Merciless Saints: Chapter 4

WINTER

My eyebrows lift as I point over my shoulder at the guy standing in the studio. “Is that Paulie?”

The man who was about to leave nods. My gaze drifts over his body that looks like a lethal weapon, his muscles tense as if he’s ready to attack at any moment. Bringing my eyes back to his face, I take in his chiseled jaw, his sharp cheekbones, and then his dark eyes. There’s no emotion in them.

Everything about this man screams danger, and it makes a shiver crawl down my spine. Still, he’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever laid eyes on.

“Don’t go anywhere. This won’t take long,” I say, the corner of my mouth lifting with confidence, but all I get in return is an impassive expression, and for some reason, it only makes him look hotter.

I walk toward Paulie, the guy I’ll fight first. He’s shorter than the other man, with a broader chest. His stocky build will make him slow. I can use that to my advantage.

Glancing at the door, I notice the other man leaning against the doorjamb, crossing his arms over his chest. It makes the toned muscles and veins in his arms prominent and hard to ignore.

Danger has never looked so attractive before.

Paulie tosses me the hand wrap, and I quickly cover my palms and fingers with it. 

When I’m ready, Paulie gives me a toothy grin as if he’s already won the fight, then he chuckles, “Unlike Damien, I’ll take it easy on you, Princess.”

Damien?

Damien who?

“Remind me to thank you once I’ve won,” I reply, my lips curving slightly.

We begin to circle each other, and I keep my body relaxed while holding my hands up in front of me.

Paulie takes a jab at me, but I duck and avoid the blow easily. Wanting to end this fight so I can face off with Damien, I dart forward, and grabbing hold of Paulie’s shoulders, I deliver a double-flying knee kick to his chin. Paulie falls backward on his ass ending the fight.

“Thanks for taking it easy on me,” I say to Paulie before turning my head to Damien.

“You okay, Paulie?” Damien asks as he steps back into the studio, his muscles rippling under his golden skin.

“Yeah,” Paulie mutters as he climbs to his feet. “Just embarrassed.”

“Damien?” I ask, tilting my head.  

“Really?” Paulie gasps, surprise flashing over his face as he wipes the blood from his busted lip. “You don’t know who Damien is? Have you been living under a rock?”

No, just a secluded island. I shrug. “Let’s pretend I have.”

“Damien Vetrov,” Damien says, his voice filled with pride and warning.

My eyes snap to his face as shock vibrates through me. “Demitri Vetrov’s brother?”

“The one and only,” Paulie answers.

Oh, God.

Damien’s stare is sharp and intense, closely watching my reaction to finding out who he is.

Fear trickles through my veins, and I pray to all that’s holy, it doesn’t show on my face.

Cillian told me for generations the Vetrovs have raised the elite of the elite when it comes to protectors. He spoke of them as if they’re gods. I have no doubt Damien will end up being just as good as his older brother, Demitri.

‘Unkillable, merciless, with a devastating potency no one can escape.’

Cillian’s words vibrate through me as Damien comes to stand opposite me. Knowing who he is, makes his body seem like an unstoppable force of nature.

Shit. I’m about to get my ass kicked.

Stupid, Winter. Next time make sure who your opponent is before you throw down the gauntlet to fight.

If Cillian was here, he’d scold me for making such a stupid mistake. But he also taught me backing down from a fight is worse than losing. I roll my shoulders to loosen my muscles and mutter, “Let’s do this.”

Damien’s penetrating gaze lazily sweeps over me as if I’m a waste of his time. When he doesn’t make any effort to move, I narrow my eyes at him and dart forward. He brings up his left arm, thwarting my blow, and then his right hand shoots out.

His strong fingers clamp around my throat, and when his grip on my neck tightens, I know what’s coming. I brace myself as Damien sweeps my legs out from under me, and my back slams into the hard floor with a dull thud.

Grabbing hold of his wrist, I try to buck my body up. Damien moves fast, and with stealthy power, he slips under me while securing his arm around my neck. His right leg locks both of mine to the floor, and his left arm wraps tightly around my waist, effectively incapacitating me.

His masculine scent folds around me, only making me more aware of the brutal power surrounding me. I should fight back, but for the first time in my life, I’m overwhelmed by a man.

This is nothing like when I’m sparring with Cillian.

Suddenly Damien shoves me off him, and my body rolls to the side. “You’re no match for me, Princess,” he hisses.

Picking myself up off the floor, my eyes burn into Damien’s broad back as he stalks out of the room. Formidable strength and danger emanate off him, serving as a constant warning.

Shit, I don’t stand a chance against him.

I’ve never seen any of the Vetrovs up close, so coming face to face with the youngest one is startling, to say the least. Life has taught me the most exquisite things in life are the deadliest, and Damien’s too attractive, too strong, and too much of a threat.

Worried about what this means, I pull the wrap off my hands and toss it aside, my breaths rushing over my lips.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Not only is Damien good, but he’s… attractive in a way that demands your admiration. It’s too disarming, and I can’t allow myself to be distracted while I’m here. It’s a huge problem, and I don’t know how to deal with it.

