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Sacred Vow: A Dark Mafia Romance by Measha Stone – Sample

Chapter One

Izzy

I park my little Ford Tempo a block from the bar, between two black Escalades. It looks even more beat-up between the two luxury cars, but I don’t care. It’s mine.

And it’s the last gift my brother, Craig, gave me.

I draw in a slow breath as I step onto the sidewalk and spot the sign just outside the bar.

Windy City Tavern

The wooden sign swings from a pole just above the entrance. It’s warped and faded from years of sunshine beating down on it.

I stop short of the door and look around. One way and then the other. Three flat houses in a neat row across the street. The local pharmacy on the corner hasn’t changed since I was a kid; Mr. Mackey must still own it. A cheer goes up in the distance from the park only a few streets away. It’s baseball season.

An ache hits me. I played shortstop for a season when I was in sixth grade at that park.

Craig would come to my games on the weekends. Mom worked most Saturdays, so when she worked, he’d bring me here to Windy City Tavern. He’d get me a burger.

“Hey, you going in, or you just gonna stare at the door the whole day?” A man steps around me, pulling the door open.

“Going in,” I say when he keeps holding it for me. I thank him and head inside. It’s exactly how I remember, even the cigar stench, though Chicago has outlawed smoking in public buildings.

The man who opened the door for me brushes past and walks straight to the back of the bar, down a short hallway past the restrooms and into one of the offices.

Craig would go back there sometimes. I’d be sitting with my burger and pop, and he’d be back there for almost an hour.

“Can I get you something?” the woman behind the bar asks.

“Uh, sure. Can I get a whiskey sour?” I step up to the bar and settle on the stool.

“Sure thing.” She goes to work on making the drink, while I turn slightly to take in the bar. There’s a pool table in the corner, dartboards on the walls, and a mixture of high-top tables and booths spread throughout. But most people are at the bar, murmured conversations between men on the stools, sipping on beers while watching the Cubs game on the TV screens.

Everything around me is familiar. I’ve been here. I remember being here. I played pool on that table. Craig taught me how to throw darts on those boards. But the memories I want to come back are still light years away.

“Here you go.” The bartender slides my drink to me on a napkin. I hand her a few bills and tell her to keep the change.

The front door opens, and the afternoon light pours in. A few men walk past me, talking amongst themselves and head back through the same hallway.

“Hey, Jacek.” One man at the corner of the bar sticks his hand out to shake one of the newcomers’ hands. He stops, they chat quickly, a hushed conversation that ends with an eruption of laughter.

I reach for my glass while keeping an eye on them. I can’t hear them, but there’s something familiar about the man at the bar.

Instead of grabbing my drink, I end up knocking it over.

“Shit!” I jump off my stool as the liquid quickly rolls toward me. I grab all the napkins I can find and try to clean it up.

“It’s all right. No problem.” The bartender’s back with a towel helping me mop it all up. “You want another?” she asks.

I hand her the wet napkins I have balled in my hands.

“Yeah, sure.” I pick up the stool I knocked over when I leapt off and sink back on it. When I look up again, I realize I have an audience. The men at the corner of the bar are watching me and leaning toward each other talking.

I try to ignore their stares, and when the bartender brings me my new drink, I turn away a little. I’m here to search for memories locked away in my head somewhere, not get the attention of the locals.

Sipping my drink, I try again to make connections between old memories and those that I’ve lost. Nothing is happening other than me missing my brother even more. And this neighborhood. I grew up here.

I haven’t been back in seven years, since Craig passed away and Mom took me down to Lincoln, Nebraska. She said it was safer for us there, and being all of fifteen, I didn’t have a choice.

Things are different now. And I want my life back.

I want the blank spot in my memory filled in.

“Isolde.” A familiar voice sends a trickle of apprehension down my back.

I gently put my glass back on the bar, turn on my stool, and come face to chest with a man I haven’t seen in seven years.

A man I swore I never wanted to see again.

