Weakness isn’t an option.
It’s an excuse.
And Sam never makes excuses.
Rise of the King, an all-new addicting mafia romance from Bella Matthews is available now!
Amelia cannot get attached—not to the town or the people in it.
And definitely not to the tall, dark, and handsome mafia prince who sweet-talks his way past her carefully built walls.
Why put yourself through that, knowing it’ll all be ripped away when you leave?
And she will have to leave.
This life isn’t hers to keep.
Sam calls her Snow, like the fairy-tale princess.
But her life is far from a fairy tale.
Even a prince can’t change that.
For Sam Beneventi, there’s a difference between his family and The Family.
He’s been raised to one day take control of The Family, putting that above all else.
Strength and power are all that matter.
Weakness isn’t an option. It’s an excuse. And Sam never makes excuses.
Until his future walks into his life and blows it up with one single bullet.
When the lost princess stumbles into this mafia prince’s city, all bets are off.
And Amelia is all he sees.
To keep her safe, it’s time for Sam to take control.
To take the throne.
To wear the crown.
It’s time for the Rise of the King.
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I’ve just placed a tray of my favorite go-to cookies in the oven when the alarm on the metal staircase outside my building is tripped.
Screw this day.
I don’t get visitors. Ever. And I’m too old to believe a fat man in a red coat is coming to see me with gifts aplenty today. Whoever is outside is probably not friendly.
And definitely not wanted.
I lift the purple hat that serves as the lid on my oversized Dopey the Dwarf cookie jar and remove my gun before moving to check the security monitors set up in the second bedroom of my apartment.
What the heck is Sam Beneventi doing here, and why is he knocking on my door?
When I don’t answer the door fast enough for him, he knocks again.
Louder this time and with more force than necessary.
With a shake of my head, I call out, “Hold your damn horses,” and take my time. Once I get to the door, I leave the chain in place, and crack it partially open. A cold burst of wind whips through the opening, and I wrap my favorite comfy sweater tighter around myself. “Why are you here?”
“Well, hello to you too, Snow White.” Sam attempts to reach through the cracked opening and release the chain, but I smack him away. “Let me in, Snow.”
“My name is not Snow White, Beneventi.” I push on the door, trying to shut it when he blocks me with a foot in the opening. “Move it or lose it.”
Sam’s foot stays firmly planted between the door and the jam. “Open the door. You’re going to want to hear what I have to say.”
My eyes trail from his feet to his face. “I’d let you in if you’d move your foot, genius. I can’t unlatch the chain unless the door’s closed.”
Sam huffs out a sound of annoyance in a puff of cold air before pulling his foot back.
Of course, I take the opportunity to slam the door in his face, and for a hot second, I contemplate not reopening it. This door is reinforced steel. You’re not breaking it down with Italian leather boots on your feet.
But I decide to be a big girl instead, and after I put my gun in the waistband of my jeans under my sweatshirt, I let the mafia prince in.
Suddenly I’m feeling a bit like Little Red Riding Hood opening the door for the big bad wolf.
Or maybe just the idiot who opened Pandora’s box.
Either way, this feels like a bad move at the end of a bad day.
The timer goes off in the kitchen as Sam walks through my door, looking around and taking it all in. From a stranger’s perspective, my apartment probably doesn’t look like much. It’s small and above a bakery. But I own the bakery and the building, allowing me the privacy I needed and the ability to modify it however I wanted.
No questions asked. No nosey neighbors.
It’s my safe space. I can breathe here.
Until Sam walked through my door. His enormous presence sucks all the oxygen from the room, taking up all the space and leaving me crowded where I’m usually lonely.
“What is that incredible smell?” The look of hunger on his face tells me he may eat me if I don’t feed him a cookie immediately.
Maybe he is the big bad wolf disguised as a tall, dark, and annoyingly handsome hitman.
You’d think I’d be afraid right now.
You’d be wrong.
Stupidly, I’m intrigued. George would be so disappointed.
I pull the hot tray of gooey chocolate chip cookies out of the oven and place them on the stove top to cool before turning back to Bash’s brother. “Why are you here, Sam? You don’t know me, and today’s events don’t change that.”
I amend my earlier statement.
This exquisite man smiles at me, and I realize there’s no maybe about it. He is the big bad wolf. And a lesser woman would have given anything to be his Little Red Riding Hood for the night. But I need to get him out of here.
“You’re a prickly little princess, aren’t you?”
“I’m sorry. Prickly what?” I level him with a glare. “Listen to me carefully. I’m no princess. So whatever fantasy you’re rocking on that chiseled jaw of yours has got to go.” His smile grows obnoxiously wide.
Oh no. “That panty-melting smile isn’t working on me. Not even a tiny singe. So put it away and sit down.” I point to the saucer-sized chocolate chip cookies. “You have to wait for them to cool a little. So talk. Tell me what you’re doing in my apartment on Christmas night, instead of at the hospital with Bash and Belle.”
