Verona blood, p.1

Verona Blood, page 1

 

Verona Blood


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Verona Blood


  Contents

  About this Book

  Verona Blood

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Sneak Peek at Gun Shy

  Also by Lili St. Germain

  Also by Lili St. Germain

  About the Author

  Copyright

  VERONA BLOOD

  Lili St. Germain

  About this Book

  San Francisco is going to burn if the coveted princess of California’s criminal underworld isn’t returned to her family in one piece …

  Avery Capulet is missing.

  Taken by a madman. Kept in the dark.

  She might not survive.

  He’ll use her body. Destroy her mind. All before he ever lays a hand on her.

  Rome Montague is a drug dealer. A criminal. A thief.

  And he needs the secrets Avery and her family are keeping – even if it means cutting them out of her pretty Capulet flesh.

  Rome Montague is missing – but nobody will miss him.

  Not that it matters; After the things he’s done to this girl, he doesn’t deserve to be found.

  Prepare to step into the dark and bloody underworld of California, as Lili St. Germain brings you a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet, in the same vein as her bestselling Gypsy brothers series.

  The CALIFORNIA BLOOD series, set in the criminal underbelly of San Francisco, follows two warring families who are ruled by blood, power and twisted desire.

  “These violent delights will have violent ends …”

  William Shakespeare

  Prologue

  AVERY

  Eight hours from now

  In my family, we follow two religions.

  Catholicism.

  And an unbroken devotion to the Capulet family bloodline.

  The Catholic side may seem more understandable to the uninitiated.

  Be a good Catholic. Say your prayers. Go to Mass. Confess your sins.

  But when you’re raised a daughter of the most powerful man in California, ensconced in the heart blood of the Capulet lineage — loyalty to our family name is equal priority to God.

  Capulets don’t have a bible, but we do have written rules. And unlike the bible, ours are written in blood.

  Be a good Capulet. Obey your vows to the family. Go to family meetings. Ensure there are no sins against your own blood to confess. That last one being the most important.

  Never sin against your family, because in our religion, there is no forgiveness. There is only loyalty, or death.

  Sometimes, even when you are loyal, there is still death. All the protection of our father’s money, our bodyguards and spies placed strategically around the city of San Francisco and beyond, can’t save us.

  Because hatred is stronger than any religion.

  I wonder how much my captor hates me, as I strain in the dark to place his approaching footsteps.

  I wonder how much of my blood he will spill before this is over.

  I wonder which Capulet sins he intends to punish me for.

  Because I wasn’t afraid at first, see? No, when I woke up here, bound and gagged, I was bored. Annoyed. Like a customer in line at the bank, waiting for her turn, so I waited for my father to pay whatever ransom my captor demanded. Even as a young woman living in a city gripped by the terror of an active serial killer in its midst, picking off girls at the edges of society, I was not afraid. Arrogant? Absolutely. But worried that I might somehow become swept up in the bloodbath myself?

  Hell no.

  I’m a Capulet. People don’t fuck with Capulets.

  A ransom. A ransom. A ransom.

  I imagine them making the call. Maybe they’ll take my picture. Perhaps we’ll Skype my father, because this is 2018, after all. I imagine him gathering crisp banknotes from one of our many vaults scattered across the city, stacks and stacks of green paper that will secure my release.

  Even as I slowly came to in — wherever it is that I am — I was thinking about how this hiccup would affect my schedule, how brazen my kidnappers were, how my father would stick a goddamn blowtorch onto whoever did this and slowly, agonizingly, melt away their flesh as punishment.

  Then it came rushing in, like ice water into my consciousness. They shot my father. A single gunshot that cracked everything apart. My father, in his tuxedo, dropping his whiskey on hard tiles, the glass exploding at his feet as blood blossomed across his white dress shirt.

  His trajectory into the pool, the heavy splash of his dead weight as five hundred people in ballgowns and designer suits screamed and scattered, nobody wanting to be gunshot victim number two.

  My desire to jump into the water after my uncle, to help him save my dad. The hands that clamped around my arms hard enough to cause bruises, as my own personal security team whisked me away, to supposed safety, and straight into a trap.

  Somebody shot my father just to take me. And they didn’t fuck around. I saw where they shot him — right in the middle of his chest.

  Is he even alive to know that I’ve been stolen away?

  “My family will pay whatever ransom you want,” I say to total darkness, over and over again. “Just tell them what you want. They’ll give it to you.” I don’t even know if there is anyone with me. Whether somebody is watching me. I could be buried alive, or in somebody’s attic, or in my own fucking house. I can’t see. I don’t know.

  I’ve been in this fucking room for hours, and fear has begun to drip into my veins like a steady dose of poison leeching into my blood.

