Overview: Pleasure has never been so deadly.
Rose Cassidy doesn’t truly live; she just exists. Numbing herself to fear and pain is the only way she can survive in this cruel world. So when she’s taken as collateral by the notorious Danny Black in a deadly game of power, she’s thrown by the deep fear she feels rising within her. And, worse than fear, a profound desire. She’s heard tales of The Brit. He’s callous. Coldblooded. But no one ever said he was wickedly beautiful and darkly captivating. He sees past her mask, giving her a cruel sense of hope. But she must fight their twisted attraction or risk losing the one thing she survives for.

When Danny Black took an enemy’s beautiful lover as security, he never anticipated the repercussions. Or the warped attraction they would share. Rose Cassidy pushes Danny to the brink of madness with her impenetrable façade and savage allure. He has to remind himself that she’s bait. A solution to a problem. Yet she evokes powerful feelings in Danny, and feelings are risky when you’re wanted dead by endless enemies.
The most dangerous game is about to be played.
But can either of them win?

 

The Brit by Jodi Ellen Malpas Book Chapter One

 

Miami—Present Day


DANNY


The walk down the corridor toward his suite feels like miles, the sound of my shoes hitting the solid marble floor echoing around me. Our mansion smells like death. I’ve smelt death enough to recognize it, except right now it isn’t welcome. I feel like I’m walking the Green Mile, though it isn’t me who will be six feet under by the end.

The two heavies flanking the solid wooden double doors outside his room look grave. Grief is hanging heavy in the air.

Two sharp nods greet me when I come to a stop. Solemn nods. They don’t open the doors, they know not to until I give them the go-ahead. Until I’m ready. Am I?

“Esther in there with him?” I ask, getting a nod in answer. I swallow and nod in return, taking a deep breath as the doors are opened for me. I wander in, pulling my suit jacket together, looking down my front to check for lint. It’s a conscious move, one to distract me, to delay me from looking up at the huge four-poster bed and face what I’m dreading. Grief blocks my throat, but I can’t show it. He’ll be pissed off if I show it.

The sound of Esther moving around his room pulls my attention up, and I find her emptying his catheter bag. That alone makes my heart clench. The man is proud. Notorious. A fucking legend, feared by everyone in our world. His name alone makes people shudder. His presence injects fear like no other. I always thought he was invincible. He’d dodged dozens of attempts on his life, laughed in the face of the many assassination efforts. And here he is waiting to die at the hands of fucking cancer, unable to take care of himself anymore. Not even in the simplest of ways.

I finally pull my eyes to the bed. My hero, my father, the legendary Carlo Black is half the man he used to be, the disease literally eating away at him. His breathing is loud. The death rattle. It won’t be long.

Moving around the edge of his bed, I settle in the chair and take his emaciated hand. “Call the priest,” I say to Esther as she folds over the bed covers neatly at his waist.

“Yes, Mr. Black.” She looks up at me, smiling in sympathy, and I look away, unable to entertain her silent offer of compassion.

“Now,” I add shortly.

She leaves the room, and every second she’s gone, his breathing seems to get louder and louder. “It’s time, Pops,” I say softly, moving in closer and resting my elbows on the mattress, cupping his one hand in both of mine.

He hasn’t opened his eyes in two days, but now, as if he knows I’m here and it’s time to say goodbye, his lids twitch. He’s trying to see me. He knows I’m here. I rest my lips on our bunched hands, silently willing him strength to see me one last time. I don’t realize I’m holding my breath until his glassy blue eyes are revealed, the brightness long gone, the whites of his eyes now yellow.

He looks at me, vacant. “Hey,” he rasps, following it up with a shallow cough that makes his skinny body jerk a little.

“Don’t talk,” I say, truly torn apart seeing him so weak.

“Since when has it been acceptable for you to tell me what to do?”

“Since you can’t shoot me,” I reply, and he chuckles, the sound so welcome, until it turns into another cough and a struggle for air. “Lay still.”

“Fuck you.” He weakly squeezes my hand. “You come to say goodbye?”

I swallow once again, forcing myself to hold up the front expected of me. “Yeah, and I’ve ordered you a sending-off present.”

“What’s that?”

“A nice piece of arse to ride your dying cock into heaven.”

