Frankie Ferone moves from the mob to an even more secretive group, the loup garou.
When attending a wedding, Frank Ferone is introduced to Rene DuBois, a violet eyed stranger. Rene has a secret to hide but can't overlook that he's met his mate. Rene starts to romance Frankie and soon Frankie falls in love. But how is he going to react when Rene tells Frankie he is loup garou. Werewolves? Really?
Don (Dante) Ferone’s Restaurant
Mulberry Street, Little Italy, Manhattan
Frankie Fitzgerald and his mother were alone in the Bride’s Room. She stood in front of the mirror, dreamy-eyed, adjusting her veil.
“I don’t understand, Mom. Why are you marrying this man? He’s a gangster.”
“What are you talking about, Frankie? Dante Ferone is a good man. He’s no gangster, he loves me very much. What gangster adopts another man’s child? Dante wants to be your father,” Brigit Fitzgerald told her son.
“He’s not my father. You’re marrying this man before Dad’s body is even cold.”
“Dante was your father’s friend and took care of us when your dad died.” His mother turned huffy. She frowned and tightened her lips. “Where did you ever hear a nasty expression like that?”
“The neighbors are talking. I overheard Mrs. Richards, next door.”
“Mrs. Richards knows nothing. I told you, Dante loves me. You should be happy that someone loves me and wants to take care of us.”
“He runs the mob…”
“Nonsense, you’ve been listening to that old biddy. Mrs. Richards has no idea what she’s talking about. Dante is a well-respected businessman who imports olive oil from Italy and Spain and owns this restaurant.”
Frankie shook his head. “Mom, get your head out of the clouds. If he’s legit, why does he have those goons constantly around him?”
“What did I tell you about lazy English? Legit indeed, and shame on you. Those men are his bodyguards, not goons. He explained that to us. Dante needs to be careful. He’s a very wealthy man, and there is a constant danger of kidnapping.”
“You believe that…you actually believe that…” Frankie took a deep breath and clenched his fists.
His mother grasped his shoulders. “Hush now. Dante loves us both. Why would he want to make you his son, if he didn’t love you? After all, he doesn’t have to adopt you. He wants to be your father.”
Despite his respect for his mother, Frankie’s voice turned cold. “I had a father. He died in Bosnia. I don’t need another one.”
“I don’t understand you. Dante has been nothing but good to you.”
He stiffened. “I’m gay. Have you told my new stepfather that yet? My father was a soldier, and he didn’t mind.”
“No, I haven’t told him yet, but…” A twenty-pound weight settled in Frankie’s stomach.
§ § §
Other families with graduates in full regalia streamed past Frankie and his mother as they walked away from Tercentenary Theatre to the special commencement parking area. Frankie had just received his MBA and made a speech as valedictorian of his graduating class. He had maintained a perfect grade point average. Despite his laudable achievement, he frowned at his stepfather.
Dante took Frankie’s seven-year-old brother by the hand and traveled on ahead to pull the car up closer to the commencement area. His mother’s arthritis pained her and it was difficult for her to walk too far. Her RA had been triggered by her pregnancy and in the intervening years had only gotten worse.
Frankie was grateful that for once, Dante’s goons hadn’t accompanied them. Dante Ferone had wanted this to be an intimate family experience for his wife, so they’d gone incognito.
Frankie complained to his mother, “I’ve applied for jobs all over Manhattan. I have a four-point-oh average, letters of recommendation from all my professors, and I barely got an internship. No one will hire me, Mom, because I’m Dante Ferone’s stepson.”
“Silly, of course you have someone to hire you…your father wants you to come and work for him. He has a position as his financial assistant for you. After all he’s done for you, it’s time to help him out. He says his personal assets are a mess, and he needs someone who knows what he’s doing to take charge of them. He decided to ask you.”
Frankie’s lips tightened. “Dante probably wants to hire me because of you and not my abilities. He doesn’t want his gay stepson constantly under his nose.” Frankie sounded bitter, even to his own ears.
His mother shook her head. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Dante has offered you every accommodation.”
“What’s wrong with me is he’s not my father,” Frankie rasped.
