A Ruthless Russian Arms Dealer crosses paths with an innocent Librarian student and decides to claim her for his own, despite the consequences.
“No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine.”
- Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
I had run out of time… and options.
Tuition was due next week.
I had no choice but to beg for the money tonight, or I’d be kicked out of school.
I gripped the cold, wrought iron fence railing and tried to calm my breathing. I reached up to straighten my bangs as I checked to make sure the topknot securing my hair was still in place. Normally, I just threw my hair up in a messy bun with two twists of a scrunchy, but today I had taken the care to smooth it into a tight, elegant bun. I had hoped it would make me look older and studious. The effect was almost worth the headache the tight hair band and bobbypins were giving me. I couldn’t wait for this to be over. The first thing I would do would be to take my hair down.
Giving myself one last inspection, I bent down to wipe a small smudge off the toe of my Doc Marten Mary Janes before straightening my pink plaid skirt.
Hefting my leather backpack onto my shoulder, I swung open the gate. Wincing as it squeaked, I paused, waiting for… I’m not sure what. The sounds of angry dogs barking? A warning gunshot over my head?
Sliding first one foot along the brick-paved walkway, then the other, I forced myself to walk up the short set of stairs.
Rolling my eyes, I sighed. The house would have an imposing glossy black door with a massive brass lion’s head clasping a heavy ring in its jaws for a door knocker. All I was missing was some misty fog and the sound of the Thames lapping at the shore and I’d be in some Dicken’s novel with me playing the part of the poor urchin begging for scraps.
I wasn’t the poor urchin.
Squaring my shoulders, I reminded myself I was the heroine of my story. And like most of Austen’s heroines, this particular heroine desperately needed this man’s money! As Lizzie Bennet said to the arrogant Mr. Darcy: My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.
With more boldness than I felt, I raised my arm to grasp the metal ring. Before I could, the door swung open with such force, a blast of air ruffled my bangs.
With a small cry, I took a step back.
In my vivid imagination, the person seemed more beast than man.
With his legs planted wide, his shaved head barely missed hitting the top of the doorway. The black goatee covering his upper lip and chin only highlighted the sharp planes of his jaw and nose. Beneath his right eye there was some sort of slash mark or scar which gave the already pretty freaking scary-looking man an even more ominous appearance. Naked from the waist up, his muscled chest was covered in brightly colored tattoos. Good Lord! Was that an image of a dagger dripping with blood on his neck?
A grim scowl clouded his features as he stared down at me with cold, stormy eyes.
“I… I… I….” My brain froze. My jaw was too stiff to form any words.
In reality, I knew he had spoken some normal, English-language words, but all I heard emanating from his lips was the deep, threatening growl of a beast. It didn’t help that he had the distinctive guttural purr of a Russian accent.
This man was definitely not Mr. Linus Fitzgerald III elderly son of my former benefactor!
My tongue felt thick and awkward in my mouth. “I’m so sorry. There’s been a mistake.”
My body jerked off-balance as my heel slid out over the edge of the top step in my effort to back slowly away from the angry, bear-like man.
His giant paw snatched me by the upper arm and dragged me over the threshold. I fell against the hard heat of his body.
“There is no mistake, моя крошка. You’re mine for the night.”
The heavy black door swung shut, cutting me off from the safe sounds of civilization.
It was too late.
I was alone with the Russian beast… inside his lair.