Preview – Shackled: A Dark Bratva Enemies to Lovers Marriage Romance



I grin into the chilly autumn night, nearly skipping with glee.

This disguise is so fucking awesome, literally no one would ever suspect who I really am.

This was no last-minute disguise. Hell, I’ve been practicing all day.

First, the fake mustache, because even the best disguise won’t cover my Latina roots – Columbian men have beards and a five o’clock stubble by noon, so I used some makeup, just a touch of foundation to give me a slightly rougher complexion and a subtle contour to sharpen my jawline. A dab of an eyebrow pencil to give me the hint of stubble.

I refuse to cut my hair, so that was a tiny bit of a challenge. It’s slicked back and wound around my head, tucked under a black cap.
I had to wear a chest binder to flatten my chest which needed it thanks to my mama’s generous genes, and that’s a bitch, but I needed a masculine silhouette. The clothing was kind of fun — a dark hoodie that conceals my figure, baggy pants with multiple pockets to give me some bulk and a rugged appearance, paired with combat boots. I needed something masculine and practical for moving silently and blending in.

To mimic male body language, I adopted a slouched posture and broader stance, my walk more deliberate and heavy-footed. If they have a camera here I failed to see, they’ll never suspect who I really am. Sadly, I have to mask the sexy hip sway.

And when I was ready to go, I took myself into The Cove — the prowling ground of our enemies – just to test it all out. I had a damn good time for myself. I spoke in a deeper voice when I needed to — ordered coffee, and asked for directions just to make sure I passed the test.
Not only did no one give me so much as a strange look, I caught a few girls making eyes at me.

“Olla, beautiful,” I said in my guy voice to a slender blonde near Starbucks. She blushed but didn’t respond, then whispered to her friend behind me, who I winked at. Heh.

Truth is, I wouldn’t want to actually be a man for all the money in the world. I fucking love being a woman. But damn, it was fun to play.
And now, I’m ready. If they see me now, I’m still fucked, but at least they won’t suspect who I really am. I’ll get away – I always do – and they’ll be none the wiser.

I intercepted communication between Aleksandr Romanov, one of the high-ranking officials in the Romanov Bratva, and his wife Harper. They have small children and long, sleepless nights, so I figured eventually they’d get sloppy, and I wasn’t wrong.

I mean, anyone else might have totally missed the little tip-off, but when Aleksandr told his wife got another late night and she responded, please be careful, it’s so dark there and I don’t trust you’re safe, I knew exactly where they were going.

Who’s going? She asked.

My heart took a giant leap at his response: All of us.

It’s rare that all of the Romanov men are in one place. Though some of their wives work for them, and I have it on good authority that Viktor’s new wife Lydia actually set fire to her ex, the Romanovs are still in the Dark Ages. They’d deny it. Hell, their wives actually draw a salary, but I’m not impressed. Show me a Bratva group with a woman in actual fucking power. Authority. Leadership.

Now that would impress me.

The snap of a branch several yards to my left makes me freeze in my tracks. I stand as still as a hunted deer, listening. The Romanovs won’t be here for several hours yet, but it’s essential I’m not seen.

I wait, holding my breath. Listening. Is someone else here, or is it just an animal?

Another beat passes. Another.


I move on. I know exactly where to go: The abandoned warehouse, deeply hidden past a hiking trail in The Cove, is heavily secured with video surveillance. If the Romanovs see me on any security camera, they’ll just see a random dude going for a hike off trail.
They might wonder how their security footage was destroyed but by then, I’ll have everything I need.

The darkness and silence amplify every sound, making me hyper-aware of my surroundings. I only have about another mile to hike before I get to the entrance, but the night is young. I couldn’t risk driving anywhere near here for fear of being seen.

“Who’s there?” A deep male voice booms in the quiet woods. My heart stops for a split second.


I stand still and pull my hoodie over my head, sidestepping so I’m hidden behind a huge tree trunk. My heart beats faster. Did they actually send people here ahead of time? They never brought guards to the warehouse before.

Maybe they’re getting wary.

My breathing’s shallow as footsteps approach. Thankfully my vision is excellent even with the hoodie pulled tight. My hand tightens around my knife as I zoom in on my target. I don’t need to kill any of their guards. Not yet, anyway. I just need to incapacitate and possibly maim.
He comes within ten yards but scans around and shakes his head. Is he alone? I take out the tiny pair of night vision goggles I brought and peek through them. Must be a new recruit. He looks young, and scared enough to shit his pants.

Ah, Romanovs, why did you make it this easy for me? I thought we would be a good match.

He turns his back to me and heads back to the warehouse. My green light.

The backside of the warehouse is camera-free with no entrances. But for me, it is perfect. I welcome a challenge.

I scale the side of the building, using a rusty drainpipe and ledges. My fingers grip tightly, my body tense with the possibility of being seen. I am in the zone when I am climbing, mentally placing my feet and hands into positions I cannot see.

A thrill races through me when I reach the topmost window, partially opened on the second floor, the hinges rusted. It’s far away from the main patrol paths or any surveillance equipment. Since they use this place rarely, they haven’t really secured it as well as their residences. I never would have dreamed to try to infiltrate one of their private homes.