“Andrei.” I lean my elbow on the bar, trying to take a casual pose. “What are you doing here?” Looking beyond him, I see one of the men that walked in only minutes ago.

“That’s my question.” He slides his hands into the front pockets of his trousers, pushing his suit jacket back. He’s just as big as I remember, maybe even bigger now. I definitely appreciate his muscular figure more now than I did as a teenager.

I don’t appreciate the dark glare he’s setting on me, though.

“I’m having a drink.” I bring the glass to my lips, keeping my eyes locked on his as I drink my whiskey sour.

“Well, you had it.” He takes the empty glass and hands it to the bartender, who comes running to collect it from him. “She’s done.”

“Still a bossy bastard.” I fold my arms over my chest. I’m not a teenager anymore. Andrei can’t boss me around here. I’m an adult now.

“Are you visiting a friend or something?”

“No.”

“I heard you might be back in town, but I thought that had to be wrong. Because you know it’s not a good idea for you to be in Chicago.” He pushes a fake smile on his lips.

“I don’t know that.” I lift a shoulder. “I know you told my mother that. I know she believed it. But it’s not something I know.” It’s semantics, but still the truth. I have no idea why he pushed my mother to take me to Nebraska.

He looks behind him, checks our surroundings, and gets closer to me. His pants brush against my knees. He smells like spiced leather.

“Why are you in this particular bar, Isolde?” he asks in a low voice, making sure we aren’t overheard.

“I hate when you call me that.” I thought he did it when I was younger because he was trying to tease me, but he’s not teasing now. Nothing about his firmly set jaw or his stiff posture suggests he’s looking for a laugh.

“Why this bar?” he repeats.

“Just walking down memory lane is all.” I don’t dare tell him my real purpose. One of the few things I remember after Craig’s passing was how relieved Andrei was about the hole in my memory. If he realizes I’m trying to fill that gap, he might start getting in my way.

“Some memories are dangerous.” He flattens one hand on the bar, the other on the back of my stool and leans in closer.

“Why is it dangerous, Andrei?” I’ve been in limbo with this for too long. “What are you afraid I’ll find if I start remembering things?” Maybe it’s dangerous for him.

“You should go back to Nebraska.”

I jump off the stool, landing on his foot. He barely winces but it gives me just enough room to move away from him.

“You should mind your own business.” I toss another couple of bills onto the bar for the bartender, then turn for the door.

“Isolde,” he calls after me, his voice heavy with authority.

I pause at the door, my hands already on the bar.

“No more memory walks.”

I flip him the middle finger and shove the door open.

My heart bangs against my ribs as I hurry to my car. I’m not an idiot. Andrei Petrov wasn’t someone to mess with seven years ago.

Before I get into my car, I look back at the bar. There’s no one outside, but that doesn’t mean no one’s watching.

The bar was a bust, but worse, it put me on Andrei’s radar.

He said he’d heard I was back in town. I’ve been careful. I haven’t asked questions or reached out to any of Craig’s old friends. How did he know I was back?

And how long do I have before he tries to kick me out?

Chapter Two

Izzy

The little hairs on the back of my neck stand up as soon as I enter the club.

I look up, sweeping my gaze over my surroundings to find the reason for my sudden anxiety.

“What are you looking for?” Marlena nudges me from my search of the upper balcony at Kraze. She presses herself closer to me.

“I don’t know,” I say, shuffling through the crowd another few feet toward the bar. Kraze opened a year ago, but it’s been impossible to get into without knowing someone. Marlena worked some magic to get us in, but I’m not sure we’re as lucky as I thought when she told me about it.

I’m still on edge after bumping into Andrei three days ago. The club scene was never really his thing, there’s no reason to believe he’s here. But something is putting me on alert.

“This place is insane.” Marlena shoves away someone from behind her and wiggles herself next to me when we finally get up to the bar.

“Hey. You okay?” She eyes the three men huddled beside me doing a round of shots and links her arm through mine.

