The Final Hour by Brittney Sahin

Prologue





Emilia





Las Vegas, Nevada (Ten Years Ago)


“Would you stop worrying?” Chanel yelled in my ear as the audience roared, many on their feet, pumping their arms as if they, too, wanted to be inside the Octagon and fighting at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. “I promise, hanging out with me won’t land you on Santa’s naughty list. Too late, anyway. Christmas was last week,” she teased, poking me in the side with her elbow.

“I’m not worried,” I finally responded, the protest bubbling from my lips like a hot drop of acid.

I caught Chanel’s brown eyes as she fingered strands of honey-brown bangs away from her face. “Liar.”

Maybe I was lying, but if our fathers ever found out we were friends, I couldn’t imagine the consequences. Our families were sworn enemies. The good-versus-evil kind.

So, I couldn’t stop myself from constantly looking around and searching the crowd. Ensuring no one was spying on us. Or hell, checking for snipers in the wings. A two-for-one special. Take out the daughters of two of the most powerful men in the world with two quick pops.

I forced my focus back on the ring just as one of the fighters slammed his fist hard into the other guy’s jaw. Chanel turned my way, stealing her eyes from the view of the scene. For the daughter of a killer, she sure hated blood.

We were sitting in the second row back from the cage. It was round three between Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone. From the looks of it, the fight would go to a decision.

It was much less exciting when judges chose a victor. Selecting a winner based on strikes and takedowns still felt too subjective. Too open to personal biases. I wanted a clear result. Let the fighters go at it until someone tapped out or was knocked out. That’s how the underground fights were handled back home in Italy, at least.

Chanel crossed her long legs, much more comfortable now that the fight was over. “Just remind me why I flew halfway around the world to hang out with you for your birthday, yet instead of partying, we’re watching men beat the shit out of each other?”

I checked my skinny silver watch as we waited for the winner to be declared. “Not my birthday for thirty minutes. And how can you not love this? Two people inside a cage going at it. It’s primitive and raw. And it’s also controlled, so you don’t need to worry. No one is dying tonight.”

“We have a lot in common, Ems, except this.” She smiled. “But you’re the birthday girl, so I’m here for you and whatever you want to do.”

A friend of mine managed the shows at the MGM Garden Arena, and he helped me get tickets the second they were available. Thankfully, he had no connection to my father or Chanel’s, which meant our attendance together shouldn’t raise any flags if he spotted us. Not that he’d recognize Chanel. We were in the States, and most Americans were unfamiliar with our families. And that meant Chanel was most likely right. I needed to cut the worrying. Damn the strange nagging feeling in my gut, though.

My attention abruptly swung to four men in casual business attire. Dark trousers and jackets, crisp dress shirts with the top buttons left undone. They headed down our row toward the empty seats next to us. Many of the VIPs showed up at the last minute to watch the evening’s main event, which was up next, so I shouldn’t assume they were secretly sent as assassins to take one of us out.

I shifted closer to Chanel when one of the nicely dressed men filled the chair next to mine, his arm bumping into my bare one.

“Pardon,” he commented, but I offered a tight “no worries” nod without casting a look his way. I didn’t need to put a face to the suit. I’d met a lot of businessmen in my two years thus far in Vegas, and none had ever been worth a minute of my time.

“You sure you want to be here?” I overheard him speak. “There are other events I’d be happy to take you all to.”

Apparently, the suit disliked fighting as much as Chanel.

The Irish lilt of his voice was an interesting surprise, though.

Plot twist.

I did have a weakness for an Irish accent—who didn’t?

I glanced at Chanel while I continued to eavesdrop on the suit, contemplating the odds of his looks being as sexy as the sound of that deep, baritone voice. A sexy businessman was preferable to a sexy hitman, at least.

“You don’t like fighting?” a different voice chimed in, American from the sounds of it. “You’re Irish. Isn’t an affinity for a good fight a requirement if you’re from Dublin?”