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Fractured Souls: Chapter 14

Asya

Clutching the coat around me, I stare at the front door.

I’ve been looking at it for at least an hour. First, for ten straight minutes from the middle of the living room, then I managed two steps toward it and continued staring. It took me an hour of this stare-take-a-step-stare cycle to finally reach it. As I’m grabbing the handle, my hand is shaking. Biting at my lower lip, I open the door and exit the apartment.

Pasha’s place is on the third floor, but since most of the residents use the elevator, the stairwell is vacant. Tiny shuffle at a time, I make my way down the stairs. It’s quite a feat, considering how much my legs are shaking.

Pasha went to a meeting with his pakhan two hours ago, so he should be back soon. I could have waited for him, but I can’t bear this feeling of helplessness anymore. I’ve been hiding in his apartment as if I’m a criminal for more than a month now, and I’ve finally decided I won’t do it a second longer. I’m going to leave the building and take a walk around the block. Alone. It’s three in the afternoon; what could possibly happen? Just a small walk, a completely normal thing, and I’ll go back. I’ve been outside several times with Pasha. I will be okay.

When I make it to the foyer, I wave to the security guy sitting behind his desk and head toward the exit. A big glass sliding door allows me to see people as they pass by on the sidewalk. As I approach the door, a wave of nausea comes over me and gradually becomes worse as I get closer. The door swooshes to the side. I swallow the bile and take the last few steps.

My feet reach the sidewalk. I stop and look up at the sky, feeling the sunrays on my face. It wasn’t that hard.

Someone moves by me, catching my shoulder with their arm. I flinch and look to the side to see an older woman walking away. She rounds the corner and disappears from view. I’m feeling sick to my stomach and my hands and legs are still trembling slightly, but it’s getting better now that I’ve finally crossed the threshold.

Laughter rings out across the street as a group of kids runs inside a building. To the left, there is a grocery store with a lot of people going in and out, so I decide to turn right. I’m almost to the corner when a taxi pulls over just ahead and a man steps out. I stop and watch as he gets a laptop bag from the back seat. He’s wearing a black suit with a white shirt and a dark gray tie under his unbuttoned coat. My heart thumps at double its normal speed. My breath hitches. The taxi leaves and the man slings the bag’s strap over his shoulder and heads in my direction. I take a step back. Then another one. The man keeps walking, and with each of his steps, my breathing becomes more erratic. I turn around and run.

People. Too many people. They are all looking at me. I crash into someone’s chest. Two hands grab my upper arms, probably just to steady me, but it feels like claws burying into my flesh. I scream and, the moment the hands release me, resume running.

 

Pavel

 

“Did that waitress who’s sleeping with Dushku find anything out?” Roman asks.

“No,” I say. “Apparently, he talked about some confiscated shipment and complained about his wife spending too much money on shoes. But that’s it.”

“I’ve known Dushku for fifteen years. He’s a master schemer and he’s ruthless when it comes to business. But he would never get involved in human trafficking. If there’s a connection here, we’re not seeing it.” He turns to Dimitri. “What about the men you have following Dushku’s son-in-law?”

“Nothing.”

Roman hits the surface of his desk with his palm. “What’s the name of that guy Julian sends to do his errands? Besim?”

“Bekim,” Dimitri says.

“That one. I want Mikhail to have a chat with him. Someone dared to send mercenaries into the Bratva club and kill our men just to silence a seemingly nobody. It means there is a lot at stake. We’ll find out who’s responsible for Yuri’s death, and I will personally slaughter him.”

“What if it was Dushku who orchestrated everything after all?” I ask.

“Then he will die. And it will be neither fast nor pretty. Has the girl staying with you said anything?”

“She said the man who grabbed her didn’t have an accent. The name he gave her was Robert, but that could be a fake.”

“I’ll have Maxim get photos of Dushku’s men. Would she be able to recognize him?”

“Probably.”

“Good. When are you planning on taking her to her family? She’s been at your place for a month.”

My body stiffens. I’ve always been honest with Roman. Until today. “She won’t tell me her last name or give me their number,” I lie. “I have no way of finding them until she does.”

“Perfect,” he barks. “And how long do you expect to remain on this unplanned vacation? The clubs won’t run themselves.”

