Their love was the stuff of Shakespeare - two star-crossed lovers from rival MC's, divided by their families' bloody history, but fate has given Eagle and Serafina a second chance. Can the biker and the stripper find their redemption in Violetta Rand's sexy standalone romance, One Taste of Angel?
I’ve bled for my club. Taken four bullets. Buried eight brothers in six years. Screwed a hundred women. And only loved one. The one I lost. But there's something about Serafina that reminds me of just exactly what was taken from me. Not just because I can't resist a damsel in distress.
To Eagle, I’m dead. Murdered and cremated, my ashes interred at the local cemetery. Part of a past I left long ago to save his life. Seeing him now, touching him again makes me weak, even if he doesn't recognize the woman I've become. Since my escape from Holly Beach five years ago, I’ve lived by my own rules. And no matter how much I love Eagle, he’s not going to break those rules.
"Riveting, gritty cast of characters! I was captivated by this intimate glimpse into the volatile MC world. Violetta Rand's ability to portray the essence of true love is enjoyable. Great read!" -USA Today Bestselling Author D.L. Roan
About the Author
Raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, Violetta Rand spent her childhood reading, writing, and playing soccer. She lives in Anchorage, Alaska and spends her days writing evocative contemporary and historical romance. When she’s not reading, writing, or editing, she enjoys time with her husband, pets, and friends. Violetta is the author of Viking Hearts.
Read an Excerpt
One Taste Of Angel
By Violetta Rand
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Violetta Rand
All rights reserved.
Five years later
Holly Beach, Louisiana
I begged Ben not to book this party. I recognize the house from my childhood adventures, biking around the neighborhood. Gang leader Lazaro Mendoza lives here. The bachelor party is listed under John Smith. Whenever my boss writes that alias on a work order, warning bells go off. I frown as the limo stops in front of the beachside address. Working for a private striptease company is nearly as dangerous as being a call girl. I scan the faces of my associates. Jeanie and Jana are identical twins — tall and blond, everything I'm not. They smile at me.
Whenever customers order blond Amazons from the catalog my boss sends me along as a bonus. I'm barely five-three, Italian, with green eyes and dark curly hair. There's never enough Barbie to go around. Ben always thinks I'll appeal to the locals — whatever that means.
Our driver opens the limo door and I step onto the cobblestone driveway, the first time I've smelled salt air in Louisiana in five years. When I escaped Holly Beach, I never dreamed of coming back. Not like this — hair dyed, a nose and cheek job, and color contacts to disguise who I really am.
But the assholes inside won't know me. Neither do my coworkers. To them, I'm just the naive part-time college girl who wandered into Ben's office looking for a job.
"Ladies," the driver says, offering his hand.
The twins slide out.
"What's wrong, Serafina?" Tony asks.
I cross my arms over my chest. "You know whose house this is."
He shakes his head. "A three thousand dollar booking fee says I don't."
Our boss, Ben Matthews, holds a monopoly on the private striptease circuit from Beaumont, Texas, to the western half of Louisiana. He also owns a large limousine company. "Your silence is cheap." I shove my dance bag higher on my arm. "What about the Olsen twins?"
He snickers at my sarcasm. "What they don't know ..."
"Yeah." I'm not sure those two know much except how to bump and grind each other and the customers. It's disconcerting to watch them sometimes, how far they're willing to go for big tips. Good thing I brought my chemistry book; I'll study while they entertain.
Before I can finish the thought, the front doors of the house open. A tall man in a charcoal suit steps outside. "Mr. Connors?" Tony shakes hands with him. "I'm Mr. Diaz, your liaison for the evening."
I roll my eyes. We have a liaison? The idea just reinforces the negativity I feel for the cartel. They make their money off the pain and suffering of people — getting them hooked on the drugs they sell. I glare at Diaz, wishing I was at home. He continues. "Any financial transactions will be handled through me. Anything you need — find me. Understand?"
"Yes, sir." Tony nods obligingly.
I know what lurks underneath Tony's country boy simper — a black belt and a loaded Desert Eagle. He turns and presses his hand against the small of my back. "May I present Serafina?"
Diaz's gaze roams over me appreciatively. "Very lovely. And the twins?"
