If anyone ever bothered to ask me what I dream of, I’d point to the scene in front of me at the moment. I’m not talking about the six-tier cake, the pretty pink flowers, or the fluffy cloud dress. Most definitely not the dress. As much as I love Evie, I can’t get behind her choice of bridal gown. She looks like someone tried to mummify her in chiffon.
No, what I want, more than anything, is what my oldest brother, Daniil, and his new bride have—that special connection. Within weeks of meeting each other, they’d formed an unbreakable bond. The love they have for one another is rare. I’ve certainly never seen it before and, I have to admit, I’m jealous. I want to be held by a man who sees no other woman but me, for whom I am the most precious thing in the world.
Of course, I also dream of cracking men’s skulls, something I’m reminded of when I catch Artem Baryshnikov leering at me like I’m the last sausage on the barbeque. Call me shallow, but fat, balding men with pock-marked faces and halitosis strong enough to floor an elephant just don’t do it for me. I suppose I should admire his nerve for appraising me so openly, but being ogled by a man so woefully inferior pisses me off.
Staring straight at him, I fish an ice cube out of my drink and place it between my teeth. Without breaking eye contact, I crunch it viciously, sending icy shards flying out across the table. Artem gets the message, looking away. They always blink first. Fucking cowards, every last one of them.
Not one of these assholes is my equal.
Well, perhaps there is one man in the room who could match me. As the music starts up and Daniil leads Evie onto the floor for their first dance as man and wife, I fix my gaze on the man who sets my pulse racing. Nikolai Morozov. His name means frost, and it suits him. Though charming and talkative with other women, he’s always been distinctly chilly toward me. I don’t hate that. It’s impossible to explain but, every time he looks down his nose and says my name in that disapproving headmaster tone of his, my pussy clenches. I want to thaw him out and leave him a helpless puddle at my feet. Unless, of course, I melt first.
I’m supposed to partner with the best man for this dance, but since that happens to be my other brother, Timofey, I’m giving that a hard pass. We’d spend the entire time trying to trample each other’s toes. It’s the sort of relationship we have. We’re close, but we like to get a rise out of one another. At times, we behave like children and I’d prefer it if we didn’t make a spectacle of ourselves. Today is for Daniil and Evie, and I don’t want to distract from that.
Pushing up from my chair, I march over to where Niko stands, ever watchful, by the door. Though he’s supposed to be a guest at this wedding, he can’t seem to relinquish his role as chief enforcer for the Lenkov Brotherhood, my family’s criminal enterprise. At six foot six and with muscles a bodybuilder would be proud of, he suits his role. His tattoos speak of time spent in prison and a lifetime of wrongdoing, but his mop of blond hair and baby blue eyes soften him somewhat.
As I walk right up and grab his hand, his eyes widen.
I’ve surprised him. “Dance with me.” I had intended to ask him in a sultry, seductive manner, but my words come out as a petulant demand.
Niko’s upper lip curls into a sardonic snarl. “Well, since you asked so nicely, printsessa.”
As I draw him toward the floor, he yanks his hand away from mine and grabs me by the wrist. He leads me the rest of the way, his intent crystal clear. If we’re going to dance, he’ll be the one in control. My heart skips a beat as we get into position. I rest my left hand lightly on his shoulder, while he places his right at the small of my back. We clasp our free hands together, our fingers intertwining.
So far, so good.
Then Niko hauls me flush against his body, which is every bit as firm and unyielding as I imagined. “Dancing is a contact sport, no?” His Russian accent is thicker than mine, which has become anglicized over the years. His voice is deep, rumbling up from his chest. It does things to my insides that I can’t begin to describe.
“Well, yes, but…” He’s got me all flustered. Already. “Just don’t get any ideas.”
“But I do get ideas.” Heat flares in his eyes.
The way his gaze rakes over my body should tell me the answer, but I can’t resist asking, “Such as?”
“You.” He tightens his grip, pulling me even closer. “On your knees, before me.”
