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I am and have been many things: owner of the Charleston Cougars, CFO of Maxfield Corp, and ex-Chicago mafia prince. One thing I was certain I’d never be called?


But that was before the Irish mafia princess Serenity O’Brien showed up outside my door, calling in one of my favors.

Her prick of a father was about to sell her off to an allying family like a broodmare, and she wants me to help make her unsellable by stealing her prized virginity.

I can’t do that to her.

So I offer to marry her instead.

The solution is a temporary fix to her problem, and at least with me, I know she’ll be safe.

I vow not to touch her, but she has other plans.

I’ve wanted her since the moment I saw her, and marrying her only makes that worse. Not to mention she’s hell-bent on seducing me to ensure she loses all value to her family.

But that’s the thing she doesn’t realize. She’s the most valuable thing on the planet to me.
And the more time we spend together, the harder I fall for the sweet princess who should absolutely stay away from a monster like me.

Serenity is stronger than she realizes, and she accepts me for exactly who I am. When we collide? It’s earth-shattering. And there’s no going back.

I don’t care if her entire family comes after us, I’ll protect her at all costs.
She’s mine.

Check out the first chapter below!



I couldn't feel my fingertips.

We'd moved up our monthly poker game by a couple of weeks so we could be in Lake Tahoe for New Year's Eve, and Asher’s snowboarding event had lasted two hours past acceptable. The thick ski gloves had done their best, but even at the game I’d barely been able to hold my damn cards.

At least the game had been uneventful, seeing as at the last one, Crossland and Doyle had pulled their cocks out and put both of their NHL teams on the line.

Thank fuck Cross had won, but I knew Doyle wasn't going to let that shit slide. He'd been uncharacteristically quiet tonight, and we'd ended the game before midnight so my friends could go ring in the new year with their significant others.

I couldn't believe that they all had a constant partner now, but I wasn't about to crash their party as the one single person left in our inner circle.

Despite the quick shower I’d taken before the game, the cold still clung to my bones. The chill from the slopes had worked itself into the very marrow, and now that I had nothing on the agenda, I jumped right back into the scalding hot shower and took my sweet ass time.

It wasn't like I had a date waiting for me, even though I could’ve secured one. I just wasn't in the mood. And even though I was up-front with all my casual dates about what they were, sometimes on holidays like New Year's Eve, they got other ideas.

Ideas like I was boyfriend material or worse, marriage material.

I was the furthest from either.

Not because of my bachelor tendencies, or because I traveled more than I stayed in one place, but because of my past. I'd done my best to eradicate the darker aspects of my history, but shadows always have a way of surfacing. Like old enemies looking for a weak spot against my family, enough to ensure I never made things serious with anybody.

Not that I'd ever dated anyone who made me think it'd be worth the risk.

When the shower water shifted to lukewarm, I shut it off and stepped out, wrapping a towel around my waist. I finally felt warm again and was seriously contemplating punching Asher the next time I saw him.

I loved adrenaline rushes as much as the next person, but staying outside in frigid temperatures for six hours? No fucking thanks.

A knock on my door sounded. I glanced at the bedside clock and saw that it read fifteen to midnight, and I hurried over, more than ready to dig into the room service I’d ordered before I got in the shower.

I swung the door open, the breath stalling in my lungs. It wasn’t a hotel attendant that had every muscle in my body locking up.

It was Serenity O’Brien.

The soft-spoken, drop-dead-gorgeous daughter of one of my family’s biggest rivals. The daughter of the most insufferable bastard to ever gain a seat at our invite-only poker game.

The woman who had a starring role in my most forbidden fantasies.

Her long blonde hair hung in waves over her shoulders, the same hair that had gotten caught in my cufflinks at one of the first games she attended. The incident had put her in my arms for a brief moment, and I hadn’t been able to get her out of my head since.

Her bright blue eyes looked up at me with all sorts of emotions I couldn’t even pretend to read, and a cream-colored trench was cinched tight around her supple waist, the tie loose and desperate to unravel under my fingers. One tug and I could slide my hands inside, smooth them over her no doubt warm, soft skin.

I furrowed my brow, stopping the vision in its tracks. “Why are you in a trench—never mind, what do you want?” I used the tone I'd constantly kept with her—low, sharp, and to the point.

I couldn’t allow myself to show her anything else. Anything other than someone she didn’t want to fuck with. Because if I showed her the truth? It'd be like inviting an innocent little bunny into a wolf den.

