Black Wings & Stolen Things: Chapter 30

RIONACH

I’ve officially been Mrs. Banes for a month now and we’ve fallen fairly easily into a routine after the day he brought me to the cabin. Emeric opening up about his childhood and the history he shares with the Koslov family helped me understand him on a level that’s more… human. The lore of Emeric Banes is so vast and occasionally edges on otherworldly that it’s sometimes easy to forget at the end of the day, he’s still a just a person. He’s a human who has scars and trauma like the rest of us.

Now that I’m privy to the ghosts still haunting him from his past, I can help him keep them at bay. He’s still not a good sleeper by any means, but he’s fallen asleep in the same bed as me more times in the past two weeks than he did when we first got married. We’ve had many nights where he comes home as the morning sun is starting to peek over the horizon. It’s become second nature for me to crawl over to him and situate myself so I can easily slip him inside of me. It takes him only minutes to fall asleep, and he stays that way anywhere from three to six hours. According to what Emeric’s told me, this is the most uninterrupted sleep he’s had since he was a child. And the fact he’s getting that kind of rest on nearly a daily basis is monumental for him.

We started cock warming—yes, I googled the correct term for it. I have a lot of free time on my hands—to help him sleep, but over the weeks, I’ve discovered I also sleep sounder when he’s intwined with me. When I have no choice but to go to bed without him while he’s still out working, I find myself feeling painfully empty. In such a short time frame, my life and my body’s needs have become dependent on him. It’s not completely one-sided either. Emeric depends on me now too, and I find that equal parts terrifying and calming.

Not only do I understand my husband more, but I also better understand his almost paranoid worry about what my family will do if they end up allying with the Russians again. Desperate people act recklessly, and Emeric has left my father in a very desperate state. Every day I struggle with the weight of knowing the extra trepidation Emeric is carrying around is because of me. If I gave the word, Emeric would eliminate my father, and subsequently my brother, without hesitation. I can’t bring myself to call it. After everything, anyone with the last name Moran doesn’t deserve my benevolence. There’s a big difference between not wanting someone in your life anymore and wanting them dead. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach the point of wishing death upon the family who failed me so bad, but the ball is in their court. If they do something as stupid as Emeric is predicting they will, they’ll be signing their own death sentences and there won’t be anything I can do to help them.

The morning following our night in the cabin, I finally got the courage to ask Emeric why he hadn’t ended Igor when he killed Ambrose. I can’t help but believe it would have been therapeutic and healing for him to watch Igor bleed out just like he did with his father.

It turns out two decades ago the Bratva that Koslov is affiliated with to this day was a bigger force than the Banes were at that time. Emeric’s eldest brother, Astor, who took the reins of the family’s empire after Ambrose’s death, struck up a deal with the Russian Pakhan to avoid creating more conflict between the two families. Astor was unexperienced at leading the family and knew a battle with the Russians wouldn’t have ended well for them. As a sign of good faith, the Bratva gifted the Banes family a highly sought-out piece of real estate on the Upper East Side and Emeric vowed to leave Igor alone as long as the Russian did the same.

It was a shaky understanding, but it’s seemed to have held for over twenty years. At least it had until Emeric stole me from Bogdan Koslov. The lines in the sand are now a little blurry.

It’s because I now know the whole story that I’m not as irritated as I was before about not being allowed to come and go from the penthouse as I wish. Emeric still hasn’t selected a team to be my official security, but he’s made more of an effort over the last couple weeks to take time out of his schedule to accompany me on various errands and outings. As promised, on an impromptu shopping trip he replenished the supply of lingerie he’s shredded off my body. On that same shopping trip, I dragged him into a pet store and picked Cerberus up a couple new toys. Emeric argued that the Doberman wasn’t a house pet and my response to that was to throw in another squeaky toy.

He even took me to Ophelia’s studio so I could take one of her beginners’ classes. The entire time I tried my best to gracefully glide around the silver pole, I felt his gaze raking over me. The hour-long class led to a very hot and heavy moment in the studio’s bathroom. Lia hadn’t been the slightest bit amused when she caught us leaving with our hair still mussed and Emeric’s shirt untucked. Laughing at her sour face, I kissed her on the cheek and promised her I’d see her soon before escaping through the front doors.

It’s been good.

I’ve been happy.

Emeric makes me happy.

