Prologue - Liam 7:51 PM WEDNESDAY If there’s but one universal truth in this wild world we live in, it’s this: Hearing your fiancée yell out, “Hey, fucker!” while you’re shuffling into an elevator full of Russian prostitutes with your manhood cupped in your hands is generally a bad sign. I know what you’re thinking—but let’s get one thing straight here and now. That’s not me shuffling into the elevator with the saucy Russian whores. No, that’s my idiot step-brother, along with his three best friends and half a dozen women of questionable moral values. The whores, I can approve of. The cheating? I just can’t. My mother married Dan’s father when we were both just lads. It was the worst fucking mistake of her life, and I’ve hated my shitty American step-brother ever since. If he’d been calling himself Dan the Man back across the pond in London where I grew up, he would have been punched so hard in the fucking mouth that he would have shat his own teeth for a week. Instead, Dan the Man grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth and a stiff steel rod up his arse. Being boring as sin never seemed to warrant his nickname, no matter how much money his bastard of a father left him. But that’s Dan the Man’s secret, really. He’s so fucking dull, no one would ever imagine his voracious appetite for Soviet bloc hookers or Colombian cocaine. Even I bought the charade for a while—until the first time he called begging for me to bring money to Tijuana, or else his coke dealer Alfonso was going to murder him. When I see the way he’s made his poor, gorgeous fiancée cry, I almost wish I would have left him with the drug lord. Becky Brooks, the woman Dan the Man somehow—against all odds—convinced to be his wife. It’s three days before the wedding, and from the way she’s holding the milliondollar engagement ring he bought for her in his fist, I think they might need to cancel the caterer.
“You bastard,” Becky snarls. “You cheating fucking bastard. You are dead to me.” “B-becky-beans,” Dan the Man stutters, and I cringe. Oh fuck. That is not an attractive nickname. I know the reason that Dan the Man was able to afford such an expensive wedding band, and it’s not through anything good he’s done of his own. No, his father left him a fortune and left me nothing. After all, I’m not a Hardbottom of the illustrious Hardbottom family like Dan is—I’m Liam fucking Black, an actual bastard. All my father left me was his last name— and he hardly even left me that. I used to be a little bitter about it. But now that we’re older, bitterness has been washed away by success. I made a fortune out of nothing—out of counting cards and being so damn good at it, now I own my own casino: the Royale. And here Dan the Man is, standing in the Royale’s elevator dripping with lube and begging his fiancée not to kill him—or at least not to cancel the wedding. “Remember the good times, Becky-beans,” Dan pleads from the elevator. “Fuck that,” Becky spits at him. “I don’t even want to remember you exist. I’m going to forget everything, Dan. Every single fucking thing about you—and you can just fucking wallow in obscurity.” “Becky-beans, please!” Dan wails, but it’s too late. She’s already flung that million-dollar engagement ring at him and the elevator doors close up right behind it. Becky Brooks. She’s bubbly, bright and—even I have to admit—more beautiful than any man deserves. Green eyes like an Irish morning and an ass so tight, you could bounce fifty pence off of it. When she turns to me, I open my arms to her. She might have put on a brave face before Dan the Man and his goons and his whores, but there’s no shame in crying now. She nestles her pretty little red head against my broad, muscled shoulder while she sobs. “There there, love,” I say, stroking her fiery, silken hair. “Let it out.”