Prisoner (Russian Tattoos Book 2) (2 page)

BOOK: Prisoner (Russian Tattoos Book 2)
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Chapter 2

 

 

The Hard Way

 

“That’s right, Carter. Calm yourself down. You and I need to have a talk about what is going to happen here.” Boris must’ve read my fearful expression and dismissed Dmitri, presumably to prevent me from having a full-blown meltdown, which would only make his job of dealing with my bullshit that much more difficult.

Dmitri followed orders and cruised around the table and pummeled the punching bag in the corner of the room. I was wrong. Boris sensed my fear and was trying to scare the life out of me. Dmitri was punching that bag to show me what he would do to me if I didn’t behave. He wanted to infiltrate my mind and instill fear and hopelessness in me before he punished me physically. Mental torture was only the first round of punishment. Panic washed over me as I feared the same fate would befall my best friend.

“Where’s Kiki? What did you do to her? Is she still alive?”

Veins protruded on the side of Boris’s head. “Have you forgotten rule number one? No questions.” Boris snapped his ring-tatted fingers to get Dmitri’s attention.

The thug shook his head and prowled toward me like a bloodthirsty predator. He probably
wanted
to teach me a lesson, but hell if I was going to sit there like some cowering victim and take whatever punishment that loser was about to inflict on me. Boris had a list of rules for me, but what about my own rules? I came up with my game plan.

Rule number one: Protect my loved ones at all costs.

Rule number two: Stay alive.

Rule number three: Escape.

As Dmitri closed in, he activated my fight or flight instincts. I had to go straight to rule number three and get the hell out of there. There were no windows, and the air was stagnant and smelled of mildew. The room was chilly, and not a shred of natural light penetrated the cement box where they were holding me hostage. We had to be in some underground bunker or maybe an old bomb shelter.

There were two doors in the room. One behind me that must’ve led to the bedroom, and in front of me there were stairs that led to a door a couple of feet away. If I could get past them and slip out, I could make a run for it.

I dove under the table.

Boris barked at Dmitri.

I crawled on my hands and knees and popped up on the other side. Dmitri stood between the door and me, and Boris blocked the other one behind me. I shuffled back and paced like a caged animal, unsure of where to run, hide, or how to get away.

Boris flicked his hand at me, gesturing for Dmitri to collect me. I didn’t know where my courage came from, but as Dmitri approached me, I put my dukes up like a boxer and bent my knees in ready position, prepared to fight for my freedom.

“What are you doing, Carter?” Boris asked.

I had no clue what I was doing, but why would I stand there like a loser and take it? I wasn’t a submissive victim ready to relent and bow down to their belittling demands. I was an athlete—a winner. Screw them and their
Bratva
bullshit.

Dmitri wrinkled his forehead and waited for instructions from his boss. Whatever Boris said must have been hilarious, because Dmitri cracked a smile. I must’ve looked pathetic—a busted up badass in a bright yellow sundress. The disheveled
devushka
was going to take on two gangsters? Then what? What was the exit strategy?

“Don’t touch me,” I hissed.

When my handler came within snatching range, I reared my right hand back to clock him across the jaw. Boris huffed. Dmitri shook his head and said something in Russian—
dumbass,
probably. In that moment I mustered up my courage and decided the only way out of the dungeon was to fight or die trying.

“Carter, lower your hands,” Boris said. “You’ll hurt yourself.”

I held my position and sneered at Dmitri like a ticked-off tigress.

“You’ve punched someone before? I know you are tough girl, but stop before you break your knuckle.”

I kept my offensive stance, hopped a few steps back, and bounced on my toes. “I can take him.”

“You’re sure about that? Dmitri earns a living knocking men out with his fists. Last week he took down a Chechen street fighter twice his size.”

Hence, the bruises on his face.
“Well, today a screwed-up college freshman who’s tired of being dragged around like a dead mouse is going to kick his ass.”

“After all your dealings with bad guys.” Boris chuckled and spoke in Russian, apparently giving Dmitri the go-ahead to have at me. I definitely had the disadvantage. A gangster who didn’t mind breaking innocent girls versus an over-confident nineteen-year-old with everything to lose and no sense to know when to quit.

I held up my fists and took a couple practice swings to let Dmitri know I meant business. He kept his hands at his sides and tried to flatten me with just his venomous glare. I mirrored his nasty face and wiggled my fingers, motioning for him to bring it on.

