San Francisco is going to burn if the coveted princess of California’s criminal underworld isn’t returned to her family in one piece …
Avery Capulet is missing.
Taken by a madman. Kept in the dark.
She might not survive.
He’ll use her body. Destroy her mind. All before he ever lays a hand on her.
Rome Montague is a drug dealer. A criminal. A thief.
And he needs the secrets Avery and her family are keeping – even if it means cutting them out of her pretty Capulet flesh.
Rome Montague is missing – but nobody will miss him.
Not that it matters; After the things he’s done to this girl, he doesn’t deserve to be found.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Since I was young I've always loved Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet – violent and dark and utterly tragic.
When I saw the film as a teenager, I fell in love even harder. After I finished writing my last series, I knew exactly what I wanted to do next: write my own dark romance version of my favorite Shakespearean tragedy.
I knew I needed to set the series somewhere interesting, and I just so happened to be travelling along the USA's gorgeous West Coast as I was plotting the series. From Los Angeles all the way up to Seattle, there was one place that stole my heart: San Francisco. I lived and breathed SF for weeks, filling journals and a camera with inspiration and scenes that would become the beginnings of Rome and Avery's love story.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My heroines are always strong women facing seemingly impossible situations. Avery Capulet is no exception. She's the first character I've written who was born into staggering wealth, so it was fun to contract her backstory and figure out how she came to be the reluctant heiress to a criminal empire. My characters always come to me fully formed – a face, a name, and a voice that demands to be heard. Avery was no exception.
“So,” he says. “Avery Capulet.” He says my name like the words are poison he’s spitting on the ground. “You want to tell me what the hell is going on?”
That gravelly voice. The mussed-up hair, long on top, short on the sides. He has more tattoos than he did the last time I saw him. The same morning I found my sister dead, floating in our swimming pool, her hair strewn out around her like some kind of mermaid. He was the one who helped me fish her out of the water. He was the one who started CPR, while I lost my mind and screamed for her to wake up. I remember staring at the dragons and the skulls inked onto his arms as he pumped her lifeless chest up and down. They’re everywhere, starting under his ears, threading down his neck, right down to the tips of his toes. There’s not one part of him that I can see that isn’t inked, other than his face.
His bloody, swollen face. He looks like he’s been in a fight. Maybe there was a struggle after I passed out.
And finally, I can see his eyes. It’s too dim to make out the color, but I can see their shape. I can make out the outline of his lips.
I know who you are.
It’s as if somebody has ripped my heart out and smashed it on the dirty floor. I’d know those lips anywhere. They were the first lips I ever kissed.
How could he, of all people, do this?
“You,” I whisper, recognizing my captor.
“Hey, Princess,” Rome Montague says, his cheery tone dripping with sarcasm. “Or, wait, I guess you’re the Queen now, right? It’s been forever. When’s the last time we hung out, anyway?”
I grit my teeth, wincing as pain throbs in my thigh. I wish I had enough energy to jump up and rip his smug face right off. “The last time we hung out you were giving my dead sister mouth-to-mouth. But I’m sure you remember that.”
His smugness vanishes. His eyes narrow, his breathing quickens — did I just rattle Rome Montague with a single sentence?
“How could I forget?” he shoots back, his words full of acid and barbs. “But you’re forgetting, aren’t you? That’s not the last time we saw each other at all.”
His words are designed to hurt me, and they work. I hang my head in shame, guilt thick in my throat as I think of the lie I told, the jury who believed me, the wild look in his eyes as he was dragged away to prison for a crime he didn't commit. What happened to him was because of me.
“Is this payback, then?” I ask.
“Little girl, this wouldn’t even be close to payback for what you and your family did to me.”
Little girl. I might be twenty-five and all grown up, but under Rome’s eyes, I’m still a child that needs saving. Only, this time, he’s the one I need saving from, not the one who will pick me up in his strong arms and take me to safety.
Grief is like a flash flood; it crashes into me unexpected, unwanted. I nod as I digest my situation, the shock too fresh for me to think of a way out. I study my surroundings again, different now with the knowledge of who took me. Fitting, even. Because once upon a time, I betrayed Rome Montague in the worst way imaginable. I took away his freedom. In a single moment, a debt was forged that I knew, deep down, he’d come to collect one day.
I just didn’t think it would be today. Not like this.
“You were kind when I knew you,” I whisper. “You weren’t cruel. Not like this.”
Rome’s lips tug up into a smirk. “If you think me bandaging your wounds and giving you my clothes is cruel, I’d hate to see what your definition of kindness is.”
“Kindness would be taking me home,” I say. My eyes have adjusted somewhat, and I can make out the color of his eyes. They’re bright blue, the exact color of the bottom of the pool where we found my sister, still and floating. His eyes are as cold as that pool, too, but there’s something about Rome Montague’s stare that makes me dizzy with fever. It’s the knowing. The guilt. Being complicit in the downfall of somebody you used to love burns hotter than any sickness can touch.
At least, I think I used to love him.
“Kindness would have been you telling the truth,” he replies flatly. “But there’s no kindness left in you, is there? Only your daddy’s blood, pumping through your veins.”
My cheeks burn when he talks like that. Because he’s right. All I’ll ever be is a girl with daddy issues. A girl who would lie for her father, steal for him, cheat for him. A girl who has done all three of those things.
“Are you going to kill me?” I ask him.
Rome laughs. “Damn, Aves. Where would be the fun in that?”
Now I feel cold. Part of me wishes he would kill me, but that would be kinder than what I’m sure he has in store for the girl who ruined him.
Rome licks his lips as he studies me. I think of how pathetic I must look: wild, on the floor, bled out like an animal. If my state brings him joy, though, Rome does an excellent job of not showing it.
“It’s been so long, I thought maybe you had forgotten me.” He makes the words sound almost casual, but I hear the undercurrent in them; the rage. He really believes I forgot about him.
I bury my face in my hands so he can’t see the haunted look I know is in my eyes, the one that sparks back to life like a match against flint whenever Rome Montague slips into my thoughts.
“I’ve tried,” I say honestly. “Believe me, I’ve tried.”
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