I had every intention of murdering whoever was on the other side of that door.
Cold-blooded, heartless murder, and I would get away with it too because anyone who pounded on someone’s door at seven o’clock in the morning deserved to get murdered in the worst way possible.
After flicking open the pathetic excuse for a lock, I snatched at the brass chain secured across the door, further loosening the already wobbly screws. Putting the chain across each night really was a useless endeavor. Basically only good for a false sense of security. An asthmatic eighty-year-old man could cough on this ancient door and it would fall open. Such was the life of a penniless graduate student living in a first-floor apartment in a slightly dodgy neighborhood.
With a huff, I threw the door open. “Who the hell do you think you—?”
My mouth fell open.
In a rather ironic twist, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind. The man standing on my threshold had come to murder me instead of the other way around.
There really was no other reasonable conclusion. The fact that I had done nothing, at least to my knowledge, to warrant someone wanting to murder me was immaterial. I couldn’t imagine this man being anything other than a murderer or at the very least a violent criminal.
This was all incredibly confusing considering he was also the most devastatingly handsome man I’d ever laid eyes on.
He was insanely tall. I mean, really? Was it absolutely necessary to be that much over six feet tall? All those extra inches did was make a girl feel small and vulnerable, and make her wonder what it would feel like if he crowded her against a wall and did that super sexy lean in move.
The darkly inked tattoos on his hands and neck were in stark contrast to the obviously expensive tailored suit he was wearing. His jet-black hair was wet and slicked back as if he had just showered. I could pick up the hints of musk and jasmine from his aftershave.
Scariest of all were his eyes; they were black and hooded, almost like the demon eyes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His head was slightly down as he stared at me, giving him an even more sinister appearance.
My hands shook as I tightened the belt on my leopard print silk robe with the pink trim . Those same demon eyes flashed down to my waist, then slowly rose to my chest, then back to my face to pierce me with a glare. Thankfully, I'd been so tired last night I fell asleep in my bra and panties instead of naked as I usually did. It wasn’t much but at least they were some protection beyond just my flimsy robe.
He twisted his jaw as he gestured to me with his left hand, which seemed weighed down by a heavy silver signet ring. “Is this how you answer the door? Dressed like a woman begging to be fucked?”
It took a moment for my mind to register what he said because of the heavy Russian accent. My eyes widened the moment it did. With an outraged cry, I tried to slam the door in his face. His flattened palm prevented it. I had no choice but to take a step back as he entered the apartment and closed the door. He reached behind him and twisted the lock just above the doorknob. It slid into place with an ominous click.
The air seized in my lungs. Since they'd painted half the windows shut and the other half were rusted shut, there really was no other way out of the apartment. I could scream but I doubted even my next-door neighbor, old Mrs. York, would hear me. The only good thing about the dilapidated brick building my apartment was in was its crazy-thick walls. Well, usually it was a good thing for when you wanted to play your music loud or have a party. When you were being threatened by a possible homicidal criminal, not so much.
My phone was in my purse on the sofa.
Keeping my gaze trained on him, I took a few steps back. The sofa was in my peripheral vision. I needed to get to the other end to my Loungefly embossed skulls and Hello Kitty black and pink purse. The man surveyed my apartment with a mixture of disgust and shock on his face. As he turned his attention to the locks on the door behind him, I made my move. I lunged over the back of the sofa and stretched out my arms to grab my purse. My hand slipped inside and grasped the rounded edge of my cellphone. Dragging it out of my purse, I swiped the screen with my finger and moved to tap the emergency button on the lower left-hand corner when a pair of warm hands wrapped around my hips.
His legs pressed against the back of mine, making me painfully aware of the short length of my robe. With me bent over like this, it barely covered my ass. His entire body leaned over mine as his right hand slid up my outstretched arm and pulled at the phone in my grasp. I clung to it tightly, as if it were my only lifeline. His other hand tightened on my hip, an unmistakable warning.
His breath teased the skin on my neck as he breathed near my ear, “You won’t be needing this.” With his accent, the you sounded like a low purr, and the won’t sounded more like the scary villain von’t. Instead of putting the inflection at the end of the sentence, he put it in the middle, which strangely emphasized the force of his command.
