EMPIRE BY Rachel Van Dyken
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Must Read ELUDE prior to Empire
I have lost everything.
Death knocks on my door, I want to answer, but every time I reach for the handle — the promise I made her brings me back.
So I breathe.
And I allow the anger to boil beneath the surface of a perfectly indifferent facade. I am broken, I don’t want to be fixed.
But the Empire is crumbling and it’s my job to fix it.
My job to mend the pieces that were scattered over thirty years ago.
A trip to New York, only one chance to redeem a lost part of our mafia family.
The only issue is, the only way to fix it, is to do something I swore I’d never do again.
An arranged marriage.
Only this time,
I won’t fall.
Or so help me God, I will kill her myself.
My name is Sergio Abandonoto, you think you know my pain, my suffering, my anger, my hate?
You have no idea.
I am the mafia.
I am the darkness.
Blood in. No out.
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“Taxi.” I held up my hand. “It’s too cold to walk.”
“For those of us who have hearts,” I said under my breath.
He paused and then burst out laughing. “Holy shit, was that a dig at me?”
I shrugged as the taxi pulled up.
“Damn, and you’re not even apologizing.”
“It was more of a passing comment under my breath…” I got into the taxi and slid across the cold, worn vinyl seat. “But true.”
Sergio slammed the door after him. “And here I thought I was making a good impression.”
“You offered to kill me if I kissed you.”
The taxi driver frowned into the rearview mirror.
“She’s kidding,” Sergio reassured him.
I refused to let him get off that easy. “You also look at me like you want to throw up.”
Mr. Taxi Driver’s nostrils flared.
“Uh.” Sergio laughed uncomfortably. “I just have a lot on my mind.”
Taxi Driver’s eyes looked like they were going to bug out of his head. Yeah, this was probably the best entertainment he’d had all day.
“I don’t talk about it,” Sergio said in a drop-the-subject voice.
“Maybe you should.”
“I have enough money to afford a therapist, thank you,” he said through clenched teeth.
“Money doesn’t buy happiness,” I fired back.
Sergio released a string of pithy curses. “Did someone spike your milk this morning during show and tell?”
“Sorry. Your Kool-Aid.” His eyes narrowed. “It’s like you’re trying to piss me off.”
Bingo. I smiled. “Funny, that’s what Dante says to me all the time. Just think of all the things you get to look forward to. Isn’t that what you said you wanted?”
Sergio looked ready to strangle me. “No. I don’t believe I asked for an annoying little sister, but if that’s what you’re offering, please don’t let me stop you. Just know, I won’t hesitate to put you over my knee if you get out of hand.”
The minute the words left his mouth. I froze.
The taxi driver stared little laser-like holes into the rearview mirror.
And Sergio leaned toward me.
I swallowed as tension swirled around us.
He gripped me by the chin and turned my head to the side, his lips brushing my ear. “It’s like you have a death wish.”
“You wouldn’t do it.”
He pulled back as both of his eyebrows shot up, and then he looked down, like something had caught his eye.
I followed the direction of his gaze and let out a little gasp as a gun dug into my stomach.
“It’s been directed at you for the last four minutes,” Sergio said through a practiced smile. “I meant what I said. Listen well. I keep my word. Kiss me, and blood will be spilled.”
“Y-you’re a crazy person!” I hissed, shoving at his chest. “And I wasn’t going to kiss you!”
“Sure you weren’t.” He put the gun away. “Good talk though, right? Oh look, the movie theater.”
To say that I scrambled out of the car like a kid running away from her kidnapper would be a gross understatement, but the minute my feet hit the pavement, I paused.
My body told me to run.
The guy had pulled a gun.
I didn’t even watch violent movies, I’d just panicked and said the first thing that popped into my head!
And I was about to go to the theater with a guy who probably showered in blood on a daily basis and by the looks of it — got off on it.
Shivering, I forced myself to take a deep breath and wrapped my jacket tighter around my body.
That was the thing about men like Sergio, or maybe just loyalty in general. He’d promised he would keep me safe, but I wondered if that promise was only extended until I was more trouble than I was worth.
I was safe, not because of what I was to him.
But because of who my dad had been to him.
I was nothing.
And yet, a part of me still yearned to be… something.
“Change your mind?” Sergio’s smooth voice interrupted my thoughts. He was the type of man you felt even when he wasn’t speaking. His presence was impossible to ignore, kind of like his ridiculous good looks.
Weren’t mafia guys supposed to be old?
Chain smokers who bought Cuban cigars and sat behind large desks while counting money and ordering hits on people who pissed them off?
