“But when I dominate a woman, I own her. Break her. One day you’re going to belong to me.”
The man’s demanding and dangerous words reverberated in my mind. And I believed every word. Asshole.
I shivered, the memory of his touch far too exhilarating. My nipples ached, longing for his rough touch, his hot breath skating across my skin. I was insane to hunger for my enemy, a man capable of heinous crimes.
I closed my eyes briefly, remembering the feel of his cock buried inside my pussy, the hard thrusts as he shoved me straight into a moment of pure rapture. I remained wet and hot, my thighs sticky from his cum. He’d managed to unravel me in those few moments, crashing through every barrier I’d carefully placed around me.
“Do you crave a dominating man, cherie?”
I pressed my fingers across my lips, savoring the heated kiss. His scent lingered on my skin, musky and exotic. The butterflies in my tummy were a reminder that he was everything I couldn’t stand, yet all that I yearned for, and I was humiliated from the realization.
No. No. I couldn’t think this way. I had a job to do and I refused to fall prey to my own wicked desires.
Experts say that fear is only in your mind. What about danger? What about death?
I was prepared to kill my enemy.
Even eager to do so.
Within the hour, Aleksei Petrov would be dead.
I am a killer, a trained assassin. And I love my job the majority of the time.
I had to wonder what those experts would say about my utter excitement regarding my chosen profession. I’d be labeled a freak, a dangerous criminal. The thought gave me a sinful series of shivers.
I glanced out the window, satisfied. I was in position, ready to make my move.
The parking lot was dark, the only exception the single light from a streetlamp highlighting the far corner leading toward the street. I was parked next to a bank of trees, obstructed from the building by an oversized dumpster enclosure. Being close to midnight, I was the only car in the lot, all the minions having gone home for the weekend. If only they knew the kind of monster who towered above them, waiting to suck the life out of anyone who got in his way.
I stared up at the all glass building, contemplating just how delicious putting a bullet in the Russian’s head would be. This was considered an honor, taking out one of the most powerful men on the East coast. For me, this was personal. Even the local cops, at least those who weren’t on Petrov’s payroll, would likely give me a medal for performing a duty they hadn’t been capable of. Chuckling, I shifted into the backseat, struggling to unzip the garish dress I’d worn for the banquet and celebration. I certainly wasn’t going to do my job in sleek attire and high heels.
The thought was revealing about my personality. I hated the concept of being a girly girl. I shimmied out of the slick material, dumping it onto the floor. The black jeans and long-sleeve shirt would provide much better coverage, just in case my compatriots hadn’t been able to shut down the security system. I pulled my long hair into a ponytail in an effort to hide as much of my identity as possible. After tying the thick leather boots, I crawled back into the driver’s seat, yanking the small briefcase from the passenger floor.
Inside? My prized Glock, the perfect weapon for the job.
I stole a glance at my watch before double checking to make certain I didn’t have any unwanted visitors. I could have had security with me, beefy men hired to protect my ass, but assassinations I liked to handle on my own.
I was exactly on schedule. Any longer and I’d risk his arrival. Any less and I’d be forced to wait. I wasn’t good at being the kid in the candy store, my wants and needs always fulfilled when I decided. Tonight, I had a bottle of merlot already opened and waiting for victory.
Besides, I had zero patience or tolerance for bullshit.
I started my stopwatch then grabbed my gloves. A girl could never be too careful. The mask was next, the scratchy material irritating as hell, but necessary in a world of espionage and murder. I rolled my eyes, thinking about all my girlfriends, who had no idea I was a paid hitman, making more money than they’d ever dreamed about in their lives.
After exiting the vehicle, I made certain it couldn’t be seen easily. While the target would certainly park his Mercedes in the executive parking lot, right in front of the building, I didn’t want to cause any suspicions. Aleksei was also a careful man, having survived several assassination attempts over the years.
I shoved the weapon in my pocket and moved closer to the building, pulling out the card key I’d been provided. Now the moment of truth. The green light allowed a sigh of relief. So far, so good. The elevator was also locked down, the card coming in useful once again. I exited two floors below the top floor, moving up the stairs two at a time.