“Yeah. I just got a funny feeling is all. How about you?” I look down to where our arms are linked.

“Don’t want to lose you in the crowd.” She smiles.

“Yeah, it’s way more crowded than I thought it would be.” I turn to the bartender who’s waiting impatiently. “Two bottles of Prosecco.” Why spend the night fighting off the crowd at the bar when we can pour our own drinks?

He checks our wrists and shakes his head.

“You need bottle service for that,” he informs us.

“Okay, fine. We’ll have that,” I say.

He laughs. “You need a table in the back section. Do you have a table back there?”

I’m tempted to lie, but I’m sure a club like this has a system in place.

“No.”

“Want something else then?” he prods.

“Fine. Two glasses of Prosecco.” I pull out my card and hand it to him. Marlena untangles her arm with mine and pulls out her phone.

“I’ll get the next round,” Marlena says while swiping through messages on her phone. I see one fly by with a familiar name.

“Something going on?” I ask, tapping her phone with my fingertip.

“No. No.” She swipes away another message that comes in, this one all in caps, then shoves the phone in her back pocket.

We grab our drinks and slither our way along the bar to a less crowded spot with an empty high-top.

“You sure everything’s okay? Your phone’s going off like crazy tonight.” I sip the drink. Not the most sophisticated drink, but it tingles my nose and dulls my nerves.

“It’s nothing. Just work.” She waves away my concern and takes a gulp of her drink. “You are gonna kill in that dress.” She gestures to the dress she squeezed me into before we left her apartment.

I traded in my uniform for the slinkiest, shortest, sexiest black mini dress I’ve ever seen. There’s a slit on the side that goes clear up to my hip; panties were not an option with this thing. Or a bra since the back is all crisscrossing straps that dip down to nearly the crack of my ass. I was a little surprised I fit into it.

“It’s too tight and too short,” I complain again, pulling on the hem of the dress.

She laughs. “It is not. It’s perfect.” She checks her phone again. “Sorry.” She shoves it into her purse. “No more. Promise.”

“You’re the one that wanted to come here,” I remind her as I sip my drink.

“We are twenty-two and single. Staying home on a Friday night is basically a crime.” She winks and looks around the club.

“I thought you liked being single.”

“Oh, I love it.” She nods. “I have no intention of changing it, but a few dates with a nice guy wouldn’t hurt.” She goes back to her search.

She turns around toward another part of the dance floor and nudges me.

“Shit. I didn’t think he’d be here.” Concern laces Marlena’s voice.

I follow her line of sight to a figure stepping out of one of the rooms upstairs. It’s too dark to see his features, but the build is right. His hand swipes over his suit jacket, finding the button and buttoning it with one hand.

My stomach clenches. I have to be wrong. Please let me be wrong.

“Who is that?” I ask, my throat drying.

“That is Andrei Petrov,” Marlena says. “He owns the club.”

Electric fear shoots up my spine. Andrei is here. This is his club.

He hated night clubs. Why the hell does he own one?

I should be running, but I can’t seem to get my eyes off of him. Now that he isn’t right on top of me with his arrogant anger, I can appreciate him better. His hair is a little longer than years ago. I hadn’t noticed it the other day.

Andrei gets to the elevator, hits the button, then turns around to look down at the crowd. At his kingdom.

“Andrei Petrov owns this club.” I say the words, forcing them to register in my brain. Maybe that will get my feet to move and get me the hell out of here. I’d been able to get away from him the other day. I’m not confident he’s going to let me just walk away a second time.

“Yeah.” Marlena looks to me. “Izzy, what’s wrong?”

I bring my glass to my lips but find it empty.

“I think we should go,” I say, still keeping my gaze glued to his form.

The elevator doors open behind him, but he doesn’t move. He’s still surveying the crowd.

