Ignite You - Deleted Prologue

Ignite You - Deleted Prologue


Five years earlier…

New York City

Mom gripped the stirring wheel until her knuckles turned a pale white. Every now and then, she would shoot a nervous glance my way.  She didn’t need to worry about me. My gut was never wrong. And today my gut was telling I had made the right decision.

“The speed limit is forty-five, Mom.” I hugged my laptop bag and quickly checked the time on my watch. No matter how much she slowed down, we would still make it there on time.

“That’s what I’m doing.” She motioned toward the speedometer. “But kids around campus drive like maniacs. Promise you’ll be extra careful, Emilia.”

“This is a good thing, Mom.” I reached over and squeezed her hand. “You can’t keep me home forever.”

“I was willing to try.” She craned her neck to check the on-coming traffic before she hung a right. “You’re not a regular girl. And you know that.”

“I’m twenty-three. Not a girl anymore.”

“You know what I mean.” She waved her hand in dismissal.

The conversation went down the same slippery slope as it had done in the past six months since I told Mom I had been accepted into Columbia Law. In all fairness, her concerns were not unfounded. And she was right, we were not regular people because regular people were not on run from the Cartel. They didn’t have a price on their heads. And they certainly didn’t live in constant fear that someone from their past might recognize them, and then it would be all over.

I still had the scars from five years ago when my own cousin betrayed us and tried to have my entire family killed. Mom and I survived because of Dad’s contingency plans to his contingency plans. Though all the arrangements in the world couldn’t save his life. I hugged my bag tighter to my chest. Yes, I appreciated everything Mom had done to keep us alive since that day. But now, it was time for us to move on and start living.

Going to law school was a means to an end. My dreams were simple, become a lawyer and then one day nail the son of bitch who killed my father. But one thing at a time, first I had to get through my first day at Columbia. I had to show Mom that we could do this, that we didn’t have to hide anymore, that we didn’t need to live in fear forever.

The din of honking and yelling pulled me away from my daily scheming. Mom slammed on the brakes, and my body jerk forward so abruptly I had to brace my hand on the dashboard.

“What the hell?” I glanced up at the bike rider skimming onto the sidewalk and then taking off without looking back. “Jesus, you almost hit him.”

“It’s a sign.” Mom shook her head.

“It’s a student running late for class.” My gaze darted toward the guy we almost hit, but he was gone. Instead, I zeroed in on the guy sauntering toward the intersection.

We caught the red light, and I had a whole minute to watch him cross the street in front of us. He wore black slacks and a crisp white, button-down shirt, fancy shoes, and a fancy watch—tall, gorgeous, confident. Something about his chiseled jaw, full brows, and intense gaze screamed powerful to me.

The light turned green, and our car eased forward as Mom slowly pulled into the parking lot to drop me off. By then, the guy had disappeared into the crowd, but his details stayed with me—his loose-hip stride, that handsome face, and the way his back muscles rolled under his shirt when he adjusted his computer bag on his shoulder.

I braced my elbow on the window, tapping my lips to stifle a sigh. Blinking fast, I chased away his image from my mind’s eye. Relationships of any kind, including friendships, were a hard no for people like Mom and me.

“Here we are.” Mom killed the ignition and shifted her body to face me. “Carlos will pick you up at three O’clock. Don’t be late. Remember what happened last week.”

“He freaked out for no reason?”

“Emilia.” She knitted her brows. “Don’t make me regret this. I agreed to let you attend school in person, but you have to do as I say.”

“I will.” I could point out that at my age, I didn’t need her telling me what to do. But Mom’s strict rules were not about keeping me in line. They were meant to keep us both alive. “I’ll be right here exactly at fifteen-hundred hours.” I did a mock salute, touching two fingers to my temple.

“Go. You’re going to be late.” She shook her head, while a smile pulled at her lips.

“I have time. Love you.” I leaned in and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.

“I love you too.” She called after I shut the passenger door.