“He adopted you. That makes him your father in every sense but biological. Now he’s offering you a job when you can’t get one anywhere else. If you had that attitude when you went on interviews, it’s no wonder no one would hire you.” His mother pursed her lips then she sighed and patted his shoulder. “I know you two didn’t get along while you were a teen. Now you’re a grownup. Give him a chance. Go and work for Dante for a little while. He’ll give you a sterling recommendation, and he has an excellent reputation in the business community. By helping Dante, you secure your and your brother’s legacy. After working for your father for a little while, you’ll get a letter of recommendation with his signature. After that, you can find another job or, who knows,” his mother smiled, “you might like working for your father.”
She doesn’t have a clue, Frankie thought, but she’s my mother. I love her. I can’t destroy her world by making her take off the rose-colored glasses. She loves this man, and he obviously loves her, or else he’d cut me loose.
“Honey, would it be so bad for you to stay local and work for your father, so I could see you more often than I have since you went to Harvard?”
Frankie took a deep breath. I’m not going to win this one. “I suppose not, but I want to get my own apartment. I’m not going to be a monk. I want to date, and I’m sure Dante doesn’t want an orchestra seat for that play.”
“Don’t be that way. Dante isn’t prejudiced. He took me to see RENT.”
“I give up.” Frankie rolled his eyes. “All right I’ll go to work for Dante, but I insist on living in my own space. I’ve been on my own for the last six years, except for vacations. I even took classes during the summer. I’m not coming home to have my life monitored by my mother, and he’s not my father.”
They reached the curb, Dante pulled up in the Caddy, and the discussion was tabled. Later on that day, at the graduation party Dante threw for him, his stepfather took him aside to talk.
“I didn’t pay for your education to have you take all that expertise somewhere else. Give me ten years, and I’ll consider us even. But you will not flaunt your sexuality in my or my men’s faces.”
Frankie, aware of how much money Dante had spent on his education, and having no way of paying him back, had to agree. Despair threatened to drown him.
§ § §
Eight Days before the Julien, Richard, Henri, and Vitas Reception
Frankie answered his cell. “Julien? What can I do for you?”
“…and Vitas is in mortal danger. Henri’s people are in Alaska, and it will take at least eighteen hours to get them here. If the other men on the Board of Directors send their security to Henri, that leaves them vulnerable to the same mad Russian. Henri will gladly pay you and your men to cover his house.”
“You’re a friend, I don’t charge friends. Call Henri and tell him my men will be there within the hour.”
The back of Frankie’s neck prickled. Julien wouldn’t ask unless the situation was dire. Frankie had a feeling that there was more to this request than a simple job. He made some calls.
Henri and Vitas’ Townhouse
The Wedding Reception for Alphas Bellaire and Giraud
Frankie Ferone arrived late to the reception just in time to see Henri and Vitas before they snuck away upstairs. He caught sight of Julien speaking to a dark-haired, violet-eyed stranger. Julien raised his hand in greeting, and Frankie quickly made his way across the room. He wanted an introduction.
§ § §
René had the day off and didn’t want to attend the reception at Alpha Giraud’s home to celebrate his and Alpha Bellaire’s weddings to their Alpha Mates. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Alphas Bellaire or Giraud. He liked them fine. He also approved of the Alpha Mates the gods had chosen. René just wanted to spend a day in his own house doing whatever. As the Beta charged with security for The Alpha and assigned to The Alpha Mate, most of the time his life was not his own. However, his brother Martin, The Alpha’s other Beta, had insisted he attend. Since Martin never asked him for something unimportant, René had acquiesced.
All the Alphas and their Mates had shown an unusual interest in him today. At first, he’d planned to make a perfunctory appearance, but upon his arrival, one person after another had engaged him in conversation. René felt as if he were the most popular person at the party. He’d spoken to every Alpha and all the Alpha Mates. Eying the door, he planned his escape, but Alpha Bellaire waylaid him with another question about security that René thought, sourly, he could have asked his own Beta.
The doorbell rang, and Bertrand answered. He announced…René sniffed the air…chocolate…dark chocolate-covered caramel. He lifted his head, then choked…his Mate. That was his Mate, and he smelled like chocolate candy. Alpha Bellaire smiled and gestured his Mate toward them. He scanned the room. Everybody was smiling. Martin wore a smug expression. They knew, they all knew. How could they have known? Vitas! Oh, my gods, Vitas told them.
