MAFIA BOSS - ACE CRAIG MONTERO
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What would you do when you inherit the wealth of a Mafia Boss? Triplet's pregnancy makes her think otherwise. Beautiful Anaisse, Annabelle, and Anya are born, but their mother Aryana Santini escapes and keeps the secret inside her heart. Living alone gave her the freedom to explore her worth. But, she was innocent in the Underworld. Her upbringing told her to trust the underworld players and develop a sense of belonging, security, and love. They wanted to protect me from the underworld … but who will protect my love from them? Have I found my true love? Or am I risking everything — including my own life? Will Annabelle, Anaisse, and Anya live according to the secrets of Aryana?
Chapter 1 Aryana Joy Monteverde Santini
Aryana Santini POV
Despite the hardship, I would have to open up the food business – Tambayan Rolling Barrel Bar & Restaurant at Ermita, Manila, Philippines.
I couldn’t help but smile and look back on the days I started to work here when I officially left my life in Quezon City. Placing my hand on top of my head and thinking of my life and my future, I wanted a normal life as what I envisioned during my childhood days. I looked so much like my mother who married my father in a different fashion, which I was so grateful for. I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to look into her face and see the familiar features of me.
“You’re silly,” I remember my mother joking with me, making her giggle when we were making bread. I handed her the whisk and helped her step up on her stool so that she could reach the counter. “Whisk together all of the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, okay?”
I nodded and clumsily mixed everything together, having the time of my life as some of it splattered on the counter. Oh, well. What was one more little mess to clean up, if it made her happy?
Mother had been a single mom for years, so everything came down to me; taking care of me and picking up waitressing shifts at a local bar, cleaning up the house, shopping for groceries and anything and everything in between. However, my mother rather do all of that by herself than be stuck in a relationship with someone who didn’t care about me. Because of that fear that someone would have loved both of us, her dating life had been as dry as the desert until she married Daniel Santini, a widowed Italian emigrant in the Philippines. At least I had some of the best company, though.
“Good job!” my mother told me as I peered down at the smooth mix. There were actually only a few chunks that needed to be whisked out, but I was a natural.
Honestly, my natural intelligence reminded me a lot of my mother, Elena. I couldn’t have been prouder of her for succeeding in not only rearing me alone but sports too. Despite the doubt and pushback I received from countless people, including my own father, My mother was chasing her dreams and blowing people away. I never doubted her, no matter how big her dreams were. I wished my father felt the same, as a parent should, but my mother already proved she didn’t need an ounce of his approval or support to be successful.
Then, there was always her, a single mom and waitress in a bar in Ermita, Manila. That counted for something where I am working now, right?
It was around 10:00 in the evening when I served hard drinks to one of our customers. He suddenly asked me. “Why did you become a barmaid, sweetheart?”
If I had a thousand peso bill for every time someone had asked me that, I’d be rich. Or, at least, I’d have more than I made from my lousy wage and meager tips. Not that all of the customers at the Tambayan Rolling Barrel Restaurant & Bar were jerks. Far from it there were mostly hard-working men, and the occasional bored retiree, like Bonnie Garcia here who was sitting at the bar. Though he had to be closing in on eighty years old, there was often a twinkle in his eye when he spoke to me.
“Just lucky, I suppose.”
He sipped his beer. “A pretty girl like you could do a lot more.”
I frowned; not sure what looks had to do with it. The truth was, I’d tried to go for more. I’d completed a year and a half of college with money my mom had saved for her whole life.
But now she was gone, and the money had long since run out.
“You could get a beauty course license,” Bonnie Garcia said as if this was secret knowledge. “You could do hair and nails and not have to deal with the vermin who come in this place.”
I mentally rolled my eyes. Bonnie Garcia was harmless, and usually pretty good company, but he’d just revealed himself to be both sexist and classist. And it wasn’t the first time.
“Or you could be an announcer girl on TV. You’re pretty enough to be on TV.”
I set a fresh bowl of peanuts in front of him. “I think they hire meteorologists for those jobs.”
“Right,” he nodded sagely. “Too much schooling involved.”
Some men at the far end of the bar flagged me down, and I was glad to get away from the older man even though I usually liked chatting with him. He was harmless in general, but his assumption that I wouldn’t make it in school bothered me. My dream had been to finish college and then go to law school. It had been money, not brains that had stopped me.
As I took drink orders, I noticed a huge man sitting by himself at a table in the back. He had a whiskey and a plate of fries, so one of the waitresses must’ve served him. He caught my eye because of his size, but also because he was alone.
He was called Rocky Ace, and that seemed appropriate because he was the size of a boulder. He had muscles on top of his huge muscles, which was an interesting contrast to his tan skin and dark, Italian eyes and hair. Most of the men in the neighborhood were on the slimmer side, but Rocky Ace looked like a bouncer. Usually, he came in here with his two buddies, Craig and Montero. I didn’t know them, but I’d served drinks to them plenty of times, and they always tipped well. It was strange to see the big man in here by himself tonight. Something about the set of his shoulders made me think he wasn’t in a good mood. But somehow, I knew he wouldn’t give me any trouble. He never did.
I tended the bar for another few hours, giving Bonnie Garcia a sincere goodbye when he toddled on home to his wife. He meant well, probably when I was in my late seventies in the future, I’d be out and about talking the ear off younger people, too. I just hoped my views would be a little more enlightened.
