opposite hand. “Thanks, Sienna,” I say. “No problem,” she says, totally confused. I pull out my phone and call Jack Du Pont. We’ve been friends since college, and he works as my bodyguard and enforcer when I need one. Since we hired a whole security team for the party, he didn’t come over tonight. But they’ve proven themselves to be pretty f*cking useless. So it’s Jack I want now. He picks up after one ring. “Heya boss,” he says. “Come pick me up,” I tell him. “Right now.”

W 3 AIDA e pile into Nero’s car, roaring away from the Griffins’ house as quickly as we can without running over any partygoers. Nero and I are whooping, Dante is glowering, and Sebastian looks mildly curious. “What the f*ck did you do?” Dante demands. “Nothing!” I say. “Then why are we running like we’re about to have ten cops on our tail?” “We’re not,” I say. “I just got busted in the house. By Callum Griffin.” “What did he say?” Dante asks suspiciously. “Nothing. We didn’t even speak.” Dante stares between Nero and me, thick eyebrows so far contracted that they look like one straight line hanging low over his eyes. Nero is trying to seem nonchalant, keeping his eyes on the road. Sebastian looks completely innocent because he is innocent—he was just drinking a Diet co*ke with some redhead when we grabbed him. I think Dante’s going to drop it. Then he lunges forward and grabs a handful of my hair, pulling it toward him. Because my hair is attached to my head, this yanks me forward across the seats. Dante inhales, then shoves me back, disgusted. “Why do you smell like smoke?” he demands. “I don’t know.”

“You’re lying. I heard an alarm go off in the house. Tell me the truth right now, or I’m calling Dad.” I scowl right back at him, wishing I were as big as Dante, with gorilla arms that look like they could tear you to pieces. Then I’d be a lot more intimidating. “Fine,” I say at last. “I was in the library upstairs. A small fire started —” “A SMALL FIRE?” “Yes. Quit shouting or I won’t tell you anything else.” “How did this fire start?” I squirm in my seat. “I might have . . . accidentally . . . let the curtains get a little bit in the fireplace.” “Porca miseria, Aida,” Dante swears. “We just went there to drink their liquor and watch their fireworks, not burn their f*cking house down!” “It’s not going to burn down,” I say, without being entirely confident in my statement. “I told you, Callum was right there.” “That’s not better!” Dante explodes. “Now he knows you did it!” “He might not. He might not even know who I am.” “I doubt that very much. He’s not as stupid as the rest of you are.” “Why am I included in this?” Sebastian says. “Because you’re stupid,” Dante replies. “Even if you didn’t do anything tonight, specifically.” Sebastian laughs. It’s impossible to offend him. “Where were you?” Dante says, rounding on Nero. “I was on the main level,” Nero says calmly. “With Nora Albright. Her father owns the Fairmont in Millennium Park. He called me a greasy little criminal once. So I f*cked his daughter in the Griffins’ formal dining room. Sort of killed two birds with one stone, in terms of revenge.” Dante is shaking his head in disbelief. “I can’t believe you guys. You’re acting like children. I never should have let you go over there.” “Oh, get off it,” Nero says. He’s not one to take Dante’s sh*t, even if it means coming to blows. “Since when are you a good boy? You hate those paddy f*cks as much as we do. Who cares if we ruined their party?” “You’re gonna care if Callum Griffin gets that Alderman seat. He’s gonna tie us up in red tape and shut down every one of our projects. He’ll

bury us.” “Yeah?” Nero says, dark eyes narrowed. “Then we’ll go pay him a visit with a cattle prod and a pair of pliers. Go to work on him until he’s more cooperative. I’m not scared of the Griffins or anybody else.” Dante just shakes his head, too irritated to even try to reason with us. I’m torn. On the one hand, Dante’s right that we were all a bit reckless. On the other, the look on Callum Griffin’s face when his library caught fire was pretty f*cking priceless. “Turn here,” Sebastian says to Nero, pointing. Nero takes a right on Division Street. “Where do you think you’re going?” Dante says. “Some of the kids are gonna hang out after the party. I said I’d meet them,” Sebastian says. “f*ck that. You all need to go home,” Dante says. Nero has already pulled the car up to the curb. Sebastian hops out of the convertible, swinging his long legs over the side as easily as getting out of bed. “Sorry, big brother,” he says genially. “But I don’t have a curfew. And you’re not my mama.” Nero looks like he’d like to do the same, but he’s stuck driving Dante back home. Faced with my angry big brother and the prospect of him ratting me out to Dad, I think Sebastian’s got the right idea. I scramble across the seat and jump out of the car, too. “Get back here!” Dante shouts. I’m already running after Sebastian, calling over my shoulder, “I’ll be home in a couple of hours! Don’t wait up!” Sebastian slows down when he hears me coming. Even when he’s just ambling, I have to jog to keep up. Those damn long legs of his. “Was the fire really an accident?” he says. “More or less.” I shrug. He chuckles. “I didn’t even get to see inside the house. Bet it’s nice.” “Yeah. If you like pastel colors.” Sebastian stuffs his hands in his pockets, strolling along. His dark, curly hair hangs down over his eyes. He’s got the curliest hair of any of us. He could probably grow it into an Afro if he wanted to. “Nessa looked nice,” he says.

