Her brother, Philip, had died at twenty-one, in a shoot-out with a rival MC. He’d been killed instantly, a single bullet to the head. No pain. Nothing.
“Philip’s passing changes everything, Isabella.” Her father never shortened her name. He didn’t do it for anyone, it was always their full name.
“What does it change?” she asked.
“You’re my only heir. This, one day, will all be yours, or passed onto whomever you’re supposed to marry. The vultures are already circling, wanting to know who I’d pick for my daughter who isn’t even a teenager yet.” He ran a hand down his face and she realized he was crying. “I wanted to give you the world, but this life now, it won’t let me. All I can do is make you strong. The men here will eat you up and spit you back out. They will hurt you. I’m not a fool. I know some of the women are in nightmarish situations where their men hurt them. I don’t want that for you. I want you to be able to sit at that table when I die, and to control it. To be a force to be reckoned with.”
“Daddy, I’m a girl.”
“And one day, you’re going to be a woman. I will train you. I’ll prepare you. Every single day we have together, it will be for you. If there is one thing I can do now before I die, it is to make sure you will never be at the mercy of men. Please, Isabella, I know you will hate me, but don’t let them win.”
“I won’t, Daddy, I promise.”
Ten years later
“Tears are weakness. Never let them see you cry.”
Isabella didn’t cry as her father’s casket was lowered into the ground. She watched, broken inside, but to everyone watching, she showed no emotion. It had taken her years to learn to lock her feelings inside. There were times when her father was alive that he admitted he wished he’d never taught her because he wasn’t able to read her.
Through hours of his countless training, she’d become the perfect son, or daughter. Most of the men here would hate who she was. None of them would believe that she’d killed to save her father, how she was faster than most of her guards, and once she realized her father’s reason for training her, she never failed him. Whenever she was slammed to the ground, she got right back up and asked for more.
There was no stopping her.
Of course, with training also came the need to keep her a woman, and so she’d been fed constantly as well. Even though she was a strong woman, fit, she hadn’t lost any curves.
She looked around the graveyard. Everyone was dressed in black. All of the capos were in one place, but their soldiers were not too far behind. They all had enemies, all of them were wanted dead.
She didn’t give a fuck who wanted them dead.
If she could, she’d kill them all, but Randy, her father’s trusted advisor and the man who’d been by her side for the past ten years, advised her against it. She and Randy, they were both outcasts.
During her training, whenever she didn’t have bruises, her father kept her close by his side, making the men talk shop in front of her. The men hated her and women were afraid. Let them all be. She knew three of the capos had sons who they wanted to settle down, and to possess the Drago name, well, that would mean something to them. Not to her, though. Hell no.
Before he died, her father told her of the Families who’d asked for her hand in marriage. The one he highly recommended was Damon Romano. Thirty-four years old. No wife, no child, not down to a lack of trying either. All of his potential wives had ended up dead or killed themselves.
Damon himself was present at the graveyard. He stood out from the crowd, at least from the rest of his family. He was a monster in comparison. Tall, over six feet and several inches. Wide as well, but pure muscle. She’d heard the rumors about him, how he could snap a man’s neck with his bare hand, crush skulls in his palm, and with one blow to the face, he could kill people instantly.
Of course, they were all rumors, or were they? Randy hadn’t been able to deny any of them. Whenever there was an attack, Damon came out the bloodiest with the highest death count.
Women were afraid of him, but according to his father, there were some who considered him a trophy. To be able to tame the beast was a big deal.
Not to her.
She had no desire to marry a man who was … a monster or even cursed.
Five women, all dead. There was no way someone could be that unlucky.
The time came for her to place a flower onto the casket. She took a single white rose and she wanted to mar it with blood. All from this Family were evil and deserved to be punished. Still, she played her part, stepping back.
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