“I’ve taken everything I need from the office, and I’ve been working from home. Kostya has been personally handling whatever I can’t do remotely.”

“All right. But next Saturday I need you at Baykal. I have a meeting with the Ukrainians. They want an in with us.”

“They got over the Shevchenko fuckup?”

“Everybody knows Shevchenko was an idiot. Sergei did them a favor by killing him.” Roman shrugs. “They’re sending a new guy to handle the talks. He’s coming with two other men.”

“Okay. I’ll double the security.”

He leans back in his chair and motions with his hand toward my outfit of jeans and a T-shirt. “What’s with the new fashion style?”

“I needed a change,” I say and see him lift an eyebrow. “Anything else?”

“No. You’re free to go. Dimitri and I will go over the rest.”

I nod and leave the pakhan’s office.

As I’m heading down the hallway, the kitchen door on the other end bursts open, and a petite brunette in a paint-stained dress runs out. Her hands are laden with piroshki, and she is struggling to make sure none fall in her haste. At the top of the stairs, a little dark-haired girl starts jumping up and down and clapping her hands. Her sweet giggles echo off the hallway’s high walls. Roman’s wife and daughter. Nina Petrova sprints up the stairwell, nearly reaching the top when the kitchen door swings open again and Igor—the cook—wobbles out, shouting obscenities in Russian. If Roman catches him cursing in front of his little girl, the old cook will be as good as dead. I shake my head and stride toward the front door as the chorus of Igor’s yelling and female laughter rings behind me.

 

* * *

 

“Mr. Morozov,” the security guy in the hall of my building nods as I enter. “How was your day?”

“It was good, Bobby. Thank you.”

“Oh, your girlfriend isn’t back, yet.”

I freeze in midstep. “What?”

“She left half an hour ago. I thought you’d like to know.”

“Left?” I ask as panic floods my system. “Where?”

“I’m not sure. She just walked outside. I didn’t see where she went.”

I rush toward the security desk and come around to the other side. “Show me the camera feed from that time.”

He skips the video to the moment when Asya walked out. She stands on the sidewalk, in full view of the camera for a couple of moments, then goes to the right. A few minutes later, she runs past the entrance at breakneck speed. I can’t see her face, but based on how fast she’s moving, she was scared shitless.

“Call me if she comes back!” I bark and run toward the exit.

I rush along the sidewalk, frantically looking in all directions, but I don’t see Asya anywhere. There is a grocery store nearby. I walk inside and ask the cashier if he saw a girl meeting Asya’s description, but he only shakes his head. I leave the store and continue down the street, asking people if they saw her, going inside other businesses, but no one has seen a runaway girl. When I reach the intersection at the end of the street, I turn around and head back. It’s too crowded here. I doubt she’d go into a big mass of people.

Dread and anxiety keep building within me with every passing minute. She couldn’t have gotten far, so why can’t I find her? I should have bought her a phone, so she could have called if she needed me. It didn’t even cross my mind until now since we were almost always together. Idiot!

I spot a group of kids hanging around the steps in front of a building across the street, laughing, so I sprint toward them.

“Did you see a girl run by about five minutes ago?” I ask.

“Yellow coat. Long brown hair?” a kid of about nine asks.

“Yes.” I nod.

“I think I saw her running there.” He points toward the alley behind the grocery store. “She seemed scared.”

I swivel around and run across the street, nearly getting clipped by a taxi, and dart into the narrow alley. It looks deserted at first glance, but I keep going deeper, passing the dumpster by the grocer’s back door. The smell of rotten fruit emanating off the trash cans accosts me, reminding me of a time when the stink of spoiled food was all I could smell. I fist my hands and round the corner, moving between the buildings.

It’s my fault. I should have taken Asya outside more often, a bit more every day so she could have gotten used to being around other people again. I should have insisted on her going to the shrink or tried harder to convince her to call her brother. She needs to get back to her life, to her family. I didn’t do any of that. Instead, I let her hide in my place. With me.

