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Surrendered Innocence: A Dark Mafia Romance by Measha Stone – Sample

Chapter One


Snitches get stitches and thrown into ditches, Mandy.

My younger brother’s words echo in my mind as I step over a broken glass pipe and make my way down the dark alley.

A cat screeches from up ahead followed by dark laughter. My stomach tightens, but I press on. If there’s even the slightest chance, I have to look. When I get closer to the end of the alley, the crying cat scurries past me, hugging itself to the building as it makes its escape.

“Stupid cat. I was only trying to feed it.” A girl’s voice lures me forward.

There’s too little light for me to make out more than a figure. Her eyes have adjusted to the darkness, though.

“Who are you? What do you want?” She stumbles back a step. The dull light from the single streetlamp hits her face. She’s not young at all, but my age.

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” I say cautiously. I don’t want to chance her running away before I can ask her what I’ve come here to ask.

“You didn’t.” She raises her chin with fake bravado. “What do you want?”

“Who are you talking to, Tammy?” A man staggers out of the darkness, away from a makeshift tent pressed into the corner of the alley. The stale stench of cigarettes and whiskey hits me as he gets closer. It’s mingled with his own body odor that hasn’t been washed away probably in days.

“Just some woman.” Tammy keeps her eyes on me.

“I’m looking for someone, actually.” I fish the photograph from my coat pocket and move closer to them. She stretches out her hand to take the photo, exposing the dark track marks on her forearm. My heart sinks. The scene is too familiar.

She takes the photo and looks at it intently, while her partner takes a passing glance and grunts.

“Why are you looking for him?” he asks, his eyes narrowing. “Is he in trouble?”

“I don’t know. That’s why I’m looking for him.” I sigh. “He’s my brother, Gunner. His real name is Percy. Sometimes he goes by Viper.” He never liked his real name, and I couldn’t blame him. He started going by Gunner in middle school because he said it was more manly and switched to Viper once he found too much enjoyment on the streets.

“The picture was taken three years ago. So, he’ll be a little older now, his hair’s probably a little longer, maybe has a beard?”

If he didn’t shave, he’d have a full beard within only a few days. And when he’s using, he forgets all about shaving. Or eating.

“I just want to know he’s okay. Have you… have you seen him?” It should get easier, waiting for the answer to this question. But no matter how many times I walk away from these conversations knowing nothing more, my breath still catches when I’m waiting for the answer.

“No. I haven’t seen him before.” The girl frowns. “He’s cute though.”

“Cute.” The man scoffs. “What do you know about cute?” He snatches the picture from her hand and shoves it back at me.

“Whatever.” She rolls her eyes and takes a step back. “I’m tired. Good luck finding Gunner/Percy/Viper.” She walks away from me, scratching the back of her neck hard as she climbs into the tent.

“Thanks,” I say. He keeps staring at me, like he’s waiting for something.

“You got a few bucks?” he finally asks. I glance at his arm. His sweatshirt is pushed up enough that his track marks are visible. There’s a fresh sore on his left cheek that’s been scratched. Any cash I give him will probably go straight into a vein.

I shake my head. “No. I’m sorry. I have this though.” I grab the restaurant gift cards I carry with me when I go looking for Gunner and hand them over to him. “There’s enough for you both to have dinner. Maybe even breakfast.”

He squishes his lips together like it’s the last thing he wants, but after a pause he grabs it.

“Thanks,” he mutters and turns his back on me. “Hope you find him,” he throws over his shoulder.

The blast of a car horn greets me as I step out of the alley. Traffic has come to a standstill at the light thanks to a bus unloading. I pull out my phone to check the time. It’s barely seven-thirty, and it’s Friday night. If Gunner is around this area, he’s probably not hanging out in the alleys. Maybe I should be checking bars and club scenes.

It’s been three years since I’ve seen my little brother. I don’t know if he’s using again or if he’s alive, or if he’s safe. But until I know for sure what happened to him, I’m going to keep looking.

I’m his big sister. It’s my job.