They scoot closer, giggling. "Ah ... perfect." He claps his big hands together. "Please, follow me inside."
We head down a long hallway off the great room. Diaz opens a door. "I hope these accommodations are acceptable."
Tony steps through the door first; I follow. I spin slowly. It's a beautiful suite, complete with matching four-poster beds, a sitting area with a gas fireplace near a hot tub, and a ridiculously large bathroom. "We'll manage," I comment.
Tony throws me a shut up look.
Diaz smirks. "Good," he says. "I'll see you in an hour." He exits the room and closes the door.
"Turn off the charm, Serafina," Tony warns.
Jeanie and Jana throw their bags down and head for the hot tub. I bounce on one of the beds. "Very Scarlett O'Hara-ish," I say.
"I don't think she lived in a ten-thousand-square-foot hacienda," Tony replies.
"Probably not," I agree. "But the décor is Old South."
He nods. "Listen, Scala," he says. "This isn't the typical party."
"I gathered that ... what's with Alfred Pennyworth?"
"Batman's butler," I reply. "Don't you know anything?"
He laughs. "I don't think Diaz qualifies as a loyal butler. He's a no-nonsense money man."
"Like a banker?"
"No," Tony's voice grows more serious. "More like a hitman with an open wallet."
"Oh." I consider it, knowing the clientele before I even meet them. Holly Beach is a family town. But once the sun sets, the truth is exposed. The dirty truth. A crossroads for cartel heroin on its way to places like Atlanta and Miami, real life gangsters and hardcore MCs have established themselves here. One of the reasons I sought refuge somewhere else. "Who's the lucky bachelor?" He joins me on the bed. "You already know."
"Shit," I say sarcastically. "Not only did the most eligible bachelor market just shrink by twenty percent, now I'm afraid I'll never get a shot at him. What's next for Ben, booking parties in prison?"
Tony pats my knee. "Listen, kiddo, I know boss man tricked you into doing this. Make the best of it, enjoy the money while you can."
"You think this is about money?" I ask incredulously. "If I wanted to be a stripper, I'd work at a club, not here."
His eyebrow raises. "But you are a stripper."
This is a point of contention between the two of us. "By default."
"I admit Ben is a prick. When he see's something he wants, he goes for it. Sorry. Can't cry over spilt milk. Time to put aside the 'tude, get ready for the party, okay?"
I heave a sigh. Sure, that's easy for Tony to say. All my dreams got flushed down the fucking toilet the day I met Ben in his pristine downtown office. He maintains the perfect front — the right business address, an attractive secretary, portraits of his lead talent hanging on the walls — a photography studio ... The bastard lied. And like a starry-eyed fool, I fell for it and signed the contract without reading the fine print. Lingerie model turned stripper. In short, I'm prohibited from accepting any other employment unless Ben approves of the job. Of course he won't, even if it's flipping burgers in the campus kitchen. So I either shake my ass for the next two years or starve.
I pass by the twins, still in the hot tub, wishing I had a pair of rubber duckies to throw at them. Bert and Ernie possess more brain cells between them. I swear it's not a jealousy thing — I just don't tolerate stupid well.
Half an hour later, someone knocks on the door. Tony lets Diaz in. Diaz circles the twins, who are dressed and ready to go. He nods in affirmation — some kind of meat inspector.
When he approaches me, I warn him. "I'm not changing into another outfit."
I should have protested this gig more. But this is one of the busiest weekends of the year, and Ben would have pressed me for answers if I resisted too much. And the first rule for my survival is never letting anyone know who I really am.
Diaz stares at me blankly. "I wouldn't dream of asking you to." He caresses my hip. "Save a dance for me."
I bite my tongue. Tony mumbles something under his breath, one of his usual warnings to get my shit straight. I glance at my watch. Eight o'clock on a Friday. We're expected to stay the night and head back to Texarkana in the morning — if the twins can wake up after drowning themselves in vodka cranberries.
Wonder how that's gonna play out ...CHAPTER 2
I grew up in the house next door to Lazaro Mendoza. But after high school, we went in different directions. He inherited his father's wealth and power in the cartel and I patched out with my MC, receiving full membership honors. And though we're often on opposing sides now, whenever I walk into his house, we're like brothers again. No questions asked, no judgment.
