Heir to the infamous DeLuca drug cartel fortune, Angel DeLuca walked away from it all for a normal life—until a wrenching betrayal shattered his belief in anything but saving his family's hard-won legacy. He’s come back to lead the DeLuca empire—no matter the cost. But his most dangerous rival is the one woman whose fierce determination he can't resist . . .
How far will they go to keep it?
Emilia East grew up in the game—virtually a daughter to Angel's mother. In fact, she’s been the one enforcing the cartel rules and expanding the business, so she’s not about to step aside for someone who threw everything away. But when two rival cartels put a target on her back, going on the run with Angel is her only chance to survive. And his unexpected strength—and concealed passion—sparks a love Emilia can't get enough of. Now they have one last shot to save their empire . . . and themselves.
“A’zayler knows how to amp up the drama. I couldn’t put this book down.”
—Kiki Swinson on In Love with My Enemy
“A’zayler weaves a web of dramatic secrets and surprise twists.”
—Booklist on Passion of the Streets
|Product dimensions:||4.12(w) x 6.76(h) x 0.95(d)|
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You can do what you want
The sound of the bullets being released from the gun rang through Emelia's ears even though she wore earplugs.
"Aim higher, Emelia." Her father, Mack East, walked behind her and stopped. "You're doing good, but always aim for the chest and up. Death shots, darling."
Emelia nodded and squinted her left eye before pulling the trigger again, this time sending a bullet straight through the head of the black silhouette printed on the paper. She had been at the gun range with her father for the past two hours — since she'd gotten out of school — and would probably be there for another few hours if she didn't get it right. Her father was a perfectionist, so she had to be perfect.
Emelia took two more shots.
"Much better, darling. Do it again," Mack instructed.
Emelia aimed her gun a little higher and fired three more times. When the paper she had been shooting at flew backward, she smiled.
"Happy now?" she asked as she spun around in her brand-new olive-green sneakers.
Mack was standing there in his cream-colored linen suit with his arms folded across his chest. "Very happy." He let a half smile spread his lips.
Eighteen-year-old Emelia jumped up and down, clapping her hands with a broad smile on her face. "So, does that mean I can go?"
Her father's eyes glistened with happiness as his mouth formed a full smile. "Yes, you may, but be home before midnight."
"Thank you, Daddy!" Emelia jumped onto her father, hugging his neck.
His hearty laughter resonated throughout the gun range before he lowered her to her feet. Emelia kissed his cheek before scrambling to gather her things. Once she had her backpack and keys, she took off running toward the exit.
"Where you running to?" Angel's voice stopped her in her tracks just as she got outside.
Emelia turned around to find her closest friend, and the only person she spent most of her time with, standing behind her. Angel DeLuca was the son of her parents' best friends. Emelia's mother and father had been in business with his parents for ages, and because of that, she and Angel instantly became comrades as well. He was the only boy that her father didn't get on her nerves about, and for that she was grateful.
The red gym shorts and black tank top he was wearing hugged his body, while his wavy dark hair blew in the subtle summer breeze. His dark, piercing eyes were squinted as he held the basketball in the crook of his arm. Angel's smooth, brown skin shined beneath the sun as a light sheen of perspiration covered his forehead.
She'd been crushing on Angel since their senior year of high school started and had been doing everything in her power to hide it. Their families were too close, and she didn't want to make things awkward by exposing her true feelings for him.
Emelia gave him the once-over as she hoisted her backpack over her shoulder. "To get dressed. My daddy said I could go to Juanita's party tonight."
Angel frowned. "What you trying to take your ass over there for? You know what people be saying about her."
"So? What does that have to do with me?"
"You want people to talk about you like that too?"
Emelia frowned, because Angel was about to ruin her mood. He was killing her excitement, and she hated it. Juanita did, in fact, have the worst reputation in the school for sleeping around with all the boys, and although Emelia was nothing like that, she still wanted to go to the party. She had been hearing everyone talk about it at school for the past week, and it sounded like fun.
"They're not going to talk about me just because I'm at the party. If I don't do what rumors say Juanita does, then they have no reason to talk about me. Right?"