A lightning bolt of energy strikes through me as his eyes find me. He’s still a good distance away, but I can feel his stare. The little hairs on the back of my neck stand up and dance along with the music. His hands tighten on the railing until his knuckles go white.

Even from here, in the dim lighting, I can see the tic in his jaw.

“Why? What’s wrong?” Marlena wraps her arm around my waist, pulling me toward her.

Andrei turns around, hitting the elevator call button again and the doors open for him. Does the whole world just do what the man commands the moment he commands it?

“Do you know him?” More alarm sounds in her voice.

“No.” I swallow. “Not anymore.”

Once he disappears into the elevator, I lose track of him. The crowd blocks the elevator doors on this floor; for all I know, he could be walking out the front door.

My stomach flutters. A single glass of Prosecco isn’t going to cut it. I should have gotten something stronger, something that would ignite some bravado in me.

“I think we should go,” I repeat the best idea I’ve had tonight.

“All right. Yeah, let’s leave,” she says, putting her empty glass on the high-top table.

I spin around, ready to battle the crowd to get out of the club as quickly as we can and come eyes to chest with three security guards. Marlena maneuvers away from them to stand beside me. Other patrons have backed away but are hanging close by to watch what happens.

“Isolde Madson?” The one in the middle, with a Marine haircut, stares down at me. He didn’t even raise his voice and I can hear him over the thump of the music.

It occurs to me I can lie, but he’ll just ask for my ID, if he’s any good at his job, and I doubt Andrei hires anyone inept at their job.

“Who wants to know?” At least my voice doesn’t shake.

“She hasn’t done anything wrong.” Marlena loops her arm through mine again. “We’ll leave.” She tugs on me.

“Come with us.” Marine man crooks his finger.

“Both of you,” the guy to the right says, same fierce expression, longer hair pulled into a ponytail at the base of his neck.

“What for?” I hold my ground.

“Maybe we should just leave, Izzy. Let’s just go.” She tugs again. “Seriously, you don’t want to fuck with the Petrovs. Let’s go.”

“She’s not going anywhere,” Marine man confirms. “Either come with us willingly, or we’ll have to bring you.”

I’m not sure what the hell that means, but by the look of these gladiators, I’m sure I don’t want to find out.

“Fine. We’ll follow you.” I gesture for him to get moving.

“Izzy,” Marlena hisses in my ear. “I’d really rather not.”

“I don’t think we have a choice,” I respond, but I’m sure my words are lost to the music as we embark on our little parade toward a door in the back. The crowd opens up like the Red Sea as our entourage escorts us, one man in the front and the other two in the back. I suppose making a run for it won’t work.

We’re brought to an office down a labyrinth of hallways.

“Stay here,” Marine man orders, shutting the door behind us.

“Izzy. What the fuck!” Marlena pulls her phone out and starts tapping away. “What are we going to do?”

“I don’t know.” I make my way around the office, every step a painful reminder that my feet were not made for four-inch heels.

She mutters more to herself, texting and swiping.

“Marlena. Are you okay?”

“I would really rather not be in here right now.” She’s panicking.

“Nothing’s going to happen,” I assure her. “Don’t worry.” If only I could take my own advice.

“It’s not that. I mean it’s not Andrei Petrov… it’s just…” Before she can finish her explanation, the door to the office opens.

Everything inside of me clenches.

Andrei steps inside, another man right behind him. As soon as his intense brown eyes hit me, my breath catches and every ounce of rage I’ve held onto for the last seven years balls into a weight in my stomach.

I’d been too surprised at the bar when he popped up out of nowhere to really react to him being there. This time is different. This time he’s had me dragged away from the crowd and dumped in his office.

“Isolde.” Andrei utters my name with a voice as smooth as aged whiskey.

“Izzy,” I correct him again. No one calls me by my full name. My mother didn’t, not even when I was in trouble.

Andrei ignores me and looks to my left, at Marlena. He raises an eyebrow, then turns to his associate.

“Viktor, do me a favor and take that one outside.” He points to Marlena.

