Crowned In Blood
Estimated Release Date: Summer/Fall 2024
Genre: Dark Age Gap Mafia Romance
Official cover and release date TBD.
He’s determined to make her his—she’d prefer to shoot him instead.
Life has never been easy for Catalina. Now, the crime empire she ripped from her dead husband’s hands is on the brink of ruin and she refuses to let it perish. To survive, she must form new connections to replace the ones determined to bring her to her knees. But only one man has what she needs: Marco.
A man as ruthless as the husband she killed.
A man as handsome as the devil and just as trustworthy.
Marco sees Catalina for exactly what she is. A woman who is capable, ruthless, deadly, and meant to be his queen. Entering into a bargain with her will give him exactly what he wants most—access. He will test her, stalk her, and possess her, until she’s begging him for more.
Catalina refuses to ever be controlled. With the entire New York City underworld ready to go to war, she won’t hesitate to toss Marco into the fire. But in this game of cat and mouse, there can only be one winner. And he will do anything to make sure it’s him.
From the moment Catalina was born, she was branded as a murderer. Her father, Simon Herrera, was at a rally, campaigning for a seat on the Senate when his Catalina’s mother, Alana went into labor. By the time he arrived at the hospital, her mother was gone.
Catalina had seen the photos of her father’s tears. The way he seemed heartbroken over the loss of his wife, drowned in sorrow and confusion over how to manage in a world without her while trying to navigate life with a newborn. But he persevered. He took his little baby girl with him wherever he could. He pushed for new laws to protect children and their families, especially in low and middle incomes.
The press went wild over him. There were countless images of Simon holding a her smiling Catalina wrapped in expensive lace and lavish outfits. They believed she wanted for nothing, that everything she could have ever desired would be at the palm of her hand. And it was those images that helped her father succeed in his goal.
Simon became known as a pioneer. A “real man” who put his child and his family first. He became an authority that women held men to. There were countless articles where women were quoted saying, “If he can take care of his daughter while running for the Senate, why can’t my husband?” Women supported her father and believed in him. They wanted him to win, because they wanted him.
But it was all a lie. Those people didn’t really know her father. They thought he was a good, just person, a man dedicated to family, someone who loved her more than anything in the world. They were wrong.
Simon Herrera was a monster. Catalina didn’t truly understand her fear of her father as a child. In fact, she hardly remembered anything before the age of four, only that the photos which hung in his office—his mementos—terrified her. But there was one specific instance that she did remember.
She attended a public rally with her father in the middle of summer. He’d dressed her in something heavy because it matched his outfit the best and had small reflective stones, but he didn’t account for the heat. Sweat dripped off her brow, constantly getting into her eyes. She kept swiping at them, messing up her short brown bangs. She tried to tough it out for her father for as long as she could, but her headache turned into nausea. And then she committed the worst offense of all—she stopped smiling and waving, and began to cry.
Her father took her home almost immediately after, but it wasn’t out of care or concern for her, no. He loosened his belt, wrapped one end around his fist and said, “I’ll give you something to cry about.” And he did. He beat her, mercilessly, yelling and screaming at her that, “this was all her fault,” and if she “would have just kept smiling,” he wouldn’t have had to resort to this. She begged him to stop, promised she’d never do it again, but he told her he wouldn’t. Not until she learned how to smile through the pain and through her tears, as he expected of her. And he didn’t until she eventually passed out from the pain, covered in tears with the smile she’d forced onto her face.
She quickly realized that wasn’t the first time he’d beat and abused her, and as she grew older she learned it wouldn’t be the last. When she couldn’t fit in the clothes he’d bought for her at six years old, he called her fat. When she calmly tried to tell him it wasn’t that she was fat, and that they were the wrong size, he beat her then locked her in her room with nothing to eat for two days. She started stealing snacks from the kitchen and hiding them away after that, incase that had ever happened again. It did, multiple times, but at least she had something to eat.
At eleven, her father found a love note tucked away in Catalina’s backpack. He screamed at her that she was a disgrace and who would never be allowed to feel anything for someone he didn’t approve of. She thought he would merely beat her for the transgression, but he decided to push her down the stairs instead. She broke her arm trying to brace for the fall and wasn’t able to write for six weeks. The doctor and nurses tried to ask her what happened but her father kept reiterating that he’d simply come home and found her at the bottom of the stairs. They didn’t seem to believe him though, and kept looking at her to say something, anything that would allow them to help her.
