Nico (Ruin & Revenge #1)

Nico (Ruin & Revenge #1)

Sarah Castille

To Mum and Dad, for sharing their love of all things Mafia.


Thanks to my editor, Monique Patterson, and the very patient Alexandra Sehulster, as well as the St. Martin’s team for polishing this book until it shone.

Thanks to my agent, Laura Bradford, my talented assistant, Danielle, and my bestest beta-reader Casey.

And thank you to the guy outside Il Terrazzo Ristorante, who took off his jacket and unbuttoned his shirt giving me an inadvertent peek at his wicked tattoo. You made me want a sexy Mafioso of my very own.


Act normal.

Mia raced through the Casino Italia, around brides-to-be, newlyweds, old men with bulging wallets, and young women in short skirts. She ran past slot machines, craps tables, and one of the highest stakes poker rooms in downtown Las Vegas. She pushed through the hordes of men crowded into the party pit to watch a sexy blackjack dealer dancing around a pole. And still she couldn’t find the exit.

Which was fine if you were operating a casino and you wanted to keep your customers trapped in a never-ending party.

Not so fine if you’d just hacked their security system and stabbed a guard on the way out.

Not fine at all.

She paused by a Big Six wheel to catch her breath. A blond woman in a pink tutu ranted at a casino worker because the waitress hadn’t returned with her drink. Mia wanted to tell her to take her chips to any other table. The house advantage at the Big Six was the highest of all the games in the casino. But she’d already caused enough problems today. It was supposed to be a simple penetration job—get into the control room, insert the USB, and go back to the office to hack the system—not an opportunity to avenge all women for every slimy sexist bastard who pinched a woman’s ass.

And no, Mia didn’t “deserve it” because she was dressed in a tiny black skirt, fishnet stockings, and a corset so tight her breasts threatened to explode over the top. She was just doing her job—although her real job just happened to be hacking into the casino’s computer system and not serving drinks to the guys in the control room.

In a perfect world, she would have laughed off the pinch, walked out of the casino, and typed up a report for the owner who had hired her to test the security of his new casino. Unfortunately, very little about Mia’s world was perfect, and it all suddenly came to a head when the guard in the control room decided to express his gratitude the sexist way.

So now he had a cute little tear in his security pants, courtesy of the knife she always carried in a sheath strapped to her thigh. Self-defense was a necessity for a girl growing up in a Mafia family, and habit had drawn the blade before her brain could pull the brakes. Big deal. It would give him character, a few stories to share over beer with the guys after work. Who knew he’d be so pissed? Or that a man his size could run so fast?

“Gotcha.” A clammy hand clamped down on Mia’s shoulder, yanking her back so hard she stumbled in the three-inch heels she wasn’t accustomed to wearing. Her hand shot down to her thigh, but the guard was ready for her this time. He grabbed her wrist and twisted her arm up behind her back. “I’m taking you to see the boss. He’s got zero tolerance for thieves.

“I wasn’t stealing.”

“You were doing something that wasn’t right.” With his free hand, he flicked on his radio and loudly announced that he had caught the “perp.”

People turned their heads and stared. Mia’s cheeks heated and she focused on the shiny, tiled floor, the looping, nondescript music, and the flashing lights of the slot machines. So much for not attracting attention. She’d never get another cyber-security contract if anyone heard she’d been caught in her own penetration test. The success of her business as a hacker and security consultant depended on keeping a low profile, and being frog-marched by a security guard through a high-end casino in somewhat provocative attire was as high-profile as low-profile could get.

Her captor walked her past two security guards, and through a set of sliding glass doors, into Casino Italia’s high-stakes gaming salon. Men in tuxedos sipped on snifters of bourbon beneath crystal chandeliers, and women in evening dresses lounged on rich, red-leather furniture, or punched buttons on the five-hundred-dollar-minimum slot machines. Mia wished she had that kind of money to throw away, but she’d traded her Mafia princess life for the poverty of independence and the chance to carve her own little niche in the world, however small.

They stopped in front of a stained-glass door guarded by two massive bouncers in sleek, black suits. After a few quiet words were exchanged, one of the bouncers opened the door and gestured them into the ultra-exclusive private gaming suite. Exquisitely decorated in rich purple, gold, and chocolate, the design was contemporary in a classic way, with expensive lamps, walls of books with neutral-hued spines, dark wood furniture, and velvet sofas. The sounds of the casino melted away as the door closed behind them.

“Over there.” He directed her past the unoccupied roulette and blackjack tables to a large poker table where five men in dark suits contemplated their cards. With a rough jerk, he pulled her to a stop behind a man with thick, dark hair, and broad shoulders, tapering to the narrow waist of his impeccably tailored suit.

He moved Mia slightly to the left and she caught a flash of a gold Vacheron Constantin watch, the perfectly turned cuff of a shirt, the sparkle of a diamond cufflink, and just a few inches of thick, tanned forearm that made her heart skip a beat.

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