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Hey hey!

After releasing Claimed by the Underboss, many readers were confused because they could no longer find the book on Amazon. I made the below post at the end of June, announcing that I was pulling my books from Amazon on July 1st, which I did.


Claimed by the Underboss was left on there simply because it had already been up for preorder before I made the announcement. I didn't want to pull the preorder to make people think that I was no longer publishing the book, but all it seemed to have done was cause confusion. Claimed by the Underboss was ONLY available on Amazon on August 4, which was release day. It was ONLY available on Amazon on release day and was pulled on August 5th and offered only on my website. You can still get my books on other platforms such as Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, and Kobo. If you have Apple products (iphone, iPad, Macbook, etc), you can get my books on Apple Books. You can also download the Nook app, Google Play Books app, and even Kobo Books app on Apple products to read the books you buy on other platforms as well. If you have an Android tablet, you can check your app store for the reading app for other platforms to read my work.


If you prefer to read on Kindle, Kindle-compatible copies are sold ONLY on my website. The only books I have on Amazon right now are my paperback copies. Ebooks will no longer be on Amazon. I hope this clear up any confusion! So yes, you've missed the short window to get the book on Amazon, but there are still other ways you're able to get them. So yeah! I may not sell on Amazon anymore, but I'm still here. If you want Kindle compatible copies, visit my website shop! If you're looking for my earlier books on other platforms, visit their book pages on the site for the current links.


As always, thank you for the continued support.


Ember

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Hey hey!

It's been a while since I've posted a blog, but here we are! While I still don't have a concrete date yet for the release of Claimed by the Underboss, I'm still working on it to make it the best possible story it can be! If you're subscribed to my newsletter, you've probably already seen this. But for those who missed it, check out chapter one of Claimed by the Underboss! Preorder details will be posted soon!


Chapter 1 - Bruce


Whoever said time would heal all wounds was a fucking liar.

It’d been three months since Savannah was killed, and it wasn’t any easier now than it was when I held her lifeless body in my arms. The smell of her blood was imprinted onto my memory to the point that everything that belonged to her now smelled like it. Maybe it was my punishment for not protecting her the way she trusted me to. I should’ve followed my gut and made her stay behind instead of letting her talk me into allowing her to come.

Now I had her blood on my hands just as the Russians did.

I rolled my shoulders back to release my mounting frustration and tried to focus on the bullshit meeting Bennett held in the conference room. It was the same bullshit we’d talked about ever since the attack at the bridal shop—getting the names of people we wanted to hit, planning our strategy, and keeping tabs on Alec’s daughter for when we were ready to snatch her up.

Every day that Alec didn’t feel the pain that coursed through me was another day I grew more angry. More resentful. Bennett told me he understood my pain, but his actions made it hard for me to believe him. Logically, I knew he understood the pain that came with losing someone you love, but since Aurora had survived, payback didn’t seem to be that high on his priority list.

It pissed me off to see him spending so much time with his wife and son, who would’ve been dead if Savannah hadn’t been there. It made me resentful of both of them to hear them talking about future wedding plans and trying for another baby while my heart had a huge hole in it.

This shit just wasn’t fair. Savannah didn’t deserve that, and she damn sure didn’t deserve the lack of urgency that everyone around me seemed to have when it came to avenging her.

“Bruce?”

I blinked, noticing everyone’s eyes on me. Bennett stood at the end of the table, his hands in his pockets as he frowned at me. “What?”

“Are you good with the plan?” he asked.

I ran a hand down my face and sighed inwardly. “I’ve been fine with the plan since the first time you mentioned it three months ago, Bennett,” I stated, my voice tight. “Are we actually going to do the plan, or are we going to continue being pussies and only talk about it for three more months?”

He raised a dark eyebrow at my statement, annoyance harboring in his gaze as he narrowed his eyes at me. “We’re getting the girl tomorrow night,” he continued, though I knew the conversation was far from over. “KC was able to hack into her calendar to see where she’ll be, and she’ll be in a good place to snatch her up without raising too many eyebrows. Maybe that’ll put you in a better mood than the shitty one you’ve been stuck in recently.”

I fought the urge to roll my eyes. I didn’t give two fucks about this girl; she would never replace Savannah. The fact that Bennett and Aurora thought that Alec’s daughter would make me feel better made me wonder if they were fucking stupid or simply delusional.