“No.” I finally found my voice. “I was just thinking….”
“About?” His hand touched my back, ushering me forward, but not pushing, almost as if he was giving me the option of still saying no.
I increased my pace so that I couldn’t feel the warmth of his fingertips. “Popcorn.” I turned and winked, hoping it would hide the fact that my body was shaking.
Maybe I was the crazy one.
Because he was armed.
The man was armed.
And he had no qualms about pointing his weapon at me whenever I got too close.
Huh, we’d have a happy marriage.
I guess we’d never argue, since I liked living.
And, you know, breathing.
It would suck not to make my twenty-first birthday because I didn’t fold the towels just right.
And again, I froze.
Was he that neurotic? Or was it just the closeness?
“On a scale of one to ten…” I was proud of the way I kept the shaking out of my voice. Why was I so scared? Oh right, because he’d pointed a gun, no, shoved a freaking gun into my stomach and done it with a smile on his face. “How OCD are you?”
An easy laugh escaped him as he glanced around the movie theater lobby and then back at me. “What makes you think I’m OCD?”
“Things.” I gulped then forced a smile that I didn’t feel. How was I supposed to go through an entire movie knowing he was one uncomfortable conversation away from losing it? “So?”
“What can I get you?” A teen boy looked at Sergio then smiled wider when his eyes fell to me.
Immediately, Sergio wrapped a protective arm around me, basically forcing my body to curve into his warmth. “My wife and I will have two buckets of popcorn, two packs of Sour Patch Kids, and a bottled water.”
I didn’t correct him about the water.
“Wait.” Sergio held up his hand. “Sorry, Dr. Pepper mixed with Coke.”
The teen scrunched up his face then rung us up. His eyes fell to me again then back at the register, like he was trying not to look but couldn’t help it, which was comical, since I didn’t really think I was anything to look at.
When he handed Sergio back his change I could have sworn I heard a growl from my “husband.”
As it was, he jerked the candy so hard out of the kid’s hands that I was surprised he didn’t do a front flip over the counter.
“He’s a boy,” I whispered under my breath. “No need to shoot him too.”
Sergio glanced down at me, muttered a curse. “He was staring.”
“He looked about one science project away from solving world hunger via his mom’s basement… hardly the type of guy that I’d date.”
“Date?” Sergio said it so loudly the people in front of us waiting to show the attendant their tickets jumped and then turned around. “What the hell do you mean date?”
Crap. I’d messed up again.
My palms went sweaty while my face felt numb with fear. Regardless of how pretty he was to look at — I was finally fully aware of how dangerous he was to me.
To everyone around me.
Sweat trickled down my lower back as I gulped down more soda and shrugged. “I just mean, he’s not my type.”
“No shit he isn’t, because you don’t get a type anymore.”
“Right.” I licked my lower lip, pretending not to be scared, pretending to be the brave person I wasn’t was wearing on me.
By the time we made it into the theater I was dizzy.
It was too much all at once.
“So…” Sergio’s voice was in my ear. I jumped a foot. He frowned as if he couldn’t figure out why I’d be so jumpy. “Dante sits behind you, right?”
“Right.” I exhaled in relief. I forgot. It wasn’t a date. It was a challenge. He’d called me his sister, so therefore he was my brother, right? Hah. I relaxed a bit as I pointed to a seat a few rows back and quickly stole the goodies out of his hands then made my way to my own seat before he could object.
The credits started rolling.
And I found myself ducking in the chair.
The hair on the back of my neck stood on end.
As if I was being watched — because I was.
Ten minutes into the movie, I was so stressed out, I almost burst into tears. My back was to him.
Wasn’t that a big no-no? My back was to the dude with the gun.
Even though he was supposed to protect me with the gun, all bets were off now.
Sweat pooled in the palms of my hands.
The music rose as one of the actresses ran down the stairs screaming.
I couldn’t take it.
And then, a body sat down next to me.
Sergio gave me a suspicious look then put a seat between us.
But it wasn’t relief.
At least I knew where he was.
And where the gun was, he was right handed, so there was that.
I finally allowed myself to relax enough to watch the movie when I saw Sergio’s right hand duck into his jacket.
I gripped the plastic arm rests, my fingers digging into the cheap sticky plastic material as he slowly pulled something out.
And I flinched so hard that there was no mistaking what I thought he was doing.
Even though he had grabbed a black cell phone.
The damage was done.
My entire body shook as a big fat tear escaped, I tried to wipe it away but I wasn’t fast enough.
“S-sorry.” I shoved past him and ran.
But my body was too scared.
