Merciless Saints: Chapter 16

WINTER

Damien’s mouth on mine clouds my mind. It eases the unrelenting ache in my chest. It erases my worries about my uncertain future. Until there’s only him. His aftershave. His strength pinning me to the wall. His fingers in my hair. His tongue stroking mine with a dizzying pleasure. With a single kiss, he awakens my soul. He makes my heart race and my body tremble with need. Need for more of him.

I knew Damien was a force to be reckoned with, but still, I underestimated him.

I knew the Vetrovs and Koslovs would want more than I was willing to offer. That’s how it works in our world. But still, I didn’t know Damien wanted me. Not like this. Not so desperately that his kisses bruise my lips and his tongue creates a fire in my mouth.

God. Damien Vetrov.

Tomorrow he’ll become my husband.

He breaks the kiss, and all I can do is stand breathlessly plastered against the wall.

Tomorrow we’ll consummate our marriage. I’m no stranger to sex, but… but… Lifting my eyes to meet his, I take in the hunger darkening his face. The dominance pouring off him.

I’ve always been in control whenever I had sex, but I know with dead certainty it won’t be the case with Damien.

He brings his hand to my jaw, and his thumb brushes over my swollen bottom lip. His voice is a low rumble as he says, “Mourn. Tomorrow will be a new day.”

I stay against the wall as he turns away from me and leaves, and only when the door shuts behind him do I take a deep breath. I press a hand over my racing heart, trying to calm it down.

Tomorrow I’ll marry Damien, and I’ll become Winter Vetrov. The name alone will inspire fear. Alexei, Demitri, and Damien will help me run the business.

It will only cost my body, heart, and soul.

I’ll be entirely at Damien’s mercy.

The thought both scares and thrills me.

With Cillian by my side, I always had someone to look out for me. Will Damien fill that void in my life?

No. He’ll be loyal to me, but the chances of him loving me are probably next to zero.

Being loved died with Cillian and my family. Loyalty will have to be enough for me.

Pulling away from the wall, I walk to the bathroom and opening the faucets, I let water pour into the tub while I go to my closet to get clean clothes.

Thankfully, I left half my belongings at home when I left to attend St. Monarch’s. Taking a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt out, I go back to the bathroom.

It’s only when I’ve stripped out of the dirty clothes, and I sink into the balmy water, that my thoughts turn back to the past twenty-four hours.

Seeing my father and Sean being assassinated right before my eyes shocked me to my core. But watching Cillian die was unbearable.

I begin to remember the precious times I had with him. I remember when he trained me. When he taught me how to dance. When he showed me how to ride a bike.

Cillian is in every single memory that matters to me.

But now he won’t be in my future.

The grief thickens around me, and I allow the tears to fall. One last time.

Like Damien said, today I mourn, and tomorrow I have to face a new life. As his wife.

I move slowly as I wash my body and hair, grateful for the alone time Damien’s given me.

The shock and sorrow keep hitting me in waves. The severe losses I’ve suffered. How my life has changed and how much it’s still going to change. Everything feels foreign. Even my body.

Getting out of the tub, I dry myself and lather my skin with lotion. I pull on the clean clothes and then towel dry my hair.

I’m still squeezing the last water from my hair as I walk to my personal living room when I see the tray on the coffee table. There’s a plate of food and a glass of cranberry juice.

I still don’t have an appetite, but I’m going to need the strength for tomorrow.

I sit down and drop the towel on the side of the chair and then force myself to eat the chicken and vegetables Dana must’ve prepared.

I need to talk to the staff. God, there’s so much to do.

When I drink the last of the juice, I go back to the bathroom and pull a brush through my hair. Leaving it to air dry, I slip on a pair of sneakers and then leave my room.

Luckily there’s no sign of the men as I take the stairs down. I find Dana in the kitchen, where she stares out the window with a far-off look.

“Dana,” I murmur to get her attention.

Her gaze snaps to me, and then she rushes to where I’m standing. She hugs me tightly. “I’m so sorry, Miss Winter.”