The image flits though my mind, and my spine tingles. I try not to let him see his effect on me. He’s not gaining an advantage over me that easily. “I get on my knees for no man.”
“You will for me.”
I don’t know if it’s the supreme confidence in his voice, or the dark, dangerous glint in his eye, but I find myself in the unusual position of being lost for words. I clear my throat as Niko stares down at me. I’m tall, especially in five-inch heels, but he’s taller. Suddenly, he seems to loom over me. The intensity of the desire in his eyes scares me as much as it excites me. This man could break me in half without working up a sweat. I sink my teeth into my bottom lip, unable to mask my nervousness. Niko doesn’t miss it either. He grins, ever so slightly, then blinks, severing our connection. Mr. Cool, Calm, and Collected returns, leaving me wondering if I imagined his attraction to me.
We don’t speak again, as he whirls me around the floor. The song is one I recognize, but don’t know the name of. The beat’s a bit faster than is usual for a wedding dance, but it feels no less intimate. Niko holds me tantalizingly close. He’s a good dancer, if not a bit technical. I can almost hear him counting out the steps. He lacks flair, because he’s in complete control of himself. This is not a man who’s going to let loose. Normally, I’m just as composed as he is, but right now, my heart is beating erratically, and I feel strangely off kilter. So, I give in to Niko’s dominance and let him move me wherever he wants me to go. It’s wonderfully freeing to let him take charge, if only for a short while.
We drift past Daniil and Evie, who are too busy staring into each other’s eyes to notice us. A smile touches my lips and Niko tilts his head, regarding me with curiosity. I don’t know if I like him trying to work me out. It’s dangerous to let a predator find a weak spot. I should know. More times than I can count, I’ve exploited men’s vulnerabilities to further my family’s aims. Discomfited by his scrutiny, I glance over to where Timofey is dancing with Niamh Donnelly. She’s like a sister to us. When my brothers and I fled our father’s brutal control, Niamh was the one who provided us with an escape route. We grew up alongside her, coming to regard her father, Padraig, as our own. The king of the Irish mob, he taught my brothers and me everything we know.
As the song comes to an end, Niko releases me from his grasp and steps back. He raises his eyebrows expectantly, and I realize he’s waiting for me to say something. His lips purse in disapproval. It perplexes me that, instead of telling him to go fuck himself, I give him what I think he wants, which is a quiet, “Thank you, Niko.”
“The pleasure was mine.” I think I detect a slight purr in the word pleasure, but since Niko’s general demeanor is chilly once more, it’s hard to tell. “Enjoy the rest of your evening.”
Well, that was… dismissive.
I guess he doesn’t want to dance with me again. Trying not to let my unexpected hurt show, I turn and go back to my seat at the top table. I pour myself a generous measure of vodka from the bottle of Stoli Elit on the table, and knock it back in one go. On more than one occasion, I’ve been told I drink like a Russian sailor. I take that as a compliment.
Sitting back, I watch Niamh as she walks over to Daniil and Evie, throwing her arms wide to draw them both into an embrace. Something’s off though. Her movement’s not quite natural, exaggerated somehow. She’s too bright, too cheery, even for a happy occasion like this. Perhaps Timofey upset her.
Looking around, I can’t see my big brother anywhere. He’s probably checking in with his men. Like Niko, he can’t relax when we’re all gathered in such a public place. Choosing to have the reception at a hotel in an Edinburgh suburb was risky. It’s been only a few months since my brothers killed a couple of men who came after Daniil at a local swimming pool. It’s how he and Evie met. She witnessed the whole thing and Daniil took her with him when he fled the scene.
They fell in love and, when Evie agreed to marry my brother, she had her heart set on having the ceremony here, in the place where she was born and raised. No matter how imprudent it was to bring so many Bratva associates to Scotland, where their presence would not go unnoticed by the authorities, Daniil wanted Evie to have the wedding of her dreams. Again, I feel a pang of envy as I consider the lengths my brother will go to for the woman he worships with every fiber of his being.