To make it very far.
About The Author
Rachel Van Dyken is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she’s not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.
She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband, adorable son, and two snoring boxers! She loves to hear from readers!
Want to be kept up to date on new releases? Text MAFIA to 66866!
You can connect with her on Facebook www.facebook.com/rachelvandyken or join her fan group Rachel’s New Rockin Readers. Her website is www.rachelvandykenauthor.com.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Rachel-Van-Dyken/e/B0054TW5AA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1407369649&sr=8-2-ent
What I Thought
So let me get this out there first, to let you know how awesome of an author Rachel really is. Before reading Sergio’s first book, Elude, I kept seeing comments about how emotional people got over it. I was like “that wont be me”, I haven’t really cried over a book yet. Guess what……It got me!! ELUDE MADE ME CRY. Not just one lonely tear either, they were rolling down my cheeks. This is a testament to Rachel and her writing skills, her stories draw you in, they enchant you. I am a total Rachel Van Dyken fan girl 🙂
This is a story about a broken man who thinks he will never heal after his loss. Can he ever love again? Can he really move on like his wife asked of him and be at peace? Does letting go and moving on mean forgetting the love he had for Andi? Is being happy again betraying her? These are just some of the thoughts that haunt Sergio Abandonato on a daily bases. Sergio thought his life was over when cancer took away his wife. His other half. His everything. Months later, the pain still so raw within, Sergio is to be thrust in to another arranged marriage for the good of all of the mafia families. Their marriage is what is needed in order to restore power and keep The Empire alive. He knows he has to do it, but this time he is determined he wont fall. A marriage of convenience and protection. Sergio is determined this is all it will be to him.
Valentina is so innocent to the world, nevermind the mafia world on top of that. Learning of her family and bloodline is a huge shock. A total culture change. A new outlook on what life really is. A life she was blind to, thinking maybe it only exhisted in books. Learning that she has always been betrothed to marry Sergio, for her own protection, and that she will marry in a matter of days, well you can imagine….. she was totally thrown!! When Val meets Sergio, she is intrigued by this broody and raw man, she is instantly attracted, but she soon learns, loving him could only ever be one sided, since his heart is broken and buried with his dead wife.
Sergio is determined to keep Val at arms length, resorting to being mean and even scaring her if needs be. Can Val handle Sergio’s harsh attitude and treatment towards her and help his heart heal? Also is it possible for someone who hates guns and violence to exist and survive in the mafia world?
Sorry for the short run down of Empire but this is a totally spoiler free review! This book, well this whole series, you have to read!! Alpha sexy men, action, romance, women who can shoot a gun, lots of twists! This series has it all.
After reading Empire, I went to bed and dreamt about a hottie with bright blue eyes 🙂 Sergio is certainly a very charismatic character, but don’t worry fellow readers, Empire is still full of the guns and violence we have come to expect and love from the Eagle Elite series. There is plenty of action and twists and of course…..the rest of our favourite mafia family are there too!
Empire is written from both Sergio and Val’s points of view, with the odd chapter from our oldest remaining mafia boss, Frank Alfero. Reading from both sides helps capture the emotion of the story. The turmoil, and also the growth of both charcters. We get insight into why Sergio acts the way he does towards Valentina and how she fights her attraction to him and how it pains her to see him hurting and in turn when he hurts her.
Empire is a real rollercoaster of emotions, despite the feelings of haunting, sadness, and guilt, we have sarcasm, desire and I found there to even be laugh out loud moments throughout too.
I love that our mafia guys are super hot and trendy, that they are also fun and still like to act like the young guys that they are, not what you initially think when you think of a mafia story. They even use emoji’s when texting! LOVE this! Really had me giggling!
Chase: The eagle has landed.
Sergio: You’re an idiot.
Chase: Where the hell is that damn middle finger emoji? Whatever, I’m middle finger emojing you right now.
Rachel’s writing style is descriptive, it is perfectly balanced with the emotions and storyline. It helps conjure up the imagery in your head of the characters and the story as it plays out and ultimately captivates you and sucks you in to what is happening. The dialogue is simple and realistic, yet enthralling.
Empire feels like a true to life story. Encountering a loss that sadly, people experience daily. Showing the struggle that follows the loss, how life seems to stand still for you, but not as a whole all around you. Seeing no way of being able to recover, but it being expected of you. A story of having to accept what life throws at you, and basically just having to deal. And eventually being able to live again.
Empire is a completely riveting and magnificent addition to the Eagle Elite series. One that I am sure will be one of the most memorable for followers of this mafia book series.