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Broken Whispers: Chapter 16


When Mikhail said we would be having dinner with the pakhan’s wife, I expected a detached, perfectly dressed Russian woman who, most likely, would ignore me the entire evening. Nina Petrova is the complete opposite of what I anticipated, in her torn jeans, flowy blouse, and a small silver nose ring.

“Don’t you dare, Roman. I mean it!” Nina pokes her husband’s chest, staring daggers at him, then turns to me. “He’s been following me around the house for two months like I’m going to trip over my feet and fall down the stairs as if I’m some simpleton.”

She takes my hand and leads me across the large entry room toward the hallway on the right side of the house.

“We’ll be in the kitchen. Mikhail said Bianca has a mean recipe for pasta, so maybe she’ll share it with Igor,” Nina calls over her shoulder. “If I see you anywhere near the east wing, I’m going to end you, Roman.”

It’s rather funny, seeing this petite woman threatening her hulk of a husband. Petrov doesn’t say a thing as he stands there, leaning on his cane, and watches us leave.

“Since I told him I’m pregnant, Roman has become unbearable with his mother hen behavior,” she says while we walk down the hallway. “So, you and Mikhail . . . how’s it going with you two?”

I just smile a little and nod. Usually, the people who meet me for the first time tend to keep quiet like there is no point in starting a conversation. Nina isn’t like that at all. It’s . . . strangely refreshing.

“Okay, now please, try to keep an open mind. It’s not as bad as it looks,” she says and opens the double doors in front of us.

The first thing I hear is a deep voice yelling in Russian, then two more female voices joining the yelling match, followed by a sound of clanking silverware. I enter the kitchen after Nina and stop in my tracks, staring.

A huge man in his sixties, wearing a white apron and standing in front of the stove, is motioning to the black smoke billowing out of the oven and shouting at the girl on the other side of the kitchen island. Behind him, another girl is hitting his back with a rag. And in the corner, an older woman with short grey hair is yelling at the cook while threatening him with a sauce-dripping spoon.

“We have a guest!” Nina shouts, and everyone turns toward us.” This is Bianca, Mikhail’s wife. Be nice.”

They look me over, nod, and return to their yelling.

“Well, it was worth a try. Sorry.” Nina shrugs.

I take the phone from my purse, type in the message window, and show the screen to Nina.

“Oh, we’re not intruding. This is just an ordinary day in the kitchen. Don’t worry. Let’s go to Varya, you can write that pasta recipe for her, and she’ll check if we have the ingredients. Since Valentina burned the meat again, we’ll need a backup dish. You can instruct Igor on how to make it, if that’s okay?”

I look at her, confused. How does she mean for me to instruct the cook? I doubt he’s familiar with sign language. I guess Nina notices the confused look on my face because she waves dismissively with her hand.

“Don’t worry. Igor only speaks Russian, anyway. Just point with your finger. It works for me, most of the time, at least.”




 “Did you talk with Dushku?” I ask Roman and take a sip of whiskey.

“Yes. He says he had nothing to do with the shooting, or with the guys who followed you.”

“And you believe him?”

“I’m not sure.” Roman leans back in his chair and grinds his teeth. “Everything about this is fucked up. All of the guys were Albanians, but none of them were working for Dushku. They were just some random gang members. What I am sure about is that the same person hired all of them.”

“Maybe it’s a setup to make us attack the Albanians. We have the product, Albanians buy it. If we start a war with them and cut the supply, the Albanians will have to search elsewhere.”

“Irish?” He raises his eyebrows.

“Nope. Italians.”

“It doesn’t make sense. Why did the don agree to the cease-fire, and the marriage to unite La Cosa Nostra and the Bratva if they were planning to make a deal with the Albanians anyway?”

“To buy some time.” I take out my phone and start browsing the photos. “I found it strange that Bianca’s brother wasn’t at the wedding. They are close. It didn’t make any sense. When I asked her where he was, she said Bruno sent him to arrange some business and he still isn’t back. Take a guess where he is.”

“Oh, I have a feeling I won’t like the answer.”

I open a photo that our contact in Mexico sent me this morning and pass the phone to Roman.

“Son of a bitch,” he says, staring at the screen.

“Yup. Bruno’s son and Mendoza, our main supplier.”