Julien stepped up to greet him. “Hello, Frankie. Richard, Henri, Vitas, and I are happy you made it.” He cleared his throat. “Oh, I’m rude. You don’t know René. René DuBois, Frankie Ferone. Frankie, René DuBois. René heads up security for Mr. La Marche.” Julien faced René. “You may know Frankie’s father, Dante Ferone.”
His Mate’s smile grew tight. “Dante is my stepfather. He adopted me when I was twelve. My father’s name was Francis Xavier Fitzgerald. He was an Army Ranger who fell to a Serbian bullet in the Bosnian War. My mother married Dante when I was eleven.”
I need to smooth the waters here. Julien has annoyed my Mate. “I’m sorry for your loss. It’s devastating to lose a parent, especially as a young boy.” Curious, René couldn’t help but ask, “Do you work for your stepfather?”
Frankie frowned. “I have, albeit reluctantly, for the past ten years. I’m desperately searching for alternate employment. Unfortunately, that’s difficult when your last name is Ferone. Julien promised to give my résumé to Mr. LaMarche. I’ve heard he needs a financial assistant. While I’ve worked for my stepfather, I took care of his personal finances, and I managed to triple his holdings without doing anything illegal—something Dante fails to appreciate.”
“My brother and I work for Mr. La Marche,” René told him. “Martin is his Chief Deputy, and I head up his personal security.”
Frankie suddenly appeared hopeful, as if he thought René could help him. “I have an MBA from Harvard, carried a four-point-oh average, and graduated as the valedictorian of my class, but I couldn’t get work because of my last name.”
“The Al…Mr. La Marche wouldn’t hold your name against you. When necessary, he deals with your stepfather. However, there may be other considerations. I promise I’ll speak to him tonight. Is your stepfather on board for you to poke around for something else?”
Frankie nodded. “When I first went to work for him, he demanded ten years in payment for my education. Since I couldn’t get a job anywhere else, I agreed.”
René was incensed for his Mate. “That’s slave labor.”
At that moment Julien quietly excused himself.
Frankie sighed. “I did it because of my mother. She doesn’t see Dante as he is. After all these years, she still sees him as a legitimate businessman, and I’ve given up trying to tell her differently. It will be ten years this month. You can say what you want about Dante, but I’ve never known him to go back on his word. I think he’s counting on me not being able to find employment elsewhere.”
“You said your father’s name was Fitzgerald? Irish, isn’t it?” Bertrand came up behind them, and René grabbed his drink from Bertrand’s tray.
“Can I get you anything, Mr. Ferone?”
Frankie seemed to glance over to see what René was drinking. “Yes, black Irish, if you will.” His Frankie changed the subject. “If you don’t mind me asking, what are you drinking?” He scrutinized the drink René held.
René felt his skin turn hot. Wolves weren’t supposed to blush. He tried to cover by appearing nonchalant. “I like sweet drinks. This one’s called Sex on the Beach. I know it’s not manly, but there it is.”
“Sex on the Beach.” Frankie chuckled. “What’s in it?”
René held his drink up, and Frankie sniffed, almost wolflike. “Vodka, Peach Schnapps, pineapple juice, cranberry juice, and Chambord—it’s a very sweet drink— fruity.”
“I like sweet drinks.” Frankie’s lips turned up at the corners. “Bertrand, please, I’ll have one of these.”
“Something we have in common…I’m hoping to find a lot more things we have in common.” René grinned. My Mate is handsome, those emerald eyes sparkle in a totally masculine face…strong angles, high, cut cheekbones, ears close to the skull, intellect all housed in a killer body. The gods have blessed me.
§ § §
Who is this man? Frankie wondered. I’ve seen Martin accompany Mr. La Marche, but I’ve never seen René. He said he stays with Mr. La Marche’s husband.
“Is it tedious guarding Mr. La Marche’s husband? I’ve heard he’s a potter. He must spend a great deal of time in the studio, leaving you at loose ends.”
Bertrand brought Frankie his drink and he took a sip.
