Accidental Witness (Morelli Family, #1) by Sam Mariano

Vince Morelli.

The closest I ever wanted to get to him was several rows away in English class. We’d never spoken, but of course I heard the stories about his family. I know they’re dangerous. I know he’s dangerous. Vince never had a reason to notice me, anyway—until I inadvertently witnessed his first mob hit.

His family doesn’t believe in leaving witnesses alive, but Vince seems different. He knows the best thing he can do for me is stay away, but something keeps drawing us together. Despite knowing the risks of getting mixed up with him, I can’t resist. Only problem is, Vince is a package deal—you don’t get him without getting swept up in his family’s dark games.

Now entangled with a notorious Chicago crime family, will my life ever be mine again?

**Obligatory trigger warning: This is a mafia romance with dark themes. Sensitive content not recommended for those under 18. **

Targeted Audience: Adult, 21+

Author Bio:
Sam Mariano loves to write edgy, twisty, sexy reads with complicated characters you're left thinking about long after you turn the last page. Her favorite thing about indie publishing is the ability to play by your own rules!
If she isn't reading one of the thousands of books on her to-read list, writing her next book, or playing with her adorable preschooler, she's probably at the movie theater watching the new Beauty and the Beast for the 8,001st time. She regrets nothing!

What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I've had these characters floating around my head for about a decade now, it just seemed like time to unleash them on the world!

Read more, including a sample from the book
Sample from Book:

My mom always told me not to fall into the “bad boy” trap.
After watching them use and leave her all my life, you’d think I might’ve learned. As I slip my shoes on and creep out the back door—cringing at the squeal it makes when I try to ease it open—to call Jace Bradford, the friendly neighborhood bad boy who’s been flirting with me on and off for a few weeks, it isn’t looking so good.
Even as I crouch down beside the stone steps, pulling my cheap coat tighter against my body as a chilly gust of wind whips my mess of dirty blonde hair around my face, I try to talk myself out of it. He’s barely off a two week bender with Debbie Reyes, after all. Beautiful, beautiful Debbie Reyes. A chain-smoking, badass bombshell whose facial expressions are limited to bitchy variations of boredom and murderous.
Probably murderous when she looks at me if I go after her sloppy seconds.
But he has such great eyes. And the way he looks when he smiles at me….
“Screw it,” I mutter, whipping the phone out of my pocket and taking a couple steps forward, looking back at the house, up at the darkened window of my mother’s bedroom. The house has such thin walls you can hear a stream of piss as it makes its way to the toilet basin; no way am I calling a guy my mother would not approve of so late on a school night inside those walls. No way.
I practiced what we might say in the mirror earlier, and as my fingers scroll through for his contact name (“Jane babysitting” in case my mom sees his number flash across my screen), I imagine the gravelly “what’s up” he will likely answer with.
A flicker of light in the window of the house next door catches my attention. Junkies live there and they’re always having people over late at night, so I shouldn’t be so startled. Even at eighteen, I’m a little afraid of the dark.
All thoughts of my illicit phone call vacate my head as I watch the orange illumination climb the side of the window, swallowing up the curtain, and my brain slowly processes that I’m not looking at light, but flames.
Fire.
My eyes go wide and for a second, I don’t know how to react. I look around for an adult, someone who knows what to do, but of course there’s no one. Running around to the side of the house, my eyes dart to their front porch—as if they might be standing outside, laughing at some prank?—but it’s empty. I notice a car parked across the street, but that’s not unusual, especially outside that house.
Heart hammering in my chest, I fumble for my phone, but then I hear a muffled noise from inside the house and panic makes me blank again, staring at the window. Are there people inside? Should I try to help?
My feet move nervously, trying to debate what to do. I move closer to the front porch, my eyes jumping from the window to the porch, fingers curling tightly around my phone. My brain tells me to call 911, that every moment counts, but something stops me.
“Come on,” called lowly, hoarsely.
A shadowy figure slowly backs out the front door, peering inside. I can’t tell what he looks like, but I know from his shaggy hair it’s not my neighbor or her bald boyfriend.
I open my mouth to call out, but something about the way he’s moving—calmly but quickly, hunched, as if trying to hide himself out in the open—gives me pause.
Instead of pushing past the bushes to check on the person emerging from the house, I sink down, hoping the bushy branches are adequate cover. The hand gripping my phone shakes as I push the tab on the side to ensure my phone’s on silent. I bring up my camera app, sliding it over to video, and push through the branches of the shrubs. I have a reasonably clear view of the man on the porch—his back, anyway. He looks to his left, then back my way. Ice water pours through my veins, but I don’t move, and he doesn’t notice me from his quick glance.
A second figure emerges from the house, launching the first guy into motion. Another “c’mon” and then the first guy heads down the front porch steps, making his way toward the parked car.
The second guy lingers at the door longer than the first, peering back inside. He stands there long enough for my thighs to start burning pretty badly from my crouched position. I shift slightly for relief, but lose my balance, falling forward into the shrub.
The second guy jerks in my direction and I draw a quick breath, my heart sinking. His eyes connect with mine through the branches and I drop my phone, seized by terror as he holds my gaze for several seconds.
I know that face.
Not well, but I’ve seen him around school before, heard the stories about his family.
He’s in my English class, and as he takes a step in my direction, I can’t wrap my head around what’s happening.
He hesitates, looking to the car, then back to the bushes where I’m sprawled. I scurry back, pushing to my feet and running like my life depends on it to my back door, nearly ripping it off the hinges and throwing myself inside. My chest heaves up and down rather violently as I slam the door shut, locking the doorknob and the dead bolt as well. I run to the front door, checking that both are locked—not that a few locks will do me any good if they storm my front door.
“Oh, God,” I whine lowly, slowly inching my way to the front door. I have to see if he went to the car. If he hasn’t, he’s outside my house somewhere.
I’ve never known dread until this moment.
The car is gone, and I see it—the tail lights, down the road.
He’s gone.
I consider my phone, outside in the bushes.
I think of the house next door, of the fire I just saw inside.
If I run back outside and grab it, I could call 911.
If I did, they would know I’d seen it first. They’d ask me questions, investigate what happened.
I would have to tell the police that Vincent Morelli, of the famously criminal Morelli family, had been inside that house when the fire started.
It feels like my heart beats inside my roiling gut as I make my decision and head back to my bedroom, as if I hadn’t seen a thing, and hope like hell someone else will call for help.

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