Copyright 2021 Giana Darling
Published by Giana Darling
Cover Design by Najla Qamber
Edited by Jenny Sims
Proofed by Sarah Plocher
Cover Photographer Diego Durden
When Heroes Fall Playlist
Enthralled (The Enslaved Duet, #1)
Enthralled: Chapter One Preview
Other Books By Giana Darling
About Giana Darling
To the strong women who have earned their armor by battling their entire lives for respect, admiration, and a love worthy of their greatness.
And to Annette who makes me feel loved and supported every single day. Thank you for bringing so much light to my life. I will never be able to express how much I love you.
Nothing can be loved or hated unless it is first understood.”
– Leonardo di Vinci
While I consulted with a legal expert for this book, I have taken certain creative liberties with the story to make it flow the way I wanted it to. Any and all inaccuracies are my own and I hope you enjoy the story for what it is, a work of fantastical fiction.
The mafia is a very real entity today. Though their prolific presence has diminished in the 21st century, that is only because they learned from their mistakes in the 80s and got smarter. Now, they do not instigate public hits and most of their schemes have gone digital. It is true that some of the top mafia crime families operate much like Fortune 500 companies with a single operation netting them as much as multi-millions. Though the mafia remains a popular trope in media, there is surprisingly little known about its modern-day operations and there are a lot of untruths perpetuated by the organizations themselves to create a kind of cult of personality around them. I have done a serious amount of research for this story in the hopes of making it as authentic as possible, but it should be noted this is a complete work of fiction.
Click here to listen on Spotify!
“To Build A Home”––The Cinematic Orchestra, Patrick Watson
“the broken hearts club”––gnash
“You Should Know Where I’m Coming From”––BANKS
“Who Are You”––SVRCINA
“One Time”––Marian Hill
“Who Are You, Really?”––Mikkey Ekko
“On An Evening In Roma”––Dean Martin
“Buona Sera”––Louis Prima
“Rolling In The Deep”––Adele
“Play With Fire”––Sam Tinnesz feat. Yacht Money
“A Little Wicked”––Valerie Broussard
“Accetto Miracoli”––Tiziano Ferro
“Phobia Orgasma”––Oliver Riot
“Love Is A Bitch”––Two Feet
“The Other Side”––Ruelle
“Lies In The Dark”––Tove Lo
“Call Out My Name”––The Weeknd
“Ivory Black”––Oliver Riot
“Woozy”––Glass Animals, Jean Deaux
“What Other People Say”––Sam Fischer, Demi Lavato
“Love And War”––Fleurie
“Can’t Help Falling In Love”––Tommee Profitt, Broke
“Not Afraid Anymore”––Halsey
“Feeling Good”––Michael Buble
“Rescue My Heart”––Liz Longley
“We Must Be Killers”––Mikky Ekko
“Never Be Like You”––Flume, Kai
It started with a phone call.
“Elena,” my sister and best friend Cosima breathed into the phone, her voice stuttering like a failing engine. “I need you.”
I could still recall the feeling in my chest as I heard those words. The tightening in my heart like an emerging bud and the bloom as I relished the opportunity to finally pay my sister back for her years of sacrifice and support for our family, for me.
“Anything,” I’d promised instantly, an oath I would have sworn to her in blood.
That was before I knew why she needed me.
Or more aptly, who she needed me for.
If I’d known then, I wondered if even the genuine angst in my beloved sister’s voice could have swayed me into taking on this case.
I was a criminal lawyer, but I’d made a point to avoid representing anyone involved in organized crime even though Fields, Harding & Griffith, one of the top firms in the city, was relatively infamous for its list of rather unsavory clients.
Including the New York City Camorra.
And it’s capo, Dante Salvatore.
Who had just made the front page of The New York Times for being arrested on suspicion of three counts under the RICO Act, including, but not limited to, murder.
The metallic hum of mechanisms unlocking startled me from my misgivings, and the guard indicated for me to follow him into the small holding cell where I was about to meet my future client.
Only, I’d met him before.
I could still remember the sheer size of his heavily muscled form bent over Cosima’s hospital bed, his swarthy features and olive-black eyes immediately alerting me to the presence of a southern Italian man. The look of that face, the set of the stubborn bones in his slightly dimpled square chin, and the roughly carved cheekbones taut with strain spoke to something even worse.
I had no idea why such a man was at my sister’s bedside, his face creased with acute misery, but I did not like it, and I did not trust it.
We’d left Naples to get away from men like that.
