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Broken Whispers: Chapter 4

Mikhail

I’m buttoning Lena’s sweater when I hear light steps approach and lift my head to find Bianca standing in the doorway. She looks around, walks to the dresser to take the box with Lena’s hair ties, and turns toward me with a question in her eyes. I look at the box she’s holding, then back to her face. Bianca sighs, points to the box, to herself, and then to Lena. She wants to do my daughter’s hair, and the realization makes something in my chest squeeze.

“Lenochka, do you want Bianca to do your hair today?”

Lena’s head snaps up and she beams. “Yes! I want lots of braids, like Noemi from day care. Bianca, Bianca, do you know how to make lots of braids? Daddy only knows pigtails.”

Bianca is trying not to laugh at my daughter’s babbling and failing. She sits down on the bed next to me and motions for Lena to climb on her lap. I watch her as she takes a small strand and starts plaiting it into a thin braid, then moves to the next strand. She repeats the process until there are at least fifteen braids. It takes quite some time because Lena fidgets during the whole ordeal, turning around, picking different ties. Not once does Bianca snap at her. She just smiles, shaking her head.

As soon as her hair is done, Lena jumps down from Bianca’s lap and runs from the room, leaving the two of us sitting on the bed next to each other. I hear Sisi from somewhere in the living room, complimenting Lena’s hair as my daughter continues babbling, but I don’t move from my spot on the bed. Bianca’s hand is right next to mine and I can’t resist this crazy compulsion to touch her again.

I reach out and place my hand over hers. “Thank you for doing Lena’s hair.” When I turn my head to look at her, she’s watching me.

Our faces are only a few inches apart, and I wonder how a creature so painfully beautiful can bear to look at me and not flinch?

“I have to go check on something in one of the warehouses, but I will be back in a couple of hours,” I say. “If you want, you can invite your sister to come over, but clear it with the security guys downstairs. Just send them a message. I’ll leave the alarm codes and the spare key card for the elevator and the door on the counter.”

Bianca nods and her hand starts moving under mine, but instead of pulling away as I expected, she turns her palm up and intertwines her fingers with mine.

“Daddy!”

I look down at our joined hands and then back at Bianca’s face.

“Daddy! Daddy!”

Yeah, Lena always has the best timing.

“I have to go.” I stand up and let Bianca’s hand slip from mine. “If you need anything, message me.”

She looks up, those whiskey-colored eyes regarding me with interest. I could spend hours gazing into Bianca’s eyes.

“Okay,” she mouths and stands from the bed. As she walks past me, she reaches over and brushes the back of my hand with hers.

 

Bianca

 

 “Wow. Just . . . wow.” Milene turns herself around in the middle of the living room and walks toward the tall windows overlooking the city. “That view is to die for.”

I stand next to her, looking at the rooftops and streets visible below.

“So . . . did you two, you know?”

“What?”

“Did you have sex?”

“No.”

“Renata told me that her husband forced her to sleep with him the same night,” she says. “Theirs was also an arranged marriage, but her husband didn’t care that they were basically strangers. He hurt her real bad, Bianca. I was so afraid the same would happen to you.”

“He gave me the guest room. And he didn’t try anything so far.”

“Do you want him to?”

“Yes.”

Milene stares at me, her eyes wide. “Are you serious?”

“Why? He’s my husband. I am attracted to him.”

“Attracted to him? Bianca, are you blind? He is . . .”

“He is what?”

“He is . . . he has only one eye, for God’s sake, and you say you like him?”

“Yes, I like him. Do you have a problem with that?”

“No, I just . . . whoa. Did you ask what happened? To his face I mean.”

“No. He will tell me when he sees fit. I won’t ask.”

“And it doesn’t bother you? The scars? The eyepatch?”

“No. I find Mikhail sexy as hell.”

“You are out of your mind.”

“Wait until you see him in that tight Henley he put on this morning. Hot. I bet he’s even hotter without it.”

“My God, you really like him. How is that possible? I mean . . . look at you. You could have had any man you wanted. You . . . you dumped Marcus, for crying out loud.”

“Marcus is a spoiled idiot.”

“Okay, but . . .” She stops mid-sentence and stares at something over my shoulder. “Is that . . . that’s a child’s room. Why is there a . . .”

I take her forearm to bring her attention back to me.

“Mikhail has a daughter.”

“What? Did you know?”

“No.”

“Okay, I’m telling Dad. There must be something he can do to annul the marriage.”

“Don’t you dare.”

“Are you fucking serious? You are twenty-one and he expects you to raise his kid!”

“Lower your voice. He never said that, and believe me, he doesn’t need me to raise his daughter. He’s doing that amazingly well himself. And I like Lena. She’s a great kid.”