  “Listen,” I say, trying to be convincing, which is hard when I’m tied to a chair, my wrists and ankles secured with what feels like duct tape, a blindfold tied tight around my face. “Just tell me—”

  What feels like a large, rough palm smacks me so hard, I feel my lip split, tasting fresh blood in my mouth. My mind struggles to catch up, to do something— but before I can think, before I can construct the perfect argument to let me go, my blindfold is ripped off, and in the same breath, shoved into my mouth. A makeshift gag that makes me retch. I swallow down the urge to vomit, the material in my mouth an invasion, an assault on my senses. I try to push it out with my tongue, but it doesn’t budge.

  Fuck. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.

  I forget about the gag as my eyes focus on the figure in front of me. He’s tall, over six feet, dressed entirely in black, a black ski mask covering his face and neck. He’s wearing plastic surgical gloves — to keep his DNA from getting on me, or in preparation to chop me into little pieces?

  I wince as my captor places something cold on my bare thigh.

  A knife.

  My eyes go big and round as I watch him take that knife and press it into the flesh of my inner thigh. There is a major artery that runs through the thigh. If he hits it, I could bleed out in minutes.

  Just hours ago, I was joking about how being married off was a fate worse than death. But I didn’t really mean those words, because I’d do anything to stop the slow, methodical slice of the knife’s teeth against my skin. I scream as my skin splits open, the knife impossibly sharp, my skin impossibly fragile.

  There is so much blood.

  I’ve seen plenty of blood spilled in my short life — a by-product of my family name — but I’ve never been so intimately acquainted with my own blood as it pulses from my body.
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  My captor dips a finger into my blood and brings it up to my chest. I’m folding forward, straining to see what he’s doing to my thigh, and so he takes a fistful of my hair and yanks, making me sit straighter in the chair. I shiver as the air in the room turns colder, my exposed nipples tightening painfully, or perhaps it’s me that is growing colder, as I swiftly lose blood.

  Fingers paint letters between my breasts, a macabre action that reminds me of the crude paintings a small child would create with their hands and brightly colored paint. My faceless captor takes blood from my thigh wound several more times before he steps back, apparently satisfied, and it’s only then that I can see what he’s written on me.

  Two letters. XO.

  I blink in confusion as I stare at the two letters, my chin against my chest as I try to make them say something — anything — else. Everybody knows the XO killer doesn’t have any surviving victims. He’s been terrorizing San Francisco for a decade, at least, the body count of his victims over a dozen. And that’s not including the ones who are never found. He only leaves death in his wake, naked and scrubbed clean and with a neat calling card painted on his victims chests.

  XO.

  It’s so obvious now. This faceless man doesn’t want a ransom. He wants my terror. My blood.

  He wants my life.

  This silent psycho circles behind me, hands in my hair again, and then lower, exploring my face, my neck, pinching a nipple hard enough to make me yelp. He pulls my hair, forcing my head back and to the side, at the perfect height to grind himself into my cheek. Under his black pants, he’s as hard as the steel the knife is forged from. I start to cry. He’s going to hurt me. He’s going to kill me.

  I raise my eyes to look at him again, in time to see him place the knife on the ground at his feet. My captor comes at me, crouching in front of me, placing his gloved hands on my knees and pushing them wider.

  This is how I die.

  Through my gag, I scream.

  Chapter One

  AVERY

  Present Day

  Joshua Grayson is sitting in my father’s office, discussing a business deal as if today is any other day.

  But it’s not any other day. It’s THE day. And everyone is acting like it’s not.

  Just moments ago, I watched him glide out of the Capulet Corporation's private elevator reserved only for family members. Perhaps that should have been my first warning that things were not going to go well. He winked at me as he passed me in the corridor, like he owned the place, casually unbuttoning his jacket as he scanned my father’s office. Maybe he was wondering how he would decorate the place once his name was on the door.

  Fuck that. When Daddy retires, this will be my office. I would have been content to study something arts-related, use my creativity, but you can't run a billion-dollar company with a degree in art history. I graduated summa cum laude from Stanford University with a degree in political science, not because I was interested in politics, but because it was the best subject for the Capulet heiress to study. I worked twice as hard as everyone else, graduated top of my class, and spent my free time working weekends and summers for my father, while my peers drank and fooled around and generally had fun.

  And in the years since I graduated, I've been the first person here every morning, and the last to leave, apart from my father.

  Not to mention, getting this corner office is kind of my birthright. I’m not giving up the best view in the building for any man, especially not Joshua Grayson.

  There’s nothing really wrong with him, and that’s part of the problem. He’s older than me, having just celebrated turning forty, but that’s not a concern. Attractive in a smarmy sort of way, with his perfect white smile and his Ivy-League smirk, Joshua Grayson is exactly the kind of man I would choose to run a company — but not the kind of man I would choose to take to bed. Maybe it’s the way he looks at me like I’m a child, all the more disturbing since he’s known me my entire life. I’m all grown up now, but I know when he talks to me he still sees the shy teenage girl who had a habit of hiding behind her older, more confident sister.