I open the front door without knocking and Lazaro's bodyguard, Diaz, meets me halfway through the living room. We shake hands. "Diaz."
"Mr. Laramie, how nice to see you again. Can I escort you downstairs?"
I slap his back. "I think I can find my way." I trudge through the formal dining room, skirt the kitchen, and take the stairs two at a time. As I near the landing, I hear my friend's unmistakable baritone. I smile. The fool knocked up his girlfriend and now he's trapped, but doesn't hold back from bragging about it.
"Fifteen minutes in my backseat earned me a lifetime commitment." Lazaro is finishing as I appear.
"Fifteen minutes?" I ask. "That's nothing to be proud of. You're the quickest fuck she's ever had, popping in and out every ten minutes."
"Eagle," he says, "you're late."
We fist bump and he smiles like a drunk fool. The caterer hands me a beer. I claim the empty barstool next to Lazaro, then scan the plush room. There's a porno playing on the big screen and the sex almost looks like it's been choreographed with the Metallica song pounding from the speakers. Nearly fifty guys are gathered around two tournament grade pool tables. Serious money is being exchanged already. The room opens into the backyard where there's an in-ground pool and hot tub. I laugh at the mob beyond the French doors. "How many losers did you invite?"
Lazaro gives me a toothy grin. "Two hundred."
I shake my head. "And the entertainment?"
He holds his hands out. "Only the best for me."
That means strippers and anything else I can imagine. He points to the far corner of the room. A raised stage and pole. Holy shit. "You're sick."
"Nah," he says. "If you're gonna fall — do it with style."
I nod. The farthest thing from my mind is marriage. I doubt I'll ever settle down. But I've watched four of my brothers get hitched over the last two years. I raise my bottle. "Here's to keeping your dick in your pants."
Lazaro shakes his head. "Who said anything about that?"
That's where I draw the line. Fucking around as a single guy is one thing ... taking a vow another.
The lights suddenly dim. We rotate on our barstools, and Diaz calls everyone to attention. Time for the strippers. The rush inside sounds like a herd of elephants. Good thing the game room has the capacity of a small bar. I order a Martini with extra olives and scan the mixed crowd. Let's just say Lazaro doesn't have discriminating taste. There's a mixture of gangbangers and businessmen here. I'm the only one wearing MC patches, which suits me just fine.
"Good evening, gentlemen," Diaz says, attempting to be a professional DJ. "As you know, our gracious host, Mr. Lazaro Mendoza, is getting married tomorrow ..." The crowd explodes in applause. "In remembrance of his freedom, please enjoy the company of our special guests. Jeanie and Jana — twin sisters from Las Vegas."
Diaz is a serious throwback from the old days, somewhere between the Rat Pack and Scarface. I'm waiting for him to play Dean Martin. Instead, the music switches from metal to Justin Timberlake. I laugh, nearly spitting out my drink on Lazaro. "Really?" I throw him a what the fuck look.
"Shut up." He crosses his arms over his chest and stares at the stage.
The dancers are nearly six feet tall with more plastic parts than a blowup doll. I'm instantly turned off. Not that I'm completely opposed to enhancements — but those tits ... Lazaro's brothers appear, then drag him to the stage. They handcuff him to a chair and unbutton his shirt, and then the twins slather him with baby oil. Too much for me. I wander to the back of the room, enjoying the cool breeze blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico. December in Holly Beach is beautiful. There's a cabana and guest quarters near the pool. I know the entertainment doesn't end in the game room. I hear catcalls from the guest house and head that way, hoping whatever darlin' awaits is better than the feature act.
I instantly freeze when my ass grazes the barrel of a gun. Of all the moments for Tony to leave me alone. And of all the parties for Ben not to send an extra bouncer. He thinks rich guys are safe. I try not to lose it. I'm surrounded by thugs sporting their colors and tats. I'm dancing for one of the leaders — introduced as Tito.
"Por que te tienes a bailar bonita?"
He wants to know why I quit dancing. I turn around, resting my hands on his shoulders. I lean forward and whisper. "Because your gun poked me in the ass."
"Mierda." He laughs. "Your mouth is gonna get you in trouble."