The small foyer was the only other space on this floor, the entire thirty thousand square feet taken up by Petrov Holdings, a dummy company for one of the most dangerous and notorious crime syndicates in the United States. What I was about to do would rock the entire world of the mafia.
I glanced over my shoulder before using the second card key, holding my breath once again. I was thankful I had the best IT guys on the planet working for my brother’s company. If not, I would have already been toast, the police on call. And I was certain the boys in blue who showed would be well paid for protecting the Petrov organization.
I crept through the impressive reception area, marveling at the expensive art adorning every wall. I did have to say, the man had excellent tastes. I’d studied a layout of the entire floor days before, learning every nuance, every room, including the ones hidden even from the schematics. There wasn’t a place anyone could hide.
If he tried to run, I would hunt him down.
I moved toward Aleksei’s office, confident he would follow his own protocol. The man was a machine, organized and savvy, intelligent and highly motivated. He also never changed his methods of operation, what the majority of people would call a weakness. I considered it a gift.
Who said a girl needed diamonds and furs?
His office wasn’t locked, which wasn’t necessarily surprising. The man could be trusting. To a point. I eased in, allowing my eyes to get used to the darkness. While there were no blinds on the windows, the limited moonlight only highlighted shadows of his desk and the other various pieces of furniture. I had no doubt the room was opulent. Aleksei was that kind of man.
He was also brutal and unforgiving, a masterful killer himself.
I would wait for him in his executive and very private bathroom. I moved in that direction, knowing I had nine minutes and thirty seconds before his arrival.
The man was always on time.
Myriad sensations rocketed through me the moment I heard the twist of a switch on a lamp. I’d know the sound anywhere. My reactions were quick, the gun firmly planted in both hands as I swung around to deal with the intruder.
The understanding burned into the back of my mind. I’d been made a fool of, someone tipping him off. I had no doubt the Russian was going to kill me.
But not if I struck first.
My eyes darted to the gun placed exactly in the middle of the desk, several inches away from his massive hands. The distance wasn’t a help. The man was a crack shot and for most, he would be able to place a bullet right between their eyes before they had a chance to react in any manner.
I wasn’t most people.
Very slowly he moved his hand to the gun, tapping his long index finger against the cold, hard steel. Within inches was likely his signature drink, the finest scotch imported only for him. He’d been waiting for me. What was positioned next to his gun pissed me off.
He seemed to notice my gaze, drawing the thin lace to his face and inhaling.
The smirk on his face was infuriating, but I also noticed a hint of a deeper, darker emotion.
I’d never felt so uncomfortable or caught off guard, every inch of my body peppered with goosebumps. I kept the gun planted in both hands, widening my stance. His only acknowledgment was a lift of a single eyebrow. The Russian was without a doubt one of the coolest and most conniving monsters I’d ever come in contact with.
He was also absolutely stunning; shaggy shoulder-length blond hair that remained unruly even with his polished exterior, a muscular body that screamed of training and self-control, but his eyes were the dead giveaway to his soul. Almost iridescent, the color could only be described as the most beautiful sapphire ever forged deep within the earth.
To say I was attracted to the man was an understatement, a betrayal of the woman I’d pushed aside in favor of living my life in relative bleakness and solitude. Yet every part of me quivered, my nipples fully aroused from the thought of what he could do to my body.
Just like what had happened only hours before.
I’d taken a calculated risk, longing to see what he was made of. Fate had put us together with ease, the moment of intimacy we’d shared more passionate than I cared to admit.
My guard had fallen, tossed away in the heat of the moment.
I’d allowed the man to fuck me or maybe it was the other way around, our attraction far too intense. I could still feel the effects of him, could still smell the scent of his cum slathered across my body.
“Roxy. So lovely to see you again. Or would you prefer I call you by your given name? Willow Church, sister of the rather nasty creature known as Peter Church.” Aleksei chuckled, the same dark and dangerous tone that I’d heard at the earlier reception. Only then, he’d been pretending, acting as if he was anything but the heinous monster he truly was. His Russian accent was almost as attractive as every other well-endowed feature, the smooth as velvet tone no doubt allowing him the pick of the litter. “I find the name Church to be rather ironic, however. Neither of you are holy in any manner. Then again, I do know you in the biblical sense now. Delicious, I might add.”