“Carter, you’re killing me,” Boris laughed. “I can’t let this happen. Dmitri—”

“Wait. Let’s bet on it.”

Boris raised his hand, keeping Dmitri at bay. He stared me down and took a drag off his stogie. If Boris had a weakness, it was his sick fascination of watching me repeatedly screw up to the nth degree in every way imaginable. Betting was what landed me in this dungeon in the first place. “What do you have in mind, dear?”

“If I get one clean hit, you let me see Kiki.”

He narrowed his eyes, pissed I’d mentioned the “K” word again. “Done.” He exhaled a puff of smoke and tapped the light gray ashes into a glass bowl. “What do I get if Dmitri strikes first?”

I blinked in confusion. “You already kidnapped me—”


Nyet.
You’re here as our guest.”

High on overconfidence, I answered, “I will do one thing you ask without fighting—as long as it isn’t
sexual
.” I narrowed my eyes at Dmitri.

“Why am I such a bad guy, huh? I’m trying to help you.”

“Take it or leave it.”

“I’ll take it, of course.” Boris explained the situation to Dmitri, whose expression remained unaffected as if this sort of cage fight thing happened on a daily basis. He bent his knees and lifted his hands in ready position.

Oh, shit.
He totally knows what he’s doing.

“Ready?” Boris asked. “
Odin, dva, tri
.”

After the countdown, I struck first with a roundhouse. He blocked it right away. He must’ve expected a kick. I tried an uppercut. He blocked it too. That meathead wasn’t even trying. He held his hands up in a defensive stance, but failed to make a move. Boris yelled at him to spur him on.
Jeez.
What have I gotten myself into now?

I went for a jab, but instead of blocking my punch, he wrapped his fingers around my fist and twisted my arm behind my back.

“Stupid girl.” Boris clicked his tongue and waved Dmitri off before he crumbled my fingers like a handful of cookies.

On my knees, I turned to Boris and pleaded my case. “Wait. It’s just a block. He didn’t get a hit. It’s not over until—”

While my guard was down, Dmitri’s hand flew into my air space
and patted my cheek. I opened my mouth to argue, but there was nothing to say. He had won.

Boris shook his head, unable to hide his amusement for my epic fail.

“It’s not fair. He cheated.” I placed my hand on my cheek and rubbed out the humiliation of my loss. Dmitri didn’t hurt me; it was just a little tap to prove his point.

“No, you turned your back on your opponent. That’s your mistake.”

I didn’t feel strong or brave, nor did I have any more crazy ideas in my head. The best thing to do was honor my end of the deal. Losing wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. He would no doubt agree to a rematch at some point. I would up the ante next time and ask for Kiki to be released. I should’ve asked for that initially, but I wasn’t thinking clearly.

Dmitri dragged me back to the chair, secured each wrist to the armrest with handcuffs, and tightened a belt around my lap to tether me in place.

“No. Get off me. What are you going to make me do?”

“You chose the hard way, Carter. I don’t have patience for your bullshit.”

A rush of adrenaline fueled my body. The only way to stay alive was to get away from those ruthless bastards. I thrashed my body like a confused goldfish banging around inside a plastic bag. They would never let me see my family again. I would die in this dungeon. Boris was yelling at me, but I couldn’t concentrate on his words.

I don’t want to be raped.

I don’t want the people I love to be hurt.

I don’t want to be a victim.

I don’t want to die.

I curled my legs up on the chair, planted my feet on the table, and shoved off to scoot my chair back. Instead of readying myself into a defensive position so I could kick the bastard, I tipped myself backward. Dmitri lunged forward to catch me, but his attempt to rescue me from myself was a losing battle. As I fell, with my wrists restrained to the armrest, I had no way to soften my landing. My head banged on the cold, hard floor.

Lights out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

 

The Yellow Phase

 

When I came back around, I blinked away the galaxy of stars that twinkled before my eyes. Once oriented, I squinted to see my surroundings. I was tucked into bed with a soft lavender comforter, and there was a vase with fresh-cut wildflowers on a bedside table. The windowless walls were painted baby blue, and there was a bathroom across the room.

