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Fractured Souls: Chapter 3

Asya

“Is marmalade okay?” Pasha asks and places the jar on the counter.

I grip the hem of his T-shirt harder as he turns to face me.

“I don’t have anything else here, but I’ll run to the store later and buy more food. I rarely eat at home. We’ll order some clothes for you, too.”

I tilt my head up and find him watching me. “Thank you.”

I’m wearing another of his T-shirts with nothing underneath. No panties. No bra, either. It feels strange.

When I woke up this morning, I had a fever again. Pasha wrapped me in a blanket and pulled me against his chest. We lay in his bed for what felt like hours until my body finally stopped shaking. He carried me into the bathroom and stayed there while I did my business and took a shower. After I brushed my teeth, he wrapped me in a fluffy towel and led me back to bed, where I waited with my eyes glued to the bathroom door while he had a shower.

“Do you want coffee?”

I look at the coffee machine, feeling like the most pathetic being on earth. “I don’t know.”

Pasha’s palm gently presses against my back, moving up and down in a soothing motion. I take a deep breath and look up to find him watching me. There is no reluctance in his eyes. No reproach. And no pity.

“Did you drink coffee before?”

“No,” I whisper.

“How about tea? I have chamomile, I think.” He opens the cupboard, takes out a metal container and places it in front of me.

I just stare at it.

He lifts my chin with his finger. “Did you like drinking tea, Asya?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s assume you still do.” He smiles, and it’s so beautiful. “What did you like to eat for breakfast before?”

“Cereal with raisins,” I say. “Sometimes, I’d have some with chocolate chunks instead.”

“Then I’ll buy a few of those. How about other food? What were your favorite dishes? Were you allergic to anything?”

I sniff, trying to stifle the urge to cry. He’s asking the questions in a way that makes it easier for me to answer. He’s not asking me to pick, which would raise my anxiety, but rather asking me about facts.

“I never liked broccoli or green peas. Everything else was okay with me,” I say. “No food allergies.”

“Did you prefer ordering takeout or cooking for yourself?”

“I liked cooking.”

He nods. “Make me a list of ingredients, and I’ll go to the grocery store tomorrow. We’ll order something to eat today, but tomorrow, you can prepare one of your dishes.”

I bite my lower lip. That would require picking one of many.

“How about lasagna for tomorrow? I don’t think I’ve ever tried one. Did you like making lasagna?”

The weight pressing on my chest dissipates. I nod.

“Good. I’ll go get my phone so you can make that list for me, but first, let’s have some breakfast. Okay?”

“Okay.”

I follow him around the kitchen as he puts the kettle on to boil and takes out the bread. He spreads the marmalade methodically, making sure it’s evenly distributed over the whole slice.

There is a multitude of small scars that cover his knuckles. His hands and fully inked arms seem at odds with the posh, almost clinically impeccable surroundings. I take the opportunity to inspect his face a bit better, including his strong jaw and sharp cheekbones, noticing a few scars on his forehead and several more on his chin, too. Finally, I peer at his eyes. I can’t make out their color, however, since he towers over me by at least a foot.

Pasha stops what he’s doing and looks down at me. Why are his eyes so sad? I let go of his T-shirt and place my palm over his forearm. The muscles under my fingers tense, and I expect him to pull away, but he doesn’t.

I tighten my hold on him and lean into his side to get closer to the warmth of his big body. The faint sound of music reaches me. Someone, a neighbor probably, must have turned the TV too loud, and without thinking about it, I hum along to the tune.

 

Pavel

 

Asya is bundled under the covers. I gave her an extra blanket when she wouldn’t stop shivering earlier. She is asleep now, while I’m still awake, listening to her breathing.

She was okay this morning, but after lunch she got sick, and we barely managed to get to the bathroom in time. I held her hair while she emptied her stomach into the toilet, then helped her brush her teeth and carried her to the bed. Her fever spiked again, but it wasn’t as bad as it was the first time. I don’t have a thermometer, so I kept pressing the back of my hand to her forehead every five minutes, but it seemed like her temperature was only slightly elevated. The fever broke an hour ago, and she finally stopped tossing in bed.

I reach for my phone on the nightstand and type a message to Kostya, asking about the situation at the clubs. A minute later, I receive the reply—a bunch of Russian curses and wishes for my slow and painful demise. Apparently, he’s not happy about having to fill in for me.

When I called the pakhan earlier today and asked for a few days off, I suggested having Ivan take over. Roman laughed and said he’d give the clubs to Kostya because it was time for him to start doing actual work instead of only chasing women and burning rubber on a regular basis.

Kostya started working alongside his brother, helping with the Bratva finances when he was barely twenty, but he’s always been a problem child. Roman has a soft spot for him, though, since Kostya’s the youngest in the inner circle. I guess we all do. Kostya is like everyone’s little brother, and he shamelessly uses that to his advantage, constantly getting off the hook because of his age. Hopefully, he won’t get any crazy ideas while he’s filling in for me. If he decides to transform my clubs into strip clubs, I’m going to strangle him.

Asya stirs next to me, and I quickly feel her forehead. No fever, thank fuck. When I pull my fingers away, she grabs my hand and lays it on her chest. It looks like I’ll be sleeping in the same bed with her again. I sprawl out next to her and watch her face. I kind of understand her reasoning for not letting me call her brother, but then again, I don’t understand it at all. Wouldn’t it be easier for her to be back home with her family? I’ve never experienced family dynamics, but I’m sure her brother and sister would do a much better job than me.

I reach out and turn off the lamp, closing my eyes. But sleep evades me. How did Asya end up in Chicago? Who are the people who took and kept her? Is there a connection to Fyodor’s daughter? I have so many questions and zero answers.

Tilting my head to the side, I watch Asya’s sleeping form. She’s still clutching my hand in her own. I need to buy groceries first thing in the morning. I can’t have her eat bread and marmalade three days in a row. I need to get some toiletries for her, as well. And clothes. But I kinda like her in my T-shirts.

A brown strand of hair has fallen over her face, so I reach out and carefully move it. Why did I let her stay?


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