Tags: #The Russian Guns
Copyright © 2014 by Kristen Bragdon.
All rights reserved.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher; exceptions are made for brief excerpts used in published reviews.
an imprint of F+W Media, Inc.
10151 Carver Road, Suite 200
Blue Ash, OH 45242. U.S.A.
ISBN 10: 1-4405-8064-2
ISBN 13: 978-1-4405-8064-2
eISBN 10: 1-4405-8065-0
eISBN 13: 978-1-4405-8065-9
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events, or locales in this novel are either the product of the author's imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any character to actual persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.
Cover art © istockphoto.com/Dmitrii Kotin
For Bug. For your strength and your perseverance. For your little soul because you don’t know the effect you really have. You inspired words, love, and friendship.
Thank you to Crimson and my editor for their work, time, and effort with this story. My spouse, for indulging this crazy idea and finally finding a plot of mine he wanted to read. Dixie, for her unyielding support, love, and time, no matter the day or night. Elle, for reading every word of this, new and old, through chat; for helping me pick names, pouring through research, making me smile, laugh, and cry. Anton, for being that one character who just wouldn’t shut up, and still won’t. Thank you. And to all the people who read my words, wherever you are, whoever you are, I send you love and gratitude.
Anton sat behind an oak desk, fingers drumming an anxious beat on the wood.
Ivan caught his eye with a sympathetic frown. Their conversation had stalled into nothing at all. Neither knew what to say anymore. All the words they could dream up to yell at one another had been used in both English and Russian. They never argued, and if they did, it was rare. Closer than brothers, and they didn’t even share blood. Very seldom did Anton find an urge to yell at his Sovietnik the way he had tonight.
“Soon,” Ivan spoke up, tilting his head to the side. “You can give the order soon.”
“Soon could be too fucking late.”
“You have to take that chance.”
“Fifty thousand dollars to his cousin said she wouldn’t last the month,” Anton argued, words practically spitting through clenched teeth. “The price he’s going to offer out on her head isn’t worth the blood in her body. She’s a mafia princess, the daughter of a
“Not to Sonny, because in all honesty, he knows the truth.”
Anton ignored Ivan and continued on like the other man hadn’t even spoken. “Still a boss’s child, no matter which boss it is. You don’t pay five grand to off a woman like Viviana.”
“Goddamn it, you don’t
what that’d do to me.”
“Her dead, or the price?”
Viviana dead would absolutely destroy Anton. All those years he spent waiting and watching, keeping that safe distance but planning to make his move would be wasted. He’d been so careful and meticulous about his words and feelings for her when it came to his men and the rest of the Bratva organization, but there were some things he simply couldn’t hide.
Love for one.
He loved her so fucking hard it hurt and had for almost a decade.
“You’ve paid less,” Ivan pointed out.
Anton felt anger blaze through his veins like an inferno. “Are you comparing me to Sonny Carducci?”
“No, I’m just saying—”
“I’ve paid less for those who are worth less. You know I wouldn’t give an order to off a woman unless it was absolutely necessary. And
would I hurt Viviana. My whole life has been nothing but for
. Nicoli made sure of that.”
Before he could second-guess his choice, Anton hit the speaker button on the conference phone on the desk, dialing in the number and allowing it to ring. A familiar voice picked up on the second ring.
“Boris,” Anton greeted. “How are my things coming along?”
“As they have been. Another busy night.”
“Anton, I’m telling you that this isn’t the right time,” Ivan whispered warningly.
The younger man held up a middle finger as his silent fuck you. He didn’t take orders, he gave them.
“I want Viviana delivered to the safe house by tomorrow morning. Is that doable?”
Really, the question wasn’t meant to be posed as a request. If Anton suggested something to one of his men, it was a clear demand that meant they needed to get it done and correctly, or there would be hell to pay. Sometimes he seemed a little quieter than most other men of his status, but beyond his confident, calm exterior lay the cutthroat attitude and behaviour of any crime boss. He didn’t get where he was now by playing nice. No, he did what he had to.
After all, he had the very best teacher in his step-grandfather.
Anton straightened in his chair. “Uh,
“Tomorrow night might be a better option, Boss. That’s all.”
“The bull stays outside of the building after checking the floors does he not? He’s yet to notice Viktor or you, so I fail to see—”
“Not tonight, Boss,” the Brigadier interrupted with a remorseful tone.
“They showed up at the dorm together, you know…”
“Not really,” Anton snapped.
, Boss. They were all over each other. He went in with her and hasn’t come out. Okay?”
Anton almost choked on his tongue.
Oh, Viviana, no…
“Listen, we can go in now, but—”
A strangled growl stopped the man’s words up short. The Bratva prince didn’t want to hear it; he didn’t care. What was his was his, regardless of what came before the arrangement could be fulfilled. God knew he’d taken enough women to his bed for a random distraction over the last nine long years.
“In the morning. Do it then. Not a hair on her head is to be harmed or your blood will spill. Leave nothing behind.”
