Holy hell. I’m in front of Don Tacone’s house, miles from the neighborhood where I live, and I’ve got a dead battery or something.
I stop trying to start the engine and pull the key out.
I’ll have to walk a few miles and take the L home. And I don’t know what to do about the car. With the private investigator bills, I can’t even afford a tow, much less a repair.
I push the door open and climb out, only to find myself nose to chest with Junior Tacone.
Son of the imprisoned mafia don. Acting head of the notorious Chicago crime family and a beautiful, terrifying man. He must’ve just arrived for his daily visit to his mother while I was trying to start the car. I do my best to leave before he gets here because the man scares the shit out of me.
I grew up in Cicero. I’m not oblivious to who the Tacones are. Still, it didn’t stop me from taking this job as a home healthcare nurse looking in on the Don’s wife as she convalesces from surgery.
“Car trouble?” Junior rumbles in his deep, commanding voice. He’s over six foot tall, broad chest and even bigger presence.
I start sweating, like I always do when he’s around. I wipe my palms on my pink scrubs and drag my eyes from his chest to his face. “Uh, yeah. It won’t start. I’m going to have to leave it here for the night, if you don’t mind.”
I pulled my hair into two low pigtails this morning and he eyes them wolfishly, like they make me a Playboy Bunny or something. “Sounds like your starter’s gone bad.” He flips his keyring around his finger. “I’ll get it fixed for you.”
“Oh no,” I say quickly. “No, I can take care of it. Don’t worry about it.”
But I already know Junior Tacone isn’t the kinda guy who takes no for an answer. He holds out his palm. “Gimme the keys. I’ll have it fixed for you by tomorrow.”
My stomach clenches. “I, uh, really can’t afford—”
He cocks a brow at me. “Did I say what it would cost?” He’s pretty much always an ass like this. Runs in the family if his mom’s any indication.
I stick my chin out. Bravado has always been my default mechanism, and it’s worked well with his mother. She’s a crotchety bitch, but after three months, I have the woman wrapped around my little finger just by giving shit back to her and making sure I do a high quality job. “No, but whatever it is, I can’t pay anything until my next paycheck.”
He plucks my keys—which I didn’t hand over—out of my hand. “Enough backtalk. Get in my car. I’m taking you home. I’ll have your car fixed by tomorrow. My treat. You’ve taken good care of my ma and I appreciate it.”
My mouth falls open and for some stupid reason, my nipples get hard. I have this weird thing about money—it turns me on when a guy has it. And it especially turns me on when he spends it on me.
Who knows, maybe it’s because I never had any growing up, or because my ex-husband always pissed his away. Or it’s some twisted form of good provider instinct for mating. All I know is half of Junior Tacone’s appeal is the wealth and power he exudes. The other half is his good looks. The broad shoulders, square jaw, dark, penetrating eyes. The patrician nose that’s been broken more than once.
Since I started working here, I’ve had numerous fantasies about him forcing me onto my back and taking what he wants from me. Yeah, forcing me. I know—it’s another weird quirk of mine. I wouldn’t actually want to be manhandled, but it makes for a good fantasy. And Junior Tacone definitely seems like the kinda guy who takes what he wants and doesn’t ask nicely.
Junior’s already walked back to his shiny white Maserati where he casts me an impatient look.
Heat swirls in my low belly as I grab my purse, lock the doors and jog to the passenger’s side of his sports car. I dive in and swing the door shut. I’m slightly breathless, but it’s not from jogging ten feet, it’s from the intimidating man beside me.
He starts the car. “Where to?”
“Humboldt Park.” I give him my address, which I admit is in a pretty sketchy neighborhood, even for a woman who grew up in Cicero. He casts me a sidelong glance.
“What?” I snap. “Not everyone can afford to live in the ‘burbs.”
His brows jump, but he doesn’t comment as the car zips onto the road.
“So how come you’re so broke?” I watch his huge hand work the gear shift. “You make a decent wage as a nurse. I gave you a bonus this week. Where does all your money go?”
If I wasn’t already on edge, this line of questioning throws me way over. My throat constricts as the root cause of my financial problem overtakes me. I’m sure as hell not going to tell him about it, though. Even after six months, I can barely talk about it with my close friends without crying.
“I don’t think that’s any of your business.” I don’t mean to sound so bitchy. Well, yeah, I do. I need to do whatever it takes to get him off this line of questioning. Ms. Bravado’s making her appearance.
His nostrils flare and lips close into a thin line. The mafia kingpin definitely isn’t used to being spoken to that way.
Yeah, probably not my brightest move.
Still, I’m not going to back down now. “I doubt you’d want me asking questions about where you get your money or how you spend it,” I challenge.
“You think you know something about my money?” His charm is gone; I hear only danger in his voice now.
I definitely pissed him off.
“I grew up in Cicero. I know who you are.” Cold sweat dampens my ribs, but fear and good sense don’t seem to reach my brain.
His eyes slide over to me slowly, like he’s tempering his reaction. “Considering what you think you know, it’s funny how you keep sassing me.”
Definitely a threat.
My stomach jumps and quivers. I pushed this way too far. I’m nearly peeing myself now, but I don’t let it show. “You telling me to stop?”
He takes his time answering, like he’s really considering it. “No,” he says finally. “I don’t think I am.” He takes a turn too fast and I have to grab the door handle. “It kinda turns me on.” When he straightens out the car, his gaze drops to my nipples, which stand out through my thin scrubs and bra like freaking bullets.
Apparently sassing him turns me on, too.
And just like that, my fear flips into arousal. He’s turned on by me giving him shit.
Like his mom, he appreciates someone with the balls—or ovaries in my case—to stand up to him.
The rest of the drive is charged with sexual tension. I half expect him to pull over somewhere, yank me out of the car and bend me over the hood for a hard fucking.
Well, my fantasies are running that way, but I guess it’s not a real expectation. Who knows what the hell is running through his head, but whatever it is, it’s got to be as heated as my thoughts, because I swear the windows steam up.
It’s a good thing tomorrow is my last day working for his mom. Next week I return to my previous job working in the ER trauma unit at Cook County Hospital. It’s much harder work than home healthcare, but with overtime, I’ll make more money at it. And I sure as hell need the money right now.
When we finally get to my place, he glances up at my building with distaste. “Tell me you have decent locks on your doors.”
I push the door open quickly, eager to jump out. “I do.”
“Can you get yourself to my ma’s place in the morning?”
“Definitely. Thanks for the ride. And for having my car looked at.”
“I’ll have it fixed. The keys will be on my ma’s kitchen counter, capiche?”
I grin because the Italian word sounds so wonderfully mafioso coming from his lips.
He smiles back, revealing a row of perfect white teeth. It completely transforms his face and I realize I haven’t seen the guy smile until now. I wasn’t sure he knew how. It’s a sight to behold. Breathtaking, really. “You say capito—I understand.”
“Capito,” I repeat back. I’m still grinning like a fool. Fuck, are we flirting? This is nuts. You don’t flirt with the most dangerous man in Chicago. I must be out of my ever-loving mind.
I rear back and slam the door, desperate to get away from Junior’s magnetic pull. Out of the sphere of his mighty existence.
One more day and I won’t have to see him again.
And yeah, I will owe him for the car, but hopefully it’s not a debt he’ll come collect on…