Prisoner (Russian Tattoos Book 2) (4 page)

BOOK: Prisoner (Russian Tattoos Book 2)
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Chapter 6

 

 

Molotov Cocktail

 

With an air of confidence knowing my bodyguard had a vested interest in getting me home, I slapped on my game face and met my captor in the kitchen. It was in my best interest to play nice with Boris, show him respect, and avoid a confrontation that would end with me getting seriously hurt, handcuffed, or worse.


Privet
, Boris.”


Dobryy vecher.”
Boris dried his hands on a kitchen towel and planted kisses on my cheeks. I cringed when his prickly beard scratched my skin. “You look lovely, dear. Glad you’re feeling better.” He pulled out a chair and gestured for me to have a seat.


Spasibo
.” I tucked in my swanky dress and joined him at the table.

Boris handed me a glass of wine and cheered, “
Za zdorov’ye
.”


Za zdorov’ye
.” We clinked glasses and sipped. With all of my prior
incidents of mixing alcohol with Russian gangsters, I promised myself I would keep the drinking to a minimum. The numbing power of alcohol didn’t last long, and with every bottle we emptied, I’d allowed them to sink their claws deeper and deeper under my skin.

“If I remember, you prefer Bordeaux.”

Vladimir had turned me on to the rich, soothing flavor of red wine. Honestly, though, I couldn’t taste the difference in the grapes or regions. All the reds tasted oaky or fruity, and I’d only had one glass of white wine in my life at Kiki’s house when her parents were out for the night. It was too sweet and it had given me a wicked headache the next morning.

“All your vegetarian favorites.” He nodded to the trays of food lined up on the kitchen counter.

“You don’t have to go to any trouble for me,” I said, although I was ecstatic to see all that delicious food. I wanted to dive headfirst into the soup terrine and swim around with my mouth open. I licked my lips and swallowed saliva.

Dmitri ladled out three bowls of hearty soup, pulled a bottle of vodka out of the fridge, and filled three shot glasses to the rim. I held up my hand, indicating I would take a pass on the vodka, but Boris handed me a glass anyway. In the Russian culture, it was an insult to refuse a drink from the host, so I obliged. We lifted our glasses and Boris said a toast in Russian. We clinked and sipped.

Dmitri set a bowl of soup in front of me and placed a plate of bread, a crock of butter, and small dish of salt between us. I inhaled the steam from the broth. Potatoes, cabbage, peas—heavenly. I dove my spoon into the soup bowl and scooped up a bite. When the savory broth infused with onions and herbs and salty goodness hit my taste buds, I closed my eyes and let out a long
mmm
sound.

I swallowed the first bite and followed up with a second, a third…

“This
schi
recipe has been passed down in my family for generations,” Boris said.

I licked my lips. “You made it?”

“Babushka made it.”

Back home when Vladimir and I made plans for the wedding, Boris had said his mama would spoil me rotten. At the time, I couldn’t wait to meet their family. I had planned to marry Vladimir in June and spend my life with him and his family in Russia—
willingly
.

“That’s so sweet.” Boris was in a rare good mood. “Will you thank her for me?”

He dunked a piece of bread in his soup and nodded.

Dmitri loaded up a plate of vegetarian goodies and set it in front of me. Then he buttered and salted a piece of bread, which I snatched out of his hand before he could set it on my plate. I took a big bite and said “
spasibo
” with my mouth full.

“Good to see you have an appetite. Vladimir will be pleased. He’s concerned about your health.”

Dmitri lied. Vladimir was here.
I shot my gaze to the door and choked down the bread in one gulp. Just the mention of his name brought back a rush of emotions. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine not having him in my life. The good side of him—the sober side—was the most caring and thoughtful and attractive man I’d ever known. But when he drank too much, he evoked the
pakhan
, the dark side of his personality.

“Calm yourself down, Carter. Boss isn’t coming to dinner.”

