Mob enforcer Ceaton Mercer has killed a lot of people in a lot of different ways—he stashed the last two bodies in a toolshed belonging to a sweetheart marine researcher in an idyllic island community—but he’s really not such a bad guy. Over time he’s found a home of sorts, and he even learns he’s found a place in the hearts of the people he works with… at least enough so that they won’t put a bullet in his head because he’s outlived his usefulness to the boss.
But he never thought he’d find one day could change his life, and he’s about to discover how wrong he is.
Because in a single day, he meets the man who looks to be the one, the love of his life. It’s an improbable idea—a man who deals in death finding love—but it’s like it’s meant to be. That single day gets weirder and troubles pile up, forcing Ceaton to take a hard look at his dreary life and accept that one day can change everything, especially himself. His future might be brighter than he expects—if he can stay alive long enough to find out.
BEING MOB muscle was probably not a lot of people’s idea of being safe and sound, but for me, it was grounding. There’s comfort in knowing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing at any given moment. It’s what I loved about being in the Marines, the lack of questions. Being on Grigor’s payroll was similar. I knew what to do when I got up, where to go, who to check in with, and that I was to follow up with Grigor if I found any issues.
What started out as me standing in the background, listening, watching, changed over the past eighteen months to me leading. Grigor grew to trust me to get things done without him having to be there with me or me having to check in with him. I was not a guy who needed to be micromanaged, and he appreciated that. Since he traveled almost exclusively with Doran Loncar, who was in charge of his protection, that left me, Pravi, Marko, and Luka Novak to do the things Grigor preferred not to dirty his hands with.
For instance, Grigor didn’t want to talk to the drug pushers. He had no interest in meeting them, handing out the product, or making sure that what was sold and the money that came in balanced. Marko wasn’t terribly patient with that either. I’d been surprised that there was a Russian in Grigor’s inner circle, once I figured out that everyone else was Serbian, and it turned out that Marko was just as amazed by my inclusion.
“How did you start working for Grigor?” I asked Marko one day, drunk enough that I was brave and sober enough to process the answer.
“Grigor and my old boss, they wanted to do business, but there was no trust.”
“So they switched us, me for him. I would protect Grigor; Grigor’s man Todor, he would protect Bohdan.”
He leaned forward on the table, looking at me, and I realized he was sloshed too. “Todor, he was no good, and Bohdan died choking on own blood.”
“What’d you do?”
“I gut Todor and killed man who came after Grigor in the night.”
“Did whoever took over for Bohdan want you back?”
He lifted his brows to indicate the yes. “But already, my loyalty was for Grigor. If I went back—with new boss there, I start at bottom.”
I blinked. “How come ‘yes’ is the same in Serbian and Russian?”
He stared at me.
“That’s weird, right?”
He tipped his head back and forth like, maybe.
“We’re bonding, am I right?”
The look I got told me the jury was still out, but that…