Almost of their own accord, my eyes drift to Niko, who’s taken up position at the door to the ballroom once more. Is he the type of man who would cater to a woman’s every whim? I have nothing to base it on, except for wishful thinking, but I imagine he is. If Niko loved a woman, he would go all in. But what would he expect in return? Would it be more than I could give?
Reluctantly tearing my gaze away from Niko as Niamh approaches, I offer her a smile. She’s one of a limited number of people I like, and is at the top of the even smaller list of those I trust. “Where’s Timofey?”
She drops onto the seat next to me and brushes a stray strand of strawberry blonde hair back from her face. “Urgent business with a waitress.”
I detect the lie in the way she sucked in a breath before answering. It’s a sure sign she’s not comfortable with what she’s saying.
“A waitress? I thought he was shagging that bottle-blonde bimbette with the fake tits.” My brother was not exactly subtle when he disappeared with my fellow bridesmaid after the rehearsal dinner last night.
Niamh shrugs, another giveaway that she’s lying. She’s only prepared to divulge the bare minimum of detail when she’s dissembling. Her third tell shows itself when she changes the subject. “I saw you dancing with Niko.”
“You like him, don’t you?”
“What is this, high school?”
Niamh flags down a passing waiter and grabs two glasses of champagne from him. “I’m not the one who’s blushing like a schoolgirl.”
“I am not blushing!” I raise a hand to my cheek, and it does feel a little hot. I decide to try Niamh’s trick of changing the subject. “Which waitress did Timofey go off with?”
“I don’t know.”
“But he was dancing with you. Are you telling me he just walked off and left you so he could screw some random waitress?”
Niamh sips her champagne. “Are you interrogating me, Mila?” Now it’s my turn to shrug. Niamh narrows her eyes at me. “Well, don’t. I’m not in the mood.”
I let it drop. If there is something going on with Timofey, I’ll find out what it is at some point. “Did Antonio upset you?” Niamh has been seeing an Italian-American mobster since my brothers asked him to look out for her when we were having trouble with the not truly chastened Keane family. “Have you had a fight? Is that why he isn’t here?”
“It’s nothing. Just a minor disagreement.” Niamh blinks rapidly, on the verge of tears. She recovers herself quickly and flashes me a wicked grin. “But never mind Antonio Morganti. I want to know about you and Nikolai.”
“There’s nothing to tell.”
As heat rises to my cheeks once more, I sip the champagne Niamh procured for me. It’s cold and crisp, but I’m not a fan. I dislike the bubbles.
“No?” Niamh cocks her head. “You don’t like him?”
“He’s okay.” That’s as much as I’m giving her.
“You know he’s halfway in love with you, right?”
I scoff at that. “He is not.”
“Of course he is.” Niamh’s blue eyes sparkle with mischief. “Haven’t you noticed how differently he treats you?”
“You mean how he’s nice to everyone but me?” I shake my head as Niamh nods enthusiastically. “That’s supposed to indicate he likes me?”
“Aye, it’s basically the grownup version of pulling your hair on the playground. He likes you, but he doesn’t know what to do about it.”
I consider that for a moment. I know Niko’s attracted to me. There have been little hints of it for a while now—furtive glances, a certain overprotectiveness when other men approach me, the way he held me when we danced. But if he really wants me, surely he’d have done something about it by now. He’s not exactly the shy, retiring type. Of course, it might be that he’s wary of how my brothers would react if he made a move. Perhaps they’ve warned him off? I can’t rule it out. “Do you think he’s scared of Daniil and Timofey?”
“Niko?” Niamh laughs, like the very thought of that is ridiculous. “No, from what I’ve seen, he has a healthy respect for them—but he’s not afraid.”
“Well, is he scared of me?”
“I think any man with a fondness for his dick would be wary of you.” Niamh grins. She knows the rumor of my predilection for lopping off men’s penises when they cross me is greatly exaggerated. “But, no, I don’t think fear comes into Niko’s feelings for you.”
“Okay, then.” I hope I’ve injected enough of a tone of finality into that for Niamh to drop the subject.