"But they will. That's just how boys are. Every girl that's going to be there is just like her. If you go, you'll be just like them."
Emelia rolled her eyes and placed her hand on her hip. "No, I won't either. People know me, and people know who my father is. They'll never believe, or even fix their lips, to say some mess like that about me."
Angel shrugged and began bouncing his basketball. "If you say so."
"How would you know anyway? You don't ever go anywhere."
Angel was one of the only boys in school who never hung out socially. He spent all of his time studying and playing basketball. If he wasn't with her doing things for their families' drug cartel, then he was at home with his parents and older brother. Emelia didn't mind being with her family, but she was young and still liked to hang out sometimes.
Angel was one of the most popular boys at school, but he still turned down every outside activity that was offered to him. The only person who could get him out of the house was his older brother, D'Angelo, and even that was rare. Though when it came to D'Angelo, Emelia could understand why Angel steered clear of him. All D'Angelo did was get into messy situations, and that was most definitely out of character for Angel.
"I don't have to go anywhere to have ears. I hear everything." He looked at her with a smug look. "But you can do what you want. I was just trying to help you out."
"I don't need your help," Emelia sassed with attitude.
Angel nodded. "Cool. Have fun." He turned to walk away, and Emelia immediately felt bad.
The attitude she'd gotten with him just then wasn't necessary. He really was merely trying to help. She just hadn't wanted to hear it because it was the truth. It had been the same thing she'd been thinking about Juanita all day, but she'd done her best to ignore it so that she could talk herself into going to the party. It was Friday night, and she'd been training and doing homework all week. She needed a break.
"Angel!" She shouted his name.
He turned around and looked at her with his eyebrows knitted together.
"You'll have to hang out with me if I don't go."
He shrugged. "I can. What do you want to do?"
"Well, I got a new video game." He smiled. "We can go to my house and play that if you want, or we can watch some movies."
Emelia frowned, because that didn't sound like much fun, but she agreed anyway. If that was what it took to get things back right with Angel, then so be it. Besides, being at his house with him was enough for her.
Her teenage hormones were raging, and spending so much time with Angel while they were being trained only made things worse. Although she was almost certain he didn't feel the same way about her, she couldn't control herself long enough to simmer down the feelings she felt growing for him.
"Okay. What time you want me to come over?"
"You can come now if you want. It doesn't matter to me." His nonchalant attitude drove her crazy ... in a good way.
Emelia nodded. "Okay, well, you can ride with me if you want to."
Angel looked toward Emelia's car before walking down the sidewalk to the passenger side and getting in. Emelia turned her music all the way up before backing out of her parking spot and cruising down the street. She was in heaven right then. She always was when Angel was around. Though he never really said too much, she enjoyed his company.
"You know Esmerelda is going to the party, right?" Emelia quickly looked at him out of the side of her eye.
Esmerelda was Angel's girlfriend, whom Emelia did not care for whatsoever, but she would never tell him that. There was no reason to. He didn't need to know that she visualized punching his girlfriend in the face every time she saw them together.
Angel shrugged and moved his basketball from his lap to the floor in front of him. "I don't care what she does."
Emelia leaned over in her seat with a large smile on her face. "Since when? You're normally all extra possessive, and now suddenly you don't care what she does?"
"I told her to come chill with me tonight instead of going to the party, and she said no, so I broke up with her."
Emelia's mouth fell open at his admission, while her insides leaped with excitement.
"Oh, dang," she said with fake sympathy. "You okay?"
Angel looked out of the window and nodded. "Yeah. I'm good. I don't want to be with a girl that doesn't listen to me anyway."
"Angel, just because you're someone's boyfriend doesn't mean they have to listen to you." Emelia chuckled.
Angel looked at her with his eyebrows scrunched up. "My mother does whatever my father tells her to do, and so does your mom with your father." He looked at her momentarily before looking back out the window. "It's not like they're being bossy or anything, they're just looking out for them. If a man is trying to take care of you, you should listen, and let him."
Emelia's heart was melting inside her chest. Angel was right. Both of their fathers were the dominants in their marriages, but in a good way. Neither her mother nor Mrs. Empress looked like they minded being told what to do. They actually looked to enjoy being led by their man. Emelia considered that she would be like them one day. Not that day, but one day.