It didn’t matter that I’d wanted her since the first moment I saw her. She belonged to a rival family and was a sweet little virgin who deserved a sweet little guy.

Not someone like me.

Before she could answer, my room service arrived, and she shifted out of the way as the resort employee awkwardly wheeled in the tray and left it there, his eyes shifting between us in question before he practically sprinted back to the elevators down the hall.

I glanced down at myself, realizing I was still in just a towel. Was that why Serenity's eyes had been raking over my chest, snagging on every inch of ink I had?

“Serenity?” I asked.

She visibly swallowed, dipping her delicate fingers into her coat pocket and retrieving something that she promptly shoved into my hand.

I glanced down and the fucking floor dropped beneath me.

A blank white chip.

My blank white chip.

The one that I lost to her in a game when she sat in her father's stead.

A favor chip. Something I never would’ve lost—never would’ve offered—to her father. And maybe she'd caught me in a moment of weakness when I lost it to her, but I never allowed myself to think about what would happen when she actually used it.

“I'm calling this in,” she said, her voice sweeter than honey.

I motioned for her to come inside, my mind instantly churning with what she could possibly need at this time of night.

I closed the door behind her, and she only made it a few feet inside before she spun around and untied the coat, letting it fall open to reveal a long, white silk nightgown that was edged in lace and danced at her ankles.

My blood turned to liquid fire. It was all I could do to hold in my reaction and keep a neutral expression.

She was the most gorgeous creature I'd ever laid eyes on, all smooth, unmarked skin, delicate curves, and innocent eyes.

“I need you to take me,” she said, her voice cracking.

Did she just tremble?

Fuck me, was she afraid to be in the room with me? Hadn’t I shown her ever since she started attending our monthly poker games that I was on her side? I was always the first one to put Doyle in his place when he was being an absolute prick to her, let alone check on her even when I wasn't supposed to, like when we’d all played never have I ever and she’d been more of a bystander than a participant, thanks to her more-than-sheltered upbringing. I’d offered to opt out of the game with her, but she’d politely refused.

“Take you where?” I asked, my voice rough as I tried my best not to drop my gaze below her beautiful face. It was fucking hard. She was a dream.

She was calling in her favor for a ride on the jet? That would certainly let me off the hook, but didn't she know the power that chip held?

Her laugh was a hurried, slightly broken sound, and it made me wonder what her real laugh sounded like.

“This is harder than I thought,” she said, shaking her head.

“What is?”

“Seducing you,” she said, shrugging.

“I’m sorry?” I asked, taking a massive step back, my spine hitting the door. I’d have been less shocked if she’d pulled a gun on me.

She blew out a breath, her eyes on mine. “That favor chip is supposed to be good for whatever I want. And what I want is for you to have sex with me. I know that's a lot to ask. I figured with the incredibly long list of women you see casually, I thought you could fit me in, just this once.” She trailed her gaze over me, and I just stood there gaping at her. “I know you came up here alone,” she continued. “So I know I'm not taking you away from anyone else. You’d never have to think about it again after we’re done.”

Words. Speaking. Respond.

Had I just dropped into the fucking twilight zone? How the hell was Serenity O'Brien standing in my hotel room, looking sexy as hell, begging me to fuck her?

“That's not what that favor chip is for,” I said. “And what do I look like? A stud for hire?”

“Funny you should say stud for hire,” she said with a little spark in her voice, like she was angry with me. “If you don't do this, if you don't grant me this favor, my life is over.”

Something sharp clenched my chest.

“My father is downstairs right now,” she continued. “He's making a deal for me. Selling me like some horse for breeding. He's trying to make up for losing the Bangor team as the organization’s cash funnel. I'm going to end up married to a seventy-year-old mobster who treats me worse than my father does, if you can imagine that. Unless,” she continued, “I’m not the pure prized asset he’s trying to sell.”

Anger sliced through me, my muscles clenching as the fight-or-flight instinct took over my body.

Heavily fucking leaning toward fight.

Up until now, I'd suppressed every urge to knock out Doyle's teeth every single time he said something awful to her. But this? Selling his own daughter? I knew he was still heavily entrenched in the old ways—where loyalty, obedience, and service to the family was everything—but this was fucking crossing a line.

And while I would love to simply storm downstairs and beat the ever-loving shit out of him, it would start a war with my family. I might not be in the life anymore, but I wouldn’t bring a fight down on them.

