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Reign (The Syndicate_ Crime and Passion Book 2)

By:Kaye Blue

Reign (The Syndicate_ Crime and Passion Book 2) - Kaye Blue





Kaye Blue



One





The bouquet was a lead weight in her hands.

They’d always looked so light, so hopeful, she’d thought hers would feel like nothing, or maybe that she’d be so happy she wouldn’t notice the weight.

She wasn’t happy, and she did notice.

The flowers—white roses that, in her opinion were almost funereal, appropriate given the situation—weighed her down far more than she could have dreamed. Her wrists strained to keep them upright. At least the satin ribbon they were wrapped in was smooth, soft, and kept the rough stems from scratching her palms.

One tiny concession to her comfort, the only concession she would get today.

The music started, and after a beat, she began to move, slightly wobbling on the sky-high heels she wore, but she caught her balance quickly. This entire day was a nightmare—she wouldn’t add her humiliation to the events.

And so, her spine steel straight, she put one foot in front of the other, ignoring the swish of the heavy dress against her stocking-clad legs, ignoring the brush of air against the sweetheart neckline of her bodice, but unable to ignore the tightness in her chest, knowing that the squeeze was not solely because of the corset that held her so tight.

Breathe. Just breathe.

She whispered the words in her mind, used them to hold her up. They did, making it possible for her to walk down the long and seemingly ever-longer length of the aisle.

She suddenly wished she wasn’t alone.

Her sister was nowhere to be found. She didn’t allow herself to think about her mother. When she glanced left, she saw her father. One glimpse at him, and she knew she had done the right thing, walking down the aisle by herself.

He would have barely been able to walk this far. His injuries weren’t healed enough for that, though she knew he would have tried. Even if he had been able, it would have been a terrible idea.

Because even though he was battered, she could see the rage in his face, could feel his impotent anger as if it were a tangible thing. Simply sitting there, watching this, was threatening to break his control. If he had participated, he wouldn’t have been able to stop himself.

And people would have died.

She didn’t want that; she never wanted that, which was why she was going through with this.

So she looked away from her father and kept walking. Kept walking until she finally reached the priest.

She met his eyes, saw something she couldn’t interpret there. Maybe he knew what this was, maybe he actually cared, but even if he did, he couldn’t help her.

No one could.

This was, as all had been for so very long, up to her.

With that reminder, she finally turned to face the man who would be her husband.





Two





One Hour Earlier…



Sergei



“Did Santo send you here to murder me?” I asked.

The old man who stood on a short stool in front of me gasped, dropped his hands, and then stepped back. I reached out quickly to catch him and righted him on the stool.

“Just kidding,” I said.

From the man’s wide, shocked eyes, I could tell he didn’t appreciate the humor.

“N-No…of course not, sir,” he said, stammering. He gestured toward the half-knotted tie that hung around my neck. “I just wanted it to be perfect. No harm intended. Please…”

As he spoke, he grew more and more animated, and I could see the hard beat of his pulse and his harsh inhales.

“It’s fine. Just finish,” I said, trying to calm him.

Failing to, if the shaky hands he lifted were any indication. I stayed quiet, though, and let him finish knotting the tie around my neck. Then he stepped off the stool and returned with a black jacket he held up. I took it from him and slipped it over the crisp white shirt I wore, one he had made himself.

The old man reached toward me tentatively, and when I nodded, he buttoned the jacket and smoothed the lapels. He stepped back when he was done, and even though he was afraid, I could see the gleam of pride in his eyes.

I glanced at the mirror.

“Not bad,” I said, taking in my reflection. “The tux, I mean,” I added, for some reason not wanting the old man to think of me as cocky, though I sure as fuck was.

“Thank you, sir,” he said.

“You can go now. Here.” I reached into my pocket and handed the man a wad of bills.

He took them and left without another word, moving faster than a man his age should have been able to. I often had that effect on people.

The Syndicate had been in the city for months, and there was tension as people tried to figure out who was in charge, and what might happen to them. The old man had been Santo Carmelli’s personal tailor and had resisted my job offer, no doubt worried what Santo might do to him for his betrayal.

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