I step in front of her.

“No. She stays with me.” I try to put my arms out to protect her, but she’s already moving around them.

“I’m not going anywhere with him. I’ll stay right here.” She points to the floor.

“Sorry, you gotta go,” Viktor says with a thick Russian accent. He steps forward, gesturing for her to move toward the door.

“No.” She tries to dodge him, but he easily grabs her arm and hauls her over his shoulder. Before I can get to her, Andrei stands in my way, and she’s carried from the office. I can hear her hollering curses at Viktor.

Andrei turns and quietly shuts the door. While he’s occupied with that, I slip out of my shoe.

After locking the door, he turns around again, facing me. I’m two steps away, the heel of my shoe poised high in the air. Another step, and I drive my arm down.

The tip of my heel aimed right at his face.

Chapter Three

Andrei

“Dammit!”

I dodge her swing. She’s thrown off balance and falls into me. Before she can get onto her feet, I grab her wrist and wrangle it back until she cries out.

“You’re hurting me!” She finally drops the insanely high-heeled shoe before her wrist is damaged.

“I’m hurting you?” Still holding her wrist, I swing her around so her back is to the wall and walk her back to it. I shove her hand against the wall, over her head, then grab her other hand before she gets any grand ideas for that one and does the same.

Blazing caramel eyes meet mine when I have her fully pinned. Her cheeks are red, more from the exertion of her attack than anything else, I’m sure.

“You tried to stab me.” I say it slow, with awe and irritation at her bravery. If she was anyone else, she’d be dead by now.

But she’s not anyone else. She’s Isolde Madson.

My teeth grind as my jaw tightens just thinking her fucking name. I’d had little hope she’d actually leave town after our short meeting the other day, and it seems I was right. Here she is, right in front of me. In my own club, trying to maim me.

“I missed.” She tries to shove me away, but I’m not letting her go anywhere. Not until I have my answers. Then she’ll be on the first fucking flight out of Chicago. Which is where I should have put her when I found her at the bar.

I’d heard whispers of her back in town, wandering old neighborhood haunts. But I’d thought it a harmless visit that would last a few days before she’d go back home to the safety of Nebraska.

“Not the point.” I lower my gaze, traveling down the soft swell of her breasts, down the tight fucking dress to the slit in the side. My jaw tenses. She’s all grown up now, but still the brat I knew.

“What are you doing here, Isolde?” I bring my free hand to her jaw, pushing her head back against the wall, so she has to look up the length of her nose at me. This time I want an answer and I’m not letting her leave until I get it.

If hatred had a scent, Isolde would be covered in it. Her eyes darken as she stares up at me.

“I live here, Andrei,” she says finally. Her nostrils flare with her frustration at being pinned to the wall, but I’m not letting her roam the room freely until I know she doesn’t have any other weapons on her.

“No. You live in Lincoln, Nebraska.” The last I heard she was enrolled in a nursing program at the local university.

She rolls those pretty caramel eyes of hers. “I moved back six months ago.” There’s a snip to her tone.

“What are you doing here, Isolde?” I repeat my question. “Your mother assured me you both would be—”

“She died,” Isolde cuts me off. “Last year.”

I ease up on my hold around her wrists. She doesn’t miss the slight change in pressure, and yanks hard downward. She’s quick, but I’m faster. I get her pushed right back against the wall with little effort.

“Let me go,” she demands.

“Not yet.” I have the advantage of being taller and stronger. Her missing a shoe keeps her unbalanced, and that works for me, too.

A soft smile pulls at her lips and her forehead softens.

I manage to twist my hips just as her knee launches up toward my groin. She hits my leg instead.

“You’re not playing fair.” I spin her around, shoving her chest-first against the wall and pull her arms behind her. “Kicking a guy in the nuts is a cheap shot.” I press my mouth to her ear, inhaling the sweetness of her anger, her hatred.