“For what it’s worth,” she says, “I think he’d be good for you.”
“Uh-huh.” I look up as a couple of young men in kilts with a blue and green check approach the table. They’re clearly related to Evie. All of the men in her family have dressed in the Jamieson clan tartan.
“Would you ladies care to dance?” the red-haired one asks. He’s looking at Niamh, not me.
Niamh immediately springs up from her seat. “I’d love to.” She takes his hand and they head for the dance floor. The other man, or should I say, boy—he looks not a day over eighteen—shifts nervously from one foot to the other. He’s tall and skinny, with a crooked nose and lips that are too thin. It’s a face only a mother could love. As his chest rises and falls rapidly, I realize it must have taken courage for him to come over here with his more confident friend.
“What’s your name?” I ask.
“Callum. Callum Jamieson.”
Definitely a relative of Evie’s. “Come on then,” I say as I get to my feet. “Show me what you’ve got.”
As I follow him to the dance floor, I cast a sly glance at Niko. He’s watching as I put my hands on the young man’s shoulders and start to wiggle my hips in a decidedly X-rated fashion. The only outward sign of his irritation is a slight clenching of his jaw. It’s not much, but it tells me he doesn’t like my hands on another man.
I throw back my head and laugh. Tonight, I am going to tear up this dance floor. I’m going to taunt Niko until he snaps—and to hell with the consequences.
There’s a strange undercurrent in the room that makes me uneasy. Something is going on that I can’t quite see. Usually, as the Lenkov Brotherhood’s head of security, I’m kept in the loop, but Timofey slipped out of here ten minutes ago without a word to me. I overheard Niamh Donnelly feeding Daniil some bullshit about him going off to fuck some waitress. Timofey has never been hard up for pussy. He wouldn’t ditch his brother’s wedding just to get laid. There’s trouble here, but I can’t put my finger on what it is.
My suspicions intensify as Maxim comes in from the terrace and heads straight for Niamh. They huddle together for a minute or so. When they finally separate, Maxim nods briskly, like he does when he’s signaling an understanding has been reached. What could he and the Scots-Irish princess possibly agree on? I could pull rank and demand he tell me what’s going on, but before I get the chance to call him over, my cellphone rings. As soon as I see it’s Timofey, I step out into the corridor and answer the call. “Da?”
“We have a problem,” he tells me in Russian. It’s unusual for him to use our mother tongue. The Lenkovs have all adopted English as their language of choice. I suspect it indicates he’s with someone and is trying to hide what he’s saying. “Someone’s coming after Mila.”
My fists clench at the thought of her in danger. “Who?”
“Talk to Maxim, and squeeze Lev Sidarov for information. He’s a traitor.”
My jaw tics in irritation. I’ve always thought Sidarov was a snake. Torturing him will be no hardship. “And Mila?”
“Keep her safe, and speak to Niamh. She’s in charge, yes?”
Deferring to the mafia princess doesn’t please me, but if that’s what Timofey wants, I’ll play along. “Okay. And Daniil?”
“He’s to know nothing. Let the mudak enjoy the wedding.”
There’s venom in Timofey’s voice that takes me by surprise. The brothers are close, and I’ve never known either of them to show the slightest animosity toward the other. It makes me wonder what the hell is going on.
“Whatever you say.” I pinch the bridge of my nose, as I consider the situation. “I will protect Mila with my life.”
“I know, my friend.”
Timofey hangs up and I blow out a breath. Mila has always sailed close to the wind, and isn’t exactly short of enemies, but hearing someone is coming after her still shakes me to the core. What if something happens to my beautiful girl? I should have staked my claim on her years ago.
I send a quick text to Maxim, telling him to join me out here. He appears less than thirty seconds later, breathing heavily, as if he’s run out to meet with me. “We have a rat to deal with.”
Maxim’s pale gray eyes gleam. He’s always as eager to deal with a traitor in our ranks as I am. “Let me guess. Sidarov?”
I incline my head in affirmation. Clearly, I was not alone in my distrust of the man. “Stash him somewhere quiet and soften him up a bit. I’ll join you later.”