Then another thought enters my mind. Damien could’ve hurt me, but he didn’t. I know the Vetrovs live by a code. They only kill to protect whomever they’re loyal to, and that might be my only saving grace right now.

But once Damien graduates and he’s paired with an assassin, I’ll have both him and Demitri to worry about. And the assassins they’re guarding.

God.

“Don’t feel bad. Damien’s the best. He’s broken all of Demitri’s records,” Paulie says, reminding me he’s still in the room.

My eyes flick to him before I walk toward the door.

“Nice meeting you, Princess,” Paulie calls after me as I turn into the hallway.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy attending St. Monarch’s. Still, nothing prepared me for coming face to face with Vince Blanco… and Damien Vetrov on my first day here.

The Blanco family had my mother killed and tried but failed to kill me. All to send my father a message. They want Africa.

It’s going to be near impossible to watch Vince Blanco laugh… breathe… and not try to kill him.

And Damien? 

The blood flowing through my veins warms just at the mere thought of him.

I head up the stairs to get to my quarters, my eyes continually scanning over my surroundings. As I climb the last couple of stairs, I come to a sudden halt. Standing in the middle of the hallway are Damien Vetrov and Carson Koslov. They’re giving each other a brotherly hug.

The spit dries in my mouth at the sight.

Holy mother of saints.

Fear soaks into my bones. If they’re paired and team up with their brothers, my family and I are as good as dead once someone hires them to assassinate us.

Carson has the same blond hair as his brother, and when his dark eyes flick to me, it sends a chill rushing over my body. Vigilant and deadly. 

Slowly he tilts his head, the corner of his mouth twitching. “Winter Hemsley.” His low voice makes my name sound like a warning.

‘Show no fear,’ I hear Cillian’s voice in my mind.

Lifting my chin, I lock eyes with him. “Carson Koslov.”

The corner of his mouth twitches again. “Not what I expected a princess to look like.”

Wanting to make a statement, I lift my hand and brush my hair back over my shoulder, so the scar on my neck is clearly visible.

“I’m no ordinary princess,” I murmur.

I begin to walk again, my gaze moving from Carson to Damien as I pass right through the middle of them. For a moment, pressure builds, and I’m inundated by the testosterone coming off them in waves.

Show no Fear. Not ever.

I keep my chin high, and when I reach my quarters, I take hold of the doorknob and glance back at the men. They’re both watching me, probably sizing me up.

Pushing the door open, I step inside. I lock it behind me and then let out a breath of relief.

Instead of crumbling in fear, it only makes me more determined to become the best. I have two years to train in combat and armory.

Walking to my bedroom, I pick up my bag, and pulling my phone out, I dial my father’s number. I already called him to tell him I arrived safely, but now I need to warn them.

“Twice in one day. Do you miss us already?” Father’s warm voice comes over the line.

“Carson Koslov and Damien Vetrov,” I get right to the point. “It seems they’re already pairing up.”

“Fuck,” Father hisses. “You saw this with your own eyes?”

“Yes.” I take a trembling breath. “Go back into hiding. I need to know you and Sean are safe until I’m done with my training.”

“I’ll send more guards for you,” Father says.

“I won’t step off the grounds. Don’t worry about me. I have Cillian. You need to leave as soon as possible. Let me know when you reach the island.”

The island’s not easily accessible. Any plane, helicopter, or boat can be taken out before they reach land. Right now, it’s the safest place for them.

“We’ll leave within the hour. I’ll send out a tracker to watch Alexei Koslov and Demitri Vetrov. As soon as they move in our direction, I’ll alert you. It will be better for you to join us then.”

“They won’t try anything at St. Monarch’s. No one dares the risk of being banned,” I remind Father. Being banned comes with a steep price on your head. An open contract that will have every assassin in the world coming after you. “The Koslov and Vetrov families have honor. They’ll wait until I leave the academy. I’ll see the rest of the attendees at dinner tonight. I’ll notify you if there are other families we should be keeping an eye on.”

“Do that.” Father clears his throat.

“Let me know as soon as you reach the island,” I remind him.

“I will. Stay safe, my princess.”

“You too, Father.”

We end the call, and I quickly dial Cillian’s number.

“Poppet?” he answers, his voice tight with worry.

“I’m fine. I’m just calling to let you know Damien Vetrov and Carson Koslov are here.”

“Fuck,” he spits the word over the line.

“Be careful,” I warn him.

“I will.”

“I have to get ready for dinner.”

Cillian lets out a heavy breath. “Remember, keep your head high and show no fear. I’m right outside St. Monarch’s.”

I nod. “Vince Blanco is also here. I didn’t tell father.”

Another curse escapes Cillian. “Christ, poppet.”

“I’ll be okay,” I try to ease his worry. I lick my lips before I continue, “But the moment we leave St. Monarch’s, I want him dead.”

