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Cruel Saints: Chapter 9


It takes everything I have to not break down and cry. Nothing has ever felt as good as Lucian holding me. My thoughts are all over the place, but I manage to latch onto one. Lucian did what Alfonso couldn’t – he made Dante leave.

For the first time in my life, someone stood up for me. This man whom I should fear has shown me compassion when I was drowning in despair. He protected me.

I tighten my hold on him, squeezing my eyes shut as I fight back the tears because I feel safe.


I can’t remember if I ever felt safe.

It makes me want to cling to Lucian forever, but knowing that’s not a possibility, I loosen my grip around his waist. I bring my hands to his sides, but when Lucian doesn’t pull back and instead tightens his hold on me, my eyes drift shut again. I take a deep breath of his aftershave and soak in the feel of his stronger body pressed against mine.

It’s soothing instead of threatening.

Having someone show me something other than abuse begins to break down the walls I’ve tried to build up around myself. It exposes the parts of me I’ve worked so hard to keep hidden from Dante’s cruelty.

The human being who was dying to feel a gentle touch.

The girl who only wanted to be loved.

The woman who wants to be free.

Knowing I won’t be able to fight the tears for much longer, I try to pull away again, but still, Lucian won’t let go.

And. It. Shatters. Me.

I splinter into a million pieces, each one showing a glimpse of the hell I’ve been subjected to.

I gasp against Lucian’s chest, and my fingers dig into the expensive fabric of his jacket as the tears spill from my eyes.

He moves one of his hands to the back of my head, and he presses a kiss to my hair. Instead of it comforting me, it breaks my heart. It strips me bare because this man will rule the Mafia, which means he’s brutal and dangerous. There’s no way a monster like Dante can be controlled by someone who’s not a bigger monster.

 And even knowing this, I don’t want Lucian to let go of me. He’s strong enough to fight all my demons. If only he wasn’t a demon himself.

A knock at the door finally has Lucian’s arms loosening their grip on me. His hands move to my shoulders, and I keep my head bowed, not wanting him to see my tears.

Lucian’s breath fans over my forehead, and then his mouth presses against my skin. I squeeze my eyes shut, another overwhelming feeling of comfort rocketing through me. My stomach tightens and spins all at once, the sensation making me a million times more aware of the man in front of me.

The instant Lucian steps around me to open the door, I turn and flee to the bathroom. I shut the door behind me and take a moment to lean back against the wood, just needing to breathe.

I’m confused. Overwhelmed. Torn. A total mess.

It’s because of Lucian and not Dante’s surprise visit.

My heart wants to beg Lucian to keep holding me. My body is aware of his in a way I’ve never been aware of a man before. But my mind… my mind screams at me to run. To get away from the monsters in this world because it doesn’t matter what they look like, what suits they wear, or how good their arms feel – at the core, they’re all the same – evil and cruel.

Oh, Elena. Don’t do this to yourself. You can’t fall for Lucian just because he was nice to you. Yes, he’s dangerously attractive, and yes, it felt amazing to be held by him, but he’s still Lucian Cotroni. Everything he does has a motive. It’s strategic. He thinks he can get to your father through you.

I keep telling myself this until I feel a little calmer. Walking to the sink, I open the faucet and splash water on my face, cooling my skin. I grab a towel from the rack and pat the drops away, being gentle over the right side of my face.

Then I lift my head and look at the mirror. There’s an ugly bruise forming on my jaw, and Dante’s fingers have left abrasive red imprints around my neck.

And for the first time, I feel overly self-conscious of the marks. I’m not at the villa where I’m locked in my room so no one can see them. Not that anyone there has ever cared.

What matters is that Lucian has seen them, and it makes shame burn hot in my cheeks.

God, I already care what he thinks of me.

I need to stop whatever’s happening between us. I don’t know what Lucian’s intentions are, but I can control how I feel, and I refuse to fall for him.

When minutes have passed, and I know I can’t hide in the bathroom forever, I loosen my hair from the ponytail and quickly pull a brush through it. I let the silky black strands cover the side of my face, falling like a curtain over the bruises. I take a deep breath before I walk to the door, and ducking my head low, I open it.