  “Avery,” he nods, standing when I enter the room. “Happy birthday. Nice to see you before the big night.”

  “Thank you,” I nod my hello, as bile burns in my throat.

  “The weather’s perfect for a rooftop soirée,” he adds, trying to keep the conversation going. When he smiles, a deep dimple creases his right cheek. I’d like to stab my manicured nail into his dimple and wipe the smile right off his face. He has one of those deep voices that makes my chest hum when he speaks, but I can’t say I enjoy listening to him.

  “Perfect,” I agree. I try so hard to be cordial, but it’s already exhausting. I don’t want to be talking to this guy. I don’t want to be here. It’s my twenty-fifth birthday, and I want to be having shots off some half-naked bartender’s abs, not making small talk about the fucking weather with the guy my father wants me to marry.

  “Well, I should let you two get on with it. I’ll see you both tonight.”

  “Bye,” I say, a little too loudly, a little too saccharine sweet. Josh is smart. He knows I can’t stand him. So far, it hasn’t swayed his quest to put a ring on my finger and a hefty percentage of Capulet stocks into his share portfolio.

  I watch him button his jacket as he stands and leaves the office, making sure to brush past me with his elbow as he exits. His hands are big, but sophisticated, perfect for playing the piano. I wonder what he’s like in bed, if he’d wrap that hand around my throat while he was inside me, or use it over my mouth to stifle a moan, and even though my cheeks pool with blood at the thought of fucking the guy who’s just finished a business meeting with my father, something cold settles in my stomach.

  Resignation. Loss.

  It is something like dying, this process. I might be obedient and poised by day, nodding my head and smiling when it’s appropriate, but in the dark my nightmares come to feed off me, hungry little vampires that sap me of every bit of strength and bravery that I possess. I bolt upright in the dead of night, when the only light is red numbers on my bedside table that tell me how many more hours until it’s light again — the dark hours when all I can think about is how to stop the full-force collision my fate is careening toward.

  I wait until the door swings shut before I turn to my father, letting out a breath. “Jesus fucking Christ, can you let me know next time I’m about to be ambushed by my stalker?”

  “Avery!” My father says sharply. He’s already drinking, a tumbler of whiskey in his hand as he turns from the window to address me.

  “Happy birthday, dear daughter,” I say in a silly voice, pretending to be him. “Why thank you, Daddy! I’m so glad I get to be paraded around San Francisco like a mail-order-bride on my birthday! How sweet of you to remember.”

  I flop down into the chair facing Daddy’s large mahogany desk, the one that I’ll be replacing with sleek glass and metal when it’s my time to move in and let him retire somewhere exotic and remote. All of his old-school furniture makes the place feel stuffy, confined, even though this office takes up half the top floor of Capulet Corp.

  “What was he doing here, anyway?”

  My father looks at the ground. Panic floods me. “Daddy?” I raise my eyes in disbelief when he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a red Cartier box, setting it on the desk between us as if it’s a bomb.

  I snatch up the box, praying to the Jesus I just blasphemed ten seconds ago that there’s a necklace or a pair of earrings, anything but—

  An engagement ring. The diamond sticking out of the box is obscenely big. Princess cut, at least five carats, a diamond that could take somebody’s eye out if you punched them while wearing it.

  “What did you do,” I mutter, my eyes fixed on the diamond.

  “Avery —”

  “What did you DO?!” I yell, closing the box and throwing it at the window. The glass is thick, bulletproof, and not in the least bit bothered by my lazy o
verarm toss.

  “Keep your voice down,” my father hisses. “For God’s sake, Avery, get your shit together. Don’t you dare fuck this up.”

  “We said one more year.”

  “Things change.”

  “Dad,” I say emphatically. “What about Will?”

  “It’s not like you can’t see Will,” he says casually. “You can love one man and be married to another. This is a business transaction, Avery. You and your children will still have everything your hearts desire.”

  I swallow a sob. “I don’t want to have Joshua Grayson’s children,” I say forcefully. “Children should come from love, not obligation.”

  “You and your sister came from obligation,” he says. “And your mother and I loved you just the same.”

  “What about my brother?” I ask. “Did he come from obligation? Or did you finally love Mom after fifteen years together?”

  I think of the baby brother nestled in the crook of my mother's arm as family filed past their open — shared — coffin. How I reached out to touch the baby’s cheek, even though I’d been forbidden from doing so on the way to the funeral home. How cold he was, the stillborn son of Augustus Capulet, the longed-for male heir who died during childbirth and took my mother along with him, into that endless night.

 
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