Even with the Friday night traffic, it only takes me fifteen minutes to get home once I catch the right bus. I climb up the stairs to the two-bedroom apartment I share with Natalie. My feet hurt from a full day at the office and then walking around town chasing ghosts. I’m tired and could use a hot bath.

“Hey, Mandy.” Chad, Natalie’s boyfriend, grins at me when I get inside.

So much for the relaxing night in.

I drop my purse on the hook. “Hey, Chad. Where’s Natalie?”

“Taking a shower.” He jumps over the back of the couch and grabs his game controller. “You gonna be home tonight?” he asks while his game loads up.

I sigh. “I think I’ll go out.” I reach over the couch and grab a chip from the bowl next to him. “You guys have big plans?”

“Dinner, movie, you know.” He chuckles. I do know. The two of them fuck like rabbits. And they’re not quiet.

“I might go to a club.” I chomp on the chip.

“Oh, yeah? If you do, go to Mad House. Great DJs, and the drinks aren’t watered down like most places. The door fee is a little heavy, though.”

“Thanks.” I grab another chip. “Maybe I’ll do that.”

Once alone in my room, I grab my phone to text Anya, a new friend from work. She’s not technically working with me anymore; today was her last day. But she’s nice, and I’m pretty sure she needs a night out as badly as I do today.

On second thought, I decide not to text. There’s too much of a chance she’ll decline so she can stay home. She and her husband are on the outs, and she’s staying at her old apartment. If I give her the chance, she’ll stay home and wallow. And I definitely need a partner if I’m hitting a club.

Opening my closet, I stare at my choices. Two of them. A pink dress I wore to prom and a blue dress that I bought promising I’d go out more. Neither fit anymore.

“I need a social life.” I head to Natalie’s closet.

Chapter Two


People crawl over each other to get to the bar. The music beats down my eardrums. This is the perfect place for a distraction.

Anya and I inch closer to the bar.

I tap Anya on the shoulder. “I have to pee! I’ll be right back!” I yell in her ear. She nods that she heard me, and I squeeze through the crowd to get away from the bar and head toward the bathrooms.

Thankfully, the owners had enough smarts among them to make the women’s room large so there’s no line when I get there. After I wash my hands, I check my phone for messages.

Been a while. We should talk.

My stomach takes a nosedive, pulling my heart with it. I blink a few times, making sure I’m not looking through wine goggles. I can’t deny I’m feeling the effects of every glass I’ve had so far.

I shoot back a response; positive it’s going to add up to a big heap of nothing. Like always.

I finish my self-soothing mantras that don’t work as well after half a dozen drinks, then dig through my purse for my lipstick to reapply. I blink a few times to bring my image in the mirror into focus then swipe the ruby red across my lips.

After a quick finger comb through my hair, I head back to the high-top table Anya and I were lucky enough to snag for the night. Mad House is aptly named. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone clubbing, but I don’t remember so many people squished into one space. The dance floor is overflowing, and I have to wiggle between dancers and the people still waiting at the bar to get back to our table.

“Who’d you kiss?” Anya laughs when she makes it back with our drinks.

I touch my lips. “No one. I reapplied.”

“It looks like you missed.”

I grab the napkin from beneath my drink and wipe at my mouth, trying to fix it. “Better?”

Anya shakes her head, still laughing. “Worse,” she yells over the music.

I crumble up the napkin and toss it on the table. “Who am I kidding? The lipstick doesn’t help anyway.” Self-pity. I’ve had more drinks than I probably should have.

“What?” Her eyes go wide.

“Nothing.” I wave my hand and pick up the glass of wine. It’s a sweet white wine—my favorite.

“Hello, ladies.” Three men crowd around our little table, their smiles cocked and ready.

“Can we buy you another round?” the tallest one of the bunch asks, buddying up next to me.

“We just got these, but thanks.” I fist the stem of my glass and take a step toward Anya.

“Thanks, guys, but we’re just having fun tonight.” She waves them away. Their smiles aren’t so bright now.

