The sixth book in the internationally bestselling Eagle Elite Series. 
*Interconnected Stand Alone*

Twenty-Four hours before we were to be married--I offered to shoot her. 
Ten hours before our wedding--I made a mockery of her dying wish. 
Five hours before we were going to say our vows--I promised I'd never love her. 
One hour before I said I do--I vowed I'd never shed a tear over her death. 
But the minute we were pronounced man and wife--I knew.
I'd only use my gun to protect her. 
I'd give my life for hers. 
I'd cry. 
And I would, most definitely, lose my heart, to a dying girl---a girl who by all accounts should have never been mine in the first place. 
I always believed the mafia would be my end game--where I'd lose my heart, while it claimed my soul. I could have never imagined. It would be my redemption. 
Or the beginning of something beautiful. 
The beginning of her. 
The end of us.



About Rachel Van Dyken:
Rachel Van Dyken is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she's not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor. 
She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband, adorable son, and two snoring boxers! She loves to hear from readers! 
Want to be kept up to date on new releases? Text MAFIA to 66866! 
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Suspense/comedic excerpt:
"You weren't kidding about those mimosas." Andi yawned behind her hand as we walked through Lincoln Park. I'd originally thought to take her to the zoo since she had that odd fascination with animals, but after seeing how tired she was, I decided to save it for another day.
"Well…" I held in my chuckle. "…when you have five of them…"
"I had three." She held up four fingers.
"Good to know you're just fine." I laughed. "Should I carry you?"
"Probably." She gave me a dopey grin. "But I think I can at least make it to the car."
"It's about a mile away."
"Oh." Her face fell.
"How about a piggyback ride?" I offered lamely, hating that a simple walk to the car was making her sad because she was so exhausted.
She stopped walking and crossed her arms. "Riding a cowboy was on the list."
"I'm not following."
"Talk to me in a southern accent, and I'll imagine a cowboy hat on that gorgeous head of hair and boom… I'm riding a cowboy."
I pinched the bridge of my nose. "Andi, I have so many different scenarios that would fit perfectly with that statement. None of them, however, include me carrying you through the park while singing 'Achy Breaky Heart.'"
"Oh good. You know it then?"
"I need to learn the art of silence."
"Probably true." She nodded.
"And teach it to you," I added.
"Aw, come on cowboy…"
I rolled my eyes and turned around so she could jump onto my back. "Should I find a park bench, or can you actually jump this high?"
"Never ask a ninja if she can jump — it's degrading."
"My mistake. I thought you were a short Russian masquerading as a baker. Go ahead, ninja. Jump."
She did, probably using the rest of the energy she had left. Her arms wrapped around my neck tightly. "Mush."
"I thought I was a horse."
"I changed my mind. Girls can do that on occasion."
Damn, the girl made me smile. The afternoon sun was starting to set as we walked along the path. Andi was encouraging me to use a southern accent in her most Russian accent.
And I was trying to pay attention to our surroundings, just in case we'd somehow been followed.
I thought we were in the clear until we reached the edge of the park. I could see the street, and immediately regretted that simple fact the minute two black sedans pulled up to the curb.
Five men got out.
Two from the first car.
Three from the second.
Andi tensed behind me.
"Andi." I kept my smile in place like there wasn't anything wrong. "Got any energy left?"
"Enough." She shuddered behind me.
"My gun," I whispered. "It's in the back of my pants. Reach between your legs and slide it up so nobody sees."
"You know in any other situation…" she muttered as I felt the gun slide up my back.
"Good," I encouraged. "The minute I put you down I want you to aim for the guy to the left. Don't shoot for the head. Hit his kneecap so he goes down. If he reaches for his gun—"
"This isn't my first rodeo, cowboy."
"You're right. I forget."
"I'm good. Don't worry about me."
The tension left my body. "I won't. Just don't get shot. I hate having to sew up bullet wounds."
"Please." I could feel the energy riding off her body. "You owe me a massage if my body count's higher."
"So now it's a competition?"
"Russians rarely lose."
"Well, you should get used to it. Because this Italian's going to hand you your ass."
"I'd like to see you try."
The men were trying to look nonchalant, outside their cars, smoking cigars like they weren't waiting for the perfect opportunity to attack.
"One," I whispered.
Andi slid farther down my back. "Two."
"Three." The word fell from my lips just as I ducked to the right. Andi went to my left and popped off two rounds directly into the guy's kneecaps — not just one, but both of them. A crunching sound broke out across the park as he fell on bones, cracking them further. He wailed in pain and surprisingly didn't reach for his gun.