As he starts to move past me, I reach out and plant a hand on his chest to stop him. “Who did Timofey get the tip from?”
Maxim shrugs and then hurries off. He’s being evasive, which suggests someone has told him to keep his mouth shut. I head back into the ballroom and look for Niamh. She’s alone at a table in the corner, on her cellphone. She’s hunched over, like she’s having a secret conversation with someone. Yeah, she knows the whole story. Unfortunately she’s not someone I can squeeze for information. The Lenkovs would have my balls if I upset her.
I turn my attention to Mila, who’s busy on the dance floor, running her hands over a random asshole she’s gyrating way too close to. She looks fucking magnificent, tall and slender, with hair the color of a rich milk chocolate flowing down her back. The bridesmaid’s dress she wears is a purple hue that warms her pale skin. If she’s trying to annoy me by flirting with every man over the age of eighteen, it’s working. If this wasn’t my boss’s wedding, I’d have created a bloodbath by now. Of course, the night is young. I still might snap a few necks, just to demonstrate to Mila the lengths I’ll go to where she’s concerned.
Getting worked up over the printsessa is ridiculous. I haven’t made a move on Mila, so I have no right to expect her not to flirt with other men. Only I’m sure she knows how badly I want her, especially after we danced. That would mean her actions are deliberately provocative—and that deserves some punishment.
I don’t count how many men she dances with as the evening progresses, but I’m so fixated on her, I don’t notice Daniil approaching, until he’s right in front of me. A couple of inches shorter and a good forty pounds lighter than me, he is, nevertheless, the most intimidating man I’ve ever met. I mean, sure, on a physical level, I have an advantage over him, but he’s supremely intelligent, totally self-assured, and brutally effective in dealing with problems. His bright blue eyes seem to penetrate right through to a person’s soul. I’ve been with the Lenkovs for ten years—since I turned eighteen—and though I’m on friendly terms with Daniil, I’m not tight with him like I am with Timofey. No matter how often he tries to include me in social occasions, I still see Daniil as the boss.
“Niko, my friend.” He slaps my shoulder. “You should be enjoying yourself. I didn’t invite you to my wedding so you could stand guard.”
“I know. I appreciate it, but I can’t relax with this many people around.”
There are men here, from other organizations, who can’t be relied upon to keep the peace. While I do trust my team to keep an eye on things, I prefer to be on hand to deal with problems myself.
“You should take a leaf out of Timofey’s book,” Daniil says. “Find yourself some girl to fuck.”
“Yeah, maybe.” I’m sure the Lenkov brothers think I’m a monk, since I don’t have a different girl every week. Fucking my way through life isn’t my style. I want one special woman. If Daniil knew who I really want to strip naked and sink my cock into, I doubt he’d be so encouraging. The Lenkovs might give Mila a lot of leeway to cause whatever mayhem she chooses, but they’re also protective big brothers when they have to be.
Daniil looks over his shoulder. “I thought he’d be back by now. Evie and I are leaving ahead of schedule. She’s going to toss the bouquet and then we’re off.”
“Why the change of plans?”
“Nothing sinister,” Daniil assures me. “I just want to be alone with my bride.”
I get it. If Mila ever gazed at me with the adoration Evie shows Daniil, I’d chain her to my bed and keep her there. “You’re not going to wait for Timofey?”
“No. He must have lost track of time.” Daniil apparently doesn’t suspect there’s a problem. That’s good, because I wouldn’t be able to lie to him if he asked me directly. “Until he gets back, you’re in charge, yes? I don’t want trouble breaking out after we leave. Evie would never forgive me.”
From what I know, the bride’s normal, middle-class Scottish family knows nothing of the Bratva. “I’ll make sure everyone behaves.”