“That’s what we’re here for too. My name’s Teddy, that’s Jason, and that’s Tommy,” the shorter of the three pipes up then runs his tongue over his top teeth.

I recoil an inch; he looks like he’s ready to lick our faces.

“We mean fun alone.” My eyes narrow. “Maybe you can find another table.”

“But I like this one.” Jason, the tall guy, scoots closer to me. When I move over again, I bump into Anya, making her stumble.

“Whoa, careful.” Tommy leans into me to talk into my ear. I nudge him off me.

“Thanks. I’m fine.”

“Looks like you ladies need someone to take care of you tonight.” Jason runs his clammy fingers down my arm.

I turn away, but he grabs me. “Don’t run away. We’re just talking.”

“You should go,” Anya yells at him. The club is packed, but no one takes any notice of what’s happening at our little table in the corner. Even if we were to scream, it would only get lost in the music.

“Why? It’s early still.” Tommy touches the earring dangling from Anya’s ear. “These are pretty.” He tugs on the earring, forcing her to move toward him if she doesn’t want her earlobe ripped.

“Really. You should go.” I shove at Jason.

Teddy stands across the table, watching the scene. He’s not intervening, and it doesn’t look like he will. It’s like he wants the bigger guys to catch the prey for him and he’ll just take whatever is left of the carcasses once they’re done.

The smile slips from Tommy’s lips. “I don’t think so.” He grabs Anya and pulls her against him. “I think we’re having fun right here.”

Anya shoves at his shoulders but he doesn’t move away. Instead, he laughs. “She’s a fighter.”

Jason’s fingers dig deeper into my arm as I struggle to get away from him. His fingernails bite into my skin.

“This one too,” Jason yells to his friend. He pulls me back a step until his hard dick presses against my ass. My throat closes around thick bile creeping up trying to get out.

Jason spins me around until I’m facing him, then clamps his hand around the back of my neck and pulls me to him. In the next breath, his wet lips smash against mine. I bite down hard and blood pours onto my tongue.

“What the fuck?” Jason screams out, shoving me away from him. I fall into Anya, but she’s able to get our balance to keep us from falling onto our asses.

“You fucking kissed me.” I wipe my hand across my mouth, his blood shining on my palm.

“She fucking bit me.” Jason probes his bloody tongue.

“You’re lucky that’s all you got.” A deep voice penetrates through the music and the sound of the crowds.

I recognize him. He’s the man I’ve seen sitting in the hallway at work the past few weeks. He never comes into the office or any other office on our floor; he just sits in the hallway like he’s waiting for someone.

What is he doing here?

He lifts his eyes to us then flicks them to the side. Anya sucks in a sharp breath, and I have a good feeling as to who is standing behind her. Next, three other men show up; security from the club.

“Take these assholes out back,” Arman, Anya’s husband, directs them, pointing at Tommy, Jason, and Teddy. Teddy, I notice, has a bloody nose and is glaring at Anya.

Anya and I stand back to back, each with a tall, dark Russian man glaring down at us. I’m not sure if we’re safe with them or not. And why is my Russian glaring at me? I don’t even know him.

“I’ve seen you before.” More than a few times, I made an excuse to go up to the front desk to see if he was still there, hoping he was. I never garnered the courage to talk to him, or even to go out in the hall when he was sitting there, so the little glimpses had to be enough. I slowly rub my palm over my black dress, wiping away Jason’s blood. I should keep my words to myself but the several glasses of wine I’ve had has loosened it beyond my control.

“My name is Maxim.” He says nothing else, no last name, no explanation as to why he’s there or who he is, just his first name.

“My name’s Mandy,” I blurt out.

The left side of his lips tics. “I know.”

“You do? How? Who told you?” My questions fly out fast and even to me sound a little paranoid. But this man, this huge, menacing—and dangerously handsome—man keeps staring at me like he’s going to pounce on me, and I’m not sure I’d stop him if he did.