“Looks like the Italians framed the Albanians, or tried to at least, so we would turn on each other. Most likely, they were hoping to swoop in and offer to supply the drugs to the Albanians the moment our business dealings ended.”

“Yes. But I think this is all Bruno’s doing. He enjoys licking the don’s ass. I believe he planned to inform him only after he had set the events in motion.”

“Well, we are not going to war with the Albanians, so Bruno will end up with a lot of product and no buyer.”

“I’m sure Don Agosti won’t be happy with Bruno going behind his back,” I say. “Especially since the don himself agreed to the treaty between us.”

“You know, I always wondered why Bruno offered his daughter for the marriage.”

“He wanted exclusive inside info on the Bratva. Bianca told me so herself.”

“Oh? Did she now?”

“Yes. She said no. I have a silent alarm set on my home office door. Bianca has never tried to get inside, Roman.”

“Are you sure?” He looks at me sideways. “Absolutely sure?”

“I am. Why, do you doubt my judgment?”

“Of course, I do. You are desperately in love with her, anyone can see that.”

I look at the glass in my hand. The light is reflecting in the dark brown liquid much the same as it does in Bianca’s eyes.

“I am,” I say and down the drink.

Roman smiles and shakes his head. “Well, I’ll be damned! If someone told me that a woman would have you, of all people, wrapped around her finger in less than a month, I would have considered them mad.”

“You are one to talk. Remind me how much time it took Nina to have you eating out of her hand.”

“Way more than a month.”

“You were a goner after a week, Roman.”

“Okay, two weeks.” He shrugs. “And what about Bianca?”

“What about her?”

“Does she feel the same?”

“I don’t know. Bianca is hard to read.”

“Women are hard to read in general, Mikhail. Sometimes, I feel they came from another fucking planet.”

“I think she likes spending time with me.” I shrug. “We went to the mall last week.”

“I knew it.” Roman hits the chair with his palm. “She dragged you to watch some teen movie. Admit it!”

“Not exactly. We had sex in the restroom.”

“Mikhail Orlov. Had sex in the restroom.” He raises his eyebrows. “In a mall.”

“Yes,” I say, and he bursts out laughing.

I ignore him and continue, “She also said she wanted me to take her dancing.”

“You? Dancing? What’s next, pigs flying?” Roman sighs. “Did you tell your wife what you do for the Bratva?”

“She knows I’m in charge of distribution.”

“So, you haven’t told her.”

 I look down at my glass. “Nope.”

“She’ll find out, sooner or later, you know that.”

“She won’t. I’ll make sure she never finds out.”

“Mikhail . . .”

“She doesn’t care about my eye. Or the scars. I don’t know how, but she doesn’t. She never asked what happened, even though I know she must wonder. But I can’t tell her what I do for the Bratva . . . I don’t think she would be able to get past that.”

“Well, shit.” He squeezes his temples. “Okay, I’ll talk with Maxim, maybe he can take over . . .”

“No. Information extraction is my job. And anyway, who could be a better interrogator than someone who experienced most of the torture techniques himself?”




“Oh my God, this is amazing.” Nina moans and reaches with her fork toward the pot again.

The big cook, who is standing on the other side of the table, grabs the pot by the handle and slides it toward himself, speaking something in Russian and pointing behind his back.

“Baby wants it.” Nina grabs the other handle of the pot and starts pulling it back to her.

The cook lets go of the pot, throws his hands in the air, and walks away.

“Baby card works every time. Igor doesn’t understand much, but he knows that word.” Nina grins, takes another forkful of the pasta, and stuffs it in her mouth.

I can’t help but laugh, grab another fork and join her.

A throat clears behind me, and I turn and find Mikhail pulling a chair and sitting next to me.

“Is that our dinner?” He quirks a brow. “The one the four of us should be eating together? In the dining room?”

I put down the fork. “Nina started it. I had to join. It would be rude to let the pakhan’s wife eat alone.”

“I see . . .” He cocks his head a little and leans toward me. “Can I have a taste?”

I smile, take a little bit of the pasta on the fork, and lift it to his mouth. Nina is watching the whole ordeal from the other side of the table with wide eyes, her mouth gaping open.

“Holy shit,” she mumbles, but Mikhail ignores her comment.

“You made it? I thought they invited you to dinner, not to make one.”

“Well, technically, Igor made it,” Nina throws in. “Bianca instructed him, and I helped with the translation.”