"I guess," she told him as they pulled into the driveway of his house. "Where your mama them at?" She looked around the driveway for their cars.
"Business meeting. They're going to be gone until later, and D'Angelo is out of town with his girlfriend for the weekend," he told her nonchalantly and got out of the car, with her following.
Together, they walked into his house and down the stairs to his room. It was quiet and dark until Angel moved around the lower level of his home, turning on lights and lighting candles. The basement level of their mini mansion had been decorated completely for Angel, while the attic was given to D'Angelo. The basement was immaculate. It was almost as if he had his own apartment; there was a kitchen, bathroom, sitting room, and his bedroom.
It was nice and private. Too private for Emelia right then, but that was probably her own fault. She'd been in Angel's house a million times, and not one time had she felt like she was feeling right then. She wasn't sure if it was because of the growing desire she'd formed for him over the past few months or because his parents weren't home.
"Why you sitting there like that?"
Emelia looked up and Angel was staring at her. He'd removed his shoes and leaned against the dresser. She paused for a moment, just taking in his appearance before shrugging.
"Like what?" she questioned, genuinely confused.
"Like you're scared to be with me or something."
Emelia swooned. His wording had her heart shivering. She was most definitely not afraid to be with him, but she was sure that wasn't what he'd meant.
"I'm not scared, it's just your parents are normally here when I'm here."
Angel waved her off before putting his game into the game system and taking a seat next to her. "I know you're not worried about them tripping about you being here." He looked at her as he scooted back onto the bed some, making their thighs touch.
Emelia's body warmed a little from the delicate contact. "Nah, I'm just ..." She looked off and ran her hand though her hair before kicking off her shoes. "I don't know. It just feels weird."
Angel looked over his shoulder at her, his handsome face calm. The way his eyes scanned over her face had her feeling uncomfortable, but it had nothing on the way he made her feel when his eyes lowered.
She wasn't exactly sure what he was looking at, but she was more than positive that it was her breasts. The shirt she was wearing fit snugly and showed them provocatively. Judging from the way he'd just begun biting the inside of his cheek, he appreciated what he saw.
"Why you feel weird today, Emelia?" He sat up some so that they were face-to-face.
"You want me to cut on some music?"
When she nodded, he got up and hit the switch to the large stereo system near his TV. When he turned around, he stopped and raised his eyebrows at her. "Better?"
Emelia smiled and nodded. "Yeah, now let's play the game."
"Cool." Angel walked back to the bed, but instead of sitting on it, this time he sat on the floor in front of it and pressed his back against his mattress.
Emelia grabbed the game controller he was extending toward her, and they began playing. Though it had been unwanted at first, the game became a much-needed distraction for her. She was no longer as nervous or scared to be around him. Back was the playful and silly demeanor she always had when they were together. She'd gotten so caught up playing the game that she thought nothing of the simple kiss she placed on his forehead after beating him for the sixth time.
"Better luck next time, boo," she screamed before tossing her controller down onto the bed and dancing around his room to the music.
"Man, I let you win." Angel twisted one side of his lips up.
Emelia frowned. "Boy, please. You ain't let me do nothing. I beat your ass fair and square," she told him before dancing playfully in front of him.
Angel was still seated on the floor, so when she danced, the lower half of her body was in his face. She was so busy gloating in her consecutive wins that she didn't even see him get up from the floor until he was right on her. With the front of his body pressed against the back of hers, he grabbed her around her waist.
Everything in Emelia stilled in that moment. Since she wasn't sure what to say, she said nothing, but she didn't have to, because Angel did.
"Is this how you were going to dance at the party?" His voice was just as low and calm as it always was.
"I don't know, probably." Emelia turned her head to the side and looked up so that she could see some of his face.
"You was gon' dance on them other dudes?" Her breathing picked up a notch when she felt his breath on her neck. "If they wanted me to."
"So, you do whatever people want you to do?"
A deep breath left her body as she began to get nervous again. Never in all of the years they'd been friends had they been as close as they were then, not intimately anyway. They'd hugged a few times, but never anything like the way they were right then.
