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Joker’s Wild (Vegas Underground #5)
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HE KIDNAPPED ME. HELD ME PRISONER.
Note: This steamy stand-alone romance is the fifth in USA Today bestselling author Renee Rose’s Vegas Underground series. No cheating, no cliffhangers.
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It’s supposed to be a civil meeting after dark at Caffè Milano.
Trouble is, you never know when you’re dealing with Russian mafiya. Fucking unpredictable feral bastards.
We’re here today to talk territory. They’ve been encroaching on our neighborhoods. Moving drugs. Working prostitution with females I suspect are enslaved.
I don’t give a shit what they do anywhere else, and fuck knows we don’t have much business in our old neighborhoods anymore, but I consider it a Family obligation to keep them clean. Keep the fucking Russians out of them.
We meet in the open, at a sidewalk cafe in Cicero. We call it the old neighborhood, kinda like how my father’s generation used to refer to the Old Country.
We’re in the business of lending money, same as always. It’s legit, unless you count the beatdowns that come with not making payments on time. These days, business has grown to huge proportions and we’re now living in mansions in the suburbs. Which doesn’t mean I don’t care about what happens in my territory.
I see one of the younger bratva sitting at a table—Ivan, I think. Vlad, their leader, doesn’t seem to be there.
Cazzo. I don’t like the way this is going.
My brothers, Gio and Paolo, and I get out of the Range Rover, along with our soldiers, Mario and Luca. We’re all armed, although we don’t make a show of it by openly carrying weapons.
“Where’s Vlad?” I ask Ivan. Gio comes with me, the other three hang back, as arranged.
Ivan shrugs, looking bored. “Coming.”
The girl working the counter—a slouchy millennial in skinny jeans and a fitted top comes out. I recognize her but I don’t know her name. She’s the granddaughter of the original owner, Luigi Milano, my father’s friend.
“Mr. Tacone.” She greets me but her face is anything but friendly. In fact, her lips are drawn in a thin line and a muscle jumps in her jaw. She darts a glance at the Russian and back at me like she’s afraid of having both of us in her place at the same time.
I named Caffè Milano as the meeting location because I consider it friendly territory for us, but I wonder if, with the new generation, things have changed. Maybe they’ve made deals with the Russians.
I should be angry by the thought, but it registers as a low buzz, hardly an interest.
“Can I bring you anything? An espresso? Cannoli?”
“Get lost,” the Russian snaps and she visibly jerks, and when her gaze swivels back to me, there’s pleading in it.
Whatever the Russians are doing here, she’s not down with it.
Which means I still have a problem.
“Espresso,” I say, wishing I could think of her name. I remember her running around here as a little girl back when my dad used this as a meeting place. Marissa? Faith? Fuck, I have no idea.
She stands there a second longer—way too long for a normal server, and now I’m positive there’s a problem.
“Get. Lost.” The Russian looks dangerous.
She throws one last glance my way and heads inside.
Gio’s elbow presses subtly but firmly against my arm. He’s telling me something, too. I sense Paolo shift behind us.
Fanculo, this thing is going sideways. It’s a trick. An ambush.
I glance through the large plate glass window. Every seat near the window is taken. Unusual for this time of night. Caffè Milano is more of a daytime deli. They stay open until evening, but people aren’t usually hanging around. I notice every customer in the place has his head bent as if to obscure my view of his face.
Ivan stands up and my hand inches toward the Walther PPK at the back of my waist. “Let’s go inside.”
“I don’t think so,” Gio answers for me, whipping out his gun.
And just like that, the thing explodes.
Shots ring out from fucking everywhere. Some come from inside the cafe, shattering the glass. Some come from our guys behind me. Gio and the Russian on the sidewalk fire at each other.
I throw the table through the glass, shattering it with explosive force to clear the view, then aim and shoot at a wounded Ivan at the same time he hits Gio.
Gio grunts and staggers backward, clutching his gut.
No. No! Not Gio. Fuck!
Things go slow-motion for me. I grab Gio’s gun from his hand and shove him into Paolo and Mario. “Get him to the car!” I shout as I aim at the heads ducked down below the window. I pull the triggers.
One. Two. Three dead. I’m shooting with both hands like I’m in a motherfucking movie.
I slam my foot into the door to kick it open and walk through. Four. Five down. I swing the guns around, looking for movement. Luca enters behind me, gun drawn, late to the show.
Something moves behind the counter and I pivot the muzzle of my Beretta. Luca aims too. It’s the Caffè Milano girl.