“It’s ass, not arse, you British piece of shit. All these years . . . been with me. You still talk like . . . like you fell out of Buck . . . ing . . . ham Palace.”

“Asshole,” I mutter in a lousy American accent.

Another chuckle, this time louder, therefore the cough is even more strained. I shouldn’t be making him laugh. But this is us. Always has been. Him delivering tough love, and me accepting it. Every single thing this man has done for me has been because he loves me. He’s the only person in this fucked-up world who ever has.

Gazing up at me, he smiles that rare broad smile. I’ve only ever known him to use it on me. “Never trust anyone,” he warns, not that he needs to. He’s one of only two people I’ve ever trusted, and here he is dying, leaving only Brad. But Brad doesn’t love me like Pops loves me. “Don’t hesitate to kill,” he whispers.

“Never have.” He knows that. After all, I learned from him.

He takes a moment, trying to fill his lungs. “No second chances, remember?”

“Of course.”

“And f . . . fuck’s sake, learn how . . . to play poker.”

I laugh, the sound pure joy, despite my eyes filling with tears. The sensation is alien. I’ve not cried since I was eight years old. My dire poker skills have been a bone of contention to my father all my life. He’s a pro. Wins every game. No one wants to take him on, but no one has ever refused. Not unless they wanted a bullet in their skull. “If you can’t teach me, I think I’m beyond help.” I really am. The only reason I win is because the poor fuckers playing me have an invisible gun pointed at their heads. Over the years, my father’s reputation has proceeded me.

“True,” he rasps, his weak grin wicked. “My world is yours to rule now, kid.” He pulls my hands to his mouth and kisses my knuckles, then proceeds to remove the serpent ring off his pinky finger. Even the emerald eyes of the snake look dull. Lifeless.

“Here,” I say, leaning in to help him, the gold and emerald ring loose, coming off with ease. I slide it onto my little finger, but I don’t look at it. Don’t want to see it on me. Never have. Because that will make it too fucking real.

“Do me proud.” His eyes close, and he inhales, like he’s taking his final breath.

“I will,” I vow, letting my forehead fall to the pillow. “Rest in peace, Mister.”

As I’m pulling the suite door closed behind me, I run into Uncle Ernie, my father’s cousin. I have no fucking clue why I call him uncle, but Pops insisted, and I always listened to Pops. Ernie is the polar opposite of my dad, and by that I mean he’s a law-abiding citizen. He makes his millions legitimately on the stock market, and is an upstanding, respected member of the public. I always wondered how he and Pops gelled so well, given their contrasting ethics and morals. Maybe because Ernie is the only living relative of my father. Their relationship has always been an easy one, but that’s only because they had a mutual understanding to never discuss business. The respect and love Ernie had for my father was probably misplaced, given Pops’s dealings, but I have many fond memories of them laughing together on the veranda over a Cuban and brandy.

“You’re too late.”

His shoulders drop, as well as his heavily wrinkled cheeks. Death is embedded into every crevice on his face. “I’m sorry, son. I know how much you adored that barbaric fucker.”

I give him a meek smile, and he slips his arm around my shoulders, giving me a half hug.

“You know what your old man always told me?” he asks.

“That you’re wasted as a saint?”

Uncle Ernie laughs and releases me, pulling out an envelope from his inside pocket. “Wasted? This saint saved your father’s skin more than once.”

I smile, remembering a couple of those times. Once in New York when a small-time gangster thought he could jump up the ladder of power if he took out my father. Ernie saw him pulling his pistol and alerted Pops, who ducked in the nick of time. The culprit was tortured slowly by my father’s men. I was twelve years old. I watched it, every second of them plucking his nails from his fingers like they could have been tweezering unruly eyebrows. Then I watched them carve out my family emblem on his chest and pour acid into the wounds. I smiled my way through it. The arsehole had tried to kill the only human who’d ever looked out for me. So, yeah, he deserved every second of his time chained to that metal chair before he was electrocuted. It was me who turned on the power.

Then there was another time in Costa Rica. I was fifteen. A whore my father was bedding at the time tried to take a knife to his chest while he slept. Ernie disturbed her. Turns out she was planted by the KGB. I never asked what happened to the whore.