I like waking up with her curled into my side—her small body pressed to mine as if even in sleep, she subconsciously sought my presence. Or how she climbs onto my lap when we sit down to watch TV in the evenings and rests her head on my shoulder. She usually falls asleep after ten minutes, but I stay on the couch for hours, and only when it’s well into the night do I carry her to bed. It feeds whatever longing that’s awoken inside me, the inner need to keep her engulfed in my arms all the time, to know she’s safe where no one can ever hurt her again. She’s been staying with me for more than four weeks now, but she still keeps following me around the apartment, holding either my hand or the hem of my shirt. It feels good to be needed. So, I stopped trying to convince her to call her family. The selfish son of a bitch I’ve transformed into wants to keep her.

The alley curves to the right and ends in a big concrete wall. A pickup truck is parked beside it. There’s no one around. I almost turn to head back when I spot something yellow under the truck. I rush over and stop in my tracks. There, between the truck and the wall, Asya is laying on her side, her face toward the wall and her arms wrapped tightly around her middle.

“Jesus.” I kneel and gather her into my arms. She’s shaking. The moment I have her in my embrace, her arms envelop my neck, and her legs wrap around my waist. I place my palm on the back of her head, tucking her face into the crook of my neck.

“It’s okay, mishka,” I whisper. “I have you.”

 

Asya

 

Pathetic.

Weak.

That’s how I feel as Pasha carries me back to his apartment. I can’t gather the courage to even lift my head and look up because I’m afraid I’ll freak out again. Instead, I keep my face buried in his neck.

I don’t understand why he keeps troubling himself with me. All I did was barge into his life and make a mess out of it. I’ve been dreading the moment when he’ll sit me down and tell me it’s time for me to leave. It’s bound to happen, and probably soon. I’m nothing to him. I can’t keep disrupting his life. But just the idea of leaving his side makes me shudder from the terror it unleashes inside of me.

“Let’s get you showered,” Pasha says as he carries me inside the apartment.

In the bathroom, he stops next to the shower stall, waiting for me to let him go. Instead, I cling to him harder.

“Asya, baby. Look at me.”

Reluctantly, I lift my head from his neck and look into his eyes. I don’t think I ever met someone with eyes like Pasha’s—the color is a striking metallic gray.

“You need to wash your hair,” he says in his deep voice, and it seems I can feel it all the way to my bones. “You have engine oil everywhere.”

“Can you do it?” I blurt out and regret it the moment the words leave my mouth. As if he’s not burdened enough with me already.

Pasha watches me for a few moments, raises his hand as if intending to place it on my face but changes his mind and just takes my glasses off.

“Okay.” He sets the glasses next to the sink and slowly lowers me down.

I take off my coat and sweater, then remove my shoes and jeans. Pasha waits patiently in front of me, his eyes fixed on mine. Even when I shed my bra and panties, his gaze never wanders lower.

It should bother me, being naked in front of him. It doesn’t. Just the thought of a man looking at my nude body usually makes the bile bubble up my throat. Any man except him. I wish he would look lower. Touch me. Kiss me.

I step into the stall and turn on the shower. Water hits me from above, the stream falling straight down onto my head, making the rivulets run down my body. I stand unmoving under the spray and watch as Pasha takes off his jacket, removes his shoes and socks, and steps into the shower fully clothed. He takes the shampoo bottle off the shelf, pours an amount three times larger than necessary into his palm, and looks down at me.

“Turn around,” he says, his voice huskier than usual.

I face away from him and reach out to shut off the shower. Once the sound of water ceases, the only thing I can hear is Pasha’s deep breathing. His touch starts at the top of my head as his hands massage my scalp. The beating of my heart picks up pace. He took his shampoo, not mine, by mistake. But I didn’t stop him. I close my eyes and inhale, letting the scent of sage and citrus fill my nostrils. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to connect those two scents with anything other than falling asleep next to Pasha.

His hands disappear from my hair. I turn on the shower again and slowly turn around.

The water is cascading down my face, blurring my vision, but not enough to obscure the sight of his wide chest in front of me. His white T-shirt is completely wet and plastered to his body, revealing the images inked on his skin. He rarely removes his shirt in front of me. I think he believes his tattoos scare me. They don’t. Nothing about Pasha scares me, just the opposite. The only time I feel absolutely safe is when he is with me.

I tilt my head up and find those gray eyes of his staring at me. God, I want to kiss him so much. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks, but can’t decide if I should or not. Now, however, looking at him—all wet from head to toe because I asked him to wash my hair for me—I don’t have to decide. There’s no question if I want or not, only the need to feel his lips on mine. I raise my hands to cup his face with my palms and pull his head down.