I wanted to believe him, but it didn’t make sense. He’d sent Boris halfway around the world to rescue me from his enemies, gone to all the trouble to keep me safe, and then was too busy to breeze by the Dungeon Suite to have a meal or at least check on me after I’d suffered a concussion.

“Concerned? Is that how he justifies keeping me chained in this dungeon?”

“It’s a bomb shelter. Ever hear of the Cold War?”

“If he cared, he wouldn’t have left me buried down here while I was hurt and scared like some dying animal.”

“He only knows what I tell him. He’s miles from here, heavily guarded in a secure location. Believe me, nothing would have kept him from you
if
he’d known about your unfortunate accident.”

I paused to process this new information. “Why so much security? Are things
that
bad between Vladimir and Maksim?”

Boris tapped his rings on the side table. “Yes and no. Boss is his own worst enemy. When he woke up on the plane and found out what he’d done to you on our last night in America—”

“Whoa, whoa. What do you mean when he woke up and
found out
?”

“The
pakhan
had a lot to drink the night of your argument. He blacked out. He has no memory of hurting you.”

I scoffed. “How convenient.”

Boris gave me the death glare. “The moment he got word that Maksim put a bounty on you for your capture, he tried to surrender to him to keep you safe. He would rather have a bullet in his brain than have any more harm come to you. He’s more concerned for your safety than his own.”

“Is he okay?”

“He’s alive.”

The idea that Vladimir was willing to die to protect me made my stomach queasy. All this time, I thought he hated me and couldn’t wait to seek revenge on me.
He still cares that much about me?

“What’s on your mind, Carter?”

“Nothing. I’m feeling a little lightheaded. I shouldn’t have had so much alcohol. Mind if I go to my room and lie down?”

“You haven’t eaten anything.”

“I practically slurped down the whole bowl.” I motioned to my soup. “Dmitri gave me some snacks. If I get hungry later, I can rustle up something from my junk food stash.”

Boris set his eyes on lie detector mode to judge my motive. When I passed the test, he gave me the okay to leave the dinner table. Pangs of guilt swirled in my gut as I walked away. I was relieved Boris had thwarted Vladimir’s kamikaze mission, but my heart ached at the idea that he cared so little about his own survival.

What has he been up to since he left America?

When I got to my room, I opened up my suitcase. My little sister Megan had given me a beanbag kitty to take along with me on my trip so I wouldn’t forget her. I tucked the cat under my arm, sucked in my lips, and willed away the image of my sister’s tortured face when she’d found out I’d been abducted.

I rifled through my belongings and found the braided hemp bracelet Benji, a guy I’d started dating the week before my trip, had made for me. I’d been wearing it at the time of my abduction, but someone had removed it from my wrist and shoved it in my suitcase. I slipped it over my stuffed cat’s head and secured it around her neck, adorning her with a handmade kitty collar.

I pulled out a pair of pajamas, changed in the bathroom, and then snuggled under the covers with the bag of Russian loot Dmitri had given me. The heavy metal door that separated the living room and the bedroom was open, so I could see the Russians and they could see me. I scooted up on the bed until I was in just the right place where I could see Dmitri and block out Boris at the same time. I wasn’t completely alone, but I welcomed any amount of privacy I could get.

Dmitri and Boris were downing vodka while they enjoyed dinner. Dmitri shoveled in as much food as my football buddies back home. With all that muscle, his body needed a lot of fuel to keep him strong. The smell of delicious homemade food wafted into my bedroom. I had lied when I told Boris I was full and regretted passing on the opportunity to devour Babushka’s feast. My pride prevented me from running in there like a wild yeti and snatching a handful of homemade dumplings or potato cakes or blini. To curb my hunger, I munched on a round cracker with a hole in it that tasted like a bland, unsalted pretzel.

I opened up one of the fashion magazines and pretended to skim through the pages, but my brain kept spinning around what Boris had said about Vladimir. Did Boris mean Vladimir was heavily guarded to protect him from himself? Would he try to surrender to Maksim again so I could go home safely?