Not my business.

“Here.” Ernie hands me the envelope. “Your father wanted me to give you this.”

I accept it slowly, like it could be a bomb in disguise. “What is it?”

“His last will and testament.” Ernie smirks. “He really was a sick fuck.” He winks and passes me, heading for my father’s room. “It details his wishes for his funeral too. There might be a problem, though.”

I look up from the envelope to Ernie. “Why?”

“Well, he insisted on having his send-off in the cathedral, so you may not be able to attend. It’s not in good taste to take out an enemy while they’re saying their vows, Danny.”

I laugh under my breath, remembering the blood bath at the altar just a few months ago. No, it’s not in good taste, but it’s also not in good taste to groom little girls, and that Irish fucker who was saying his vows in the house of God had a certain fondness for little girls. Fucking animal.

Ernie disappears into my father’s suite, and I make my way to the office, opening the envelope as I go. I skim it, jumping over the parts that are likely to dent my emotions, noting my father wants a funeral with all the trimmings. He even details the hymns that he wants sung. I shake my head when I read the list. I Watch the Sunrise is at the top. It’s for me. For you are always with me, following my ways.

“I will, Dad,” I say as I open the door to his office and take in the over-the-top space. For six months now I’ve been running the show, yet I’ve never been able to bring myself to sit at his desk. It felt too final. Now, he’s gone. I look down at my little finger, seeing the eyes of the snake are bright again. Alive. Like he could be watching me. Monitoring me. Making sure I do things right by him. Making sure I follow his ways.

He has nothing to worry about. I have the instinct, and he saw it in me from day one.

“Danny?”

I turn and find Brad at the door, and his face twists when he registers my expression. “Five minutes ago,” I confirm, as his gaze falls to the ring on my little finger. I spin it around, finding comfort in the motion, of the feel of it heating my skin with the friction.

“I’m so sorry, Danny.”

I nod and force myself to the other side of my father’s desk, pulling out his chair. His throne. The second my arse hits the plush leather, I feel at ease. Like he’s surrounding me. Hugging me. “Get them in,” I order, and Brad nods, going to fetch the men. I haven’t got time to mourn. The moment the world heard my father had been taken to his bed six months ago, the shit started to fly, the fuckers mistakenly thinking that with me fronting the organization and maybe distracted by my dying father, holes might appear in our armor. Wrong. More people have died by my hands in the last six months than in the last six years. I take no prisoners.

Brad heads out, and I pull the top drawer of my father’s desk open, smiling at the solid gold letter opener lying at an angle on top of his printed stationery. It still kills me. The most feared man in the underworld has pretty gold stationery to send his death threats on. I place the envelope containing his will in the drawer and slide the ring off my finger, setting it on top. Then I collect the letter opener, running the tip of my index finger along the blade until it reaches the pointy top. I spin it until the pressure pierces the pad of my finger, drawing a drop of blood, and I tilt my head, studying it as it swells.

When I hear a knock on the door, I look up as I suck the bead of blood off my finger. Brad leads in ten of my father’s men.

No. My men.

Every single one of them observes my position at my father’s desk and bows their head in respect. “Perry Adams.” I get straight to business. “Where the fuck is he?”

“Ringo left an hour ago to give him a wake-up call,” Brad answers. “They should be here any minute.”

Of all the men Brad could send, he sends Ringo. Good. I’m not fucking about. “He’ll think he’s having a nightmare waking up to Ringo’s unpleasant mug in bed with him.” Ringo is one of my finest men. He’s also the ugliest. Pitted skin, thin, menacing lips that I’m pretty sure have never smiled, and a nose nearly as big as his bald head. He could make a grown man cry, and I expect Perry Adams is blubbering right about now. With a gun wedged in his temple.

“His nightmare is only going to get worse if he doesn’t pull his finger out his ass.” Brad says, taking a seat, the only man in my father’s office, besides me, who does.

No. My office.

“How long until we need to be out of Winstable Boatyard?” I ask.

“The developers start next month. We’ll get the next consignment taken care of, and then we’re out of there.”

