Authors: Bella Rose,Leona Lee
Obeying the Russian Mafia Boss: A Mob Romance
By: Bella Rose, Leona Lee
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2016 Bella Rose, Leona Lee
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Hospitals seemed designed to make people uncomfortable. The walls were white and barren, and the blue chairs were hard and uncomfortable. In the silence of the waiting rooms, the chatter from the nurse’s station bounced off the walls, and the beeping and whining of machines were excruciating. Waiting rooms and halls were filled with people crying or panicking. Ella Davis was somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Her mother had been admitted into the hospital with liver failure two weeks ago, and she was on the transplant list, but her options were bleak.
If Heather Davis survived long enough to receive another liver, the surgery would cost a couple hundred thousand dollars. Ella’s mother had taken early retirement from her teaching job to care for her husband when he’d been diagnosed with cancer, and Ella barely scraped together a living as a cashier at the grocery store. Heather had the cheapest possible insurance and no way to pay the sky-high deductible. They’d be in debt for the rest of their lives.
Without the surgery, her mother would die, and Ella was not about to let that happen. She’d lost her father five years ago. She would not lose her mother as well.
“Ms. Davis? Your mother is awake if you want to go in and see her now.” The nurse gave her a warm smile, and Ella inhaled deeply and nodded her head. The double doors buzzed and opened, and Ella quickly stepped through. She knew the way by heart now.
Fifteen steps straight. Turn left. Seven steps. Turn right.
For a moment, she stood still and stared through the glass door. Her mother was hooked to all those machines, and they haunted Ella at night. Whenever she closed her eyes and tried to rest, the beeping from her memories taunted her. Even though she knew that she was looking at her mother, she couldn’t help but remember watching her father.
What had her mother told her then?
Don’t be afraid, baby. Those machines aren’t scary. They’re helping him. They’re making him feel better.
Ella didn’t believe her mother then, and there was no one to convince her now. Balling her hands into fists, she closed her eyes and counted to ten. In those seconds, she tried to let go of her fear and anxiety. When she opened her eyes again, there was a fake smile on her face. Sliding the door open, Ella stepped in. “Good morning, Mom. How are you feeling today?”
Heather turned her head and smiled tiredly. Ella’s mother had the most beautiful red hair and gorgeous blue eyes, but today her hair was limp on the pillow, and her blue eyes were dull. Looking at her mother was almost like looking in a mirror. These days, Ella’s own red hair and blue eyes were just as lifeless.
Heather, even attached to all those machines, was still mentally sharp. She never missed anything. “Are you not sleeping? There are bags under your eyes, baby girl.”
“Answering a question with a question. That’s typical of you.” Ella busied herself with smoothing the sheets over her mother. “Are you thirsty? Would you like some water?”
Heather nodded, and Ella grabbed the cup of water by her mother’s bed and held the straw up to Heather’s lips. After a few sips, she waved the water away. “Enough. Tell me something.”
“What would you like me to tell you? Last night I had a woman in her sixties come through my cash-out lane with lubricant, duct tape, and whipped cream. The look in her eyes was absolutely terrifying.”
Her mother chuckled and immediately started to cough. “You’re making that up.”
“I would never lie to you,” Ella swore as she put her hand over her heart. “But that was the only exciting thing that happened. A few underage kids tried to buy beer, and a homeless man came in to chill out for a little bit.”
Heather frowned. “That sounds dangerous. Did you kick him out?”
“Kick him out? Of course not. He was just a harmless man, and he keeps to himself. I usually sneak him a sandwich and a vitamin drink.”
“And I’m sure you slip some carrots and bananas in his coat pockets for later,” Heather said softly. She reached out and took Ella’s hand. “You are always so sweet. Trying to take care of people. Trying to take care of me.”
Ella felt her throat tighten up. “I think the nurses are doing most of the work. I just stop by when I can and give you a kiss on the forehead.”
“I wish you wouldn’t, Ella. You’re young and beautiful. You shouldn’t be spending your time with a sick woman like me. You shouldn’t spend your time in a hospital. You should be out enjoying your life!”
“I’m not here for you,” Ella joked with a frown. “I’m here to meet a doctor. There are quite a few cute ones running around. I just can’t decide if I want the tall blonde one or the short muscular one.”
Her mother chuckled, but before she could say anything, the nurse walked in. “All right, Mrs. Davis, it’s time for your bath and medicine.”
Ella stepped back. “I’m going to grab a cup of coffee while you have your bath. I’ll come back to check on you later.”
As she closed the door to her mother’s room, she felt the tears springing to her eyes. Before she lost complete control, she hurried to the elevator. Alone, she finally let herself go. The tears tracked down her face, and she gasped for breath. She knew that her mother wasn’t high on the donor list, and the chances were very good that she was going to die before they even found a match.
When the elevator doors opened, Ella quickly wiped her face and took a deep breath. Feeling more composed, she headed for the hospital cafeteria for a cup of coffee and a sandwich. She still had a few hours before her next shift.
Her hands shook at the coffee machine, and when the hot liquid accidentally splashed on her wrist, she gasped and dropped the coffee pot.
“Whoa!” Male hands reached out and grabbed the pot around the plastic rim. “You don’t want to spill that on yourself,” he said in a thick Russian accent.
Ella looked up and blinked. The stranger who stood only inches from her was absolutely gorgeous. Hard muscle. Piercing grey eyes. Square jaw. Thick blonde hair. He towered over her, and she stumbled a few steps back. He dominated the room, and his close and quiet presence startled her.
