Viviana "Vine" Carducci's and Anton Avdonin's marriage was decided more than two decades ago. The deal between leading mafia families has more on the line than anyone knew, even if the Bratva and Cosa Nostra shouldn't mix. When Vine's family is murdered and she's left with nothing more than her grief to survive the mob world alone, she believes the arrangement won't see the light of day.
Anton can't allow the one woman he was supposed to love get away. At the possibility of her death, he steps in to save her with guns blazing, knowing exactly what it might cost him: everything. But it's been nearly a decade since their last meeting, and he can't help but wonder if the woman he took back is the same girl he fell for all those years before.
Protected and loved, Vine is unable to forget their shared moments a lifetime ago, or the future she knows they're owed. When an old flame of Anton's shows up to rip the veil off the carefully constructed secrets he'd been hiding, she learns that nothing about her life is as it seems. But, that's nothing compared to the bomb about to blow. Can Vine see beyond the pain and blood to take what she always wanted? And just how far will the mob prince go to keep her safe?
In a world where violence, deceit, and greed reign, your life is not your own, and sometimes, love has to be arranged.
“No, you’re worth a great deal, especially if you’re married to me.”
“You’re hiding something from me,” she realized, hurt that he was lying again, even if it was by omission. Viviana couldn’t decide which stung worse—that he didn’t trust her, or that he thought she didn’t deserve to know whatever it was. “What aren’t you saying?”
Anton looked stricken, fingers drumming a quick beat on his thighs. “I gave them my word. It was supposed to be them explaining this to you if they desired to—all the reasons and things that happened years ago. It’s not my story to tell, and I promised. My word is all I’m worth if you consider the way I live; without it, I have nothing.” Reaching out, he cupped a hand over her knee and ran it along the inside of her jittery leg. With his fingers moving so softly against her inner thigh, he pressed his fingertips close enough to her center to make Viviana throb with need. Murmuring, he said, “Can’t you try to trust me? Viviana, you know me … you do.”
She ignored his plea. “Who, Anton?” His fingers pressed harder at her words, grip tightening when Viviana refused to react to his motions. What she really wanted was more. So much more of his hands on her body, but she didn’t dare speak that out loud. “Was it my father, or Nicoli? Who?”
“I can’t answer that right now.” With that, he stood and held out a hand for her to take. “Come, I’ll get you back in bed for the evening. Let you rest and get the last of that sedative out of your system. I promise you’ll feel better in the morning.”
Too exhausted to argue, her palm met his. Anton’s lips touched down to Viviana’s fingers in a flutter of movement. She wouldn’t have noticed the quick kiss had she not felt the heat of his mouth brushing along her sensitive skin. She might as well have been sixteen and falling for him all over again.
Viviana couldn’t figure out if she was willing enough to let him do it. It didn’t help that she wasn’t all too sure if she knew this man anymore. Was he the same one she wanted all those years ago? Had his feelings remained the same nearly a decade later … was that even possible? Could someone want another that much?
What was even more frightening was that with his blue eyes watching, and his hand connected with hers, waiting, Anton still felt like hers.
Just like he always had.
Surrounded by men waiting for the Russian mob boss to show weakness, Anton Avdonin should have known showering affection so openly on his new bride wasn’t a good idea. Of course, that didn’t stop him. When Anton’s wife begins attracting unwanted attention from an unknown source, he’s determined to find out just who is playing the risky game and put a stop to it by whatever means necessary.
From a Cosa Nostra princess to a Bratva queen, Viviana “Vine” Avdonin was made for the life. Pregnant, safe, and loved, she’s more than happy to move on from the history that haunts her to start out fresh. Then again, someone else has other plans. Old rivals from the past and bad blood from the present have mixed in the worst way, threatening to take away the things Viviana loves the very most. No matter what, she can’t let that happen.
Both Viviana and Anton know there’s only one way this can all end and it’s up to them to do it. But, who is behind the veiled threats and personal attacks, and how far are they willing to go to get what they want? When the truth finally surfaces, the consequences will be devastating and no one could have seen it coming.
In a life where everybody plays for keeps and no one fights fair, one mistake might cost them everything.
“I’m not jealous, Anton.” Strangely, he believed her. Viviana shrugged under the weight of his arm resting around her shoulders. “Why should I be … of Tatiana? I have exactly what she doesn’t. Everything she thought should have been hers is mine. I have your life, your son, and your love. Even if she was nothing more than your whore, which she isn’t, she still wouldn’t have any of those things. So no, I’m not jealous of that girl. On the other hand, I do wonder if she is envious of me.”
“I have no doubt of that.”