“Sean also goes to NYU,” René explained. “He’s working on a pot to serve as his master’s work. He was going in one direction when he met Armand. After Armand had taken him back to our ranch in New Mexico, he hired a potter from the Jemez Pueblo to teach Sean Native American pottery techniques. He was especially interested in the brushwork in patterns worked from clay. He wants to use the same delicate geometric patterns in a line of porcelain. Since it’s something completely new, there is a lot of trial and error. Armand has encouraged him to follow his dream since he doesn’t have to worry about making a living. I spend a lot of time in the studio with Sean, taking him to his classes at NYU, and traveling with him as he goes to visit friends.”
“Does he need that amount of personal security?” Frankie was surprised at the level of protection Sean seemed to require.
“He was kidnapped once, about two years ago. They also have an adopted daughter, Elena. She was five at the time. Sean brought Elena to the children’s museum in Albuquerque, and a female relative from the ranch took Elena to the restroom, supposedly while she changed her own babies. When neither Elena nor Adele came out after about ten minutes, Sean went in after her. Armand’s enemies drugged Sean and took him out another entrance, so Martin and I didn’t even see them leave. Sean was sorely used.” René grimaced. “Martin and I are still kicking ourselves because we didn’t go in to check on Elena ourselves, and let him go in alone.”
“That is a horror story, but if it’s any comfort, I would have let Sean go alone to get Elena, too. She’d be less embarrassed if her daddy went in to get her instead of me. My inclination would be to stay outside close by the door on the principal that the least amount of men in the ladies’ room would be best. You must have been nuts with worry.”
René nodded. “I second-guessed myself and was debating with Martin when I heard Elena scream. I ran to the door. Only a few minutes had passed since Sean walked in after her. Elena was in the stall and screaming because someone took Daddy. That was the worst moment of my life. They were pulling away in a waiting car when I caught up with them. Dimitri, one of the kidnappers, got off a shot, and I was grazed. We had to take Elena home before we could hunt for The Al…Sean.”
“Another Russian.” Frankie shook his head. “What happened? Did you find him?”
“No, we didn’t. We found Adele’s husband Bernard, and although he had a role in orchestrating the kidnapping, he had no idea where Dimitri took Sean. Sean escaped the kidnapper’s clutches on his own. He made it to the local Walmart with broken bones and had the greeter call us at the ranch. At the time, I was surprised that Armand didn’t have both Martin’s and my head. Fortunately, at least fortunately for us, he had other things to occupy his mind once Sean was safe.”
“I can imagine Dante’s reaction if someone took my mother or my brother.” Frankie shuddered.
“I remember Sal Ferrara was once Dante’s heir. Why wasn’t it you or your brother?”
“I want no part of his business. That distresses my mother because she thinks he imports olive oil and can’t understand why I won’t follow in my stepfather’s footsteps.”
René suppressed a laugh by coughing.
“I know, right—the mob cliché, shades of The Godfather. I have a half brother, Dante Jr. He’s seventeen. My stepfather doesn’t want him in the business. My mother can’t understand why he wanted me but not my brother. Blood means a lot to Dante’s people. He wants his son to have the money but not be in the kind of danger the business presents. I’m disposable because I’m adopted.” Frankie took a deep breath and blew it out. “He thought I’d jump at the chance to be the Don. I despise the job and the title, but it doesn’t do me any good. I thought he hired me to make him legit—far from it. However, I refuse to have any part of his criminal activities. I will bend the law for him but not break it, so I get jobs like guarding Richard and managing Dante’s personal finances.”
“With your credentials, that must eat at you, especially since, because of him, you can’t get work elsewhere.” René patted Frankie on the shoulder, and an electric shock surged through his arm. Frankie glanced down and saw a thread. He tried to grab at it, but his arm went right through it.
“What’s wrong?” René’s violet eyes sparkled.
“It’s nothing. I see a thread. I must have a floater in my eye.” René grinned, a playful sparkle lighting his eyes. Frankie liked the way René’s eyes crinkled when he smiled. He was in serious lust. Suddenly, he was ravenous. “Is that a buffet table over there?”
“I believe Aline and Isabel tried to outdo each other.” René made a sweeping gesture with his arm. “Come on, I’ll get you a plate.”