“I need clothes,” I said, shaking my head. I couldn’t talk to her while only wearing a towel, and if she asked me to fuck her one more time, I’d tear off that silk nightgown and show her more than she was ready for.

“You really don't,” she said, hurrying after me as I headed toward the bedroom where my clothes were. “I know I'm not the most experienced in these things, but I'm pretty sure clothes are unnecessary for what I need you to do.”

I actually fucking laughed as I turned into the suite’s closet, grabbing a pair of gray sweatpants.

I turned and cocked a brow at Serenity, who was standing there with a hand on her hip.

“I haven't agreed to anything yet, angel, but if you want to watch, the show will be free.”

A flush danced over her cheeks, and she spun around just as I dropped the towel.

“If the thought of seeing me naked makes you blush, there's no way you're ready for what you're asking for.” I jerked on my sweats, then pulled a white T-shirt over my chest. It wasn't the suits I usually wore around her, but at least I was covered enough to think straight.

“I'm perfectly ready,” she said as I moved into her line of sight again. “I just didn't want to ogle you like you’re nothing but a piece of meat. Besides, what I'm asking for can't take more than a few minutes, right? According to your friends and the little never have I ever game we played. That's all I need. Five minutes of your life in order to change the course of mine.”

I looked down at her. “Trust me, Serenity, if I got my hands on you, I would take significantly longer than five minutes. Just because I can get you off quicker than that doesn’t mean I would. Hell, just getting you ready to take me would require an hour and at least three orgasms. Only after that would I really get to work on you.”

Her lips parted, a little gasp escaping past them.

Fuck me, I wanted to pull that bottom lip into my mouth and suck it until she whimpered and clawed at me with need.

Not happening.

Can’t happen.

“I...” Her voice cracked. “I'm not trying to take advantage of you, Gareth. I promise. If I hadn't seen this favor chip in my bag, I'd be trying to find a flight out of the country.” A flash of fear coated her blue eyes, and everything in me roared to wrap myself around her, protect her.

I held my fucking ground.

Serenity sank onto the bed, shaking her head.

“He'll kill me either way. Doesn't matter if I run or if you decide to have sex with me. He'll make sure it looks like an accident.”

She said the words with such certainty that my resolve cracked into a million pieces.

I hated that I knew her world likely better than she did, because heiresses were cloistered, protected from some of the darker parts of the life while heirs like me were exposed to every horrid detail.

I sank down in front of her, needing to look into her eyes. Tears rolled down her cheeks and something twisted inside of me.

“He's not going to lay a hand on you,” I said, an idea taking shape in my mind. “And neither am I.”

Defeat had her shoulders curling inward, like my words crushed her.

I tipped her chin up, forcing her to meet my eyes again. “What if I told you I had a solution that keeps you safe, protected, and unfucked?”

She sniffled and swiped at the tears on her cheeks. “I'd say you were selling something.”

It shouldn't be possible.

It was an absolutely terrible fucking idea.

But it would keep her safe.

Her father wouldn't be able to touch her, and she wouldn't have to hunt down the next man she saw and beg him to take away her virginity.

It was an impossible idea, but the only solution in our world.

“Marry me,” I said.


I almost laughed at the irony that I was already on my knees before her.

“Marry me,” I said. “Marry this mobster instead of that old fucker your father picked. He won't be able to come after you, and I won't touch you. You won’t have to run, constantly looking over your shoulder. You won’t have to resort to settling for a night with me. It's the best of both worlds.”

She furrowed her brow. “You'd rather marry me than fuck me?”

The way her sweet, innocent mouth wrapped around that harsh word had me grinding my teeth together in an effort to stay still. Everything inside me was screaming to bridge the distance between us, to give her exactly what she was asking for and more, but that'd be a line we couldn't come back from.

But marrying her?

It would be like a business arrangement, and I was very good at those.

“It's not like that,” I said, not wanting to give away the fact that what she was asking for was exactly what I’d dreamed of every night since meeting her. “If I fucked you right now, it would burn the deal he's trying to make, but it would give him cause to harm you. You think I want that?”

She studied me for a few heartbeats. “A one-night stand is one thing, but marriage? That’s what I’m trying to avoid.”

“I understand that,” I said. “But from where I’m standing, this is the option that keeps you safe. I’ll never harm you. I know you don’t know me that well, but you can trust that.”

“What about your family?”

“What about them?”

