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- Second Chance
- Damaged Hero
- Surprise Baby
- On the Rocks
I swore off relationships, knowing the hazards of my job didn't allow for love. Death and destruction follow me, making my life the Devil's playground. When the mistake of a lifetime landed an angel in my bed... I chose redemption in her arms. But keeping her means risking her life—so I pushed her away instead.
Walking away was meant to protect her from my sordid past, even if it ripped what little of a heart I had when I did.
Months later, an evil hellbent on revenge puts Celestina in even more danger than before.Now that I have her, I'm not letting her go. They might think they can win this war... but they're forgetting who I am.
I'm known as the Reaper... and anyone who stands in my way will earn a one-way ticket to Hell.
The mahogany wood felt odd beneath my arms as I leaned my arm against it. Tucked safely inside my elbow was my two-month-old baby. She was the only reason I hadn’t been swallowed by the darkness constantly swirling around me. Glancing up, I saw the other reminder of how my selfish ways had cost my family so much. Carlisle’s absence was hard on everyone, especially Massimo. They’d worked together for years, making him
one of his closest confidants.
A lone tear dripped down my face as I shook off the dread pooling in my stomach. My daughter deserved a mother who was present all the time, and for the last few weeks, I hadn’t been. Massimo, being the man he was and recognizing the signs of depression, loaded me down with a protection detail and brought me here.
“How you doing?” Madison slid onto the stool beside me. “Look at that sweet thing.”
“I owe you an apology.” I turned my gaze to hers and swallowed. “We were supposed to be planning your wedding, and I went and fucked it all up.”
“Oh, Cee.” Madison leaned forward and drew me in for a hug. “Massimo and I are fine, I promise you. The wedding in Italy will happen when it’s supposed to. When I agreed to be his, I knew what it entailed. He is an important man, and the family needs him right now.”
I smiled up at my sister-in-law-to-be. “My brother hit the jackpot when he met you.”
“I feel the same way. He saved me in more ways than one. Now, what about you? How are you feeling… really?”
“Truth?” I glanced at her, and she nodded. “Sometimes, the pain is so unbearable, I want to crawl under a rock and never come out. My best friend is missing… no, best friend isn’t right. My other half. I caused this family to lose two people because I was selfish, and that knowledge eats away at my soul like poisonous vermin wreaking havoc inside me.”
Madison’s eyes filled with tears. “You can’t blame yourself for a madman who’s hellbent on getting even.”
“No, but I can blame myself for putting us in the line of fire. If I hadn’t snuck out, two people would be here. Now one is dead, and my sister is missing.” My daughter wiggled
in my hold, her bright blue eyes blinking awake. “This little girl is the only thing rooting me to this earth… and that scares me.”
“Why does it scare you?”
“Because it’s not enough, Madison. She deserves a mother who’s whole. A mother who doesn’t use her as a crutch, but without her, I would cease to exist. She holds the only part of my heart that’s still beating.”
A noise at the entrance had us turning around. The sight of Vincenzo walking through with a murderous rage made my spine stiffen. Madison stood and glanced around the empty bar.
“What is it, Vin? What’s happened?”
“Donny and Catarina’s place was attacked.”
My intake of breath made Emilia jump in my hold.
“Are they…” I couldn’t get the words out.
“They’re fine. Donny subdued the motherfucker, then got them out. They’re at Michael’s now, but I need to get you two out of here. Massimo is with Antonio at the scene, doing damage control.”
“Okay.” I slid off the wooden seat and adjusted my daughter against me.
The sound of the footsteps
in the hall put Vin on high alert as he drew his weapon. Madison wrapped her
arms around me and Emilia, shielding us. I closed my eyes and prayed, waiting for the gunfire I was sure to follow.
“What the fuck are you doing here?”
I leaned into Madison and took a deep breath. Emilia was restless in my hold and let out a wail of displeasure at being covered with the blanket.
“Your family is in danger.”
His voice washed over me, and I shook my head against Madison.
“It can’t be him,” I whispered. Lifting my head, I turned to face the man who haunted every thought I had when I wasn’t dreaming of my sister. His cerulean eyes met mine, piercing me with a look that left me breathless.
“You’re supposed to be dead,” he whispered, his eyes roaming my frame.
“Sorry to disappoint you.”
I rocked Emilia in my arms, causing the blanket to shift and slide off her face, exposing her to the man who helped create her. His eyes drifted to her tiny figure and froze. I could see the questions dancing in his gaze as he watched her. Beckett stood stock still, his expression never wavering. I took a tentative step forward,
breaking free of Madison’s hold. Vin started to move forward, but I held my hand up, halting him in place.
“Can you two give us a minute?”
“Cee, I don’t—” Vin stepped forward.
“Come on, Vin. I’m pretty sure he’s just as psycho as you and will make sure she’s safe. Right, Beckett?” He gave Madison a little nod, making me smile. “Five minutes. Then I’m letting him do what he wants. Come on, Vin. Let’s give them a moment.”
I watched as she wrangled my brother toward Massimo’s back office, then turned to stare at the man I’d prayed for.
“Why are you here, Beckett? Why now?”
He stepped closer, his hand reaching out, only to drop again. “I thought you were
I closed my eyes, staving off the tears threatening to spill.
“You left me and never came back.”
“I thought I was protecting you, Celestina.”
Snorting at his words, I flicked my gaze to his. “You were only protecting yourself. Trouble followed me home, Beckett. I’ve lost so much… so I’ll ask you again. Why. Are. You. Here?”
