Prisoner (Russian Tattoos Book 2) (5 page)

BOOK: Prisoner (Russian Tattoos Book 2)
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Chapter 8

 

 

Pummeled

 

After our morning workout, I showered and changed into one of my breezy beach dresses I had packed for Punta Cana. Dmitri charged me with preparing lunch while he took his turn in the bathroom. I had hoped this was a sign that he trusted me not to run off, but he had issued a stern warning and let me know there were surveillance cameras in every room—except the bedroom—and armed guards stationed outside the door. If I made any attempt to escape or tried anything stupid, I would have to face the Wrath of Boris.

Message received.

I pulled out a bowl of soup from the fridge, poured it into a cast iron pot, and set it on the stove to heat. I placed a loaf of bread and some accoutrements in the center of the table and opened a can of black caviar for Dmitri. While I was in survivor mode, I recognized the sharp lid from the can would’ve made a nice shiv, but knowing I was being monitored, I tossed it in the trash receptacle. I didn’t have it in me to use it as a weapon, anyway. I wanted to outsmart Dmitri so I could escape, not slice him open and watch him bleed to death.

While the soup warmed, I got out the colored pencils Dmitri had provided so I could color to pass the time and worked on a picture in his sketchbook. He said he had hidden something that represented Vladimir in his latest creation, but I couldn’t figure out what he was referring to.

I surmised that a crow that appeared in every scene was Kiki, so I colored the tips of her wings hot pink. While I was in my coloring zone, the outside door clanged open.
Boris?
Dmitri had said he was coming for dinner. But why was he here in the middle of the afternoon?

Heavy footsteps pounded through the interrogation room. I heard the digital keypad chime, then the door flew open and a grisly man with pockmarked cheeks and steely blue eyes stomped into the room.
Oh, God. The Ovechkin Bratva!
I leaped off the couch to race to the bedroom, but he tackled me to the floor and slapped duct tape across my mouth to silence my screams.

A second man stomped past my attacker. Something was in his hand—a gun. And it was aimed at my bedroom door.

He must know Dmitri is in there.

I kicked my legs and thrashed my body, but the pockmarked guy was as thick and solid as a tree trunk. He picked me up and tossed me over his shoulder like a limp noodle. Terror settled in that I was no match for those brutes. With his gun drawn, the second guy led the way as my handler carried me through the living room.

Get out of the shower, Dmitri!

I pounded on Pockmark’s back, but my measly fists did nothing to deter him. I was upside down and my head was bobbing as he cut through the room, but I had my wits about me and knocked the lamp off the side table. The room went black. I prayed the tinny sound of glass shattering was enough to get Dmitri’s attention, or at least the darkness might slow down the intruders.

The gunman used the light from his cellphone to lead the way to the exit door. I grabbed my handler’s ratty ponytail and used my bodyweight to rear his head back, breaking his stride for a beat. He retaliated by punching me in the side and bouncing me while I was upside down and bent over his shoulder, knocking the wind out of me. I let go of his hair and grasped his shirt to hold myself steady.

Where were the guards that were supposed to be stationed outside? Where was Boris?
Come on, Dmitri!

Disoriented, I squeezed my eyes shut. Then I heard the room being ransacked and a loud “
thunking
” sound. The gunman let out a guttural moan and a body crashed to the floor.

Whack!
I screeched when something heavy pounded me on the back, and then the room exploded in crashing and yelling and grunting all around me. I prayed someone on our team was behind the chaos. Another thud, and Pockmark dropped me like a sack of beets, sending me crash-landing on the ground flat on my back.

“Get out, Carter!
Davai
!” Dmitri shouted as the sound of fists on flesh and primal grunting reverberated off the walls.

The room was pitch black, and after my fall I wasn’t sure which way was out. I sat up, ripped the duct tape off my mouth, and regained my bearings. A sliver of light came in from the interrogation room, and a cool breeze drifted in from the same direction. The door to the outside was open.

Dmitri and Pockmark were pounding on each other and yelling. I wasn’t sure who was winning, so I crawled toward the door. Along the way, I bumped into the gunman’s body. He groaned, rolled over, and tried to get up. His gun had to be close by.


Davai,
Carter! Get out. Lock door behind you.” Dmitri’s voice was strained as he and Pockmark were beating the life out of each other.