“Yeah, she’s pretty,” I agree. “Don’t get any ideas though. Papa would burst a blood vessel.” “I’m not,” Sebastian says. “You know what Mom always said: ‘Calm water doesn’t need more water—you need wind to move your sail.’ I probably need to find a little maniac like you.” I grin up at him. “If I get married, it’ll definitely be to someone who doesn’t give me any sh*t. Can you imagine going from being bossed around by Dante to bossed around by somebody else? f*ck that. I’d rather be single forever. In fact, I wouldn’t mind that at all.” We’re just coming to Dave and Buster’s, but I can already see through the window that Sebastian’s friends aren’t inside yet. “What should we do while we wait?” Sebastian asks me. “Are there any ice cream places around?” “Didn’t you eat at the party?” “Yeah.” I shrug. “But that was a long time ago.” Seb laughs. “Alright, I’m not gonna turn down ice cream.” We walk a little further toward the lake until we find a place that has soft serve. Sebastian gets a cup; I get a cone. We take it out to the boardwalk to eat, walking along the pier so we can look down at the water. The lake is so big that it looks like an ocean. It has waves just like the sea, and storms that blow in. Not right now, though. Right now, the water is as calm as I’ve ever seen. We’ve walked all the way to the end of the pier, to the point that juts out furthest over the lake. Sebastian finishes his ice cream, chucking the cup into the nearest trash can. I’m still working on my cone. We’re chatting about his classes at school, and about mine. I’m taking courses at Loyola—a little bit of everything. Psychology, poli-sci, finance, marketing, history. I like taking whatever I’m interested in at the moment. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how it’s gonna all add up to a degree. I think Papa’s getting annoyed with me. I know he wants me to finish up and come work with him full-time. But he’s not going to let me do the interesting or difficult stuff—he’s already got Dante and Nero for that. He’s going to try to shunt me off in some boring office doing busywork. And that sounds like a f*cking nightmare to me. I’m the baby of the family and the only girl. There’s never been much in the way of expectations laid out for me. Maybe if my mother were alive, it would be different. But I’ve basically run wild my whole life. As long as I

wasn’t getting in too much trouble, my father had more important things to worry about. My brothers are good friends to me, but they have their own lives. Nobody needs me, not really. That’s okay, though. I’m not whining about it. I like being free and easy. Right now, I’m hanging out with Seb, eating ice cream, and enjoying a summer night. What more do I need? That feeling of contentment lasts about five seconds. Then I look up and see two men walking toward us. One’s wearing a suit, the other a hoodie and jeans. The suited guy has brown hair, freshly cut, and his hands balled into fists at his sides. The expression of fury on his face is all too familiar to me, since I last saw it about forty minutes ago. “Seb,” I whisper, making my brother stand up straight. “Is that Callum Griffin?” he mutters. “Yup.” “Look who it is,” Callum says. His voice is low, cold, and full of rage. He has extremely blue eyes, but there’s nothing pretty about them. They’re painfully intense, the only color on his person. I don’t know who the guy is standing next to Callum. He looks mean as hell. He’s got the build of a boxer, a shaved head, and a slightly squashed nose, like he’s taken a hit or two. I’m betting he’s doled out a whole lot more. Unconsciously, Sebastian has moved closer to me and a little bit in front of me, shielding me with his body. “What do you want?” he says to Callum. Sebastian isn’t nearly as intimidating as Dante, or as vicious as Nero. Still, he’s taller than Callum and his thug, and his voice is as stern as I’ve ever heard it. Callum just scoffs. His face is handsome—or at least, it should be. But I’ve never seen such a cold expression. He looks like he hates everything. Most especially me. Not that I can entirely blame him for that. “What is it with you Italians?” he sneers. “Where did you learn your manners? You come to a party where you’re not invited. Eat my food, drink my liquor. Then you break into my house. Try to burn it the f*ck down. And you steal from me . . .”

I feel Sebastian stiffen ever so slightly. He doesn’t look back at me, but I know he wants to. I’m also confused about what the f*ck Callum is talking about. Then I remember the pocket watch, still tucked in the front pocket of my shorts. I’d completely forgotten about it. “Look,” Sebastian says, “the fire was an accident. We don’t want any trouble.” “Well that’s just bullsh*t, isn’t it?” Callum says softly. “You came looking for trouble. And now you’ve got it.” It’s not easy to rile up Sebastian. Threatening his little sister is a good way to do it. Now he’s bristling, balling up his fists in return, and stepping all the way in front of me. “You think you’re some kinda tough guy, bringing your boyfriend along?” Sebastian says, jerking his head toward the still-silent boxer. “I’ve got brothers, too. You better f*ck off before I call them here to peel your lily-white skin off.” Not bad, Seb. For someone who doesn’t do a lot of threatening, that came out pretty menacing. I don’t need protecting, though. I dart forward so I’m right next to Sebastian and I say, “Yeah, f*ck off back to your fancy little mansion. You wanna play at being a gangster? You’re just a bitch-ass politician. What’re you gonna do, rubber stamp us to death?” Callum Griffin fixes me with his icy stare. He’s got thick, dark eyebrows above his pale eyes. The effect is inhuman and unpleasant. “That’s a good point,” he says softly. “I do have an image to protect. But it’s funny . . . I don’t think there’s anyone around at the moment.” That’s true. The pier is empty, all the way along its length. There are people up at the shops on Division Street. But no one close enough to hear us if I yelled. My throat tightens. I don’t feel afraid very often. I’m scared now. Despite what I said, I don’t think Callum is weak. He’s tall, powerfully built. And above all, he’s staring me down without an ounce of fear. He’s not wondering what he should do. He’s already decided. He gives a nod to his enforcer. The boxer steps forward, fists raised. Before I can speak or move, he’s hit Sebastian four times, twice in the face and twice in the body.