I may not be at all interested in getting involved with any man, let alone this one, but I certainly can appreciate how scorchingly hot he is. Movie star hot. I don’t remember the last time I’ve felt a real attraction to a man, so being attracted to Sam is irritating the hell out of me. Which means instead of allowing him to study my face after that little tirade, I move across the room and grab a spatula from the drawer to take the cookies off the tray.
I may call myself a coward as I turn away, but at least I’m a coward whose emotions won’t be on display.
“Panty-melting smile, huh?” Plump lips pull back, framing bright white, perfectly straight teeth. A strong jaw and the most beautifully blue eyes I’ve ever seen that are framed by long black lashes are topped off by a head of gorgeous thick brown hair. I mean seriously . . . it’s just not fair.
“Shut up.” I push the plate of cookies in front of him. “Do you want some milk with them?”
Sam looks around my apartment again, then raises his hands. “Hold on. Time-out. Why are you feeding me cookies and milk? And how the fuck did you have time to bake anything?”
I pour us two glasses of milk and pass one to Sam before leaning against the counter and picking up a cookie. “I’m a pastry chef, Sam. It takes me less than five minutes to mix a half batch of cookies and eleven minutes to cook them. Not a biggie.”
I watch that mouth bite into the cookie and hold my breath until he moans.
Actually moans. “Oh my God. This is the best thing I’ve ever eaten.”
Not gonna lie. That reaction never gets old. “Thank you. Now would you like to tell me why you’re here?”
Cobalt blue eyes look up at me, assessing. “I think you know why I’m here, Amelia.”
“I really don’t.” I blow out a frustrated breath. “I’ve spent the last few hours at the police station, and I’ve already answered enough questions meant to throw me off my guard to last me a lifetime. I told them everything I knew. So, if you have something to ask, ask it.” I steel my spine and cross my arms, ready to be pissed off. To throw him out of my apartment, and go the hell to bed, ending an unusually awful Christmas. But an image of Belle flashes in front of me, and I soften. “Wait. Before you ask me anything, how are Belle and Bash? Are they both okay? I mean, the cops at the station said they were fine, but I still should have asked you that as soon as you barged in here.”
Sam dunks his cookie in his glass of milk, and I resist the urge to gag.
Why do people do that?
It ruins a perfectly perfect cookie.
And leaves cookie bits in an otherwise perfectly good glass of milk.
I am not a fan of cookie floaties.
Why would anyone want to drink chunky milk?
“Sebastian is fine. A few stitches. A few pain meds. He’ll have a great story to go with a good scar to use to get himself laid. Ballerina is still in the hospital, but she’s going to be fine. The babies are fine. You should call her. She was asking about you earlier.”
I give him a curt nod, appreciative of his answer, but still annoyed by his presence. “Thank you. Now what do you want?”
“Where did you learn to shoot like that?” he mumbles around a mouth full of cookie.
I scrunch my face up, disgusted. “Seriously? Chew before you speak next time.”
Sam makes a big show of chewing, and exaggeratedly swallowing. “Don’t deflect, Amelia.” Another dunk.
“I’m not deflecting, Samuel. I’m refusing to answer your question when you haven’t answered mine.” I pull the plate of cookies out of reach as punishment.
“Sebastian asked me to check on you. He wanted to know that you’re alright. He was worried.”
Huh. Of all the things he could have said, that was not what I was expecting. And it makes me strangely uneasy. “I’m fine. You did your good deed. Now it’s time for you to go.”
“Not how this is gonna work, Snow White. I answered yours, now you answer mine. Where did you learn to shoot like that?” His long arm reaches forward as his fingers pull the plate back to within an easy reach. “And don’t tell me it’s a long story ’cause I’ve got all night.” A chocolate morsel falls from his lips as he asks, “Got any more milk?”
I spin around, annoyed, and grab the jug of milk from the fridge. “A good friend of my mother’s taught me. He was a big believer in being able to protect yourself. I own the shop downstairs and sometimes have big bank deposits on me. I carry my gun everywhere I go.” I’ve learned out of necessity that the best way to lie is to cover it in a truth. A partial truth never feels as bad leaving my lips as an all-out lie.
I top off his glass of milk and slam the fridge door. “Happy?”
Sam sips the milk as he eyes me over the glass. “Okay, listen. I’m tired and not in the mood to beat around the bush. It’s been a long fucking day. So how about you tell me the real story, Anastasia?”
My gun is out of my waistband and trained on Sam before he takes his next breath.
Bella Matthews is a Jersey girl at heart. She is married to her very own Alpha Male and raising three little ones. You can typically find her running from one sporting event to another. When she is home, she is usually hiding in her home office with the only other female in her house, her rescue dog Tinker Bell by her side. She likes to write swoon-worthy heroes and sassy, smart heroines with a healthy dose of laughter thrown in.
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