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Nine-year-old Shae Black entered the Witness Protection Program after the murder of her father, mob boss Luca DiMarco. New name. New identity. And a ready-made family that had no idea who she really was.
Fourteen years later, a letter from a ghost thrusts Shae back into the life she was forced to leave behind. As secrets unravel, revealing unexpected truths, Shae sees an opportunity to avenge her father’s death by destroying patriarch Sal Ambrosi, the man responsible for her father’s murder. Getting to the heart of the family will be difficult, but nothing and no one is going to stop her—not even the heirs to the Ambrosi family empire.
She’s prepared for the two brothers, Dante and Rex, to put up a fight, but she isn’t at all prepared for the danger they will bring to her life and her heart.
One will love her.
All in the name of family.
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Standing on the sidewalk amidst the bustling crowds, I stare up at the skyscrapers. I’m fresh off the plane on my first day back in Chicago, and like a magnet, I’ve been drawn to the bustling streets of the city. The sun has dipped beyond the edges of the buildings, casting the streets in a warm, orange glow. It’s different here. Everything moves at a fast clip. Life has somehow found a way to speed up. And even though I enjoy the quiet, southern Illinois town I call home, this feels familiar.
That’s a feeling I haven’t experienced in quite some time. Lately, the fading memories of my father and sister have become harder to bear. With each passing year, the sound of their laughs grows quieter in my head. It’s something I’ve gotten used to, something I’ve grudgingly accepted—but I’d hoped those memories would return, perhaps even joined by some others, when I came back here, to Chicago.
Beyond the surface of the good memories I’m desperate to hold on to are the not-so-good ones—the dark memories my nine-year-old self has buried deep, the ones Dr. Fairfield has spent the last three years trying to help me dig up. It’s those memories my soul craves, though my conscious self is concerned about the emotions that may come with them. Though so far I can’t remember any specifics, I can feel them inching their way to the top, simmering below the surface, waiting for something or someone to turn up the heat so they can boil over.
I will inevitably get burned. It’s something I’ve prepared myself for.
That’s a lie. My therapist has prepared me—at least she’s tried to. But how can you prepare someone for the memories she’s suppressed?
I’ve been told that I witnessed my father’s murder, that my hands and clothes were covered in his blood. I’ve also been told that my sister Cami and I took off running. I showed up at my uncle’s house two miles away. Cami did not. No one knows what happened in those two miles—no one except me. Only I can’t remember, which leaves Cami’s disappearance a complete mystery.
We know she’s dead. Her body was found three days later with a single gunshot wound to the head. But what can’t be explained are the cuts and bruises on the rest of her body, which were similar to the cuts and bruises found on me.
But what happened? Who killed my father and my sister?
How did I get away?
Why did I survive?
Those are the questions that haunt me. The questions I need answered.
I reach into my pocket and pull out the tattered piece of paper. It showed up mysteriously in my mailbox a few weeks ago, and it’s what ultimately brought me back here—what made me throw caution to the wind, put my life in danger, and return home.
I look down and send my eyes once again over the words my father wrote so long ago. They’ve nearly faded away, but they’re words that have changed my life.
My dearest Isa,
Time has not been our friend, neither has fate. But you have my love always, as does our son. Please give me more time. I know you’re anxious to get this over with, as am I, but please let me do this the right way. I hate the way things have unraveled, but right now I must think of your safety, as well as the safety of my children.
There’s one teeny tiny problem with this letter. Well, two.
First, my mother’s name was not Isa.
Second, I don’t have a brother.
At least not that I know of.
A living, breathing sibling.
Is it possible?
I’m not sure how I feel about that. Elated? Ambivalent? A cross between the two?
My father and mother were so in love, always touching or kissing. Just thinking about him cheating on her clenches my heart tight in my chest. Yet this note leaves little doubt that there was someone else.
After squeezing my eyes shut, it takes several deep breaths to get the pain to stop.
“Are you okay?”
A husky male voice startles the shit out of me. With my heart in the pit of my stomach, I spin around. “You scared me.”
The stranger smiles, showing off a line of pearly white teeth. “I’m sorry.” He takes a step back. “You look lost.”
Sighing, I turn back toward the building. “I am.”
“What are you looking for? Maybe I can help.”
“I’m not really sure. I thought this building looked familiar, but I can’t place it.”
“This building?” he asks, raising his eyebrows.
I nod, turning toward him. “I feel like I’ve been here before, with my dad.”
Pursing his lips, he looks at the building and then back at me. “It’s a strip club.”
“I can see that.”
“Your dad brought you to a strip club?”
“No,” I say, laughing. Did he? “And it sounds horrible when you say it out loud.”