“Oh, like how Wilson gave Aurora to you to make you feel better about losing Stephanie, right?” I mumbled.

“Bruce, come on, man,” Saint murmured.

Bennett cocked his head to the side. “What was that?”

“Is this meeting over or what?” I asked.

Bennett’s hard stare never left me as he shrugged. “Yeah, it’s over. Everyone else can go.” He pointed at me. “You stay where the fuck you are.”

Everyone slowly filed out of the room, leaving me with Bennett and Aurora. He whispered something to her before she nodded, kissing his cheek. She turned and looked at me with sympathetic eyes as she made her way out of the room. Once the door closed behind her, Bennett sat down and looked at me expectantly. At this point, I was sick of fucking talking. I’d made my desires clear—I wanted the heads of every motherfucker associated with Korolevstvo Bratva, and I wanted them now. I wasn’t in the mood to hear Bennett regurgitate the same shit he’d been telling me for weeks.

“You got anything you wanna get off your chest?” he finally asked after a few moments of silence.

I shrugged with a frown. “Like?”

“You tell me. You’re the one throwing verbal jabs as if there’s something else you want to say to me. So, let’s clear the air without consequences.”

“I don’t have anything more to say that I haven’t already said, Bennett. There’s no point in having the same damn conversation over and over again,” I mumbled.

Bennett was quiet for a moment as he regarded me. “I know you’re angry, Bruce. You have every right to be. But you have to realize that I’m in a tricky position with—”

“Don’t,” I interrupted. “Stop telling me shit I already know. I don’t give a fuck about what position you’re in. If it was Aurora in an urn instead of Savannah, you wouldn’t give a fuck about what position you’re in now. Just fucking own up to the fact that since your wife is safe, the urgency to retaliate is lower.”

“You and I both know that’s bullshit, Bruce. Aurora is far from safe. The longer Alec is alive, the longer she and my son have a target on their back before they finally come after me,” he replied, his voice tight. “I’m trying to do things to where we don’t have to lose people unnecessarily. I’m trying to bring more members into the fold so that we can be stronger; no one is going to want to join an organization with a hotheaded leader who’ll do nothing but send people to their deaths because he’s too quick to react without a sound plan.”

“Whatever, Bennett,” I mumbled as I stood to my feet.

“Sit the fuck down. We’re not done,” he growled.

I flopped back in the chair with an audible sigh. “What is it? I already know the rest of this bullshit speech. I simply have to ‘be patient’ and ‘trust you,’ right?”

“Because that’s what something like this requires, Bruce. You and Savannah are one part of this organization. This isn’t just about her or you. Decisions I make affect all of us, and I have to make sure those decisions will be in the best interest of La Fedeltá—”

“Because fuck Savannah, right?”

He frowned at me. “You know that’s not what I said.”

“Your actions say it for you. You think throwing some new bitch my way is supposed to make shit better? Having a woman that shares the same blood as the motherfucker who ripped my heart out isn’t going to do shit but piss me off even more.”

“No one said it would make things better. If you don’t want the girl, I can always put her in the bunker,” he said with a shrug. “I just wanted to give you a distraction in the meantime.”

“I don’t need a fucking distraction, Bennett. I want someone’s fucking head. I want the bitch that shot my woman. The fuck am I gonna do with a distraction?!” I ground out.

Bennett sighed. “I get it, and you’re right. I know you don’t think I care about how you feel or that I don’t care about Savannah, but I do. You’re my right-hand man; your pain is my pain.”

I scoffed and shook my head. “Right.”

He ran a hand along his tightened jaw. “Okay, Bruce. I’m only going to say this one time, so I’d advise you to listen. I understand you’re angry, but I’m not going to continue turning the other cheek when it comes to the disrespectful bullshit you’ve been saying and doing. Grieving or not, I’m still your boss and you have a job to do. If you can’t pull it together for the sake of the entire organization, you and I are going to have a massive problem. Are we clear on that?”

After staring at him for a long moment, I released a sarcastic chuckle. “Whatever you say, boss. At the end of the day, all that matters is protecting you and your family.”

“I’m trying to protect all of us. You’re the only one with selfish lenses on. Some of us have families we still need to protect—”

“And mine is fucking gone!” I bellowed as I slammed my fist against the wooden table. “Why the fuck do I care about anyone else’s family when mine is gone?”

