Authors: Katie Reus
“How long have you worked for them?”
She cleared her throat as she stepped through the open elevator doors. “About five months.”
“You were with Porter’s cousin on Friday night.” It wasn’t a question and no doubt he’d seen her on the video.
She cringed at the thought of her boss seeing her out dancing on that video. She hadn’t been drunk or doing anything stupid, but still, it felt a little weird. If she’d known that Ivanov had owned the club she’d gone to with her friends, she’d have never gone. At least he’d been willing to give Porter the video feed in an effort to find out who’d tried to take Raegan.
“Yes.” The elevator started moving moments after the doors closed. She stood next to him, trying to ignore his presence. It was hard, considering what a giant the male was. He was crowding into her space without even trying. His cologne was light and she hated that he smelled good. If he was anyone else she might have even…checked him out. Which just annoyed her even more.
“I’m sorry your friend was drugged. I’ve already fired the security staff from that night.”
Surprised ricocheted through her at his words and for the first time since getting in the elevator she looked over at him. “Seriously?”
He frowned, his gaze flickering to her mouth. “Why are you surprised?”
She lifted a shoulder, not liking what she saw in his icy blue eyes. She’d been on the receiving end of lust from males since she was fourteen. She could tell he liked what he saw when he looked at her and it pissed her off. When the elevator doors opened on the bottom floor she pushed out a sigh of relief, belatedly realizing her reaction was a little too obvious as they stepped out of it. “Did you have any questions about Red Stone?” Because she didn’t want to talk about herself or Friday night.
“Have we met before?” he asked. She could practically hear the frown in his voice, but didn’t meet his gaze as they crossed the main lobby.
Smiling, she nodded at two of the security men behind the huge circular reception area. She knew they were both armed to the teeth. “No.”
“Then what have I done to offend you?” he demanded softly.
Surprised by the bluntness of his question, she looked at him. He’d stopped walking so she did the same. “Why would you say that?” She wrapped her arms around herself.
His expression was hard, the angles of his face sharp and defined. He looked every inch the ruthless businessman everyone said he was. “Because of the way you looked at me Saturday night.”
She was hoping he hadn’t remembered or even noticed her. She’d been unable to rein in her reaction to him though. She took a steadying breath. “If you do business with my boss it won’t be a problem. I’m a professional.” She didn’t want to be on Viktor Ivanov’s radar in any way, shape or form, but…
Staring into icy blue eyes so similar to his father’s, she was close to losing it. When she looked at Viktor, she saw blood and death, her lifeless mother in her tub. And it made her want to cry.
“Your family disgusts me,” she gritted out before turning on her heel. She couldn’t be around him any longer, couldn’t fake being polite. Though clearly she hadn’t done a good job of that anyway.
* * *
Viktor scrubbed a hand over his face as he read over the file his brother had given to him. It was very thorough. He couldn’t get rid of the image of Dominique’s almost scared expression when she’d looked at him. He was used to people being afraid of him.
But he’d hated that she’d looked at him like that. Which was stupid, since he didn’t even know her. Maybe it was because, more than fear, he’d seen raw pain in her gaze.
Now he knew why.
He closed his eyes. “Fuck,” he muttered.
“You had nothing to do with it.” Abram’s voice was whiplash sharp. As always when he was annoyed.
“My family—our family—owes her a debt.” He looked up, sat back in his desk chair.
Abram was half sitting on the front of his desk, his arms crossed over his chest. “Bullshit. Her father had gambling debts. No one held a gun to his head and made him go to Ilya for that loan.”
Even now Abram wouldn’t say ‘my father’ or ‘our father.’ It was always Ilya. “When her father died the debt should have been settled with the life insurance and the house.” He looked down at the files again, saw how much the life insurance and house—which was on the beach and was prime real estate—had been worth. It hadn’t been quite enough to cover the debt because Dominique’s father had racked up an obscene amount. “I think Ilya took the rest of the debt from Dominique’s mother. Probably through sex.”
Abram shifted uncomfortably on the desk before shoving to his feet. “We can’t know that.”