I fall into thought. Time’s running out. Winstable will be gone, and I haven’t yet secured the sale on Byron’s Reach Marina. I need that sale, or operations will be severely hampered. Or come to a grinding halt. And Perry Adams, the lawyer for the owner of Byron’s Reach Marina, is the man to get me it. He’s also in the running to become the mayor of Miami, and that holds benefits far too appealing to me. Which is why I’m funding his campaign. Personality gets you far in politics, but money gets you further and I have lots of the latter. I get the marina, he gets title of mayor. It’s a simple deal. Or so he thinks. He’ll be a puppet on my strings when he’s in power. He’ll be fronting the show, but it’ll be me ruling Miami.

But for now, all he has to do is secure me the sale of the marina. Shouldn’t be too difficult. But, apparently, it is. “What’s taking him so long?”

“Fuck knows.” Brad sighs, just as the door swings open and the man himself falls over the threshold. In his boxers. The gun is still wedged in his temple, Ringo’s finger poised on the trigger ready to take my order. Perry Adams’s forehead is slick with a nervous sweat. I’m amused. This guy is famously arrogant, but in that acceptable way that lawyers get away with. His image is everything, from his bespoke suits to his perfectly painted family. And here he is in his boxers, looking like he could have shat himself.

“Morning,” I chirp, resting back in my chair as he trembles before me. “You’ve got news for me.” I state it as a fact, not a question.

“I just need another few weeks.” He stammers over his words, shifting from one bare foot to the other. “The owners of Byron’s Reach, the Jepsons, they’re in Dubai on business. A last-minute, unexpected trip. I didn’t know they were going until they were gone. I’ve relayed your generous offer. I have the paperwork ready. It’s all set to go. I just need a signature.”

“I’ve given you five million for that marina and ten for your campaign, Perry,” I remind him. “You’re a heartbeat away from becoming mayor of Miami, yet I still haven’t got my fucking marina. This was supposed to be wrapped up two weeks ago.”

“A few weeks,” he murmurs, flicking his eyes to the side where Ringo remains with his gun aimed at his temple.

“You’ve got a week.” I wave my hand dismissively. “Get him out of here.”

Ringo removes his gun from Adams’s temple and brings it down heavily across his cheekbone with a nasty thwack, putting him on his knees.

“A week,” I reiterate as he’s dragged from my office. As soon as he’s gone, I stand, fixing my jacket. “Watch him,” I order as I pass the men, heading for the door. I don’t trust Adams, never have.

My hand pauses on the handle when I hear a mumble from one of my men. I didn’t hear exactly what, but mumbles speak volumes. I stop and slowly turn at the door, my eyes zooming in on Pep. I’ve never liked him. He’s been under my father’s command for decades, and he’s made it clear he doesn’t like me, either, though never in front of Pops.

He locks eyes with me, challenging me all the way. Stupid fuck. “Pardon?”

His shoulders straighten, a show of strength in front of my other men. “I don’t take orders from a bastard.”

I nod, as if in agreement, as I wander back to the desk. It’s quiet. Tense. “You don’t like me, Pep?” I ask, facing him. “It’s okay. The old man’s dead. You can say how you really feel about his bastard child.”

Pep’s eyes flick to the envelope opener in my hand. He doesn’t answer. I wander back over to him, casual, tapping the solid gold blade on my palm. I see him back up. “Danny, I didn’t mean to—”

No second chances. I cut him off mid-apology with one slash of the blade across his throat. His eyes wide, he grabs his neck as blood spurts through his fingers. I’m surprised how long he remains on his feet. In fact, I get plain fucking bored waiting for him to fucking die. So I plunge the letter opener into his heart, twisting and turning it, before yanking it back out. He falls straight to his knees, twitches a few times, then crashes face-forward to the floor. “Messed up the fucking rug,” I grate, bending and wiping the blade on his suit jacket. “Anyone else got anything to say?” I look up, giving each of my men a moment of my attention. Silence. “Thought so.” I stand and hand the blade to Brad as I walk out. “Don’t let Adams out of your sight.” I pass Esther as I head down the corridor, and my eyes immediately drop to the bale of towels she’s carrying. “Call Amber and get her to my room,” I order, feeling unwanted stress dropping into my cock. There’s only one way to alleviate it. Killing someone hasn’t touched the burning fury currently blazing inside me. Why did he have to die? The only person in this fucked-up world who ever gave a fuck about me?