“Good.” Distracted as his wife returns to the room in a pretty blue dress that cinches in at the waist and flares out in a wide skirt, Daniil walks away. I don’t understand these wedding traditions, but watch in amusement as all the women gather in a semi-circle. Niamh joins them, and so does Mila. Unlike the others, she doesn’t appear thrilled to be there, and folds her arms across her chest. It’s a protest, I think, against the idea she’s desperate to be next to marry. She needn’t worry. The posy of pink and white flowers, tied with a green ribbon, sails past her, landing in the enthusiastic grasp of the blonde bridesmaid Timofey fucked last night. It’s probably just as well he’s not here right now. She might get ideas.
As the bride and groom say their goodbyes and the crowd disperses, Niamh walks in my direction. “You’ve been told about our problem?” she asks.
“I have.” I tilt my head toward the door, and she follows me out into the corridor, where we can speak more privately. “Maxim’s taking care of Sidarov.”
“Good. I want you to ensure Mila makes it safely back to France tomorrow.”
“That was my intention.” I wrap a hand around her upper arm, and she looks up at me, startled. Niamh is cute and petite, like a little pixie. Standing next to her, I feel like an ogre. It’s that way with all women. Well, apart from Mila. She’s tall, strong, a warrior who’s perfect for me. “Now, tell me what I don’t already know. Who’s coming for Mila?”
Niamh purses her lips and narrows her eyes. She makes a decision about whether or not to share with me. “Remember the MI6 agent who approached Evie?”
“I do.” It was only a few months ago that an agent had Evie snatched from the Lenkovs’ chateau in Provence, with the hope of getting her to turn against Daniil. “Harrington.”
“That’s right, Alexander Harrington. Well, apparently he’s developed some sort of obsession for Mila. He intends to abduct her when you’re on the way to the airport.”
My fists clench at the thought of another man spending his days dreaming about my lapochka. “Who tipped Timofey off?”
Niamh shakes her head. “Maxim swore me to secrecy. Timofey doesn’t want everyone to know yet.”
My jaw clenches. I’ll be having a word with Maxim later. Sharing information with Niamh, but not me, is unacceptable. I want to shove Niamh against the wall and wrap my hand around her throat, squeezing until she tells me everything. Instead, I opt for a more reasonable approach. “How am I meant to do my job if I don’t have the full picture?”
“You don’t need to know anything else. Timofey left me in charge.” Niamh pulls herself up to her full height, but still only reaches my chest. It’s almost funny to watch her bristling with self-importance. “You just need to follow my orders.”
“Hmm, that’s funny, because Daniil just told me I was in charge here.” Niamh pouts. She knows any order coming from our Pakhan, the head of the organization, carries more weight than what Timofey says. “Now, tell me who gave him the information and you can go enjoy the party, yes?”
I probably couldn’t have been more patronizing if I’d patted her on the head and told her to be a good girl, but I can’t help it. I have great respect for Niamh, I really do, but I hate being drip-fed information.
Her shoulders slump in defeat. “Meredith Slater.”
That is the last name I expected to hear. Meredith Slater was a spy for the British government, who wormed her way into Timofey’s life a couple of years back. He fell for her hard, and was devastated to learn she’d deceived him. The story I heard was that Mila and Daniil had tortured and killed her. “I thought she was dead.”
“We all did.” Niamh tugs at her arm and I finally relinquish my hold on her. “Timofey included.”
I curse under my breath. He loved that girl. His head must be all over the place, now that she’s reappeared. “What happened?”
“She showed up here and Maxim’s team intercepted her. They found a gun in her purse.”
“She was armed?”
Niamh shrugs. “I don’t know if she planned to use it or…”
Her voice trails off as if she’s considering what reasons the woman might have had for carrying a gun. The very fact she has a weapon makes me uneasy. “Where is Timofey now?”
“With her.” Niamh sighs disapprovingly. “They’re at my place at Loch Lomond.”
“Tell me he has some security with him.”
“Ivan drove him, and there are plenty of my men at the house.”
“That’s good.” I was worried he’d rashly gone off without protection. Timofey’s capable of taking care of himself—mostly—but if he’s messed up over Meredith, he could make a fatal mistake.
