AN Latro introduced us to the sexy and dangerous world of the Morgan crime family in Black Collar Empire and the novellas, Black Collar Beginnings: Cuba and Black Collar Beginnings: New York.
Now she returns with Black Collar Beginnings: Manhattan Dry a five part short story about New York’s favorite criminal royalty.
Everything in the Morgan syndicate is poised on the edge of change, and no one understands that more than Caleb. A senior in high school, he’s balanced between a false legitimate life and the deadly one as head of the family’s weapons division.
When an attack comes out of nowhere, the two sides of his world collide and the effects of that will touch everyone in the family…
Black Collar Beginnings: Manhattan Dry Part 1
Irving Prep, New York City.
Caleb smirks at his reflection in the mirror hanging on the inside of his locker door. His blond hair is a riotous mess, and it reeks of chlorine, but he doesn't care enough to shower. A particularly pleasant buzz has taken his limbs, a heady mix of endorphins and tired muscles. He went hard at practice, cutting through the water like the pool was the cause of his distress. The only time he can ever get his mother –dead six months now - off his mind is when he's swimming.
He slams the locker closed and throws the strap to his bag over his shoulder. He beat everyone, again. It's becoming a problem on the team. He's better than all of them, even the next best member is way behind his times. And just as punk-ass rich kids who have nothing better to worry about, the team as a collective doesn't like him. He pushes his shoulders back as he stalks toward the exit, every single bit the cocky 18-year-old he looks. Fuck those guys. They can talk shit when he climbs in the back of a Bentley.
Just as he reaches for the door handle, he hears a shuffle just behind him. He whips around as a voice barks, “Hey, Morgan.”
He manages to dodge the first punch, a sloppy haymaker. But he also realizes that this is not a one-on-one fight. He steps into the third punch while avoiding the second, and his temple explodes in pain and white light when the knuckles connect. He hears himself grunt as the aftershock of that single blow tremors through his body. There are five of them to one of him, and his legs are already shaking.
But he’s a Morgan. So he returns the haymaker, a left, and a proper one. His knuckles connect with a jaw. He hears the yelp of pain but his vision collapses on itself when someone uppercuts him in the gut. When he doubles over – he can't stop himself – someone else punches him in the mouth. He feels himself fall, knows his body is going into shock from the overload, and he can't do a damn thing to stop it.
When he hits the floor, he knows it's game over. He does his best to protect his head as they descend upon him, and one of them drawls, “Not so much better than us, now, are you?”
They're snickering when another blow to the temple knocks him out.
The next thing he knows, a nonsensical voice is talking to him as he cracks open his eyes. Everything is blurry, most of all the vague outline of a face above him. In the next second comes the screaming agony. Every nerve in his body lights on fire. The voice continues to talk, and continues not to make sense. All he can do in response is groan.
He gets the vague sensation of being picked up. Not cool. A Morgan shouldn't need to be carried. Then he slips from consciousness again.
Caleb is sitting moodily in the dinning room of the high rise suites, with an ice pack pressed against his face as evening descends. His dad sits at the head of the table, diagonal from him, with a stack of folders in front of him, and a scotch, straight up. The silence has stretched between them for damn near twenty minutes, and Caleb's patience is thin. Still, he holds out in the same stubborn silence that follows any time he or Seth get in trouble. Both brothers are stoically silent in the face of such trouble, but Seth's expression gives them away, every time.* * *
They both know that Gabriel will always win when it came to patience, yet Caleb always pushes himself to the very brink. He eyes the scotch as his dad scans the newspaper. Suddenly, it annoys him that his dad is still so old fashioned that he gets his news from the literal paper. The bruise on Caleb's cheek had gone from a hot throb to a frozen bite, and that's pretty irritating, too. Fuck this.
He slams the ice down on the table with a huff, and he's just a few seconds from reaching for his dad's liquor, when a commotion down the hall stops him.
It begins with the ding of the elevator that is their front door, the soft glide as it opens. It continues with the loudest possible elevator exodus, probably ever. Keys – to who knows what – jingling, a bag being dropped in the floor, possibly kicked, keys tossed on a glass-top table. It's Seth, announcing to the world that he's home. Gabe shakes his head with a quiet sigh, and Caleb's expression turns to a full-blown glare.
The silence drags on as they wait for Seth to make his leisurely pace down the hallway, and just as he's about to make his grand entrance, Caleb flings his gaze to the table, at nothing. At anything but his jackass brother. He knows that Seth has no clue what's going on, but it's partially that innocence that pisses Caleb off. Seth could waltz through a field of traps without ever hitting one or knowing better, and he'd still get a gold metal for bravery.