“I wonder how that worked out.”

“I pointed. And Nina poked Igor in the ribs when he didn’t follow.”

Mikhail raises his hand to brush his finger down my cheek and his lips widen a little in a smile. It’s small and gone after a second, but my heart still skips a beat. He has a beautiful smile.

The kitchen door on the other side of the room opens and the pakhan comes in, his face somber. He says something in Russian and Mikhail curses.

“There was a fire in one of the warehouses. I have to go.” He kisses the top of my head and stands up. “I’ll call Denis to pick you up and take you home.”

“Message me so I know you are okay. Please.”

“I will.” The look he gives me is part surprise and part satisfaction, and then he’s gone.

* * *

It’s close to three in the morning when Mikhail comes back. I jump from the couch the moment I hear the door open and, clutching the blanket around me, rush to him. He’s covered in soot, black splotches all over his hands and face, but he looks unharmed.

“Why aren’t you sleeping?”

“I was worried.”


“Asleep. We had pancakes for dinner again.” I sign and start unbuttoning his shirt. The sleeve is torn in one place, but when I inspect his upper arm, I don’t find any injury.

“The pants. Then the shower.”

He doesn’t complain about me ordering him around, just kisses me lightly on the lips and, leaving the ruined suit on the floor, heads toward the bathroom. I take his shirt and pants to the trash can, then go after him.

In the bathroom, I remove my clothes and get into the shower where Mikhail is already washing his hair. I take the soap from the shelf, lather my hands, and lift them to his face. He looks down at me for a second, then bends his head. There is a big black stain on his right cheek, so I start there. It comes off rather easily, and I move on to his forehead and then his neck. There is no soot on his chest, but I move my hands there anyway, stroking his skin in a round motion.

Mikhail takes a step forward and places his hands on the tiles on either side of my head, caging me between his body and the shower wall. I slide my hand lower and grip his hard cock, enjoying the way his breathing quickens.

“Not yet,” he says in my ear and, taking me by my hips, turns me around so I am facing the wall.

His hands move slowly down my stomach until they stop between my legs, and I feel his finger teasing at my entrance.

“You are the most beautiful thing I have ever set my eyes on,” he whispers and thrusts one finger inside me, then adds another, and I gasp silently. “And you, my little sunray, are as beautiful on the inside, as you are on the outside.”

When he curls his fingers inside of me, pressing the sensitive spot near my clit, a shudder rocks my whole body so hard that I have to press my forehead and palms against the wall to keep myself standing.

“Mine,” he says against my neck, winds his free arm around my midsection, and lifts me without removing his fingers from inside my pussy.

I am panting, not able to inhale enough air, as Mikhail carries me into his bedroom with my back pressed to his chest and my head thrown back onto his shoulder. It amazes me how he easily manages to carry my whole weight with only one arm, while his other hand is still buried inside of me, teasing me.

The moment he sets me down and removes his fingers, I turn and push him down onto the bed, then crawl over his huge body and sit down on his cock. It feels like home, and I come the second he fills me up, wishing so much that I could scream his name at that moment.

I keep riding him, marveling at the feel of his hands on my waist and his cock straining against my still tingling walls. Mikhail groans and starts pounding into me from below, while I clutch at his shoulders so hard that he will probably end up with nail marks. When I feel myself coming again, I arch my back and let out a barely audible scream. The next moment, Mikhail explodes inside me.

He is still panting when I lean forward. I gently touch my nose to his and bury my hands in his hair, looking into his mismatched eyes. In my chest, my heart leaps with joy every time he’s near, making me feel complete instead of a flawed, lost person I always believed myself to be. I remember Marcus calling me an ice princess once because I didn’t want to cuddle or hold hands in public. He made it sound like a joke, but I know he meant it.

It’s different with Mikhail. There is this inexplicable urge to touch him that consumes me whenever he’s around, as if my body is somehow drawn to him like a magnet. It scares me a little. Dancing was the only thing that kept me sane, so when the injury ended my career, I thought my life was over. I wanted it back, so much, and I never thought I’d want anything more. Until now.

Mikhail pulls himself up on his elbows and tilts his head to the side, watching me. “What is it, dusha moya?”

I bend to place my lips on his forehead, then his left eye, but when I move to his right one, he turns his head to the side, avoiding my lips.