I nod as she pulls away. “Our guests will be here a while. Two of them might come and go but the third…” I swallow hard then break the news to her. “I’m marrying Damien Vetrov tomorrow.”

Her eyes widen, the legend of their name known amongst the staff as well.

“Is it a good arrangement?” she asks.

“Yes. It’s the best option for me under the circumstances.”

Her eyes widen again, and then she says, “We have a lot to prepare for tomorrow.”

“I’ll take care of everything,” Alexei suddenly says behind me. “Consider it a gift.”

I swing around, so my back isn’t to him. His eyes drift over me, and then the corner of his mouth lifts. “You look better.” Then his gaze moves to Dana. “We’ll eat now.”

“Yes, Mr. Koslov,” she murmurs fearfully and gets back to work.

Alexei pins me with his stare, and it has my feet moving. As I walk by him, he says. “After we’ve eaten, join me in your father’s office. We need to talk business.”

I nod and then head to the front door, needing to escape the men who seem to have made themselves right at home.

Walking through the birch and pine forest toward the shore, my mind races, jumping from all I’ve lost to my impending marriage to Damien.

I wish Cillian was here. Then I wouldn’t be in this position. Losing him tore a gaping hole through my heart and life.

God, and it leaves me totally at Damien’s mercy.

The thought shudders through me again, and it makes me walk faster as if I can flee it.

As I reach the shore, I stop, my breaths rushing over my lips. My gaze finds the town in the distance, and I stare until my sight blurs. My thoughts turn to the past month and how everything has changed.

The first time I saw Damien, and learning he’s a Vetrov. The shock and fear I felt. The training sessions and seeing how good he is. Unbeatable. Too strong for me to stand a chance against him.

My breath shudders over my lips, and my eyes drift shut against the brutal reality of what my future holds.

I remember how angry Damien was when my father won the bid.

It’s only with this thought that I realize Damien’s life has also changed. He’s stuck with me and probably trying to make the best of the situation.

Still, the marriage won’t be in name only. He made it clear he wants everything. Yes, the attraction has always been there, right from the first time we met, but I wasn’t sure whether he felt it too.

He took it easy on you during training.

He helped you during the laser game.

It wasn’t my imagination when we almost kissed!

The realization has my eyes snapping open.

Damien fought Vince and Hugo for me and guarded me while I was drugged.

My breaths begin to speed up again.

Damien wants me as his wife. He wants my body, my heart, my soul.

God. That gives me all the power I’ll need to survive in this world. If I can make him love me, then I’ll truly become untouchable.

He said if I treat him like a king, he’d make me a queen.

For the first time since my life shattered into an unrecognizable mess, do I feel a glimmer of hope shine through the darkness.

Before I can wage war against the Blancos, I’m going to have to wage war for Damien’s heart.

I’ll use what he wants as a weapon. I have to make him worship me.

I take a deep breath, filling my lungs with the fresh air.

I have to attempt the impossible because I don’t even know if Damien is capable of loving anyone.

 


 

DAMIEN

 

I watch as the small army of staff Alexei arranged for the wedding, scurries in and out of the house, getting everything ready for the ceremony that’s scheduled to happen at sunset.

Shaking my head, I glance at where Demitri is watching the spectacle while enjoying a tumbler of vodka.

“Leave it be, brother,” he mutters. “It’s tradition. After the ceremony, Winter Hemsley will be family. She’ll be a Vetrov. It’s something worth celebrating.”

She’ll be mine.

Nodding, I leave Demitri and head up the stairs to check on Winter before getting ready. I’ve left her alone the entire day but need to make sure she’ll go through with marrying me. When I open her bedroom door, there’s a buzz of low voices, and Winter’s surrounded by women tending to her hair and makeup.

The women gasp when they notice me, and then Winter turns her back to me. “I’m sure this is bad luck, and I don’t need any more of that. Get out.”