But how could she? He was a senator. A man in power, and would they even believe her? Catalina had been his punching bag for years. He hurt her so many times that she rarely felt pain anymore. If she opened her mouth, if she told them what he’d done, what would they be able to do against him? And how far would her father go to keep his secret? She didn’t know the answer to that question, but she did know two things. Her father would do anything to protect his image, and he was capable of grave violence. She didn’t want anyone else to experience that, so she’d simply nodded along and confirmed that she’d been running through the house and tripped down the stairs.
That response had given her some reprieve. Once she healed, her father removed her from school and forced to learn at home with a tutor. On those days, he left her alone. It was as if he’d gotten the confirmation he needed, that she knew exactly what she was to him—his doll, a pawn to morph and marionette into whatever he required that day. That hurt the little bit of pride she had, but the truth was there was no escape from him, not now at least, but one day there would be. She just had to survive to that point.
By sixteen, the beatings had lessened. Perhaps it was because she’d become an expert in acting. In front of others she smiled, waved, danced at soirees where some of the men stared at her a little too closely, and told reporters how incredible her father was and how grateful she was to have him. But at night, when it was dark and she was by herself, she’d let everything fade away except the anger and the hate.
She resented everything that her father stood for: the law, politics, government. Sometimes she was jealous of her mother for being able to leave. Sure, she’d died, but at least she wasn’t abused like Catalina was, and she was certain that her father abused her mother as well. She was known as an angel to the people, constantly praised and acknowledged. In every photo she was picture-perfect, the perfect wife, the perfect hostess at parties, the first person her father thanked at award speeches and always with a wide smile on her face—the same one Catalina had been faking for years.
If her mother was alive, would Catalina’s life had been different? Would someone have finally loved her? Would someone have finally saved her from this torture?
She wanted to believe that at least one of her parents cared about her, it was the only comfort Catalina had—until she found her mother’s diary. Alana had been forced to marry her father and he’d abused her every single day of her life. Mentally and physically, from broken ribs to marital rape, to constant threats upon her life, she’d gone through it all. Much as Catalina had suspected, her mother was flawless because if she weren’t, she would face unimaginable pain and terror.
She never had a moment of peace, and any hope that she’d carried in her heart had been drained out of her with every beating. In that way, her mother and Catalina were the same. But unlike Catalina, her mother had chosen to take the easy way out. In the back of her diary, in a little hidden pocket was a detailed plan on how Alana would end her life. She couldn’t do so while she was pregnant with Catalina, but the moment she gave birth she swore she’d take her own life—and she did.
Alana had also left a letter for Catalina. In it she apologized for giving birth to her. She said she never wanted to bring Catalina into a world with that bastard as her father, but that she had no choice. She hoped that one day, Catalina would. That someone would save her or that she’d find the strength to save herself. Her mother apologized for being weak, for not being able to survive through the circumstances, for being selfish. There was more after that, but Catalina didn’t read it, because her mother was selfish.
Catalina understood that her mother didn’t have a choice, but she couldn’t forgive her. She’d left Catalina with her father. She’d known that by dying, Catalina would be in the same situation as she had been. And yet she still went through with the pregnancy, and still killed herself. Catalina wondered if her mother would have known just how that would have affected her. If her mother knew how many times Catalina would have been called a killer. She’d been mocked, hurt, constantly reminded that she was lower than scum by her father, and she’d believed it. She’d believed it had been her fault, that she had killed her mother, that she shouldn’t even be alive! She’d taken the fall for something that she never should have had to. That wasn’t right. That wasn’t fair. That wasn’t love.
Catalina had never been shown love for a single moment of her life, but she knew all of this, her father, her mother, none of it was love. This wasn’t how a parent was supposed to treat their child. They were supposed to care for them, nurse them when they were sick, worry about them, guide them into putting their best foot forward. They were supposed to protect them, and no one had ever protected Catalina. If it weren’t that she’d become the perfect key for shaping her father’s image into a man of the people, she likely wouldn’t have made it past infancy.
But Catalina was going to live. She was going to find a way out of this. If she had to keep acting, pretending that she loved her father and life she had, she would. If she had to worship the ground he walked on, she would. If she had to hide his abuse, she would. She would do whatever she had to survive, and when she was able to, she’d leave him for good. He may be a senator, but he couldn’t stop her once she was considered an adult. Then she’d escape. Then she’d be free.