No, but Viktor could read between the lines. His father, gangster that he’d been, had kept impeccable records. “Even after her father died the debt was paid down in credits.” He tapped a finger against the old file even though Abram already knew what it said. He was the one who’d discovered that Dominique’s father had been in deep to their own father. “Not money. You know what that means. Then her mother kills herself six months later?” It was clear why. His father had been a monster, had probably driven Dominique’s mother to suicide with his sick demands she’d been forced to fulfill.
“I wish he was alive so I could kill him,” Abram muttered, clearly referring to Ilya. He went to the big window that overlooked downtown, and was silent as he stared out of it.
Viktor didn’t respond, just flipped over the current page and stared at Dominique’s mother. She had Mediterranean coloring as well as dark hair, and according to the file she’d been five feet five inches. It was clear Dominique favored her father in height and hair color, but she’d gotten some of her mother’s traits as well, including a beautiful face.
He felt almost sick to his stomach. Dominique had lost her father and mother in less than a year and could trace both deaths back to his father. No wonder she’d looked at him as if she wanted to claw his eyes out.
He pressed the intercom on his phone. “Lucy, can I see you for a sec?”
Moments later his new assistant strode in, not a strand of her short, dark hair out of place. As always her gaze strayed to Abram for a fraction longer than necessary, but his brother had his back to her and didn’t turn at her entrance.
“There’s a property that’s part of our rental program,” he said, scribbling down the address. “I want it taken off immediately and all current reservations cancelled. We’ll refund everyone and have Rita try to relocate them to another rental property of ours. If she can’t, still comp them wherever they end up staying and include something extra for the inconvenience. A bottle of champagne, whatever. I want this done by the end of the day. No excuses from Rita.”
Normally Lucy did whatever he said without question. Now her eyes widened a fraction. “Rita’s going to lose it,” Lucy said, a small grin tugging at her lips.
“She can deal with it.” Rita was the real estate agent for Abram and him, and in charge of almost all of their company’s properties. “But because you’ll have to deal with her bitching, take her out to dinner one night this month. Anywhere she wants. No limits.”
Lucy’s grin widened. “I have a feeling you might regret that when she orders a two-thousand-dollar bottle of champagne.”
He just snorted because Lucy wasn’t kidding. “Probably so. Just make it happen.” He didn’t care how much it cost him to fix this.
“I will.” Still grinning, she left, pulling the door shut behind her.
Abram turned around then, his expression unreadable. “Are you doing what I think you’re doing?”
“We owe her.”
His lips flattened, but to Viktor’s surprise, Abram didn’t argue. “What you’re doing is insane.”
He lifted a shoulder. He’d done a lot of shitty things in his life, but seeing the face of one of his father’s victims—maybe she hadn’t been victimized directly, but Dominique’s life had been impacted greatly because of Ilya—made him need to act. To pay her back somehow. Nothing could bring back her family but he was still going to try to make things right. “You think I’m wrong?”
“No. I just don’t think she’s going to take what you’re offering.”
Maybe not, but he would still try.
“What’s going on with you?” Porter’s voice made Dominique jump in her chair and nearly knock her bottle of water off her desk.
She steadied it with one hand, her heart beating faster than normal. “Nothing. Why?”
He eyed her curiously. “You’ve been acting off since that file was delivered. What’s in it?”
Of course he’d get straight to the point. After seeing Viktor Ivanov yesterday she’d been feeling out of sorts and then the file she’d received this morning had completely knocked her world off its axis. She didn’t know what to think of it—didn’t know why Ivanov had sent it to her. “It’s personal.”
Porter gave her a pointed look. “I know that. What’s in it?”
“I’m…not telling you.” She felt bad, but she just couldn’t.
He frowned and sat on the edge of her desk. “If you need help with anything, you just have to ask.” The true concern in his voice nearly undid her.
But she couldn’t tell him what was in the file without telling him more about her past. Okay, considering how hard she’d been vetted, she figured Porter already knew about her past, but still, that didn’t mean she wanted to talk about it. Even if she did open up to him, she couldn’t do that without crying. No way in hell was she going to break down here and in front of her boss. Talk about mortifying and unprofessional. Red Stone Security was a male-dominated workplace, and while she loved her job she didn’t want to be seen as anything other than professional. And crying at work? Not happening.