I carefully pry the window open and slide inside just as the beam of a flashlight illuminates the leaf-covered ground below. My heart leaps into my throat. I crouch down, peering from the edge of the window as the useless guard walks past, leans against the wall and pulls out his phone.

When I get into a place of leadership in this family – and I fucking will – I’m going to fire that lazy son of a bitch. When my breathing slows and he’s gone, it’s go time.

The door to this vacant room is locked. Good. I thought this would be boring. I would be disappointed if I could not pick any locks today. 

With practiced ease, I do my magic and pick the lock in less than a minute.

Really, boys, a bit of a challenge would be nice.

I move quietly down the dim hallway, testing every footfall for creaky floorboards and ducking into shadows in case someone came in here unseen, until I find a shadowy loft area right above the main floor and quickly climb the ladder. It’s a perfect vantage point to observe them without being seen.

I mean, I could’ve done something a bit safer, I guess. Planted a bug maybe. But Jesus, what is the fun in that? This is late night, the entire surrounding cast in shadows illuminated only by moonlight — it is eerie, tense, and dangerous. My favorite.

I settle into my hiding spot. I have got a few hours before they arrive, but my heart still hammers in my chest. I have waited so long for this. The entire trajectory of my life is at stake.

I lean back against the wall and imagine myself where I want to be. They say visualization is the key to leaning into a goal, for really making shit happen. If that is actually true, I have got it made, since I can already imagine what it feels like to give orders, to snap my fingers and watch grown men cow to me. I can already hear the respect in their voices and feel the surge of power coursing through my veins when they call me their Queen.

A flicker of sadness washes across me as I remember my father’s cold, disapproving eyes. He’d kill me for what I’m about to do. Literally.
It’s half the damn reason I am here.

To my father, women were a means to an end. A lower class of human, useless in his quest for domination, save their ability to provide offspring.

Even I was viewed as less than because of my status as female. My brother Javier, on the other hand, was much more highly valued.
I shake it off and focus on the task at hand.

I take mental notes and go over my plan again.

I went to Viktor and tipped him off. My brother would beat the living shit out of me before he murdered me with his own hands, but if he ever finds out, it will be too late for him. If my plan goes well, anyway.

That’s one of several reasons he needs to go. I will see to that.

They are all coming — Mikhail, the eldest and one of the most dangerous. He took over when his father died and now rules the entirety of The Cove, the area between Coney Island and Manhattan. Next in command is Aleksandr, the computer geek, followed by Nikko, the group Assassin. He’s got the eye of a sniper and a perfect shot, but I will not give him a target.

Viktor will be here, too. The largest one of all, heavily covered in tattoos and scars, Viktor is the group heavy, their loyal pit bull in human form. Ollie, the silent, quiet one who works in international relations, is home from Moscow, thanks to me. The youngest brother Lev will be here, too, but I do not worry about him. According to my intel, he is practically a kid. Javier has it out for Lev, but I’m not entirely sure why and I am not sure it matters. Javier hates everyone he sees as a personal threat.

I take out my goggles again and scan below. There is a table with detailed maps and documents below. Huh. Interesting. I would like to take a closer look at those, but do not dare risk moving out of my hiding spot.

The most challenging part of all this is that the Romanovs are so damn loyal. Any one of those brothers would lay down their lives for the others, including their wives, children, sister, and mother. It makes it nearly impossible to plot against a family so dedicated to each other. There is no weak link to exploit.

My family? Ha. Luckily for me, we’re power-hungry animals, eager to kill for a meaty bone. It is only a matter of knowing whose hunger to stoke and stepping out of the way for the kill…and making sure you do not end up the one devoured.
I did not learn my skills for nothing, though.

I lean back in the loft, hidden in the shadows. The rain beats down harder on the tin roof, the relentless sound drowning out anything I would hear going on outside. It does not matter. They will show. I close my eyes, just for a little rest. I cannot risk falling asleep and someone finding out I am here, but it feels good to take a bit of a breather.

I wrap the oversized hoodie tighter around myself. It’s fucking ice cold in here. The chill in the air and the drumming rain lull me. My focus wavers when a memory surfaces, unbidden.

I’m a child, only ten years old, standing in front of my father in his study. I’m swallowing back tears because of what I’ve seen and heard, another fight between my father and mother. He won. He always won, and even then I knew it was only because he was stronger and more powerful.

I made a vow then — that would never be me. I would never cow to a man.

“No crying,” my father snapped, his black eyes merciless and unblinking. He scowled at me as he sat back in his chair, his arms folded across his chest. “Las emociones son para los débiles, Isabella. Serán tu perdición si las dejas.”

Emotions are for the weak, Isabella. They will be your downfall if you allow them.

I felt a chill at his words even as I made a solemn vow to rebel against him. One of the first steps toward adulthood is realizing that adults aren’t always right. It wasn’t true. Emotions are not for the weak.

Cowardice is for the weak.

Emotions are human.

My resolve hardens.

I am not my father and he has no power over me anymore.

I set my jaw and reaffirm why I am here: I will not let my father’s legacy of hatred and cold detachment define me. I will use my skills to safeguard the people that I love and I will bring my brother to justice. I will protect the throne. I will stand strong to keep my family’s name alive.

But first…the Romanovs.