In his peripheral, Caleb sees Seth stride into the dining room as though he expects there to be cameras waiting. And Caleb watches his little brother hold that air for about three steps before he freezes. And the real Morgan emerges.
“What the fuck!” Seth demands.
“Watch your mouth,” Gabe says, and Caleb just stares hard at the oak.
Seth's angry expression melts into one of skepticism that his dad could be more worried about language than Caleb's face. Seth narrows his eyes, and says, “Well what the fuck happened?”
With a speed that neither son will ever get used to, Gabe stands, and in the same movement, backhands his youngest son. Not as hard as he can, not even hard enough to bruise, but enough to knock him back a little.
Seth recovers fairly quickly, but the attitude is magically gone. His head hangs a bit, and he mumbles, “Sorry.”
“I got jumped,” Caleb says.
Seth and Gabe turn to him as one. He keeps his eyes down, rage brewing in his gut that is hard to keep from his voice. He continues, “There were five of them.”
“Who was it?” Seth asks, the same rage more apparent in his tone. The two can knock-down-drag-out with each other, but if anyone else messes with one brother, they end up answering to two.
“Sit down, Seth, and shut up,” Gabe says. His voice is controlled but his tone leaves no room for argument.
Seth scoffs his disbelief, but that's as much rebellion as he will dare. He doesn't argue, and he does take a seat beside Caleb, eyes roving, assessing the damage done to his big brother. Gabe resumes his seat and takes a slow sip of scotch. Now, both his sons are staring at the table.
“Who jumped you?” Gabe asks.
“Some guys from the team,” Caleb answers reluctantly. Five on one is hardly a fair fight, but still the shame of getting his ass kicked burns in his gut.
“Which guys from the team?” Gabe asks, dark eyes penetrating.
“I didn't get a chance to see them.”
“Why would they jump you? Did you instigate something?”
The rage he’s holding back makes a leap, and his eyes flash to his dad. He says, “Do you really think I would have lost the fight if I had?"
The eye contact weighs heavily between them for an uncomfortable stretch. Seth has fallen still, well aware that he is out of his league. His gaze flits between his dad and his brother. Finally, Gabe sighs, a sigh that sags his shoulders in the midst of his child's pain, and he asks, “Then why did they jump you?”
“Because I'm better than them. Because I win.”
Gabe holds Caleb's heated stare for a few moments longer, then he sighs again and takes another drink. “I will deal with your school and see that those boys are punished. Is that clear?”
“But Dad -”
“Shut up, Seth.”
They can all but here Seth's jaw snap closed. Caleb's voice is downtrodden when he says, “Yes, Dad.”
“Good,” says Gabe. “Caleb, you don't have a concussion, but you're lucky. Take it easy for a couple days, ok.” His hands are already shifting folders on the table, but his eyes are still on his sons. He adds, “I have to go over these reports from the board. You two are dismissed.”
Caleb grabs his ice pack, but doesn't press it to his face. He and Seth stand, heads hanging as if they had gotten in trouble. As they start their exit, like a procession of the damned, Gabe says, “And boys.” It stops both of them in their tracks. “I love you.”
They mumble their replies before heading toward their rooms.
Seth follows Caleb into his room without asking, and he closes the door behind him. Caleb huffs in aggravation as he tosses the ice onto the top of his dresser. He catches a glimpse of his reflection as he does, and he can't help but let his eyes run over the ugly bruise on his cheekbone and temple, the swollen split in his lip. “What do you want, Seth?”* * *
Seth has sprawled on Caleb's full-sized bed, and he's staring at the ceiling when he asks, “Who was it?”
The temper Caleb has been holding since he got home finally gets the best of him. Seth is a safe target for that aggression, so Caleb whirls on him and snaps, “It doesn't fucking matter. You heard Dad. Stop being a dumb fuck.”
And just as Seth is apt to do, he returns the heat. He scrambles upright, body rigid and tight with anger—ready to fight. The fury is written all over his hard expression. “Somebody – not just somebody, fucking five of them – attacked my goddamned brother, yes it fucking matters. I don't care what Dad said.”
Caleb huffs back, but when he meets Seth's eyes, he can't bring himself to admonish his little brother. Seth isn't acting, he’s pissed, and though Caleb knows he should be some sort of role model, Seth's anger is soothing. Caleb's hard-edged features fall. His brother always has his back, no matter what. So he turns away, back to the ice, and this time, he does press it to his again throbbing bruise.
Would he rest if it were Seth with a beat-up face and wounded pride? Not likely.
“Who was it?” Seth asks again.
“Aidenn and his buddies.”
“The team captain?”
“That's the one.”
“Those motherfuckers!” Seth snarls. With his already-dangerous speed, Seth swipes the 9mm pistol from Caleb's bedside table and heads toward the door. He's almost too quick to catch, but Caleb rushes him, grabbing his skinny arm above the elbow and jerking his brother around to face him.