Okay, is he playing games or completely serious? He's not the first thug I've danced for, but there's something about him that makes me uncomfortable. I give him a look. "I didn't do anything."
"You're supposed to keep your trap shut, bitch. Dance." He grabs my ass.
I smack his hands away. "Mantener sus malditas manos quietas," I warn. "If I want you to touch me, I'll ask." I'm not in the mood for this shit. Apparently Diaz didn't have a talk with his guests. I grab my top from the back of Tito's chair and start to walk away.
I cringe when I hear him chamber a round. "Come back here."
I face him, not more than ten feet away. "Really?" I'm about to crap my G-string. "And if I don't, you'll shoot me?"
He eyeballs his gun, then me. "No," he admits. "But I'll shove the barrel up your pussy."
The guys behind me snicker. There's only one way out of here, and judging by the wall of sweaty bodies behind me, it's likely kicking and screaming. "Not interested." Defiance never gets a girl anywhere. I know better. My whole body shivers in fear. For some reason, I don't want this asshole to win. Call me stupid — I'm sinfully prideful. It's an Italian thing.
Tito leans forward in his seat, then lays his handgun on his lap. "Come here, mamacita." He switches back to nice guy mode. "I won't hurt you." He holds his hands up.
I shake my head. "I'm outta here."
"Bring her back," Tito commands.
Two of his friends grab my arms. I fight to break free, but they're too strong. "Let me go."
The room explodes with laughter. These guys are going to get their money's worth, voluntarily or otherwise. With them still holding me, I'm forced to face Tito.
He stands up. "I tried being nice, mamacita. What does it take to get a look at your pretty little snatch?" He shoves his fingers down the front of my panties. "You're not done dancing for me yet."
His associates turn me loose. Bad call on their part.
"Leave me alone!" I kick him in the shin with the metal tip of my stiletto, and he removes his fingers. If I could, I'd take his eye out with my shoe.
"Fuck!" He slaps my cheek, and I stumble back.
My face stings and I'm imagining the worst. I'm sure he's going to forcefeed me the barrel of his gun. I close my eyes, preparing for whatever comes next.
God help me.
I arrive in the guest house just as I hear a woman shout, "Leave me alone!"
The room is jammed and I can't see who she is.
But, when I hear Tito yell "Fuck," I know something bad is going on. A few acquaintances standing nearby shake hands with me. I maneuver through the crowd and watch the girl stumble back, like she's been hit or pushed. What the fuck? I haven't gotten a clear look at her, but she's wearing a black G-string and high heels. Another dancer.
My blood boils as Tito shoves a gun in the girl's face.
"Take your G-string off," he demands.
"No," she says and her voice doesn't waver.
Lazaro didn't tell me he invited half of Beaumont to his party. I recognize most of them, all foot soldiers for the Mendoza family. I don't ask questions, and Lazaro doesn't volunteer any information. It's worked until now. I reach inside my jacket and pull out my Glock. It's loaded.
"Do it, mamacita."
I watch as she sheds her thong. I'm staring at her profile, temporarily mesmerized by how beautiful she is. Snap out of it, asshole. With my gun hanging at my side, I step forward. "Tito."
He looks at me. "Caleb." He grins drunkenly. "You made it just in time, this bitch is gonna dance for us, and maybe a little more for the VIPs." He waves his gun around. "Good girl. Spread your legs."
"Fuck off," she says, fearless.
I aim my firearm at his chest. "Let her go, Tito."
No one moves. They know better. I'm protected, hell, I'm a Laramie, which carries its own weight with this crowd.
"It's like that, bro?" Tito stares at me.
"Take it however you want," I offer. "There's not going to be any violence tonight. What will Lazaro say?" There's a quick murmur — the other guests know better than to cause trouble in this house. "Let her go, now."
He shrugs and looks at the girl, then back at me. "Just having some fun. You want the bitch? Take her." He shoves the girl in my direction, but she manages to stay on her feet.
I lower my weapon. Never trust a roomful of heroin dealers. The girl still hasn't looked at me directly. Instead, she collects her bag. Then I watch as she races for the door. The crowd parts, letting her go.
Excerpted from One Taste Of Angel by Violetta Rand. Copyright © 2017 Violetta Rand. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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