Jordan paced the comfortable room Mikhail Barinov had so generously offered. She was supposed to be at an inn in the village, an inn she’d been assured had Wi-Fi. But she was here, and her host had apologetically informed her when they’d arrived back from the village that he did not have Wi-Fi.
“I’m not a technical person,” he’d said almost apologetically. “But tomorrow we can take you somewhere so you can email whoever you want.”
So here she was, with no information in the home of the man she was investigating.
“Fuck this,” she said.
So far, the most positive thing she could say about the trip was that she’d remembered to pack warm pajamas.
Jordan had slipped them on after taking a long bath that she’d hoped might relax her. The amenities of the guest room were probably nicer than the tumbledown village inn. The bathtub had been huge, with a special rack for the towels that kept them heated. The floor, too, was heated; the ancient house obviously had undergone some upgrades to make it a haven against the cold wilderness just outside the door.
Still, she had more questions than answers about its owner, and told herself that she was not going to leave the Kamchatka Peninsula without at least one solid lead. She’d go to the village tomorrow. She’d go, find an interpreter, and then she’d find someone to talk.
Jordan walked to the bed and pulled down the comforter, suddenly tired. But as she did, she happened to glance out the window. Something had caught her eye. A glimmer of light reflecting off something shiny.
She walked over and looked down. The moon was out following the earlier snow, and she noticed now that its light was glinting off a surface. It was a roof of a building beyond the tree line she’d walked that day—a building that Barinov had not shown her.
Jordan had not seen her host since he’d shown her to her room. He’d told her his housekeeper would bring up dinner, and apologized that he would not be dining with her, but had some things he needed to attend to. Part of her felt disappointed. Something about Mikhail Barinov and his cousin fascinated her. She told herself it was the puzzle of the investigation, but deep down, she knew it was something more.
She’d been used to dealing with sexist men, and a man who treated her differently based on her gender usually garnered her instant disdain. But something about these men… perhaps it was the cultural difference, but their chauvinism had an unusual effect that made her flush to admit. When she’d taken her panties off before bathing, the panel had been soaked with arousal, and the thought of their muscle-bound arms, broad chests, and infuriating slow smiles had her pussy throbbing.
But she was glad to feel all that receding now as she looked out the window, down at the roof of the building. Jordan had always been one to go on instinct, and instinct told her that the answer to this mystery may be in this building.
She slipped a fresh sweater over her pajamas and donned her boots, gloves, and parka. She’d go out the way Mikhail had shown her earlier. If she came upon him in the house, she’d tell him that she just needed some fresh air. If not, she’d use the moonlight as a guide to the woods. She’d eyeballed the direction to take through the small patch of trees. She was an experienced hiker. She could do this.
Jordan checked the battery on her phone. She’d need the flashlight app when she got into the woods.
The house was quiet. Somewhere she could hear the sound of a radio or television. Whoever was in the house with her was preoccupied. At the back door, she stopped, worrying that there might be an alarm. But there was no sign of one, and she slipped out quietly.
It was so cold her eyes watered. Jordan zipped the parka up until the fur-lined hood covered her mouth and nose. She kept her head down, inhaling the warmth of her own breath as she walked swiftly down the slope and toward the stand of firs she’d seen from her bedroom window.
Her teeth were chattering by the time she reached the tree line, although it was as much from nerves as from the cold. The small patch of forest seemed to swallow her up when she entered. The moon moved behind a cloud and the darkness made her feel blind. She fished in her pocket for her iPhone and put the flashlight on the lowest setting. The beam of light in the dark only illuminated a small area, and made the surrounding dark seem more ominous.
But she began to walk, the movement warming her a bit, keeping herself on the north-northwest path she’d plotted from the window.
The patch of woods was not just darker than she imagined, but also larger. Jordan wiggled her fingers to keep them from going numb as she found and picked up a small path that emerged to her relief. Its direction, she could tell, would lead her to the building.
She could hear something in the distance now, something coming through the trees, but from another direction. It was a vehicle. She stopped, pondering whether to keep going or to turn back.
