Page 5 of Ruined Kingdom

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I turn from her to the grave and give Russo my own private send-off, wishing him an eternity in hell for what he did to our family. Then I face the man holding the camera. It’s one of our guys—I guess theirs got a little squeamish. And now I’m addressing Lucien Russo, Geno’s son. The man who set all of this in motion fifteen years ago.

“I’m coming for you next, bastard,” I tell him. The camera is switched off then, and I turn to the girl. She is still staring all huge eyes and a face streaked with tears at the grave of her father’s desecrated body as my men begin the task of burying it. “We’re done here,” I tell her and wrap an arm around her middle to take her to the waiting SUV. When she resists, I simply lift her, press her back to my side, and carry her. She’s light. Lighter than I expect. But she’s a fighter.

“Be still,” I tell her, pausing to jerk her tighter to me when she kicks my shins. “Do not make me punish you. I promise you won’t like it.”

She rams her elbow into my stomach and spits but misses me and hits the ground.

I shake my head, carry her the rest of the way to the car, and thrust her up against it. Fisting my hand in her hair, I tug her head backward. She winces but stares daggers at me.

“I’ll remember that when we next meet.”

“Let me go.”

I search her face and watch a tear slip out of the corner of one eye. Her mouth is open, lips a deep red. “Or what?”

Her hand slides across my chest, slipping under my jacket. I grin and catch her wrist just as she closes that hand over the grip of my Glock.

“Or what?” I ask again, my voice quiet, forcing her hand away from the pistol and holding the small fist she makes between us, squeezing it.

“You’re going to break my fingers,” she says, her tone betraying her panic even as she tries to sound angry.

“Better your fingers than your neck.”

She swallows hard as I tug her head farther back. I’m hurting her. I see it.

“Let me go.”

“Say please.”

“Please!” she cries. It’s the first of many times she’ll beg.

I smile, loosening my hold on both her hair and her hand. I let her go altogether but stay close and open the door of the SUV. “Get in.”

She glances at the vehicle, at the soldiers standing nearby, then back at me.

“Get in the fucking SUV.”

She looks over my shoulder at the grave site, then back at me, that panic flickering in her eyes before she masks it. “Where are you taking me?”

“Be grateful I’m not leaving you here because if I were, you’d be in the ground.” I gesture to the back seat of the SUV.

Her forehead furrows, she studies my face, then turns to climb into the vehicle.

Good. She’ll learn to obey. She’s used to giving orders, not taking them, but I’ll break her of that habit. Stepping away, I gesture to two soldiers to sit beside her in the back for the ride to the villa in Ravello. I close the door as my brother walks up to me and sets an arm around my shoulders. We watch the car disappear, the windows too dark to see the girl.

“We should have dropped her in there with him,” Bastian says.

“Not yet. You know what we have to do.”

He doesn’t look convinced.

“Patience, brother.” I face Bastian. He’s five years younger than me, and although his rage matches mine, he’s reckless. If I’d left it to him, she probably would be in that grave too, but it’s too soon for pretty Vittoria Russo to die. “When we’re finished with her, she’ll join her father. But she has a purpose to serve yet.”

Tags: Natasha Knight Romance