Love isn't always beautiful, sometimes it's beautifully brutal.
If you think you know him… You’re wrong.
If you think you know his family… Wrong again.
If you think you know his story… You don’t.
If you did, you’d likely wonder how the hell a man like Maximillian Adorite managed to make it to this point in his life. At twenty-nine, he’s experienced more than most people could only ever imagine, all thanks to his family. Organized crime they call it. Mafia.
No matter how they spin it, it comes down to one thing. Max gets what he wants. Except for the one thing he wants most...
Her name is Courtney Kogan.
And now that he's had a taste of her, Max knows he will never be able to let her go.
Beautifully Brutal is a modern day mafia twist of Romeo and Juliet. The Good Guys vs. the Bad Guys.
Beautifully Brutal (Southern Boy Mafia, 1) - Chapter One
It starts the same as it ends. Beautifully brutal.
Twenty-four months ago
Maximillian Adorite studied the woman strolling toward him, curious as to why she had graced him with her presence tonight of all nights.
No. Couldn’t be.
Max didn’t believe in coincidence.
Despite his interest in who she was and why she was there, on the very night when a potential shit storm was brewing around him, he found himself transfixed by her, something that didn’t usually happen to him.
Not like this.
In his world, women were a dime a dozen. He credited that to the wealth and danger that surrounded him. Women liked bad boys, and Max’s reputation definitely qualified him for that list. Then again, the women he shared his time with usually figured that out the morning after, when he—politely, if he had been interested enough to catch her name—asked them to leave.
However, this dark-haired beauty … the one with the most striking eyes he’d ever seen—they literally glowed white—was so intriguing he’d found himself watching her for most of the night. But that was all he’d done. Because this woman wasn’t the type who would warm his sheets for only a few hours. He knew that instantly, and since he wasn’t interested in anything more than a couple of hours, he had fought the urge to introduce himself.
Then again, she knew who he was. He was the very reason she was there, or so he’d been told. It’d been his idea to offer the invitation so he could get more information on her, see her in action. This woman … she was his enemy, and Max was interested in keeping her close, getting to know more about her to determine if she was the threat he’d been told she was.
Not that he was all too worried about what she did or didn’t want from him. Or vice versa.
He could sense by her nearness that she was a distraction he definitely didn’t need. Especially tonight. Seeing as he was the host of this party—or what appeared to be a party from the outside looking in and was, in fact, the announcement of a transfer of power—she was a temptation he should avoid but one he couldn’t bring himself to stray too far from. And here she was, successfully keeping him from his other guests, yet he couldn’t muster an ounce of regret.
“And you are?” he asked innocuously, holding his hand out to greet her when she approached.
“Courtney Kogan,” she replied firmly, a hint of defiance in her raspy tone, in the subtle way she tilted her chin as she spoke. “But I suppose you already knew that.”
A battle of wills.
With his hand still hovering between them, he waited for her to slide her fingers against his palm. Never taking his eyes off her face, his gaze locked with hers, Max allowed his brain to process her touch, his body hardening instantly. Bringing her fingers to his lips, he kissed her knuckles softly, inhaling the subtle yet sexy scent of her perfume, something warm and exotic—much like her—with a hint of jasmine and amber wood drifting toward him. Intoxicating.
“Nice to meet you, Courtney Kogan.”
Max hadn’t needed the formal introduction, however; he still would’ve recognized the name, known who she was, who she worked for, and why she was there, but he kept his expression masked.
“Don’t be so sure of that,” she said, a throaty drawl accompanying her words while her satisfied grin hinted at something darker, far more dangerous than what he’d expected from her. From a distance, Courtney had appeared sweet, perhaps a little shy even, but up close, she was anything but.
There was a glimmer of determination in her white-gray eyes, the kohl liner making her look slightly intimidating and a little older than the twenty-four years he knew her to be. The daring smirk on her glossy lips and a hint of a blush on her high, delicate cheekbones contradicted that steely resolve, though.
No, this woman wasn’t sweet or shy. She was a contradiction. A dangerous one if he had to guess.
Max knew all about dark and dangerous. It was his life. He was the son of Samuel and Genevieve Adorite, and Max’s world was entrenched in the dark and dirty underworld that his parents had proudly built around them.