“I’ll head over there in the morning,” Niamh says. “Will you take care of Mila? See she gets home safely?”
I’m insulted she feels the need to ask. But, of course, she doesn’t know me too well, so I cut her some slack and bite back my snarky response. “I’ll make sure Mila’s safe.”
Niamh nods. “And please, don’t say anything about Meredith. If Sidarov mentions her, then fine, share with Mila but I don’t want it to have come from me. I promised Maxim.”
“As you wish.”
Niamh smiles, her whole face taking on an angelic glow. It’s easy to see why people fall for her instantly, but she’s not my type. Despite her family connections, she’s got a real good-girl vibe going that I’m just not into. I know she’s capable of making ruthless decisions, but she compensates for those brief flashes of cruelty by being pathologically nice the rest of the time. After a while, I’d probably end up strangling her.
“Thank you, Niko.” She hesitantly pats my arm, like I’m a guard dog she thinks might bite, and returns to the ballroom.
I take a minute to get myself together, before following her back inside. I’m good at what I do, but keeping Mila safe is not going to be easy. She’ll want to be involved in Lev’s interrogation, to be proactive in hunting down the man who poses a threat to her. I’m going to have to make her comply with my commands, and fast.
As I walk into the ballroom, my eyes find Mila immediately. She’s slow dancing with a young man whose hands are too close to her ass for my liking. Since Daniil’s trusting me to keep order, I tamp down my fury. This red-haired guy isn’t to know Mila’s a Bratva printsessa he has no right to soil with his grubby hands. It’s not as if she looks uncomfortable with where he’s touching her. In fact, she’s having the time of her life tonight, dancing with the bride’s male relatives. It’s probably liberating for her. They have no idea who she is, what she’s done. To them, she’s just a beautiful girl they want to spend a little time with. They might ask themselves, of course, why none of the Russian men have gone near her. Bunch of pussies that they are, my countrymen stay away from Mila Lenkova. They may look every now and then, but none would dare touch. They fear her brothers—and Mila herself. She does have a well-deserved reputation for violence.
When the song changes, Mila says something to the man she’s with, and leaves him on the dance floor. She walks back to her table to get a drink. As I cross the room toward her, she pours a large measure of vodka and swallows it in a single gulp. It concerns me. She can drink most men under the table, but that was a lot of alcohol in one go.
She turns at the sound of my voice and smiles broadly. “Nicky!”
Shit. Is she drunk?
She certainly seems more relaxed than she usually is around me. Nobody has ever called me Nicky before, but I like it. I reach out and wrap a hand around her wrist. “We need to go.”
“But it’s early.”
“I don’t care.” Grabbing her purse from the table, I tow her across the room, heading for the door. She giggles as she trails along behind me.
“Just so you know,” she says, as we walk along the corridor toward the stairs. “I don’t do blowjobs. Ever.”
“What?” I’m not sure if I’m more surprised by what she said, or that she said it. Is she really putting sex on the table?
“Blowjobs… I just can’t. So, if that’s a deal-breaker for you…” I shake my head, startled by the direction the conversation has taken. Mila peers up at me, uncertainty in her eyes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her look less than one hundred percent confident. “Is that a deal-breaker, Nicky?”
“I don’t know.” It’s an asshole response when she’s clearly looking for reassurance but, quite honestly, she’s thrown me. I shake my head, as if that will banish my confusion. “That’s not why I want you to come with me.”
“No. A threat has come to light.”
Her body stills, and she stands up straighter. She looks around, suddenly more alert. She seems to sober so quickly, I wonder if she was pretending to be drunk. I can’t imagine why she would, but with Mila, you never know what’s going through her head. “What threat?”
“Against you. There’s a plot to abduct you while you’re on the way to the airport tomorrow morning.”
Mila snorts disbelievingly. “How do you know this?”
“Timofey got a tip-off.” I weigh up how much to tell her. “Sidarov’s part of the plot.”
“Lev?” Mila’s eyes narrow and her lips purse. “Does Niamh know about this?”
“Yeah.” There’s no point in denying it.