Blood bursts from Sebastian’s nose. He doubles over, groaning. He tries to fight back—all of my brothers have been trained to fight in one way or another. But where Dante and Nero took their practice to the streets, Sebastian’s interest has always been athletic, not violent. Still, he manages to get in a couple of hits thanks to his superior height and reach. One of his punches makes the boxer stumble backward a step. But the nasty f*cking goon blocks Sebastian’s other blows, before slamming my brother in the kidney with a punch that makes him crumple and fall to the ground. The whole fight lasts maybe ten seconds. I’m not just standing there—I try to hit the guy from the side, and indeed I succeed in popping him once in the ear. He shoves me back with one hand, so hard that I almost fell over. So I launch myself at Callum instead. I manage to nail him once right in the jaw, then he shoves me hard in the chest, and this time I do fall back, smacking the back of my skull against the pier railing. Callum looks a little startled, like he didn’t quite mean to do that. Then his face hardens, and he says, “Where’s the watch, you f*cking degenerates?” “We don’t have your watch,” Sebastian says, spitting blood onto the wooden boards of the pier. I do have the watch. But I’m not giving it to this gaping asshole. The boxer grabs Sebastian by the hair and cracks him across the jaw again. The blow is so hard that for a second the light goes out of Seb’s eyes. He shakes his head to clear it, but he looks dazed. “Get away from him!” I shriek, trying to pull myself to my feet. My head is spinning, and my stomach turns over. The back of my skull is throbbing. I bet there’s a lump the size of an egg back there. “Give me the watch,” Callum says again. The boxer kicks my brother in the ribs to encourage him. Sebastian groans and clutches his side. The sight of this monster beating my youngest and kindest brother is driving me out of my f*cking mind. I want to murder both of these men. I want to douse them in gasoline and set them ablaze like those f*cking curtains. But I don’t have any gasoline. So I reach in my pocket and pull out the watch instead. It’s heavy in my palm. My fingers clench tightly around it. I hold it up over my head “Is this what you’re looking for?” I say to Callum.

His eyes move to my fist, caught there, and for a moment his face softens with relief. Then I co*ck back my arm and I fling that f*cking watch into the lake like I’m throwing the opening pitch in Wrigley Field. The effect on Callum Griffin is incredible. His face goes marble white. “NOOOO!” he howls. And then he does the craziest thing of all. He launches himself over the railing, diving down into the water, suit and all. The boxer stares after his boss in astonishment. He’s confused, not sure what to do without instructions. Then he looks back down at Seb. He lifts up one booted foot and he stomps it down on Sebastian’s knee as hard as he can. Sebastian screams. I charge at the boxer. I’m smaller than him, and I weigh a whole lot less. But by getting low and diving at his knees, with the element of surprise on my side, I actually manage to knock him over. It helps that he trips over Sebastian’s outstretched legs on his way down. He falls hard on the pier. I’m punching and pummeling every inch of him I can reach. With his good leg, Sebastian rears back and kicks the boxer right in the face. I jump up and kick him several more times for good measure. But this guy is the f*cking Terminator. That’s not going to keep him down for long. So, I grab Seb’s arm and I haul him up, making him yell again as he accidentally puts weight on his bad leg. I sling Sebastian’s arm around my shoulder. Leaning heavily on me, he half hops, half limps down the pier. It’s like a nightmare three-legged race, where the prize is not getting murdered by that boxer, or by Callum Griffin once he realizes there’s no way in hell he’s finding that watch in the freezing cold, pitch-black lake. My head is still pounding, and the pier seems a mile long. I keep dragging Sebastian along, wishing he wasn’t so tall and so damn heavy. As we near the street at last, I hazard a look back over my shoulder. The boxer is leaning over the railing, probably looking for his boss. He seems like he might be shouting something, but I can’t tell from here. I hope Callum drowned.

‘Cause if he didn’t, I have a feeling I’m going to be seeing him again very soon.

I 4 CALLUM don’t know what I was thinking, jumping in after that watch. The moment I hit the water—still f*cking freezing, barely warmed up at all by the early summer weather—the cold is like a slap to the face, waking me up. I’m so desperate that I keep diving down, eyes open, searching for a glint of gold in the black water. Of course, there’s nothing to see, nothing at all. The water under the pier is choppy, full of sand and pollutants. Even at midday the sun would hardly penetrate. At night, it might as well be motor oil. My suit constricts my arms and legs, my dress shoes weighing me down all the more. If I wasn’t a strong swimmer, I might be in serious trouble. The waves are trying to smash me against the pilings, the pillars sharp with muscles and barnacles. I have to swim away from the pier before I can stroke back to shore. All of that takes enough time that Jack is pretty much freaking out by the time I drag myself up on the sand—filthy, soaking, and angrier than I’ve ever been in my life. That f*cking BITCH! I never knew much about the youngest Gallo. Her father keeps her out of the spotlight, and she’s not involved in the family business as far as I know. At first glance, when we approached her and her brother on the pier, I almost felt guilty. She looked young, barely older than Nessa. And she’s beautiful, which shouldn’t have had any impact on my resolve, but it did.