“You should know. You taught me.” She tries to keep up her bravado, but the tremor that runs through her body when I press myself against her betrays her.

“That’s right. I did.” I run a hand down her bare arm. “Any more weapons I should know about?” I move my hand down to the damn slit. She has more curves since the last time I saw her, and every inch of it works for her.

“If I did, do you think I’d tell you?” She tries to sound brave, but there’s the nervousness again, shaking her voice. Her attack was spontaneous, I think. She doesn’t seem to have any plans now that I have her in my grasp.

“Guess I’ll have to check for myself then.” I grab the material at the slit and pull it aside, exposing her bare ass.

Fuck. There is only so much resolve a man can have, and she’s testing every bit of mine.

She sucks in a sharp breath when my knuckles graze over her ass cheek.

“No panties.” I cup one cheek in my hand, angling my body away from hers. “Were you hoping for something tonight?” I squeeze her ass until my fingernails dig into her flesh and a wisp of air blows from her lips.

“You’re a fucking prick.” She squirms, but still gets nowhere.

“Such foul language.” I release her ass, gliding my hand around her waist to her stomach. “Anything here?” I slide my hand across her belly, then up further, to her breasts. A slight tremor runs through her at my touch. I cup one breast. “Nothing here. How about the other?” I tweak her nipple easily through the flimsy fabric of the dress before moving to the other side.

“I don’t have anything,” she finally says. I’m already gathering the skirt up into my fist to get better access between her thighs.

“You sure?” I say into her ear. “I’m happy to keep exploring.”

“I hate you.” She jerks her body to the side, barely away from my touch.

“You’ve told me that before.” The night I brought her and her mother to the airport and escorted them to the private jet waiting for them. She was only fifteen then. Grief stricken and angry, she’d raged at me. It changed nothing. The plane took off twenty minutes later, and I haven’t put my eyes on her since. Until the bar.

I drop her dress. “I’m going to let you turn around now. If you try to attack me again, I won’t go easy on you, Isolde.” It’s a warning I almost hope she disregards. “Understood?”

“Understood,” she answers immediately.

I release her and snatch the shoe from the floor before she can get a hold of it and make another try at my face. Flipping it over in my palm, I shake my head.

“Even if you stabbed me with this thing, you wouldn’t have killed me,” I say. Although I suppose it would be possible. The heel is impossibly tall. I’ll never understand why women walk on these damn stilts.

“I wasn’t trying to kill you.” She tugs at the skirt of the dress, straightening it back out so it lies perfectly over the curve of her hips, putting the slit right up the side of her thigh to her hip.

“Then what was the goal? Get my attention with that fucking dress then slice my face?” I move over to my desk and drop the shoe on top.

She looks away. Her eyes are glued to a framed photo on the wall. Opening night of Kraze. Three years ago, now.

“What are you here for, Isolde?” I break the silence.

Angry eyes swing back to me, but still, she remains quiet.

“Why did you come back?” I’m getting tired of the repetition.

“Craig is buried here.”

My chest tightens at the mention of her brother.

“I want to bury Mom’s ashes beside him and Dad. She deserves that much.” Her voice hitches as she says the words.

I keep my expression blank. If she’s looking to get a rise out of me, she’ll have to try harder. I’ve already grieved the loss of my friend.

“What is it then? You wanted to show me what a big, strong girl you are by showing up at my club and flaunting your return?” My palms itch to grab her and drag her to the first plane I find on the tarmac at O’Hare.

“I’m not a little girl anymore, Andrei. You can’t get under my skin so easily.” She puts a hand on her hip.

I take a long moment, letting my gaze drag over the swell of her breasts, the curves of her hips, and grin before I look back into her eyes.

“I can see that, Isolde. You’re all grown up now. All woman.” I arch a brow. “Is that what you wanted to show me?” Fuck, I want to see more.

She rolls her eyes and drops her hand from her hip. “I had no idea this was your club. I was just coming out for some fun. Now that I know, I’ll steer clear.”