Three of the men started charging me. Gun less, I could only rely on the fact that my fists were just as deadly as any gun could be, and I punched the first man in the throat then turned and elbowed the next. They stumbled back. Another gunshot went off. Andi was seriously picking them off like she was shooting fish in a bucket.
The three men turned their heads to glare at her. Then, rather than attacking, came at me again.
Surprised, I was knocked in the face by the first guy but sidestepped the next hit then landed a hard blow to his stomach followed by a knee to the groin. With a growl, I head-butted the next guy then punched him in the jaw; the sound of teeth breaking was my only indication that he'd be down for the count.
The final man circled me.
"Let me get him," Andi pleaded behind me.
"He's mine," I barked.
The man shrugged and held up his hands. "You should let girl do your work."
I rolled my eyes. "I'll never hear the end of it."
"Andi," the man called, "why not come with us, huh? You've done job. Time to come home."
"Job?" I repeated.
Andi came up beside me and aimed the gun for his forehead. "I've never worked for you."
"Oh?" The man chuckled and glanced at me. "He knows as well as I know… you are never out."
"Please let me pull the trigger."
The man ran at us.
I ducked then heaved my body into his, sending him backward against the park bench. Punch after punch I landed to his face, his blood mixing with the slices breaking out on my knuckles.
The sound of sirens interrupted my blatant mutilation of his body.
"Serg…" Andi kicked me. "…gotta disappear."
I backed up, chest heaving. "Right."
With one last kick to his body, I grabbed her hand and ran like hell toward our car, our very easy-to-spot car 

Loneliness tasted like hell. It also, lucky for me, tasted like a fifth of whiskey and what would most likely be a throbbing headache come tomorrow morning.
I brought the bottle to my lips and tilted it back, my eyes trained on the fire in front of me, the flames licking higher and higher, reminding me that I wasn't exactly in any position to ask God for any favors…it may as well have been hell waving back at me and confirming my suspicions.
I'd killed too much.
I'd lied even more.
And I was officially out of favor within my family — within my world.
I hissed as a drip of whiskey landed on my blood-caked knuckles. Beating the shit out of the wall hadn't even stopped the anger.
Ah anger, that was something I could talk about, something I could tangibly feel as it pulsed through my body. It had been my mistress for so long that I knew if I actually let it go — I'd be even more lonely than I already was.
I tried to take a deep breath, to calm myself down, but air wouldn't go into my lungs, I felt paralyzed and on an adrenaline high all at once.
Maybe that was another part of my punishment. I had exactly twenty-four hours before I had to marry a Russian.
And not just any Russian.
An enemy, a double agent who had worked for both the FBI and, apparently, the Nicolasi family. She had sold out her own crime family, the Petrovs, and now… she was under the protection of the Italians.
How messed up was that?
I took another swig of whiskey and eyed the clock. Make that twenty-three hours and fifty-eight minutes.
I wasn't drunk enough.
I wasn't even close.
Marrying someone for protection I could do. Marrying someone and even killing them afterwards? Piece of cake. After all, that was my MO. I was a killer, a ghost, whatever the family wanted me to be.
But marrying someone, keeping them safe, only to watch them die within six months?
No. Hell no.
She had leukemia.
So why keep her alive this long?
I snorted and took another sip of whiskey. "I'd be doing her a favor by killing her."
"Ouch," a light airy voice said from somewhere in the room, causing all my hair to stand on end. "So as far as pep talks go, yours officially needs work."
I carefully set down the whiskey, not trusting myself not to throw it in her direction in an anger-filled rage. "I was talking to myself."
"Another sign you need to get laid." She laughed.
I didn't.
"Go away, Arabella."
"My name's Andi."
"Your legal name is Arabella Anderson Petrov. Care to know your social security number and credit score as well?"
"Romance is lost on you." I felt her move around the room. The air seized with electricity; she'd always had a presence about her, and right now I was five seconds away from losing my shit and ramming my head into the fireplace just so I could escape it all.
"Don't I know it," I huffed and reached for the bottle again.
Small warm hands clasped around mine before I could get there. I jerked away, causing her to stumble in front of me.
White-blond hair covered her soft features. Big brown eyes blinked back at me. I hissed in a breath and cursed. "You should go."
"We need to talk."
"Oh goody. Is this the part where you tell me I have to give up my virginity on my wedding night?"
"What?" She blinked like a startled deer, then a weak smile pulled her lips upward.