But I still spend a lot of hours of my day bored. There’s only so many movies and TV series you can watch before your brain turns into Swiss cheese. I tried to switch it up by downloading a book on the iPad Emeric got me, but my attention span doesn’t seem to be cooperating long enough for me to get through a chapter.

“Wow, this place looks a lot different in the light of day,” I muse, spinning around the empty and eerily silent space. The lack of pounding music and gyrating bodies has my voice echoing through the high ceilings. “When you said you were taking me somewhere, I didn’t think you meant here.”

Tartarus at eleven in the morning on this random Tuesday looks a lot different than it did the night I was here last. The night I thought would be nothing more than a momentary escape from my dull reality but ended up being the start of something else entirely instead.

Emeric’s expensive dress shoes click against the black-and-white marble floors beneath as he moves closer to me. “My only hope when I bought this building was that I’d own a club successful enough that I could run a portion of my operation’s dirty money through it. Washing money is what I use all my legit businesses for.” This isn’t exactly a shocking revelation for me to hear. That’s what most crime families do. They just work on much smaller scales than my husband. “This nightclub is one of the most popular hot spots on this side of town. The VIP rooms are sold out eight months in advance and we turn away hundreds of people every night at the door because we simply do not have the capacity to allow anyone else in. Between the popularity of the main club and the members-only sex club in the basement, it’s safe to say Tartarus has grown into something I never expected or planned for.”

I admire the original detailing etched into the marble columns before looking over my shoulder at him. “You need to be careful how you word things like that because someone might overhear you and accidentally mistake you as a humble man.” My face morphs into an exaggerated look of horror and my words drip with sarcasm. “And we can’t have that. Your scary reputation couldn’t possibly survive it.”

The way his eyes narrow in pretend aggravation has me laughing.

“I don’t want you to worry one hair on your pretty little head, princess. While you may not find me scary, most would not agree with that sentiment. Not only have I secured my reputation, I’ve fucking earned it.” Knowing the true story of how he ended up becoming the man he is today, I couldn’t agree more with this. “But as I was saying, Tartarus has evolved over the years and there is still room for more potential growth. We have a running interest list of people and organizations wanting to rent the whole club out so they can host private parties here. The kind of money we could charge for something like that would allow us to run a great deal more of the dirty money through the books.”

The sound of the heels of my over-the-knee black suede boots clacking fills the quiet void around us as I turn and close the space between us.

“It sounds like you’ve got it all worked out in your head, so why aren’t you doing it?” I ask. I’m still not used to business plans like this being disclosed to me. He does it so casually, like we’re having a conversation over a cup of coffee. It’s the complete opposite of how Dad or Tiernan behaved.

“I didn’t have anyone on my current staff that had the time or ability to coordinate events like that.” Thunderous gray eyes scan my face. “But now I have a wife who majored in hospitality, and I thought it would be a perfect job for her.”

I think my jaw just hit the fancy marble floor. “What?”

He taps my chin, silently urging me to close my mouth. “I told you weeks ago I had no interest in being married to a pearl-wearing housewife. You need a life outside of our home, Rionach, and as much as I love calling you my wife, you need a purpose in life outside of that title. It isn’t feasible for me to allow you to go find some random job in the city, but I thought a job here at Tartarus working alongside me could be a good compromise.”

“I’d be working alongside you, huh? So you wouldn’t be my boss?” My teeth bite into my bottom lip as I fight a smile.

He reaches out for me, hands grasping my sides. “Don’t you know I’m everyone’s boss? Your office here will be directly next to mine, so I’ll be able to step in and boss you around anytime I damn well please.”

My own office? How long has he been planning this?

“As long as I can come to your office and cause trouble anytime I want, I don’t see a problem with that.”

“You can cause all the trouble you want, princess. In fact, I encourage it.”

Laughing and unable to hold back my growing smile any longer, I stare up at the man who is known for taking what he wants, and yet through it all, he hasn’t taken a single thing from me that I haven’t been willing to give. In fact, Emeric has handed me everything I didn’t know I wanted.

His reflexes are wicked fast when I launch myself at him with an excited squeal. His hands catch the backs of my thighs as my legs wrap around his middle. Eye level with him, I push strands of his dark hair back and ask, “Do you mean it? Do I really get to work here?”

“You’ve been a Banes for a month now, it’s time you start working for the family business, don’t you think?”

My head is still nodding when I kiss him.

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