by AJ Elmore and Nazarea Andrews
Release date: January 2014
Seth Morgan has returned home after two years spent building an alliance that will take his family's crime syndicate to a new level in New York City's black collar society. He expects a warm welcome as heir of the Morgan empire. He hopes to finally marry Nicolette, the woman he's loved his whole life.
What he finds is a different world, one where his family's legacy is in ruins. His big brother, Caleb, has changed into someone cold and bitter, plotting to overthrow their patriarch. And Nicolette, daughter of the criminal banking industry, has left the family entirely.
When a vicious misunderstanding leaves Caleb dead, Seth is left reeling. Desperate for truth, Seth is forced to turn to his only remaining cousin, Emma, for support. As he tries to mend his relationship with Nicolette, he begins a search for answers that will take him from the dirty streets to the highest reaches of their illicit empire.
Torn between the desire to protect those who mean the most to him, and a need to learn more about Caleb's death, he grows distant to protect them. As each secret surfaces, he realizes that the only way to restore his family is to take his place at its head, and fully embrace the brutal way they live.
It's a whisper of noise, almost blending with the rest of the people murmuring her name. Except that she's waited two years to hear this voice.
She turns and sees him, half hidden in shadows. Her stomach turns, his attention on her like a hot brand.
His eyes are tired, at odds with the smile he gives her as she slips across the hallway to stand at Seth's right hand.
He's studying her, and she shifts, taking the moment to return the gesture. He’s thin, far past his normal slender build, almost emaciated. His skin is soft gold from months in the sun, his dark hair hanging unruly around his ears. His posture isn’t the arrogant disregard she’s used to from Seth—it’s hunched, almost defensive. A bruise is ugly and yellow on his jaw, from where Caleb hit him.
She touches it, without thinking, and Seth flinches away.
“Let’s get lunch,” she says, looping an arm through his. Quinn will wonder what happened to her, but that thought barely registers—Seth is here, and she’s pulling him along.
They get greasy hot dogs from a vendor and a cup of Coke that makes her teeth chatter. It’s street fare, but delicious, and she revels in it—the prince of the city and his favorite cousin, sitting on the stoop of a shop like any commoner. She picks at her hot dog and watches him out of the corner of her eye. Seth eats pensively, staring at the traffic and people rushing past.
“You missed it,” she says, picking an onion off the hot dog.
Seth nods. “Yes. More than I thought possible.”
She wants to ask why he was gone so long, why he never reached out to those he left behind, why he promised to protect and teach her, but left so soon with no word.
Emma doesn’t say any of that—she doesn’t say anything. She crumples her hot dog up and sets it aside. Leans her head against his shoulder. For a few heartbeats, Seth is stiff, startled, all tension and steel. Then a sigh moves through him and she feels his arm come around her, one hand smoothing down her curls. She shivers, time seeming to slow as she leans into him, inhaling his scent.
They sit like that for a few long minutes. Then he squeezes her gently and pulls away. He doesn’t look at her as she reaches for her Coke, wiping at her eyes. She’s so young, he thinks. So damn young and vulnerable.