Vladimir had a brilliant mind; he was a genius, according to my father.
There was no way Vladimir couldn’t have used his brain to figure a way out of his predicament. He was twenty-seven years old and successful beyond his years. He was a technical mastermind and ran several businesses. When he’d come to America, he’d started up a legit medical billing company and hired my dad to work for him. Dad never had a clue that Vladimir was involved in organized crime—or that we were spending time together behind his back.

In his “other” business, Vladimir was the boss of the new technology-driven side of the Russian
Bratva
. He had no interest in the lucrative business of prostitution, drugs, gambling, and the usual offenses one would associate with the criminal underworld. His tech-savvy smarts landed him the role as ringleader of highly sophisticated cybercrimes, banking schemes, and tax scams so brilliantly conceived he had scored millions and millions without ever being caught.

Lost in my thoughts, I was startled when Boris stepped into my room. “Feeling okay? Headache, nausea?”

“I feel fine. I’m going to get some sleep now.” I faked a yawn.

He glanced at my stuffed animal and smirked. “Megan and her cats.”

My sister had made a doppelganger kitten family of all the important people in her life. There were feline representatives of our immediate family, but also a long and lanky white cat with bright blue eyes and an overstuffed fluffy black cat that was twice as big as the rest of the family—Vladimir and Boris. My sister considered them part of our family, as did my dad and stepmom. They had all of us fooled.

“Yeah, she’s still obsessed with her kitty collection.”

Boris picked up the handcuffs attached to the bedrail. “Don’t fight me. I’m doing this for your own protection.” He pressed down on my chest to keep me still.

I shook my head and begged him not to do it, that I wasn’t going to do anything stupid, that I’d learned my lesson…

“I’m not taking any chances.” He secured one wrist, then the other to the handrail. “My orders are to get you home in one piece.”

My nightmare would never end. The handcuffs, interrogation room, the decked out Dungeon Suite—more was going on than they were leading me to believe. I didn’t know what was real anymore. If I was their
guest
, why the hostile treatment? I held back my tears and suppressed the Molotov cocktail of emotions churning inside me. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of witnessing my meltdown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7

 

 

The Silver Bullet

 

When Boris turned off the light and locked me in my cell, I unleashed my bottled-up shit storm of fear, panic, and hopelessness. I tugged at the cuffs, trying to yank myself free. I curled my legs up, twisted to the side, and managed to touch the side rail with my foot. I held my awkward position by grasping the rail with my toes.

It wouldn’t be easy, but maybe I could kick down the rail. I didn’t have much leverage, but I could rattle it. If I kept at it, maybe it would eventually break down. The cuffs jangled against the metal as I used all the strength I had to achieve my objective. Dmitri must’ve heard all the commotion. The door creaked open, the light clicked on, and he towered over the bed with his arms crossed when he saw me twisted up like a pretzel, fighting a losing battle. “Help me, Dmitri. I can’t take it.
Please
.”

He wrestled with his thoughts for a moment and then picked up one of my wrists, unlocked the cuff, and did the same on the other side to set me free. He eyed me sternly. “No tell Boris.”


Spasibo
. I promise I won’t do anything to get you into trouble.” I rubbed my wrists and smiled at my hero. “Dmitri
moy droog
? Dmitri is my friend?” I waited breathlessly for him to confirm what I believed. Boris would retaliate against him if he found out Dmitri had defied him, and it wasn’t in his best interest to tangle with the big guy. It had to have been an act of friendship. There was no other explanation.


Nyet
. I am bodyguard.” He pointed his finger at me. “Stay in bed.” He walked toward the door.

“Wait. Can you sit with me until I’m asleep?”