I had an IV needle embedded in the crook of my elbow and oxygen tubes shoved up my nose. My long, blonde hair was lying across my chest in a single braid, and I felt the chill of an icepack between my head and the pillow. I tried to sit up, but there was an invisible grizzly bear on top of me holding me down.

Was I in a hospital? Had the police tracked us down? “Dad?” The tone of my voice sounded raspy, and my eyes were so dry, it felt like someone had glued them shut while I was sleeping. Footsteps shuffled to my bedside and then a cool hand rested on my forehead. Dizziness forced me to squeeze my eyes shut before I could make out the face. I prayed I had been miraculously rescued while I was unconscious and my nightmare was over.

Whoever was beside me tapped one cheek and then the other. I raised my hands to protect myself, but I hadn’t a bit of strength left in my body. I groaned when the sudden movement brought on vertigo. Someone put their hand behind my back and lifted me to an upright position. I blinked until my vision was clear enough to make out the face. Dmitri.
Damn.
I swatted at him to protect myself.

He lowered my hands and held them together. “
Sh,
Carter.” He whispered in Russian to calm me, and when I stopped fighting, he lifted a cup to my lips. I batted it away and spilled it all over the front of my dress.

“Nyet, nyet, nyet.”

Fearful of backlash, I curled my legs up to my chest and turned on my side. I fought to stay conscious and alert, but my skull felt like it was a magnet attached to a vibrating metal plate. Dmitri patted my cheeks to keep me awake. I opened my eyes, and his image came back into focus. The contusions and cuts on his face were in the yellow phase, which meant two or three days had passed since the last time I’d seen him. I remembered this stage from all the marks the Russians had imprinted on me—mostly
before
Vladimir and I were engaged.

“Don’t hurt me, please.” Then I remembered how to say it in Russian.
“Pozhaluysta
,
pozhaluysta.
” I hated being weak and helpless, but begging for mercy from a guy who could take down the entire Russian Army with his fists seemed like my only recourse.

“Sh, sh, sh.”
He held up another cup of water. He gave a warning glare as he brought it to my mouth and made a slurping sound, but I pressed my lips together and shook my ringing head.

I was so nauseated and out of sorts, I threw up an acidic mouthful of stomach juices all over the clean bed linens. Dmitri tossed aside the soiled bedspread and cleaned off my face with a damp washcloth. A moment later Boris charged into the room, clutched my shoulders, and barked in my face. “Tell me your name.”

I groaned and turned my head away from him.

Boris wrapped his hand under my chin. “What is the last thing you remember?” He stared into my eyes, probably to gauge whether or not I was suffering from amnesia.

But I remembered everything. How Vladimir had secretly stalked me for years, hired my dad at his legit tech company to get closer to me, had me fired from my crappy job at the tennis club so I could spend time with him, how we fell in love, how he lost his temper…

“Answer my question. What is your name?”


Lapsha
,” I said. Boris’s pet name for me. It meant “noodle” in Russian.

He sighed in relief. “You need to behave. This could’ve been much worse. I need to keep you in one piece.” He didn’t give a shit about me or my health. His only mission in life was following Vladimir’s orders.

I lifted my head. “You lied. You said you wouldn’t hurt me.” I slumped back on the pillow and groaned.

Boris pried my eyes open and checked my pupils with a penlight. “
I
didn’t hurt you. You did this to yourself.”

“He’s trying to poison me.” I pointed a shaky finger in Dmitri’s direction.

Boris chuckled. “No one is trying to poison you.”

“It’s in the water. He keeps it in his shoe with the squirrels.”

Boris swept my sweaty hair off my forehead. “Just a bad dream. You have a concussion. The doctor administered medication to keep you sedated while your brain healed.”

“No, listen. The squirrels have pouches like kangaroos. That’s where they hide the powder. They stick their little paws into their belly sacks, and it gets on their fingers. Then they wash their hands in the water—”

“No squirrels here
.
” He lifted me into a sitting position and brought the cup to my sore, chapped lips. “Drink.” When he tilted it against my mouth, I sipped. It tasted good. It might’ve been sugar instead of poison the squirrels had on their paws. I gulped it down.

“Good girl.” He patted my back. “More?”

I licked my lips and nodded. The water burned when it trailed down my throat, but still I craved more. As I downed the next round, Dmitri propped a couple pillows behind my back to keep me upright.