Even though Cosima had woken from her coma and sworn that Dante was a friend, I’d still cornered the big lug in the expensive suit outside in the hall, my hand fisted tight in his creased dress shirt.
“If I find out you had something to do with her getting shot,” I’d whisper-hissed at a man who could have easily crushed me with his bare hands. “I’ll shoot you myself.”
A man who was well-known in criminal circles as the Devil of NYC?
He only had the audacity to tip his head back and roar with deeply inappropriate laughter in the hallway of the hospital intensive care unit.
And now, there I was, about to face him again.
Not as his nemesis, though I still wanted to rake him over the coals for involving Cosima in any illegal and dangerous dealings.
But as his lawyer.
I sighed deeply before squaring my shoulders and following the guardsman into the cold, poorly lit cell at the Me
tropolitan Correctional Facility.
Dante Salvatore sat at the metal table with his thick legs chained to the floor and his hands bound and resting on the steel surface. He seemed unusually at ease wearing the ill-fitting hunter green jumpsuit in a cell that seemed almost hilariously small compared to his considerable bulk. It was as if the uncomfortable metal chair was his throne and this dank cell, his receiving hall.
“Ah,” he said in a low, muddled accent that was somehow British, American, and Italian all in one. “Elena Lombardi. I should have known she would send you.”
“Really?” I raised a cool eyebrow as I glided into the room, the click of my Louboutin heels echoing against the walls. “Then I suppose I’m more surprised to see myself here than you are.”
I tried not to look into his face as he flashed me a beguiling smile, afraid I’d see spots as if staring into the sun. It was no wonder this man had gotten away with murder before with a face and body as beautiful as his. I was sure he was able to charm himself out of most situations.
Well, he would find I was immune to his charm.
In fact, immune to men entirely after the last year of my heartbroken life.
I pulled my tablet from my Prada purse, then crossed my legs beneath the table, poised to take notes.
“Do you know why you’re here?” I began in the coolest, most professional voice I could muster.
Not a trace of my native land remained in my tone. I’d cut, washed, and bleached the foreignness out of my voice so that anyone first meeting me would never guess I was anything but American-born. It was the way I preferred it. And with my unusual dark red hair, it wasn’t as if I looked traditionally Italian either.
Dante leaned farther back in his chair and knocked his knuckles against the table twice, studying his chains with a bored consideration. “I think there was some mention of murder.”
I fought the urge to snort at his insolence. “Yes, Mr. Salvatore. As I understand it, they’ve arrested you on suspicion of murder, racketeering, and fraud under the federal RICO Act.” Then, as if speaking to an idiot because I wasn’t certain he understood the gravitas of his situation, “These are very serious charges that could level you with twenty-five years to life behind bars.”
Dante blinked those long-lashed, liquid black eyes at me as he lightly drummed his thick fingers against the table. He wore a ring on one finger, a thick band of silver with some ornate crest in the middle. It shouldn’t have been attractive, as gaudy as it was, but it only served to draw attention to those powerful hands, the muscle dense in his palms, veins threading through the tops up into lightly furred forearms peeking out from the jumpsuit.
My mouth went dry, and irritation flared. I was not the kind of woman to find something so uncouth attractive.
Man-killing hands, I reminded myself curtly and then affixed my stare just over his right shoulder so my untamed thoughts wouldn’t run free.
“If I am found guilty,” he agreed mildly even though that intense gaze belayed his faux ennui. “But Cosima has told me before you are very good at your job. Are you saying you will not be able to clear me of this?”
I glared at him, the arched brow, the too-red mouth a half-moon of humor. “As you know, I won’t be the lead on your case. I’m twenty-seven and a fourth-year associate.”
“A soldata,” he murmured. “Not a capo.”
“Please do not link me even metaphorically to the mafia,” I asserted coldly. “I am a lawyer on the right side of the law.”
His lips twitched, his insolence grating on my nerves. “Yet you have no qualms about representing a man on the wrong side of it?”
“Normally, no. Though I usually stay as far away from organized crime as I can. But when my sister asks me to do something for her, I will move heaven and earth to do it. Even if it goes against my own moral judgment.”
I watched his eyes dance and wondered at his ability to find joy in teasing me when he was in such a place and position. It made me want to shake him. Did he not understand that there were consequences for his actions?
Contrary to popular belief, being good-looking and rich was not a get-out-of-jail-free card.
“And do you think law and morality are one and the same, Elena?” The way he said my name was indecent, a long, slow blurring of vowels and a flick of his tongue over the consonant.
