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My father owes a debt.
I am his currency.
I’m supposed to marry the recently crowned mafia king of the Foley family as repayment for my father’s transgressions. I don’t understand why the Foleys would want me, but I’ve grown up in a crime family, and I know the ugly consequences of not doing what you’re told.
But as the wedding date approaches, the deal changes, and I’m about to be wed to a man I know nothing about. In fact, I don’t even know his last name.
After one look at him, I’m not sure I’ll survive the wedding night.
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When someone saves your life, you owe them.
When someone saves the life of your only child, you owe them big time.
My kidnapping at the age of fifteen and my father’s inability to come up with the ransom money left him no other choice but to turn to the only person who could help him—mafia kingpin Fergus Foley.
I don’t remember much of the kidnapping itself or the four days I was held in captivity. I’ve got a therapist who says it’s my mind’s way of coping with the trauma. Sometimes there are flashes of memory, but I usually try to push those out of my head.
The outcome, I remember.
See, my father was a small-time money launderer with a big gambling problem. He was already in serious debt to the Foley family. Without any tangible money to pay his debts, let alone a demand for ransom, my father paid with the only thing he could offer for one successful rescue mission—my hand in marriage to Fergus Foley’s son and heir, Sean.
I’m supposed to become a princess in a vast criminal organization, but arrangements can change, and I’m facing a future quite different from the one I had anticipated.
I’ve always considered myself the pragmatic type. Even as a child, I realized that wanting chocolate chips in your pancakes didn’t mean that the restaurant you are in served them that way. When it was picture day at school, but no one had bothered to do laundry the day before, you couldn’t always wear your favorite shirt. When you outgrew that favorite shirt, and Dad had a fistful of cash from last night’s poker tournament at the River Casino, you’d get a new one that was even prettier than the last—complete with sequins or ruffles or whatever you were into that year. When Dad lost the game, you got smacked for even asking about a shopping trip.
Sometimes, when you are walking home from school in the ninth grade, two men grab you and drag you into a windowless van. They tie you up and say they are going to kill you if your father doesn’t deliver some ridiculous amount of money to them, but your dad has been on a losing streak and in more debt than the government.
What else can your dad do but make a deal with the biggest crime lord he can find to make sure you’re brought home safely?
Pragmatism brings me to where I am now—on a long, winding country road leading to a new life.
This is the moment I’ve been waiting for, but I can’t concentrate on the scenery as my father cruises his older-model BMW around curved roads and up steep hills. I barely slept last night, and I doze with my head against the window.
I’m on a boat. I can feel the rocking motion, but I can’t see. There’s a blindfold around my eyes and ropes bound tightly around my wrists, holding them at the center of my back. My temple throbs, but I’m not sure if it’s because of the punch I took to the face or the pressure of the floor where I lie, curled up in a ball.
“It’s past the deadline. He ain’t gonna make it.”
“Kill her, that’s what.”
I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die.
I feel hands lifting me from the floor, and I try to scream. Nothing comes out. I thrash against the hands grappling with me, but I’m overwhelmed. There are gunshots. I fall to the ground…
I come out of semiconsciousness with a jerk, hitting my head on the car window in the process. I can’t remember the dream, but I know what it was about. Mom glances back at me and scowls.
“Get yourself together,” she says. “We’re almost there.”
“The big day is almost here, princess,” Dad says. “You’ve got to be at your best.”
“I will be.” The answer is automatic. When Dad tells someone to do something, it gets done. That’s just the way it is. It doesn’t matter if he’s instructing one of the people who works for him, his wife, or his daughter—we all obey.
Any other action is dangerous.
I lick my lips, anticipating the view as we come around the corner, and try to forget the nightmare. My father makes one last turn to the right and heads up the long, brick driveway toward the gate and buildings behind a line of willow trees.
This is it. Starting tomorrow, this will be my new home.
The house—if it can even be called that—is insanely huge. A tall, iron security gate with spikes on the top surrounds it. Only two of the house’s wings are visible from the front, but I know from my last visit that there is another wing jutting out from the back. There’s also a pool, a fountain, and a paved path leading to another house that isn’t nearly as big, but still impressive, and the stables where the Foley family keep their horses.