I pick up my pace, rounding the corner toward my suite, and my steps falter mildly when I see the doors of my father’s room opening. Shannon appears. There are tears in my father’s lover’s eyes. Not tears of grief. Tears of worry. She spots me as I approach, but I don’t stop to acknowledge her.

“Danny,” she calls, coming after me. I keep walking, leaving her chasing my heels like the pathetic lap dog that she is. She kept my father distracted from his pain in the later days. That’s all she was good for and the only reason I kept her around. But now he’s dead. And I know what’s coming. The gold-digging whore is transparent.

Her hand rests on my suit jacket, pulling me to a stop, and I look down at her. “What?” I ask coldly.

She smiles coyly. “You must know it’s always been about you.”

Yes. I’ve seen the way she looks at me. With lust. Hunger. Pops never missed it, either. “Shame it’s never been about you,” I reply, short and curt, shaking her hand off my sleeve. “Pack your shit and leave.”

“Carlo would never want that,” she shouts to my back, panicked.

I stop abruptly and swing around, grabbing her and pushing her against the wall. Rage is instantly heating my veins, cutting through them to a point I think I could bleed out. “Don’t fucking tell me what he would have wanted,” I hiss. “Don’t pretend you fucking know him. You don’t. He fucked you. Nothing more.” The hard truth makes her face twist. It maddens me. What outcome was she hoping for here? Life-long protection? A house in the suburbs as compensation for riding my old man’s dick in his dying days? My father was a predictable man. He didn’t love women. He appreciated them, but he never loved them. And he reiterated a thousand times that when he’s gone, Shannon should be gone too. He knew as well as me that she was only in his bed for a free ride and protection. “Your time in wonderland is up, Shannon. Get the fuck out.” I release her, the fear in her eyes making them watery for different reasons now.

I make it to my suite and yank my tie from my neck as I walk to my bathroom, flipping on the shower before stripping down, leaving my suit in a heap by the sink for Esther to pick up. The man reflecting back at me in the mirror looks the same as he always does. Fresh. Well-kept. The only difference I see today is the devastation hiding behind his blue eyes. Devastation only I can see. Devastation I mustn’t let anyone else see. His death is a weight I must hide. It could be a weakness. I’m in this alone.

But I’ll be okay. I’ll survive this. I can survive anything. Old habits die hard.

I spend some time flexing my shoulders, rolling my head on my neck, trying to loosen my tight muscles. Scrubbing my hands down my face, I sigh, hearing the door of my room shut. And a moment later, Amber is draped over the doorframe of my bathroom. She bites her red lip, eyeing my naked body, her hands twitching at her sides. “You called,” she purrs, taking the clip from her hair and letting the blonde waves tumble over her shoulders.

“Your roots need sorting out,” I say flatly, turning to face her. She’s not naturally blonde, and today it’s obvious. That maddens me too.

She falters, only for a moment. “Where do you want me?”

“On my cock.” I stalk forward and push my hand into her chest, forcing her backward toward the bed. “You want that, Amber?” I ask, needing that one word.

“Yes.” She never hesitates.

“Bend over,” I order, spinning her and pushing her face-first into the mattress. I yank her dress up and pull her G-string to the side. I don’t check whether she’s ready. I know for a fact that the woman only has to set eyes on me to be ready. I snatch a condom from the dresser and roll it on, then spread her arse cheeks.

“No foreplay?” she pants.

I level up and pound home, and she screams at the hard, sudden invasion of her easy pussy. I breathe in, taking hold of her hips. I don’t possess the patience or strength to work myself up. I need to let go, and in my world, this—pussy on demand—is the only way. I pound forward savagely and repeatedly, my head dropped back, my body searching for the release it needs.

“Danny,” she yells, making my teeth grit hard.

“Shut up,” I growl, forcing her to turn her face into the sheets to help her cope with my wicked drives. The wash of pleasure starts in my head and finishes in my toes, my cock rolling as my climax stalks forward. I groan, swiveling my hips as it churns out endlessly. “Fuck, yeah.” I look down at her round arse, spreading her cheeks to watch my dick lunge with each pulse. The relief is instant but will be short-lived. I know that.