“‘Law is reason, free from passion,’” I quoted. Aristotle’s words had always resonated with me. Not just in my legal profession but throughout my life. If I could understand the reason for something, I diminished its power over my emotions, therefore freeing myself from it.
If I had a philosophy, it was that.
“Is it so cut and dry?” Dante argued as if we were bantering over an espresso in some piazza, enjoying a two-hour lunch in our mother country.
I hesitated, sensing a trap, but was distracted by this buzzing irritation I felt beneath my skin. “Usually.”
“The Scottsboro Boys Trial?” he countered immediately, rearing back slowly before coiling forward over the table. He was close enough I could smell him, something sharp and tangy like sun-warmed citrus. “Those boys incarcerated for years because they were black? Amanda Knox? The LA Times postulates that the rate of wrongful convictions is between two and ten percent. Yet you believe absolutely in the law?”
I spoke through the snarl of my twisted lips. “Do not be ridiculous. The law is practiced by humans who are never infallible. To hope for zero mistakes is foolish. You don’t strike me as the foolish type.”
Dante only quirked that thick right brow. “You see things in black and white,” he surmised, disappointment evident in his tone. He sank back in his seat like a deflated balloon, and bizarrely, I felt as if I’d failed some test.
He was wrong, but something about his demeanor made me want to confirm his worst beliefs about me. I had the bad habit of living up to people’s worst assumptions and cutting off my nose to spite my face, just because my feelings were hurt that they would think so little of me.
My therapist called it a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
I called it survival instinct.
So I only tipped my chin haughtily and looked down my nose. “I suppose you don’t.”
“Black and white and red,” he said with a wink.
“Mr. Salvatore,” I huffed. “You can’t be so unfazed as you seem. This is a privileged meeting, so you don’t have to play the innocent with me, and honestly, I would prefer bluntness. If you can manage it.”
“Oh, Ms. Lombardi,” he drawled, making fun of my formality even though we were virtually strangers and he was my client. “I am the most honest man you’ll ever meet.”
“Why do I find that hard to believe?”
A slow blink as he scrubbed a hand over his stubbled jaw. “Because you do not see me in color. You see what you want to see.”
“Are you telling me that you’re innocent of these charges?” I pushed.
He inclined his chin. “I did not kill Giuseppe di Carlo.”
“Oh? And I don’t suppose you know who did?” I asked, my voice saccharine.
Suddenly, he seemed tired, his big bones heavy beneath his frame as he sagged slightly and loosed a sigh. “It has been a long day, Ms. Lombardi. Ms. Ghorbani has already informed me my arraignment is tomorrow. Why don’t we get to the point of why you came all the way down here to see me like an animal at the zoo.”
I bristled. “Excuse me?”
“You came down to see what kind of monster your sister had taken for her pet. Well, here I am. I hope I lived up to the nightmarish hype.”
I stared at him with narrowed eyes, scanning the broad forehead notched with frown lines and the stubborn, almost weary set of his ruddy mouth. It was easy to fall into the trap he laid, to buy into the mirage he so skillfully wove that said he was a bad man with wicked intentions and nothing more.
But I knew more about Dante Salvatore than most.
I knew that this mafioso had been born the privileged second s
on of the Duke of Greythorn, and therefore, he’d been educated at the best schools in England and rubbed elbows with a more sophisticated kind of criminal as a boy than he did now in the Camorra. I knew that his father had murdered his mother and wondered if such criminality could be passed through the blood at the same time that my heart panged for the young man he’d been when he’d lost both his parents in different ways to the same offense.
I knew my sister called him the brother of her heart. That she swore up and down he was one of the most loyal and loving men she had ever known. That he would die for her.
Such fierce loyalty resonated with me.
Most girls might have dreamed of white weddings and Prince Charmings, but over the years, I’d learned the futility of such cotton candy daydreams.
All I valued now, desired now, was steadfast loyalty.
And I had to credit this man with that, even if I wanted to hate him for representing every villain I’d ever faced in my childhood.
“All monsters were men once,” I finally allowed, swallowing hard because maybe the same could be said of me. “It’s your choice, Mr. Salvatore, which you want to be after I help get you out of this predicament.”
He settled comfortably in his chair and spread his hands wide, chains rattling. “Maybe after all this, you’ll understand that you don’t have to choose between one or the other. Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, we have the capacity to claim both sides.”
“And look how that turned out for him,” I retorted.
Dante’s grin was lazy and wicked, one blunt-tipped finger smoothing over his lower lip, back and forth like a hypnotic pendulum. “What a game this will be.”
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