Chapter One


“WHY ARE YOU here again?”

Stretching my legs out in front of me, I lean back in the large recliner that I’m slouched in as I speak. No matter how luxurious the VIP lounge at the Palermo International Airport intended these seats to be, I can’t get comfortable.

Shifting again, I lace my fingers behind my head and crack open my eyes. Emilia is posing on the edge of my chair, all long legs and glossy hair and plump lips. Leaning forward enough to give me a good view down the front of her slinky dress, she trails a scarlet tipped fingernail over my bicep, sending a sting of pain through my skin.

I like it. I also like the view down her dress, even though I know that the move was calculated. Not willing to remain passive, I place my hand on the warm, soft skin of her bare thigh and squeeze once, just enough to make my point.

Her eyes flash with heat, and my cock responds, swelling to half-mast. The teasing between us is a game, perhaps a dangerous one, but one that we’ve played since my dad married her mom over a decade ago.

“You’re going to make me think you don’t love me.” Those perfect lips of hers, painted with man-killer red, turn down in a pout that makes me picture them wrapped around my erection.

“I don’t.” I’m satisfied by the flicker of pain in her eyes, pain that she smoothes over effortlessly.

The cruel streak in me, the one I got from my father, enjoys hurting her feelings. The rest of me just doesn’t care. Truth is, I don’t have a lot of feelings for my stepsister. And the ones that I do have mostly center around her tits and the heated space between her legs. Not that I’ve ever sampled the latter, of course.

There are some lines that even I won’t cross.


“What a thing to say, when I came to see you off properly.” Her lips find the taut muscle at the base of my throat, and her teeth sink in, making me shudder. The basest part of me wants to drag her astride my lap. I want to unzip my pants and shove inside of her without any foreplay at all, and I want to find my release in a soulless fuck between the legs that have taunted me since I was fifteen, never mind that we’re in the VIP lounge at an airport, and that there are at least a dozen other people around us.

Only the thin sliver of humanity that remains inside of me, the tiny shard that my father wasn’t able to extract, keeps me from doing it. That, and the fact that if I do the dynamics between us will change irrevocably, in ways that I don’t want.

So though my body wants to let her keep nibbling on my neck—wants her mouth to move lower—I shove her away irritably, the recliner rocking forward with a jolt.

She frowns. Still, undeterred, she reaches out, runs a hand through my hair.

“The meeting just won’t be the same without you.” She flicks her tongue over those glossy red lips. “You know how I love it when you lead board meetings. All that raw power.”

“You’ll handle it just fine.” Smirking, I meet her eyes. I’m not stupid. Though she pretends that all she wants is to get her hands on me, we both know that it’s Benenati Enterprises that she really loves... the company, and the billions of dollars that it generates.

She would probably make a far better CEO than me, if I were feeling honest, which I rarely am. I have the same hunger for power that Emilia does, but there are days when the baggage my father left behind in the empire that he built feel too heavy for me to carry.

Which is why I’m waiting to board our family’s private plane, which will take me to one of our vacation homes, the one on the Amalfi Coast. I do everything I can to avoid these meetings in person, instead attending by phone whenever possible.

I hate the way the board—all people who were been handpicked by my father—stare at me, their expectations weighing me down.

I’m not Carmine Benenati, and I’m thankful for that fact every day. But I’m still his blood, a fact inescapable even six months after his death.

The man—this company—can still mold me in his image. The very thought haunts my every waking moment, and sometimes my dreams, as well.

Shuddering inwardly, I slam my empty scotch glass on the side table, hard enough to shatter. Catching the eye of the very attractive, very scantily clad waitress, I contemplate a second drink. And possibly a quickie with her in the executive washroom.

Anything to take the edge off. But from the corner of my eye I see Emilia taking note of my intentions toward the pretty redhead, of the scotch that I drained too quickly.

I can’t show weakness in front of her, or it will cost me.

“What the hell is taking so long?” Scowling, I shove away thoughts of another drink, of the mind numbing emptiness of release, and push my way to my feet. Emilia’s fuck-me lips turn down sullenly as I stride to the glassed in door of the lounge, wanting—needing—some distraction.

I barely have time to blink before a skinny teenager dressed in black sprints by, a large straw purse clutched tightly in his emaciated arms.

“My purse! That man took my purse!” The voice wavers, clearly belonging to an elderly woman. Still, it filters through the thick glass door that separates the VIP lounge from the rest of those striding through the airport with scowls on their faces just fine.

Sucking in a breath, I push the glass door open. It slams against the wall with such force it could break, but I don’t care—if it does, I’ll buy them another. Adrenaline rushes through me as I bounce on the balls of my feet, looking from the rapidly shrinking figure clutching the handbag, to the older woman with clouds of white hair, who is trying to rise from the floor.

My instinct is to sprint after the young man who just callously preyed on the weak. But a small voice inside my head whispers, holding me back.

It’s not your problem, Matteo. These people are beneath you. Let them solve their own problems.

That voice is Carmine’s, not mine. But does it really matter?

“You’re not seriously thinking of playing the superhero, are you?” Behind me I hear Emilia laugh, the sound rich with amusement and condescension. “Who are you and what have you done with my stepbrother?”

That decides it.

“You could go help that old woman up,” I snap over my shoulder as I break into a run. She won’t, I know she won’t, but someone will.

I barely make it three steps before I’m overtaken by a woman. A girl, really, younger than me, with long chestnut hair streaming out behind her.

“I’ve got it!” She shouts as she pushes past me, picking up speed. Dio, but she’s fast, the movements of her legs highlighted by the spandex legging style pants that girls like to wear.

Most Popular