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Chosen By A Sinner: Chapter 3


Wearing a deep burgundy evening dress that falls softly around my body, complimented by my favorite black high-heels, I head toward the entertainment room at the back of the mansion.

The rubies my parents gave me for Christmas adorn my earlobes and neckline, and the soft scent of my favorite French perfume floats around me.

The murmur of voices blends with soft classical music. Like they do every year, my parents arranged a birthday party for me. A handful of the guests have business relations with the bratva, and the rest are from the most influential families in the world.

Entering the room, decorated with fairy lights and glittering black balloons floating against the ceiling, my gaze scans over the large group of people wearing elegant dresses and expensive suits. The catering staff moves between the guests with trays of champagne and appetizers.

Spotting Violet, my best friend, a smile tugs at my mouth as I walk to where she’s standing awkwardly in a corner.

Violet’s eyes land on me, a wide smile spreads over her gorgeous face, then she grabs me into a playful hug. “Finally, the birthday girl decided to grace us with her presence. I thought you were planning to leave me alone with all these people.”

We hug, her sweet perfume drifting to me. Violet is as introverted as they come, whereas I’m a people person. Our polar-opposite personalities complement each other well.

Her father, Tristan Hayes, and my father run a company together, so we’ve been friends since diapers.

“Shut up,” I mutter. “You saw me thirty minutes ago when you said hello.”

“For me, that’s hours too long,” she jokes.

We pull apart, and I glance over the guests. “Have you seen my parents?”

“Nope. Mine called to let me know they’re running late.”

Just then, a rush of murmurs spreads through the room. Turning toward the entrance, my lips curve up as I watch my parents walk into the entertainment room, followed by Uncle Demitri, Aunt Ariana, and Viktor.

Dad’s eyes snap in my direction, then his smile widens, love softening his gaze. Letting go of Mom, he walks to me, and the moment I’m within touching distance, he sweeps me against his broad chest. “Printsessa.” I’m engulfed in a tight hug. “Happy birthday, my baby-girl.”

I let out a happy sigh as I soak in the safety of my father’s arms. “Thank you, Daddy.”

When he lets go of me, Dad gestures in the direction of the table that’s overflowing with gifts. “All for you.”

Yeah, I’m spoiled rotten.

I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a daddy’s girl. I have the best father in the world. Alexei Koslov might be one of the most dangerous men this planet has ever seen, but to me, he’s safety, love, and home.

He’s also the reason I’m still single at twenty-six. There isn’t a man alive that’s brave enough to date me. A one-night stand, sure. But the moment things become serious and they have to meet Dad or Viktor, they run away with their tails tucked between their legs. Cowards.

Mom moves closer. “Give me a hug before we get the party started.”

I wrap my arms around her, and for a solid minute, we just hold each other before she whispers, “Happy birthday, sweetheart.”

“Thank you, Mami.” With Dad being Russian and Mom Colombian, I’ve learned some Russian and Spanish growing up. Mostly terms of endearment and curse words.

As Mom pulls away, I hear movement behind me. Before I can glance over my shoulder, strong arms wrap around me, and I’m lifted from my feet. “Viktor!” I shriek, laughter bubbling over my lips.

“Happy Birthday, little sister,” Viktor says before planting a kiss on my cheek. “You’re getting old.”

Pulling away from him, I give him a playful scowl. “Not as old as you.”

“True,” he sighs as if he’s not two but twenty years older than me.

A server with a tray of food draws his attention, he grabs a salmon appetizer and pops it into his mouth.

Uncle Demitri and Aunt Ariana wish me a happy birthday as well, then they scatter between the guests to socialize.

I watch as Dad places his hand on Mom’s lower back, always keeping hold of her as they greet Mr. and Mrs. Cotroni. Seeing Luca’s parents, my gaze searches for the man who left me stunned out of my mind yesterday after I bumped into his bare chest in the hallway.

God, those abs. Rock hard and perfect.

The man looked hot as hell, which had me turning around and walking away because I didn’t know how to handle the situation.

My attention is drawn to Viktor as he asks, “What time do you want to leave?”

I’ve planned a weekend getaway with my friends. Usually, we’d go somewhere exotic, but Viktor is too busy, so to accommodate him, we’re going to Vegas.

“In two hours,” I murmur, my eyes scanning the guests again for any sign of Luca.

It’s hard being attracted to the man you despise more than anything. He always makes me feel like I’m less and not worthy of his time.

Okay, maybe despise is the wrong word. I’m more annoyed than anything because I always get what I want, except for Luca Cotroni.

Sigh. It sucks.

I’m glancing to my right when an intense presence makes the tiny hairs rise on the back of my neck. My heart sets off at a wild pace, my breath catching in my throat.

He’s here.

“Business taken care of?” I hear Viktor ask.

“Yes.” The single word is clipped, carrying the danger of a flying bullet aimed directly at my heart.

Sweet Jesus. Calm down, Mariya.

For the sake of my pride, I feign indifference as I turn my attention to Luca, whose eyes are resting cooly on me.

My stomach dips and spins with nerves. The effect this man has on me is downright scary at times.