She’s got light-brown skin, dark hair, and narrow gray eyes, slightly tilted up at the outer corners. She stiffened up as soon as we approached, noticing us even before Sebastian did. I felt a twinge of guilt threatening them, seeing how Sebastian tried to step in front of her to protect her. That’s what I would do for my sisters, in the same position. But seeing the girl’s height and dark hair, I remembered my glimpse of the person fleeing the library, and I began to suspect that it was her that set the fire. Then she stepped forward and started yelling at me, with the temperament and vocabulary of a sea-hardened sailor, and I was certain she was the one who broke into our house. Then, instead of handing over the watch, she flung it over the railing like a f*cking psychopath. And I realized that pretty face disguised the soul of a demon. That girl is pure evil, the worst of the whole family. She deserves whatever she gets. The question is, what am I going to do about it? Right now, I want to murder every last one of them. But I can’t afford that kind of bloodbath right before the election. So, I guess I’ll just have to do the next best thing—bankrupt the bastards. They tried to burn my house down—I’m going to burn down the tower they’re building over on Oak Street. That will be the appetizer. The main meal will be wiping out every restaurant and nightclub under their control as well. Fantasies of the hellfire I’m going to reign down on their heads is the only thing keeping me warm while I stomp down the street in my soggy dress shoes and sopping wet suit. Jack jogs along next to me, embarrassed that he let a kid and his little sister get the best of us. He can tell I’m in a murderous mood, so he doesn’t want to say anything to make it worse. I notice that he’s got a bloody nose himself, and a cut over his right eyebrow. Pretty humiliating for someone who won a UFC championship a couple of years back. My shoes make a disgusting squelching sound. My custom suit smells like a dying starfish. f*ck THAT GIRL! I’ve got to change clothes before I literally lose my mind.

I head back to the house, where the party is beginning to wind down. I’ve missed the singer, not that I cared, except to see the look of joy on Nessa’s face. Just another co*ck up in this sh*t-show of a night. I’ve barely stepped foot through the door when I’m met by my furiouslooking father. “Where the f*ck have you been?” he snarls. “Why didn’t you tell me there were Gallos at our party?” He looks down at my clothes, dripping dirty lake water on the spotless tiles of the entryway. “And why are you wet?” he says flatly. “We had a dust-up down at the pier, but I’m handling it,” I tell him through gritted teeth. “Unacceptable,” he says. “Get in my office. Tell me everything.” I’m itching to get back out there and wreak fiery vengeance on those greasy guidos, but I march in the office to give him a report. He’s not pleased by a single word of it. “What the f*ck were you thinking?” he shouts, so close to my face that his saliva hits my cheek. “Why are you starting a gang war in the middle of your campaign?” “They started it!” I yell back. “They tried to burn our f*cking house down. They stole grandfather’s watch and threw it in the lake! What do you want me to do, bake them a f*cking cake?” “Lower your voice,” my father hisses at me. “People will hear you.” As if he wasn’t just yelling at me twice as loud. I take a deep breath, trying to control the anger threatening to spiral out of control. “I told you,” I say, quiet and strangled. “I. Will. Handle. This.” “Absolutely not,” my father says, shaking his head. “You’ve already proven your incompetence. Crippling the youngest son? You’ve lost your mind. You know he’s some star athlete? You might as well have killed him.” “Next time I will,” I seethe. “You’re done,” he says, shaking his head. “That’s not your decision!” He shoves me hard in the chest. It spikes my adrenaline all the more. I respect my father. He may look like a professor, but he’s killed men with his bare hands. I’ve seen him do it.

But he’s not the only one in the room who can break bones. I’m not the obedient son I once was. We’re eye to eye these days. “As long as I’m head of this family, you’ll do what I say,” my father says. There are so many things I’d like to say to that. But I swallow them down. Just barely. “And what do you propose . . . father?” I mutter. “This is getting out of control,” my father says. “I’m going to call Enzo Gallo.” “You’ve got to be kidding me!” “Shut your mouth,” he snaps. “You’ve done enough damage. I’ll see what I can do to repair this before both our families end up dead in the street.” I can’t believe this. After they spat in our face in our very own house, he wants to call them up and negotiate. It’s insane. It’s cowardly. My father can see the mutiny in my eyes. “Give me your phone,” he says. He waits, hand outstretched, until I give it to him. It was in my pocket when I jumped in the lake, so it’s useless anyway. “I’m going to contact Enzo Gallo,” he repeats. “You will stay here until I send for you. You won’t speak to anyone. You won’t call anyone. You won’t step foot outside this house. Do you understand me?” “You’re grounding me?” I scoff. “I’m a grown man, father. Don’t be ridiculous.” He takes off his glasses so his pale blue eyes can bore all the way into my soul. “You are my eldest child and my only son, Callum,” he says. “But I promise you, if you disobey me, I will cut you out, root and branch. I have no use for you if you can’t be trusted. I will strike you down like Icarus if your ambition outstrips your orders. Do you understand?” Every cell of my body wants to tell him to take his f*cking money, and his connections, and his so-called genius and shove it right up his ass. But this man is my father. My family is everything to me—without them, I’d be a ship without rudder or sail. I’m nothing if I’m not a Griffin. So I have to nod my head, submitting to his orders. Inside I’m still boiling, the heat and pressure building.

I don’t know when or how. But if something doesn’t change between us soon, I’m going to explode.