She wasn’t that far from the building, and gasped when she saw headlights through the trees. Jordan killed her flashlight and used the light of the vehicle to dart from tree to tree until she found one to shield her but allow a view down the slope.
The vehicle was one of the all-terrain vehicles she’d seen in the shed that day. A man got out and shut the door. He walked around to the other side and when he passed in front of the headlights, she could see it was Mikhail Barinov.
A man got out from the passenger’s side. No, two men got out. But one man was holding the other. It was Dr. Kolov, and now the man he was holding was between him and Mikhail Baranov. He was smaller, and clad only in a coat. The men were leading him to the building, and Mikhail Barinov had moved ahead to unlock the door.
But the man had stopped, and was arguing with them in Russian. Jordan realized her hands were shaking as she reached for her camera. She had to pull her gloves off to activate the video app, but she had it now, and zoomed in to view what was happening on the screen.
Ivan was holding onto the arm of the strange man, who looked disheveled. He wore no pants, no shoes. Dr. Kolov was giving him a shake, as if trying to get the man to listen, but the man turned his head. That’s when Jordan realized he only had one eye. The other—the right one—was a gaping hole. She thought of the bear she’d seen earlier, the one she’d sprayed. It was missing the right eye, too.
The voices were getting louder. The man was crying and Barinov walked over and hugged him. They continued to talk in low voices. Jordan moved to the left, hoping to get a better angle, then gasped as her booted foot dislodged a cascade of pebbles that went crashing down the slope toward the building.
It was as if the scene on her phone were frozen. Three faces turned her way. She was still looking at them on the viewfinder.
They’d heard. It had not been that many pebbles, but they heard.
Jordan didn’t move a muscle. On her screen the one-eyed man raised his head slightly as if sniffing the air. Then with a cry he burst from between Mikhail and Ivan and began running in her direction.
She didn’t wait. She turned and began running back the way she came. The moon was bright and she was able to make out the path in the moonlight coming through the trees. She could hear footfalls behind her, could hear a strange voice yelling angrily at her in Russian. She glanced back. The man had shed his coat. He was naked. And he was gaining on her. And then the sound of the footfalls changed to something… something else. Something was closer now. Something fast. Something big.
She looked and she saw it. The man was gone, but a bear was closing in on her, and she could see its one eye glittering in the moonlight. What she didn’t see was the root that tripped her. The phone flew from her hand and landed on the ground. She tried to scramble to her feet but something hit her on the shoulder, knocking her onto her back. The bear was looming over her, its hot, fetid breath in her face. Then something hit the bear, something larger, and it rolled away from her.
Jordan staggered to her feet, slightly disoriented as the two bears fought. The larger bear had a distinct advantage.
Her phone. She needed her phone. But another cloud passed over the moon and she couldn’t find it. Her shoulder was sore. She reached for it, expecting to feel blood, but the bear had hit her with the flat of its paw.
“Stubborn woman.” An arm flew around her waist, yanking her up and back against a hard chest.
“I…” She tried to speak, to explain, but Mikhail Barinov cut her off.
“Quiet,” he said, and there was a growl in his voice as he led her away. The moonlight came out again. She craned her neck and looked back down the hill to where she’d seen the bears. But there were no bears. Now there were just two men—a large naked blond man leading a smaller man back toward the building. The smaller man was talking in a pleading tone.
What the hell was happening?
She wanted to ask Barinov, but the words wouldn’t come. She could feel the anger coming off him, along with heat, and she realized she was nearly as scared of this large, angry Russian as she was of the bear.
Mikhail Barinov walked quickly, his long legs covering the ground in quick steady strides. Jordan’s breath puffed from between her lips in jets of steam as she struggled to keep up, the physical activity keeping her from being as cold as she might have been otherwise. Still, the cold was nearly unfathomable within itself, and she was grateful, at least, for the warmth of the house.
But her host’s demeanor was still ice cold. Taking hold of her upper arm, he led her up the stairs to her room. Once there, he grasped her by the forearms and looked her up and down.
“Are you hurt?” he asked.
She was stunned by the show of concern.