“Because you pledged to protect the family we created for ourselves,” Bennett responded, his tone even and unaffected by my outburst. “Do you think avenging Savannah is more important than making sure the men you call your brothers survive this war? Do you think avenging her is more important than the children of your brothers? The lovers of your brothers? All you’re thinking about is how you feel and what you want to do and not the betterment of the organization. That’s why I’m the one in charge.”

“You’re only saying that shit because your wife survived,” I ground out, anger heating my skin. “If the roles were reversed or if Savannah hadn’t been there, you’d be singing a completely different tune.”

“No, I wouldn’t.” He leaned forward, resting his forearms on the table. “Trust me, the moment I got to the hospital, I’d called Hilcrest because I was ready to orchestrate an attack that same night regardless if Aurora survived or not. But I was only thinking about how I felt in that moment. I couldn’t let my men potentially go into a war we weren’t prepared for just because of the emotions I felt in that moment. Do you know how hard it was for me to swallow my anger and pride in that moment and hold off on an immediate retaliation? The guilt and sorrow I felt knowing my second-in-command was devastated and there wasn’t shit I could do to make that better at the present time? I want Alec’s head just as much as you do, but I’m not willing to sacrifice any of my family—you, Saint, Nyx, KC, or anyone else in this organization—for the quick satisfaction of getting payback.”

I rubbed my eyes and sighed. There was no denying that he was right, but it didn’t make it any easier to hear and accept. It was infuriating to carry this pain on my own. Alec needed to hurt the way I did. He needed to drown in the grief that suffocated me every waking moment that Savannah wasn’t here. He had no idea what he took from me, and every day that went by without him suffering consequences put me more and more on edge.

“I won’t tell you that things will get better in time because it’s not something someone in your position wants to hear right now. You know that I know that better than anyone. But I need you at your best right now. The last thing we need is to tear ourselves apart from the inside.”

Tears threatened to burn my eyes, but I clenched my teeth together until they faded. “It doesn’t feel as if it’ll ever get better,” I murmured honestly. “It’s been three months, and it just seems to feel worse.”

“Alec and everyone who works for him will pay for what they’ve done. I promise you that,” Bennett said with a nod. “But we’re doing this the right way—the smart way. I want all of you present in the winner’s circle when all of this is over. Do you understand?”

“I hear you, Bennett.”

“But do you understand? I don’t want to keep dealing with slick remarks and comments in future meetings. Let this be the last time we have a conversation like this,” he said.

I nodded to acknowledge I heard him. I knew I needed to tread carefully when it came to Bennett. The only reason he’d cut me any slack was because I was his second-in-command, and he knew I was still grieving. If I were a lower-ranking member, he would’ve put a bullet in my head before the meeting was over.

For now, all I could do was try my best to tuck my anger and resentment into the back of my mind and remind myself that this situation was beyond losing Savannah. I didn’t want to lose any of my close friends, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t irritate the fuck out of me that nothing significant had happened since the attack.

“Good.” Bennett stood to his feet, and I followed suit. “Take the rest of the day off to get your head in a better space. I need you on your A game if you plan on going with the guys to get this girl tomorrow night.”

I frowned at him. “Take the day off and do what, exactly?”

“Hell if I know. Hopefully something that puts you in a better mood.”

“I’m fine—”

“You’re not and you know you’re not,” Bennett interrupted, just as a knock sounded on the door. “I’ll call you later on with more info on tomorrow’s extraction as things are finalized.”

A slight wave of panic washed over me. The last thing I wanted was time off since that left too much time to think about Savannah. Too much time to realize she was gone. Too much time to torture myself with everything I could’ve done differently, as if that would make much of a difference now. But when Bennett looked at me expectantly, I sighed and rolled my eyes.

“Whatever, man,” I mumbled and stalked out of the room.

Aurora looked up from her phone as I passed her, but I didn’t bother to stop when she called my name. Sometimes it was hard to be in the same space as her, even more so because bullets that were meant for her was the reason my girl was dead.

But you know that isn’t her fault, a tiny voice reminded me. I sighed inwardly. This whole situation had me mentally fucked up, angry at the wrong people instead of reserving it for the people who were truly at fault. At the end of the day, these people were my family, the only family I had left. I knew Bennett was doing the right thing, but it was so hard to remember that during those dark moments when my grief, anger, and the alcohol I consumed held me hostage.

