Queen of Thorns (Mice and Men #2) - Lana Sky



I was fourteen the first time I ever killed someone. It was a sloppy hit, done at point-blank range with a stolen 9mm. Later on, I found out that was intentional on the part of the man who put me up to it—throw off suspicion by making it seem like a reckless, random robbery.

I’d merely been a pawn in a game I’d been too damn young to even guess the scope of. Such is the way of the world.

Everyone is a fucking pawn.

I don’t recall much of that day, though I sure as hell remember the messy aftermath. Namely, the blood splattered all over the pavement and the pile of puke I left alongside it. Shaking from head to toe, I could barely grip the gun in my hand. Rather than dispose of it like a seasoned hitman would, I turned tail and ran, leaving both the body and the weapon there out in the open, a rookie mistake.

I don’t even remember the poor bastard’s name. As far as I knew, he had been an enemy of Mr. Rossi, a mobster I’d pledged my loyalty to, and that was all that mattered.


It was my one talent, and what I thought would cement my status as a member of the famiglia, age be damned. Until I learned a lesson they don’t bother to teach in schools, that is. A boy doesn’t become a man the second he commits murder.

No, my old boss and leader of the famiglia, Giovanni Rossi himself, told me the truth from across his desk that night. Later, as I washed the blood from my hands, I realized that some lucky bastards never learn it.

Becoming a man relies on knowing one universal certainty. Understand it, and even the poorest, dumbest son of a bitch can become whatever the hell he wants, be it a doctor, a teacher, or a fucking crime lord.

So what is it? This—all men have the same capacity for evil. No matter what he does. No matter what he wears or says. No matter how good his upbringing is, or how much money he has in the bank…

Everyone is the same underneath.

The true question of morality is whether they choose to embrace the darkness or suppress it—though the Bible tries its damn hardest to muddy the waters. I grew up with the lies, reading every classic moral lesson, which typically ended with all sin leading neatly back to the devil.

A good, God-fearing Catholic woman, my mother abided by every warning and did her best to teach me the same. The only problem? I knew early on that it was all bullshit.

The devil isn’t real. Greed is. At his core, every man is little more than a creature born of sheer greed. A priest and a mobster are both one and the same—a snarling, vicious animal out to satisfy the most basic urges. Strip him down to the bone, and he’ll do whatever it takes to eat. To fuck. To shit. And…if necessary, kill.

God rest my mother’s soul; I wish things were different, though. I wish a simple prayer could cure every act of evil.

The death.

The violence.

The blood.

I wish I could still blame my sins on the devil—though maybe I can. Just one of flesh and blood who goes by another name.

Mischa Stepanov.

He’s the reason I’m here—driving up the west end of Hell’s Gambit in a stolen car with a kidnapped woman in the trunk. I barely remember the how and why. My skull throbs as I pick through the scattered memories, each one as blurred as the last.

Mischa let himself be played by faulty information. He came after me. Vin got attacked...

I left the villa, I think, though I didn’t go see the man I should have.

No, I went right to the source of the lies. The man who tried to have me killed and then framed me for an attack on the Stepanovs. Antonio Salvatore.

I broke into his fancy manor and tried beating any information I could out of him. After that, I strangled him with my bare hands and used his own daughter as a human shield to evade the remnants of the famiglia.

Then I went back to Havienna and…

Groaning, I take one hand from the wheel to rub at my temples, but the grainy images don’t get any clearer. At least one fact is answered—if all of what happened was real, then there are two bodies in the trunk—one being just a child, kidnapped from her own home.

Fuck. I laugh out loud and