They were only kids when they met for the first time. Leo Mancini was the son of a judge. Roman Cipriani the son of a criminal. So different, yet as they shared stolen kisses and secret moments, they fell in love. One day they would run away together, have the future they deserved, because no one loved Leo like Roman did, or Roman like Leo did. But before they could make their dreams come true, their future was viciously stolen and their lives changed forever.
Roman has spent the last twelve years repressing the trauma in his past, trying to pretend it didn’t exist, until even he believed his own lies.
Leo won’t let himself forget what happened because he doesn’t ever want to be that person again. He won’t become the man his father wanted him to be or the guy who gets hurt when he lets someone in.
But in that split second when their eyes meet again, everything changes. Despite Leo’s anger and Roman’s denial, the connection they shared as teens is still there, too powerful to deny. Now, when their moments don’t have to be stolen, they cling to what they’ve always craved–each other.
Roman and Leo aren’t kids anymore, though–they can’t lock themselves away from the world and pretend nothing exists but each other. A trauma like Roman suffered doesn’t just go away, but now that Roman accepts his truth, can the two of them escape their demons before they destroy Roman and Leo a second time"
Possible triggers: violence and homophobiaBooks by Author:Riley Hart Books
Roman Cipriani"s head snapped back. The punch landed right on his jaw. Pain seared through him. His brain rattled as he stumbled backward and struggled to stay on his feet. There was no use in trying as another body slammed into him, knocking him to the lawn. A rock jammed into his back, causing him to let out an umpf before the second person straddled him, and blow after blow pounded his ribs.
He looked into the wild eyes of his older brother, Anthony.
"Get off him. He probably likes that too much," their dad shouted at Anthony.
"No. No. I swear I don"t like it!" Roman pleaded.
"Shut up!" his dad growled, just as Anthony pulled away. "Get up."
Roman stumbled to his feet, seeing stars. His head rang, his brain hurt, but he knew if he didn"t stand up, if he didn"t accept his punishment, it would only be worse.
He wondered if the neighbors saw them. If anyone closed their windows so they could pretend they didn"t hear his father and brother beating him behind their fence. None of them would stop it; he knew that. No one wanted to fuck with his father. And if they knew why he was getting pummeled, maybe they"d think he deserved it.
His heart clenched, hoping his dad wouldn"t tell them why he and Anthony were giving him the beating. Maybe they"d be too ashamed to tell.
Anthony"s fist hit his stomach. Fuck, he felt like something exploded inside him. He bent and clutched his waist just as his dad"s punch hit him in the eye. Pain exploded in his head. Blood and sweat mixed with the tears in his eyes. Stop"please stop.
He couldn"t take much more, but he didn"t dare say it. Not if he wanted this beating to end anytime soon. The weaker he was about it, the longer it would last.
He fought to stay on his feet. His muscles felt like the pasta they"d eat when the neighborhood got together for a large pot of sauce. His legs couldn"t hold him up any longer, and he went to his knees.
The punches and kicks kept coming.
He wondered if they would kill him.
He heard his brother"s laugh.
His father"s anger.
Maybe it would be better if he died here. It would be a whole lot easier than living with them. It would be a whole lot easier than living with himself.
As pain pierced every part of Roman"s body, his vision swam deeper, into more muddled waters, and one thought swept through his head"he would never experience this again. He"d do whatever it took not to be the guy shit like this happened to. He"d do whatever he could to be normal. To stay away from Leo because this was all Leo"s fault anyway.
If he didn"t die today, they"d at least killed all the messed-up shit that got him here in the first place.
Twelve years later
"Mr. Cipriani, I have the risk-and-profitability report you asked for." Polly, his secretary, set the folder down on his desk.
"Thank you. I appreciate it. Can you hold all my calls, please""
She gave him a smile and nodded before slipping out of his office, closing the door behind her.
Roman rubbed his temples. His head pounded. He had a stack of work that needed to be done, plus the report to go over, but he didn"t feel like getting lost in numbers and finances. Not today.
He loosened his tie and leaned back in his chair. He"d slept like shit last night, tossed and turned for hours on end. It wasn"t really a surprise to him, though. That happened often around this time of year. The memories started to resurface, the dreams interrupting his sleep, until he found a way to bury them all again.
Goddamn it. It had been twelve years. The old Roman was dead. Gone. Died with his father years ago and thrived even more when his brother got locked up. He was a different man.
He"d worked his ass off to get out of the slums. To get away from the demons of his past. He"d wanted to become someone, and he"d done that. He wasn"t a drug dealer like his father. He"d gotten a full ride in college, gotten his masters degree in finance, yet sometimes he was still that kid his dad and brother had beaten till he nearly died.
"Fuck." Roman rubbed a hand over his face. He needed to get his shit together. There was no reason to keep dwelling on the past like this. At twenty-eight, he should be over it.
He groaned when his phone rang. Hadn"t he just asked Polly to hold his calls" But then, he knew if she let one through, there was a good reason for it.
"Yeah"" he said into the phone.
"Sorry to bother you. I know you said no calls, but it"s Amy. She said she tried your cell, but it rang at home. You must have forgotten it."