When Villains Rise by Giana Darling



Part One





Napoli





One





Elena





Loving him wasn’t the end of everything.

It’s funny they always make it seem that way in the books and movies.

Loving him was just the beginning.

In a way, it was the death of me.

The woman of before, the cold, calculating, stubbornly moral lawyer with a layered life and carefully constructed personality was buried six feet beneath the earth in New York City.

This new being, born from the ashes of a fire ignited by one man, was reborn on a plane somewhere over the mid-Atlantic Ocean.

I was newborn, as blank as a white sheet of paper, my future hovering over it like a poised pen.

I only knew three things.

Fleeing the country with a known criminal made me a felon by association so for the first time in my life, I was officially on the wrong side of the law.

We were returning to my homeland, a place I had sworn five years ago that I would never return to willingly. More than that, we were going into the belly of the beast. Naples. The stinking cesspool that was the heart of the Camorra mafia. The villains of my entire youth.

And thirdly, mostly importantly, I was indisputably and irretrievably in love with a mafia Don, a man who could and most certainly had killed people with his big, bare hands. A man by the name of Dante Salvatore. A man who had changed my entire world.

It was the only positive thing on my short list yet it seemed the most all-consuming, the only true thing that mattered.

I was in love with Dante.

I’d loved before.

So, why did this feel so different, so strange?

Even at the height of my affection for Christopher and Daniel, I’d felt solidly independent, removed enough from my emotions to operate logically and efficiently.

With Dante, I felt my edges blurring, my whole being smudged like a water color painting into the edges of him and his.

I didn’t want space or logic.

Dio mio, I’d fled the country and my entire life to be with him. Clearly, I wasn’t thinking logically.

But that was the craziness of it all.

I didn’t care if I was acting outside of my own interests, that I was being impulsive and reckless and passionate to a fault.

I didn’t care so much I felt like roaring with giddy, manic laughter.

I was unhinged, ripped from the caged structure of my previous life by Dante’s ruthless grasp.

I felt free.

So free.

For the first time ever.

“Lottatrice mia.”

The low purr of his British-Italian accent hooked through my gut and pulled my focus from the oval plane window and the night ocean beyond to the very man I was thinking about.

Dante sat in the butter soft leather seat the way he sat in anything, big body sprawled out, thick thighs spread, heavily muscled torso sunk deep into the plush cushions. He should have looked lazy, even insolent in such an easy pose, but it somehow only served to make him look more powerful. As if that relaxed façade could coil and strike at only a second’s notice.

With his ink dark eyes pinned on me, it was impossible to take him for anything less than the predator he was.

“Your loud thinking is disturbing my peace,” he had the audacity to tell me with one of those Italianate shrugs that was barely a twitch of one shoulder. “If you cannot sleep, Elena, perhaps I can find something else to occupy your busy mind.”

I’d fallen into an emotionally exhausted slumber almost as soon as I’d buckled into my seat to take off and I’d only just woken up to the calamitous riot of my thoughts. Trust Dante to know I was awake and brooding even while he was busy conducting business on his phone.

I leveled him with a haughty look, but inside my chest something like joy bubbled up. “Excuse me for disturbing your peace, you’re right. It’s completely unacceptable that I’m stewing over the fact I just effectively destroyed my life in New York to chase after a runaway felon fleeing to a country I abhor. How selfish of me.”

There was the faintest twitch in his full mouth, but otherwise, he only continued to give me that thousand-yard stare over steepled fingers. “Frankie?”

“Yeah, Boss,” his second-in-command called from the rear of the main cabin where he was doing something on two computer monitors.

“Get out,” Dante ordered.

Without another word, Frankie powered down his application and got up. He shot me a sly wink before turning on his heel and disappearing into the back room.