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Merciless Saints: Chapter 15


Stepping off the plane, the ground feels foreign beneath my feet. A month ago, this was home. Everything was familiar.

Now it’s a reminder of what I’ve lost.

I keep my head held high as I walk to the mansion. The front door opens, and Dana, the housekeeper, begins to smile until she sees the three men behind me. Her eyes dart back to mine, and I see the questions form on her face.

I stop in front of her and shake my head. “It’s just me. They’re dead.”

Dana’s lips part with shock, and unable to care about her feelings, I start to walk toward the stairs. I climb them with heavy feet, and only once I turn down the hallway, and I’m out of sight, do I stop again.

The devastation of the past twenty-four hours pulverizes my heart into a bloody mess in my chest.

My feet begin to move, and I find myself opening Dad’s bedroom door. My eyes scan over his belongings, and it increases the incessant ache in my chest.

He was mostly gone on business throughout my life, but the time we did spend together was priceless.

I take the key out of the lock, and pulling the door shut, I lock it. I walk to Sean’s room, and this time I step inside.

God, I can still smell him.

I pick up the shirt lying next to the laundry basket and stare at it.

I’m so sorry, Sean.

My chin begins to quiver as tears blur my sight. Before they can fall, I set the shirt down and walk out of the room. I lock the door, not wanting anyone in their personal space.

Glancing to my left, my blurry sight focuses on Cillian’s door.

Every muscle in my face tightens as sorrow overwhelms me. My feet find their way to his room, and when I push the door open, a soft sob floats over my lips. I step inside and shut the door behind me. Slowly, I glance over his trinkets, and his favorite coat draped over the back of a chair.

There’s only one framed photo on the bedside table. It’s one Mom took. Cillian and I are walking across the backyard at our property in Ireland.

Seeing him, so young, his posture straight and ready to protect me breaks the last of my willpower. A tear spirals over my cheek, and taking a quivering breath, I glance around his room. My eyes land on his stereo system, and moving closer, I check what CD he has in.

The Wailin’ Jennys.

I select The Parting Glass and press play.

As their harmonious voices fill the air, I close my eyes, and the tears start to fall.


You were supposed to be with me until the very end.

My protector.

My friend.

Since my first memory, you were there. Every day.

You loved me more than anyone.

How am I supposed to do this without you?

You didn’t teach me how to live without you.

My sorrow engulfs me as my shoulders begin to jerk, and I allow myself to mourn the loss of the person I loved above all else.

As the last chords of the song play, I whisper, “Goodnight, Cillian.”

The door slams open behind me, and I glance over my shoulder as Damien stalks inside Cillian’s sacred space.

“I told you to never leave my side,” he growls at me.

I turn to face him, but everything in me is too raw.

Damien’s eyes drift over my face, and then he closes the distance between us and yanks me to his body.

Everything in me wants to rest my head against his chest, but knowing I can’t, I push against him and glare up at him. “I don’t need your pity.”

His eyes lock with mine, and they don’t seem as cold. “You’ve suffered an unspeakable loss, Winter. This isn’t pity. This is me showing you, you’re not alone. You have my loyalty.”

“Your job description doesn’t include comforting me,” I murmur, still trying to regain control over the sorrow.

Damien just stares at me, and then he slightly tilts his head. “This isn’t just a job for me. I have a personal interest.”

I begin to nod, letting out a humorless burst of laughter. “Right. The debt I owe you.”

“Damien. Winter,” Demitri calls from the hallway.

“Here,” Damien answers as he steps away from me.

Not wanting them in Cillian’s room, I turn off the stereo and walk out into the hallway. As soon as Damien steps out of the room, I pull the door shut and lock it. I pocket the three keys, then turn to Demitri.

“Alexei wants to talk,” he mutters.

Damien waits for me to follow after his brother, and as we walk down the hallway, I begin to feel on edge.

Both the Vetrovs and a Koslov are in my home. Pins and needles slowly spread over my body when I realize my life depends on the most dangerous men in the world.

I have no one on my side. The void Cillian and my family have left has changed my entire world.

Demitri leads us to the dining room where Alexei’s taken my father’s place at the head of the table. His deadly eyes lock on me, and I stop on the other side of the long table.


Demitri takes a seat on Alexei’s right. When I remain standing, Damien places his hand on my lower back, giving me a soft nudge.

I shake my head. “I’ll stand.”

This is it. This is where Alexei makes his demands, and there’s nothing I can do. He has all the power.

“I’ll help,” he begins.