Viviana sighed. “Exactly. Tatiana has defied her father, you, and God knows how many others just to hurt me once. That was before we were married, before Demyan, and she only managed to sling words. This time might be different. At this dinner, she’s going to see me pregnant, happy, and protected, all because of you. Again, all that she doesn’t have and everything she wanted. So it brings me back to safety, I guess. You made it clear you don’t want her in any way so would she hurt me, or worse your baby, because of her resentment? Is she that crazy over you?”
Anton stayed silent, letting his wife’s words sink in as he considered them. It wasn’t that what she said didn’t make sense, because it did, but he wondered why Viviana had asked for Tatiana’s presence at all.
“You asked for her to be there, Vine. If you were worried about all of this, why ask at all?”
“I also asked for no guns.”
“And I’ll make sure that’s adhered to as best I can,” Anton said, still feeling confused. “You won’t take a step into any establishment unless it is weapon free.”
Viviana felt tense in his arms. “You don’t need a gun to kill someone.”
“She won’t have any chance to be alone with you.”
“Then what?” Anton asked.
“I want this done,” she said so low he strained to hear. “Put an end to it, however you have to. I don’t want to worry about her or her goddamned family after it’s over. I don’t want to think if she can’t hurt me, she’ll go to the next best thing.”
“You’re worried she’ll try to hurt Demyan.”
“Or you. To me, that’s just as bad.”
“You know that’d never—”
“No, I don’t,” Viviana interrupted coolly. “But if I didn’t have them to worry about, it’d be one less thing for me to consider.”
It was only then that her hidden meanings were starting to dawn on Anton. Viviana never asked him for anything in regards to business. She didn’t like to have her hands in his pots, so to speak. This was entirely different, especially if she was asking what he thought she was asking.
“Come on, Vine …”
“I want it done,” she repeated thickly. “Please.”
“On your head, though? You want that on your mind, bloodying up your hands, too?”
“Stop it,” Anton said, practically spitting the words. “Fuck, just don’t say that shit. I’ll handle it.”
“Before or after one of us is dead?”
After everything the Russian mob boss Anton Avdonin has done to keep his family safe from the dangers of the world surrounding them, he never thought it would come down to this. The officials are knocking, the charges are piling, his wife is hurting, and they’re facing a fate he never thought to consider. He didn’t just make one mistake … no, he made many. It’s time to answer for them all.
Viviana “Vine” Avdonin is stuck watching the life she adores crumble around her. Bad decisions have led to terrible consequences in more ways than one. She doesn’t have time to recover from one devastating tragedy that leaves her shattered before the next one is crushing down, too. Saving her husband from a life sentence might be the easiest thing she has to do when her own misdeeds are staring her in the face.
Together, Anton and Viviana have survived more than once, but this path will be by far, the hardest they’ve ever walked. Sometimes they have to walk it alone … because forgiveness isn’t always black and white and love can be blurred by pain. With the blissful ignorance gone and the blinders removed, how much of themselves will they have to sacrifice to come out on top one last time?
When everyone has a score to settle, it’s hard to notice the person causing the most heartache is the one staring back in the mirror.
“Well, aside from firing her, there’s not much I can—”
Anton didn’t get to finish his sentence. A loud bang and shouted orders rang out in the downstairs of the club. The tinkling sounds of canisters popping along the empty floor echoed up to their spot. There was no denying what was happening downstairs.
“Fuck,” Ivan muttered.
Instantly, Anton was off his office chair, ignoring the gun he knew was in the desk, and the information of a shipment, never mind the laptop he should have tried to somehow destroy. No, instead, the only thing he could think of was the little boy on the floor with wide blue eyes and terrified, reaching for his father.
“Papa?” Demyan cried.
“Shhh, little man,” Anton whispered.
In his arms, he held his son tighter and turned his back to the door of the office. It seemed like only milliseconds, but his mind was running a million miles a minute. Anton couldn’t begin to understand why the officials would be raiding his club. His guys certainly hadn’t been given any indication and they’d all been pretty quiet.
Demyan’s shaking increased as the shouts down below became louder. “It’s okay, Demyan, it’s okay. Papa’s here.”
The sounds of a dozen or more pairs of boots pounding up the metal staircase ratcheted up Anton’s nerves to a breaking point.
“Anton …” Ivan started to say. “Anton, give me your son!”
The hardest thing Anton ever had to do, next to walking out of his house that morning knowing his wife’s heart was breaking, was hand his trembling, scared, and crying son off to another man. It was safer for Demyan, though.
No doubt, they weren’t there for Ivan.
Anton watched Ivan curl a fighting Demyan into his chest as he got to his knees on the floor and automatically put his hands behind his head. The less threatening he seemed at their entrance, the less likely they were to cause him harm, never mind his son seeing it.