She huffed a little. “Won’t marrying the daughter of a rival family cause problems? Even if it isn’t anything real? Even if you’re doing it as a favor?”

“I’ll handle them,” I said, shocked she was worried about any issues this would cause for me when her life was on the line. “I promise, they won’t hurt you either.”

She swallowed hard. “You want to do this?”

“You’ve called in your favor.”

“This isn’t what I asked for.”

“No,” I said, sighing. “But it’s what you need.”

Something settled in her gaze before she glanced down at herself. “I suppose I am already dressed for the occasion.”

I allowed myself to take in the white nightgown one more time, the silk and lace covering her supple body in all the ways that begged to be uncovered. It would do.

“So you're in?”

“I'm in,” she said.

I stood up, hunting down my phone and firing off a quick text to my assistant. He quickly texted back.

“The jet will be ready in forty-five minutes, and the plane ride will be about two hours. I'll have my witness meet us there.”

I shot a text to my oldest friend, not wanting to get anyone else outside the life involved, so that excluded Asher, Crossland, Weston, and Ethan, even though I knew they’d all be more than supportive if I called them in.

“I need to get changed,” I said, heading back into the closet as I searched through my luggage for a suit.

“Where are we going?”


* * *

The next three hours passed by in a flurry of chaos that I could barely keep up with. Thankfully, Brooks, my best friend from Chicago, had already been in Vegas and was more than willing to stand as a witness as Serenity and I took our vows.

He hadn’t asked a single question. That was the thing about Brooks. He was loyal, discreet, and deadly as fuck. I hadn't called him in for that last quality of his in years.

“And do you, Serenity O'Brien, take Gareth Maxfield to be your lawfully wedded husband, in sickness and health, for as long as you both shall live?”

My heart pounded against my chest as we stood across from each other in the tiny church, the first one we'd been able to find with an opening so quickly. I'd only had time to grab a simple solitary diamond ring from the hotel store to slide on her finger.

“I do,” she said without a hint of hesitation in her voice. I’d grabbed a platinum band for me, and now we’d both said our I dos and were wearing rings to prove it.

“By the power vested in me, by the great state of Nevada, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride,” the officiate said, smiling at us both.

Serenity was the first to move closer, and I dipped my head, planting the barest of kisses over her soft, silky lips.

Jesus fucking Christ, I wanted more. I wanted to slide my hands around her waist and haul her to me, to steal her breath and kiss her so intensely her lips would swell with proof that she was mine.

I pulled back quickly, just barely registering the hurt in Serenity’s eyes at the move.

But this wasn't a normal wedding. This was about protecting her, which I would do at all costs. And part of that protection meant keeping her safe from me, too.

Brooks clapped and grinned at me as the officiate motioned for us to be on our way, the next couple waiting to get married already lined up in the hallway outside the main room.

I took Serenity's hand in mine, not wanting her to try to run off after the official words had been said. She didn't seem skittish, not like I expected her to be. There was a calm sense of acceptance washing over her, her eyes going distant as we stood outside the chapel while we waited for my driver to pick us up.

“I can’t wait to see what Dante says about this,” Brooks said after I had successfully put Serenity in the back of the car.

“I’ll deal with Dante,” I grumbled.

Brooks laughed. “Famous last words of countless men.”

“I’m not afraid of him.”

“I am,” Brooks said, feigning a shudder.

I rolled my eyes. “Bullshit,” I said. “Your fearlessness is one of the reasons you’re so terrifying to everyone but me.”

“Don’t lie to yourself, you know you’re a tiny bit scared of me.”

I shook my head. I’d never admit it. But I knew better than anyone how lethally quiet, determined, and skilled Brooks really was. Truth was, I’d rather face Dante’s wrath than Brooks’s any day, and that was saying something.

“I can’t believe you’re actually married,” he said when I didn’t respond. “She’s really a lovely woman. Too good for you, but lovely,” he teased.

“Don’t I know it.”

“You need me to fly back to Tahoe with you?”

“I could use the extra hands,” I answered, knowing Doyle would be out for blood the second he realized Serenity wasn’t safely tucked away in her room. We’d already been gone longer than I’d planned, but I hoped Doyle was too busy getting trashed and celebrating his potential sale to notice.

“I’m there.” Brooks grinned, always the one to find excitement in even the most chaotic of situations. “Happy fucking new year, am I right?”

I huffed out a dark laugh, wondering what the fuck I was going to do next. “Happy fucking new year.”

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