“What’s your fee?” I ask, not knowing if I can even afford him. Maybe if I sell the island or the property in Ireland? But it can take months or even years to find a buyer and to free up the money.

Alexei’s eyes slowly drift between Damien and me, then he says, “A partnership.” A slight frown forms on my forehead, but before I can say anything, Alexei continues, “If I have an interest in your business, it will give me the incentive to protect it.”

My mind begins to race. I did not expect him to say that. “How much?” I manage to ask.

“Fifty percent.”


Will I be selling my soul to the devil if I agree?

I need them more than they need me, though. I don’t have much of a choice. I know nothing about the business. I need their protection. I need someone to show me the smuggling routes. I can’t deal with the tribes on my own. They’ll probably kill me during the first meeting.

Alexei rises to his feet, and with his eyes burning on me, he says, “I want an alliance, and you’re in no position to decline.”

I know. God, I know.

“Fifty percent of your business for the protection of the Vetrovs and the Koslovs. You’ll be untouchable. Your business will survive. You have everything to gain.”

Everything he says is the truth. I have no choice, but I can’t bring myself to open my mouth even though I have no other option but to agree.

“A marriage between you and Damien.” Alexei’s words don’t register at first.

“What?” the word drifts over my lips.

“A marriage,” Alexei repeats as he begins to walk toward me. “An alliance between the Hemsleys and the Vetrovs. Damien gets half of the business. He’ll run it on my behalf once we’ve taken care of your Blanco problem.”

A marriage?

To Damien Vetrov?

Mother of saints.

Slowly I turn my gaze to Damien, and my eyes flit over his face. He looks impassive as if it’s not his life we’re talking about as well.

Alexei lets out a dark chuckle, “Surely you weren’t raised thinking you’ll marry for love?”

“Of course not,” I bite the words out. “It’s just… sudden. I need time to consider it.”

Alexei slowly shakes his head. “Time is not a luxury we have. Do you agree or not? I need to know if I’m staying or going home. Time is money.”

My heartbeat matches the seconds as they pass. My eyes go to Demitri’s expressionless face, then back to Alexei’s dark stare.

I’ll have the Vetrovs and Koslovs on my side for life. I’ve lost all the love in my life, but I can buy the loyalty of these men.

My lips part, and then the words leave me, “I agree.”

The corner of Alexei’s mouth lifts, and then a smile spreads over his face, and somehow it makes him only look more terrifying. “Congratulations, brother. I bargained a wife for you.”

“Thank you,” Damien replies, not sounding upset at all.

“Are we done?” I ask, needing to get away from their intensity and demands. I need to think. I need to process.

“For now,” Alexei murmurs.

Without sparing any of them another glance, I leave the dining room.

I have no idea what my future holds except that Damien will be at my side every step of the way. Not out of love but because of self-interest.

The alliance has been made.

The price of their loyalty is the cost of the four lives I’ve lost. Cillian. Sean. Dad. Mom. They all died for the business, and now only half belongs to me.





Alexei chuckles at Winter’s quick retreat from the dining room, then his eyes settle on mine.

“I saw the way you looked at her. I figure this deal is a win for all three families. You’re good?”

I nod. “Yes.”

I’m more than good. Alexei just gave me everything. A formidable business to help me take a seat of power in The Ruin and the woman I’ve wanted to claim since the first moment I saw her.

There’s only one problem. Winter looked indifferent about the alliance. As if I’m nothing to her, and it doesn’t sit well with me.

“I want this marriage officiated before we do anything to help her. I’ll arrange for an Orthodox priest to come here. Tomorrow.”

“The sooner, the better,” I agree. “Thank you, Alexei.” My eyes go to my brother, and seeing the pride on his face fills my heart with a burst of warmth.

I leave the dining room and heading up the stairs, my body tenses, and my eyes narrow. Winter better not think this will be a marriage in name only.

Over my dead body.

Turning down the hallway, I see Winter rush into a bedroom and follow after her. I shove the door open, and it has her quickly turning to face me. Stalking into her bedroom, I spare the luxurious furnishings nothing more than a glance before locking eyes with her. For seconds we stare at each other.

Winter lifts her chin in defiance, the spark I’ve become addicted to igniting in her emerald irises.

“You’re not happy?” I ask as I slowly step closer to her.

Her features tighten. “I agreed to the alliance. Happiness has nothing to do with it.”

I stop several inches from her. “The marriage will happen tomorrow. Alexei won’t help unless we’re legally bonded to each other.”

“I figured as much,” she mutters.