“I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said with a disarming smile. “I just didn’t want you to hurt yourself.”
“Thanks,” she whispered. “I’m a little sleep deprived.”
“I can see that.” He took the cup from her and slowly topped the coffee off. Then he poured himself a cup and put the pot safely back on the burner. “Can I get you anything?”
“I’m sorry, do you work here?” Ella swept her eyes over him. He didn’t look like someone who worked at the hospital. That face could grace the cover of a magazine, and his body begged to be touched.
“No. I’m visiting someone. You just looked like you might need something.”
Ella realized that she was staring and immediately flushed. She was here to visit her mother, and he was probably here to visit someone on their deathbed, and here she was having sexual fantasies about him. “Sandwich,” she muttered.
“You want a sandwich?”
Ella nodded mutely, and the man gave her a strange look. “Why don’t you sit here, and I’ll get you that sandwich.” He took her by the hand and led her to a table. Ella gripped her coffee and sat down hard on the chair. When he left her, she took a sip of her coffee and mentally berated herself. She wasn’t the type of woman to be speechless in front of man, but she also wasn’t the kind of woman who attracted men like that.
Not that it mattered. She doubted that he’d be back. Sipping her coffee, she finally shook her head and stood.
“Are you planning on leaving before you eat?” The gorgeous stranger stepped in front of her and handed her a wrapped sandwich. “I figured ham and cheese was a safe bet. That seems to be an American favorite.”
Ella shook her head and smiled. “Thank you. How much do I owe you?”
“Please.” He put his hand up and sat down. “Just some company would be nice.”
There was nothing to do but let him join her. “I’m Ella.”
“Erik Chesnovak.” He stretched out his arm as if to shake her hand, but instead he brought her fingers to his lips. They brushed over her knuckles, and she shivered.
“Chesnovak? Is that Russian? What does San Diego have for you?”
“Warm weather, for one thing,” he said with a smile. “It’s nice to actually be outside without fearing frostbite.”
“California is good for warmth.” Ella unwrapped her sandwich and bit into it. She was hungry, but she was also running out of things to say.
“Are you here for your husband?” Erik asked softly. “You look like you’re here for someone close to you.”
“My mother. She’s on the transplant list for a new liver. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I’m probably looking at months because she’s not very high on the list. Apparently she’s not sick enough.” The more she talked, the more upset she got. Not wanting to cry in front of Erik, she quickly turned her head and furiously tried to do math problems in her head.
She was terrible at math, and running simple problems in her head distracted her.
One plus one is two. Two plus two is four. Four plus four is eight. Eight plus eight is sixteen. Sixteen plus sixteen is thirty…thirty-two.
“That’s a shame. I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve heard this is an excellent hospital, so I’m sure your mother is in good hands,” Erik said.
Ella cleared her throat and turned back towards him. “And you? Here for your wife?”
“Not married. I’m just here visiting an old friend. I have a debt that I need to repay.”
He wasn’t married. He didn’t have to tell her that. Was he making a point of telling her that he was single? Had she asked because she wanted to know?
“A debt, huh? I hope he lives long enough for you to fulfill that.” As soon as the words here out of her mouth, she cringed. “I am so sorry. That did not come out right. I sincerely hope that your friend is okay.”
“Don’t apologize, and don’t worry. He won’t be dying until I’m ready. I plan to see to that.” A dark expression crossed his face, but it was quickly gone.
“Power of positive thinking. I’ve been reading a bunch of books about that. I’m usually a pretty positive person myself, but it’s a little hard these days.” She swallowed the rest of her sandwich and glanced at the clock. “Erik, thank you for the sandwich, but I have to go. I need to say goodbye to my mother before I leave for work.”
Erik stood with her and nodded. “Of course. I should probably go see my friend.” He put a hand on the small of her back and walked her to the elevator. At the touch, Ella almost forgot to breathe. She tried to tell herself that it was probably a Russian custom, but it seemed intimate.
Far too intimate for strangers.
“Which floor?” he asked as they stepped into the elevator.
“Four,” she replied automatically. The number was burned into her brain. First her mother had been rushed to the ER on the first floor. Then Heather was transferred to the sixth floor for tests. Then it was the second floor at the ICU. And now she was on the fourth floor for extended care.
“Me too,” he said as he pushed the button and settled back against the wall. “You’re here alone? Where is the rest of your family?”
“I’m it. It’s just my mother and me. My father passed away a few years ago, and there is no extended family. Just me.”
“You’re a strong woman,” he murmured. “And yet you’re so small.”
The elevator dinged and the doors opened.
“I’m not sure if that was a compliment or not,” she said with a chuckle. “Thank you for the company. I didn’t realize how much I needed it.”
“The pleasure was all mine.”
Ella gave him a flustered smile and stopped at the nurse’s window. The woman buzzed her in, and Ella went to say goodbye to her mother.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Davis, but I just administered her pain medication. I’m afraid she’s asleep, but I’ll make sure to tell her that you stopped to say goodbye,” the nurse said with a cheerful smile.
Ella nodded weakly. Through the glass, she could see her mother’s chest slowly rising and falling. She looked so peaceful. Ella stayed there for a few minutes and touched the glass. Heather would be asleep when Ella got off work, so she wouldn’t be able to talk with her mother until morning.