Seduction. The art of charming the ladies—and gents. They’ll be in a state of compulsion; unable to help themselves from worshiping me.

Ordinary people need to do several things to seduce others. But me? I simply exist and they fall right at my feet. Call me obnoxious, but I’m merely stating facts.

However, there’s no “art” involved in what happened. I blow out an exhausted sigh as I push myself out of bed, a headache already looming at the base of my skull from the amount of whiskey I inhaled last night, in the hopes of getting past my birthday with the least self-loathing as much as possible.

Needless to say, I didn’t plan on waking up in bed with Courtney, a former receptionist at The Manor. Former, as in, her last shift ended last night.

This woman has been forward—too forward—about her attraction to me throughout her employment for the last two years in my club. But I’ve made it clear to her that I wasn’t interested.

With a lapse of judgment and a momentary alcohol-and-cannabis-induced brain, I was too weak to refuse her advancements. Not that I fought hard. Courtney is hot. But she’s not my type. She’s too easy.

I love women, but I fucking hate easy.

I grab the striped black pure mulberry silk robe from the nearby chair and put it on me, not caring to tie it close around my waist and letting it flow luxuriously in the wind as I move. I walk out of the room, my bare torso and Versace briefs-covered dick on display.

As I make my way to the stairs, I nearly trip over Courtney’s heels in the hallway. I live in a two-floor penthouse across Central Park. I have the best view in the city. One that makes me smile smugly every time I glance out the window.

Not this morning, though. Groaning, I massage my temple while I head over to the kitchen downstairs. Just how much did I drink last night?

My parched throat is relieved as I guzzle two glasses of icy water, the cold filling the cracks in my dry mouth. I catch sight of the time on the stove. It’s almost eleven in the morning. I wonder if Gael is already up and if he wants to grab some greasy breakfast at the diner with me. He was just as wasted as I was last night. I chuckle at the reminder of the epic party I hosted for my twenty-seventh birthday.

I’m a Leo, baby. Not that I give any importance to Zodiacs. I think they’re a bunch of crap for people who wants to rely on the stars to appease themselves, stroke their ego, and justify their actions. It’s the women who tell me I’m very much a Leo. Whatever the fuck that means. I once read a site about it out of curiosity and it says every bullshit any “Leo” would want to hear–and describes most of the men I know who aren’t born in the Leo month.

The sound of the elevator’s chime snaps me out of my trance and causes my head to whip in that direction. I wonder who that is. Perhaps Gael decided he wants food too. At least I don’t have to drag his ass out of his place in the next block. I’m about to call out to him when I notice something.

There are only a few people I’ve given access to my place without ringing me first so I immediately know who’s coming. The sound of familiar footsteps, along with the thump of a cane, makes me gulp. That definitely does not sound like Gael. Two people are coming my way, but only one makes me straighten my spine.

“Giovanni,” my father calls as he appears in my living room. The great Severino De Luca, Don of New York’s Italian mafia crime family.

Wearing a dark gray tweed suit, he looks every bit of an Italian gangster, complete with a fedora hat, a clean-shaven jaw, and a cane on his right hand. His eyes are gray, one of the De Luca features that I didn’t get. He’s in his late eighties. An old fart, I know. He got my mother pregnant when he was sixty. Go, Dad.

Next to him is my older brother, Alessandro, the heir to my father’s throne in New York and also Gael’s father. He’s a big man and looks almost like my father, but he’s got a full beard. The elders are sticklers to the rules–always keeping their faces shaved. But my brother thinks beards give character. He’s almost as tall as me—though he thinks we’re the same height. I’m half an inch taller. Yes, that matters.

“Come stai, papà?” (How are you, dad?) I kiss both his cheeks.

He merely grunts in response with a serious stare—one that makes all his capos kneel before him in fear. I don’t show the same reaction despite the slight quivering in my stomach. I greet my brother the same way and he stifles a chuckle. Circling my arm around my father’s shoulder, I guide him toward the armchair across the sectional. He can walk by himself, but with his age, I don’t want him to stretch a muscle or something.

“You missed the board meeting this morning, Giovanni,” my father chastises in Italian as he lowers himself on the chair, adding, “again.”

I blink, shifting my gaze to my brother, trying to scroll through my memory, and then mumble a curse. SVR Corp is my family’s front legitimate business and my father is the chairman. And as his son, I have a seat on the board.

“Cazzo.” (Shit) “I forgot about it, papa. My apologies.” I rub my face with both my hands in frustration.

He grunts again. Two grunts today and it’s only been five minutes since he arrived. That’s not good.

Sandro takes a seat on the sofa across from our father. “For Christ’s sake put on some pants.” He tosses a throw pillow at me and I kick it back to him.

