My Blood Runs for the Family


Breathe Sera.

Fingers fisted my hair and pulled upward, forcing me to look up at the man who’d just pulled a bag from over my head. He wore a suit and mask, both so black in color they seemed to suck the light right out of the room. There were no designs on the full-faced mask. It was just a void, a black hole, a vacant space where his face should have been. His hands were bare, and in the light of a huge crystal chandelier above our heads I caught the glint of the gold ring he wore on his right ring finger.

I sucked in my breath as my focus locked on the ring and the insignia woven across the golden band.

Il mio sangue scorre per la famiglia.

My blood runs for the family.

The Marino family motto.

Hot, uncontrollable tears blurred my vision as my body trembled with terror. I stole a glance around the room, seeing nothing but gold trim and gilded wallpaper that brought a fresh wave of tears to my eyes. I knew where I was. I knew this place. Worst of all, I knew what was rumored to happen here once or twice a year.

“Please,” I choked, turning pleading eyes toward the masked man towering above me. He rifled through a black duffle bag and tossed a handful of things on the floor where I knelt. Handcuffs caught the light of the impossibly expensive crystal chandelier above our heads as he tossed them on the floor, followed by a black strip of fabric that shimmered like fine silk, and a bundle of zip ties.

“Shut up,” he growled, his voice distorted by the mask hiding his face.

“My dad—”

“I don’t give a fuck who your daddy is.” His hand clamped around my neck so fast I didn’t have time to react. He lifted me off the floor and pressed me against the wall. “You’re as good as cattle now.”

I clawed his hands with my fingernails until he released me, and I crumpled to the floor, the zip ties binding my wrists and ankles together biting into my skin.

“Hey, dickhead, you’re not supposed to rough up the girls!” a male voice shouted from across the room.

“She’s asking for it. Mouthy, this one,” he retorted, and I could practically see the shit-eating smirk that followed his words. In reality, I hadn’t said a thing to this man other than please and why.

“Bet she can do an awful lot with that mouth,” a third male voice purred as the light in the room became suddenly shadowed by his figure, his face hidden by another black, faceless mask. He reached down and pinched my lower lip between his fingers and pulled. “Stick your tongue out for me, baby. I want to see what we’re working with.”

I choked on another sob, trying to pull away from him. His hand met my cheek, and fire erupted over my skin as his slap echoed around the room.

“What the fuck did I just say?” The second man walked into view. Unlike his two companions, he wasn’t wearing a mask. My blood ran cold as I met his dark brown eyes, taking in that familiar face and black hair. Niccolò Marino looked down at me without an ounce of sympathy in his eyes. He reached out, shoving the two masked men out of the way and gathered up the handcuffs and black silk before grabbing my wrists and pulling me upright.

“Where am I?” I asked stupidly, already knowing the answer but needing confirmation to ensure I wasn’t having a nightmare and this was, in fact, reality.

“I think you know,” he said in a low growl, shoving me forward through a doorway and into a large walk-in closet the same size as my shabby apartment in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. I tripped over my own feet as I locked eyes with an elderly maid. Her uniform smelled sharply of cigarette smoke. She clucked her tongue, frowning at me as she looked me up and down and then up at Niccolò for direction. “Clean her up. Make her look pretty.”

I yelped in surprise as he shoved me forward. I couldn’t catch myself with my wrists and ankles bound, so I just laid on my side and pulled my knees into my belly.

Niccolò cut the zip ties and kicked me in the back. “Get up, Seraphina.”

“Why am I here?”

But I was answered by the door clicking shut and the callused hands of the elderly maid closing around my shoulders. She roughly pulled my sweater off and unclasped my bra. I shielded myself, shaking as she scolded me in Italian and pinched my arm so hard it brought tears to my eyes.

“Stand up,” she ground out, and when I didn’t move, she pinched my arm again, twisting harder this time. I shakily stood, tears streaming down my cheeks and along my jaw as she pulled my skirt down over my waist, then my tights, but had the decency to leave on the lacey blue thong I was wearing.

Shame rushed over my naked skin. I instinctively felt for the little golden rosary my mother had given me over a decade ago for my tenth birthday that I always wore around my neck, but it was gone. Pain cracked somewhere deep in my chest as I frantically felt for it, panic heightening to a whole new level. “My necklace?”

“Don’t speak unless spoken to,” the maid snapped, pulling a black chemise over my shoulders. I sucked in a ragged breath as she turned me around and started dabbing my face with heavy makeup.

“She’s up, we need to go,” Niccolò barked from just outside the door.

“She’s done,” the maid sneered. There was a moment where panic turned to desperation, and I nearly reached out and clasped the woman around the neck. It wouldn’t take much to subdue her. She was even smaller than I was, barely five feet tall in my estimation.

But she wasn’t the issue. The three men standing outside the door weren’t even my biggest problem. It was the dozens of men from every prominent, powerful crime family on the eastern seaboard waiting in the Marino Mansion’s stately ballroom that would be my demise.

“What’s happening?” I croaked as Niccolò curled his fingers around my unbound wrist and pulled, leading me out of the room and into a dimly lit hallway.

“The auction. Why else did you think you were here?”

Related chapters

Latest chapter Protection Status