“Asya.” He bends slowly, looking into my eyes.

“I love how you say my name.” I smile. He pronounces it with a Russian lilt. Lifting onto my toes, I tilt my head up and lightly touch my mouth to his. “Say my name again. I want to know how it tastes on your lips.”

Pasha’s hand comes to rest at the back of my neck, stroking the sensitive skin there, while his eyes bore into mine.

“Please,” I whisper over his lips.

He touches his forehead to mine and closes his eyes. “You’ve been hurt.”

“I know.” I move my hand along his jaw and bury my fingers in his wet strands.

“You’re eighteen,” he says. “I’m too old for you, mishka.”

I bite his lower lip lightly. “Bullshit.”

His hand at the back of my neck grips my hair. His breath fans my face as he exhales, and he opens his eyes to look at me. “Asya,” he says into my lips, then seizes them with his own.

I grab at the material of his wet shirt to keep myself steady as I let him devour me with his mouth.

“Asya,” he says again between kisses, moving his lips to my chin and along my neck. “My little Asya.”

I grab the hem of his shirt and pull it up and over his head. Pasha’s hands glide down my body, stopping under my thighs as he lifts me. I wrap my arms and legs around him at the same moment, just as I have so many times before. The movement is so natural, it feels like I’ve been doing it all my life. He carries me out of the bathroom and toward the bed, kissing me the whole way.

“We won’t do anything, mishka,” he says and lowers me to stand next to the bed. “I will just be kissing you. Okay?”

I nod and brush my palm down his cheek. “Okay.”

“I need to grab a change of clothes. Wait here.”

Oh, so not happening. I jump back into his arms.

“Asya.” He looks down at me. “I need to go into the closet, baby.”

I know what he means. His suits are there. “I won’t look,” I say.

Pasha squeezes his arm around my back. “Okay. I’ll be quick.”

He runs. I don’t even notice the suits because he just rushes inside, grabs a pair of boxer briefs, pajama bottoms, and a T-shirt, and he’s out in under five seconds.

When he places me on the bed again, I drift to my spot next to the wall and pull the blanket over my naked body. My hair is still wet and will soak the pillow, but I don’t care. Pasha turns his back to me and, in a few quick moves, changes out of his wet jeans and underwear into dry boxer briefs and pajama bottoms.

“Don’t,” I say when he reaches for the T-shirt.

He looks over his shoulder, then at the tee in his hand. “Mishka?”

“Please,” I whisper.

Pasha nods and throws the T-shirt onto the recliner. The mattress dips as he climbs into bed. As soon as he’s next to me, I lean forward and place a kiss on his naked chest. His hand comes under my chin, and he tilts my head up.

“Nothing will happen tonight. Just kisses and cuddling. But if you want us to stop, you need to tell me. Right away, Asya.”

An urge to cry comes over me at hearing the words, but I bottle it up. Wrapping my arms around his neck, I crush my lips to his. His hand caresses my back, stroking me over the blanket. I shove the blanket off me and continue kissing him. Pasha’s palm presses against the small of my back and, for a fleeting second, I freeze. He quickly removes his hand and lies there utterly still.

“It’s okay,” I say into his lips. “I know it’s you.”

He slowly puts his hand back, but it’s barely touching me. I sigh, throw my leg over his waist, and climb on top of him. “Please, stop treating me as if I’m going to break when a wind blows in my direction.”

Pasha’s hand cups my cheek, brushing the skin under my eye with his thumb. “I’m afraid you’re going to.”

“You can’t break something that’s already been broken beyond repair, Pasha.” I press my cheek into his palm. His jaw goes rigid and the vein at his temple pulses.

“We’ll fix you up, mishka,” he says through gritted teeth and pulls my face closer. “We will piece together every broken shard, I promise you. And then, we’ll fucking annihilate the bastards who hurt you.”

I crush my mouth to his. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to who I was before, but I don’t tell him that. Only kiss him.

Pasha’s arm circles my waist, and he rolls us until I’m on my back with his body looming over mine.

“Okay?” he asks, and I nod.

“Just kissing, and nothing else, Asya. Remember?”

When I nod again, Pasha slides down, his mouth landing on my collarbone and trailing a line down the center of my chest to my stomach. His hands roam over my arms, my sides—his touch slow and featherlight.