“What the hell are you doing?” Caleb asks in a measured tone, surprising compared to the riot of emotion that plays in his gut.
“I'm going to make them sorry they ever fucked with a Morgan,” Seth answers, his temper completely obliterating sense. Caleb can see the fiery tantrum building in his idiot, endearing sibling.
“Like this?” Caleb asks, waving the ice pack at the gun. “Are you fucking insane?
For a long stretch, Seth just stares back like Caleb were speaking a foreign language. He is every bit as stubborn as Caleb, and just as volatile, so Caleb keeps the firm grip on his brother's arm. He wants to shake the shit out of Seth, as if it might shake the younger back into reason. “That's not our world, Seth. You can't go gun down some high school kids because of a locker room fight. You would bring us all down, because god knows you're not smart enough to not get caught.”
“Fine,” Seth answers. His anger is still apparent, but he's trying to get a handle on it, probably because he sees Caleb doing the same thing. “Fine, here.” He shoves the gun toward Caleb so that he has to let go of Seth's arm to take the pistol. Seth adds coldly, “I don't need a gun. I'll beat the fuck out of them with my hands.” And he turns back to the door.
Caleb abandons the gun on the dresser, and again rushes Seth. “You're not going alone.”
“Then come with me,” Seth says, the challenge thick in his tone. “Because I am going.”
“Goddammit!” Caleb growls, roughly dragging Seth back toward the dresser. “You really are a fucking idiot.”
Seth is about to protest, but his attention divides when Caleb pulls open his top drawer and begins digging through designer underwear. “You know I'm gonna catch the heat for this,” he says, finding what he's searching for.
“No, you won't. I will. I won't let him blame you,” Seth answers. He's being sincere, but Caleb knows their dad better than that.
“Just shut up, Seth. Here.” Caleb extends a set of brass knuckles to his brother. “Like I showed you, so you don't break your hands.”
For a moment, Seth just stares down at the metal. In that moment, he knows that Caleb is both thanking him for having his back, and accepting the consequences of what they are about to do. Caleb slips his own brass knuckles in his jeans pocket and grabs his lightweight coat. “And you follow my lead. If I say we split, we split.”
Catch up on the series now!!
Black Collar Empire:
After two years away, Seth Morgan has returned to New York, desperate to honor his father’s dying wish for a unified family. But the heir’s welcome is sadly lacking: his family’s criminal empire is divided, the woman he loves hates him, and his brother Caleb has become a cold stranger.
When a brotherly spat becomes a vicious misunderstanding that ends with Caleb dead, Seth is left reeling, and unsure who to trust.
Emma Morgan grew up while her closest cousin was away. She’s been sheltered her entire life from the realities of their family—something Seth has every intention of changing upon his return.
But not everyone in the syndicate is happy to have Seth home, and there are secrets surrounding Caleb’s murder. The deeper Seth and Emma dig, the clearer it becomes that not everyone shares their dream for the Morgan Syndicate, and not everyone wants the heir to ascend.
Black Collar Beginnings: New York
Caleb Morgan is the black sheep of the family. Two years of his brother’s absence has left him cold and alone—except for Emma, the youngest Morgan. Because with Seth gone, there is no one else to teach—or protect—their innocent cousin. But teaching isn’t always pretty—not in family who peddles in crime.
Black Collar Beginnings: Cuba
Alone in Cuba, Seth Morgan isn’t mafia royalty—he’s a thug with a gun, and everything to prove. When the shadowy kingpin behind the Cuban syndicate finally takes notice, nothing in Seth’s world will ever be the same.
Before the Empire, there was exile. A novella, set just before Black Collar Empire.
Part 1—Monday, Nov 3rd.
One Guy's Guide To Good Reads | Talk Books to Me | Vera is Reading | sarit | Just Booked | A Life Bound By Books | My Favorite Things | Reading Addict
Part 2—Tuesday, Nov 4
Home Is Where the Wine Is Book Blog | Can't Talk, I'm Reading | Addicted Readers | Best Book Boyfriends | One Last Page Book Blog
Part 3—Wednesday, Nov 5
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Part 4—Thursday, Nov 6
Red's Book Blog | The Geekery Book Review | Rustys Reading | bookshelf dreaming | GenGen's Book Blog | FictionZeal.com
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Obsessed by Books | Naughty Book Eden | Reading Is My Superpower | River Book Reviews | Whirlwindbooks | Collector of Book Boyfriends
AN Latro loves good wine and the ocean, and prefers to write with both. She has a passion for bad boys in books, and stories that make you feel. She can most often be found along the Florida coast.
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