I took long strides with Greene, the law building, in my line of sight. A part of me wanted to break into a run just in case Mom decided this was a bad idea and tried to stop me. Fear had been a constant in my life. Even now, with the sun on my face and the happy smiles of the students surrounding me, trepidation lingered at the pit of my stomach.

The last gory images of Dad lying in a pool of his own blood flooded my mind. I squeezed my eyes shut for a second and waited for the usual gunshot to ring in my head. No, I couldn’t let Mom mess with my plans like that. I inhaled and slowed my gait to a slower pace. I had made it this far. I couldn’t stand down now.

By the time I reached the western entrance, I was back on operation “full-speed ahead,” drowning in hope and a desperate desire to move forward. With a dorky smile on my face, I pushed open the door and took the stairs to the third floor. I had a little bit of time before class started, so I figured I could sit in the library and get my bearings.

I sat at the only table available, nestled between a shelf of large, leather-bound books and the floor-to-ceiling windows facing the street. The space buzzed with quiet whispers and the soft ruffle of papers. This had been my life for the past five years—I was the outsider looking in. I stayed in my corner, tucked away, as returning students hugged hello.

My gaze darted across the narrow space crowded with chairs. And as if the universe knew it owed me big time, the man from the intersection pulled on the glass double door and sauntered inside. The thumping of my heart grew faster with every step he took in my direction. For the longest minute, I thought he was headed my way. I swallowed and shot a glance to my right, looking for a quick exit. When I turned to meet his gaze, he had already settled down next to a woman who seemed thrilled to have him sitting there with her.

That alone should have tampered whatever fantasies my brain had conjured in the last ten seconds, but it didn’t. I ogled them, or him rather. Of course he had a charming smile and a deep voice that made my legs turned to warm Jell-O. I couldn’t make out the words he was saying, but his rich baritone burrowed itself in my chest. Jeez, who the hell was this guy?

“Trust me, you don’t want to get caught up in all of that?” The female voice startled me back to reality. When I turned to face her, she offered me her hand. Her big green eyes watched me with curiosity as she waited for me to snap out of it. “Name is Paige.”

“Oh, right. I’m sorry.” I cleared my throat and shook her hand. “I’m Emilia.”

“She speaks.” She winked and sat next to me. “Are you a first year?”


“Great. Me too. I was hoping I’d meet at least one person I could talk to.”

The idea of maybe making a friend while I was in the law program also crossed my mind. Though I knew that wasn’t a possibility. “It’s nice to meet you.” I smiled while I came up with an excuse to make a quick exit.

“If I ever saw a gorgeous thing. Hmm.” She glanced over at my mystery man. Suddenly, I couldn’t remember why I had to leave.

“You know him?” For some weird reason, a prick of heat blossomed in my belly at the mere idea of finding out more about him.

“You don’t.” She cocked an eyebrow.

“I just got here.” I shrugged and leaned toward her to encourage her to go on.

“That’s the great Dom Moretti.” She dipped her head. “Doesn’t ring a bell?”

“Um, no.”

“I heard the rumors during orientation, but I didn’t believe it.” She bit her lip and stared at Dom.

Dom. His name was Dom.

“So what are the rumors. I wasn’t here last week.”

I had waited until the last minute to tell Mom I had been accepted to Columbia Law and that I was dropping all my online classes. Mom lost her shit that day, and I couldn’t get away to attend the meet and greet at the Greene.

“Is he a student here?” I gave up all pretense of coolness when it came to the Adonis perched on the armrest of a club chair, four tables away from us. The woman from before had left, and he now had a different, equally beautiful women hanging from his arm.

“Yes.” Paige braced her elbows on her knees and lowered her voice. “He’s the son of a mobster, ruthless, powerful, gorgeous and with a license to kill.”

“That can’t be true.”

My heartbeat spiked. He couldn’t be here for me, could he? No, the Mexican cartel had no ties to the Italian mob in New York. He couldn’t possibly know who I was. For that, he would have to actually look my way.

“Those are rumors.” She shrugged.

“What else do you know?”

“He wants to be a lawyer. Just like the rest of us.” She sat back to study my features. “You look a little pale. You okay? I don’t think he’s here on a job.” She chuckled. “Just stay away from him. Getting involved can’t end well.”