“You good, man?” Saint asked when I got to the stairs leading out of the bunker.

“Just dandy,” I mumbled.

He was right on my heels. “You’re full of shit, you know that?”

“Then why ask?”

My chest tightened when I opened the door that put us into the kitchen. Ever since Savannah died, it’d been hard coming out of the bunker. I was so used to her smiling face greeting me on the other side of the kitchen island as she helped the other girls prep food.

Her soft voice always made my heart skip a beat when she’d skip over to me and stand on her tiptoes, kissing me softly before murmuring, “Hey there, handsome,” as if she hadn’t seen me all day. But now, only my own mental anguish and memories greeted me in the kitchen, a new girl now working in her spot.

Saint moved past me, pulling me out of my musings. “Because I care, asshole. Just wanted to make sure you’re good.”

I met his concerned gaze and gave him a small grin. “I’m good. Just anxious to actually do something instead of just sitting around talking about it.”

“You and me both. I’m getting restless, especially when I know they’re probably gearing up for another attack as well.”

“Yeah,” I said, glancing back down into the bunker. Jealousy inched its way into my bloodstream as I watched Bennett take his wife into his arms, kissing her softly before whispering something to her that made her smile.

“Anyway, you can take a break if you need one. I’ll cover for you until you get back,” Saint said, giving me a slight push.

I shrugged. “No need. Bennett is making me take the rest of the day off to ‘get my mind right.’”

“You damn sure need it. You haven’t been yourself lately. We’re all worried about you, man.”

I tightened my jaw. “Sometimes I find that hard to believe,” I said, just as Bennett and Aurora stepped into the kitchen. Aurora’s gaze moved from me to Saint as she frowned.

“Is something wrong?” she asked with a raised brow.

Saint shook his head. “Nah. Just talking to Bruce before he heads home for the rest of the day.”

“Yeah, I was just leaving,” I mumbled, leaving the three of them in the kitchen.

I couldn’t pretend to be fine when I wasn’t. While I understood the logistics of why things were happening as they were, it didn’t make the shit any easier to accept. I’d failed Savannah when I didn’t protect her. I needed to do something—anything—to absolve the guilt that suffocated me every single morning I woke up without her.

I trekked across the backyard to the townhouses Bennett had built for his inner circle. I’d never really considered it as “home” until Savannah came along. I had this grandiose plan of carrying her over the threshold when this shit was over, prepared to start our lives and make this house a home for the family we would create. But now it was just an empty reminder of how much I’d truly lost that day in the bridal shop.

No fucking idea why Bennett thought I needed to be here all day if his goal was to make me get my mind right.

“Looks like I’m home early, babe,” I said when I walked in, looking at her urn that rested on the mantle. I almost scoffed at how pathetic I’d become. Every time I entered or left the house, I spoke to her as if she were here. Maybe I was losing my fucking mind, but it got me through those dark moments when those conversations with her were the only thing standing between my head and a bullet from my gun when my grief became too much.

Pulling out my phone, I opened my photos and scrolled through them, my heart aching as her smiling face filled my screen. I paused when I got to the picture I’d taken of her ring. I thought about the day when I’d said out loud to the only man I’d trusted the most that I’d wanted to propose to her.

“Let me get your opinion on something,” I’d asked Bennett as we stood along the sidewalk outside of the bridal shop.

“What’s up?”

I pulled the small velvet box out of my pocket and opened it, displaying the round-cut 10K white gold engagement ring. “I think I wanna ask Savannah to marry me.”

Bennett looked at the ring before meeting my gaze again, letting out a low whistle. “It’s a beautiful ring. I’m sure you’ll make her the happiest woman on earth when you pop the question.” He glanced inside the bridal shop. “Do you think it’s the right time for that, though? You know, with everything going on?”

I sighed deeply. That was one of the things I’d been considering ever since Bennett made it a fucking point to kill the dickhead that’d cornered Aurora and Liam at the restaurant. I knew Savannah would want to start planning immediately, and it would break my heart to tell her we’d have to wait until all this fuckery was over.

“If you think it’s the right time to have a wedding with Aurora, then I’d assume it’s the right time for me to propose to my girlfriend,” I finally said with a shrug.