I wanted to claw out his eyes.
I remained quiet, as if the mask covering my head was enough to hide my true identity. I pointed the gun at his head, shifting back and forth from foot to foot. If he thought he was going to rile me, he was dead wrong.
He issued another tap on the weapon, followed by a deep sigh. With exaggerated moves, he lifted the gun as he stood, moving around the side of the desk as if we were merely old friends prepared for a basic conversation. When he sat on the edge, crossing his long legs, I realized I was wet, pussy juice soaking my already damp jeans.
Damn the man.
“Nicely done,” he offered.
“I suggest you cut the crap, Aleksei. Your number has been pulled.”
“Interesting choice of words, but I must tell you that you’re wrong. You are well aware of my capabilities and if those weren’t enough, with the simple wave of my hand at that camera in the corner you obviously missed, this building will be surrounded within forty-five seconds. Since you are very calculated and organized, I’m certain you’ve already done the math as to how long it would take you to get down thirty flights of stairs.”
A cold shiver trickled down my spine as I looked quickly at the camera in question. Goddamn the man. I had missed the obvious security. I was slipping. “Or?”
“Let me think about this. We do have a connection, you and I.”
“Yes. I can smell your desire from here, just like I could at the celebration. Besides, the kiss and the hard fuck we shared at the celebration was… extraordinary.” Aleksei took a deep breath and held it for a full five seconds.
I took a step closer until he lifted his eyebrows, his demeanor shifting entirely.
“All right, Willow, we can play this one of two ways. You can simply surrender to me, handing over your weapon and allowing me to dole out punishment for the length of time I determine in ways that I decide.” He seemed so certain of himself, as if I wasn’t a trained assassin who could kill him with a single shot.
I had nothing to say, my mind calculating the exact time it would take me to fire off the kill shot.
He tilted his head, allowing his gaze to fall toward my scuffed boots, forcing another round of nerves sliding down my spine. Reaching for his drink, he took several sips, oh-so relaxed in every mannerism. He had no fear of me. After swallowing in an exaggerated manner, he stood once again, the thick glass still in his hand as he swaggered closer.
“Or…” Aleksei allowed the word to linger, the same husky voice spinning me almost out of control, “I can merely eliminate another enemy and no one will be the wiser, but of course I won’t stop there. Your death will just be the beginning. While I admire your tenacity, as you can imagine, I can’t allow you to walk out of here. I do have certain protocol that must be followed. It would be a shame to ruin such incredible beauty; however, I wouldn’t mind breaking you.”
The words hung in the air, leaving frigid air shifting around me like a whirlwind and a huge pit in the middle of my stomach. I’d handled assholes before, brutes who believed they could best a woman in every manner, but this man was… impenetrable.
However, my extensive training and fortitude refused to allow me to give in. What he’d mastered in strength, I’d perfected in speed. I had one shot at this and I took it. The lunge I could tell he hadn’t expected.
Then again, I hadn’t anticipated his.
I heard the single blast and somewhere in my mind I knew my gun had gone off. Not the way I wanted and certainly not hitting the target I’d intended. The dull thud as the bullet hit the thick plate glass window was a reminder that the Russian was always prepared for anything.
Including an assassination attempt.
Everything seemed in slow motion as the drink was expelled from his hand, the glass dropping then skipping several feet until the single loud crack.
Within two seconds, his arm was wrapped around my throat, dragging me against the heat of his body. Gasping, I struggled even as I heard his deep and very hoarse laugh. In an almost ceremonious fashion, he reached down, prying the gun from my fingers.
“Didn’t your father ever teach you not to play violent games with a dangerous opponent?” His question was meant to taunt me, a quick and easy reminder of the predicament I was in. His fingers wrapped around the mask, ripping it off. “I don’t think you need this any longer. Do you? I will say, I preferred you in the luscious dress you were wearing earlier this evening, without your panties of course. Black simply isn’t your color.”