“I’m good, promise… Has my work been suffering today?” She’d been on autopilot all morning and now felt really guilty. If she’d been slacking she’d make up for it tomorrow.
He blinked. “What…no. Jeez, Dominique. I’m talking to you as a friend, not your boss. You’re on top of everything as usual. I just want to make sure you’re okay. With what happened to Raegan I think we’re all a little on edge. I just wanted to make sure things are good.”
“I swear I’m fine. I…would you mind if I left work an hour early today? I skipped lunch, so—”
“Just go now. I’m about to clear out anyway. We can afford to sneak out early one day.”
The truth was, this week was one of their slower ones. All his guys were on long-term security jobs for the next month so her duties were standard and she could do them in her sleep. That would change in a few weeks when the guys started moving to new contracts. Still, it felt weird to leave early, but she was going to do it. For her sanity, she needed to. “I really appreciate it.”
Once he’d returned to his office she shut down her computer and headed out. Instead of leaving, she rode the elevator up a few floors to Lizzy’s floor. To her surprise, Lizzy’s assistant got her in to see Lizzy almost immediately.
“Hey, chica. What are you doing up here?” Lizzy was stretched out on a chaise lounge with her laptop next to a window instead of sitting at her desk. And she was wearing yoga pants and a T-shirt.
“Is there a new dress code I don’t know about?” Dominique laughed as she headed over to the chaise and perched on the end of it.
“Ha ha.” Lizzy was sitting cross-legged and slid her laptop to the side. “I can’t go to the gym after work so I ran up and down the stairs during my lunch break. Just haven’t had time to change and since I don’t have meetings today I’m staying comfy.”
Dominique figured that Lizzy could pretty much do whatever she wanted, and not just because she was married to Porter. The woman was one of their online security experts and a more than decent hacker. In fact, Dominique had heard some of the guys call her scary good. Something she was really hoping for right now. “That’s a little insane.”
Lizzy shrugged. “If I don’t let the energy out,
“Fair enough… Can I ask you a favor that you can’t tell your husband about?”
Lizzy’s expression turned serious. “Depends on the favor.”
“It’s not work related. I just…need to know where someone is right now. I need to talk to him and it has to be in person.”
Lizzy frowned, absently pushing back a loose strand of her long, dark hair. “Why not call this person?”
She could. Heck, she probably should. But no, this needed to be an in-person conversation. Dominique needed to see Ivanov’s face, gauge his reaction. “It’s…personal.” Dominique was friends with Lizzy but she never forgot that Lizzy was also her boss’s wife. Shaking her head, she stood. “I know I’m putting you in a weird position and that I’m asking you to invade someone’s privacy. Can we just forget I asked—”
“Who do you want to track down?”
She shifted from foot to foot, debating if she should just leave, but she really wanted to know where he was. And to talk to him right freaking now. “Viktor Ivanov.”
Lizzy blinked in surprise. “Is this about Raegan?”
“Not remotely. Nothing to do with her, the club, or work. It’s very personal. This is his number.” She held out a sticky note she’d scribbled the number on earlier.
Lizzy gave her a mischievous grin. “Personal, huh?” She pulled her computer back into her lap and her fingers started flying over the keyboard at an alarming pace.
Dominique wanted to correct her, to tell her not personal in the way she implied, but held her tongue as Lizzy worked. When she started to move around to see what her friend was doing, Lizzy shook her head.
“Uh-uh. Just sit down while I work. Plausible deniability, my friend. If you don’t see what I’m doing, you can’t admit to any wrongdoing.” She didn’t glance up once as she said it, her expression almost gleeful.
“Are you breaking the law?” It was a dumb question. Of course Lizzy was. Dominique had heard the rumors, knew that Lizzy could pretty much hack anything. It was the whole reason she’d come to see her.
Lizzy just snorted then grinned. “He’s at one of his hotels.” She rattled off the name and address, but Dominique already knew where it was.
She’d lived in Miami her whole life and knew the city well. “Thank you.”