I ignored the way my body reacted and rolled my eyes in irritation.
"Aw, he has jokes now. At least, I hope it's a joke. You're not, are you? A virgin, I mean."
I snorted and eyed the bottle, calculating my odds on reaching it before she stopped me, then gave up. "Fine." I huffed. "Hurry up and get to talking so I can get drunk."
Andi sat opposite me in the leather chair and tucked her feet under her body. She was small, around five-one, but she packed a punch, knew how to use every automatic weapon on the market, and I was pretty sure I had once overheard that she was well-versed in torture. Looking at her, you'd think she was just graduating high school and getting ready to go shopping for her favorite pair of shoes with Daddy's credit card.
"You're upset," she finally said.
"No." I licked my lips and leaned forward. "I'm enraged. There's a difference."
Her eyes narrowed. "You know you can talk to me — since you're stuck with me for the next… while. That is, unless you kill me first… like you did that FBI agent."
My blood ran cold. No one knew about what I'd done last week. When I'd gained intel from another agent. "Her cover was blown. I did her a favor."
"Did you?" Her eyebrows arched.
"Have you ever been shot, Andi?"
She sighed and leaned her head back against the lush cushion. "No, why? Are you going to educate me on what it feels like?"
I exhaled and popped my knuckles; the sound reverberated through the empty room. "It happens in three stages."
"What does?"
"Getting shot."
"You mean you don't just pull the trigger?" she joked.
Ignoring her, I continued. "Shock. It's always the first emotion because the human brain hasn't yet caught up with the fact that you've been wounded. So your body starts going into shock, and then the pain happens, but it's not the type of pain you'd think. It burns, but it's more of an empty, hollow pain, that starts to spread from the wound throughout the rest of your body until a slow chill starts to descend. When the chill descends, the shock wears off and confusion sets in. Why was I shot? Why me? What have I done? As humans, our brains aren't meant to understand violence, so we have to logically explain it away. I had to have done something wrong to get shot. Or maybe I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The minute your brain finds something that makes sense you move onto the last stage."
Andi barely moved a muscle. "Death?"
"Worse." I reached for the bottle and took a long swig. "Denial."
"Why is denial worse?"
"You tell me."
Her eyes closed briefly before she offered a shrug. "Because it means you aren't ready."
"Look who just earned an A in class," I mocked. "And you're right. Denial happens when you realize it shouldn't be you, that even if your brain connected the dots, it isn't yet your time. The lovely little memories of your life start to play on repeat in your head — the moments you should have done something but didn't, the things you'll never say, the things you'll never do. And then… you either get lucky or, if I'm the one who pulled the trigger, your memories will click off after about one minute, and you'll be no more."
The fire crackled.
Andi refused to look at me.
"I'd make it fast, Andi."
"Are we seriously doing this?"
"What?" I shrugged.
"Having a conversation in what should be a nice cozy room, about you killing me?"
"It would be a kindness."
"Go to hell!"
"Already there, Andi. Already there. Don't you know? I belong nowhere. My family's punishing me, the FBI's investigating me for the murder of my superior, and now I have to marry a Russian whore."
"So…" She stood. "…you'd rather kill me than marry me?"
"Was I not clear? I thought I was… Allow me to say it slower, perhaps in Russian? If that's all you people understand." I stood, meeting her chest to chest. "I'd rather kill you than see you suffer… I'd offer a dog the same kindness."
"I'm not a dog."
"You're Russian."
"Stop saying that."
"What?" I sneered. "The truth? Well, sweetheart, it doesn't get any truer than your reality. Allow me to kill you before your family or cancer does, and at least you can own your own death rather than fearing it."
She reached for me, touched my shoulders, and then cupped my face. I hated it because I liked it; my body leaned without me telling it to. She was so warm. "And what makes you think I fear my own death?"
"Everyone is afraid of dying. The hardest part is never admitting we're mortal, but coming to terms with the fact that we have no control over how long we're given. You do."
"No… I don't… You're trying to take that control."
"Say the word." My hand moved to the Glock strapped to my thigh.
"I'm not afraid." Her lips trembled. "At least not of death… but I am afraid of something."
"Oh yeah?" I hissed. "What's that?"
Confused, I stepped back, immediately looking for a weapon. "I don't understand."

"You wouldn't." She shrugged. "Because you, Sergio Abandonato, are already dead." She moved gracefully across the room. "You're dead inside… and you don't even know it. Forget cancer — and take a long hard look in the mirror — that's what death looks like."