My heart instantly begins to beat faster, and I’m not sure if it’s from the shame for the marks on my skin, or the undeniable attraction I feel toward Lucian, or both.

All I want to do is dart back to the bathroom, but instead, I slowly inch my way through the bedroom until I reach the doorway. Lifting my head slightly, I peek into the living room just as Lucian glances in my direction. We both freeze, him with a towel in his hand and me dying of embarrassment.

Lucian is the first to talk, his tone soft but still commanding. “Come here, little bird.”

I swallow hard on the nervousness spinning in my stomach and walk toward him. When I’m within reaching distance, Lucian lifts his right hand to my face. His fingers brush over my skin as he pushes my hair behind my ear, and then he presses the towel to my jaw. It’s ice-cold, instantly chilling my skin.

I lower my eyes to his chest, but then he steps closer to me while he lifts his left arm. His hand cups the back of my head, and it makes me feel surrounded by him.

“The ice will help with the swelling,” he explains in a low tone that threatens to create an intimate bubble around us. “But you probably know this already.” His words make my eyes snap up to his, which has him saying, “I’m guessing Dante’s hit you before.”

Does he want me to tell him? Would it even matter if he knew all the things Dante’s done to me?

I search his strong features for the answers, but all I find is more confusion. Standing so close to him, with his aftershave filling the air, only makes my heart beat faster. It makes my stomach flutter and my skin tingle.

Do I want him to know?

My deepest fears. My darkest shame. My nightmares.

No, I don’t want him to know. I don’t want anyone to know.

The corner of Lucian’s mouth lifts slightly. “You don’t have to tell me,” he says as if he can read my thoughts. “But…” He leans down until his breath warms my ear, “if you tell me, I’ll probably kill Capone.”

My eyes widen slightly, and for a moment, I’m tempted. God, I’ve never been tempted like this in my life. If I sacrifice my deepest, darkest secrets, Lucian will kill Dante.

As Lucian pulls back, his mouth brushes along the curve of my jaw. My breaths explode over my lips, and without thinking, I yank back, quickly putting a safe distance between us. The towel drops from his hand, and the icy slush spills onto the floor.

My eyes collide with Lucian’s dark brown gaze, and the expression in them has my heart instantly thundering in my chest. He stares at me with predatory desire.

I’ve seen that look before. Many times as Dante defiled me.

The fear creeping through me is different, though. With Dante, the terror was always accompanied by disgust and devastating shame. It was traumatic.

With Lucian… it terrifies me for a different reason. There’s no disgust. There’s no shame. I’m only filled with an ungodly fear because it would be so easy to fall for him. It would be so easy to seek refuge in his arms. To have him fight my battles.

Only, it would cost my freedom, and it’s the one thing I’m not willing to give up on. It’s the only thing that’s kept me going over the past four years.

Lucian looks like the possessive kind. Once he has me, I’ll just become a prisoner again. The only thing that will change is the walls of my prison.

And God knows what new horrors they will bear witness to.





Fuck, this is hard. I’m trying not to scare the shit out of Elena, but it’s impossible to hide how I feel. The more skittish she becomes, and the thicker her fear grows, the more I fucking want her.

The darkest part of me wants to feel her tremble. I want to hear her beg for my mercy and not the goddamn statue out in the garden. I want her fearing only me so she’ll fully submit.

It’s fucking sick, but the desires are overpowering. 

I suck in a deep breath of air, fighting the dominant side of me until my muscles loosen a little.

On my left shoulder sits the devil, whispering for me to take what I want. To make Elena mine. No matter the cost. No matter the blood, I’ll have to spill. No matter the damage it will do to my family name.

On my right shoulder sits an angel, pleading with me to find compassion in my heart. To be gentle with this broken little bird. To not be just another man who forces himself on her.

Christ, right now, I want to flick the angel off my shoulder and listen to the devil.

I fist my hands at my sides as I fight for control over the intense emotions, and then I manage to take a step back.

Leave, Lucian. Before you do something, you’ll regret.

My gaze rakes over Elena, where she’s staring at me with wide, fear-filled eyes.