“Because the danger is about to become worse, and I wanted to protect your family. It was the least I could do, thinking I’d caused your death. I thought I’d lost you for good.” Emilia whined, her tiny hands coming out from beneath the blanket. Beckett reached out and touched her fingers. “Why didn’t you tell me?” His voice cracked.
“Tell you what? Oh, hey Beckett, I know you left and didn’t want me to look for you, but hey… I had your daughter. Why would I? I didn’t want you coming back here out of a sense of duty. We’re fine alone. I have my family… well, most of it. I was just a piece of pussy for you.”
His brows furrowed. “You were never just a passing fling, Celestina.” He reached out to cup my cheek, but I flinched, causing his hand to drop. “I should have told you then,
but I was scared of tainting you.”
“I’m an Anastasi.” I laughed. ”I’m already tainted, Beckett.”
“I love you, Celestina.”
I snorted at his confession, but the anger for what had happened didn’t let me accept his words.
“He took my sister.”
Beckett lifted his gaze from our daughter, and the murderous rage in the reflection of his irises made my insides shudder.
“Manuel?” He practically growled his question.
I nodded. “I convinced Carmela to sneak me out. I was tired of being locked up, and because she’s my twin, she agreed. We hadn’t gone far when they struck our car. Carlisle, Massimo’s head manager, was with us. He saw us sneaking out and jumped in the car. He shouldn’t have even been there, and he died… because of me.”
Beckett attempted to pull me into his arms, but the movement caused our daughter to let out a whine of protest, making him step back.
“Was she with you?”
“I went into labor on the side of the road. If Vin and my brothers hadn’t gotten there when they did… we’d both be dead.”
“Times up.” Vin’s threatening tone filled the empty bar. “I need to get them home. There was an attempt on my oldest sister and her husband today. We’ve moved everyone to my brother's compound.”
“I’m not leaving her.” Beckett stepped back and stiffened. “Never again. I made that mistake once, and it won’t be happening again.”
Vin held his gaze, then nodded. “Let’s go. The sooner we get them secured, the sooner we can go hunting.”
“Then let’s get them home.”
Vin ensured the exit was safe, then guided us to the awaiting SUV. Drew’s eyebrows raised to his hairline when he saw who was standing beside me. Beckett tipped his chin and
pressed his hand to my lower back.
“Don’t touch me.” I hurried
forward and sighed in relief when I saw Madison motion me inside the car.
“Vin, does the boss know he’s here?” Drew glanced back at Beckett.
“Yes,” Vin growled, climbing into the passenger seat.
Madison held her hands out to take Emilia, so I could slide into the seat. I reached for my daughter and pulled her into my arms as Madison slipped into the space beside me.
Beckett’s expression fell when he realized Madison sat between us. His gaze followed my movements as I pressed Emilia against my chest.
“You should have her in a seat.”
“Yeah.” I rolled my eyes. “Probably so, but I wasn’t planning on leaving with Vin. Antonio was coming back to get me. He has the carseat in his car.”
He shifted, reaching across Madison’s lap. “Give her to me.” Tugging our daughter against his chest, he pressed his face against her and inhaled.
Vin glanced behind him, but no one spoke as the only man I’d ever loved pressed kisses to our daughter’s head.
“I never thought I could have something like this, Celestina. My life is a convoluted mess of
darkness and death. But you changed that, the day I sat down next to you at the bar.”
We watched in complete awe as this man broke down, holding his daughter against him. His body shook with emotion I didn’t understand. He’d walked away from me without a second glance, and now, he was holding his daughter as if she was the most precious thing on the planet.
Where did that leave me?
We pulled down Michael’s long, winding driveway and stopped at the front door. Antonio was
standing at the top of the steps, with Massimo beside him. Both held expressions I was familiar with, one that had me sighing.
“This isn’t going to be good, Beckett. My brothers are protective of me, and it’s a miracle that one,”—I pointed at Vin, who was already making his way up the stairs—“didn’t kill you.”
“I’ll talk to him.” Madison glanced at me, giving me a reassuring smile. “Come on, let’s get this over with.” She pushed open my door and urged me out.
We headed around the car, and I watched as Massimo drew Madison into his arms and locked lips with her. When they broke apart, Madison whispered something in his ear, making him stiffen. She cupped his cheek and muttered something, making him lift his head and stare at the sky. He turned his head to Antonio, then turned and walked inside. Antonio shot us a death glare, then spun and walked inside.
With our daughter held firmly in his arms, Beckett slid out of the car. He handed Emilia to me and took a deep breath.
“Let’s go face the firing squad. Then we need to talk.”
As much as I didn’t want to talk to him, I nodded and followed him up the steps. As soon as we stepped through the doors, everyone turned their suspicious gaze on us. Beckett
stiffened and held my oldest brother's stare with his own.
“Just get it over with. I’m not leaving.” He folded his arms across his chest and waited.
“Jesus Christ.” Riley stepped forward and slapped Vin on the back of the head. “You three act like you’re perfect. Well, you’re not. If memory serves me right, you pushed me away. And you,”—she pointed at Antonio—“fought hard against what you wanted. We’ve all made mistakes, but this family needs to stick together. Get your egos in check and bring him into the fold. He’s spent the last year fighting to keep her safe, as you have. Maybe you need to combine efforts.”
Massimo covered his laugh with his hand, but Vin scowled at him.
“Fuck off, brother.”
“As interesting as this is.” I carried Emilia over to Madison and placed her in her arms. “I need a minute alone.”