Dmitri paused, left the room, and came back with a heavy book in his hand. He pulled a chair to my bedside and began reading to me from an illustrated book of Russian fairytales. The style of the artwork reminded me of the drawings in Dmitri’s sketchbook. Outdoorsy, personified nature, surreal world.

He read to me in Russian, and although I didn’t understand the words, I felt comforted just hearing his voice. Having someone read to you was a small thing, but it was the sentiment behind it that calmed my trembling nerves. Since I’d been captive, I’d suffered physical and emotional trauma, depression, soul-crushing guilt, but the worst pain of all was
loneliness
.

The separation from my loved ones was unbearable, but the solitude was more emotionally crippling than all the other emotions piled together. Dmitri was all I had. I longed for him to hug me and whisper words of encouragement that everything was going to be okay and feel his muscular arms around me—not in a sexual way—more like a primal craving to
belong
.

I savored every word he spoke, every action. The way his lips moved, his Adam’s apple as it bobbed, his eyes tracking the words across the page. Every time he turned the page he stole glances at me, probably to see if I had fallen asleep. Overcome with the need for a human connection, I crawled across the bed and curled into his lap. I wrapped my arms around him and squeezed the only friend I had in my new world.

I hugged him so tight, I could hear his heartbeat pounding in his chest. At first, Dmitri didn’t do anything. He didn’t reciprocate my hug, but didn’t shove me away, either. After a moment, though, he stroked my hair and whispered comforting words in my ear.

I clung to him and inhaled the scent of home-cooked food that lingered on his t-shirt. He rubbed my back and kissed the top of my head to soothe my trembling body. Being locked in that room and handcuffed to the bed brought on a level of terror I prayed I’d never have to experience again as long as I lived. Dmitri’s warm embrace and comforting touch helped calm me down. He rocked me softly and I clung to him as I fell asleep, never wanting him to leave me alone in my nightmare.

 

***

 

In the morning, Dmitri set out a spread of fresh berries, hot porridge, bread, honey, and yogurt across a small wooden breakfast table covered with a floral tablecloth and a trio of lace doilies down the center. He handed me a bowl, and for the first time since I’d been captive, I got to choose what I wanted to eat. It was a small milestone, but a positive one.

I ladled out a scoop of cereal and topped it with fruit and honey. Dmitri held up a small pot of steaming milk and poured a little over my cereal and a splash in my tea. He eyed my bony arms and arched his eyebrows. “Boris says you lift weights.”


Da
.” I set down my spoon and flexed my arms in a strongman pose.

He smirked, unimpressed by my guns, and shoveled a bite of cereal in his mouth.

“Are you a
real
fighter or an enforcer who beats people up to teach them a lesson, like if they didn’t pay their gambling debts or if they did something that pissed off the
Bratva
?”

He chewed slowly, probably deciding if he was going to answer or not. “Real fighter.” He scraped his bowl clean and downed a glass of juice.

“Cool.” I wanted to ask him a million questions, but I didn’t want to get on his nerves. My situation was looking up and I wanted to stay in good graces with my keeper. Knowing Vladimir wasn’t going to bust through the door and retaliate against me eased my tension, and I prayed Boris was telling the truth about sending me home.

After breakfast, Dmitri led me to the interrogation room door. “I have surprise for you.”

“Oh, my God. I’m going home today?”

“Not
that
good of surprise.”

“Is it a person or a thing? Are you sure it’s a good thing? Do I have to accept this surprise or can I decline? Was this your idea or did Boris come up with it?”

“Surprise means you don’t know, right?” His tone dripped with sarcasm.

“Right. Ready when you are.” I pointed to the door. “Open sesame.”

Dmitri unlocked the door and pulled it open. The heavy table was gone. Chairs gone. All the furniture had been removed, and its place—a gym. “Whoa, this is so cool.
Spasibo
, Dmitri.”

Free weights, a padded bench, yoga stuff, a can of tennis balls, and my
racquet!
I’d packed it for my trip and hoped I could hit some balls at the resort. I’d been playing with the same racquet, AKA The Silver Bullet, since high school. Considering my long list of problems, sports equipment wasn’t a priority, but it was my good luck charm.