“Fuck. You.” I was lucky to manage the two words as pulsing lights danced in front of my eyes, my air supply nearly cut off. I shifted just enough to allow me to slam my foot against his leg.
The brawny, muscular man didn’t move an inch, unfazed by my tactics.
Aleksei growled, one hand brushing down the right side of me, the move more provocative than any lover I’d had in years. “Such nasty words for a nice little girl. Or are you simply a bad operative?”
I wanted to lash out, scratching his eyes out. This wasn’t my normal response. I was trained, my skills honed yet I was acting like a rebuked prom date.
The bastard even stroked my hair, taking his time to tangle his fingers in the strands that had fallen from the mangled ponytail.
“You are definitely a woman who needs a lesson in obedience as well as an understanding of danger. You did say you enjoyed a controlling man. You found the right one.”
“Get. Off. Me.” While I knew my words were futile, there were still two guns within close proximity. I planned on using one if not both.
He crowded closer until his entire body was pressed next to mine. I could swear his cock was hard, throbbing. I was sickened at the realization.
And at my body’s almost instant reaction. I was actually attracted to the man. Memories of the passionate kisses we’d shared entered my mind, an ugliness that I never wanted to think about again. I’d allowed my guard to fall, prey to his suave mannerisms and stunning good looks. That went against everything I stood for.
Suddenly, the barrel of the gun was placed against my temple. “You may think of me as a fool, Willow, but I assure you, I am your worst nightmare. If you choose number two of my very generous offer, you will not go easily or quickly. In the end, you’ll beg to die.”
Swallowing, I dug my fingers into his arm, the difficult breaths I was taking forcing me to inhale his scent. Exotic and woodsy just like the man. I was mortified, embarrassed that I was thinking any thoughts other than taking out my target. “And the first?”
“I’m glad you asked,” he said with amusement. “I will give you a promise. If you surrender to me I will make certain your punishment is much less… painful, yet still effective. And I will allow you to live. As long as you play by my rules at all times. Oh, and you will be working for me exclusively.”
Jesus Christ. The options were just as horrible as the situation. If he really believed I would ever give into him in any manner, he was a dreamer. And working for him? Over my dead body. The seconds ticked as I weighed my options. Without a doubt, Aleksei would make good on his threats. That much I knew about the man and his method of operation. There was no way he’d allow me to leave alive. I’d be made an example of.
Just as the Bratva required.
“You have five seconds to decide, or I’ll make the choice for you,” he stated. So calm. So certain of himself.
I was fuming inside, trying to calculate every move I could make. There was little I could do, for now. “Fine.”
“Meaning?” Aleksei dared to brush his cheek against mine, blowing a swath of hot air that actually tickled my skin. “What say you, sweet cherie? What would you prefer me to do to your scrumptious body?”
My stomach churned all over, my heart racing. I made a promise to myself that no matter what I had to do, he would die by my hands one way or the other. “Option one and just get it the fuck over with.”
“Again, the language.” Aleksei released his hold, pushing me away and resuming his perch on the edge of the desk. “I’d offer you a drink.”
“Then please do. I enjoy a good scotch any time I make a deal with the devil,” I huffed, rubbing my aching throat. I knew if the bastard had wanted to kill me in that manner, I would no longer be breathing. I yanked off my gloves, fighting the flurry of nerves. He watched every move, but he remained relaxed.
So in charge.
In control of everything as usual. I’d underestimated him and that would never happen again.
Aleksei chuckled, pocketing my weapon before walking to the oversized bar sitting in the corner. “I have been called many things, Willow, but the devil is certainly powerful.” He was taking a significant risk turning his back to me.
He had known I was coming, was well aware I carried only one weapon. I’d never needed a second and felt it too cumbersome. The bastard. Whoever had betrayed me would find himself in my sights. Snarling, I scanned his office, searching for any other type of weapon I could use.
“There are no other guns here. Or knives, cherie.”
I already loathed the moniker.
He grabbed two glasses, allowing them to clink together then poured both halfway full of scotch, not bothering to add ice. As he walked in my direction, one arm held out, his smile remained intact. He was enjoying every second of my wretched situation. “Please enjoy. I am nothing if not a consummate host.”