The door to freedom was just ahead. I could also see a glint of light reflecting off a pistol a few feet away. The gunman saw it too. He was too out of it to stand, but he crawled on his hands and knees to get it. If I followed Dmitri’s order, got out, and locked the door, Dmitri was a dead man. He was risking his life to protect me. Only a coward would run out that door. I’d rather die fighting than slink away like a loser.

I went for the gun.

Snagging it before the gunman could, I pointed it right at him like I’d seen in all the shoot ’em up movies I’d ever watched and yelled, “Freeze, asshole.”

He jawed at me in Russian and kept crawling at me.

Shit.

I changed up my game plan and shouted to Pockmark instead, threatening to shoot if he didn’t let Dmitri go, but
duh
, the intruders didn’t speak English.

The gunman was getting closer. I aimed my weapon between his eyes—I thought. My vision was blurry and it was so dark, at best, the gun was pointing in his general vicinity. “
Nyet, nyet, nyet
. Don’t come any closer,” I warned. “I’m not afraid to kill you.” My hands were shaking so badly, even I wasn’t convinced.

“Run, Carter!”

I wanted to pull the trigger, but I couldn’t make myself do it. I knew those monsters wouldn’t hesitate to use it on Dmitri, or me, for that matter, but this was real life, not the movies, and I couldn’t take someone’s life. Not even to protect myself. But that shithead didn’t know that. The
pakhan
had taught me how to fire a weapon back home in Cincinnati. I pointed the gun into the kitchen and pulled the trigger.

The gun fired, and the bullet ricocheted off something, causing everyone to go still for a beat. “Dmitri? Are you okay?”

Nothing.
God, did I shoot him?

The gunman ambled to his feet. I heard a choking sound coming from where Dmitri and Pockmark where fighting.

“Dmitri, dig in the trashcan. There’s a shiv in there you can use to slice him open.”

He didn’t answer.
Shit.
Was Dmitri winning or was it the other way around?

“Carter, go!” Dmitri grunted.

“I’ve got this one covered. Come with—”

I’d taken my eye of the gunman for a split second, and that was all the time he needed to knock the gun out of my hand, grab me by the ponytail, and yank me toward the door like a knuckle-dragging caveman.

From behind my back, footsteps thundered and Dmitri whacked my abductor in the head with a blunt object. I heard a stomach-churning crack and a sickening groan, then the guy released his death grip on me and thumped on the ground.

“Dmitri, thank goodness.” Just when I thought we were safe, that Dmitri and I had won, Pockmark tackled Dmitri from behind and took him to the ground. My gut was telling me to get out, to do what Dmitri had ordered me to do. But like I couldn’t pull the trigger and take a human life, I also didn’t have it in me to save myself and leave Dmitri at the mercy of that monster. Maybe he would win, maybe he wouldn’t.

Doing things the easy way went against my grain. It was the hard way or nothing.

I dove on Pockmark’s back and pummeled him in the head with my fists. I closed my fingers over my thumb like Dmitri had taught me so I wouldn’t break my fingers. I beat on him with every ounce of strength I had. The guy’s head was harder than a bowling ball, but I kept pounding, pounding, pounding, intent on knocking him unconscious.

I wailed like a banshee to keep myself breathing and didn’t relent even when he clocked me in the jaw with his elbow. He tried to shrug me off, but he had Dmitri pinned with his humungous body, and if he took one hand off him to get to me, Dmitri would have the advantage.

From behind, someone grabbed the back of my dress and yanked me off the guy. Two gunshots fired and a body collapsed on the ground. I covered my head, not sure who had come in or who had been shot.

“I’ve got you, killer.” Boris reeled me in and plastered me against his body as he moved toward the door. “I can’t leave you alone for a minute.” He yelled out to Dmitri.

I held my breath, waiting to hear a sign of life from my hero.

“Carter, okay?” Dmitri groaned and lumbered to his feet.

I whimpered in the affirmative, and the three of us ambled out of the dungeon and into a black Range Rover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 9

 

 

Vladimir

 

At Boris’s insistence, Dmitri covered my eyes with a blindfold as we made our getaway. Since I would be going home at some point, Boris said it was best that I didn’t know where I was being held. I wasn’t upset. I took it as a positive sign that Boris was telling the truth.

My body ached from being manhandled, beaten, and my knuckles were stiff and swollen from pounding Pockmark in the head. I had a throbbing headache, blurred vision, and my ears were ringing from the deafening blast of gunfire. Physically, I would heal. Mentally, I was torched beyond recognition.