“I wasn’t planning on that.” I shifted my body away from him. Not that it helped the jittery energy buzzing between my legs. I should be afraid of him, but I wasn’t. Instead, my initial attraction to him doubled.

Mom had warned me about guys like him. Even before Dad’s tragic end, she had made me promise to never fall in love with a hired gun. She knew this from experience since Dad worked for the Cartel before he met her. Dad killed for a living. Eventually, all his dealings caught up to him and left Mom and me alone and on the run. We had survived only because of Dad’s a million-and-one contingency plans to get us out in case of an emergency, and a trust fund overseas that ensured we wanted for nothing.

So now I needed a plan of my own, which was easier than anything Dad had had to face. I simply needed to stay away from Dom and his devastatingly charming smile. A feat that wouldn’t be too difficult given the constant flow of women hanging by his arm. If we were moths, he was the flames.

“Hello?” Paige waved her hand in front of my face. “Where did you go? Jeez, you went from pale to burning hot cheeks.” She laughed. “You can stop staring, he’s gone. We need to go too; class is about to start.”

“Shit.” I shot to my feet. “The last thing I need is to be late to ethics class.”

“Why? It’s not unethical to be late. It’s rude, but not unethical.”

“Yeah, I know. Let’s go. Looks like everyone’s gone.”

I rushed down the main corridor to Professor Wilson’s class. Paige was about an inch shorter than me, but man, she could power walk. She went ahead of me and opened the door. Inside, the rumble of excited voices still lingered in the air while Professor Wilson tinkered with the small microphone on his lapel. I quickly scanned the room for an empty seat. The first row was taken and so were the seats along the wall near the door. I had promised Mom I would stick to our rules—always have an exit strategy.

“There are two seats in the back.” Paige poked my ribs. “Ooooorrrr…” She jerked her chin toward the second door on the other end of the room. I could only guess no one had taken the spot next to Dom because he had his long legs settled on the seat.

“I hate the back.”

“Don’t let the big bad wolf, get ya.” She waved.

I gripped the strap of my laptop bag tighter around my body for protection and ambled toward Dom, or the empty seat that met all of Mom’s requirements for an easy getaway. I kept focused on my goal and casual step. When I stopped in front Dom’s Italian leather shoes, he made like a tsk sound and met my gaze. A spur of heat fluttered in my belly. He was better looking up-close. The sexy stubble on his cheek accentuated his full lips, and his eyes were the bluest I’d ever seen.

“Is this seat available?” I pointed at his feet.

For whatever crazy reason, and possibly because I hadn’t dealt with men in a long time, I thought he would smile at me like he had done with the other women. He didn’t. Instead, he knitted his brows as if he couldn’t believe I had audacity to ask him to move.

He licked his lips and readjusted his weight so he could plant both feet on the carpeted floor. “It is now.” The half shoulder shrug stung a bit. Maybe brunettes were not his thing. Good because I wanted nothing to do with him either.

My legs quavered, but I managed to slide into my chair without falling on my face. I didn’t bother saying thank you. He didn’t need to be rude. I leaned forward to set my bag down and pulled out my iPad to take notes. Behind me, Dom sucked air through his teeth. Really? What was his deal? I needed this desk because it was close to the door. I shouldn’t have to explain that to him, just like I didn’t have to explain it to Paige.

“Good morning.” Professor Wilson stood in front of the class. “It’s your first day and I know everyone is anxious to get started. But let’s take a few minutes to introduce ourselves. And since experience versus intent are first on the agenda, how about you pair up and let your partner introduce you.” He strode to the first row along the wall and pointed at the first two students. “You two pair up. And you two.” He pointed at the next two women. “Keep it going all the way.” He motioned toward me and Dom.

I nodded at Professor Wilson.

Fuck me twice.

I shifted my weight to face the big bad wolf and his know-it-all grin.

* * *

Looking for more steamy reads? Check out my spinoff series of standalone full-length novels, Steal My Heart, featuring Derek’s four brothers and his best friend Dom.
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