I shifted closer, wary of every one of his intentions. I was no fool. Aleksei Petrov was a parasite, the kind that fed on the flesh and tragedies of every human being who could provide additional wealth to his empire. My family was no exception. He wanted to squash Church Exports into oblivion in order to bolster the Philadelphia Bratva. They wanted to be the biggest bad-asses, eliminating the competition. Our success had made them sweat.
As I reached for the drink, our fingers accidentally touched. I’d never been one for first attractions, knowing that the physicality of body to body connections was short-lived. However, the electricity soaring through my fingers, shifting directly into my pussy was almost too much to take. I only realized I’d sucked in my breath when his eyes flashed, the dimple on his chin even more pronounced.
Jerking back, the drink in my hand, I turned slightly in order to try to salvage some sort of professional demeanor. The thought was laughable. I was standing in the presence of evil.
“I consider your attempt to eradicate my life one of the best, a true compliment,” he offered, moving back toward his desk, swirling the liquid even as he stepped over the broken glass. “I suggest we have a toast.”
This wasn’t just audacity but some level of subjugation. I was ready to cut out his heart. Instead, I gave back the same smile he was giving me, allowing the rims of our glasses to touch. “Why the hell not? To eliminating baggage.”
His laugh was genuine, softening the lines on his face. I knew almost everything about the man from his tastes in wine and women, to cigars and expensive cars. What I didn’t know entirely about were his true weaknesses, with the exception of the one. Everyone had them, either family or friends, secrets they harbored deep inside.
I was no exception, but I’d gone to great lengths to hide mine.
“I really don’t want to eliminate you, Willow. You are a formidable enemy and one even I can learn from. I believe we can share many objectives together.”
“You are such a fool, Aleksei.”
“I’m many things, my sweet cherie, but a fool isn’t one of them.” He took his time savoring several sips of his drink then loosened the crisp bow tie he’d been wearing for the evening’s celebration. I had to admit, he looked dashing in his Armani tux, more like a celebrity than the prince of a mafia kingdom.
“Then we agree to disagree.” I mimicked his actions when taking a sip, closing my eyes and allowing a soft mew to come from deep within my throat. A single drop of the expensive liquid slipped past my lips.
Another brash move, his hand fisting my hair. An unexpected fearful sound escaped my mouth as a hint of terror trickled down my spine.
First, he growled as he lowered his head, dragging his tongue across the small amount of liquor. “Tasty.”
Every part of me quivered, my breath shallow and I almost pulled him in for a heated French kiss.
Easing back, his smile remained intact as he pulled out the ponytail holder then ran his fingers through my hair. “Much better. As I said, what a shame you’re not wearing the dress from earlier. I enjoyed studying your curves, the way your waist slid into your beautiful hips. And those long legs, the kind meant to wrap around a man while he’s fucking you. Just like earlier tonight.”
The way he said the words was nothing but a clear attempt to keep me nervous, on edge so he could take further advantage. I hated to admit that it was working.
He gave me a nod of respect and another tip of his glass before moving toward the floor-to-ceiling window. “I admire you, Willow, in several ways. I also have a certain level of respect for your family, but as you can imagine, I am unable to allow your indiscretions go without punishment.”
“Then get it over with. I want to go home and sleep in my bed. Alone. After drinking a toast to the asshole you really are.”
Even in the slight reflection of the glass, I could see a hint of anger flashing across his face. Maybe I’d been able to crack his armor.
“You’re not going home, Willow. I thought I was clear.”
“Excuse me? I accepted your deal. Punishment then you’d allow me to go. As far as working for you, that certainly will be on a limited basis.”
“My terms.” He took another sip of his drink. “And if you honestly think I’ll allow you to go in order to plot another attempt at taking my life, you’re mistaken. As far as I’m concerned, I own you. Every. Single. Inch. I believe that’s a fair exchange for the mistreatment you’ve give me as well as for the murder of my soldiers. One life for two.”
I tried to keep my anger in check even though I could feel a single bead of perspiration sliding down the back of my neck. He was in control at this moment. I couldn’t afford to risk another chance at escaping. “Have you no honor? You made a promise that you wouldn’t kill me.”