“Bianca . . .”

“How is Father dearest doing? Mikhail stabbed him pretty hard, I hope his hand isn’t too damaged.”

Milene looks at me with horror in her eyes. “Your husband did that?”

“Father hit me again yesterday when I came to get my stuff. Mikhail wasn’t pleased with that.” I smile when I remember the look on my father’s face as he stared at the letter opener lodged into his palm. “It was very exciting to watch.”

“Okay, that’s it. I’m calling Mom’s psychiatrist. You need professional help.”

“No, I don’t think I do.”

* * *

Milene went home hours ago, and Mikhail still isn’t back. He messaged me around two saying that Sisi will take Lena for a sleepover. He probably didn’t want to leave his kid with a stranger, although, I wouldn’t have minded watching her.

It’s almost midnight. Should I be worried or is this the standard occurrence? I have no idea what exactly his job is in the Bratva.

I take my phone and open the contact list. Should I message him to ask if everything is okay? Will it sound stupid? Yeah, it probably will. I don’t want him to think I’m checking on him. Maybe I could ask something benign. If he replies, it means he’s okay.

23:14 Bianca: Regarding my plans. I need to do some shopping tomorrow. Also, I accepted an offer to teach a guest ballet lesson in the local ballet school on Thursday next week. It starts at 9 and I should be done by 12.

23:22 Mikhail: I probably won’t be back before tomorrow afternoon. I’ll send Denis to pick you up at 10 and take you shopping.

I read the message and feel an unexpected pang of disappointment. Apparently, I was secretly hoping I would see him tonight. I start to place the phone on the table next to the bed, but then change my mind and type another message.

23:26 Bianca: Can I use the gym sometimes?

23:28 Mikhail: Of course. I’m usually done with my workout by 9, so it’s yours after that. Just one request – I don’t like an audience when I’m working out, so please wait until I finish.

What a strange request. I’m pretty certain I’d enjoy watching Mikhail work out, but I will respect his boundaries.

23:29 Bianca: Deal.

I leave the phone, turn off the light, and slide under the blanket when I hear a ping of an incoming message.

23:31 Mikhail: Can I take you to dinner on Friday?

An idiotic grin spreads across my face while I look at the screen. I feel like a teenage girl who just got invited on a date for the first time.

23:32 Bianca: Yes, you can.

 

Mikhail

 

I put my phone away, check the bandage on my arm, and turn toward the man tied spread-eagle to the wall.

“Now, where were we?” I ask as I take a knife from the metal table. I check its sharpness by holding it up to the light of the bare lightbulb, then stand in front of the bound man. He is already in a rough condition. To say he wasn’t happy when Yuri and I ambushed him as he was leaving his girlfriend’s house, would be an understatement.

“Oh, yes. You were going to tell me who paid you to send one of your gang members to my wedding, and who let the bastard in. That was a really stupid move.”

The Albanian gang leader spits on the floor.

“One of the tough ones. Great.” I walk back to the table, leave the knife, and take gardening scissors. “Let’s start with the ears, then, and see where it leads us.”

* * *

The door behind me opens with a squeak, but I keep sitting in my chair, watching small rivulets of blood trailing down the Albanian’s arms, and then dripping one by one into a big puddle on the floor. There is a severed ear lying next to his right foot, and several teeth scattered around.

“Anything?” Yuri asks and places a cup of takeout coffee on the table.

“Someone hired him online,” I say. “He never met the man who ordered the job. Everything was settled via phone. The client wired twenty-five grand before the job, and twenty-five more right after it was done.”

“Who was the target?”

“He doesn’t know. The shooter was to meet the client before the wedding to receive details. The client is the one who arranged to get him inside the hotel.”

“So, we have nothing so far.” Yuri walks to stand in front of the gang leader and cocks his head to the side, inspecting my work. “Is he dead?”

“Just passed out.” I grab the coffee, take a sip, and grimace. “I told you no sugar.”

“Sorry.” He mumbles and pokes the Albanian in the chest with his finger. The man stirs, lets out a strangled noise, then passes out again. “I always admired how you manage to keep them alive for so long.”

“Practice makes perfect, Yuri.”

“Yeah. Remind me never to get on your bad side.” He throws a look at me over his shoulder. “You are one scary motherfucker.”

“No shit.” I lean back in the chair and take another sip of coffee. It’s awful. “Is Anton back?”

“Yeah. We caught another guy from the same gang. Anton has him in his truck. He might know something. How much time do you need to finish with this one?”

I put the coffee down and take the gun from the table. “Move away.”

Yuri takes a step to the side. I aim and shoot the Albanian at the center of his head. “There. Finished. You can bring in the next one.”

 


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