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Fractured Souls: Chapter 21


One month later


My phone rings as I’m rearranging my closet for the third time this week. I found that folding stuff helps me keep my mind thought-free. Funny thing, I’ve also started sorting my clothes by color.

I reach for the cell and see that it’s an unknown caller. Only a couple of people have this number because I’m still using the phone Pasha gave me. Somewhere deep inside, I’m still hopeful he’ll call, but it’s been nearly two months.


“Asya?” a vaguely familiar male voice asks. “Can you please put that piece of shit on the line? He’s been ignoring my calls for weeks, and I have a clusterfuck on my hands at Ural.”

I raise my eyebrows. “Kostya?”

“Of course, it’s me, sweetheart. Who else has such a sexy voice? Oh fuck, please don’t tell him I called you sweetheart.”

“Tell who?”

“Pasha, of course. Can you please put him on? It’s taken me two days to crack the password on his email account to find your number. Things here are getting disastrous.”

Why would Kostya think Pasha’s with me? I swallow the lump that’s suddenly formed in my throat and close my eyes. “He’s not here.”

“Please tell him to call me when he—”

“He is not here, Kostya. I haven’t seen him since I left Chicago,” I choke out.

“What? He’s not with you? Did he call you recently?”

“No. I’ve called him, but he never answered,” I say. “What’s going on?”

For a moment, there’s nothing but silence before Kostya replies. “Pasha quit a month ago.”

“Quit? You can’t just quit the Bratva. Petrov is going to hunt him down and kill him!”

“Roman won’t kill him, but I don’t think Pasha cares.” A Russian curse comes from the other side, then a sound of something breaking. “No one knows where he is. He took my calls the first week, but then nothing. He hasn’t been at his apartment, so I hoped he was with you.”

Dread pools in my stomach. “Has he disappeared before?”

“Pavel?” he laughs, but it sounds forced. “He hasn’t taken a single day off since he joined the Bratva. Well, before you, I mean.”

“Where is he, then?” I mean to ask the question calmly, but I end up sounding like I’m yelling because my voice is higher than normal and trembling.

“I have no idea, Asya.”

I pace the room, trying to calm down, but my chest is tight and my heart is racing. I have a bad feeling that something truly awful is about to happen. “I need you to call me the moment you hear from him. Please.”

“Sure, sweetheart. I’ll make a few calls to see if anyone’s seen or heard from him and then I’ll let you know.”

When we end the call, I walk to the window overlooking the garden and stare at nothing in particular. I promised myself I wouldn’t call him ever again. If he wants to talk, he can call me.

I look down at my phone and press the speed dial number. It rings. And rings. Closing my eyes, I lean my forehead against the window and keep listening to the ringing sound until it disconnects without rolling over to voice mail. I call again. And again. After the fourth try, a message arrives. I’m afraid of what it may say, so I stare at his name for at least ten minutes before I gather the courage and open it.

23:15 Pasha: Stop calling, mishka. Please.

“Fuck you!” I yell at the screen and throw the phone on the bed. And then I cry.




The familiar sounds of cheering and yelling surround me. Just as the stench of sweat mixed with the faint smell of mold does, too. Laughter rings out and then more hollers. I lean my back on the concrete wall and stare at the phone in my hand and the text I just sent.

She called. Staring at her name on the screen, not answering those calls, was the hardest fucking thing I’ve ever done. If she continued calling, I would have probably caved.

I check the call log. There’re hundreds of missed calls over the last few weeks. At least fifty are from Kostya, but there are dozens from Roman, and Mikhail, too. The rest of the guys have been calling, as well. Even Sergei. I never answered. I didn’t feel like talking. What was there to say, anyway?

I press my thumb over Asya’s name at the top of the list, swipe to the side and delete the entry. Then, I flip back to the sent message and delete that, as well. Seeing her name hurts too much. I should clear her number, but it wouldn’t do any good. I memorized it the moment I bought the phone for her.

A metal door on the other side of the room screeches as it opens, and a man enters. In his black suit and tie, he looks like a businessman. Well, considering the people who come to watch these fights and the amount of money that changes hands every night, they do need to keep it sleek.

“You’re next,” he says a moment before the bell chimes, followed by excited shouts. “Try not to incapacitate your opponent in the first round this time. The crowd likes to watch them struggle a bit.”

I finish wrapping my hands, get up, and head toward the door while more cheers erupt from the direction of the fighting cage.


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