Cruel Saints: Chapter 4

ELENA

The Present – Elena; 21. Lucian; 24.

My heart is fluttering against my ribs as we’re driven through the iron gates of St. Monarch’s. The castle stands solid, wrapped in old money and extravagance. The gardens are flawless, and the grounds stretch so vast, I can’t see the outer walls.

So beautiful.

Dante’s palm connects with the back of my head, and I catch myself from slamming into the seat in front of me. “Listen to me!” he barks.

“I am,” I bite the words out, giving him a defiant scowl.

God, it’s only a matter of minutes, and then I’ll be rid of this monster.

“You talk to no one. This is the training ground of the elite. No one here is a friend,” he warns me for the hundredth time.

“I know,” I mumble. Dante informed me of the different syndicate groups that rule the world of crime. The Mafia, the Bratva, the Cartels. Arms dealers like my father. Drug dealers. Assassins. The worst of the worst.

He also told me about the five people who are currently guests at St. Monarch’s. Sergei Aulov, whose family is a part of the Bratva. Kim Yung, a smuggler, and there’s also a custodian in training, MJ Fang. Gabriella Terrero, also known as the Princess of Terror. I was told her mother is the head of the largest cartel. The last person is Lucian Cotroni, soon to be head of the Mafia.

They’re all people like Dante and my father. Cruel and soulless.

I really don’t intend to talk to any of them.

“If you’re not learning the trade, then you stay in your suite,” Dante grumbles.

“Mmh…” I have no intention of doing that. I won’t attend any training sessions on how to trade arms. I’m going to spend every waking moment outside and learning how to fight, so I can defend myself against Dante.

I’m going to relish being free for once in my life.

The armored SUV comes to a stop, and not waiting for Dante, I open the door and climb out. I take a deep breath of the fresh Switzerland air. It’s the first time I’ve traveled, and I can’t get enough of the foreign scenery. St. Monarch’s is situated near Geneva, and the view is idyllic, to say the least.

The chauffer removes my luggage from the vehicle, and unable to wait for a second longer to get away from Dante, I take the bags from the chauffeur and walk toward the entrance of the castle.

“Principessa!” Dante snarls behind me, and then his fingers clamp around my arm, and I’m yanked to a stop. His body pushes into my personal space, and then his rancid breath hits my face. Before I know what’s happening, he presses an unforgiving kiss to my lips. “Don’t miss me too much.”

Knowing I’m safe from being killed, I pull out of Dante’s hold, and as I walk away from him, I say, “I won’t. Not at all.”

I hold my breath as I near the wide doors, on guard that Dante will grab hold of me again to punish me for what I just said. As I climb the stairs and reach the doors, I glance over my shoulder. I’m met with a deadly glare from Dante, where he’s still standing by the SUV.

Elation washes over me from knowing I’m safe. For the first time in my life, Dante can’t hurt me.

I hope he dies before I have to leave here.

Walking into St. Monarch’s, I forget about Dante as my eyes take in everything. There’s nothing outdated about the interior. Dark oak and golden furnishings lend a regal feel to the entrance hall. I glance up at the magnificent chandelier.

“Miss Lucas,” a man dressed in a black combat uniform addresses me. He’s holding a machine gun to his chest, the barrel facing down. “Welcome to St. Monarch’s. I’ll show you to your personal quarters.”

“Thank you,” I murmur as I follow after him.

“Madame Keller will welcome you officially at dinner,” the man says. “You’re free to move around the property as you see fit. There’s only one rule; no killing.”

I nod, then ask, “I heard there was an altercation a few months back?”

“Taken care off. The guards have been tripled for your protection. You have nothing to worry about,” he assures me.

As we take the stairs up, the wooden steps creak beneath my feet, and the sound is at odds with the luxurious interior.

At least no one will be able to sneak up on me.

I’m led down a hallway. The walls and ceiling have been painted with battles of old.

The guard stops in front of a suite, and I watch as he unlocks the door that’s engraved with square patterns. He pushes it open and steps aside.

I walk into my personal suite, and when the man hands me the key, I can’t help but smile. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome to explore St. Monarch’s and the grounds. Dinner with Madame Keller will be in the dining hall at seven pm.”

I nod, and when the man walks back down the hallway, the smile on my face grows.

I have the key to my suite. No one will be able to lock me inside for days on end.

Just as I’m about to close my door, the one opposite my suite opens, and my smile freezes. My gaze locks with a pair of intense dark brown eyes, and instantly a shiver rushes over my body.

Dante showed me a photo of Lucian Cotroni so I’d know who to stay away from, but… the picture was of a younger version of him, and honestly, it didn’t do him justice at all.

This is not the boy version I saw in the photograph. This is a man. He’s so attractive, I can’t help but stare shamelessly at him. A tailored black suit covers his clearly muscled frame and broad shoulders. There’s a dark dusting of hair on his chiseled jaw, square and strong. Flawless tanned skin covers his face, neck, and hands.

His hands. Veins line the back. As he adjusts a cuff, a ring on his right hand catches my attention. It looks like it’s a family ring.

My gaze lifts back to his eyes. Those eyes. They’re not cruel like Dante’s, but mysterious and confident. And God, they’re intense. It feels like he’s staring right through me. Like none of my secrets are safe from him. Then an impassive expression hardens his face, and the moment shatters.

Lucian Cotroni – soon to be head of the Mafia. More dangerous than my father and Dante, as the Cotronis are the only family they submit to.

Fear slithers down my spine, and taking a step back, I shut the door between us.

