CROW (Boston Underworld Book 1)

By: A. Zavarelli

“Ladies and gents are you ready?”

The entire crowd erupts into raucous cheers and applause, infusing the atmosphere with a wild energy that only comes with this kind of blood sport. The smell of stale sweat permeates the air, along with the heat of far too many bodies cramped into the dusty old warehouse. This is it. The moment I love. The moment I live for. I bounce back and forth on the balls of my feet as Johnny makes his announcement.

“Fighting out of Dorchester… standing at five feet eleven inches tall, weighing in at one hundred and ninety pounds… Donovan ‘the hook’ O’Connor.”

The boofhead slugs his fists together and spins in a circle to amp up the crowd as they shout and cheer for him. Talk about an overconfident prick. The only thing I care about is that I’ve got the audience’s attention. I cast a glance in the direction of the Russians and take mental note of who’s here tonight.

None of them look familiar. My dad only let me around his own crew, and whenever these guys came around, he made me skedaddle. But right now, they’ve all got eyes on me. That’s good. I glance back at the Irish. The only familiar faces I see are the ones I managed to get some dirt on. The boss isn’t here, but his captains are. And one in particular is staring at me with dark curiosity. Lachlan Crow. He’s third in line to the throne of the Irish underworld, and his reputation proceeds him.

Hell on wheels. He’ll kill you and he’ll do it with a smile on his face. Or so I’m told. I don’t know for certain what his role is besides running Slainte but the stories running rampant about him vary wildly. I’ve wondered if half of them are simple lore, intended to make him seem more dangerous than he really is. But one look at his face, completely devoid of any emotion, and I know they must be true.

You can tell his men respect him, standing like sentinels at his side. Not directly next to him, just a couple inches back. They don’t see themselves as equals to Lachlan. And a man in this life doesn’t gain that kind of respect without doing heinous things and instilling fear in those around him.

I’ve done some research on these guys, of course, but not as much as I would have liked. I couldn’t do a background check, so my information mostly came from word on the street. That’s one of the benefits of being from Southie.

Of course Lachlan’s name is engraved into my brain. He runs Slainte. He’s the gatekeeper of the one place that I need to be to get my information. I hoped to get his attention, but I didn’t expect it to be so intense. I figured he’d give me a cursory glance, and then I could use one of his soldiers to get me an audition with him. But he’s staring directly at me. There’s no way he can see my face beneath the hood of my robe, but for a moment I almost think he can. His gaze is so sharp, so penetrating that it’s a little disarming. I jerk my eyes away and focus on my opponent. I’ll worry about Lachlan after. When I’ve kicked Donovan’s ass.

“Fighting out of Southie,” Johnny continues. “Standing at five feet two inches tall, weighing in at one hundred and twenty pounds… Mack ‘the butterfly’ Wilder.”

As expected, there are some confused murmurs. Once this robe is off, everybody in this building will know who I am. There’s no going back after this.

I jerk the robe off and toss it aside, and the entire arena goes dead silent, including my cocky opponent. Maybe it’s just my paranoia, but for a moment, he looks at me like he recognizes me. Which is impossible. I’ve always made sure to keep a low profile when I come watch the fights.

I didn’t hear an Irish accent when he was stirring up the crowd, so I know he’s from Boston. But I’m also certain this is the only place I’ve ever seen him before. He’s older than me, probably by about five years, so I doubt we have any friends in common either.

He cocks his head to the side, and I catch sight of a large scar on his cheek. Probably from fighting, no doubt. His beady black eyes rake over my body, and I breathe a sigh of relief when I realize he’s just examining me.

“You’ve gotta’ be shittin’ me Johnny,” he says.

He looks around the room with a nervous expression, seeking out Lachlan. I have no doubts that Donovan isn’t afraid of hitting a girl. But he needs permission from his superior to go through with a spectacle like this. Curious myself, I follow his gaze and find Lachlan scowling at me. He isn’t at all comfortable with this, and I’ve put him in a hella awkward position. All of his men are staring at him with bated breath, wondering if he’ll allow himself to look weak. To disappoint all of the fans that came here tonight. I flash him a challenging smile. What’s it gonna’ be Crow?

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