Lifting my hand to her neck, I wrap my fingers around her throat and brush my thumb over the scar. I feel a tremble ripple through her body, and it pleases me.

Leaning down until I feel her breath on my face, I murmur, “Don’t make the mistake of thinking this marriage will be in name only.”

Her eyes widen at my words. “You expect it to be real?”

“Of course.” The corner of my mouth lifts. My words are low and unyielding as I say, “The payment I demand for the debt you owe me is your body, your heart, and your soul.”

Winter’s breaths begin to speed up, her expression tightening with defiance. “I will never bow before you,” she grinds out through clenched teeth.

Her statement makes my lips curve higher. Fighting with her is exhilarating. The fire in her eyes makes heat pour through my body. It feeds my addiction and makes me want to claim her this instant.

“Oh, you’ll kneel before me, Princess,” I whisper darkly as I close the distance between us. Before she can react, I crush my mouth against hers in an unforgiving kiss.

Winter freezes, and when she doesn’t push me away, I allow my lips to caress hers, my teeth to tug at her bottom lip, and finally, for my tongue to dive into her warm depths.

The moment I taste her, I lose control. I wrap a hand around the back of her head, and my fingers tighten their grip around her throat, effectively keeping her in place.

Tilting my head, I ravish her mouth, sucking hard on her tongue and plundering her lips.

Then she moans. She fucking moans.

And I know I’ve won.

I break the kiss, and pulling back an inch, my eyes seize hers in a captive hold. Winter’s lashes are lowered, her cheeks tinged with pleasure, her swollen lips parted and ready for more.

My mouth curves up in victory as I murmur, “Judging by how your body is trembling for me and how eager you are to accept my tongue, our wedding night will be anything but in name only.”

Tomorrow night I’ll claim every inch of her. The Blood Princess will be mine in every way.

I watch as shock darkens her eyes, and then she yanks against my hold on her neck. For now, I let her go, and she quickly puts a safe distance between us. As if that will stop me from taking what I want.

The fear returns to her eyes, and like a depraved predator, I feast on it.

“Today, you mourn your loss. Tomorrow we’ll marry, and it will be consummated.” I take a step closer to her again, and it makes her body stiffen. “And then I’ll kill your enemies.”

My last words make the fear retreat from Winter’s eyes. Lifting her chin, she says, “I have requests of my own.”

I tilt my head slowly and cross my arms over my chest. This should be interesting. “Let me hear them.”

“If the marriage is consummated, I won’t stand for a parade of other women through my house.”

Ahhh… my princess is possessive. I don’t think she knows what she just gave away with that request. It tells me she cares enough to not want to share me.

Slowly, I nod.

“I want Alexei to teach me everything about the business. I demand to be present for every meeting. I will not have the three of you push me aside to take full control.”

“Naturally,” I mutter.

“And I want to kill Antonio Blanco.”

Which means she wants to go with us when we attack. For a moment, I hesitate, not wanting her in harms way, but then I relent, “You have to follow my orders during the attack. You have to stay by my side.”

Winter nods.

“Anything else?” I ask.

“You will treat me with respect, and I will do the same. If you raise your hand against me, I will kill you in your sleep.”

Her words make my lips curve up. I begin to move slowly toward her, and when she doesn’t step back to avoid me, it makes my heartbeat speed up. My eyes claim hers, and as I lean down, I murmur, “The only thing I’ll raise for you is an empire, built on the bones and blood of your enemies.”

“Good,” she whispers, her breaths starting to come faster.

I lower my head more until we’re breathing the same air. “Treat me like your king, and I will make you a queen.”

Her eyes search mine for the truth of my words, and when she finds it, she pushes up on her toes, pressing her mouth to mine.

Submit to me, and I will burn the world down for you.

As if she can hear my thoughts, Winter lifts her arms, and wrapping them around my neck, she parts her lips. Her tongue slips into my mouth, and then I take over. I push her back until she’s pressed against the wall.

My body cages hers in and my hands lift to her cheeks. I hold her in place as I deepen the kiss, drinking from her mouth like a man dying of thirst.

Moving a hand behind her head, I pull the hair tie out, freeing her hair. I grip a fistful of the silky strands as my tongue thrusts into her mouth, giving her a taste of what I intend to do to her tomorrow.

My blood rushes through my veins, and I’m swept up to great heights from the taste of her. This woman who never backs down. Who walked into the academy to show her enemies she’s a force to be dealt with. Who made me want more than just to be a custodian.

Yesterday, I cursed Patrick Hemsley for bidding on me, and today… today I’m taking over his empire. Tomorrow I’ll take his daughter.


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