“N-n-no. He… the bear. It hit my right arm. But I’m okay.”
He didn’t respond, only unzipped her jacket without permission and pulled it off. He squeezed her upper arm, his large, warm hands feeling for injury, his face stern.
“Not broken,” he said.
He let her go then.
“What happened?” Jordan backed away. The events in the forest were scattered in her mind, like pieces of a child’s puzzle thrown on the floor. A one-eyed man. Mikhail Barinov. Dr. Kolov. A one-eyed bear. Another bear, larger. It had saved her.
“You were told to stay in this room,” he said. “You disobeyed. And now you must be punished.”
Punished? She stared blankly up at Mikhail, but had little time to ponder the word before being dragged over to the bed. The huge Russian sat down, pulling her across his lap. She screamed in outrage at what happened next. She could feel his warm fingers looped in the waistbands of her pajama pants and panties, could feel them being jerked all the way down to the tops of the boots she still wore.
“Let me go, you fucking animal!”
If he was going to molest her, she wasn’t going to make it easy for him. In her draped position, her head was level with his calf. She reached for the hem of his pant leg, raised it and sank her teeth into the side of his leg as her fingernails scored his skin.
She was rewarded with a word bellowed in Russian, but then came the crack of a slap and an accompanying searing pain that seemed to suffuse her entire bottom. Jordan screamed but kept her grip, but not for long. The Russian was spanking her. Hard. The blows were strong and sharp. They both thudded and stung, the pain burrowing into the deepest layers of her skin.
Jordan heard the sounds of crying and realized the pitiful wails were her own, but her punisher was unmoved and unrelenting. Through her peripheral vision, she could see his hand rise and fall, and she began to cry out for mercy. But Mikhail Barinov remained stoic. His face was a disciplinarian’s mask—his thin mouth a grim line, his dark eyes cold and unsympathetic. The fullest part of her bottom felt as if it was on fire, and her agony was only compounded when he continued the assault on the softer skin lower on her buttocks. It was worse here, and Jordan kicked and writhed and rocked back and forth, vaguely aware that her wild bucking motions were making for a tawdry display.
When her struggles became too exhausting, and her bottom cheeks were so sore that she could not even clench them without pain, only then did the hard, punishing hand come to rest on the throbbing surface of Jordan’s bottom. She was limp over his lap, aware now of the thickness of the hard thighs she was draped over, of how petite she was compared to him. What the hell had she been thinking, coming back here? What the hell had she been thinking, snooping around?
Her ass felt like it was on fire, and she could see the floor under her face was wet with her own shed tears. And then Jordan was aware of how quiet it was, save for her own pathetic hitches of breath. And she was aware of something else, the sensation of the Russian’s huge hand resting on her freshly spanked bottom. She froze and slowly looked back at him.
“You will behave now, no?” The question was accompanied by a light but proprietary squeeze to her right nate that sent an unexpected current of warmth through her body—an unexpected sensation that condensed to an embarrassing throb between her legs. Pleasure. She could not deny that was what she felt, and the shame of this was almost worse than the spanking.
Am I wet? The thought horrified her, for she was sure she felt the dampness collecting in her pussy. She squeezed her legs together, lest he somehow sense it. That only made the feeling more acute.
“I asked you a question, Jordan Rowe.” There was steel in his voice.
She took a deep, ragged breath. When she tried to answer, she realized her voice was raspy from crying. Jordan cleared her throat.
“Y-yes,” she said. You have no choice, she told herself.
“And you will submit?”
She looked forward, taking several deep breaths. His hand—that huge hand—was still in place on her bottom, cupping one stinging cheek.
Jordan closed her eyes. “Yes,” she said quietly, although she didn’t know what she was submitting to.
You told him what he wanted to hear, her defiant inner voice counseled. It’s what you had to do. You don’t mean it.
But as Mikhail Barinov told her she was a good girl and lifted her to a sitting position on his lap, the tears began again. They weren’t from pain this time, but from a renewed fear. Jordan always knew when someone was lying. This time, she feared it was her inner voice.
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