Home > Brutal Prince : An Enemies To Lovers Mafia Romance(5)

Brutal Prince : An Enemies To Lovers Mafia Romance(5)
Author: Sophie Lark

“I’m young. I want to look mature.”

“You still need style,” he says.

I sigh. I’m well aware of the importance of image. I recently started wearing some closely-trimmed facial hair, on the advice of my assistant. Still, it gets tiring changing your clothes three times a day to perfectly tailor your appearance to the occasion.

“I’ll sort it out,” I promise them.

As I leave the office, I see Riona in the hall. She’s already dressed for the party. She narrows her eyes at me.

“What were you doing in there?” she says suspiciously. She hates being left out of anything.

“We were going over the strategy for tonight.”

“Why wasn’t I invited?”

“Because I’m the one running for Alderman, not you.”

Two bright spots of color come into her cheeks—the signal since childhood that she’s offended.

“I need you to talk to Callahan for me,” I say, to smooth it over. To let her know she’s needed. “He’ll support me if you ask.”

“Yes, he will,” Riona says loftily. She knows she has the Police Chief wrapped around her finger. “He’s not bad looking, really,” she says. “Shame about his breath.”

“Don’t stand too close, then.”

She nods. Riona is a good soldier. She’s never let me down.

“Where’s Nessa?” I ask her.

She shrugs. “Running around god knows where. We should put a bell on her.”

“Well if you see her, send her my way.”

I haven’t actually wished Nessa a happy birthday yet or given her my present. I’ve been too damn busy.

I jog up the stairs, and then all the way down the hallway to my suite. I don’t love the fact that I’m still living with my family at thirty years old, but it makes it more convenient to work together. Besides, you’ve got to live in the district to be an Alderman, and I don’t have time for house hunting.

At least my room is on the opposite end of the house from the master suite. And it’s large and comfortable—we knocked down a wall when I came back from college, giving me my own suite and adjoining office. It’s almost like an apartment, separated from everybody else’s rooms by the massive library in between.

I can hear guests already starting to arrive down below. I change into my newest Zenya suit, then I head back downstairs to mingle.

Everything goes smoothly, as it always does when my mother is in charge. I can see her sleek blonde bob across the lawn, and hear her light, cultured laugh as she makes a point of circulating through all the most boring and important guests.

I’m working my way down my own list of Cardenas, Rico, and Dowell as each person arrives.

After about an hour, the fireworks start. They’ve been timed to coincide with sunset, so the brilliant explosions stand out against the newly-darkened sky. It’s a calm night, the lake as smooth as glass. The fireworks reflect in double on the water below.

Most of the guests turn to watch the show, their faces illuminated, and their mouths open in surprise.

I don’t bother to watch, taking the opportunity to scan the crowd for anybody I was supposed to talk to that I might have missed.

Instead, I see someone who definitely wasn’t invited—a tall dark-haired kid standing with a bunch of Nessa’s friends. Towering over them, actually—he’s got to be 6’5 at least. I’m pretty sure that’s a fucking Gallo. The youngest one.

But the next minute I’m distracted by Leslie Dowell coming up to talk to me again, and when I glance back at the group, the tall kid is gone. I’ll have to speak to security, tell them to keep an eye out.

First, food. I’ve barely had time to eat today. I grab a few shrimps off the buffet, then look around for a proper drink. Waiters are circulating through the crowd with flutes of bubbling champagne, but I don’t want that shit. The line at the bar is too long. What I really want is my Egan’s Ten-Year Single Malt, up in my office.

Well, why the hell not? I already made the rounds of the most important people. I can sneak away for a minute. I’ll come back down when that pop singer gets here. That was a splurge from Dad. I don’t know if it was to make Nessa happy because she’s his little angel, or if it was just to show off. Either way, the guests will love it.

I’ll be back in plenty of time.

I head back inside, climbing the stairs to my end of the house. I’ve got a little bar in my personal office—nothing showy, just a few bottles of high-end liquor and a mini icebox. I pull out a nice heavy tumbler, throw in three jumbo-sized ice cubes, and pour a heavy measure of whiskey on top. I inhale the heady scent of pear, wood, and smoke. Then I swallow it down, savoring the burning in my throat.

I know I should go back down to the party, but honestly, now that I’m up here in the peace and quiet, I’m enjoying the break. You have to have a certain level of narcissism to be a politician. You have to feed off the glad-handing, the attention.

I don’t give a shit about any of that. I’m powered by ambition alone. I want control. Wealth. Influence. I want to be untouchable.

But that means the physical act of campaigning can be exhausting.

So as I’m walking back down to the hallway, instead of heading to the stairs as I intended, I turn into the library.

This is one of my favorite rooms in the house. Barely anyone comes in here, except for me. It’s quiet. The smell of paper and leather and birch logs is soothing. My mother keeps the fire going in the evenings for my benefit. The rest of the house is so heavily air-conditioned that it’s never too hot to have a small fire in the grate.

Over the mantel is the painting of my great great-great-grandmother, Catriona. She came to Chicago in the middle of the potato famine, like so many other Irish immigrants. Just fifteen years old, crossing the ocean alone with three books in her suitcase and two dollars in her boot. She worked as a housemaid for a wealthy man in Irving Park. When he died, he left her the house and nearly three thousand dollars in cash and bonds. Some people said they must have secretly had a relationship. Other people said she poisoned him and forged the will. Whatever the truth, she turned the house into a saloon.

She was the first Griffin in America. My parents like to say we’re descended from the Irish princes of the same name, but I prefer the truth. We epitomize the American dream: a family rising from house servant to the Mayor of Chicago. Or so I hope.

I sit quietly for a minute, sipping my drink, then I start scrolling through my emails. I can never be idle for long.

I think I hear a sound, and I pause for a moment, thinking it must be one of the staff out in the hall. When I don’t hear anything else, I return to my phone.

Then, two things happen at the same time:

First, I smell something that makes the hair rise up on the back of my neck. Smoke, but not the clean smoke from the fire. A harsh, chemical burning smell.

At the same time, I hear a sound like a sudden intake of breath, but ten times louder. Then there’s a flash of heat and light as the curtains ignite.

I jump up out of my chair, shouting god knows what.

I like to think that I know how to keep my head in an emergency, but for a moment I’m confused and panicking, wondering what the hell is happening, and what I should do about it.

Then, rationality asserts itself.

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