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Broken Whispers: Chapter 17


I read the message from our Mexico contact and call Roman right away.

“Angelo Scardoni is moving the product,” I say the moment he answers the call. “What do you want me to do?”

“Do you have an ETA when they’ll cross the border?”

“Sometime Thursday night.”

“Find a good spot to intercept them after they cross. Blow them up.”

“Are you sure?”

“Bruno torched down my warehouse. Anton is still in the hospital with third-degree burns. I want that product gone.”


“And make sure they know it was us,” Roman says and cuts the call.

I put my phone back into my pocket, take a chair and place it in front of a man sitting with his hands and legs tied in the middle of the room. His palms are turned up, showing his red, blistered skin.

I sit down, lean back, and regard the Italian bastard in front of me. Early twenties, a bit overweight, wearing jeans and a designer T-shirt. He doesn’t look like a street thug. Probably someone’s nephew—a few steps removed and looking for a way to rise in rank by taking on a job of burning down the Bratva’s warehouse. Idiot. And based on the way his eyes are staring at me, huge and unblinking, scared shitless.

“So, you like burning things, Enzo?” I nod toward his burned hands. “You need more practice.”

He’s mumbling something I can’t understand over the gag in his mouth. Doesn’t matter, he’s not ready to give me the information I need. Not yet. I’m giving him fifteen minutes tops.

“Burned skin hurts like a bitch. Just the lightest touch and the pain pierces you all the way to the spine. Let me show you.” I lean in to press my thumb lightly in the middle of Enzo’s palm.

He jumps in the chair so hard he almost topples to the side, and there is this wheezing sound coming through the rag in his mouth, like an animal caught in a snare.

“You know, I really hate torturing people,” I say. “It’s time-consuming and messy and, in the end, everyone talks. It would be nice if we could skip the messy part because the blood is a bitch to wash away. Do you know how many of my suits ended up in the trash this month? Four.” I lean my elbows on my knees and regard him. “I like this suit, Enzo. I would appreciate it if you would just tell me what I need to know, and I’ll let you go. Simple as that.”

I take one of the smaller knives lined up on the metal table next to me and pointedly examine the blade. When I turn toward Enzo and put the tip of the knife above his palm, he starts fighting the restraints like a madman. He’s shaking his head, trying to say something, but I ignore his thrashing and slash his burned skin in a long line, diagonally across his palm. He manages to scream even with the gag pressed into his mouth. I lean back in my chair again, take a sip from the water bottle I keep on the table, and wait for him to come down.

Enzo stops thrashing after a minute or so and sags in his chair, breathing heavily through his nose. I wait for a few more minutes, then reach for a box of matches on the other side of the table.

“So, we’ve tested touch and the knife so far.” I take one match out, light it up and hold it in front of Enzo’s face. “You think that was painful?”

He nods his head and starts to cry.

“It’s nothing compared to having an open flame touching skin that was already burned.”

A wet stain appears on Enzo’s jeans while he watches the burning match, his eyes bloodshot. I let go of the match, and it falls in the puddle of piss on the floor between Enzo’s feet, missing his hand by just a few inches.

“Well, looks like my sight is not what it once was.” I sigh. “Good thing we have a whole box.”

I reach for the box of matches again, take out another one, then look up at Enzo.

“Or, maybe, we could talk now? Tell me, Enzo, how much time do you think passed since I came in? An hour? More maybe?” I light the match and raise my hand. “It’s been eight minutes. Time passes slowly when you are in pain. So, here is what we’ll do. I’ll remove the gag. You’ll talk. If I think you are lying or leaving anything out, I put the gag back and it will stay on for two more hours. You don’t want to be in the same room with me for two hours, Enzo.”

I lean forward until my face is right in front of his.

“You see, I haven’t even started with you yet. This had just been the two of us getting to know each other, and me gauging your pain threshold. It’s really low, Enzo. This means I would probably start with your nails, then move on to your fingers and teeth. I assume it would take the two hours I mentioned, and I’m sure you’ll sing like a bird when I take the gag off after that. But you won’t have any fingers or teeth left then. I think you should take the choice I’m offering.”

He sniffs and nods.

“Good choice.” I blow out the match and stand up to remove Enzo’s gag.

He starts talking the moment his mouth is free.

* * *

Ten minutes later, I leave the room, and while walking across the empty warehouse, I take out my phone to call Roman.

“The arsonist talked. It was Bruno. He orchestrated everything,” I say, “And they took the drugs from Diego Rivera, not Mendoza.”

