Title: Art of War
Series: A Stern Family Saga #3
Author: Monique Orgeron
Genre: Contemporary Romance w/ Suspense
Release Date: March 23, 2018
Cover Designer: Erica Alexander at Serendipity Formatting
War is inevitable, but who will win?
The minute Murphy Larussa stepped foot in New Orleans, her life changed forever.
Murphy was meant to remain in the shadows, hidden from prying eyes, like any good bastard.
She finds herself hunted by a dangerous family for a debt she has no knowledge of.
Everyone wants her gone, but they underestimate her. She refuses to allow them to push her back into obscurity. From now on, everyone will know her name because she is here to stay and claim what is rightfully hers.
There will be a war, one Murphy is hell bent on winning!
Sent on a hunt for a person who owes his family, Zander will not stop until he has his man.
How was he to know who he would find?
Murphy Larussa is not what any of them saw coming.
So unexpected, she’s the only woman to ever bring the great Zander Stern to his knees.
Now he will do anything to protect her, even if that means protecting her from his own family.
Everyone wants a war.
He will give them one, but this is a war he plans on winning!
Since Saturday night, I haven’t been able to concentrate on anything but my mysterious Red and why she ran out like that. I’ve also slept like shit, too. That night I slept at my mom’s with everyone. The next morning, all the teasing began. I expected it from my brothers, but shit, Fallon, and even Avery jumped on the bandwagon. They’re having a field day thinking that I got left hanging by a woman. I’ve always prided myself on being single. I’m a love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of guy, but I never had a woman up and leave me. They know it’s affected my pride, so they keep grinding it in. Mom, on the other hand, kept watching me. It’s like she knows Red has affected me in a bad way.
I left after breakfast to go home, but that didn’t help shit; I just drowned in my memories of her.
Now it’s Monday, and my mom’s already called, wanting to remind me that I need to go to Murphy’s casino and meet the new owner. She wants me to make an offer to meet with Gabriel and her to discuss business. If he refuses, it’s my job to make him see the light. I tell her I have some other business to handle first, but I would make it to meet Murphy Larussa Jr. before the end of the day.
Later in the evening, I send a text to Tom Williams. I ask him if the boss is there, and he responds with a simple yes. Tom, like many, can be bought to tell you anything. He’s someone who would never work for me or my family, but he makes my job so much easier.
Pulling into the parking lot, I head to the back of the casino. I text Tom that I’m here, and he opens the door for me. I hand him some money and start walking. He tries to stop me to tell me something, but I keep walking; the less interaction I have with this asshole, the better. I go straight to the late Murphy’s office. As I open the door, I see papers scattered all over the floor and a big, round, luscious ass facing straight up at me. Gorgeous, I’ll be damned.
I put my hands in my pockets and rock back and forth on my heels.
“Hello, Red.” Her movements freeze, and I tell her, “I’d recognize that ass anywhere.”
She hits her head on the underneath of the desk and starts cursing. The best part is when she starts wiggling her ass to back out from under the desk. Finally, with her head up, she looks at me, giving me a surprised look.
“What are you doing here?”
“First of all, I like you in this position, but can I help you up?”
She takes my offered hand, and I pull her to her feet. “So, now why are you here?”
“I’ve missed you, too, Red, but I wasn’t looking for you. I was looking for your boss.”
She looks confused, but before I can say anything else, the door opens and the skinny guy that I saw with her at the hotel runs in with a bag. Before he sees me, he calls out, “Hey, hun, I brought you some Chinese.” Then he lets out a short and high-pitched scream when he notices me.
“Oh shit, sorry, you scared me!”
I look at Red, and she is trying not to laugh as I say, “You didn’t see me? That’s rare.”
With a shaky voice, he says, “I was looking down, but yeah, I can’t believe it either.” Then he looks me up and down.
I shrug and say, “That’s all right. I’m used to people screaming around me; it’s kind of my thing.”
Now they both look baffled. I look over to Red; finally, I have it figured out. “That’s why you were at the party, you were spying for your boss.”
The skinny guy says, “What boss?”
I turn and look back at him and extend my hand for him to shake. “Excuse me, Mr. Larussa, I’m…”
He shouts, looking between both me and Red, “Mr. Larussa? What’s going on? Am I being pranked?”