The dining area emptied as people headed home. This was a working-class neighborhood in Ermita, Manila and a lot of our customers had to get up early. Besides, there were other options for those who wanted to stay out all night.
Rocky Ace seemed to be in that category. He nursed his drink, occasionally scowling at his phone. I took advantage of the lessening crowd to clean up behind the bar. Maybe, just maybe, I’d get out of here at a reasonable time tonight.
Two men in their twenties were seated at the bar and a group of two men and four women were at a table fifteen feet away. Rocky Ace was still there, reading a newspaper that someone had left. I popped the register open to put some more money in, my gaze on notes piled on top of one another. Just as I shoved a thousand-peso note into the correct pile, the distinct sound of a gun cocking filled my ears. I froze my gaze still on the cash register. Another identical sound sent shivers of fear down my spine. My heart jumped in my throat, I looked up. The two young men were standing in front of me, their guns pointed at my head.
“Give us the money, gorgeous lady.”
My frozen mind wouldn’t thaw, and I just stared at him. He looked hardly old enough to grow a beard, let alone rob a bar.
“Now, darling,” the other one said. I got called things like that a lot while bartending, but not usually while guns were pointed at me.
Smugness filled both men’s faces. Clearly, they thought they had me right where they wanted me. That they could do whatever they wanted by virtue of having guns. And that pissed me off. The desire to knock the smug looks right off of their faces somehow made my brain kick into gear, and I knew what to do.
“Hey assholes.” A deep voice from behind the men made them turn and look. Rocky Ace came to a halt behind those two, his dark eyes flashing red in the dim illumination.
As he did so, I ducked under the counter not for protection, but for the double barrel shotgun my manager kept there. She’d trained all the staff on how to use it. I pointed it at the men while their attention was on Rocky Ace. He looked pissed as hell. Suddenly, I was afraid. Not for my own safety, but that he might do something stupid and get himself thrown into jail.
“Hey assholes,” I said firmly, echoing Rocky’s words. They turned back to me, one man’s mouth dropping open as he saw the gun in my hands. They’d made a mistake in turning their back on a man like the Rocky Ace. He moved up behind them and slammed both their heads into the bar. Hard.
One man’s gun skittered away. The other guy held onto his pistol, and it was pointed at me. Shit. I changed up my grip on the shotgun and brought the butt down on his wrist. He yelped and dropped the gun. I batted it away from his hand.
“Call the police,” I shouted toward the people at the nearest table as I trained my gun on the men who were now bleeding from their noses and looking dazed. My plan was to hold them there until the police came, but that plan was ruined when the shotgun was wrenched out of my hands. Astonished, I stared as Ace tossed my shotgun out of the way. “Go back in the kitchen,” he growled. “I’ll take care of these two.”
What the hell? He didn’t even work here. What right did he have to snatch my gun away? I opened my mouth to say as much, but the murderous look in his eyes stopped me.
The smaller of the two men rallied and tried to throw a punch at the big man, which he easily deflected. Then he decked him, sending him slumping onto the bar again. The other man tried it and got the same result.
I picked up an empty beer stein and started to bring it down on the punk’s head, but again, Rocky stopped me. “I got this,” he repeated gruffly.
Who the hell did he think he was, our bouncer? This place couldn’t afford one and usually didn’t need it. But if we did, Ace was clearly up to the job. He took swings at each man in turn since they were too stupid to give up. It almost looked like he was having fun. He’d shove one, then punch the other. Then turn back to deal with the first.
“Does your mom know you’re out this late?” Ace growled, his voice rising over their groans. “Does she, you fuckheads?”
“Stop,” one cried. Yeah, that did a lot of good.
“What are you hassling us for?” the other one sounded stuffy, as if his nose was broken.
“What are you hassling her for,” Ace countered with a growl, gesturing toward me.
“We just wanted the money,” the first one said, sounding whiny.
“Then the cunt got in the way—”
I gasped, but not from the word they called me. Ace’s expression changed. If I’d thought he looked dangerous before, he looked downright deadly now. He punched the guy who’d said that in the face, knocking him out. That made me think that I’d been right before, that he’d been toying with the guys and pulling his punches.
He grabbed the other guy so hard that he made him cry out. Then he dragged them toward the door, one conscious, the other unconscious. The other customers and I watched until he’d manhandled them out the door. Then all was quiet as I stared in disbelief at the door the powerful man had just exited. What the hell was that?
Why had Rocky Ace taken it upon himself to take care of those guys? I was still shakily contemplating it when a customer from the table called out. “Miss? Can we get another pitcher of beer?”
Chapter 2 The Street Gangsters
Rocky Ace De Luna POV
Michael Cortez and Simon Portes, those two delinquents had made a mistake, a serious mistake. As I dragged them down the dark alley, I wondered if they’d gotten that message left.
About two months ago, they mugged some old lady three blocks away. They’d been lucky I wasn’t anywhere near that spot. If I were, I would have beaten the shit out of them. Then this would never have happened tonight. Aryana would have locked the place up and gone home, without worrying about a couple of assholes trying to earn their stripes.
Cortez and Portes had been desperate to get into the Gregorio family. They thought they deserved to be part of a crew because they thought they were so big and bad. Yeah, right. I’m pretty damn sure I proved otherwise to them tonight. Hell, Aryana had been on the path to proving otherwise. I never thought I’d see the pretty barmaid with a shotgun in her hands, but she looked like she knew how to use it.
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