M 5 AIDA y brothers are down in the basem*nt, suiting up. Or at least, Dante and Nero are. Sebastian is still at the hospital with my father. His knee is f*cked, that much is certain. Ribs are broken, too. I can’t bear the look of misery on his face. His season is ruined. Possibly the rest of his career. God, he might not even walk right after this. And it’s all my fault. The guilt is like a shroud, wrapping around and around and around my head. Each glance at Sebastian, each memory of my idiocy, is like another layer wrapping around my face. Soon it will smother me. I wanted to stay with Sebastian, but Papa snapped at me to go home. There I found Dante and Nero strapping on bulletproof vests and ammo belts, arming themselves with half the guns in the house. “Where are you going?” I ask them nervously. “We’re going to kill Callum Griffin, obviously,” Nero says. “Maybe the rest of his family, too. I haven’t decided yet.” “You can’t hurt Nessa,” I say quickly. “She didn’t do anything wrong.” Neither did Riona, but I don’t have the same sense of charity toward her. “Maybe I’ll just break her knee, then,” Nero says carelessly. “We’re not doing anything to Nessa,” Dante growls. “This is between us and Callum.” By the time they’re ready to leave, they look like a cross between Rambo and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator. “Let me come with you,” I beg.

“No f*cking way,” Nero says. “Come on!” I shout. “I’m part of this family, too. I’m the one that helped Sebastian get away, remember?” “You’re the one who got him in that mess to start with,” Nero hisses at me. “Now we’re going to clean it up. And you’re staying here.” He shoulder-checks me on his way by, knocking me roughly against the wall. Dante is marginally kinder, but equally serious. “Stay here,” he says. “Don’t make this worse.” I don’t give a sh*t what they say. The moment they leave, I’m out the door, too. So I follow them up the stairs, not knowing exactly what I’m going to do, but knowing I’m not going to be left here waiting like a naughty puppy. But before Dante is even halfway up the stairs, his phone buzzes in his pocket. He picks up, saying, “What is it?” in a tone that makes me certain that it’s Papa on the other end of the line. Dante waits, listening, for a long time. Then he says, “I understand.” He hangs up. He’s looking at me with the strangest expression on his face. “What is it?” Nero says. “Take off that vest,” Dante says to Nero. “Aida, go change your clothes.” “Why? Into what?” “Something clean that doesn’t look like sh*t,” he snaps at me. “Do you own anything like that?” Maybe. Possibly not, by Dante’s standards. “Fine,” I say. “But where are we going?” “We’re going to meet with the Griffins. Papa said to bring you.” Well. sh*t. I didn’t much enjoy my last meeting with Callum Griffin. I’m really not looking forward to a second. I doubt his temper was improved by a swim in the lake. And what to wear to such an event? I think the only dress I own is the Wednesday Adams costume I wore last Halloween.

I settle on a gray turtleneck and slacks, even though it’s too hot for that, because it’s about the only thing I have that’s sober and clean. When I pull the shirt over my head, it sets the knot on the back of my skull throbbing again, reminding me how Callum Griffin shoved me aside like a rag doll. He’s strong under that suit. I’d like to see him face off against Dante or Nero—when he doesn’t have his bodyguard along for the ride. That’s what we should do—tell them we want a meeting, then ambush the motherf*ckers. Callum had no problem attacking us on the pier. We should return the favor. I’m amping myself up the whole time I’m getting dressed, so I’m practically vibrating with tension by the time I slide into the back of Dante’s Escalade. “Where are we meeting them?” I ask him. “At The Brass Anchor,” Dante says shortly. “Neutral ground.” It only takes a few minutes to drive to the restaurant on Eugenie Street. It’s past midnight now, and the building is dark, the kitchen closed. However, I see Fergus Griffin waiting out front, along with two bruisers. Wisely, he didn’t bring the sh*t stain that stomped on Sebastian’s leg. I don’t see Callum anywhere. Looks like Daddy put him in time-out. We wait in the SUV until Papa pulls up as well. Then all four of us get out at the same time. When Dante slides out of the front seat, I see the bulge under his jacket that shows he’s still carrying. Good. I’m sure Nero is, as well. As we walk toward Fergus Griffin, his eyes are fixed on me and me alone. He’s looking me up and down, like he’s evaluating every aspect of my appearance and demeanor on some kind of chart inside of his head. He doesn’t look very impressed. That’s fine, because to me he looks just as cold and arrogant and phonygenteel as his son. I refuse to drop his gaze, stubbornly staring straight back at him without a hint of remorse. “So this is the little arsonist,” Fergus says. I could tell him it was an accident, but that’s not strictly true. And I’m not apologizing to these bastards. Instead I say, “Where’s Callum? Did he drown?” “Luckily for you, he did not,” Fergus replies.