“Boris wants you to get your strength back and put some weight back on before you go home. Better for you to be healthy than like this.” He sneered and gestured at my frail, banged up body.

“Okay.” I wasn’t insulted that he had implied I looked like hell. I bounced a ball on the ground to test it out. I stepped back and hit the ball lightly against the wall to warm up my arm. It wasn’t a huge room, just about the size of the living room in our apartment back home, but I had plenty of wall space to hit the ball and enough concrete floor to bounce it on.

“Start off easy. Don’t hurt yourself.”

I rallied against the wall at a moderate pace, careful to keep my movements slow and steady. Dmitri seemed satisfied I wasn’t going to crash and burn and stalked off to use the free weights.

The truth was, every muscle in my body ached, my wrists were sore from struggling against the cuffs, and I had a hard time focusing on the ball. I never let on that I was in pain or having trouble, though. I vowed to get back in shape quickly with the aid of all the equipment and unlimited amounts of nutritious food. I peeked over my shoulder to see what Dmitri was doing.

He had taken off his shirt and was lifting free weights. For a Russian gangster, his skin was light on ink. From what I could see, he just had one series of “bloody” scratch tats—like from a tiger—across his right shoulder. His muscles rippled as he pumped iron, and sweat glistened on his body.

After I hit for maybe another ten minutes, I could barely keep myself upright. I was winded and sweaty, my legs were wobbly, and stars were flashing before my eyes. I rolled out a yoga mat, lay down on my back, and did some lazy stretches.

Dmitri was inverted on a padded bench holding a heavy free weight and doing crunches. He grunted out the last ten reps, set down the weight, and placed his hands on his hips as he caught his breath. Sweat trickled down his body and sprinkled on the floor.

Seeing him work out with such vigor inspired me to get up and get moving. I may not have been in top form, but I could do more than some half-ass yoga moves. I hopped to my feet and jogged to the punching bag. I put my weight on my right leg and pounded the bag. It was so heavy, or I was so weak, it hardly moved.

I made up various combinations of jabs, hooks, and uppercuts, and mentally etched Boris’s face on the bag as my target. I began to hit harder. Sweat rolled into my eyes. The salt burned, but I didn’t stop fighting. The bag swayed with the intensity of my punches and I bounced on my toes, unwilling to relent or give in to exhaustion.

Fifty more good knocks and Boris will drop to the floor. One, two, three…

Dmitri pulled me away from the bag. “Easy, Carter.”

“Get off me. I’m not done yet.” I tried to shrug him off.

“Enough.” He pulled me back and stood between me and the bag.

I put my hands on my knees to catch my breath and wiped the sweat off my face with my shirt. I was so lost in the zone, I hadn’t realized Dmitri had come up behind me. He handed me a towel and led me to the kitchen. He motioned for me to sit and poured us a couple glasses of water.

“Who were you fighting?” he asked.

I smiled, embarrassed by my win-or-die-trying nature. “I’ll give you three guesses.”

Dmitri smirked. “I fight my papa.”

“Why? Is he part of the
Bratva
? You don’t like him?”

“He’s in Siberia. He murdered my mama with his fists.”

“Oh, God. How terrible. I’m so sorry.”

“When I step in the ring, I trick my brain to think my opponent will hurt my sisters if I fail.” He pointed to the scratch tats on his shoulder. “One tattoo for each win.” He lifted his fists. “I fight to keep Mari and Ruslana alive. If I fail, there is no one left to save them.”

No wonder he wants to get his family out of Russia.
“Good for you, Dmitri. I have no doubt you’ll save your sisters.” I lifted my glass. “To getting the hell out of Russia.”

He repeated the toast and clinked my glass.

BOOK: Prisoner (Russian Tattoos Book 2)
13.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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