Nadia Bessonova’s career-criminal father has deadly enemies – and to save him, his devoted daughter is willing to strike a deal with the devil. She will surrender completely, body and spirit, to the dangerous Dominic Luder, and submit to his every whim.
Dominic, haunted by inner demons and hiding away in his dark, secluded manor, is mesmerized by his sensuous prisoner who inflames his bestial lust. But Nadia is no mere plaything. At once fearful, willing, and wildly passionate, she brings his most breathtaking erotic fantasies to life – and thaws his cold, wounded heart…
“My life is over!”
Nadia Bessonova tried not to roll her eyes as her youngest sister, Irina, wailed. She shot a quick glance at her elder sister, Jelena. Jelena was the picture of patient suffering, listening intently to Irina’s tale of woe.
“It’s been over a month,” Jelena finally said, her voice soft and modulated. “It can’t have gotten worse, Irina darling. We’ll figure something out.” She paused, then added hesitantly, “You might want to keep it down. Deidre is trying to get some sleep, and with the baby coming…”
Irina’s nose wrinkled at the mention of their stepmother. “Always Deidre,” she muttered, her eyes baleful. “Jelena, why can’t I stay at your house? You’ve got more than enough room in that mansion.” Irina cast a baleful glare at Nadia. “It’s too crowded here, with you and Papa and Deidre. I can’t turn around without tripping over someone, and forget about privacy. It’s as bad as being back in the Ukraine.”
“Hardly,” Nadia demurred, her irritation rising. Of course, Irina had only been a child when they had truly hit rock bottom in the Ukraine. Nadia hadn’t been that old, but she could still remember it clearly: the freezing cold, the packs of wild dogs roaming the streets. “Sharing a three-bedroom house in Las Vegas is better than sharing a single room in Kiev. Besides, it could be worse.”
“Don’t give me your ‘we’ll work through it, we’ll survive it’ speech, Nadia,” Irina said sharply in Russian. “You’re not the one whose wealthy husband just dumped her for an eighteen year old Chinese girl, fresh off the boat.”
“He married you when you were an eighteen year old Russian girl,” Nadia pointed out. “Really, how surprised could you have been?”
Irina yowled in protest, and Jelena stepped between them. “This is getting us nowhere,” she said, her voice sharp and imperious as only extreme confrontation tended to bring out in her. “We need to focus. Thanks to Irina’s prenuptial agreement, our family won’t be getting the monthly stipend from him.”
“Bastard didn’t even let me take the jewelry to pawn,” Irina muttered.
“So,” Jelena continued practically, “we just need to figure out a way to make up the difference.”
Nadia nodded, sighing. Especially with the baby on the way. The family survival depended on them.
Irina looked shrewd. “Maybe your husband, Jelena…”
Now it was Jelena’s turn to sigh. “I will ask,” she murmured. But the tension etched small lines at the corners of her eyes, making her look older.
“You just don’t know how to handle him,” Irina sniffed. “If he were my husband, I’d screw him like crazy until he’d do anything I wanted, then show him who was really boss in the household.”
“If he was your husband,” Nadia muttered, “he’d be changing the locks after picking up his mail-order bride catalog.”
“Nadia, how’s father’s import-export business doing?” Jelena asked, quickly changing the subject. “He sounded like the caviar alone would make us some money.”
“It’s not going quite as well as we’d hoped,” Nadia said, pushing aside the gnawing fear that had been eating at her for months. “But that’s about to change, apparently. Papa said something about getting a big influx of money, by the end of the week.”
“Really?” Irina looked hopeful. Nadia could almost see her developing a “wish” list in her head.
Jelena, on the other hand, narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “Did he say from where?”
Jelena’s eyes widened. “He wouldn’t,” she breathed. “Not again.”
“Of course not.” She fidgeted, wandering around the sparsely furnished living room. “He promised.”
The doorbell rang.
The girls were on their feet. Jelena asked, glancing at her watch. “It’s ten o’clock at night. Were either of you expecting anyone?”
Nadia’s stomach clenched. Nothing good ever came from late night visitors. Either it was “business associates” of her father’s, who were angry about something, or police who showed up to cart him off to jail. Neither choice was appealing.
He swore he’d stopped stealing cars, she thought despondently. Why do I keep believing him?
The doorbell rang again, insistent.
“I’ll get it.” Nadia strode to the front door, looking out the peephole as her heart started to hammer with dread. The outside light was broken: she could barely make out a looming shadow. She swallowed hard.