§ § §
“Alpha, I see the pheromones have started to affect Frank Ferone. He’s piling food on his plate at the buffet line.” Martin gestured toward the other side of the room. “How will René’s mating affect the pack?”
“I’m considering hiring Frankie Ferone to fill the position Hughes held,” Armand said. “But if Frankie takes it, I intend to make it more robust. Of course, that is if we can obtain approval of his employment from Don Ferone.”
Julien walked up to join the group. “Armand, I couldn’t help but overhear you talking about Frankie. He spoke to René and me about his employment with his father. He was bound to his father for ten years. That period is over this month. Frankie says Don Ferone is a man of his word and will let him go.”
“But will he let him come to us? Don Ferone doesn’t appreciate that we are a force in this city that rivals his. The only thing that keeps the peace is that he knows we will kill no human. That, and the fact that occasionally, we are of use to each other. That’s why we have a delicate truce. This peace was hard won. We cannot put it in jeopardy.”
Bertrand walked by bearing a beverage tray. Armand turned. “A cognac?”
“Alpha Giraud has some Camus, Alpha.”
“That will do.” The Alpha nodded.
“I’ll have it to you right away, Alpha.” Bertrand headed for the bar.
“Martin, I find I want to be introduced. I’d like to do an informal interview, maybe in Henri’s study. Find Henri and send him there. Bring René and Frankie upstairs to meet with us. Julien, you’re with me. The two of you will make Frankie more comfortable.”
§ § §
“I can’t believe I polished off the whole plate. I must have been ravenous.” Frankie handed his plate to a server.
René chuckled. “Both Aline and Isabel are excellent cooks.”
“I know. I tried to purloin Isabel from Julien for my mother and almost got smacked with her spoon. I didn’t try a second time with Aline.” Frankie gave René a wry smile.
“Do you live with your mother and stepfather?”
“No…I was able to negotiate my own space. I refused to work for Dante unless I could have my own apartment.” Frankie shivered at the memory.
“Where do you live?”
“Near Mr. La Marche. I have a condo in Chelsea that I have for sale. I should make a decent profit on it even though it’s a small studio.” At that moment Bertrand brought both Frankie and René another Sex on the Beach. “Thank you. You’re prescient. I was about to ask.” Henri’s factotum smiled warmly.
Armand raised his hand, and the man cut across the room toward Mr. La Marche.
“Why are you selling?” René asked, gaining Frankie’s attention away from Armand.
“If I can get a job, it’s not going to pay me what Dante does because I’ll be at entry level. I won’t be able to afford it. I’ll probably have to commute from Jersey.”
“Not necessarily true. I own a house two doors from Armand on the Square.” René’s voice sounded soft and reassuring.
“You own a house on Washington Square?” Frankie arched one eyebrow.
“The house has been in the family for years. My brother lives in a house next door to Armand.”
“Even if you own it outright, Armand must pay very well. The taxes have to be astronomical.”
“He pays well, but I also have investment income.” René pursed his lips. “I have plenty of money but working for Armand doesn’t leave me much time. I’m always on call.”
“I can understand that. Dante is also a demanding boss. I’m on call twenty-four seven. He lives in a huge brownstone in Brooklyn, just over the bridge, near where Mr. Clavier lives. He wanted me to live with them. We compromised. I live in Chelsea but carry a dedicated cell phone which I never turn off.”
“Life with Armand won’t be that much different,” René warned.
“But it will be legal, or at least legal enough that I don’t need to argue about whether I can fulfill my duties in good conscience.” Frankie heard his name mentioned and took his attention reluctantly away from the fascinating man in front of him.
“Mr. Ferone,” Martin repeated and walked over to join them.
René turned to Martin. “I’m sure you’ve met Frankie…”
“Not formally, I’m René’s brother, Martin, Mr. La Marche’s deputy. How do you do? I came over because Mr. La Marche wants to speak to you about employment. As I’m sure Henri or Julien have told you, he’s seeking an assistant.”
Frankie lifted an eyebrow to René, and René nodded. They followed Martin from the room.
Finally, he might be able to make the change he’d always wanted to make with his life, but would it cost him? Working for his father had taught him that everything came with a price.