La Fortuna DeVitis, Volume 1
What would you do if you discovered you weren’t who you thought you were? And that you were the victim of a secret so big…so important…it would literally change the world? What if you suddenly found yourself running for your life and your only lifeline was a man who’d kidnapped you from a club right in front of your friends?
How could you trust him? Why should you believe in him? Is he really the only thing standing between you and certain death? Or is he simply a tool for the unknown figures manipulating your existence from the shadows?
Sometimes a leap of faith is all you have. And sometimes that leap only plunges you more deeply into chaos.
As she stepped into the chaotic splendor of Vixen’s, Nicola Roche grinned widely, the stress of a busy week sliding away as the music and flashing lights worked their magic. Her small group of girlfriends hurried forward, pulling Nici along in their wake toward an empty high-topped table. The lucky find was strategically placed almost dead center between the bar and the jam-packed dance floor. The table must have just come open because it was rare to walk into the club and find an empty high-top, especially on a busy Saturday night. She swung her hand toward the neon light hanging over the opening to a dark hallway. “You guys go ahead. I’m just going to run to the Ladies,” she shouted.
The music pounded on like a lover’s elevated heartbeat, obscuring every other sound in the place. Nicola’s best friend, Angie cupped her ear, frowning. Clearly she hadn’t understood a word Nici had said. Nici pointed toward the restroom sign and Angie gave her a thumbs up. Nici pushed her way through the crowd, enduring a few unwelcome pats on her backside as she navigated through the thick press of moving bodies. She sighed in relief as she finally broke through and ducked into the dimly lit hallway. The lighting consisted of a couple of floor level lights and a neon sign above each of the two doors, one of a dancing woman and the other of a dancing man.
She grinned at the brightly colored animations, loving them. The moving signs were everywhere in the popular nightclub, giving it a futuristic feel that Nici thought was really cool. Her luck holding, she ducked into the Ladies restroom and found an open stall. A moment later she stepped out and found a spot at the long mirror. Washing her hands, she smiled at the other women arrayed along the brightly lit mirror and got a mixed bag of reactions for her effort. One woman grinned back at her. One winked naughtily. And one glared as if Nici had insulted her skintight jumpsuit and strappy four inch heels.
Nici shrugged it off, knowing the club catered to a lot of rich kids who thought anybody who didn’t share their tax bracket wasn’t worth their notice. Nici definitely wasn’t in their league. But she wouldn’t switch places with the snotty rich kids for anything in the world. Her middle class upbringing had been happy and filled with love. If she’d had to work for everything she had…then so much the better. Clearly she was happier than the kids glaring down their artificially perfect noses at her, and she suspected she appreciated things more for having had to work for them.
She left the restroom, dodging around a group of incoming girls who were chatting excitedly, and stopped to tug a strap on her shoe into place.
The door swung shut behind the girls and the light above the door was obscured as someone came up behind Nici. She started to straighten as a big form slammed into her, smashing her into the wall. She tried to shove backward, instinctively stabbing downward with a heel in an attempt to catch him in the foot. She cried out as a sharp, quick pain stung her neck. Kicking backward, she managed to graze a hard leg with her heel but it barely slowed him down. Her assailant gave her a violent shove, sending her flailing toward the men’s room. She wobbled on her heels and fell to her knees, yelping with pain as her bones connected with the tiles.
As soon as she could, she shoved herself upright and turned to see her assailant. The hallway was empty.
The door to the Ladies opened and light washed over her. The woman who’d returned her smile hurried over. “Are you okay?”
Nici pushed to her feet. “I’m fine. Somebody shoved me.”
“Damn!” the woman exclaimed. “That’s not cool.” She narrowed her gaze on Nici’s throat. “Is that blood?”
Nici reached up and felt the warm trickle of moisture down the side of her neck. “I must have jabbed myself with a nail when I fell.”
The other woman nodded. “Are you gonna be okay?”
“Yeah.” Nici forced a laugh. “I knew things were going too well tonight.”
The other woman laughed with her. “Right? Me too. I can’t believe my friends and I made it inside. The last four times we’ve tried to come the line was so long it was past my curfew by the time we got close to the door.”
Nici returned to the main room, the other woman babbling happily beside her. She turned to her as she spotted her friends sipping brightly colored drinks as they bounced to the music. “Well, thanks for your help. My friends are waiting for me.”
“Oh, yeah, sure. See ya around.”
Nici started through the crowd toward the table, happy to see a stool and a frosty beer waiting for her next to Angie.
She realized she was limping slightly as pain radiated from her knees and forced herself to stop. Grabbing a napkin from the top of the bar, she wiped the blood off her neck. She’d put the incident behind her and enjoy the night out with her friends. It was probably the last time she’d be out with them for a while. Since she’d been laid off her job in phone sales support the week before, she was going to have to start pinching pennies until she found another one.