I suck in a deep breath of air while thinking I’ll definitely stay away from Lucian. Not because I was told to but from the power I could feel radiating from him. Life has taught me powerful people are cruel because there’s no one to hold them accountable, no one who would dare cross them.

I turn to look at my suite, which is decorated with cream and gold furnishings. It lightens the interior. I have a private living room, a bedroom, and an ensuite bathroom. All modern and luxurious. Expansive bay windows lend natural light, and it makes the excitement return to my heart.

Taking hold of my luggage, I walk to the bedroom and begin to unpack. I want to get settled as soon as possible, so I can explore the castle and surrounding grounds.

For once, I can do whatever I want, and it makes my heart beat faster while I rush to unpack.

 When all my belongings are neatly in their place, I kick off my heels and strip out of the tight-fitting jeans and top I’m wearing.

With Dante not here to leer at me while I get dressed, the constant weight that’s been suffocating me lifts a little.

I choose a cream-colored dress and pull it over my head. The thin straps rest on my shoulders as the soft fabric falls to mid-thigh. I slip on a pair of sandals and then put my hair up in a messy bun.

So much better.

Feeling more relaxed than I’ve ever felt in my life, a smile spreads over my face as I walk to the door. Softly, I unlock it, and stepping out into the hallway, I glance around as I lock the suite behind me.

I don’t have any pockets, and while I walk toward the stairs, I unclasp the necklace around my neck and slip the key onto it before fastening it back in place.

My eyes keep darting everywhere as I take the stairs to the lower floor. The only sound comes from the creaking wood beneath my feet. Curious to see what my new home looks like, I turn to my left and into the foyer. When I walk through an archway, I’m met with two hallways to choose from.

Deciding to explore the left one, I slowly make way through the art-covered walls as I glance into random rooms.

I find the studios where I’ll hopefully learn how to fight. There is a variety of training equipment, and mirrors cover all the walls. There’s no sign of the instructor, and I decide to stop by later so I can make an appointment for private training sessions.

I continue to explore, and when I reach another open door, I peek inside. Seeing weapons, I step into what seems to be the armory. A blonde-haired woman glances up from where she’s standing by a broad counter containing handguns. Behind her, cabinets filled with more weapons line the wall.

“Miss Lucas. Welcome,” she says, a professional tone to her voice. “I’m Miss Dervishi.”

The instructors must’ve been told of my arrival.

I smile at the weapons trainer. “Thank you.” Then I glance at the wide variety of firearms.

“Would you like to pick one? The shooting range is through that door.” Miss Dervishi gestures at a doorway as I hear shots being fired. “There’s also a more extensive shooting range outside.”

“I’m just looking around,” I explain as I walk closer to the doorway where the shots are coming from. “I’d like to start training tomorrow, though. Do I have to schedule a specific time?”

“Would you like private sessions?” she asks.

I nod as I glance back at her. “Preferably, please.”

“I’m afraid I only have seven o’clock available. Would that suit you?”

“Seven is perfect. I’ll be here.”

I take a step into the shooting range and look at the stalls. There are ten, and only one seems to be in use.

Another round of shots begins, and I step a little closer until the target comes into view. Whoever’s shooting is really good. The hole in the head of the target keeps growing as one bullet after the other hits the same spot.

Wow. I hope I can learn to shoot like that.

The shooting stops, and then a man steps out of a stall, the firearm he’s using held firmly in his right hand.

Oh crap. Lucian Cotroni.

Our eyes meet, and it only takes a second for the impassive expression to return to Lucian’s face, making him look dark and threatening.

For a second, the woman in me can’t help but admire his strong features. He is handsome… maybe too handsome. Our eyes lock, and the deadly expression in Lucian’s dark brown irises reminds me he’s not just any man.

A different kind of danger emanates from him than what I’m used to feeling from Dante. Where Dante is depraved, this man seems in control of everything around him. He gives me the impression he doesn’t act irrationally, and every move he makes is calculated.

I guess that’s what it takes if you’re going to be the head of the Mafia.

Lucian’s strong fingers flex around the weapon’s handle, and knowing how well he can handle a gun makes my fear intensify. My heartbeat picks up, and spinning around on my heels, I dart through the doorway and rush out of the armory.

Holy mother, that was intense.

I focus on calming my racing heartbeat as I hurry back down the hallway. With only six of us here, I get a feeling it’s going to be hard to avoid the other guests.

I don’t look into any more rooms as I pass by them, and when I finally reach double doors that are pushed open, I let out a breath of relief. Stepping outside, my lips part at the beautiful nature surrounding the castle.

Wide steps lead down to a path that’s lined with trimmed trees and the odd cast iron bench. Flower beds are scattered everywhere, bursting with colors.

My body moves forward as if it’s being called by the path, and soon my feet find a comfortable pace as I follow it.

I take a deep breath of the fresh air and smile as the sun warms my skin. Lucian is soon forgotten as emotion wells in my chest from being able to walk outside.

God, I missed this. So much.

The sound of water catches my attention, and not long after, a beautiful fountain comes into view. It’s situated in a courtyard that’s framed by ivy. It looks like a secret garden.

There are two benches, the fountain obscuring the view between them. All the shade makes the air cooler, and I wrap my arms around myself as I step closer to the fountain.

The centerpiece is made of cherubs holding onto the dress of a woman. She stares longingly down at them as if they’re her children. The sight makes a pang of sadness sweep through me.

It’s heartbreaking that a statue is able to express more love than I’ve been given in my life.

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