ABOUT SAVAGE SAINT
WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS PROLOGUE
IF YOU HAVEN’T READ BOOKS 1 – 3 YET
** IMPORTANT: Savage Saint is the FOURTH and LAST book in the Vicious Empire Series. Cruel Saint (book one), Brutal Saint (book two), and Wild Saint (book three) must be read prior to this one as the series contains an ongoing family saga that is introduced in prior books and wraps up in this one.
I’m taking my family and my life back piece by piece, even if I have to carve it out of the flesh of everyone who stands in my way.
– LENNOX Saint
Regardless of our name, we are no saints. Luckily, the women we love are as wicked as we are.
PROLOGUE: LENNOX (TWENTY YEARS AGO)
“What do you think is gonna happen?” Dagen trails behind me by a few feet, not stopping to wait for an invitation when I enter my room.
He doesn’t need one. None of my brothers do.
He walks to my bed, kicking his legs up and landing on the mattress with a bounce.
“How should I know?” I shrug, trying to play it cool in front of my younger brother.
Inside, I’m pretty excited.
Dad has been talking about my sixteenth birthday with his guys for years. Wait until you turn sixteen, they would say with smug arrogance, like they all knew something I didn’t.
My father is the head of an empire. He’s been telling me for as long as I can remember that someday, my brothers and I will run everything.
Every time I asked to go out with Dad and the guys, he would tell me it was grown-up stuff. He’d tell me that it would make Mom mad, that he promised her he wouldn’t teach me anything about our business until I was a man.
Apparently, being sixteen meant you were a man, because today, I’m finally invited along.
Being the oldest means I get to do everything first, and it means Dad takes the most interest in me. I’m not going to lie, it’s a pretty damn good feeling.
Mom keeps telling me that I can choose to be my own man, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m just going to learn from the best man I know.
Dagen has been following me around all day since Dad told me he was taking me out tonight on special business.
“Maybe you’ll get to see some tits.” Dagen cups his hands, holding them in front of his chest, and I roll my eyes.
We know what kind of businesses our father owns. It’s a badge of honor around all of our friends at school.
“Fuck, Dag. If you want to see some tits, just ask Jackie out. She’s shown hers off to half the high school.”
Rolling into a seated position, he cocks his head to the side at that little bit of information, and a soft knock at my open door catches our attention.
I already know who it is before looking.
Our mother is the gentlest person I know.
She looks between us, then decides to focus on my brother. “Dagen, go tell Cole you’re calling dibs on the shower.”
“But I already had a shower.” He lifts a hand above his head, then smells his armpit as if to make sure he doesn’t need another.
“I know you did, but Cole doesn’t, and he’s refusing to get ready for bed. If you tell him you’re taking a shower, then he’ll miraculously decide that getting ready for bed is a great idea just to start a fight. You know how he is. Scrappy little shit.” She manages to say it with all the love in the world.
I know my brother wants to stick around in the hopes that he’ll find out more information about tonight, but my mother isn’t having it.
“Please. I want to speak to your brother—alone.” Her eyes flit across the room to me.
“Ugh. Fine.” Dagen stands and drags his feet as he crosses the space between us before he turns to me. “I’m staying up. I want to hear all about it, okay?”
“Sure.” I smile and nod toward the door, silently telling him to listen to Mom, and he does.
I unbutton my shirt and exchange it for a T-shirt and sweater as Dagen leaves, and Mom closes the door behind him before turning to me.
She’s been looking at me differently for the past few months, and I haven’t quite figured out if it’s a good thing or not yet. Sometimes I think I recognize pride in her eyes. Other times, it looks a little like apprehension.
“Your brothers look up to you, Lennox.” She reaches out for my hand, tangling her fingers in mine, and tugs me toward the bed to sit with her.
I shrug it off and pull my hand away. As soon as I do it, I feel bad.
“You’re growing so fast.” She whispers the words to herself as her eyes turn glassy.
“Is everything okay?” An inkling of concern settles in for the first time. “Should I be worried about something?”
“No. You know me. I just love my boys so much. I don’t know where your father is taking you, but I’m sure you’ll have a great birthday with him. You know he owns those clubs. Just—protect yourself and be safe, and I want you to know you always have a choice.”
“Ugh, Mom.” I scrunch up my face. Now is not the time for a sex talk with my mother. I try to brush it off, but she pulls me into a hug.
An attempted conversation about sex followed by hugging my mother on my bed better be the low point of my evening because I don’t feel like cringing my way through my sixteenth birthday.
“Oh, right. Your father is downstairs waiting. I just wanted to tell you I love you and wish you a happy birthday before you go. Ryder is just falling asleep, so I should check on him.”