The doorbell rang a third time.
She went to the small table in the foyer, where she normally dropped her keys. Opening the drawer, she pulled out a Beretta nine-millimeter, holding it behind her back. Then she opened the door with her other hand, keeping the chain latched.
“Can I help you?”
The shadow was immense. His eyes gleamed, but everything else about him was masked in shadow. “I’m here to see Mikhail Bessonova.” His voice was warm, deep and enveloping, like a mink fog.
“May I tell him who is here?”
“Tell him I’m the owner of the rose,” he said. “He’ll understand.”
“If you could just wait here…” She knew it was rude, but she didn’t know the man, and didn’t trust his cryptic message. She shut the door, tucked the gun in the waistband of her jeans at the small of her back. Then she hurried to her father’s bedroom, knocking softly.
Her father opened the door. At sixty, he still looked good – good enough to land her stepmother, who was only thirty. He was in pajamas, his reading glasses halfway down the bridge of his nose. “What is it?”
She glanced over. Deidre was asleep, the large bump of her pregnant belly protruding against the covers. “There’s a man,” she whispered. “He said he’s the owner of the rose. He wants to talk to you.”
“The rose?” Her father frowned with irritation. “What rose? What the…”
Then, suddenly, he went ghostly pale.
“Dear God,” he breathed. “He’s here? Already?”
“Papa, what is it?”
“Where?” Her father’s voice shook. “Where is he?”
“I left him on the doorstep,” she replied. “I…”
“We’ve got to get out of here,” he said. “Are your sisters downstairs?”
“Yes,” she replied, fear now flooding her bloodstream with adrenaline. “But…”
The doorbell rang again.
Her father rushed to his pregnant wife. “Deidre, wake up,” he said, shaking her. “We’ve got to get out of here…”
There was the sound of a door crashing open. Deidre woke, startled. There was a scream. Nadia sprinted for the front door.
When she got there, she stopped. The man was standing there, beside the broken latch, in front of her sisters. Jelena and Irina cowered in the corner, holding each other, staring at the intruder. Nadia got a good look at him, and froze.
He was enormous. Easily six foot five, the man seemed to take up the entire foyer with his broad, muscular frame. Even in his tailored suit, there was something almost feral about him: an aura of leashed violence, just waiting to be released.
Then there was his face.
Angry red scars crisscrossed from his forehead, across his right eye, down the right side of his face, punctuated by a deep gash down his cheek. His eyes were a light, piercing color that seemed to hover between gray, then sea foam green, then a pale, clear blue. He stared back at her.
“Hasn’t anyone told you staring isn’t polite?”
His voice sent a shiver down her spine. He sounded urbane, sophisticated, bored. But there was anger beneath his words, a muted fury that singed her. She took an instinctive step back.
Her father hurried out in his pajamas. “I didn’t know,” her father said quickly, practically gibbering. She’d never seen him scared, not even when the Russian police had taken him to prison. “I swear to God, Roddy never told me who the car belonged to. Not until it was too late…”
“Perhaps you should have done a little more research on your own. Besides, I’ve already had words with Roddy.” The sentence, casually spoken, silenced her father immediately. Nadia sensed that the man had had more than “words” with her father’s friend and fellow car thief, Roddy Templeton.
She wondered, abruptly, if Roddy was still alive.
“You got the car back, then?” her father said, his voice hoarse but hopeful.
“Unfortunately, no.” Now the anger bubbled to the surface. “I hope you got a good deal of money, Mikhail, because that car was worth more to me than anything else I own.” He paused. “It was certainly worth more to me than the life of a sniveling, stupid thief who chose the wrong man to fuck with.”
The tension in the room nearly suffocated her. This man was danger embodied. He wasn’t here to chastise, or call the authorities. He was here to do some damage.
She couldn’t allow this to happen.
She felt the cold steel of the gun barrel, nestled against her spine. Slowly, she reached behind her.
“Unless you’re positive you can kill me before I can reach you,” the man said, his eyes glowing, “Think very carefully before you draw that gun.”
Nadia paused, her hand in mid-air. She was a decent shot, and a nine-millimeter round was nothing to sneer at. But he was possibly too large for it to actually stop him. There was also the possibility she might miss.
She waited a long second. Then, slowly, she put her hand back down at her side.
He continued staring at her, as if sizing her up. His eyes gleamed, and his scars twisted. He seemed to be smirking.