Red leans against the desk and says, “He thinks you’re my boss.”
Now they’re both laughing, and the guy sits on the arm of a chair. “That’s funny, man, you had me going. Look, Mister tall, dark and handsome, I’m not her boss, no one is. She won’t allow anyone to boss her around, if you know what I mean.”
I’m starting to get frustrated; they have me looking like an idiot. “Okay, what the hell’s going on? I want to see Murphy Larussa Jr., and I’m not leaving until I do.”
Their laughter starts to subside, and Red extends her hand for me to shake. “I’m Murphy Larussa, but I’m not a Junior.”
I know my mouth just dropped, but I can’t seem to raise it. “You’re Murphy’s son, I mean kid?”
“Yes, Zander, I’m Murphy’s daughter. I’ve never been a boy, and I hope you would know that by now.”
I look over to the guy and say, “So who are you?”
“Oh, me? I’m Kyle, her best friend.”
“So, you’re Murphy?” I bend in laughter and then say, “No wonder.”
“No wonder what?” Red asks in a confused manner.
“I’ve been looking for a guy.” Then I straighten my back. “Hey, I saw you at the Ritz, but you weren’t registered. Did you use Kyle’s name?”
“Oh no, we used Cherry’s,” Kyle excitedly states.
He looks at me and says, “See, she’s so bossy.”
“So, you’ve been here all this time under another name and being the opposite sex. I thought I was losing my touch. Damn, you’re good.”
She stands and moves to the back of her desk. “Why are you looking for me, and how did you get back here?”
I look back over to Kyle and notice him staring at my crotch. When he realizes I’ve noticed, he shoots his eyes up, looking like I just caught his hand in the cookie jar. Then it dawns on me.
“Aw, Red, I thought I meant more to you than that.”
Kyle hurries and says, “It was all good, I promise.”
Well, that puts a smile on my face. I wink at him and say, “I aim to please.”
“So, you like Chinese, Red?”
Kyle rushes in, “She loves Chinese.”
“Okay, enough, Kyle. Shut up for real this time, and Zander, you didn’t answer me. Why were you looking for me?”
“Not just me, Red, my family.” I walk around to the side of her desk. “Let me introduce myself properly. The name is Zander, Zander Stern.”
Instead of shaking my hand, she slaps my face. “Damn, Red, why’d you do that?”
“Did you know who I was?”
“I already told you I didn’t, I was looking for a dude. How was I supposed to know that a kid named after your dad was a woman?”
She looks down and says, “I guess that makes sense, but you’re still a Stern. You should have told me your whole name.”
I cock my head to the side. “You mean like you told me yours?”
Shit, she slaps me again.
“I think you need to leave.”
“It’s Murphy. My name is Murphy.”
I give her my most serious face. “Not to me, it’s not.”
She goes to slap me again, but I grab her wrist and look straight at her. “You’ll always be Red to me.”
I let her wrist go and say, “We need to discuss some business, but since we both had a shock today, I’ll be back in touch.”
I turn and tell Kyle it was nice to meet him. I start to walk out of the office, but then I hear Kyle shout at me, “She loves Italian, too.”
I smile and respond with, “Thanks. See, Red, I’ve already learned so much about you. I can’t wait to find out everything.”
Written by Monique Orgeron’s eldest, most beautiful, and intelligent daughter. (My sister is going to hate this part.)
My mom happens to be the most caring, loving, and stubborn person I know, well anyone knows. She gives 100% percent of herself to everyone and has given up so much of herself for my sister and I. For twenty-one years she has poured her heart and soul into making sure we know that we are loved and that we can do anything we put our minds too, but it was about time she figured that out about herself.
Up until this year I hadn’t seen my mom do anything for only her, but this book has allowed her to travel the world through the pages of a book, make new friends, and feel the joy of doing something exciting.
There is a new light behind her eyes and it is just making me feel more joy than she can ever imagine. While she might be annoying most of the time, I am so thrilled that she is finally allowing herself to grow as a person and not spend all of her energy on her family.
It has been a long journey of self-discovery for my mom; she has gone from domestic supermom to domestic goddess throughout the process of writing.
We are so very excited and proud of you! I love you as big as the world.
-Bria and Tony