We stand together, and she looks like she wants to hug me again before she thinks better of it. Dad always chastises her about how she coddles us, and I think she’s starting to become aware of it as we grow.
When she leaves, I take off down the hall and practically slide down the wooden staircase before straightening my clothes and stopping outside of my father’s office. One of the first things we’ve all learned is to always knock when Dad is in the office, even if the door is open.
“Ah, son, there you are. You remember Paulie?” He stands from behind his desk, and the man with him rises as well. “Here.” He hands me my own glass filled with the whiskey he normally drinks. “Drink up before we head out.”
I’ve had liquor before.
My father let me have a sip here and there at his parties, but I’ve never gotten my own glass. When I look at my dad, there’s a knowing smile on his face when he nods for me to drink it.
It burns going down. It always does, but I try to limit my coughing in front of Dad and his guy.
“Get the car.” Dad dismisses Paulie then turns to his desk, grabbing his keys and phone.
I’m not sure if I should ask, but curiosity is making me crazy.
“So, where are we going?”
Normally my father doesn’t like questions. We boys ask a lot of them, but since I’m growing up, I need to take more initiative if I want to show my old man I can help him run things.
“We’re going to take care of some business, son.” He takes my empty cup from me and sets it on the shelf beside him.
My stomach turns, and I’m not sure if it’s the whiskey or the anticipation of the unknown.
I follow him out of the office and to the front door.
My father doesn’t look back, but I steal a glance over my shoulder and catch Cole wrapped in an oversized bath towel at the top of the stairs.
When I wave, he straightens and tips his chin, trying to nod like he’s one of the men our dad usually has around. It looks funny coming from a nine-year-old.
Paulie is in the driver’s seat, and a second guy is waiting for him by the car.
This time, my dad doesn’t introduce me.
When the car pulls out of the driveway, I want to ask where we’re going again, but I learned a long time ago that if my dad doesn’t answer a question the first time, he won’t answer it no matter how many additional times you ask.
He’s in a good mood now, and I don’t want to risk fucking up my birthday by making him mad before we’ve even left our property.
My silence is matched by everyone else in the car as we drive through Seattle. Our family owns most of the area around the docks, so it isn’t a shock when we stop at a row of warehouses along the wharf.
A horn blares from somewhere on the water, drawing my attention away from the buildings in front of us. It’s gotten too dark to see anything other than the odd light bobbing on the watery horizon.
My father doesn’t call me to join him. Instead, he makes his way across the pavement toward a door left ajar in front of us. It’s expected that Sebastian Saint’s sons always keep up with him, and I turn on my heels and jog until I match his pace, only a few steps behind his group.
I’m the last into the building, and as each man enters they step to the side until I’m the only one left standing at the entrance.
The scene in front of me steals my breath.
“Gentlemen, thank you for your patience.” My father speaks to the gagged men kneeling on the floor in front of us as though they had a choice, when anyone can easily see they don’t. “This is an important night for my son.” He motions to me, and the three who are still alive look over at me with panic in their eyes.
It looks like they started out as a row of five. Two from their group—one on each end—are lying facedown and unmoving in pools of blood.
My stomach lurches again, but this time I know what’s causing it.
As my father walks among the men, saying something about disrespect, I take a step backward toward the door, but Paulie is quick to wrap his fingers around my arm and steady me before my father glances over.
Paulie shakes his head once in warning and returns his attention to the men kneeling before us.
I know Paulie didn’t stop me from running to protect me, but I’m thankful all the same that he did. My father doesn’t take disobedience well, and he will most certainly make an example out of me if I embarrass him now.
Regardless of our name, we are no saints.
I know my father is using the docks for illegal activity, and he has a host of bars, strip clubs, and even the odd sex club under his belt. Our family business has always walked a fine line. He used to tell me there is legal and illegal, but, if you invest in the best lawyers, there is also the gray area.
I thought he was talking about money laundering.
The gunshot blasts through the warehouse. Its sound is visceral, as though the bullet has ripped through my own skin. Only when I look at one of the three men as his limp body bounces off the pavement do I realize I’ve just witnessed my father taking the life of another man.
When I look over at him, the man I thought my father was is nowhere to be found.
This man in front of me is invigorated, his lips twisted into a sneer. There’s no remorse, no regret.
He simply strolls over to stand behind the next man and pauses as if the guy’s fear is breathing new life into my father’s body.
Each of them is gagged, and only muffled grunts fill the room.
The thick scent of rust and urine fills my nose, and I swallow the urge to vomit the drink I had earlier in front of everyone.
He meets my eyes as though I’m as much of his prey as these guys kneeling in front of him are, and my blood runs cold.
“Come here, son.”
