• Isabella Starling

A new dark romance enemies to lovers mafia box set!

Hello from beautiful Europe!

I have a hugeeee new box set for you - over 500 pages of Ophelia and Kain's story awaits in the Gilded Cage collection. It includes the complete story of these two enemies-to-lovers. And it's in #KindleUnlimited!

Keep reading for the blurb, links and excerpt!

Grab the book in KU 👉

From USA Today bestselling author Isabella Starling, the complete Gilded Cage collection of three novels including a prequel to this dark romance, arranged marriage, enemies-to-lovers, mafia story.

On her eighteenth birthday, Ophelia is kidnapped.

The Russian mafia princess is taken captive by the enemy.

Kain is the man who just slaughtered her family and ruined her life.

Ophelia must choose between the three men in her life - the twin brothers fighting for her affection and cruel, vindictive killer Kain who's decided who must own and marry her...

No matter the cost.

This is Ophelia and Kain's complete story of over 150,000 words. Available for a limited time. Gilded Cage is a non RH, dark romance trilogy.

★★★★★ "This is a series that is a temptingly dark, thrill ride of raw emotions and sizzling heat for the reader. Simply Stunning!"

★★★★★ "Wow! This box set was definitely dark, a bit twisted, and completely captivating!"

★★★★★ "The story-line is dark, dramatic, suspenseful, violent, intense, amazing sexual chemistry and twisted passions."

Sneak peek!

Chapter 1


Let me tell you the story of a girl and her bird.

I fell in love with my husband’s best friend when I was only a little girl.

My family, the Sokolovs, were Russian royalty.

I was a pampered little princess, used to being around money my whole life. I never wanted for anything—I got it all in abundance, and before I even wished for it, it was presented to me tied up with a big bow.

My papa called me Princess Ophelia, and the nickname stuck. Everyone called me Princess after that, but nobody dared to mock me using that name. Even though I wore pretty pink dresses and liked to play with Mamochka’s makeup, I still got my feet dirty and made all the other kids respect me. I ruled the playground and my papa ruled the Bratva.

I met the Marino brothers when I was five years old. I had porcelain skin and waist-length black hair, wore a tutu, and was covered in mud up to my knees.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have still fallen in love with Ryker if I’d seen Max first.

They were identical twins, tall for their age, with dark hair and chests that had already broadened. My poor five-year-old heart went all fluttery when I saw the tall boy that strode into the party first. Instantly, it got a reaction out of me. My knees felt weird and my legs were all kinds of wobbly and I had no idea what on earth was going on. Little girls aren’t supposed to feel love as intensely as I did that afternoon, but I was sure nonetheless that was exactly what it was.

I trailed after the boy unnoticed. Or so I thought.

He turned around when I was least expecting it, his eyes blazing with unfriendly fire as his gaze zeroed in on me. He looked like he was about to shout, but as he drank in my appearance, his features softened, and he looked at me with something closer to curiosity in his eyes.

“Who are you?” he asked in heavily accented English, and I couldn’t believe his dumbness.

“I’m Ophelia,” I said proudly, my little chin raised defiantly in the air.

How could he not know who I was? Everybody in the world knew my daddy, and also knew me by default. That this boy dared to forget infuriated me, but at the same time, made me think he was special… different to anyone else.

“Well, I’m Ryker,” he said with a boyish smile, reaching out formally to shake my hand. “Ryker Marino.”

Hesitantly, I reached out too and took his hand in mine, cocking my head to the side and watching him with unabashed curiosity.

“Pleased to meet you,” I said, and he grinned again, putting his hand in his pocket. “Where are your parents?”

“Over there,” he said. “With that tall man.”

I followed the motion he made with my eyes, seeing my papa standing there with two people I didn’t recognize. They were a man and a woman, the woman curvy and beautiful, standing a little to the side and smiling politely as the two men spoke. My papa was always the life of the party, but with the man I didn’t know by his side, he almost blended into the background, which surprised me.

The other man, Ryker’s papa, was taller than any man I’d seen before. He looked friendly and kind and had an easy smile on his face—nothing like papa who sometimes looked quite menacing.

Papa was his opposite. Still very handsome, but with an open smile and outstretched hands. Papa was often quiet and a little reserved, so watching him interact with a man that was so unlike me made me giggle.

“Your papa is so tall,” I told Ryker.

He smiled proudly the way boys do. He was obviously proud of his father.

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?” I asked him curiously, chattering on as he regarded me with an amused expression. “I have five! I know, that’s quite a lot. We are a big family. Mamochka has a baby every year. They are all younger than me, so I am the most important, you know. I am the princess.”

“Princess?” Ryker repeated, looking me over, from my dirty, mud-stained shoes to the puffy pink dress I was wearing. “Oh. I guess you are, yeah.”

To my five-year-old years, it was the best thing he could have possibly said, and I beamed with pride.

“Come on,” I told him, grabbing his hand on impulse and trying to pull him toward the playground where the other children were playing while several distressed nannies watched over them. “We can go play together.”

“Wait,” Ryker said, grinning at someone over my shoulder and motioning for someone to join us. “Can my brother come and play too?”

I looked behind me and saw a boy, nearly identical to the one before me, partially hidden behind his mother. He seemed different somehow, more serious, even though he couldn’t have been more than eleven years old. But he was intently listening to the adults’ conversation, which I found totally boring myself. His father ruffled his hair, and the boy looked searchingly around until his eyes found mine.

“That’s your brother?” I asked unnecessarily.

It was obvious enough. They looked so alike. But because of the differences in the way they acted, I could have been fooled to think they were just related, like cousins or something. I had quite a few of those.