“And the bull, Boss?”
Anton felt no guilt when he repeated, “Leave nothing.”
A screech from Viviana’s left side caused the pounding in her temple to increase.
“Vine, shut that damned thing off, would you?” Sam’s husky voice reminded her of just who was in her bed and why she had yet to wake up. “You’ve hit the snooze a half a dozen times. Don’t you have a lecture?”
Grumbling, she rubbed at her eyes. Finally, she blinked enough to feel awake and smacked at the alarm until it stopped beeping. Tossing blankets off the bed, her feet hit the cold floor. She barely recognized the time flashing on the alarm, but what her bleary eyes could see was enough to tell she was running late.
Really, really late.
“Why didn’t you wake me up?” Viviana asked, scowling.
A tanned hand waved indifferently. Sam couldn’t even be bothered to open his eyes and look at her. Some bodyguard he was.
“Like today is any different from yesterday?”
“This lecture is important!”
Clothes that had been carelessly scattered the night before were plucked up in her hands. Too much vodka and an attractive man made Viviana a messy girl. Eventually, she located the dark black skinny jeans and ribbed tank she’d worn the night before. Sniffing the clothes, they smelled decent enough, so she pulled them on and kicked around more stuff to find sneakers.
The sound of a glock’s chamber being manually discharged stopped her heart for a split second. It brought back memories she’d buried deep in the depths of her mind. It was a sound she never wanted to hear again. The black jacket in her hands fell to the floor as she chanced a look over at the door, then to the window.
Instinct, that’s what her father would have called it, because it was in her blood and bones. It didn’t matter that she was a girl, and girls couldn’t ever join the Cosa Nostra, she knew a fucking gun. Viviana could hold one, shoot like any made man, but that was only because her father said she had to learn.
The Don’s child had to know how to shoot.
Dropping to all fours, she heard Sam laugh deeply.
“Chill, girl. I’m just checking the clip; my piece needs to be cleaned.”
“I hate guns.” Her voice was strained, anxiety eating away at her lungs that couldn’t seem to inhale. “Put it away.”
“Can’t. I gotta check the floor before you go,” he replied quietly. When Viviana’s scowl made another appearance, he added, “Sorry. Those are the rules. You wanted freedom, so they gave it. I’m just one of the conditions that came along for the ride, babe.”
A nauseous feeling settled in her like a heavy weight. “I’ve been here a year and there hasn’t been an issue. Why can’t you just leave?”
Sam swung his legs over the side of the bed, the movement drawing her eyes in to the bands of muscle that stretched and flexed all over his tanned form. The light dusting of hair that covered his chest and created a thin line to the spot between his legs had her memory on overload with images from the night before. He was all-American with a touch of Italian on the tip of his magic tongue. Kind of handsome. Cussed like a sailor, had a perfectly deadly sort of aim with a gun, and always stayed far enough away to never draw attention but close enough that she was still aware of his presence.
“You want me to leave after last night?”
Viviana refused to dignify that with a response. His cock stood at attention: hard, glorious, and probably still smelling like her pussy. Oh God, smelling like her. Panic saturated her from the inside out.
“Last night … tell me we used—”
“A condom,” he interrupted. “Yeah. I don’t fuck without one.”
Sweet relief never felt so good. Sure, she was on the shot, but that didn’t mean Sam wasn’t out there fucking God knew who when he wasn’t working.
Sam didn’t pay Viviana’s relieved sigh a moment of attention as he reached for his jeans. “I’ll check the floors and you can go.”
“What are we going to do?” she asked, shifting into a sitting position on the floor as he pulled on a pair of jeans. “Just … not tell anyone?”
Sam cringed. “That’s probably best.”
, she thought sarcastically.
Being the daughter of a former mafia boss, Viviana should have known better. You didn’t sleep with your bodyguard, and if they were worth anything, your bodyguard didn’t make a move to bridge the personal gaps between you. Sam had been good, too. For the last year he’d done just what he needed, followed orders to the letter, and kept her as safe as he possibly could.
And then last night happened …
“Vine, you’re freaking out over there when it’s only me here. No one is gonna know we knocked boots if you don’t say anything about it. I like my life right where it is, and I don’t plan on swimming with the fish any time soon, so I sure as hell won’t be saying a thing. If you want, I can request another man—”
“You’re not made, right?”
Sam looked confused. “I’m not …
She waved a hand between them. “Is this job your guarantee into it?”
The indignant sound he released was enough of an answer.
“It takes a little more than that, and you’re not worth very much now.”
“No one likes to off a woman, Vine, especially if that woman is Roman’s daughter. Doesn’t matter if he’s six feet under or not now, they already got your momma and brother. I suppose killing you just seemed cruel and unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. Be grateful they’re letting you live.”
“Grateful? They’re just waiting for me to screw up and then …” Trailing off, Viviana made the shape of a gun with her thumb and forefinger and pulled the trigger at her temple. “
. I’ll be the one swimming with the fish.”
His unaffected, blank stare chilled.