As I approach my father, I hold his stare and clench my teeth to keep the stoic expression on my face. Fear courses through my veins, and I worry if I look at these men, I’ll show weakness in front of my father and his guys.
Is this what my father meant all of those times he spoke about me growing up and becoming a man?
The memory of Cole nodding at me from the top of the stairs hits me and settles into the pit of my stomach like bile. Dagen was elated earlier when he was trying to guess what my surprise would be. A wave of nausea hits me, but I widen my stance to steady myself on my feet.
“These men stole from our family, and we’re going to send a message that no one fucks with the Saints.” His voice rises with his words until he’s yelling and red in the face.
Spinning on his heels, he turns away from me for a few seconds. When he turns back, he’s restrained himself as much as he’s going to.
Unlike the two men left kneeling, I’m fairly positive I’m walking out of here tonight, and I’m terrified.
There’s no getting out of this.
I can’t ask to wait in the car like a little boy.
I thought growing up was some sort of stupid rite of passage. Dagen thinks it means I get to see tits. None of my brothers know what’s in store for them.
This isn’t who we are.
This isn’t who I am.
You always have a choice. My mother’s voice surrounds me like the blanket I wish I was wrapped up in.
As if testing her theory in real time, a nudge at my arm pulls me out of my thoughts.
I look down to where my father tapped me, only to see his arm extended with the butt end of his gun held out toward me.
“Take it, son.” He doesn’t bother to meet my eyes. He has every confidence the apple of his eye is just like him—all rotten inside.
“What did they do?” I regret the question as soon as it leaves my lips.
When my father does look at me, I catch the familiar tick in his jaw. Apparently, clenching our teeth to hide our emotions runs in the family.
“They disrespected us. That’s all you need to know.” He speaks to me in a slow and even tone.
It’s a warning to shut the fuck up and do as I’m told.
One of the guys on his knees starts shaking his head violently, as though he wishes to deny the claim, and my father kicks him in between his shoulder blades, sending him falling forward. Since his hands are zip-tied behind his back, he isn’t able to brace against the fall, and his forehead cracks against the cement.
My father grabs my hand, shoving the butt of the gun into my palm, then aims it toward the one who is still on his knees before taking a small step back and nodding for me to follow in his footsteps.
When my hand starts to shake, I lower the gun.
“Dad, I can’t.” My voice is just above a whisper, so his men don’t hear.
“LEAVE US!” he roars, tipping his chin at Paulie.
I stand in place, frozen like a statue as his men file out through the door we came in through.
Instead of leaving, Paulie shuts the door and stands in front of it.
Silence hangs around me like a noose slowly wrapping itself around my neck. A cold chill runs the length of my spine, and my limbs have gone numb.
My father takes an angry step toward me, lifting my hand and pointing the gun at the back of the man’s head once more.
“You can, and you will.”
I cringe in disgust at him and at myself. The esteem my father held in his eyes when he handed me my drink earlier is nowhere to be found.
“I don’t want to do this. I can’t just shoot him.” Without the rest of his men in the room with us, I raise my voice just enough to plead with him.
When I try to lower the gun this time, my father glares daggers at me, challenging me to follow through. I back down a little and keep it trained on the guy’s back.
“I knew I shouldn’t have waited,” he mutters to himself. “Your mother always coddled you boys. She made you soft.”
I blink rapidly, trying to keep my tears from showing. “It’s not that. Dad, I—”
“I’ve heard enough. Sixteen is too old to start learning what is expected of you.”
His words make me feel like I’m five years old, but I don’t care. I’ll endure any verbal abuse he wants to sling at me as long as I don’t have to kill a man.
“I knew I should have started sooner. But I have more sons. I’ll find the right age.”
“Wh-what do you mean?”
“My sons will be deserving of my legacy.” He tilts his head, a sneer creeping across his face. “If you won’t kill him, I’ll have Paulie drive home and pick up Dagen. Maybe I should have started with you when you were thirteen. We’ll find out soon enough.” He stands to his full height, giving his threat the space it needs to sink in. Then he keeps on going. “Or maybe I should have started when you were nine.” My mind flashes to Cole, how the oversized towel practically covered him completely as he stood at the top of the stairs.
Cole and Ryder still believe in Santa Claus.
My heart fractures.
That was the wrong thing to say.
The gun feels heavy in my hand. My shoulder aches just keeping it raised as my father leans over, getting in my face.
“No one tells me what I can and can’t do, boy.”
In the two seconds it takes my father to stand up straight, I make the decision to choose for myself, and I choose my brothers.
I can’t let this be their fate.
Just as my father is about to nod at Paulie to go get Dagen, I check out of my head.
I push down my morality along with the whiskey that is threatening to come back up.
Then I raise the gun to the back of the man’s head, and I pull the trigger.