“Yeah, that’s him,” Ryker nodded. “Hey, Max! Come over here!”

The boy looked at his father for confirmation, and only when the older man nodded, he came toward us. His walk was a little uncertain, and I absent-mindedly noticed he was limping a little. Right away, this made me warm up to him, although not in the same way I had to his brother. But still, once he reached us, he had a bright smile on his face, and I introduced myself to him as well.

In a shy, measured voice, he told me his name was Max, and I led the two boys to the playground where I introduced them to my siblings. They didn’t seem particularly interested in my sister and brother, but then again, they were too young. What on earth are you supposed to do with babies anyway? They’re no fun until you can play with them.

Instead of spending time with the other kids, the two boys whispered an idea in my ear, and I grinned wickedly when they said we should play a game in the garden the party was in.

“I don’t get it,” I said at first. “Isn’t it just like Hide and Seek?”

“No,” Max said patiently. “It’s a little bit different. One of us will be the monster. The monster will try to hunt the other two down and kill them.”

He was always so patient. So kind. So sweet. Especially in those first few years when I’d just met him. He’d show his true colors soon enough….

“Kill?” I repeated, a slight edge to my voice.

We didn’t use big bad words like that at home. papa said they were distasteful.

“Only in the game,” Max said calmly. “Look, I’ll be the monster first. You and Ryder hide.”

“Okay,” I nodded and took Ryker’s hand.

He seemed slightly repulsed by having a little girl hold his hand, but he didn’t say anything, just gave me a strained smile while his brother started to count. And then we ran off together, giggling and tripping clumsily.

It took Max a minute to find us. I realized soon he loved being the monster because he always knew exactly where we were hiding. I never found out if he peeked through his fingers when we ran off.

When Ryker was the monster, he still found us fast, but Max did his best to keep the game going and keep it fun for me. I loved the way he paid special attention to me. Even though he’d just walked into my life, he already knew I was a special little princess, just like papa said.

When I had to look for them, I gave up after ten minutes and sulkily stomped my mud-caked Mary Janes on the ground. I heard snickers, but they still wouldn’t come out. Not until I started to call for Papa. Then, they were out of the bushes in seconds, looking all sheepish and apologetic.

We spent the rest of the day playing together and having great fun. Finally, as the babies got cranky and the day turned into evening, my father called everyone to the stage where a band had been playing earlier.

“Welcome, welcome,” he said in that cool, measured tone of his. “I’m so glad all of you could join us today. What a beautiful day it has been. A beautiful day indeed—perhaps perfect for the announcement I am going to make today.”

I stared at him adoringly. Nothing could wake me up from my trance, my eyes fixated on Papa. I loved him so.

“We are joined today by the Marinos,” Papa said, pointing to the gathering crowd. “What a lovely time to celebrate the joining of our two families, isn’t it?”

He chuckled, and I followed his gaze until it found Ryker and Max’s parents who were standing to the side with their twins, smiling proudly.

“I’d like to invite my daughter up to the stage now,” Papa said, looking right at me. “Come on, come up here, Ophelia.”

For a second, my heart froze in fear, and I was convinced I was in trouble. But Papa looked so jovial and not angry at all. Maybe he just wanted me to stand next to him… I’d seen Papa in a bad mood before, “tempers” as Mamochka called them, and I hadn’t liked it one bit. It was scary and bloody and no fun at all.

Hesitantly, I stepped away from the crowd and joined my father on the stage. He firmly held my hand in his and smiled at the crowd.

“Everyone knows Princess Ophelia, of course,” he said. “My eldest child. Today is a joyous occasion, friends. Today, I want you to celebrate with me… the joining of forces, two families coming together. Today, I announce my daughter’s engagement to a Marino.”

Everyone clapped politely, and I looked up at Papa, too stunned to speak.

“But, Papa,” I said urgently, tugging on the sleeve of his jacket. “I’m only five.”

The crowd laughed aloud, and my father chuckled.

“Young man,” he finally said. “Why don’t you come up here?”

My eyes flitted back to where the Marinos were standing, and suddenly, something bloomed inside my chest, hopeful and scared and big and fluttery.

He said I was marrying a Marino… Oh my gosh, I was going to marry Ryker. My eyes looked into his dreamily, the boyish charm of his grin, the way his eyes sparkled so enchanting. But then I realized he wasn’t the one who had moved toward the podium.

It was Max instead, walking slowly but deliberately, his bad leg obviously giving him trouble as he limped closer.

My heart sank. My eyes found Ryker’s. Did I imagine the regret in them? The tinge of sadness? We’d only met a couple of hours ago, but I felt such a pull toward him. I wanted him, not his brother.

Max got up on the podium, and the crowd clapped as he came to stand next to me.

“But, Papa,” I whispered, tugging on my father’s sleeve again. “I don’t want to marry Max. I want to marry Ryker.”

An awkward silence fell upon the guests, and my father looked down at me with harsh, unforgiving eyes.

“Shut up,” he said simply.

“But papa—”

Before I could finish my sentence, he slapped me across the face, hard. So hard I fell on my butt and tears prickled my eyes. I didn’t cry though. I never cried, even when Papa got angry. It only made him more upset.

Papa glared at the crowd while I picked myself up clumsily.

“Clap,” he growled, and on cue, the crowd applauded.

Max helped me up, and I blinked the tears away, but I couldn’t take my eyes away from Ryker.

He wasn’t looking at me though; he was looking at my father. And his eyes burned with unapologetic hatred. When they finally connected with mine, I knew it was because of Papa had hit me.

I gave him a brave smile to let him know it was okay. But even then, it was too late.

The die had been cast.


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