Bennett nodded slowly. “That’s fair. But you need to know and understand that wedding shit doesn’t come before your duties. We’re at the tip of a war, so Savannah needs to understand that things may become busy in the coming months.”

“I know, Bennett,” I mumbled. Sometimes it fucking frustrated me when he said shit like that. He always spoke to us as if we had nothing else going on in our lives other than protecting him and his family. He got to focus on his wife and kid, a wedding, and having a second baby, but God forbid any of us wanted to do something with our own lives, like settling down.

“Just making sure you do,” he said as he looked into the bridal shop again. “What the hell is taking so—“

Two loud pops sounded, sending everyone into action. My heart raced as I sprinted into the store, Aurora’s screams chilling me to my bone.

“Savannah! Savannah!” she cried out.

My heart fell to my stomach when I took in the scene before me, both women bleeding on the floor. Aurora had rolled over onto her side, reaching out for Savannah.

Savannah was on her back, blank eyes staring up at the harsh, bright showroom lights, her blood pooling from under her on the shiny hardwood floor.

“No!” I bellowed, running over to her. I didn’t care about the blood that soaked into my pants as I kneeled next to her, cradling her head in my hands before resting it on my lap. “Come on, baby doll. Look at me. Savannah!”

“No!” Aurora wailed, but I couldn’t even focus on her.

All I could do was beg Savannah to wake up, to talk to me, to breathe, to live. I kissed her face as my tears splashed on her pale skin. This wasn’t supposed to happen. She should’ve been safe here. I was right outside, ready to take down anyone who meant any harm to her. In the short time I’d known her, she’d become my entire world, an unlikely source of light in the life of darkness that I led. We had hopes, dreams, and a future I was excited about starting with her, beginning with making her my wife. She only had to survive for two more days before she finally got the ring she’d always wanted, before she got her happily ever after.

I hugged her lifeless body tight, grief overwhelming me. “Savannah!”

“Fuck,” I ground out, putting my phone on the couch next to me and pressing the heels of my hands against my eyes. Never in a million years did I think that would be the last time I’d hear her voice or kiss her soft lips. I didn’t think I’d be going home alone, going to bed alone, or waking up alone.

I didn’t think a dress fitting appointment would leave a permanent hole in my heart, one I was certain would never heal.

I blew out a long breath before I opened my eyes again, standing to my feet and walking over to the urn. I took it off the mantle, the cool porcelain smooth against my palms.

“You have no idea how much I miss you, Red,” I murmured. I brushed my thumb against the intricate design that went around the middle of the urn. “I hope you can forgive me for not saving you.”

My phone rang from the couch, shattering the thick grief around me. I put the urn back in its place before I retrieved my phone, Saint’s name on the screen.

“Yeah,” I said upon answering.

“I know you’re supposed to be off, but I need a quick favor,” he rushed out.

I shrugged. At this point, it didn’t matter what he needed me to do as long as it got me back out of this house and out of my own head. “Where do you need me?”

“At the pool with Aurora and Liam,” he answered.

My jaw tensed involuntarily as I sighed inwardly. I would’ve done anything else in the world except be around Aurora more than I needed to be. While I knew it wasn’t her fault that Savannah was dead, it didn’t make me any less resentful of her. She was a walking reminder of what I’d lost, a reminder that my girl made the ultimate sacrifice for her, and that I’d failed to protect her when she needed me most.

“Bruce?” Saint called out.

I sighed. “I don’t know, man. Did you ask Nyxin? I can take Nyxin’s post until you finish whatever you need to do.”

Saint scoffed. “You know damn well that Aurora and Nyxin don’t really get along well enough for her to let him do that.” When I didn’t immediately respond, he continued. “Look, I just need you to cover me long enough for me to grab Giselle. Her babysitter called and said that she is still sick, so I need to take her to urgent care to make sure nothing is going on.”

I ran a hand over my smooth head and sighed inwardly. “I don’t understand why Bennett can’t watch his own wife and son, but whatever,” I mumbled. “I guess I’ll do it, but don’t fucking take forever.”

“You know it’s not Aurora’s fault, right?” Saint said instead.

“Who said it was?”

“The way you’re acting says it is. The woman probably has enough guilt as it is; you damn near avoiding her and acting like you don’t want to be around her probably isn’t helping.”