“Mariya,” he murmurs, and taking hold of my arm, he leans into me. Tingles explode over my skin from his touch, and I’m unable to stop my eyes from drifting shut as the distance between our faces shrinks.


Every inch of my body is overly aware of Luca, my insides practically vibrating from the attraction I feel whenever I’m near him.

His lips brush my left cheek, then my right as his woodsy aftershave wraps around me, along with the intensity of a thousand suns.

This man is the only one with the power to make me feel small and worthless. This has to stop.

With our faces only an inch apart, I feel the warmth of his breath, the confidence rolling off him in waves, and the magnetism of his entire being. It’s all overwhelmingly intoxicating.

“Luca,” I whisper politely as he pulls away from me.

Our eyes lock for a moment, and I feel the punch to my stomach.

“Happy Birthday,” he murmurs, his tone low and deep before the air around me cools as the heat of his attention leaves me.

He starts to turn away from me, and in a desperate attempt to keep his attention on me for a moment longer, I say, “I’m surprised you came.”

He glances back at me. “Why wouldn’t I?”

I shrug as I hook my arm through Violet’s. “The great Luca Cotroni is always so busy. I didn’t think you’d make it.”

“It’s your birthday. I thought I’d spare ten minutes,” he mutters before turning away and shutting me down completely.

Gorgeous bastard.

I steer Violet away from Viktor and Luca while they start to talk about business.

“Why do you always get worked up around Luca?” Violet asks.

“You know why.”

“Still, you’d think after years of doing this dance with him, you’d give up and find someone else to lust after. It would exhaust the hell out of me.”

“I know,” I mutter. “If only it were as easy as flipping a switch.” Changing the subject, I ask, “Where is Oliver?”

Oliver and Violet recently got engaged, but they’re already acting like an old married couple. It’s endearing.

She gives me an apologetic look. “He called ten minutes ago to say he’s sick as a dog. It sounds like he came down with one of those twenty-four-hour bugs.”

“Oh no.” I squeeze her arm, then ask, “Are you still coming to Vegas? I’ll understand if you can’t.” The selfish side of me hopes she’s still coming. I was looking forward to dancing the night away with her.

A bunch of the guests wish me a happy birthday, and when we step outside into the balmy summer air, I inhale a deep breath.

“You know how it is,” Violet says. “Men are always dying when they get sick. I’ll make it up to you. Once Oliver is better, we can have a spa day.”

I feel a flicker of disappointment but smile at Violet, not wanting her to feel bad. “It’s okay.”

I might as well cancel the plans for Vegas. There’s no way I’ll get Viktor on a dance floor. Besides, he’s busy with work and a girl he kidnapped after an attack on the Sicilians. The only reason the family hasn’t lost their shit about Viktor keeping a woman prisoner is that we know he won’t hurt her, and Rosalie has nowhere to go after her family was wiped out.

From the couple of times I’ve interacted with Rosalie, she’s made it clear she’s not interested in getting to know me, so I haven’t forced the subject.

Viktor asked us to trust him and not to interfere, so we’re all respecting his wishes. For now.

Printsessa,” Dad calls me.

I walk to Dad’s side, and he wraps an arm around my lower back, giving me a sideways hug while pressing a kiss to my forehead. His sharp gaze searches my features, then he asks, “What’s wrong?”

“Oliver is sick, so Violet won’t be able to come to Vegas.” I step in the direction of the doorway so I can call the hotel. “I’m just going to cancel the reservations, then I’ll be back for the toast.”

“What?” Violet gasps. “No, don’t cancel your plans because of me.”

I smile at Dad and Violet. “It will be just Viktor and me, and besides, he’s busy. It’s okay.”

“I’m never too busy for your birthday weekend,” Viktor says behind me, making me turn to look at him. “We’re going to Vegas.” Then he grins at Luca. “Besides, Luca’s a good dancer.”


My eyes dart to Luca’s, and I instantly fall into the dark pools, my lungs forgetting how to function.

God, this man. Just having his eyes on me is enough to make me weak.  

What were we talking about again? Oh, right. Vegas.

“Problem solved,” Violet grins.

Because Dad’s right next to me, I smile sweetly at Luca. “You don’t mind coming to Vegas with us?”

Luca glances at Viktor and Dad, then a smile tugs at the left corner of his mouth, making him look hot as sin. “Not at all. It will be my pleasure.”

I’m sure it will.

I know he’s only saying it because of Viktor and Dad. He’d do anything for them. Sometimes I’m jealous of the friendship between them.

“I’ll sleep better knowing you’re both watching over my baby girl,” Dad says, patting Luca on the shoulder before walking toward the small stage so he can make the toast.

Luca’s eyes lock with mine again, making my stomach dip like I’m on a crazy rollercoaster ride. Clearing my throat, I mutter, “Don’t do me any favors. I was actually hoping to enjoy the weekend.”

His eyes darken, and I’m never sure whether it’s because he loves this tit-for-tat between us or whether he wants to snap my neck.

A weekend in Vegas with Luca Cotroni. God help me.

I’ll either die from an overdose of attraction, or we’ll end up killing each other.


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