Can a heart learn more than just violence?
Enzo is “the Martinelli,” the head of the Martinelli family drug empire. He has known very little softness in his life, only the love of his younger brother and his niece. But when fate leads him to rescue a brutalized young man, he finds he cannot let the young man go without trying to help him. It’s his chance to do something good for someone who desperately deserves it, a distraction from the mafia life or murder and intrigue. But he wishes the submissive young man would quit fawning and calling him “master.” While he’d love to take the young man up on his sexual offers, Enzo’s tastes run to the darker side, and that’s the last thing the young man needs.
Chase Connors hasn’t known love in a long time, maybe never. As a slave to a sadistic master, he’s learned to get what he needs with sex. He doesn’t understand why this new “master” has been so generous—bringing him to live at Tanglewood, his vast family estate, sending him to college, and showing him affection—when to everyone else he’s hard and distant. The only way Chase knows to thank him is with his body—but Enzo appears to be straight, if his pregnant girl friend is any indication. But when Chase sees Enzo kissing another man, he knows he has a chance to win over the dominant Enzo. Seeing his chance, he stalks Enzo on his own turf—a nightclub called Dark Whispers—and gives Enzo a show he simply cannot refuse. Until someone else comes gunning for the Martinelli, and a horrible explosion destroys everything…
Chapter OneChase fastened the seat belt with shaking fingers, then curled into his seat, a wary eye fixed on the man beside him.The helicopter rose with smooth ease, and Chase’s companion lifted a long-fingered hand in farewell to the small group of family and friends below.He shivered. He had grown used to his position on the island, serving as unofficial companion to the convalescing Kirith Martinelli. Now, Kirith was back with his lover, Landon, and his daughter, Laura. Chase was not needed.He shivered once more, wrapping his arms around himself in a futile search for comfort. This was the first time he had been alone with his rescuer, and the power emanating from the man made him want to fling himself to the floor and offer obeisance to lessen the degree of punishment he was sure to receive. For them to be sitting side by side, as though they were equals, made Chase tense and anxious. This went against every bit of training he’d ever received, but he had discovered that his new master frowned upon any of his former actions, even to refusing sexual favors. Chase had tried numerous times to offer his body, but to his increasing fear, his new master seemed impervious to his charms. That could not mean anything positive. Sex was all he was good for. If his master did not want that, he was sure to get rid of him, and he would be back in the hell he had been rescued from.“Chase.”He froze, shaken from his tortured musings. Immediately he bowed his head and tried to curl in his seat enough to convey respect and obedience.A huff of breath told him his actions had not found favor.“Chase, look at me.”With difficulty he looked up, unable to make his gaze go higher than lips drawn into a thin line. It was forbidden, under pain of beating, ever to meet a master’s eyes. The closest he could come was focusing on the lean Italian nose and thinking how utterly beautiful his new master was.“My brother tells me that you think I will dispose of you as soon as I arrive back on the mainland.”Chase’s breath ceased altogether. How could Kirith have betrayed him?He cupped Chase’s chin with his lean hand and tilted his head up just slightly so he had to meet that cool gaze. “I told you back when we rescued both you and Laura that you were with me now. I meant that. That does not mean that I am going to discard you when you are not convenient.” Complete conviction resounded in that deep, low tone. Chase believed what his master said was true. At least it was for now.“Yes, master,” he whispered.A sigh this time. “I have told you before. You call me Enzo. Or if that is too difficult, Mr. Martinelli.”He nodded, flushing. He had forgotten—again. It just was so hard to go against his training. “Yes, sir.”Enzo shook his head, but his face seemed to soften slightly, a rare sight indeed. “Close enough.” The stern tone returned. “Don’t call me master again. I am nothing like the bastards who treated you like a living sex toy.” The distaste in the words made him cringe. His mas—Mr. Martinelli was right. He was nothing like those other men. Enzo was so much more, like a hero of old. He had rescued Chase from hell—and then kept him. No one had ever wanted to keep him before. He looked up adoringly, wishing he could express his feelings in some fashion that did not disgust Mr. Martinelli.Those brown eyes searched his expression for long moments, then Enzo sighed again, patting his cheek gently before releasing his face.“I have work to do. Just relax. You don’t have to do anything, be anything. Just watch the view, all right?”Chase nodded, overwhelmed with the kindness he was being shown. It was as if he were a person. Did Mr. Martinelli see him as a person? He was not even sure what that meant. He saw himself as less than nothing; that had been drilled into him from a child, from the day of his first training session. What did his rescuer see that was so much more?He chewed at his thumbnail, watching Enzo from beneath the fringe of his hair.The Martinelli had a headset on and began barking orders to someone, the muted roar of the helicopter seeming little impediment.Chase sighed softly. Enzo was not quite real to him, more like a fictional character who had swept out of nowhere to save a tortured soul.The sheer beauty of the man made him almost more than believable: the short black hair so perfectly styled, the harsh, chiseled face that so seldom showed any expression, the brown eyes that seemed almost black in most lights. His body was powerful, broad-shouldered, slim-hipped, his beautiful dark skin showing his Italian ancestry clearly. He had the leashed energy of a predator, hyper-aware of his surroundings, but content to relax until something drew that intimidating gaze. This man was no one to cross. He had defeated Chase’s former master, Marcello—killed him to save Kirith. This was not a gentle man, but in all Chase’s life, he had known nothing but violence. That Enzo had shown him a form of caring beyond that was hard to fathom.Chase could have stared at him all day, but he knew that could only bring about irritation in the end, so he reluctantly turned his attention to the window beside him, watching the sea below with increasing fascination. He had never had the opportunity to see out during the last flight to the island, so this was his first view of the sea from such a vantage point.He felt so much better physically that it was hard to believe this was not all a mirage. He had enough to eat, and he slept in a clean, fresh bed. He was never required to give himself sexually, although that part gave him great anxiety. Perhaps with time, his mas—Mr. Martinelli—might come to see him as attractive enough for sexual use, but until then, he would strive to account himself in any way possible.He struggled to believe that here—at last—was hope.