“You’ll be ready in an hour?” I ask as my eyes scan over the silky robe she’s dressed in. The silk following the curve of her body makes her look more petite.

It’s only a matter of hours until I claim her.

“I’ll be ready,” Winter answers.

“Good,” I mutter. “Because I’ll drag you to the priest if I have to.” I pull the door shut and walk to the room I’ve taken for myself, so I can get ready. After showering, I put on a black tuxedo.

God only knows how many lives Alexei threatened to make this wedding happen so fast.

When I’m ready, I take a moment to breathe. Closing my eyes, I inhale deeply. I’m still adjusting to the sudden change of direction my life took. I was trained to be Carson’s custodian, but that’s no longer my future.

Instead, Winter Hemsley will be mine within the hour.

As I open my eyes, the corner of my mouth lifts. With the thought that I’m going to enjoy taming her wild spirit while taking charge of the diamond smuggling industry, I leave my room.

I find Alexei and Demitri in the dining room, where they’re talking to the priest. The table and chairs have been moved out, and the walls have been covered with Russian religious art.

When my gaze lands on the two traditional crowns set on a side table, the moment becomes real.

“Damien,” Alexei calls me out of my thoughts. I walk closer, and after I’m introduced to the priest, I move to the side of the room with Demitri by my side.

“You’re sure about this alliance?” Demitri murmurs.

I nod as I fold my hands in front of me, my eyes glued to the doorway. “I am.”

“I’ll go get the bride,” Alexei says, and then he walks out.

It’s only then I feel a flutter of excitement.

This is it.

Minutes crawl by before Alexei appears in the doorway, and as he steps inside, it gives me a clear view of Winter.

My lips part as her beauty rips the air from my lungs. Her hair is covered with a lace veil. Slowly she lifts her head, and then our eyes meet. Everything fades until there’s only her.

The white wedding dress hugs her chest and waist before flaring out around her hips. I don’t know what fabric it’s made of, but it’s perfect. It sparkles like a million tiny diamonds.

Demitri nudges my back, and it makes me move forward. Reaching Winter, I hold my forearm out to her, and she places her hand on my arm.

“You look exquisite,” I murmur before I lead her to the priest.

The ceremony begins, and even though it must be foreign to Winter, she keeps up. The priest takes the rings Alexei got us, and holding them in his hand, he makes the sign of the cross. “The servant of God, Damien Vetrov, is betrothed to the handmaid of God, Winter Hemsley, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Taking the rings from the priest, Winter and I exchange them while vowing ourselves to each other. When I slip the golden band onto her finger, the corner of my mouth twitches.

We’re given candles to hold, and again the priest reads from the scripture. Afterward, he chants a psalm, and then he reaches for the first crown. I press a kiss to the crown and then bow my head. Winter follows my lead as the priest crowns us king and queen of our own kingdom.

“The servants of God, Damien Vetrov and Winter Hemsley are crowned in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

I take hold of Winter’s hand and place it on top of the priest’s, who then leads us around the room as we take our first steps as husband and wife.

The priest removes the crowns while praying and then gives us a final blessing. “On behalf of the church, I wish you both many years of blessings and grace as you delight in your love for one another, a love that finds its source and fulfillment in God Who is love itself.”

It’s done.

Alexei comes to hug me, pressing a kiss to my cheek. “Congratulations, brother.”

While Alexei moves to Winter, Demitri pulls me into a tight embrace. “You’ve made me proud.”

“Welcome to the family, Winter,” Alexei says, a smile spreading over his face. “Now we drink.”

Turning to Winter, the corner of my mouth lifts. When she raises her chin, and our eyes lock, I murmur, “My wife.”

“Husband.” Hearing the word drift over her lips makes the blood rush through my veins.

I close the distance between us, and wrapping a hand around the back of her neck, I murmur, “It’s tradition to kiss your husband.”

I lower my head, my eyes locked with hers, and then press my mouth to hers.

Now to get through the toast so I can take her up to the bedroom and consummate this marriage.

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