“Oh?” I fold my arms over my chest. This should be interesting. “What sort of fun?” Kraze isn’t known for upper-class entertainment. The young with too much money in their pockets come to burn their daddy’s money. Hookups happen, no fairytale endings come out of here.

She takes a slow breath, like she’s trying to figure out what to say.

“I don’t want anything to do with you, Andrei. I just want to live my life. That’s all.”

I stare at her a long beat. When she was younger, she’d tug on the end of her hair when she was lying. But she’s seven years older now, more mature. She probably has a different tell.

I’m going to enjoy finding it.

“You aren’t supposed to be in Chicago. You know that.”

“I know you said it’s dangerous for us to be here and my mom bought it. But it’s been seven years. Whatever danger you thought there was after Craig’s death has to be gone by now.” Her shoulders drop a fraction.

“It’s not.” I grab her shoe and bring it over to her, thrusting it at her. “You can’t stay in Chicago.”

She yanks the heel from my hand and wobbles on one foot while putting it on.

“You don’t get to order me around.” Some bravado has returned. “I have every right to live here.”

“You’ve been seen in town. It might make some people uneasy having you running around the city walking down memory lane.” I use her words.

And there’s no might about it; her poking at old memories will make people uneasy. And those people aren’t going to wait to see if she has information buried in her lost moments, they’ll want to extract it themselves.

“Dammit, Isolde. You’re not safe here.” My blood heats. She’s the same stubborn girl I buckled into that airplane seat seven years ago, but the rest of her has grown all the way up.

“Why?” she demands, shifting her weight to her other foot. The skirt of her dress rides up her thigh with the movement. The small birthmark on her thigh peeks out. I’d like to run my tongue over that mark.

“Because.” I work my fists open. “If I have to drag you out of town, I will.”

“More threats from the big bad Andrei Petrov.” She waves her hand in the air. “I’m not afraid of you.” She turns like she’s going to walk out of my office.

But I’m not done with her.

Grabbing her arm, I spin her to face me.

“You stubborn girl!” I shake her.

“I hate you!” she seethes. I’m sure she means it.

“That’s fine. Hate me from Nebraska,” I say, looking down at her. I made a promise. A vow. And I won’t go back on it now.

“No!” She tries to rip her arm from my grasp.

“You’re not staying in Chicago.” Nothing she says or does will make that fact change. I will drag her out if I need to. I release her for the second time.

“I’m not leaving.” She raises her chin, putting her gaze in line with mine. “You don’t own me, Andrei.”

She’s right about that. If I did, that dress would be in the fireplace ablaze right now. Her ass would be just as hot, too.

“You need to stop this.” I put my hand up when she looks ready to start with another remark. “I’m giving you until tomorrow. Then I’ll take the matter into my own hands.”

“I’m not one of your little soldiers.” She smooths her dress over her hips. “I can take care of myself. I don’t need you.”

She stares at me, waiting for a reaction.

She’s not going to get one. This argument is over.

“I’m going to have someone take you home. You have a lot of packing to do.” I turn on my heel and jerk my office door open.

“I can get myself home,” she says, sauntering toward the door.

“Isolde.” Her name drops like a stone, stilling her. She keeps her gaze locked in front of her. “Tomorrow. If you are still in Chicago, you’re going to regret it. I’m giving you an out here, be smart. Take it.”

Her jaw clenches. Her throat works as she swallows hard, but still, she doesn’t turn to me.

“The day I bend to your orders is the day hell freezes over,” she says in a low, firm voice, then stalks off down the corridor.

Only when she turns the corner do I take my eyes off her and grab my phone, dialing the one person I know I can trust.

“Isolde Madson’s leaving Kraze now. I need an address. Home and work.”

It doesn’t take long.

“Got it. Sending the info to your phone now.”

It vibrates in my hand, and I take a peek.

“Thanks.” I hang up the call and stare at the address. “Got you, Izzy.”

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