He gives a pointed glance at my wineglass and asks, “How many have you had?”

“I lost count at sex—I mean sex—fuck—I mean six,” I blurt out then burst into a fit of giggles. Giggles! I’m too old to giggle, but here I am doing just that.

Didn’t I want to ask him something?

“Six glasses.” He picks up the glass. “Just wine?” He looks disappointed. Did he think I should have been downing shots of fireball? Doesn’t he know that will make me sick and I’ll end up spending the night hugging the toilet?

“I’ve seen you before.” Didn’t I say that already?

“He hides behind the plant in the hallway,” Anya says from behind me then we both break out laughing.

“Why would you live in a plant?” I laugh harder.

“All right.” Arman’s voice breaks through our laughter. “Let’s get them home.”

“I’ll take this one.” Maxim gently cups my elbow.

I pull away from his grip, and my laughter dies. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not right here.” But then I start laughing again, because he’s frowning, and I know I’m supposed to be scared, but I can’t… I think maybe it was seven glasses of wine, not six—maybe eight? Do I count the glass I had with Natalie before I went over to Anya’s?

“You have to be firm with them, Mandy, or they won’t take you seriously,” Anya says, but her voice trails off.

I look back at Maxim. “Do we have to leave?”

“Yes.” He nods.

“Should we let him take Anya?” I point toward her, being escorted away by her husband. “She’s mad at him.”

“He’s her husband. He won’t hurt her,” he promises and cups my elbow again. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”

I sigh. Suddenly I’m very tired. “Fine.” I look around for my purse but can’t find it.

“What are you looking for?” He sounds annoyed now. I’m taking up too much of his time.

“My purse. Maybe those guys took it.” I take a step in the direction the security guards whisked them off to, but Maxim tightens his hold and pulls me back to him.

“It’s here.” He lifts the small bag from where it’s hanging over my shoulder.

“Oh.” Suddenly there are tears in my eyes. Dammit. I’m an idiot. I quickly wipe them away. “If you can just get me a cab, I’ll get home all right.” I gently pry my elbow from his grip, but he’s not having it. He slides his hand down my arm until our fingers are entwined.

“I’ll take you home.” He tugs and then I’m walking. He easily winds us through the crowds; they all part for him when they see him coming. I catch one woman licking her lips when she notices him, but then she sees me, and daggers shoot from her eyes.

“Bitch,” she throws at me when we pass her. She folds her arms over her chest.

“Why would you call me that?” I tug on Maxim’s hand, but he doesn’t stop. “Wait. I want to know why she said that.”

He stops, looks down at me, then over my shoulder. “Who said what?” he demands. I think this man could kill someone with the look he has right now, and I’m sure she doesn’t want to be killed tonight.

“Nothing. Never mind.” I gently shove him. “Let’s go before you get yourself arrested.” I maneuver around him, and now I’m leading him from the club.

When we step out into the fall air of the night, I take a deep breath. I don’t think I realized how sleepy I was getting. My feet are heavy.

I lift my free hand into the air when I reach the curb to hail a cab.

“What are you doing?” he asks, coming to stand beside me. His hand is warm against mine; he squeezes a little.

“I’m getting a cab.”

“No.” He pushes my arm down. “My car is this way.” He gently tugs, but I’m not going anywhere with him.

“I’d rather take a cab.”

His dark eyes narrow a fraction. “I’d rather you didn’t.”

“Then I guess we’re at a stalemate.” I try to smile, but it’s extremely difficult to do when someone as large as him, as attractive as him, as irritated as him is glaring down at me with his lips pulled into a thin tight line. I know he’s supposed to be scary, but I just can’t conjure up the feeling right now.

“No. We’re not.” He tilts his head to the left. “Do you need me to carry you?”

“Of course not. I can walk.”

“Then walk.” He turns his back on me, his hand still clamped around mine, and yanks me along.

“I can get home on my own,” I argue, but my tired feet clomp behind him. He says nothing. “I don’t need a ride. But I appreciate the offer.” I try civility. He remains silent, and we’re getting further away from the crowd waiting to get into the club and closer to the darkened parking lot behind the club.