Southern Boy Mafia, they called them.
Max wasn’t one to put labels on himself or his family, but he couldn’t deny the fact that, by definition, that was exactly what they were. Mafia.
No, there weren’t any Italian roots in his family, nor were they tied to any of the five families directly, didn’t have any involvement with the Cosa Nostra, either, but they were, in fact, connected. Even without those direct ties, they were extremely powerful, more so than most people realized, which had brought them to the attention of some of the most formidable families in the world.
His father, Samuel, was the leader of the Adorite family—known to all as the boss. Before him had been Max’s grandfather, Floyd, and before him, Max’s great-grandfather, Andrew. And so on and so forth. Throughout time, control of their extremely profitable businesses had remained within the family, transferring to the eldest male child, although their organization, spanning the vast state of Texas, was made up of much more than that.
Max had recently moved into the position of underboss, a rank within the hierarchy that had been set out for him from the beginning. At least until he would take over the entire organization from his father. Until recently, the second-in-command position had been held by Samuel’s younger brother, Nick. However, since Nick’s stroke three months ago, which had resulted in Max’s uncle being partially paralyzed and suffering from immense neurological damage leaving him unable to make decisions critical to his position, Max had taken over. As had always been the intention.
At twenty-seven, Max was now the second most powerful man in their organization. Despite the number, Max certainly didn’t feel young. In fact, he felt decades older, thanks to the toll this world had taken on him.
Not that he spent his days worried about his next birthday or the chain of command or that the media had dubbed them the Southern Boy Mafia sometime in the late sixties. Business was business, and it just so happened that their family dabbled in plenty of money-making opportunities.
Were they legal? Some of them, sure. Others, no. But that was the way of the world.
Max’s respect for his father and the family ran far and wide, and he’d been born into a life that would forever be based on a strict structure, so Max had fallen into the position as was expected of him, which he took very seriously.
As for his three brothers, Brent, Victor, and Aidan, as well as his two sisters, Ashlynn and Madison, they were all involved in the family business in one way or another, or, as in Victor’s and Madison’s case, they were finishing school before they devoted themselves fully. Both of Max’s youngest siblings were currently in law school. Although the rest of them had all handled their own aspect of the organization as they’d seen fit since the day they’d each turned twenty-one, they still reported directly to Max, always had, even before this change. Not that he was certain what they were doing most of the time, but he made a valiant effort to keep up with them when he could.
The one thing he knew with utmost certainty was that people feared him, feared what his family was capable of. And rightfully so. With the help of his right-hand man, Leyton Matheson, Max fully intended to carry on the business, as well as the family name.
But right here, right now, with this woman in the sparkling silver gown that accentuated her perfect curves—the kind of curves a man could easily grab hold of—he wasn’t worried about business or family, or even money, for that matter.
He was curious as to what her game was.
“And why do you say that?” he probed, amused and intrigued in equal measure.
“No reason,” she stated off-handedly, her gaze sliding down to his mouth briefly before breaking away completely. “I should let you get back to your guests. I merely wanted to thank you for inviting me.”
Max nodded, once again studying her. She was an enigma. Her body language was saying things her luscious lips weren’t, but he could tell with this particular woman, her brain called all the shots. If he had to guess, she didn’t listen much to what her body wanted. Something else that fascinated him where she was concerned.
“I look forward to seeing you later,” he declared. It wasn’t a request, and by the way that her iridescent gaze slammed back to his, she recognized that.
“For your sake, Mr. Adorite, I hope you’re comfortable with disappointment then.” With that, she turned and took two steps in the opposite direction, glancing back at him over her bare shoulder as she said, “Because as far as you and I are concerned, that’s all I have to offer you.”
Another challenge. He liked that about her, as well.
Max watched her go, admiring the sleek lines of her curvy, petite body, the smooth, golden skin of her back, which was completely bare in that halter dress, the generous flare of her hips…
He wondered if she was as soft to the touch as she appeared.
Yes, Courtney Kogan was a decadent temptation, one he hadn’t allowed himself in quite some time.
And Max found himself craving more of her.
He kept his eye on her as she slipped into the crowd, mingling with some of his high-profile guests, including a state senator, a couple of local judges, an overabundance of his own organization, along with, yes, a few of his enemies. What was the saying? Keep your friends close but your enemies closer? That was one he took to heart.