Papa, Dante, and Nero close rank around me. They might be angry as hell that I got us into this mess, but they’re not going to stand for anyone threatening me. “Don’t talk to her,” Dante says roughly. With a little more tact, Papa says, “You wanted a meeting. Let’s go inside and have one.” Fergus nods. His two men enter the restaurant first, making sure it really is empty inside. This place belongs to Ellis Foster, a restaurateur and broker who has connections to both the Irish and our family. That’s why it’s neutral ground. Once we’re all inside, Fergus says to my father, “I think it’s best if we speak alone.” Papa slowly nods. “Wait here,” he says to my brothers. Papa and Fergus disappear into one of the private dining rooms, closed off by double glass doors. I can see their outlines as they sit down together, but I can’t make out any details of their expressions. And I can’t hear a word they’re saying. Dante and Nero pull a couple of chairs out from the nearest table. Fergus’s men do the same at a table ten feet away. My brothers and I sit along the same side, so we can glare across at Fergus’s goons while we wait. That keeps us occupied for about ten minutes. But looking at their ugly mugs is pretty boring. Waiting in general is boring. I’d like to get a drink from the bar, or maybe even poke into the kitchen for a snack. The second I start to rise up from my seat, Dante says, “Don’t even think about it,” without looking at me. “I’m hungry,” I tell him. Nero has his knife out and he’s playing with it. He can do all sorts of tricks. The blade is so sharp that if he made a mistake, he’d lop off a finger. But he hasn’t made one yet. It might look like he’s trying to intimidate Griffin’s men, but it’s not for their benefit. He does this all the time. “I don’t understand how you’re the one that eats the most out of any of us,” Nero says, without looking up from his knife. “I don’t!” “How many times have you eaten today already? Tell the truth.”

“Four,” I lie. “Bullsh*t,” Nero scoffs. “I’m not as worried about my figure as you are,” I tease him. Nero is vain about his appearance. With good reason—all my brothers are handsome, but Nero has that male-model prettiness that seems to make girls’ panties spontaneously combust. I don’t know a single girl who hasn’t slept with him, or tried to. It’s a weird thing to know about your own brother, but we’re all pretty open with each other. That’s what comes of living in the same house for so long, with no mom around to keep them from treating me like just another little brother. And that’s how I like it. I’m not anti-woman—I’ve got no problem with girls who want to be pretty or feminine or sexy or whatever the hell. I just don’t want to be “treated like a girl,” if that makes sense. I want to be treated as myself, for better or worse. Nothing more or nothing less. Just Aida. Aida who is bored out of her mind. Aida who is starting to get sleepy. Aida who is heartily regretting annoying the Griffins, if only because I’m going to be trapped here until the end of time while Fergus and Papa talk and talk and talk forever . . . And then finally, almost three hours later, the two patriarchs come out of the private dining room, both looking somber and resigned. “Well?” Dante says. “It’s settled,” Papa replies. He sounds like a judge pronouncing a sentence. I don’t like his tone one bit, or the expression on his face. He’s looking at me mournfully. As we head outside, he says to Nero, “Take my car back. I’m going to drive home with Aida.” Nero nods and gets in Papa’s Mercedes. Dante climbs into the driver’s side of the SUV, and Papa gets in the back with me. I definitely don’t like this at all. I turn to face him, not bothering with my seatbelt. “What is it?” I say. “What did you decide?” “You’re going to marry Callum Griffin in two weeks,” Papa says. This is so ridiculous that I actually laugh—a weird, barking sound that fades away in the silent car.

Papa is watching me, the lines on his face more deeply engraved than ever. His eyes look completely black in the dim light inside the car. “You can’t be serious,” I say. “I am absolutely serious. This is not up for debate. It’s settled with the Griffins.” “I’m not getting married!” I say. “Especially not to that psychopath.” I look to the driver’s seat for Dante’s support. He’s staring straight forward at the road, hands clenched on the steering wheel. My father looks exhausted. “This feud has been going on too long,” he says. “It’s an ember that smolders and smolders and continually bursts into flame, burning down everything we’ve worked for. The last time we had an eruption, you lost two of your uncles. Our family is smaller than it should be, because of the Griffins. The same is true for them. Too many people lost on both sides, down through the generations. It’s time for that to change. It’s time for the opposite to happen. We will align together. We will prosper together.” “Why do I have to get married for that to happen?” I shout. “That won’t help anything! Because I’m going to murder that bastard the moment I see him!” “You’ll do as you’re told!” my father snaps. I can see that his patience is at an end. It’s 3:00 in the morning. He’s tired, and he looks old. He is old, really. He was forty-eight when he had me. He’s nearly seventy now. “I’ve spoiled you,” he says, fixing me with those black eyes. “Let you run wild. You’ve never had to face the consequences of your actions. Now you will. You lit the match that started this particular blaze. It’s you who will have to put it out again. Not by violence, but by your own sacrifice. You’ll marry Callum Griffin. You’ll bear the children that will be the next generation of our mutual lineage. That is the agreement. And you will uphold it.” This is some kind of f*cking nightmare. I’m getting married? I’m having f*cking babies?! And I’m supposed to do it with the man I hate worse than anyone on this planet? “He crippled Sebastian!” I shout, my last-ditch effort to express how utterly revolting this man is to me. “That’s as much on your head as his,” Papa says coldly.

There’s nothing I can say in response to that. Because deep down, I know that it’s true.

I 6 CALLUM ’m sitting on the back deck, watching the hired staff clean up the last remnants of trash and supplies from the party. They’ve been working all night. My mother insisted that it all be cleaned up immediately, so none of our neighbors would have to see a hint of disarray on our grounds on their way to work in the morning. My sisters went to bed already—Nessa flushed and happy from the excitement of the evening, Riona pouting because I refused to tell her where our father disappeared to. My mother is still awake, supervising the clean-up efforts, though not actually touching anything herself. When my father’s armored car pulls into the drive, she abandons the workers and joins us back in the office. I feel like I’ve spent too many hours in here lately. And I don’t like the look on my father’s face. “So?” I say at once. “What was the agreement?” I’m expecting him to say that we came to some kind of financial agreement or handshake deal—maybe they’ll give us support with the Italian vote in the Alderman election, and we’ll promise them whatever permits or zoning they want on their next construction project. So when my father explains the actual deal, I stare at him like he just sprouted two heads. “You will marry Aida Gallo in two weeks,” he says. “That little brat?” I explode. “No f*cking way.” “It’s already settled.”