I hugged my legs as Dmitri and I recalled every detail of the attack for Boris. With the blindfold on and my nerves still jangling, I wanted to lay my head on Dmitri’s chest until I relaxed, but Boris would not be cool with me attaching myself to my bodyguard like some needy little suckerfish clinging to a great white shark.

When Boris was satisfied with our intel and the conversation died, Dmitri’s breathing got heavier and he fell into a peaceful sleep. There was no way I could calm down enough to rest, but I kept quiet to stay off Boris’s radar. After a while, he turned on the radio and listened to a news program. I tuned out the voices and rested my head against the door. A wisp of air crept in from the window and I inhaled the scent of civilization.

The terrain had gotten rougher since our journey began. The Rover rocked and bounced on what I supposed was a dirt road. There was no traffic noise, no horns, or sounds of passing cars. The sound of tires crunching on gravel woke Dmitri up. I lifted my head, and Boris told Dmitri to remove my blindfold, and when he did, I could see all the damage on his war-torn face that I had been too preoccupied to notice before.

His cheeks were ruddy and bruised, and blood was caked on his temple, trailing all the way down his neck. Dmitri was willing to give his life for me, and if Boris hadn’t shown up, Dmitri might be dead, and I would’ve been at their mercy. I could’ve stopped that monster. I had a loaded gun in my hand, and all I had to do was pull the trigger.


Izvinite
, Dmitri.” I blotted the blood off his forehead with the back of my hand.


Nyet, nyet, nyet,
Carter.” He nudged me over to my side of the car.

Boris eyed me in the review mirror. “Are you injured?”

Ringing in my ears, throbbing headache, my shoulder feels like someone drove a stake through it…
“No.” My nose started running—dripping more like it. I wiped it on the back of my hand, but it wasn’t snot. Blood was dripping off my chin and all over the front of my dress.

Boris glared at me. “What did you do now?”

“Nothing—I don’t know.”

Dmitri pulled off his t-shirt, wadded it up, and pressed it against my nose. The SUV rolled to a stop, and Boris got out of the driver’s side with an uncharacteristic sense of urgency. “Don’t move.”

Jeez. It’s just a nosebleed.
It didn’t even hurt. It was probably a result of the change in altitude. After all we’d been through, this was nothing.

Boris conversed with someone, and then the passenger door flung open.

A chilly gust of wind breezed through the car. “Hang on, angel.”

Vladimir.

He pulled me out of the car, cradled me in his arms, and barked out orders in Russian to the guys. He lowered Dmitri’s t-shirt from my face. By his expression, I was a gruesome mess. I felt a warm trail of blood oozing down my neck. “You’re safe with me, Carter. Keep your head down.”

He carried me past a pack of armed guards and into a tiny farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere. He set me down on an overstuffed couch and covered me with a patchwork quilt. The living room furnishings were old-fashioned and eclectic, a far cry from Vladimir’s swanky modern mansion in Cincinnati. The hardwood floors were made of natural wood, and oriental style rugs hung on the walls.

The last time I’d seen Vladimir was the night before he left America. The night he drank himself into oblivion, backhanded me across the face, and ordered Alexander to teach me a lesson for making him jealous. Boris denied it, but I knew Vladimir worked himself into a homicidal rage and gave Boris the order to kill me. If my dad hadn’t called the cops and reported me missing, I’d be dead.

At the moment, Vladimir was displaying his sweet and loving side—the good part of the man I’d fallen in love with. Somewhere inside, though, the
pakhan
was lurking, biding his time, waiting for the right moment to strike. Dmitri swooped in and handed Vladimir a wet towel which he pressed against my nose.

I squirmed to get him off me. “I’m fine. It’s just a—” I groaned in pain from my sore shoulder.

“Hold still.” He mopped the blood off my face and gently ran his finger alongside my nose to check for damage. His vibrant blue eyes were intense with concern, but he didn’t look like the Vladimir I knew anymore, nor did he look like the
pakhan
. He had morphed into a completely different person. His cheeks were sunken in, he’d lost at least ten pounds, and he had an unkempt, dirty blond beard that suggested he hadn’t shaved since he left America months ago.

His thumb grazed my protruding collarbone while he applied pressure to my nose to stop the bleeding. I’d lost a considerable amount of weight too while I was their guest. I was sure I appeared as messed up to him as he did to me. Vladimir shot an accusing glare at Dmitri and questioned him in Russian. I didn’t have to speak the language to understand he blamed my bodyguard for my injuries.