Without shame, I open my arms, causing the robe to open wider in front of my brother—just to fuck with him. “It’s my house. And in my house, clothing is optional.”

He makes a disgusted face and my grin grows wider. I love messing with him.

“What were you doing last night that you couldn’t wake up early today?” my father questions.

Before I can answer, Courtney ascends the stairs. They turn their heads in her direction and she gasps in surprise. Thank fuck, she’s clothed, the heels dangle in her hand. Her red hair is a mess and so is her makeup. Her eyes widen at the sight of my father and brother and she immediately lowers her head. “Good morning, Mr. De Luca.” She gulps. “I…I…I’ll see myself out. Happy birthday, Giovanni.” She hurries out the door.

For a moment, my penthouse is quiet.

With my hands on my waist, I look at my father who’s already staring at me with his brows drawn together. He hasn’t spoken yet, but I can already feel the sting, what with the weight of his stare. He’s not ignorant of my sleeping around with women. I’m a single man who enjoys the company of alcohol, parties, and beautiful ladies who know exactly what I want. And that’s no commitment.

Yesterday, he bought me a new car–one of the things I collect–not that I need a new one when I already have five in my garage, six now including his gift.

Do I like cars? I fucking love them.

Do I really need a car when my penthouse is in Manhattan? Absolutely not. There are taxis everywhere you look.

But I’ll keep buying if I see another one I like.

So you see, my father indulges me in my pleasures in life. Just not with someone like Courtney, and I completely agree.

Not enjoying my father’s scrutiny, I break eye contact and head to the kitchen as I speak with nonchalance. “I’ll get you some coffee.”

Don Severino and my brother converse while I busy myself in the kitchen. He hasn’t commented about seeing Courtney in my house yet, but I can already tell that he’s disappointed. I don’t date or fool around with my staff at The Manor. Last night was one stupid mistake that I would never make again.

The silent vow makes me recall a big one I’ve taken since I was a kid.

My father’s wife died several months before meeting my mother, but he never remarried. He never wanted to marry my mother. I know that because I heard them one time when they were in his office. She begged him to marry her, but my father’s only love was his late wife. I was six years old when my mother left the De Luca mansion a couple of weeks after that argument.

But not after telling me that no matter what, I have to be a “good boy” and follow what my father says. I didn’t understand why she told me that one night when she tucked me in bed. But I do remember the words she told me: “Be the best so that your father will always treat you well and he won’t cast you away. Be better than your brothers. Or they will throw you on the streets and discard you if you are not worthy in their eyes.”

I had no idea what she meant. I didn’t know she was going to leave the next morning, leaving me crying in my piss in the middle of the night because I had a nightmare that the monsters in my closet were going to take me. I was just a kid. But her words instill fear in me that if I don’t do what she said, the De Luca’s main family will kick me out of their household.

So I did what I had to do. I did well in school. I did good in my father’s eyes—or at least I tried to so that I could stay in his house even though I was an outsider because my mother wasn’t my father’s wife.

I excelled in my studies, effortlessly passed college, and completed my Master’s and Ph.D. in business in four years. I didn’t need those academic degrees when my family’s running the biggest Italian mafia syndicate in the state, but I wanted to prove to my father that I have what it takes to run his business. That I am worthy in his eyes.

I’ve done a lot to prove my worth to my father. I’ve always done everything he’s asked of me—that’s, of course, on top of living with all the pleasures I can afford. What? All work and no play makes a boring idiot.

And I don’t play with idiots.

Sometimes though, I have to admit, my way of enjoying all the pleasures in life ends up unfavorably—like sleeping with one of my staff. Damn it.

As I place their cups on the table, I slump on the sofa at the opposite end of where my brother is sitting, covering my groin with a throw pillow.

“Gio,” my father starts and speaks to me in Italian like he always does, “You are twenty-seven. When are you going to grow up and stop fucking around? I wished you would be more responsible. I’m old and I hope to leave this earth knowing you have what it takes. Our rules not to touch staff is there for a reason—“

“She’s no longer employed at The Manor,” I respond in the same language, feeling the need to correct him. I always do my best, but it seems that all he’s seen of me are my fuck ups.

“You fired her?”

“No. She resigned. Yesterday was her last.”

He looks at me for a long moment before taking a generous sip of his coffee. “I’m watching you, Gio.”

I don’t want my father to look at me like I’m a failure. I know there’s no way they would kick me out after all these years. I’m old enough to understand my mother’s words don’t matter anymore. But I still want my father’s approval because it means everything to me.

Dad is right. He’s not getting any younger. Which is why from now on, I have to be better. In short, I can’t fuck any of my staff anymore—current or past. I’ll avoid it. I swear never to sleep with an employee again.

It’s just not worth it.