My mother steps forward, looking alarmed. She lays her hand on my father’s arm. “Fergus,” she says in a low tone. “Is this wise? We’ll be tied to the Gallos in perpetuity.” “That’s exactly the point,” my father says. “They’re filthy f*cking gangsters!” I spit out. “We can’t have their name associated with ours. Especially not with the election coming up.” “The election will be the first benefit of this alliance,” my father says, taking off his glasses and cleaning them with the handkerchief he keeps in his breast pocket. “Your success is by no means assured when you’re facing off against La Spata. The Gallos hold the key to the Italian vote. If you’re married to Aida when the ballot goes out, every single one of them in this district will vote for you. They’ll abandon La Spata without hesitation.” “I don’t need her to win!” I snarl. “Don’t be so sure,” my father says. “You’re too confident, Callum. Arrogant, even. If the vote happened today, the results might be a coin toss. You should always secure your victory ahead of time, given the opportunity.” “Fine,” I say, trying to maintain my temper. “But what about after this month? Do you honestly expect me to stay married to her forever?” “Yes, I do,” my father says seriously. “The Gallos are Catholic, the same as us. You’ll marry her, you’ll be faithful to her, and you’ll father children with her.” I shake my head in disbelief. “Mother, surely you have something to say about this.” She looks back and forth between my father’s face and mine. Then she tucks a lock of smooth blonde hair behind her ear and sighs. “If the deal was struck, we will abide by it.” I should have known. She always sides with father. Still, I sputter, “What?! You can’t—” She cuts me off with a glance. “Callum, it’s time for you to become the man you profess to be. I’ve watched you play around with these girls you date—models and socialites. You seem to deliberately pick the most shallow and empty-headed girls.” I scowl, folding my arms across my chest. It never mattered who I dated, as long as they looked good on my arm and didn’t embarrass me at

parties. Since I never wanted anything serious, it made sense to find girls who were just looking for fun, the same as me. “I didn’t know I was supposed to be finding a broodmare,” I say sarcastically. “I thought you’d want me to find the right girl and fall in love, like a normal person.” “Is that what you think we did?” my mother says quietly. I pause. I actually have no idea how my parents met. I never asked them. “That’s right,” my mother says. “Fergus and I had an ‘arranged marriage,’ if you want to call it that. More accurately, our parents, who were older and wiser than us, and who knew us better than we knew ourselves, arranged the match. Because they knew we would be good partners for one another, and because it was an alliance that benefited both of our families. There were challenges, at first.” A significant look passes between my parents. A little ruefulness and amusem*nt from both of them. “But in the end, our match is what made us the people we are today,” my father says. This is f*cking bananas. I’ve never heard this before. “That’s completely different!” I tell them. “You were from the same culture, the same background. The Gallos are mobsters. They’re old school, in the worst sense of the word.” “That’s part of the value they’ll provide,” my father says bluntly. “As we’ve grown in wealth and influence, we’ve lost our edge. You’re my only son. Your mother lost both her brothers. There are precious few men on my side of the family. In pure muscle, we only have what we pay for. You can never be sure of the loyalty of hired guns—there’s always someone willing to pay more. Since Zajac took over, the Braterstwo are becoming a serious threat to us, something we can’t necessarily deal with on our own. The Italians have the same problem. With our two families aligned, the Butcher won’t dare strike at either of us.” “Great,” I say. “But who’s going to protect me from my betrothed? That girl is a wild animal. Can you imagine her as a politician’s wife? I doubt she even knows how to walk in heels.” “Then you’ll teach her,” my mother says. “I don’t know how to walk in heels, either,” I say sarcastically. “How exactly am I supposed to teach her to be a lady, mother?”

“She’s young and malleable,” my father says. “You’ll train her, mold her into what she needs to be in order to stand by your side and support your career.” Young and malleable? I really don’t think my father got a good look at this girl. Young she may be, but she’s about as malleable as cast iron. “What an exciting challenge,” I say through gritted teeth. “I can’t wait to get started.” “Good,” my father says. “You’ll have your chance at your engagement party next week.” “Engagement party?” This is a f*cking joke. I just found out about this five minutes ago, and apparently, they’re already planning the public announcement. “You’ll have to agree on your cover story with Aida,” my mother says. “Something like, ‘You started dating casually starting about eighteen months ago. It got serious last fall. You’d planned to wait until after the election to marry but decided you just couldn’t wait anymore.’” “Maybe you’d better just write the press release for me, mother. Do my wedding vows, too, while you’re at it.” “Don’t be disrespectful,” my father snaps. “I wouldn’t dream of it,” I tell him. I doubt the same can be said of my future bride. In fact, that might be the one silver lining of this f*cking maelstrom—watching my parents have to deal with the little hellcat they’re bringing into this family.