“How do I know you’re not going to rape and murder me?” I pull harder to get released from his grip.

Still the man says nothing. He pulls me to a car, a black sedan with tinted windows, and opens the passenger door.

“I should scream for help,” I huff.

His lips slide open into a grin. “You could. I wouldn’t mind a fight tonight.” He looks almost hopeful at the prospect. “But any pain I cause an innocent person because of your stubbornness, you’ll feel on your ass the second you’re sober enough to feel it.”

I blink; I couldn’t have heard him right. Maybe I’m listening through wine muffs? Is that a thing? A bubble of giggles rises up in my chest and I release it.

“Get in the car, Mandy.” He gestures to the leather seat waiting for me.

I shut down my laughing and force a serious tone. “You’ll take me straight home?”

He looks like he’s fighting the urge to roll his eyes.

“Yes. Straight home. Get in.” His voice hardens. “Or do you want me to give you a taste of what disobedience gets you with me?” There’s a sparkle in his eyes as he threatens me a second time.

I decide it’s best not to tempt it—not right now, not when I’m too tired to fight back. A ride home would be nice. I climb into the seat, and before I can get situated, he leans inside and drags the seatbelt across my chest and snaps it in place.

“I could have done that,” I mutter, searching the small area around me. I lost my purse again. My phone is in there, and my keys.

“You can’t find your purse again.” He pulls it from where it’s smashed between my hip and the center console.

“I’m not that drunk.” The door shuts. I doubt he even heard me.

When he gets into the car, I rattle off my address and lean my head against the window.

“I think Anya broke that man’s nose,” I say, letting my eyes slip closed. He pulls onto the street and the smooth movement of the car is making my eyelids too heavy to hold open.

He grunts.

“Jason will have a sore tongue.” I chuckle. “He shouldn’t have stuck it in my mouth.”

He lets out a sound that’s low and growly. At least he’s not laughing at me. A moment later, I hear him talking in rapid Russian. His tone is heavy, but it’s a heavy language, so I can’t tell if he’s mad or just being normal.

I open my eyes just enough to see him drop a cellphone into the middle console cup holder. He was on the phone, so none of that was for me.


I don’t speak Russian.

“We should be there soon,” he says as the car turns.

I close my eyes for a second.

“You’re vibrating.” He touches my knee. I open my eyes enough to find my purse and fish around.

It stops the moment I pull it out. “Probably just my roommate.” I shove it back in my purse. Whoever it was can leave a voicemail.

“What’s your name again?” I ask on a yawn.


“Maxim.” I try it out. “Max.”

“No. Maxim.”

“No one calls you Max?”


I stare at his profile for an inappropriate amount of time. His jaw is tense, chiseled, and covered in a short black beard. I wonder if it’s rough or soft.

He wraps his hand around my wrist when I touch his cheek and puts it back in my lap.

“Just rest, we’re almost there,” he says with a sternness that should be throwing all sorts of red flags at me.

“And if I don’t?” I giggle again. “You’ll show me what disobedience gets me?” I try to mimic his earlier tone but ruin it entirely by laughing.

We come to a red light, and he turns a glare on me. “You’ll need water and aspirin; do you have any at home, or should I stop at the pharmacy?” He gestures toward the twenty-four-hour store across the street.

“I have some,” I sigh.

He gets me to my apartment in a blink of an eye. I pour myself out of the front seat before he gets around the car, which earns me another grumbling from him. He grabs hold of my elbow and slides his arm around my waist. Before I’m even a step away from the car, he has me up in his arms like a groom carrying a bride over the threshold.

I don’t bother arguing. I’m too tired and my head is spinning too fast.

“Is she all right?” Natalie’s voice wakes me again when we’re in the apartment.

“She had too much to drink. Which is her room?” His voice rattles his chest.

A minute later I’m in my bed with my shoes peeled off and a blanket thrown over me.