Max glanced to his side when a large body appeared in his peripheral vision.
“Anything you need, sir?” Leyton asked, his keen eyes scanning the room as he stood beside Max.
“I’ve got some preliminary information, but I want you to find out what you can on her,” Max instructed, nodding his head toward Courtney. “Everything you can.”
With Leyton’s help and some more personal inquiry, by the end of the night, Max fully intended to know more about Miss Kogan.
A lot more.
“Max! Oh, God! We… Max! We can’t do this.” Courtney knew her denial sounded lame, especially since she was breathless, moaning, and clutching Max to her, giving in to the wonder that was his mouth.
The man could kiss, she’d give him that.
Although this… She wasn’t sure this was classified as a mere kiss.
No, the way he crushed her between his impressive body and the wall, his rock-hard cock pressed against her belly, his muscular thigh grinding against her sex, his strong hands cupping her head, his determined tongue delving into her mouth…
No. This wasn’t a kiss.
This was a claiming.
And Courtney was giving in to the intoxicating pleasure although she knew she shouldn’t. Hell, she still wasn’t entirely sure how she’d gotten to this point, making out in an empty hallway, plastered to the wall by the glorious weight of this man.
For the better part of the night, she’d kept a safe distance between herself and Maximillian Andrew Adorite and thought—apparently in error—that she’d managed to stay off his radar. But then, after she’d mingled a couple of hours with the people closest to him and had a few glasses of champagne, he’d asked her to dance. Which, now that she thought about it, had led to this heated make-out session.
“Max,” she said breathlessly. “Please, I…” What the hell was she trying to say?
Another moan escaped her.
If he kept doing that, she was going to come.
“You want this as much as I do,” he groaned as his mouth trailed down her neck, the smooth skin of his clean-shaven jaw brushing against her cheek, his warm lips leaving a path of fire in their wake. He smelled good, like musk and man and … sex.
Sliding her fingers into the silky dark hair at the back of his head, Courtney pulled him closer, holding him to her, while his big, strong hand slid over her shoulder, drifted down her bare back, toward the curve of her waist and then farther, coming to rest briefly on her hip. He squeezed her gently before gliding his palm over her ass and down the back of her thigh.
His touch was exquisite. Powerful, determined. And she found herself defenseless against the onslaught of desire that sizzled in her veins, setting every nerve ending on fire.
When he lifted her thigh to his hip, bent his knees slightly, and adjusted their positions so that she was no longer riding his thigh, Courtney thought she would detonate. Now, she was…
“Max!” The erotic grind of his thick, rigid cock against her clit nearly sent her over the edge. When his mouth returned to hers, his teeth nipping her lower lip before sucking on it, the pleasure-pain had her hovering on the brink of orgasm.
Oh, God, yes!
Never once in her twenty-four years had she had a reaction to anyone like this. That all-encompassing need, the desperate, almost painful ache to be surrounded by him, filled by him. She’d always been daring and wild, but underneath that reckless exterior, Courtney’s decisions were carefully thought out.
This wasn’t what she’d consider careful.
Making out—in plain sight of anyone who cared to take a trip down this hallway—with Maximillian Adorite, the oldest child of Samuel David Adorite, the official crime boss of the Adorite family, otherwise known as the Southern Boy Mafia. More accurately, she was making out with the oldest son, the heir to the throne, so to speak, of one of the wealthiest—not to mention deadliest—families in Texas.
Technically, Max’s status had just been upgraded, and Courtney was now lip-locked with the recently instated underboss, something she couldn’t lose sight of, no matter how good his mouth was.
The same man who was making his power known tonight to those who would be working with him going forward—not to mention to her, although this particular expression of power was an entirely different type of conversation.
The changing of the guard, as her father had referred to it, was the reason for this party, the sole explanation as to why she was there to gather information for the client who’d hired Sniper 1 Security, her family’s business.
Oh, God! Why me?
“Max.” Courtney could hardly speak, the pleasure robbing her of her common sense, making her want things she was usually smart enough to resist.
“Stay with me tonight,” Max insisted, his head lifting, his sparkling honey-gold eyes meeting hers as he released her leg and brought his large palms up to cup her face. His thumbs gently skimmed her cheeks as he held her head firmly between his hands once again.