When I’m empty, I withdraw sharply, and leave her falling to her front. She quickly spins over, her mouth engaged to speak—maybe to ask why I haven’t seen to her. My expression must say it all. “Get out,” I demand, leaving her silently incredulous on the bed as I head back to the bathroom.

It’s all steamed up by the time I make it there, wet smoky clouds sticking to my skin, doing nothing to warm me.

“I’m sorry about your dad,” Amber calls.

She’s not sorry. Not many people will be. I’ve been holding the business up for six months, and I’ve heard the whispers of relief that Carlo Black was on his last legs.

Stupid fucks.

They might be rid of my father, but they’ve got me and me alone to deal with now. I didn’t earn the name Angel-faced Assassin because I give good fucking hugs. And if they don’t know that, they’ve got no idea what’s coming.

I stand on the shore by Winstable Boatyard staring across the water. We’ve leased this boatyard for decades from an old boy who didn’t ask questions and never showed up unexpectedly. He just took his monthly wedge of cash and minded his own business. Until the poor fucker died and his son sold the boatyard to developers in a quick deal done in a matter of days. I suspect the arrangement was in place before the old man snuffed it, which is why I couldn’t intercept the deal. I had planned on offering the developer’s double what they paid to enable me to retain my operations here. I also planned on putting a bullet in the old man’s son’s knee for the inconvenience he caused me and my business. And then I had a change of heart. Turns out a college campus is being built here that focuses on scholarships for the underprivileged. Call me sentimental, but I’m all for supporting disadvantaged kids. Besides, Byron’s Reach Marina came to my attention, and it’s twice as big and even farther off the radar than here. Sealing the deal should have been a breeze. Fucking Perry Adams. I’ve only got a few more weeks here before I need to move my business. For his sake, he’d better get me that marina.

The water is peaceful, the waves lapping gently at the sandy shore. I watch bubbles pop at the surface, rippling rings appearing and growing before disappearing. I love it here. I’ll miss it, but I, of all people, know not to get attached to things.

Brad’s phone rings, and I look over my shoulder to him. “Volodya,” he tells me before answering. “Yes?” Brad’s eyes remain on mine, and then he clicks it to loudspeaker.

I hear the broken English of the man who fronts the Russian mafia. “We need to bring the exchange forward and double the order.”

I shake my head, returning my attention to the water. Does he think I just magic this shit from my fucking armpits?

“Not possible,” Brad tells him straight. “It’s organized for the third of the month for a reason, Volodya. If it doesn’t happen then, it doesn’t happen at all.”

“Where’s The Brit?” he asks.

“I’m here,” I say to the water. “What’s the issue?”

The Serbians,” he rumbles, low and slowly, like the words are being chewed over his tongue. “A rat told me they’re buying out of Miami.”

“Impossible.” I almost laugh. “I’m the only dealer for a thousand miles.” I know that for a fact, since my father killed every other one.

“Not impossible if they’re buying from you.”

“I don’t deal with the Serbians,” I remind him. “Are you questioning my integrity, Volodya?” I look to Brad, whose eyebrows must be as high as mine. Someone’s stirring shit. I wouldn’t touch the Serbian mafia with a ten-foot pole. I’m selective with whom I do business with, and rapists are at the bottom of my pile. “Now, the third or not?”

“The third,” he confirms. “I’ll have half transferred. The rest you’ll get once the merchandise has been checked by my men.”

“Fine,” I say, not insulted in the least. We’ve done dozens of deals with the Russians. We’ve always delivered. But, as my father always told me, never trust anyone, and don’t be surprised when someone doesn’t trust me. The Russians and Serbs are enemies and have been shooting to kill for over a decade now. I don’t think they even know what they’re fighting over anymore, and I couldn’t give a shit. They can keep killing each other to their happy, fucked-up hearts’ content. It keeps the business rolling. I smile, sinking back on my heels and breathing out.

“The Serbians are buying,” Brad says from behind me. “You think someone’s moving in on our territory?” He seems more concerned than I am.

“The only way to get shit into Miami undetected is through this boatyard or Byron’s Reach. We’re here. Byron’s is being watched twenty-four/seven. Nothing is coming into this city without me knowing about it.”