“Consider it a graduation present,” Cillian promises.

“Stay safe,” I murmur before I cut the call, and knowing I only have an hour and a half left to prepare for dinner, I run myself a bath.

Tonight I get to dress up. I’ve picked a light gray dress with a heart-shaped bodice. The top layer of chiffon shimmers, reminding me of diamonds, and the bottom layer is stained red. That’s why I chose it. Tonight I’ll be the proud Blood Princess, here to remind my enemies I’ve survived death once, and I can do it again.

I’m not some weak girl they can swat out of the way. Never. I’m a fierce woman with Hemsley blood running through my veins. I’m a force to be reckoned with because I have too much to lose.

 


 

DAMIEN

 

Dressed in a black tuxedo, I let out a sigh as I leave my room. I’m not in the mood for this dinner, but it’s obligatory.

Another door opens down the hallway, and I glance in its direction. I suck in a sharp breath at the sight of Winter Hemsley. She looks absolutely breathtaking, her hair curled and pinned back with a diamond comb. The moment she starts walking toward me, the dress moves, and I get glimpses of red as the fabric swishes at her feet.

She keeps impressing me. First with her fighting skills when she dropped Paulie in eight seconds, then wearing her scar like a warning to all that she’s a survivor. Now elegance and pride exude from her with every step she takes. It makes her irresistible.

Winter lifts her chin, once again giving me a view of the scar on her neck. Her eyes lock on mine, and when she’s only a couple of steps away, she murmurs, “Thinking of how you’re going to kill me, Vetrov?”

It doesn’t escape my attention that she didn’t say try to kill her, which means I’m the biggest threat in her eyes.

“You’ll be here for a couple of years. I don’t plan that far ahead.” I let my eyes drift over her body before bringing them back to hers. “For now, I’ll admire the view.”

She stops in front of me, the corner of her mouth lifting. “Care to show me the way?”

Clever girl.

If I agree, it will show the other families I’m giving her the time of day. They’ll think twice about coming after her because they’ll think I’m her ally.

I shouldn’t waste a second of my time on her, but I still find myself nodding. Winter links her arm through mine, resting her palm on my forearm. Instantly her touch sends a spark through my arm. 

As we begin to walk, I shorten my strides to match hers while dismissing the obvious attraction I feel toward her.

“Paulie says you’re the best. You’ve beaten your brother’s records?” Winter’s voice is nothing but a soft hum, threatening to spin a web around us.

“I have,” I murmur, keeping my own voice low.

“And you’ll be paired with Carson Koslov?” she asks another question.

This time I only nod as I realize what she’s doing. Keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer. This is a strategic move on her part and has nothing to do with making a statement to the other attendees.

I’m the enemy she fears most.

Turning my head, I lower my eyes to her face. It only takes a second before she glances up, and our gazes lock. We come to a stop at the top of the stairs, and an uncanny anticipation begins to sizzle to life between us. Whether it’s because of the physical attraction or a predator setting sights on its prey, I don’t know yet.

Winter pulls her arm free from mine as she lifts her chin a little higher. “I’m here to train as a custodian for my family. I’ll protect them.”

My eyebrow rises slightly. “You think you can compete against me?”

Her lips curl up in a beautiful smile that has my eyes lowering to them. Full and red, like a strawberry that’s ripe for the picking. “I’m not here to compete,” she replies to my question. My gaze snaps back up to hers as she adds, “I’m here to become the best.”

My eyes narrow on her, and even though she’s acting brave, the fear trembling in her green irises tells me a different story. I can’t help but smile at her boldness. “Good luck.”

“Flirting with death again, Hemsley?”

I watch as all emotion drains from Winter’s face before she turns to look at Vince Blanco. She keeps her body positioned sideways, so her back isn’t turned to me.

Winter again impresses me as she scoffs at Vince. “The assassins your family sent missed.”

Vince takes a threatening step toward her, a scowl narrowing his eyes. “Your mother is a rotting corpse. I’d say the bullet hit the target.”

Fire sparks to life in Winter’s gaze. She closes the last of the distance between her and Vince, and even though she has to tilt her head back to look up at him, she seems a million times more powerful than him.

“Enjoy life while you have the protection of these walls,” she hisses at him. Winter’s eyes stay locked on his as if she’s daring him to make a move right here. But he won’t. Vince is not a fighter.

Again Vince is the first to look away. He steps back then moves around Winter, bumping his shoulder against hers as he heads for the stairs.

I watch as she takes a deep breath, and ignoring me, she follows after Vince toward the banquet hall.

The first thing Demitri taught me was to never let anyone in, to never indulge in relationships. My loyalty belongs to the person I’ll guard – Carson.

Up until now, it hasn’t been a problem. But as I watch Winter glide over the polished floor, the desire returns. Shaking my head and shoving the attraction I feel toward Winter aside, I take the stairs down to the lower floor.

Carson is all that matters, and if he gets the contract to kill the Hemsley’s, I’ll have to let it happen.

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