“It’s not his fault. He’s taken good care of me the whole time.”

“Obviously.” His jaw tensed as his gaze took a lap around my bruised, bony, and bloody body.

“I’m fine.”

“That
mudak
hit you.”

“Not that hard.”

“He knocked you to the ground.”

“I’m just a little sore.”

Vladimir’s hands tightened into fists. “I swear to God I’ll make this right for you, Carter. I will rip my heart out of my chest and hand it to those fuckers if that’s what it takes.”

“What the girl needs is a change of clothes and a warm bed.” Boris handed Vladimir a stack of clothes and laid his hand on his shoulder to calm him down. “Take her upstairs and get her cleaned up and settled for the night.”

For once, Boris was on my side. The sensation of that filthy ogre’s hands lingered on my skin. I had dried blood caked on my clothes and a couple rounds of blood splatter from the thugs who tried to pawn me for Vladimir’s life. “Sounds perfect.” I hopped off the couch and instantly felt dizzy from the sudden movement. I held out my hands to steady myself.

Vladimir caught me and wrapped his arm around my back. “I’ve got you.”

“I don’t need—” Before I could finish my sentence, he scooped me off my feet and carried me up a narrow flight of stairs to a tiny bedroom. It was decorated like a little girl’s room with dolls and stuffed animals piled up on a light blue dresser, and faded photos of the family lined the walls.

Lacy white curtains covered the windows, and a handmade cross adorned with faux jewels and a pink ribbon was tacked on the wall next to the bed. It was like the one Boris had dangling from the rearview mirror in his Cadillac back home. The only female sibling in the family was Boris’s daughter, Katia. She died years ago when she was a little girl.

Vladimir lowered me to the bed and set a change of clothes next to me. “I apologize. We weren’t expecting you.”

I picked through the pile and held up a man’s undershirt and some seriously long sweatpants—Vladimir’s clothes.

“I’ll send out for an appropriate wardrobe in the morning.”

“Thanks. This is fine.” I nodded politely, waiting for him to leave so I could change, but he didn’t take the hint.

“You’re in pain. I need to examine your shoulder. Can you undress, or do you need help?”

God, can this situation get any worse?
“I got it. Close your eyes.”

He covered his eyes with his hand. “If you need me, say the word.”

My dress was a casual cotton pullover, but when I raised my arms to lift it over my head, a sharp pain prevented me from removing it. I groaned, and that was all it took to alert Vladimir that I was in more pain than I was letting on.


Moy slomannyy angel.”
He lowered my arms and caressed my shoulder. “Don’t be frightened.” He pulled a knife out of his pocket, penetrated the dress, and ripped it up the middle. The ruffles at the center were stronger and required another thrust to finish the job. Once it was split, he coaxed my arms out of the sleeves and dropped the bloody mess to the ground. He unhooked my bra and slid it off.

I pulled my hair forward and covered my bare breasts. Vladimir turned down the pink satin quilt that covered the twin bed and guided me under the sheets. I lay face down and he tucked me in, leaving my back exposed from the waist up. “Dimitri didn’t mean to hurt me,” I said. “I’d be at the mercy of those monsters right now if he hadn’t whizzed everything in the room at them.”

“Relax, Carter.” He ran his fingers lightly over the area of impact and moved my arm at the same time. Then his hand slid down my back and pressed against my side where the ogre punched me. “You’ve got a couple deep contusions. No broken bones, no dislocated shoulder.” He moved his hand across my back and caressed an area that was less sensitive.

I was physically and emotionally wrecked. The bed was warm and comfortable. I closed my eyes and exhaled, releasing the tension trapped in my muscles. Vladimir soothed some lotion over the injured area. It smelled medicinal and created a warming sensation when it penetrated my skin. The cool, minty cream felt heavenly as he slathered it across my aching body. Heavy footsteps pounded up the stairs, but I was too exhausted to lift my head to see who it was.

A moment later, a warm compress blanketed my back and the light switch clicked off. I expected Vladimir to leave, but he stayed by my side, massaged my temples, and whispered that he would never let anyone harm me again as long as he lived. His encouraging words calmed me, and I didn’t want him to leave, but I wasn’t ready to forgive and forget all the hell he’d put me through.

 

BOOK: Prisoner (Russian Tattoos Book 2)
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