A hand wrapped around her arm and she was tugged backward, hitting the firm heat of a wide chest. She tried to pull away, thinking she was dealing with another overzealous flirt. “Back off, buddy.” She jerked her elbow backward, earning herself a very satisfying grunt of pain. But the hand on her arm didn’t let go.
Hot breath bathed her ear. “Real funny, Elena. Now stop screwing around and come with me. You know it’s dangerous for you to be in here.”
She frowned, realizing he’d mistaken her for someone else. Nici turned her head and slid her gaze up, inhaling a quick rush of air as she got her first look at him.
His skin looked golden under the lights, his wide, square jaw taut with anger as he glared down at her. His eyes were a shade of forest green she’d never seen before, the lashes framing them thick and black. The lights played over his inky black hair, dancing along the glossy waves where it was longer at the top and dimming where he’d shaved it close on the sides.
He was huge, probably six foot five or six, with wide shoulders and massive arms. The hand on her upper arm easily encircled it, with long, dense fingers. He wore a round-necked shirt that glowed white under the spinning lights and lovingly hugged his pecs. The shirt was tucked neatly into a pair of dark denim jeans which looked painted on. A brown leather jacket covered the shirt and Nici wondered what he was hiding underneath it. It was way too warm, both outside and in, for leather.
Nici’s mouth watered as she stared up at him and she almost forgot to yank her arm away.
She remembered a beat later, when he tried to drag her toward the door. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you. Let go of me.”
She stomped on his toes and ground down, feeling the soft leather dent as she put all her weight onto his foot.
“Son of a…” Quick as a wink he wrapped his hands around her waist and hauled her off her feet, throwing her over his shoulder. She gave a little scream, tugging frantically on her short skirt in an attempt to cover her butt.
“Put me down you Neanderthal.”
“I’m taking you home and your father can deal with you.”
She kneed him in the belly and her bruised kneecaps screamed as she hit the unforgiving surface. “Ouch!”
She could almost feel him smile. “Serves you right.”
A man in a shiny suit circled around Nici and stepped in front of her abductor. The man carrying her toward the door barely hesitated as the manager held up a hand. “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to…”
“Mr. DeVitis appreciates your concern for his daughter but you need to step out of my way.”
Nici squirmed, pounding on his back. “This man is abducting me, do something!”
The manager blinked, his mouth opening and closing before he finally frowned, inclining his head. “Give Mr. DeVitis my regards.”
Her abductor didn’t bother to respond. He started toward the door, bodies magically moving out of his way as they neared the exit. As the door opened to admit a loud group of happy partiers, Nici’s head came up and she searched the crowd for her friends. Nobody. They hadn’t even seen her get abducted. Dammit!
“Well looky here. Such a pretty little ass…” A moist hand caressed her buttock and, like a cobra, her abductor struck, a big fist smashing into the young drunk’s face and sending him to the floor like a large sack of potatoes.
“Learn some respect, punk,” her abductor said on a growl before plunging them outside into the warm night air.
She barked out a shocked laugh. “You’re telling him to respect me? That’s rich.”
He didn’t even hesitate. His long strides took them quickly toward the street and he finally lowered her to the ground. She immediately went after him, fists flashing and elbows flying. She used every trick she’d learned in hours of self-defense classes but he seemed to anticipate all of them, easily shutting her down.
When he had both of her fists trapped in one of his big hands, a black eyebrow lifted in irritation, Nici tried the last trick in her arsenal. She went perfectly still, deliberately softening her muscles.
To her supreme annoyance, he grinned, pushing her toward the car. “Not gonna work, Elena.”
The door opened behind her and her abductor gave the dark suited man who’d opened it a smile. “Thanks, Mike.”
The doorman had longish blond hair, a square jaw and piercing gray eyes. “My pleasure. So, Elena, love the new hair style.”
Nici gave him a glare and then, hoping to catch them off guard, let all her weight drop to her heels and sagged downward, her hand tightening around the handle of her purse. She really wished she could get to the gun she carried in a hidden side pocket, but there was no way he’d give her that much time. So she did the next best thing. She screamed, launching herself off her toes and swinging the bag toward his head.
He grabbed her arm with one hand, tugging the purse easily from her grasp, and shoved her backward with the other.
She hit a soft leather seat and slid, hands scrabbling for purchase even as she skidded toward the far side of the car.
His hand snaked out and grabbed her ankle before her head connected with the door and, in the same move, he shoved in behind her, lifting her legs to rest across his lap. “Let’s go, Mike. Gordon’s anxious to hear that she’s okay.”
His gaze flashing with humor, the man he’d called Mike quietly closed the door and walked around the car, sliding behind the wheel. A moment later the engine of the long, black limousine rumbled to life and it glided away from the curb.