“Demyan, it’s okay,” Anton repeated when the first kick to the door landed with a solid thump. The second and third only followed louder, harder. “Hide his face, Ivan!”
When the door finally broke, it wasn’t a second before Anton found himself face down on the floor, his son’s cries overtaking all other sounds. Cuffs tightened around his wrists to an almost painful point, but Anton refused to show it. A boot landed hard between his shoulder blades, keeping him pinned to the floor even though he wasn’t fighting.
“Anton Daniil Avdonin, you’re under arrest for the murder of Sonny Carducci, Tatiana Belov, Sergei Belov …”
An attack on one Avdonin will leave the family stunned and hurting. Their retribution is brutal, but the repercussions for their revenge will be even more devastating. Because when blood is spilled in their world, more must fall, too.
No one is safe. They have always been formidable—unstoppable. But they are not bulletproof.
Giving all of your heart to one person means running the risk of losing it when life comes crashing down. A happily ever after is just beyond their grasps.
One will get theirs.
And the other won’t.
A Russian Guns Novella, Prequel to Shattered
“Are you ever going to marry that girl?” Anton asked, nodding in Gia’s direction.
Gia laughed with Demyan’s mother. About what, he didn’t know. She looked happy and carefree.
“You’re twenty-five. She’s twenty-six. You’re almost done with school, she already is and working. Not to mention you’re living together. Shit, you might as well be married, son. Just get it done with already.”
Demyan cocked a brow over the top of his beer bottle. “Get it done with?”
“Well, what the fuck else do you want me to say? It’s not like you’re making any damn effort to do it on your own.”
Lifting a single shoulder in response, Demyan tipped the bottle up and swallowed a mouthful of the amber colored, bitter liquid.
“You’ve been in love with her forever. I wish you would make it official.”
Demyan rolled his eyes. “It’s not any less official just because we don’t have rings and a signed marriage license. We’re happy like this. She’s really independent. I don’t know if she will ever want to get married.”
“Have you even proposed?” Anton asked pointedly. “How would you know if you don’t?”
“You assume I haven’t.”
“If you asked Ivan for his daughter’s hand like a good man, I would be the first person he called after.”
Goddamn it. Sometimes it sucked to have his father be such close friends with Gia’s father. Between the two of them, nothing flew under their mutual radars. It had been like this since Gia and Demyan were teenagers.
“You don’t understand. I’m not going to ask Ivan for something Gia doesn’t want yet, Papa.”
Anton’s brow crinkled. “Oh.”
“Yeah. I’d marry her in a heartbeat. Like first thing tomorrow morning at the courthouse if she would let me.”
“Why won’t she?”
Demyan didn’t know.
“Is it the Bratva thing again?” Anton asked.
“No, I don’t think so. We don’t talk about that at all.”
“Nope,” Demyan said simply. “It’s easier this way.”
“So, fact is, that could be precisely why, but you don’t know because you won’t ask.”
Demyan hated when his father made sense. “I love her, Papa.”
“I know you do.”
“Exactly. And if being together like we are is what makes her happy, I don’t need more. I won’t push her for more, either. She doesn’t like that I’m Vor, so I don’t make a point of shoving it in her face. It’s only a small piece of us, but not all. I’m going to keep my focus on the better parts.”
“Fair enough,” Anton said, but his smile didn’t ring true. “And when were you planning on telling me, anyway? Or at least, your mother.”
“Tell you what?”
“That Gia’s pregnant.”
“Don’t fall in love with me. I ruin beautiful things.”
Love made him this way, but life makes him stay.
Life doesn’t give a redo. There’s no rewind or pause button to take you back or stop time. Once something happens, it happened. The most tragic of those times in his life, the ones he wouldn’t get back and the moments he could never fix, reminded Demyan Avdonin of a bullet meeting glass.
The impact of the bullet doesn't break the glass into pieces, but instead, leaves behind a single hole surrounded by a spider web of cracks. Fragile cracks that, when handled with the utmost care, would splinter into shards of what used to be.
Demyan thought he had been broken beyond repair once, four long years ago.
He was wrong.
She touched the glass, unknowing of the cracks holding him together. These are the broken pieces of a shattered man and the woman who made him live.
Life made him this way, but love makes him stay.
Demyan wasn’t sure how he felt about that other than the fact he didn’t want to think about it at all. Hooking up was one thing, but acting cozy was completely different and not what he should want.
“Don’t,” he forced out.
Demyan turned on his heel, a hand flying up in the air to stop her from saying another thing. He made a swift beeline for the front door, grabbing his jacket off the back of the couch where he tossed it the night before.
At the front door, he tugged on his coat before yanking on his shoes.
“Demyan, please just wait a second,” Claire pleaded. “Please!”