“When you get up, aspirin and water, before you even get out of bed.” He crouches beside my bed, brushing my hair from my face and pointing a finger at me. “Understand?”

“You’re bossy,” I breathe out the accusation and snuggle harder into my pillow. “I don’t hate it.”

“We’ll see.” He touches the tip of my nose, then the light goes out.

I wait for footsteps, a door closing, something to tell me he left.

Nothing comes.

Chapter Three


The sharp edge of a knife pressing against my neck wakes me. It only takes a moment to realize what’s happening and who it is before I react.

Slowly, I open my eyes and stare up at the set of frantic hazel eyes sweeping over my face. She’s straddling me; her knees flank my sides. The lipstick that was already smeared last night is smeared even more after a night’s sleep. Her lips part as her breathing kicks up. I’m awake now, a bigger threat to her than a moment ago.

“Good morning.” Talking makes my throat work enough that the knife presses a bit harder against my skin.

“What did you do?” The question comes out as raw anger mixed with fear.

“Put the knife away, moy malen’kiy voin.”

She leans forward, digging the edge into me a bit more. “What did you do to me?” she demands.

“I put you to bed.” I slowly raise my hands to my thighs. The edge of her ass cheek brushes against my thumb.

“You’re in my bed.” She sets her jaw.

“I am. I wanted to be sure you were all right, so I stayed.” Her roommate could have kept an eye on her, but that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to keep my eye on her myself.

“Where’s my underwear?” She swallows after she asks the question.

I move my hand; she’s still wearing the slip of a dress from last night. As my thumb touches her bare ass, I confirm she’s not wearing any panties.

“Are you sure you were wearing them last night?” If she hadn’t been so deep in her cups, I would have known one way or another. But I don’t touch women when they’re drunk or passed out. And she was both.

Her cheeks flush. “You and I… we didn’t? You didn’t…” She swallows again.

“I prefer my women sober and awake when I take them,” I assure her. No matter how much I wanted her, I would not take advantage of her weakened state. I slide my hand up further, cupping her bare ass cheek. “Now take that knife away from my neck before I’m forced to retaliate.”

Her ass clenches beneath my hand.

“You swear you didn’t…” She looks away for a moment, but it’s just long enough for me to make my move. Easily, I snatch the knife away from her, and have her turned over on the mattress. I straddle her hips and pin her hands over her head. I spy her panties; they’re caught up in the blanket I draped over her last night.

“Are these what you’re looking for?” I wrangle the panties free with one hand and hold them to her face. Her cheeks burn red.

“Yes.” She struggles against me. “Let me up.”

“What do you say, moy malen’kiy voin?” I ask, softening my voice.

“I’m sorry. Let me up.” Doubling down on her squirms, she tries to knock me off of her. I’m not budging. Her apology is lacking.

“Sorry for what?” I drop her panties to the floor and press both of my hands into her wrists, keeping her snug against the bed. “Be specific.”

“You were in my bed.” She tries to push up against me. When she can’t get any leverage at all, she huffs. “I’m sorry I put my knife to your throat.” With that, she sags against the mattress.

I let go of her wrists and sit back against my heels, inspecting the knife.

“This thing won’t decently cut anyone.” The blade is too short to do much damage if she was actually able to stab someone, and the edge is too dull to slice anyone.

“You’ll only get yourself hurt with it.” I fold the knife back into the handle and slip it into my back pocket before climbing off the bed, completely releasing her.

“That’s mine.” She leaps from the bed, tugging her dress down to cover her bare ass while trying to lunge around me to get her property back.

“Not anymore.” I grab her wrist and use it to get her to sit on the bed. “Do you usually take off your panties while you sleep?” I change the topic to the panties bundled up at her feet. She looks down at the crumpled material.

“Sometimes,” she mumbles, bending over and snagging them. “I must have been hot.” She runs her empty hand over her face and sighs. “I’m sorry, really. I woke up and you were there, and my panties were gone.”