He’s really sensitive about his eye, but no, I won’t let him do that.

“Mikhail . . .” I rasp, but he just shakes his head.

“Please, don’t.”


“Because my eye is hideous. I don’t want your lips anywhere near it.”

I grind my teeth and take his face in my hands. “It’s not,” I whisper.

Mikhail just looks at me and smiles a little. It hits me right in the chest—his impossibly sad smile.

“Okay,” he says and places a finger over my lips. “Please, stop hurting yourself because of me. You promised you won’t do that anymore.” Another sad smile. “Come here, it’s late. Let’s sleep.”

He’s in love with me. I know it without him telling me so. It’s visible in his every single act. Why won’t he let me love him back, then? My dark, dangerous husband—so strong, so unbreakable, and so heartbreakingly alone, even with me next to him. I don’t know why he won’t let me in or why he is still hiding from me. Even after I’ve seen him naked numerous times, he still wears long-sleeved shirts when I’m around during the day. Doesn’t he understand that no one will ever compare to him in my eyes? How can I make him get that through his thick head?

He embraces me, reaches out toward the bedside lamp, and turns it off. It’s not a particularly meaningful thing, and I don’t know why, but him turning off that lamp is the last straw for me. I decide I’ve had enough. Enough of everyone being shocked by the fact I like him, enough of people telling me there is something wrong with me, but most of all I’m done with him thinking he’s not good enough and denying my touch. I sit up, grab the lamp, turn the blasted thing back on, and spin around to face Mikhail.

“This stops now. I will touch you wherever and whenever I want. If I want to kiss you, you don’t have the right to turn your head.”

Mikhail pulls himself onto his elbows and regards me with his mouth pressed into a thin line. “Baby . . .”

“No. Do not baby me now. Sweet talk won’t get you anywhere this time.”

“Sweet talk?” he raises an eyebrow.

“No more pulling away. No more hot and cold. No more long sleeves.” I point my finger at him. “If I see you in another long-sleeved shirt around the house, I am going to tear it off you.”

Mikhail is very good at keeping emotions from showing on his face, but I catch the surprise flashing in his eye as he tilts his head and watches me.

I don’t care if I first met him only a month ago. I don’t care that our marriage was arranged as a business deal without my say in the matter. I. Don’t. Care. He’s mine, and I’ll fight anything and anyone who would try to keep him from me, even if it’s Mikhail himself.

“And I get to kiss you everywhere. You got that? I will draw it for you if needed. Everywhere. Yes, your eye is fucked up. I want to kiss it anyway.” I grind my teeth and stare him down. “And you are going to let me.” I poke him with my finger in the center of his chest, then continue, “Because I am in love with you. Every part of you. Your grumpy personality included. Fucking deal with it.”

I take a deep breath, cross my arms, and watch him as he stares at me without blinking. He is so still that, for a moment, I wonder if he stopped breathing, then he suddenly lunges at me, and I find myself on my back with Mikhail’s body sprawled over mine. He still doesn’t say anything, just presses his palms on either side of my face and bends his head until our noses touch. His right thumb traces the contour of my cheek and chin, and then comes to rest on my lips.

“Tell me again,” he whispers, regarding me carefully, like a hawk, as if he’s searching for some deception. I look at him right in the eyes and hold his gaze, willing him to see that what I’m saying is true.

“I am . . . so in love . . . with you,” I say, and the next second, Mikhail’s mouth crashes down on mine.

His arms come around my back as he rolls, taking me with him until I’m laying atop of him, never breaking the kiss. He’s squeezing me into him so tightly that it’s hard to breathe.

Ya lyublyu tebya vsey dushoy, solnyshko,” he says into my ear. “Ya ne pozvolyu nikomu zabrat’ tebya.

I smile and lean in to kiss his left eyebrow. Then I move to the right side of his face and trace my finger down the line of the thickest scar, from the top of his forehead, all the way to his chin.

“You are . . . so badass . . . husband.” I kiss his right eyebrow, then the corner of his right eye. He doesn’t move away. I kiss it again.

“And you are so crazy, dusha moya.” He sighs.

“Only . . . for you . . . Mikhail.”

He places his finger on my lips. “Enough. Stop hurting yourself.”

I smile and slide my hand down his chest. “Make . . . me.”


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