“No one will hurt you ever again, mishka,” he whispers as he moves down my body, his lips covering every inch of my skin—down my right leg, then my left, all the way to my feet. As he shifts back up, leaving a trail of kisses along my inner thighs, that dreadful voice whispers inside my head.

You are disgusting. I don’t know how he can stomach putting his mouth on something as filthy as you. The only thing you’re good for is being fucked without mercy. You don’t deserve any better.

I squeeze my eyes shut and move my hands down my body, pressing my palms over my pussy. Pasha’s mouth stills on my hipbone.

“Baby? Do you want me to stop?”

I shake my head. “Please don’t,” I whisper. “Just not there.”

“Okay. I won’t do anything that will make you feel uncomfortable.”

“It’s not that,” I say.

Pasha moves up my body and takes my face into his palms. “Give me your eyes, Asya.”

I open my eyes to find him looking at me with concern. I don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve him.

“What did I do wrong?” he asks, and I feel the tears gathering in the corners of my eyes.

“You did nothing wrong,” I choke out. “I just don’t want your lips there.”

“Why, baby?”

“Because . . .” I shut my eyes again and squeeze my legs together. “Because I’m dirty.”

I feel the kiss land on my lips. “There is nothing dirty about you,” he says. “You are the most beautiful, pure thing I’ve ever encountered, Asya”—another kiss—“and I will erase every bad memory you have, if you’ll let me.”

The tip of his finger traces along my eyebrow. “Please?”

“Okay.” I nod.

Pasha takes my hand and places it on the back of his head. “Grab and tug it.”

I bury my fingers in his hair and grip the silky strands.

“Harder, mishka,” he says and nods when I do. “Good. I want you to do that the moment you want me to stop. Deal?”

“Yes”

He kisses my lips again before moving his mouth lower, to my chin, my neck, across my collarbone and over my breasts to my stomach, then he pauses. When I don’t do anything, he slides even lower until his lips reach my pelvis, and he waits again, looking up at me. He’s pausing to give me a chance to stop him, but I don’t. I take a deep breath and nod.

A kiss lands at the center of my folds. Then another one. A pause. Two more kisses, and I shudder.

“Asya?”

“I’m okay,” I mutter.

Another kiss. A tentative lick. Pasha’s hands push on the inside of my thighs, opening my legs wider. In the next moment, his tongue presses to my clit. I inhale and shudder again as a tingling feeling unfurls in my core. Several more licks, and another kiss. His lips mold to my pussy and suck. A moan leaves me, and I squeeze at his hair without thinking.

Pasha’s head snaps up. “Baby?”

“Sorry.” I let go of his hair and push his head down between my legs again. “More.”

He resumes licking me—slow at first, then faster. The pressure between my legs builds, but I need more. Pasha’s mouth slips lower, his tongue entering me, and I gasp at the sensation. My body starts shaking.

“I need . . .” I mutter, arching my back. “More.”

“Just my mouth today, mishka,” Pasha says and moves to suck on my clit again. My body is trembling, yearning.

“More!” I scream and grip his hair with all my strength.

He keeps teasing my clit, switching between licking and sucking while his hand moves along my inner thigh closer to my core. My breathing picks up the moment I feel his finger at my entrance, I’m already close to combusting. Slowly, his finger slides inside, so impossibly carefully, it makes me want to weep. He’s acting as if it’s my first time. As if there weren’t dozens of other men who already plunged their way inside me by force. I throw my head back and moan, riding the unfamiliar feeling of floating that comes over me while wetness pools between my legs. When he has his finger fully in, he presses his lips over my clit and sucks, hard, and it feels like I burst into a million tiny butterflies. I never imagined that it would feel so whimsical to have an orgasm.

My body is still trembling when Pasha lies down beside me. He wraps his arm around my front, placing his hand on the back of my head, and tucks my face into the crook of his neck.

“I wish my first time was with you,” I whisper.

“It will be.”

“Pasha, you know very well—”

His hand covers my lips. “Your first time is going to be with me,” he says next to my ear. “All that from before, it doesn’t count. Do you understand?”

I press my lips together, trying not to cry while something warm swells inside my chest, gluing together a couple of the broken pieces of my soul.


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