How did this happen? How has this petite woman manage to warm the coldest part of me?

Without a word, I turn away from her and stalk out of her suite. I pull her door closed behind me and take the couple of steps to my own. Unlocking it, I shove the heavy wood open, and walking into my living room, I slam it shut behind me.


Needing to find some clarity, I pull my phone out of my pocket and dial my father’s number.

“Son?” he answers as always.

“Papà,” I say, knowing it will get his attention. I only call him that when I need my father and not the head of the Mafia.

“What happened?” he instantly asks with concern lacing his words.

“I… I actually don’t know,” I admit. “It’s Elena Lucas.”

“What? Tell me,” my father demands, his worry for me making his patience non-existent. After my mother died, I became my father’s world. I know he lives and breathes for me. There’s no one alive he loves more.

“She makes me feel,” I force the words over my lips.

Christ, does she make me feel. Everything.

“Dio,” he mutters ‘God’ in Italian. “Now’s not the time, Lucian.”

“I know,” I bite out. “Trust me, I know.”

“Don’t act with your heart. Give me time. Once the threat has been dealt with, we can talk about Elena.”

Time. It’s something I don’t have.

“She’s marrying Dante in two weeks,” I inform him.

“Merda,” he grumbles. “This is really the last thing I need to worry about.” He lets out an exasperated breath. “Are you thinking with your cock, or is it more?”

I wish it was only my cock. I’d be able to fuck her out of my system then.

“Lucian?” My father snaps when I take too long to answer.

Knowing I can’t hide anything from him, I say, “I feel things for her I’ve never felt before. I have no idea what to make of it. I just… I want her, and it’s clouding my judgment.”

I’m weak.

God, she makes me weak.

That’s not good at all.

“We have two weeks. Sort through your shit. If you still want her in seven days, I’ll talk with Valentino.”

I might want her now, but does that mean I want her for the rest of my life. Am I willing to marry her? Against her will?

I have no fucking idea. This is all new to me.

But I have seven days to figure out what the hell this is I’m feeling for her.

“Thank you,” I mutter as I walk to the couch. I sit down and let out a heavy sigh. “Papà … how did you feel when you met Mamma?”

He pauses for a moment, then he answers, “I was instantly obsessed. Your mamma bewitched me. She became the only thing I wanted. I would’ve killed for her. I would’ve taken her against her will if it was the only way I could have her.”

I sit up straighter, a frown forming on my forehead. “But Mamma loved you… right?”

“Yes, I was lucky. She returned my feelings, and we got married a month later. Even though it was arranged by your nonni, we had no objections.”

I knew my grandfathers were the ones who arranged the wedding to align the two families, but I didn’t know my parents fell in love the moment they met. I never asked about their love because I didn’t want to cause my father heartache.

I only know what I saw while my mother was alive. Their love was warm, and it filled our home to the brim.

Needing to know, I ask, “How do I know when it’s love and not just lust?”

“You don’t, son. To me, they are the same thing. You can’t love what you don’t want. The more I wanted your mamma, the more I loved her. With every passing day since she left, my love has only grown for her. She’s the only one for me.”

I rub my fingers over my forehead, not knowing what I actually feel for Elena.

Protective. Yes.

Attraction. Hell fucking yes.

Possessiveness. Yes.

But love?

“If in seven days, your feelings for the girl have grown, then you’ll know. If they fade, you’ll have your answer.”

So far, they’ve only been growing.

I nod. “Okay.” I swallow, then continue. “How are things there?”

“I’m starting to think I should’ve let you come home,” my father chuckles.

“Yeah, next time, you’ll listen to me,” I tease him.

My father lets out a sigh. “Alexei says Cabello has gone into hiding. There’s no sign he’s been killed. We just have to find him now, and then the problem will be taken care of.”

“That’s good news,” I mutter, wanting this shit to be over with as well.

“I have to go. Don’t do something stupid. You hear me?”

“Yes, Papà.”

We end the call, and I drop the phone on the coffee table. Leaning back, I settle into the couch and stare at the expansive windows.

Seven days.

It’s not a lot of time, but it’s better than nothing.


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