“I’m going to talk, you’re going to listen,” Boris said. “Do you remember what I told you at the airport about Vladimir’s enemies?”

I stared at him and tried to remember our abduction, but the details were sketchy. My brain wasn’t running on full power, and I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open.

“No?” He cocked his head. “Let me remind you why you’re here.”

“I know why I’m here. Vladimir is still mad at me, and he wants you to—
finish the job
.”

Boris glared at me.

“Don’t deny it. I know he gave you the order.”

“If boss had given the order, you wouldn’t be breathing.”

I covered my ears. “Just—get it over with already. I don’t want to see him before you do it.” Tears rolled down my cheeks.

Boris stood up from his chair and towered over me. The time had come. The game was over. He laid his huge hands on my shoulders. He had waited a long time for the opportunity to kill me, and now he would have the pleasure of choosing my cause of death. He could easily snap my neck, but his weapon of choice was a long serrated knife like the one he had tattooed on his neck. The one that advertised he was a killer for hire in the Russian criminal underworld.

One perfectly placed, deep slice across my jugular and he would never have to put up with my bullshit again, and I would never have to fear those blood-sucking Russian gangsters for all of eternity. In my macabre state of mind, it netted out to a win-win. I closed my eyes and prayed my killer would make it quick and merciful. He lifted my chin. I held my breath and willed myself not to beg for my life. I’d had my chance to walk away from the
Bratva
, but my love for Vladimir had blighted my judgment.

“Look at me,” Boris said. “You are here because Vladimir—”

“Why did you drag Kiki into this mess?” I slammed my fists into Boris’s chest. “What did you do to her?” I pounded him again and again, but he didn’t even flinch.

Dmitri subdued me and held me captive in his arms.

“Want to find out what happened to her?” Boris pulled out his cell, tapped the screen, and turned it around so I could see it. “This is what I did to your friend. Same thing is going to happen to you.”

I glared at the screen, prepared to see Kiki bound and gagged—or worse. But through my tears, a picture of her hugging my dad came into focus. She had a tortured expression on her face, and Dad looked like a sleep-deprived zombie, but they were huddled together outside my house surrounded by our collective family and friends. I knew the picture was current because Kiki had dyed the tips of her hair hot pink just before our trip.

“Your friend is safe and unharmed, Carter. She never left Cincinnati. The drugs my men administered were to make her forget what she’d witnessed and to keep her sedated until help arrived.”

I tried to talk, ask a million questions all at once, but I was too exhausted and confused to think clearly.

“On the day Vladimir asked you to marry him, we talked about a
conflict
in our business. Vladimir has many enemies. There are bad men who mean to do him harm. I’m good at my job. No one will touch my family as long as I’m breathing.”

His jaw tensed. “So, our enemies have gotten creative. They’ve found a way to get to boss that will hurt him more than death—
you
. There’s a bounty on your head, Carter. We are at war with our enemies. If I hadn’t picked you up at the airport, you’d be at the mercy of Maksim Ovechkin, the
pakhan
of our rival
Bratva
. Trust me. If Maksim ever gets his hands on you—” He pursed his lips, deciding not to reveal the vile thought in his head.

“What will he do?”

“Pray you never find out.”

“What about my family?”

“Everyone is fine,” Boris said. “As for you, you will remain here as our guest until I am certain you are out of danger. I picked you up because you’re being stalked by our enemies and need my protection—no other reason. When the conflict is over, you will return to your family in America. While you are here, you will get healthy, dry up your tears, and be grateful for all the measures Vladimir has taken to ensure your safety.”

“Where is he? He doesn’t love me anymore. Why does he care what happens to me?” I blinked my eyes to stay awake, but I didn’t have any strength left in my body.

“Get some rest.”

Dmitri laid me back down on the bed.

“From this point on, I expect you to calm yourself down, stop fighting me over every little thing, and try not to give yourself another concussion.” Boris patted my cheek. “Dmitri would greatly appreciate it if you would stop trying to kill yourself. You’re making his job difficult.”

“What’s his job?” I whispered, barely able to keep my eyes open.

“To keep you alive.”

“What if he fails?” My words came out slurry.

“He’s a dead man.”

Holy shit. The Russian
Bratva
played for keeps.
I closed my eyes and escaped my nightmare.

BOOK: Prisoner (Russian Tattoos Book 2)
12.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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