“What are you going to do?” Nadia asked. “Kill him? Kill all of us? Over a car?”
He seemed surprised. Her father, on the other hand, was appalled. “Nadia!” he barked.
The man took a step closer to her, his presence overwhelming her senses. He stared down at her. “Don’t I frighten you?”
“Does it matter?” she countered, not flinching, not even taking a step back, even though her neck craned painfully to look up into his eyes. “What do you want?”
“Nadia,” her father hissed, stepping in front of her sisters, his eyes wild. “This is Dominic Luder. If you knew who he was… what he’s capable of…”
“No, no,” the man interrupted, without breaking eye contact with her. “In the first place, it wasn’t simply a car. It was a 1958 Ferrari Testa Rosa, in its original red.”
Testa Rosa. “Your rose,” she whispered, stunned. That sort of a car was a collector’s wet dream.
“Indeed,” he admitted. “Do you know how much something like that costs?”
“Millions.” She shot a quick, accusing glance at her father, who hung his head in shame.
“In the second place, it held a lot of… personal meaning for me. It’s going to be murder to get it back,” the large man mused, and she wondered if he was being metaphorical. “You see why I’m so perturbed?”
“Perhaps I can steal it back,” her father offered in a shaky voice. “Please…I’m sure we can work something out…”
“I’m not in the habit of negotiating,” Dominic said, and slowly reached into his suit jacket. Impeccably tailored, the movement nevertheless revealed the tell-tale bulge of a gun. His eyes were a frozen, crystalline blue, like the sky in the Ukraine in December. He was going to do something terrible.
Unless she stopped him.
“What do you want?” she repeated, stepping between the giant and her father, her sisters. “If you kill him, or us, then you’ll just be causing yourself more problems… and you still won’t have your car. What would be the point?”
“Nadia!” This time, it was her sister, Jelena, who sounded horrified.
“Are you trying to get us killed?” Irina shrieked.
Nadia was waiting, trying to make sure he wasn’t about to pull his gun. If he didn’t kill her first shot, perhaps she could buy the others some time. Hopefully Deidre was out of the house. Should she try to shoot him? Or simply act as a shield? Her mind moved in the sped-up, hyper clear mode that she shifted into when threatened. Quickly, efficiently, she cycled through possible scenarios.
She didn’t have many options: what few choices she had were very, very bleak.
“You’re either incredibly courageous, or astoundingly stupid,” Dominic said, letting out a low, rumbling chuckle. “You really aren’t afraid of me, are you?”
Something had changed in his eyes. She couldn’t place it.
“I’m terrified of you,” she said.
“But that hasn’t stopped you.”
She shook her head. “I’m not going to let you hurt my family,” she said quietly. “Not without doing something. Anything.”
“Nadia…” her father implored.
“Well. Aren’t you the brave one,” the man said, with biting sarcasm. “What do you propose I do instead?”
Her mind whirred. She hadn’t considered that he might be open to negotiation. New options clicked and shifted.
Everyone else in the room fell silent, and she felt them staring at her. She wasn’t even sure where the idea came from.
Her mind flashed back, to a terrible afternoon in Cherniv.
Sex is a universally accepted currency. The old doctor’s horrible chuckle as he gave her an ultimatum: medicine in exchange for an hour on her back…
“You can keep me as collateral,” she offered. “Until my father can get the car back. You can do whatever you want to me until then.”
“Nadia, no,” her father said, trying to pull her away. “Not this time! You don’t understand…”
Dominic shot him a level stare, and her father’s words stopped abruptly.
“Whatever I want, hmm?” Dominic’s voice tickled over her nerve endings like a cloud. “Do you really know what that entails?”
She bit her lip as fear slashed at her heart.
“No,” she admitted.
“But you’ll still agree to it?” he asked. His voice sounded toneless, maybe casually curious. But the burning in his eyes suggested something else. “You’ll do whatever I say? You’ll keep your end of the bargain?”
She looked at her family – her horrified sisters, her parchment-pale father. Thought of her baby half-brother, still nestled in Deidre’s womb.
It’s temporary. You can survive it. For your family, you can do this.
She closed her eyes.
You always survive.
“Anything you want,” she repeated, staring at Dominic solemnly.
His smile was fierce, the action pulling the scars of his face cruelly.
“Then we have a deal.”
And without another word, he swept her up into his arms and carried her out of her father’s house, into the Las Vegas night.