“I knew she was hiding something.” Mila wrenches her arm out of my grasp and whirls around, clearly intending to go to confront her friend. I’m not about to allow her to charge into the ballroom and make a scene. Before she gets more than five feet from me, I catch up to her and grab her around the waist. Spinning her toward me, I lift her up over my shoulder. It’s a slick move, intended to throw her off balance.
“What the hell are you doing?” Mila demands, as I make my way up the stairs, to the third floor, where our rooms are.
Other women might kick and scream, to try to get me to put them down, but not Mila. She’s too smart for that. She knows keeping a cool head gives her the best chance of escaping a captor. I can almost hear her mind whirring, as she plots what she’ll do when I set her back on her feet. I have to admit that worries me somewhat. If she’s so inclined, she’ll easily be able to get in a few good blows before I can subdue her. I’ll just have to hope she’s curious enough about what my cock can do for her that she won’t want to cause it serious harm.
“Hey, that was my room!” she protests as I carry her past her suite, and head for my more modest accommodations, a few doors further down the corridor.
“You don’t say.”
“Mudak!” she curses, just loud enough for me to hear.
When we reach my room, I fish my keycard out of my pocket and press it to the reader at the side of the door to gain entry. I take Mila inside and drop her onto the bed, stepping back quickly, before she can kick me in the balls. To my surprise, she doesn’t launch herself at me, but settles back on the red floral bedspread and stretches her arms up over her head.
“Okay, Nikolai. You got me on your bed. Now, what are you going to do with me?”
I can think of a million things I’d love to do to her, all of them filthy, but I don’t have any time for them right now. Her position does present me with an ideal opportunity, however, so I toss her purse onto the nightstand and quickly unbuckle my belt. Mila licks her lips as she watches me.
Is she hoping I’ll spank her? I hate that it can’t happen right now. Climbing onto the bed next to her, I wrap my belt around her wrists and then tie the long end to one of the slats on the headboard. Mila offers no resistance. It can’t possibly be this easy to gain her submission, can it?
“I like you this way.” I run my hand down the side of her body, enjoying the tremor that ripples beneath my touch. “Bound and”—we both know she’s far from helpless—“waiting for me.”
“But I don’t like waiting.” Mila pouts, sticking out the bottom lip I’m dying to bite.
“Tough shit. I have a rat to interrogate.”
“What?” Mila screeches as I quickly get off the bed. “Nikolai Andreivich Morozov, explain yourself!”
The use of my full name tells me I’m in trouble. Trying to coax the harsh glare off Mila’s face, I curve my hand around her soft cheek. “Sidarov tried to sell you out. I need to make him pay.”
“No,” Mila says, her voice level. “If he planned to betray me, I get to deal with him.”
On any other day, I’d agree with her, but now that I’ve made my first move, I have to show her how things will be from now on. “No, lapochka, it’s my job now. You’re mine to protect—and to punish.”
Her deep brown eyes narrow. “What are you saying?”
“Someone needs to look out for you, Mila, to take you in hand. That person will be me. From now on, you obey me, and follow my rules. Or I punish you.”
Mila’s lips form a snarl, and she tugs at the belt around her wrists. The bonds hold her easily though. “I do not agree to this.”
“No, but you will once you’ve had time to think about it.” I lean in close, placing a firm hand on her thigh, as much to keep her from trying to kick me as to show her I’m serious about claiming her. “Because you sense I can give you great pleasure, if you’re a good girl.” A shiver runs through her. She’ll probably fight me, simply because she’s Mila fucking Lenkova, but she wants this as much as I do. The flush of her cheeks, the dilation of her pupils, the way her breath hitches, all confirm it. “Think about it, Mila.” I stroke the smooth skin of her cheek with my thumb, and I swear she sighs. “When I get back, you can tell me what you decided.”
Without waiting for a response, I leave the room. Mila thinks I’m giving her a choice in this and, to a certain extent, I am. She can make things easy on herself, or hard. Those are the only options. Because, one way or another, she is going to be mine.