"Yeah, but only if I want to do it too."
Angel took a step closer to her, further pressing his body into hers. When she felt his hardening erection on her butt, her breath got caught in her chest. She didn't know whether to move or to continue standing still, allowing him to control the situation. When he bent down some so that his lips were close to her ear, she jumped subtly.
"So, if I want you to dance on me like you were going to do the boys at the party, would you do it?"
Emelia nodded quickly. She didn't even have to think about that. That was most definitely something she already knew.
Angel circled her waist with his other hand before pressing his hips forward so that she could really feel him straining through his gym shorts.
"Well, dance for me, then," he told her calmly.
"Okay," Emelia whispered before bending over and rolling her bottom slowly into him as the slow song played in the background.
Emelia danced the best she could after that. Her nerves were getting the best of her, but she refused to embarrass herself. In her mind, she had a point to prove. Angel wasn't just some random boy at a party, he was her friend. She had to see him every day.
"I can't believe you were going to dance with other boys like this," he said from behind her. "I would be mad as shit."
Emelia smiled to herself at his possessiveness. Obviously, she was doing a good job. She had already had somewhat of an idea that she was when he'd grunted and whispered some stuff she couldn't make out, but him voicing it out loud confirmed it.
Before answering him, she stood up so that her back was to his chest. She continued grinding her body into his.
"I wasn't." She looked back at him over her shoulder. "I'm just dancing like this for you."
He winked at her and smiled. "I know." He slid his hands from her stomach up to her breasts. "You want to do something else for me?" His voice came out a little huskier that time.
Emelia nodded slowly, and he released her before grabbing her hand and pulling her toward his bed. When they were in front of it, he grabbed her neck and looked into her eyes.
"You bring a lot of girls down here, don't you?" she asked before she could stop herself.
"Nah." He smiled, and Emelia knew then that he was lying.
Angel was too fine, and too popular, not to have a plethora of women, even if he did have a girlfriend. Emelia was young, but she was no fool. She knew how boys their age got around, and he was probably no different. Well, almost no different. The difference between them and him was that she felt things for him that she didn't feel for them. They could have sex with as many girls as they wanted, but Angel ... she wanted him for herself.
"Don't worry about that." He rubbed his hand through her hair. "Worry about us."
Emelia nodded, and that was all it took. His lips were on hers immediately afterward, while his hands roamed all over her body. On the inside she was screaming, but on the outside she remained cool. Emelia was a virgin and had never even been close to having sex with a boy, until then. Though she was anxious, she was happy it was Angel she was with.
He was being so nice and gentle with her. He removed all of her clothes, minus her undergarments, before freeing himself of his own. Emelia did her best to shield her body from his eyes, so the moment she was in his bed, she pulled the covers up to her neck. To calm herself down, she tried to focus on something else. When she could find nothing, she breathed in deeply and relaxed.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Heart of the Hustle"
Copyright © 2019 A'zayler.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter One - You can do what you want,
Chapter Two - I'll love him forever,
Chapter Three - Young, handsome, and rich,
Chapter Four - He's just not the one,
Chapter Five - All grown up,
Chapter Six - Respect goes both ways,
Chapter Seven - The biggest mistake of my life,
Chapter Eight - When it all falls down,
Chapter Nine - You've been gone too long,
Chapter Ten - I'm a boss,
Chapter Eleven - I don't want to need you,
Chapter Twelve - You're going to learn to listen,
Chapter Thirteen - Second time, shame on me,
Chapter Fourteen - Daddy's girl,
Chapter Fifteen - I don't hide my love,
Chapter Sixteen - She's been mine,
Chapter Seventeen - Because you broke my heart before,
Chapter Eighteen - Was it easy for you to leave me?,
Chapter Nineteen - Love makes people crazy,
Chapter Twenty - What went wrong?,
Chapter Twenty-one - I'll take care of you,
Chapter Twenty-two - He makes you unfocused,
Chapter Twenty-three - Blood is thicker than water, but water tastes better,
Chapter Twenty-four - I'll leave and never come back,