“That bastard. When I asked Rivera to double the quantities for us, he said he’s already stretched too thin.”

“From what Enzo said, it looks like police killed Manny Sandoval, and Rivera took over his business. That’s how he got more product.”

“Fuck.” He curses. “There is always some shit going on down there.”

“Yeah. And we have another problem.” I squeeze the bridge of my nose and sigh. “We can’t blow the transport, Roman.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Bruno decided to deliver a gift to Dushku along with the product. There is a girl on that truck.”

“Are you shitting me? Dushku is not into that kind of stuff.”

“It was meant to be a surprise.”

“Your father-in-law is one sick bastard.”

“Yeah. Now what?”

“Put someone on their tail. When they stop for the night, get the girl out and then blow the thing up.”


I put the phone back in my pocket, get into the car, and start the engine.




“I don’t like clubs, Bianca.”

“Please. I promised Milene.” I make a sad expression. “And you said you would take me dancing, remember?”

Milene’s friend, Caterina, wanted to go out somewhere for her birthday. My sister proposed Ural, one of the Bratva’s clubs. I told her it’s not wise, even with the truce between the two sides. But she insisted, saying that if Mikhail and I come along, nothing would happen. If Father finds out, she’s toast.

“I said, we’ll see,” he says and passes his hand through my hair. “When?”

“Tonight.” I smile. “I already arranged with Sisi to look after Lena. She will be here any moment.”

“So, you were sure I would say yes.” He bends until our heads are at the same level. “Roman was right. You did wrap me around your little finger.”

“Is that bad?” I ask and watch as he takes my hand in his and places the tip of my pinkie to his lips.

“Nope.” He kisses my finger. “Who else is coming?”

“Milene and Caterina. And Andrea, the don’s granddaughter. Maybe her sister, Isabella, as well.”

“Rossi’s new wife?” He lifts his eyebrow. “I’ll call Pavel to let him know. We’ll need more security.”




Too loud music, too many people, too much alcohol. I never liked clubs when I was younger, and now I just loath them. Everybody knows that, and when Pavel spreads the news of me coming to Ural with Bianca, I will never hear the end of it.

I lead the girls to the table in the corner and turn around, making sure all four security guards Pavel set up are in their places. Combined with Andrea’s and Isabella’s bodyguards, that makes seven men watching over four girls. Deeming it more than enough, I take Bianca’s hand and pull her to the side near the end of the bar where there is more light.

“So, what do you think?”

“I love it.” She beams at me. “Very posh.”

“Pavel likes to overdo stuff.” I place my hand at the back of her neck and tilt her head up. “The only reason I would come to a club is because you asked me to. I hate them. And that loathing is becoming exponentially stronger with every second.”

Bianca narrows her eyes at me as her hand lifts to trace the shape of a question mark on my chest. I love when she does that.

“Because I notice every man who looks at you, and there are at least fifty of them here,” I say, then bend my head to whisper in her ear. “I’m afraid that someone may try to take you from me, and I have this compulsion to kill them all before they have a chance to give it a go.”

Sighing, Bianca climbs onto the barstool behind her, takes my face between her palms, and pulls me toward her until I’m standing between her legs. She touches her nose to mine and starts caressing my face with her hands while holding my gaze, unblinking. She starts with my chin, tenderly moves over my cheeks, then buries her fingers into my hair. I close my eyes and let myself drown in the warmth of her touch, forgetting about the people around us. A kiss lands at the right side of my chin, just over the thickest scar. I still find it unexpected, the way she touches my ruined face, with so much affection. Another kiss, at the tip of my nose this time, and I feel my lips curve into a smile. The next kiss lands at the corner of my mouth, then on my left cheek. I keep my eyes closed, waiting for what will be next. The left eyebrow. Then my right cheek. Tip of my nose again. My mouth widens even more.

“You are . . .” a soft whisper right next to my ear, “so beautiful . . . when you smile.”

I squeeze my arms tighter around her and brush my cheek against hers. My silly little sunray.

“No one . . .” another whisper, “compares to . . .you.”

Her hands wrap around my neck, and I feel her breath near my ear as she moves her mouth even closer. “I love you . . . Mikhail.”

I press my face into Bianca’s neck and take a deep breath, inhaling her scent. She has no idea what hearing her say my name does to me. It breaks me and puts me back together every single time. Each touch from her melts my insides.

“If you knew how crazy in love with you I am,” I say into her neck, “you would be scared shitless, Bianca.”

She pulls away a little, so she can look me in the eyes, smiles, and nudges my nose with hers. “Never,” she mouths then crashes her lips to mine.


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