Her cry sliced him straight down to the fucking bone. Like it ached in his heart because he was the one making her hurt. She was just feet away from him. Christ, he could reach out and touch her, soothe her if he wanted, but he couldn’t.
“Don’t do that,” Demyan said sharply, standing straight and trying to force back the rising anxiety and anger.
Claire snapped away from him as if he’d stuck out at her with his hand. “Do what?”
“I don’t understand wh—”
Demyan waved at her. “That right there. This can’t be something. We can’t be something. Don’t do that.”
“Demyan, you’re freaking out over nothing.”
No, he wasn’t.
There were tears in her eyes. They weren’t falling, but they were there. She was hurt by his rejection, and he didn’t know how to handle what was going on inside his head and heart. So, it was pretty goddamn simple for Demyan. He needed to stop whatever this was before it went any further. Straight for the kill, like any good monster would do.
“Don’t fall in love with me. I ruin beautiful things.”
Claire flinched. “Why would you say that?”
“You can’t fall in love with someone like me and you certainly can’t afford to believe there’s something here or that you can make me better again. I am broken—unobtainable and unfixable. I don’t need a fucking martyr in my life. I’ve got enough of those as it is.”
“Just … don’t.”
“Fall in love with you.”
“Exactly,” Demyan muttered.
“Why would you say that?” she repeated.
Wasn’t it obvious?
“Why would you tell me not to fall in love with you and then in the next sentence, call me beautiful?”
Because she was.
Top Ten Female Characters in Fiction
These are ten of my favorite female characters in fiction. Truth be told, some may change from time to time as I discover new works or remember old ones I have read. But right now, when I gazed over my bookshelves and wondered “What females’ stories would I share and why?” these female leads stood out to me. Maybe one or two will stand out to you, too.
1) Cathy from Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews.
While this book had some really taboo topics and the choices made by the MC female lead could be, at times, cringe-worthy, I adored Cathy. I still do today and that was well over a decade ago that I first read her and her brother’s story. I try to re-read her stories (the family series) at least once a year.
2) Mary Boleyn from The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory.
Mary was often overshadowed by her sister, Anne, but in the end, Mary lived her life as she wanted. And fact tells the truth right along with the fictionalized version of this tale—Mary lived, Anne got her head cut off.
3) Francesca Giordano from The Borgia Mistress by Sara Poole.
Oh, my God …. Francesca. Lover to a Borgia son, court poisoner for the man who was to become Pope, ridiculously strong willed and minded in a time when women were considered only good for birthing babies. I loved this woman. I devoured the book in hours because of her.
4) Ana from Letting Ana Go by Anonymous.
Ana could have been my friend, she could have been my mother, she could have been me. Her story, despite the way it ended, and her character, stayed with me because of that.
5) Dora Rare from The Birth House.
Dora is the first of two midwives on this list of mine. She’s from a favorite place of mine, Nova Scotia Canada. She endured through so much—she was amazing. I loved her strength most of all and how she finally settled into happiness with who she was and what she wanted regardless of what others wanted. It’s a good life lesson.
6) Savannah Lynn Curtis from Dear John by Nicholas Sparks.
I actually didn’t think I would put a NS novel on this list, but when I looked through my bookshelves (over 300 books in my physical—not digital—collection), Savannah pulled me in again. She made tough choices. Ones that hurt other people, but she did it because of who she was and who she was, was a good person. She sacrificed what could be her happiness for someone else. Maybe she was rewarded in the very end for it, we never knew.
7) Alice Piper from So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman.
Good God, if there is any book on this list you pick up and try, PLEASE PICK THIS ONE. PLEASE. Alice Piper is a young teenaged girl—the story is told from many perspectives and it makes you question everything you thought you knew about life and people and “what would you do if this was your child?” Alice did what so many people THINK of doing but never do. This book gave me the chills for weeks and even when I think of Alice today, I still go, “WOW”.
8) Mia from If I Stay by Gayle Forman.
This story was just … poignant as is. Being told from Mia’s perspective added to that. I don’t think it would have worked as well with someone else’s perspective. Mia made this story. There’s more books though I haven’t read them.
9) Anna & Kate from My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult.
Read the book, don’t just watch the movie. I know there should only be one female here, but they intertwined so much by the end, it only made sense for them to be both. Anna is the kind of person people should be, and Kate is … heartbreaking. Both strong but in completely different ways. If I had daughters (I don’t, I have all boys), I would hope they could be as emotionally, and mentally strong as these girls.
10) Hannah Levi from The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich.
Hannah is a Jewish Midwife who risks her career and life to save the life of a Christian mother and her baby, despite knowing her actions could have grave consequences. She was an amazing character to read about.
I hope my list gives you some new characters to go and try!