The Muscle: Part OneBy: Michelle St. James
A Mob Boss Serial
Lucas Cassano took a swig of his beer, watching with interest as a balding middle-aged man tried desperately for the affection of a much younger woman at the outdoor bar. The man sat too close to her, his gleaming pate shining with sweat as he laughed too loud and touched her knee one too many times. The woman was obviously not impressed, and Luca watched as she leaned away each time the man got close, her body language shouting at him to leave her alone.
Luca wanted to tell the man to back off — both as a Public Service Announcement to him and as a favor to the woman — but he held himself in check. After months working to bring down the Syndicate and Raneiro Donati, he was in need of some much needed downtime. He loved Nico Vitale like a brother — and had grown to love Angel, the love of Nico’s life, just as much — but the running and traveling and watching his back had taken its toll. Luca thought he’d been under the radar as Nico’s second-in-command, but it hadn’t turned out that way, and Luca had found himself out of a job and signing amnesty papers with the Feds after Raneiro was killed in Rome.
He was looking forward to his new job as a bodyguard for the progeny of one of Miami’s most affluent families. That the child in question was the daughter of a well known drug kingpin didn’t bother him in the least. He was done taking a personal interest in the goings-on of his employer. Now he would be nothing but hired muscle, and he was totally fine with that.
He took another drink of the beer and turned to survey the hotel property. Situated on the beach in Miami, the hotel was small compared to the monstrosities that surrounded it. He didn’t mind. It felt more personal, and he admired the pool gleaming blue under the roof of the building, the sound of the ocean rushing the sand in the darkness beyond the bar.
He finished his beer and set down the empty bottle, giving the woman and older man a cursory glance as he walked past them. He wished them well, though he doubted either of them would get what they wanted tonight.
He headed toward the hotel, the property immaculately landscaped with palm trees and white lights, the pool glowing in the distance. It was early to be calling it a night, but he had to report to the Fuentes estate first thing in the morning, and he wanted to be refreshed and ready to go. The job would be an easy one, but it was always draining to start over.
He knew that better than anyone.
He’d thought his years of starting over were behind him, but he didn’t bemoan the change of plan. Shit happened. You adapted and survived or you didn’t survive at all. And Luca always survived. He survived as a kid, dodging his father’s drunken fists, and again as an adolescent on the streets, trying to avoid social services after his father was put in jail. It hadn’t been easy, but Luca had quickly learned how to protect himself using both brain and brawn.
Joining the Vitale family had been a turning point. There he’d found brotherhood, family. The fact that the Vitale’s were the East Coast arm of the Syndicate, a consortium that controlled organized crime across the globe, hadn’t mattered. Luca had done his share of illegal things in the name of survival, and the Vitale family was more conscionable than most. Luca had pledged his loyalty to Nico without question, even when it meant making an enemy of Raneiro Donati after Nico fell in love with Angel Rossi.
Now Raneiro was dead and the Syndicate was in chaos. Those who had received amnesty were scattered to the wind, looking over their shoulders, hoping no one came after them. Everyone else was in jail awaiting trial. Nico and Angel were on a beach somewhere, finally getting the happy ending they deserved with their infant daughter. Luca was happy for them, but he wanted no part of love. He’d seen what that kind of vulnerability did to a man. He was good at being alone, and while he’d had his share of affairs over the years, they’d always been brief, eventually ending because he couldn’t — wouldn’t — open up.
Luca had no hard feelings. The women he’d known had been good to the last. They deserved to be with someone who loved them, heart and soul, and Luca wasn’t sure he had enough of either to go around.
He continued toward the glow of the pool. He would need to find a place to rent if he was going to stay in Miami, preferably someplace close to the beach. It was the same ocean he’d seen every day in New York, but it felt entirely different. Here the water was as blue as azure, as warm as a kiss. The breeze was balmy, even a little heavy, and there was something comforting in the way it blew across his face off the water. He didn’t know how long he’d stay, but right now, it felt like just what he needed.