He was so big, so broad, so … there.
At six foot, Max’s presence was felt as well as seen, the power that radiated from him palpable. He made her feel feminine, almost delicate, and definitely smaller than her five foot four inches. So much smaller.
Aside from how hot he made her, there was so much about the man she should fear, including who and what he was, but she couldn’t seem to keep her hands off him.
Trying to fight the desire, to listen to the warning bells clanging in her head, Courtney shook her head, swallowed hard.
“I can see it in your eyes, Courtney.” The rough, deep tenor of his voice resonated along her nerve endings, making her ache for him. “You want to stay with me. You want to feel me inside you, to feel me against you, skin to skin.”
Again, she shook her head. It was a lie, but one she was sticking to. She did want him, did want to feel him inside her, to sweep her fingers along his naked flesh and touch the rock-hard body beneath the expensive tuxedo while he fucked her into a mind-numbing euphoria.
But that was stupid.
That was reckless.
Max’s thumbs pressed against her chin, his palms cupping her jaw, fingers splayed along the back of her neck, as he tilted her head so that she had no choice but to look up into his eyes. Her body succumbed to the ecstasy of his touch as he pressed against her, his hard, muscular thigh once again sliding between her legs, grinding against her pussy, waves of pleasure crashing inside her, intensifying until she could hardly breathe for wanting this man.
Thankfully, she had an ounce of common sense left.
“No.” She made sure there was no mistaking her adamant denial that time.
And just as she had hoped he would, Max released her, slowly stepping back, but his piercing gaze still pinned her in place.
“I’ll never force you, Courtney. But I will have you. Make no mistake, I will have you in my bed, where you’ll be beggin’ me to make you come. It will happen.”
Courtney swallowed hard. She hated him. Hated what he did to her. Hated how much she wanted him, despite knowing better. Hated that, when it came to him, her body seemed to be making all the decisions.
But more importantly, Courtney hated him for the man he was.
Despite the lavish exterior—mocha-brown hair and glowing gold eyes, a sexy body, and exquisite mouth—Courtney knew exactly who this man was beneath it all. No matter how attractive or polished he looked on the outside, Max wasn’t the man he appeared to be.
He was evil. Pure and simple. A killer.
And her mission was to get information on him and his family, the transfer of power, the businesses that they ran … not to get into his bed. Yet here she was, battling with her conscience, weighing the difference between right and wrong, good and bad.
Righting her dress and sliding her hand over her hair in an effort to tame it, Courtney stood straight and squared her shoulders. “Tell yourself whatever you have to in order to sleep at night, Mr. Adorite. But make no mistake,” she said, throwing his words back at him, “it will never happen.”
To her surprise, Max didn’t argue, but the smirk that flirted with the corners of his mouth said more than words.
“Good night, Mr. Adorite,” she told him, turning and walking away without looking back.
As she headed back to the ballroom, where the party was still going strong, Courtney felt his eyes penetrating her, the same as they’d done for most of the night. She inhaled deeply, trying to regain her composure.
Fighting the urge to turn back and run into his arms, Courtney rounded the corner, grateful that no one was there to see her loss of equanimity as she leaned her back against the wall, her breaths coming in shallow and rushed. Her body was on fire, her insides melting from the pleasure his touch had promised.
How had she gotten herself into this position? How in the hell had she allowed herself to be seduced by Maximillian Adorite? A freaking gangster.
Get a hold of yourself.
Taking a long, deep breath, then exhaling slowly, she stood straight once more, refusing to let him win this round.
Walking away from Max was the smart choice. Her only choice. And as her breathing returned to normal, she made up her mind to do just that.
Not that she thought Max was giving up. He was the type of man who got exactly what he wanted. And she understood that she presented a challenge to him. One that he would likely conquer eventually, but Courtney knew she had to walk away. And stay away.
Easier said than done.
Exhaling deeply, Courtney ignored the unnerving feeling that slammed into her … the one that told her, without a doubt, she was on a collision course that she couldn’t repave, one that would end, based on what she’d just experienced tonight, either beautiful or brutal.
Then again, based on what she knew of the man, she was more inclined to believe it’d be beautifully brutal.
And part of her was anxious to find out.
The reckless part.
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