Fresh annoyance bloomed in my chest at his words. “I’d advise you to tread carefully with your words, Saint. Last I checked, her husband and son are still alive—”

“Savannah was her best friend, man,” Saint said with a sigh. “A best friend that she’s known longer than you and Savannah have been together. You’ve both lost someone important to you. Like I told you before, you’re angry at the wrong people.”

I ground my teeth. For three months, I had to deal with people telling me how I should feel and who I should and shouldn’t be angry with. Everyone expected me to tuck my grief into my back pocket and carry on with life as they were doing, as if the love of my life hadn’t been taken from me.

It was the same shit every time someone held this conversation with me: you’re mad at the wrong people, and you still have a job to do, and getting Alec’s daughter will put you in a better mood.

When they’d lost their women, I’d supported them in the best ways I could. When Bennett lost Stephanie, I immediately went to war for him when he found the people responsible, even when he was wrong about the first few people. When Saint lost Regina, I’d covered his shifts, working myself into the ground to give my brother the time and space he’d needed to grieve his loss.

And what did these dickheads do to me when Savannah died? Immediately put me to work because I “still had a duty to do,” and lecture me about how I dealt with my grief and anger. Some fucking family they were.

“I’ll be out there in a few,” I mumbled and hung up before he could say another word. I’d do my job for now, but I wouldn’t forget any of this. As far as I was concerned, this whole organization could suck my dick.


*

Aurora was stretched out on a lounge chair on the side of the pool when I arrived, Liam giggling in the water with Carrie. She looked up when I approached, shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand.

“Hey,” she said, giving me a small smile.

“Saint asked me to cover for him until he got back,” I said, unable to remove the tightness from my tone.

“Yeah, he told me,” she said softly. Awkward silence filled the warm space between us, Liam’s splashing and laughter attempting to fill the void. After a few moments, Aurora sighed and tossed her legs to the side to sit on the edge of the lounge. “Can we talk?”

“I’m tired of talking to people for the day actually,” I mumbled, turning my gaze away from her.

“I’m not going to preach to you or anything. I just…” She ran a hand through her hair. “I know what you’re going through, and I understand why you’re angry. Trust me, even though Bennett claimed that this was my mission to orchestrate, he’s still controlling everything. If it were up to me, we would’ve already attacked well before now.”

I shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Bennett is going to do what Bennett is going to do. I’m just supposed to shut up and do my job like a good second-in-command,” I replied sarcastically.

Her eyes bore a hole into the side of my head, but I couldn’t bring myself to look at her. “I know you probably won’t believe this, but I’m on your side, Bruce. You have no idea how many times I wished I’d taken those bullets instead of her—”

“And leave your husband behind? Your son?” I chuckled bitterly. “You’re right; I don’t believe a fucking word of that.”

“She was my best friend, Bruce,” she stated, hurt and suppressed anger laced throughout her trembling voice. “I’ve held a lot of guilt when it comes to her. Guilt about not being a better friend to her, guilt that she ended up here for trying to protect me, and even more guilt knowing that she died protecting me. Regardless of whether or not you believe me, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t wish things happened differently. Bullets that were meant for me killed my best friend, and you think that doesn’t fuck with me every day she’s not here?”

I glanced at her, my own guilt rearing its ugly head when I noticed the tears that glistened in her eyes as she stared at me. She struggled with Savannah’s death just as much as I had, and it probably didn’t help that I hadn’t been the easiest person to be around lately.

“I apologize,” I murmured. Beneath the anger and grief, I knew it wasn’t her fault. She didn’t start this war; her husband did. And regardless of that, I knew what I’d signed up for when I joined the mafia. Whether Savannah was killed now or later in life, I knew it was a risk she’d be exposed to when I decided to allow her into my heart.

It was just a devastating consequence of the life I’d chosen for myself—of the life I’d brought her into.

“I’m not Bennett or the other guys,” she said, grabbing my hand and pulling me to sit next to her. “You don’t have to pretend that you’re not hurting around me. I’ve had to get on Bennett a few times for giving you a hard time and being so insensitive.”

I chuckled and shook my head. “He hasn’t been my favorite person lately, but I’m sure he’s probably under a lot of stress with keeping you and Liam safe.”