He pulled the phone free and tossed it out of my reach. Not willing to give up so easily, I started screaming, “Hey Siri! Call the police!”
Don’t Stand So Close to Me by The Police played.
Oh great. Hey Siri, please play my Perfect Songs to Get Murdered To playlist.
Shifting my hips, I placed my weight on my left foot and tried to break free of his grasp. I was spun around and pulled flush against his body by a powerful arm wrapped around my waist. My head tilted back to stare up at his uncompromising face. Caught between him and the back of the sofa, my hips ground against his. Something hard and long, really long, pressed against my abdomen.
Oh. My. God.
The handsome criminal quirked an eyebrow, the right corner of his upper lip rising with a satisfied smirk. He had the audacity to not show the least bit of chagrin. Meanwhile, my cheeks flamed scarlet. Grasping at the open neckline of my robe, I scrunched the fabric near my collarbone in my fist as I lowered my head to avoid his arrogant scrutiny.
Raising my chin with a finger, he asked “Is this the apartment of Emma Doyle?”
Once again, his Russian accent was so thick, I had to focus on the words as he rolled his R’s and made my roommate and best friend’s name sound more like Eeema than Emma.
It finally clicked.
He was a big fucking scary Russian dude and my roommate was dating a big fucking scary Russian dude. This could be bad. Either this man was a friend of Dimitri’s — or an enemy. Until I knew which, I couldn’t possibly endanger my best friend.
Twisting my head to break his grasp on my chin, I dug my fingernails into my palms to keep myself from shaking. Inhaling a hesitant breath I said, “I don’t know who that is.”
The tip of his finger traced over my cheekbone, down the side of my face and under my jaw to stop at the base of my throat. “Your beautiful throat flutters, right here, when you lie.”
I licked my lips and watched as his dark gaze zeroed in on my mouth. “I’m… I’m not lying. I’ve never heard of anyone named Emma Doyle.”
His hand moved quickly to grasp me around the throat just under my jaw. Dropping my grip on my robe, I wrapped my fingers around his wrists and tried to claw at him, but my short red nails did nothing to force him to relent.
He leaned in low, the scent of coffee and peppermint on his breath. “Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Don’t you know it is dangerous to lie to a man like me… Mary?”
My body jerked as if someone had slapped me.
He knew my name.
I swallowed. “What do you want?” I rasped.
He shifted back slightly and looked down. With his free hand, he slipped two fingers inside the neckline of my robe and pulled it open.
I whimpered, but his grip on my throat held me in place.
His hooded gaze flicked up to mine. “Shhh, krasotka. Ne dvigaysya. YA prosto khochu prikosnut'sya.”
I had absolutely no idea what he was saying, but it sounded both scary and sexy as hell, which was so beyond twisted and wrong that it would take half a bottle of tequila for me to even start analyzing what I was thinking right now. There was just something about his heavy Russian accent. It was so deep and low, a somber purr that was hypnotic.
His fingertip traced the red ribbon which ran in and out of the lace outline of my black bra. “It was wrong for you to open the door dressed like this, krasotka. There are many dangerous men out there who would take advantage of a beautiful woman such as yourself… who’s all alone.”
“Dangerous men, like you?”
He rubbed the pad of his thumb over my lower lip. “Exactly like me.”
I rose on my toes to try to loosen his grip. “I’m not alone. My boyfriend will be back any second now.”
He smiled — and it was terrifying. “I hope for his sake you are lying to me again. I hadn’t planned on killing anyone today, but if a man were to walk through that door and try to claim you as his own, I would shoot him between the eyes.”
Claim me? What was I, a piece of luggage on an airport baggage carousel? Who talks like that? Had he really just said he hadn’t planned on killing anyone — today? Meaning on other days that option was up for grabs?
He released his grip and took a step back. He flicked open the button on his suit jacket and opened the flaps to reveal a shoulder holster with a gun in it. Wrapping his fingers around its handle, he pulled the weapon free. It was gold-plated and massive, like something out of an action movie.