Over the course of a solid ten seconds, he turned around to face me, his expression rippled with an unspoken threat. “I have no intentions of killing you, Willow, unless you refuse to obey me.”
“Then what? What do you want? What kind of work do you need? You have dozens of men and women at your service. I’m merely one woman.”
“You are many things I require, Willow, and I am happy to provide answers to you.” Planting one hand on the desk’s surface, he leaned over, sliding his drink several inches away. “First, I require complete obedience in all things, surrender of your body whenever and however I require. You will learn about all aspects of pleasure and pain. I will become your master and teacher. Only I will give you permission to experience one or the other.”
My skin began to crawl.
“As far as the remaining soldiers who work for me, they certainly can’t provide something I desire, other than you of course.”
I realized I was sucking on my bottom lip, a nervous tic I’d believed cured. “What. Just tell me.”
“I don’t understand. What the hell else could you want from me?” My instincts were already kicking in. There was only one thing he could take from me that mattered.
“You see, I’m fully aware of what you and your brother are attempting to do, muscling in on not only my father’s regime but that of the Francesco family out of Chicago. You have no idea just how violent those boys are.” He waited to see what my reaction would be. “However, not nearly as savage as the Petrov family.”
I had no idea what he was talking about. What little I’d been told, my brother’s company was taking on the brunt of the Petrov family in Philadelphia, and the entire shipping arena in New Jersey. There was no way my brother could handle moving into another territory. He didn’t have the manpower and the attempt could be suicide. What was Aleksei’s game here? “You’re a fucking liar. Your organization is the one attempting to hijack our business.”
“And that’s why you’re a hired gun, assassinating your enemies. Tell me. Do you do that to fulfill some sick sense of humor or are they direct instructions from your brother?” He chortled, shaking his head.
“Dangerous times call for different tactics.” Yes, I’d followed my brother’s direction, orders that had turned me into a killer, but there had been good reasons.
Or so I’d thought.
My brother had sought revenge against Aleksei for some time. Although I’d never been privy to exactly why, I knew my brother’s vendetta had been ongoing for years. Had I taken out some of the Petrov soldiers? Yes, but they’d been vile men who deserved to die. Whatever was really going on here, I respected my brother Peter and would lay down my life if necessary.
Unlike this monster.
He cared about no one but himself. I knew he’d just as soon take out his own father, family honor shoved aside. Aleksei was simply that ruthless and power hungry.
“Just as I thought. He’s pulling your strings; curious for a woman of your obvious intelligence. We can talk about details at a later time, but let’s just say I’m going to increase my empire, sweet cherie, and my first start? Your brother’s company. You’re going to help me obtain it. Why? Because I’ll expose him as the cheat that he is. His business has never been seen as anything but legitimate thus far. I’ve checked into your brother’s holdings, including the various offshore accounts. His smuggling attempts, everything from illegal drugs to white slavery is atrocious. If I were to leak the information, stocks would plummet. Then all I will have to do is wait until there is no one willing to purchase your brother’s failing company. Imagine the toll on your family. On you.”
I was stunned, unable to think clearly. Illegal drugs? White slavery? I should have pulled the trigger earlier, but I’d hesitated, falling into the perfect trap. Now I was in a predicament from which there was no escape. “You’re fucking crazy.”
“You really want me to believe that you had no knowledge of what your brother was carrying in all those cargo ships?”
Blinking, the hum in my ears was enough to give me an instant headache. I’d never been to the Jersey shore, had never set foot on the shipping grounds. In fact, Peter had done everything to keep me away, including annihilating our enemies. But I honestly believed I was removing the scourges of the earth; criminals and murderers. I closed my eyes, trying desperately to push aside the horrible thoughts.
“But first things first,” he said as he shoved his hand into his pocket. “Undress.”
“What? Why?” My hand fluttered to my neck. He was serious.
“Because, cherie, I’m going to punish you in my way, the Bratva way. I’m going to whip that ass of yours. Then I’m going to fuck you. And don’t forget, Willow. As of tonight, this very moment, I own you. Every. Single. Inch.”