I open the bottle of aspirin I found for her and drop three tablets into her palm. “Take these.”

She eyes me for a long moment.

“Take them,” I say again this time with a harder tone. She throws them back and washes them down with the glass of water I offer her next. “How do you feel?”

“Like my head is going to explode, and I’ve been riding a roller coaster all night.” She rubs her stomach with a grimace. All the excitement of the last few minutes hasn’t done anything to help, I’m sure. Now that the adrenaline is wearing off, she’s going to feel a hell of a lot worse.

“Do you have vodka?” I ask, heading for the door.

“I don’t want any vodka,” she argues, but I’m already in the living room. “Maxim, wait!” She pads behind me in her bare feet as I search her kitchen for the liquor bottles. I find what I’m looking for and grab a shot glass for her.

“I don’t want that.” She makes a face as I pour the shot.

“It will help,” I promise her and slide it along the counter toward her. “Drink it.”

Her delicate fingers wrap around the glass, but stubborn eyes rise to meet mine. I wait, watching her think over her next steps.

“Fine,” she huffs, then throws back the shot, groaning and sputtering.

I take the shot glass from her as she waves her hands around.

“I hate liquor!” She rushes to the sink, grabs a clean mug from the cabinet, and fills it with warm tap water. Her delicate throat works as she gulps down the water. After she’s done, she sucks in a long breath and drops the mug into the sink.

“You drank enough last night.” I lean my hip against the counter. “If you can’t handle your liquor, you shouldn’t be drinking at a club all alone without anyone there to protect you.”

Hazel eyes sweep up to meet mine. “I can handle my liquor well enough. And I don’t need anyone to protect me. If I remember, Anya and I protected ourselves just fine.”

I fill the shot glass once more, but this time throw it back myself instead of handing it to her. Not the best vodka, but it still provides a dull burn as it slides down my throat.

“Were you going to hurt him with your baby knife?” I ask, pouring a second shot. My head aches; the woman’s bed is as uncomfortable as the damn floor.

“We had it handled,” she insists as I toss back the second shot. “Stop drinking all my vodka.” She tries to grab the bottle from me, but I hold it up high, out of her reach. She’ll have to jump if she wants to get it now. Part of me wants to watch her do it. The slip of a dress she’s wearing barely covers her breasts. One false move and she’ll be showing me the good lord’s generosity.

“Go change. Shower if you want, and I’ll take you to breakfast.” I put the bottle down, but slide it down the counter, behind me.

“I’m not going to breakfast with you.” She shakes her head and takes a step back, wiping the frantic hairs from her face. Her makeup from last night still clings to her face, though most of it is smeared beneath her eyes. The chaos of her appearance only makes me want her more. This is her at her most natural, and it’s all the more appealing.

“You don’t have anything here to make.” I’d tried to find something to eat last night after she’d fallen asleep, but there was only leftover pizza from her roommate’s date and some lunch meat.

“I’m going shopping this morning.” The woman dares to lie to me. Her eyes lower just a fraction before she says it, enough for me to find her tell. Everyone has one.

“First you attack me with a dull knife, and now you lie?” I move forward, taking up the empty space between us. She backs up until her ass hits the fridge.

“You’re testing my patience, moy malen’kiy voin.”

“Maybe you should just go then?” Her voice is hard, but she’s forcing it. The muscles in her jaw are working hard to keep a quiver from her voice.

I run the back of my middle finger down the length of her neck and lower until I’m nearly at the neckline of her dress. Just as she lowers her chin to watch my touch, I snatch her chin and push her head back against the fridge, bringing my mouth down to hover over hers.

“You aren’t going shopping today,” I say, pressing my hips against her. “Tell me what you’re really going to do.”

“It’s none of your business.” She clenches her jaw after the words leave her mouth. All of this pretend strength is going to exhaust her.

“Last chance. Tell me the truth, or I’ll have to take you back into your room to punish you.”

“Punish me?” She frowns. “I’m not… you can’t.”

“Wrong answer.” I tsk my tongue.

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