He’s dark like the ocean and breathless like water.
Love Like Poison, the steamy first book in the dark mafia Corsican Crime Lord Series from USA Today bestselling author Charmaine Pauls, is available now!
Every year on my birthday, my tormentor returns to claim one of my firsts.
On my sixteenth birthday, a stranger from Corsica shows up at my party. Angelo Russo looks like an angel, but more the kind who decapitates dragons than the kind with soft white wings. He’s dark like the ocean and breathless like water. He says he wants all my firsts as if he already owns them, but my father orders me to stay away from this man.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t escape him. No one can keep me safe. Every year on my birthday, he brings me a gift, each one having a detrimental effect on my life with unimaginable consequences. With every gift he offers, he claims another one of my firsts. Before I know it, he’s taken control of my existence, turning me into a nervous wreck, because when I turn eighteen, I know what first he’ll come for next.
Note: Love Like Poison is the first book in the Corsican Crime Lord series and ends on a cliffhanger. Sabella and Angelo’s story continues in Hate Like Honey (Book Two).
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Keep reading for a look inside Love Like Poison!
“You don’t look old enough to be a waitress,” he says, finishing his evaluation by inspecting my legs. “How young are they hiring these days?”
I don’t correct him. If he knows how young I really am, he won’t give me another ounce of his attention. Although walking away is without a doubt the wiser option, I don’t want to turn my back on him. Not just yet.
His lips quirk, amusement sparking in his eyes. “Has the cat got your tongue, bella?”
A jolt runs through me. How does he know my name? Only my family and close friends call me Bella. But no. He said it differently. He said it like a term of endearment. I know what bella in that context means, and it warms my chest with a pleasant heat.
“You have an accent,” I say.
“Are you from Italy or France?”
“You speak English very well.”
“My mother insisted that we learn from a young age. It’s important to speak it for business.”
His cryptic and polite answers are a clear sign that he’s getting bored with the conversation. I should go, but I linger, unable to pull myself away. “I wish I could speak a foreign language.”
“Shouldn’t you be working?” he asks, nodding at the box in my hands. His animosity gets my hackles up.
“Shouldn’t you be mingling with the guests?”
He grins. Taking a Zippo lighter from his pocket, he taps the joint against the metal. “Parties are boring, but birthday parties are the worst.” He casts another glance at my unsuitable attire. “You obviously agree.”
Although I do share his sentiment, I can’t help but turn defensive. “Then why did you come?”
Bringing the joint to his mouth, he watches me from the slits of his eyes as he lights it. He inhales and blows out a thin line of smoke. “Business.”
The smoke twists into a ribbon before dispersing in the air, leaving the pungent odor of weed behind. “Business?”Was I wrong about him being a guest? “Are you with the caterers?”
He laughs. “My father and Mr. Edwards are business associates.” Studying me through the thick lashes of his hooded eyes as he takes another drag of the joint, he adds after blowing out the smoke, “Of sorts.”
“So you’re only here for business reasons,” I say, my ego unjustifiably bruised.
“That’s how it would seem.”
I fail to keep the sarcasm from my voice. “I can see how that must suck for you.”
He shrugs. “It comes with the territory.”
When I don’t reply, he holds the joint out to me.
I shake my head. “I don’t smoke.”
“Do you drink?”
My parents let me have a little wine or champagne on important occasions. “Not often.”
His voice drops an octave. “Good.”
He carries on smoking while I just stand there, racking my brain for something to say.
Turning his face, he looks at me as if to ask why I’m still there. “You better run inside and get to work.”
I don’t like the way he speaks to me. I resent how he thinks he can order me around. Most of all, I hate how easily he dismisses me.
When he stubs the joint out on the wall and flicks the butt in the party trash that’s piling up next to the door, I know he’s going to walk away. And I don’t want him to. I stall by using what my feminine intuition tells me will get his attention. Defiance.
“No,” I say, lifting my chin.
His eyes flare as if he doesn’t hear that word often.
“I won’t jump because you told me to,” I continue.
He pushes off the wall. “What did you say to me?”
Standing taller, I tap into my confidence that usually comes naturally but for some reason now has failed me. “Why must I go? You leave if you don’t want me here. You shouldn’t have picked this spot if you were hoping to smoke your drugs without being caught. Which is completely not cool. Not smoking in secret but smoking at all. Especially drugs. It makes you totally uncool.”
Shit. Can I just shut up now?
His dark eyes widen with humor rather than anger. A smile flirts with his lips.
He’s laughing at me. How embarrassing.
I don’t wait for his reply. My intention is making a grand exit while I still have some dregs of dignity left to cling to, but just as I turn toward the kitchen, my mom walks through the door.
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