“That’s still no reason for him to act as if you didn’t lose your girlfriend.” She shook her head. “You’d think he’d be more understanding after already losing one person he loved and nearly losing me.”

I bit back the harsh words that sat on the tip of my tongue, wincing as I swallowed them down. The last thing I wanted to do was create more of a rift between them and me. Even though Aurora and I were talking as two people grieving over the same person, she was still technically my boss. After my latest antics at the meeting, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was already on thin ice with Bennett. I definitely didn’t need Aurora going back to him with anything I’d said that would piss him off.

“Well, other things seem to be more of a priority for him right now. I’m just one person out of an organization he runs.”

“Yeah, a very important person,” Aurora retorted with a frown. “You’re literally his second-in-command, Bruce.”

I shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. The sooner we deal with the Russians, the sooner I can try to find some kind of closure from losing Savannah.” I shook my head. “I can’t rest until everyone responsible for her death is dealt with.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less,” she said, grabbing the Manila folder from beside her and putting it in her lap. “I was just looking at this girl’s information again.”

I glanced down at the picture that was clipped to the corner of the folder. She looked pretty young, younger than I would’ve even been interested in. My eyes scanned the top sheet that held her basic information.

Name: Ekatrina Ingrid Lebedev

Age: 23

Occupant: Student

Relationship: Alec’s daughter

Hair: Black

Eyes: Brown

Height: 5’5

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for her to be my pet,” I said, my gaze fixed on her smiling, innocent face displayed in the picture. “I’m like ten years older than her. She’s practically a fetus compared to me.”

Aurora playfully rolled her eyes. “Don’t be dramatic, Bruce. You act like you’re an old man and she’s a minor.”

“Well, what the hell am I supposed to do with her, then? I’m not in the business of hurting women, so torturing her just to get back at Alec is more so Bennett’s speed, not mine.” I scoffed. “Besides, I damn sure don’t have any desire to have any kind of sexual contact with anyone, so there’s no point in her belonging to me. I’m in no mood to babysit the enemy’s daughter.”

“We were hoping you could convince her to help us get to Alec,” Aurora explained, turning slightly to face me as she sat with her legs crossed.

“And why the fuck would she be willing to help people that kidnapped her?” I asked, my tone flat.

She only shrugged with a grin. “I have no idea how your magic works, but you somehow convinced my best friend to stay here with you, even though she had the opportunity to leave. After everything Savannah had gone through in the bunker, you must’ve done something to make her trust you enough to want to stay here with you.”

Just the mention of her made my chest ache. I wished I could go back to the earlier days of our relationship, when everything was so new and exciting. Back to when our main problem was just dealing with Wilson and his bullshit. Back when a future with Savannah seemed possible. I thought my life was finally on track when Bennett allowed me to buy her freedom, eager to see where our relationship would go once she was allowed to live in my townhouse with me. I thought the drama was finally over and the new chapter in our lives was beginning when Wilson was killed.

But our story was over before the ink on the page even had time to dry.

“She was something special,” I finally said.

“She truly was.” Aurora was quiet for a moment. “You don’t have to fall in love with the girl, though I’m sure that’ll piss Alec off for sure knowing that his daughter fell for the enemy. But…just think about it, okay? If we can get her to help us, it’ll allow us to get to him quicker than we’ve been able to on our own. I know you want him dead just as bad as I do.”

“I do,” I murmured, taking the file from her.

As I looked at the girl’s picture, a new sense of purpose washed over me. I knew I was the only one who could do what needed to be done. Though the other guys weren’t as violent as Bennett, they wouldn’t hesitate to follow any orders given if they were told to hurt her. I couldn’t imagine what kind of information this girl could possibly have if Alec spent so much time hiding her away, but it wouldn’t hurt to get her to turn on her father.

“So, what do you say? Can you at least give it a try?” Aurora asked after a little while.

I stared at the smiling woman for a moment. While she would never replace Savannah, I knew I had to make this sacrifice for her if I wanted to get justice. I couldn’t save her in life, so I’d do whatever I needed to in order to make sure those fuckers paid for snuffing out such a beautiful life. I closed the folder and handed it back to her with nod.

“Let’s do it then.”



I hope you guys are ready for Bruce and Kat! I love the way their story is shaping up and I can't wait to get this spin off started on a strong foot! Stay tuned for more updates for Claimed by the Underboss!

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