M 7 AIDA y brothers are in an uproar about my father’s insane plan. Dante didn’t say anything on the drive home, but I heard him arguing with Papa for hours afterward while shut up together in the study. It was pointless. Papa is stubborn as a mule. A Sicilian mule that only eats thistles and will kick you in the teeth if you get too close. Once his mind is made up, not even the trump of judgment day could change it. Honestly, Armageddon would be a welcome respite from what’s actually about to happen. The very first day after the deal is struck, I get a message from Imogen Griffin telling me about some engagement party on Wednesday night. An engagement party! As if there’s something to celebrate here, and not just a slow-motion train wreck in process. She also shipped me a ring in a box. I f*cking hate it, of course. It’s a big old square diamond on a bedazzled band, chunky and sure to bang against everything. I keep it shut up in its box on my nightstand, because I have no intention of wearing it before I absolutely have to. The only good thing in this mountain of sh*t is that at least Sebastian is doing a little better. He had to have surgery to reconstruct his ACL, but we got the best doctor in the city, the same one who fixed Derrick Rose’s knee. So, we’re hoping he’ll be up and around again before long. In the meantime, I’ve been going to the hospital to visit him every day. I brought him all his favorite snacks—Reese’s Peanut-butter Cups, string

Brutal Prince Pages 1-50 - Flip PDF Download (2024)


Is Brutal Prince a spicy book? ›

You better believe Brutal Prince by Sophie Lark is spicy! If you're looking for the spicy chapters, skip to chapters 12, 15, 17, 23, and 29.

How many brutal prince books are there? ›

There are 6 books in this series. Select the number of items you want to purchase.

What is the age rating for the brutal prince? ›

It's a stand-alone Dark Mafia Romance, complete with HEA and no cliffhangers. It contains blazing hot bedroom scenes for mature readers only!!!

Is the brutal prince the first book? ›

“Brutal Prince” is the explosive first act in the epic “Brutal Birthright” series. It's a stand-alone Dark Mafia Romance, complete with HEA and no cliffhangers.

Can a 12 year old read cruel prince? ›

nina zenik 97 This book is categorized as YA and it's more on the romantic side of the genre. 13-16 year olds can definitely read it, but more mature 11 year-olds and adults can enjoy it too. There's a bit more intimate romance in the later books, but not much, and for the most part, this is readable for all ages.

Are there any spicy scenes in Cruel Prince? ›

The Cruel Prince starts out with some extreme distain between Jude and Cardan, but after a shared goal forces them to spend a lot more time together… tensions of a different variety start to form between the two. Aside from some dangerously passionate kissing, I'll say the first book might be a little tame.

What trope is Brutal Prince? ›

Brutal Prince is an enemies to lovers/arranged marriage trope and the first book in the Brutal Birthright series. I thought this was a really fun, easy reading romance told from dual POV's with two strongheaded MC's.

What does HEA mean in books? ›

What does an HEA book mean? "HEA" is an acronym for “happily ever after.” Most of the time, a book with an HEA is thought of as something that happens in romance novels: the guy and the girl go through some hard times, but everything comes together flawlessly by the end of the read. That's an HEA book.

Is Brutal Prince a dark romance? ›

It was definitely a dark romance, filled with brutality, murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault. The main characters hated each other with a deep passion – emphasis on the passion- but somehow their relationship worked, and they banded together into an impressive team. The writing itself was easy to sink into.

Is Brutal Prince worth reading? ›

If you love mafia romances with strong tension, enemies-to-lovers, and arranged marriages and are looking for an easy, quick read, I recommend reading “Brutal Prince.” But, if you're not into cheesy dialogue and would instead read a more detailed and stronger-written story, maybe hold off on this one for now.

Can a 12 year old read Wicked? ›

The book is dark and weird and very inappropriate for kids. There is a great deal of explicit, twisted content that is not explored in a way meant for kids or adolescents. It requires context and understanding that adult readers will bring. I definitely wouldn't advise anyone under 18 read it.

Can a 13 year old read Kingdom of the Wicked? ›

Really good but has its vulgar moments. The content in the book would be tolerable for many readers 13-14+. The reason I say 13-14 is because there is coarse language (not only in English.

What book is cardan in? ›

The Folk of the Air is a young adult fantasy book series by Holly Black, published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers. The story follows the journey of mortal girl, Jude Duarte, and faerie prince, Cardan Greenbriar, as they navigate the world of hate, betrayal, and contempt along with feelings for each other.

What are the spicy chapters in Stolen Heir? ›

Yes - Stolen Heir by Sophie Lark is spicy! Chapters 11, 15, 20, 23, 30, and 32 are the spicy chapters if you want to skip right to the good stuff.

Where is Brutal Prince set in? ›

The Griffins and the Gallos have been battling for control of Chicago's underworld for generations. Their rivalry has always been flammable, but it reignites with a fury when Aida, the youngest and wildest Gallo sibling, crashes a party at the Griffin mansion and accidentally sets fire to the library.

Is the Flawless series spicy? ›

I absolutely cannot review this book without discussing the spicy scenes though. The angst, the build-up, the culmination, and the DIRTY TALK. Dear lord does Rhett Eaton have a mouth on him, and he had me eating out of the palm of his hands, as I'm sure every other reader will be as well.

Does book lovers have spicy scenes? ›

Victoria Robertson There is some adult content, but even YA books often times have some sex in them. The sex in this book isn't overly inappropriate.

Are the twisted books spicy? ›

The four-novel series is dripping with suspense, dark themes and 'spice' (sex) and Huang's parents are totally banned from ever picking it up.

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