He leveled the gun at the door and pulled back the hammer. “So which is it, krasotka? Are you lying or do I shoot the next person who walks through that door?”
My shocked gaze raced between the gun, his thin-lipped, determined expression, and the closed door. This couldn’t be happening. Of course there was no boyfriend. There hadn’t been a boyfriend in ages, but there was my best friend, and she could return home at any moment.
Raising my arms, I waved my palms. “Stop! Stop! There is no boyfriend. Please put the gun down.”
He uncocked the hammer and set the weapon down on the side table. Curling his hands into fists, he leaned in and rested them on the top of the sofa on either side of my hips, caging me in with his body. “So you were lying to me… again.”
What the hell was I supposed to say? My mind went blank. “I… I….”
He shifted and pressed his lower body against mine.
I stilled at the threatening press of his hard shaft, afraid to even breathe. Everything about this man screamed danger, run away, from his demeanor to his intimidating height, from his arm and chest muscles to his tattoos. He wasn’t tall with lean muscle like someone who worked out at the gym or played sports. He had that bulky, brute strength kind of build. The kind that said gyms were for posers, I’d rather just get into bar fights and flip cars to keep in shape. With his dark looks and arrogant smile, he also screamed bad boy trouble. Which is of course why my nipples were hard and pressing against the scratchy cheap lace of my bra, and my thighs were clenched.
My brain was shrieking homicidal criminal psychopath, run! While my body was ready to lay back and scream take me now, make it hurt!
With a single finger he started to circle one erect nipple through the silk of my robe. His voice was deceptively soft and low. “What kind of punishment do you think you deserve for lying to me?”
My cheeks flamed as he continued to caress the curve of my breast. Humiliated he had even noticed my involuntary response to him, I swallowed past the dry fear in my throat. “I know what you are trying to do and you don’t scare me. I’m not telling you anything.”
He ran the back of his knuckles over my stomach. “Your bravado is admirable but unnecessary. Dimitri Kosgov sent me. We are business partners. He is concerned about the lack of security in your apartment. He wants to make sure you and Emma are safe.”
There was absolutely no reason why I should, but I believed him. It sounded like precisely the type of thing Emma’s new overbearing and overprotective boyfriend would do.
Slipping that single finger into the knot at my waist, he tugged, loosening the belt. As my robe fell open completely, exposing my bra and bare midriff, he continued, “And trust me, krasotka, scaring youis the last thing I want to do to you right now.”
My knees buckled. I reached back to grasp the sofa behind me to stay upright. I had to force myself to breathe, feeling every shaky breath that entered and left my lungs as I tried to focus on his intense gaze. “Who are you?”
“My name is Vasili Lukovich Rostov, but you may call me Vaska.”
“Why are you doing this?” I was no longer referring to why he was in my apartment asking about Emma.
He shrugged. “Because I can. In my world, nothing is off-limits. If I see something I want,” he paused and ran his heated gaze over me, “I take it.”
I blinked. I wasn’t expecting such raw honesty. “In my world, a man asks permission first.”
He chuckled and responded in his heavy Russian accent, “Then I guess it is a good thing we are not in your world.”
“We are in my apartment,” I boldly fired back with more moxie than I felt.
“True, but it is still my world, and in my world, I make the rules and decide the punishments for those who break them.” His fingertip traced the top of my panties.
This had gone way, way too far. There was allowing myself to get lost in a dangerous bad boy fantasy for a moment and then there was the reality of a dangerous man with a gun standing in the middle of my living room threatening to punish me.
My shrieking brain finally won out. I ducked under his arm and desperately ran across the living room. Crossing the threshold to my bedroom, I turned and slammed the door shut, locking it. I backed away and frantically scanned the room looking for something to prop against the door. The room was too small for anything more than a double bed and a rickety vanity with two loose table legs.
I could hear his measured footsteps on the other side of the door.
I backed away as I tightened the dangling robe belt around my waist and braced for his angry shouts or pounding fist.
Vaska did neither.
Without warning, he kicked the door open and stalked into my bedroom.