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Silent Lies: Chapter 3

Sienna

“Wow.” My gaze sweeps the circular room as I take in the amazing sight before me.

The semi-private booths nearly surround the dance floor at the center of the luxurious space. Frosted glass walls set within intricate iron frames separate each booth. The inner sanctum consists of a cozy seating area, including a leather sofa and two matching armchairs around a low, glass-top table. Just to the side of each glass divider, dressed in a pristine white shirt and black pants, stands a server who is ready to fulfill whatever order is made of them at even the slightest wave from the patrons occupying their assigned booths. On the far side of the room is a huge half-round bar with several bartenders tending to the customers gathered along its length. A dozen or so couples are on the dance floor, swaying to a slow tune.

The thing I find strange is that there are fewer than a hundred people here. I don’t frequent clubs often because, until last year, Arturo only let me visit places run by Cosa Nostra members, and none of them owned an actual club. My brother has only recently released his reins on me, and only because I told him I was going to fucking flip if he continued his helicopter parenting.

“I thought it would be bigger,” I mumble.

“With a price tag of fifteen grand per booth a night, you can’t expect to have hundreds of people,” Nino says as he ushers Luna and me after the host who leads us to the last booth on the left-hand side. The only one that’s vacant at the moment.

As we walk, I cast another look around the space and run through some quick calculations in my head. Twelve booths, fifteen grand each. That’s one hundred and eighty thousand per night. If they are open five nights a week, fifty-two weeks a year, it comes to forty-six point eight million a year. Holy cow!

“So, you’re on a mission? Dazzle and leave no man behind kind of thing?” Luna nods at my outfit and laughs, distracting me from my math.

“What? I thought this was tame.” I shrug and take a seat on the plush white sofa. Nino lowers himself to the armchair on the left while Luna sits next to me.

“That’s a few thousand gold sequins too many to be considered tame, Sienna,” she says with a snort. “At least it’s not fluorescent green, or something like that.”

“I would never put on a green jumpsuit. It would make me look like a grasshopper.”

“Thank God for small favors.” Luna rolls her eyes.

“But I did get a yellow faux fur jacket last week.” I grin just thinking about it. “It’s a showstopper.”

She arches an eloquent eyebrow at me. “Don’t you dare to come anywhere with me while wearing that thing. I still cringe at the thought of you turning up at Valeria’s birthday party in that red feathered dress.”

“Life’s too short to wear boring clothes.” I laugh and lean back to observe the crowd.

Luna doesn’t understand. No one does. People see my crazy outfits and wide smiles and assume that I must be a super happy person without even the tiniest trouble in the world. And I always make sure to assure them of their convictions.

When my parents died, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, but everyone kept asking if I was okay. Arturo. Our aunt, who came to stay with us for a short time afterward. The neighbors. Even Asya. I wasn’t okay. How could I be all right when I woke up every morning knowing that it was my fault our mom and dad had died? If I hadn’t insisted on them taking us to the party, they wouldn’t have gone to work that night. And every time someone asked how I was doing, they reminded me of that fact. I just wanted to be left alone, but everyone kept prodding me until I couldn’t take it anymore. So I started pretending that I was okay. I joked and laughed and acted as if everything was fucking perfect. And people finally stopped asking questions.

Over the years, I somehow slid into that persona I created. I shoved aside the things that troubled me, burying them deep inside, never letting them come out. Problems. Fears. Insecurities. Everything got nicely tucked away. If I don’t think about the problems, they disappear. I liked that much better than the alternative, but since my sister left to live in Chicago with her husband, I’ve been feeling so . . . lost. Like a passenger who got left behind, standing alone on an abandoned train platform, watching the last train disappear beyond the horizon.

I don’t understand why I feel that way. My brother and sister love me, I know that. They would do anything for me. And still, I never could make myself open up to them because of an irrational fear that they would stop loving me if they realized I’m not all sunshine and rainbows.

“Hey!” Luna nudges me with her elbow. “You okay?”

I blink away my thoughts and laugh. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I be? Oh, have I told you about the new story I’m writing?”

“The one about the mail-order bride?”

“Nope. I’m in a shifter romance phase currently. Listen . . .”

 

Drago

 

I watch the trio in the booth directly across from mine. The don’s chief of security, Nino, sits with his arm thrown over the armchair’s back, looking bored as hell. I’ve met him a few times, but we never talked long enough for me to develop a specific impression. My eyes shift, stopping at the two girls sitting on the sofa in front of Nino, snickering. One of them is wearing a black cocktail dress and has her blonde hair loose, every single strand smooth and in its place. Sophisticated. Classy. That’s probably the underboss’s sister. She definitely looks the part. I should be focusing on her, but my eyes are drawn toward the girl on the blonde’s right.

I noticed her the moment she entered the club, as did the rest of the crowd, men in particular. It’s hard to miss a woman wearing a shimmering gold jumpsuit that catches the light every time she moves. It molds to her perfect little body and ties around the neck, leaving her back and shoulders bare. It’s ridiculous and absolutely inappropriate for the strict dress code at Naos. If she wasn’t with Arturo’s sister, my men at the entrance wouldn’t have let her in.

I move my gaze from the deep V-neck on the front of the golden monstrosity to her pixie-like face. Sharp cheekbones. A tiny pert nose. Delectable month, currently widened into a smile as she says something next to her friend’s ear. I’m too far away to read her lips, so I leave my booth and cross behind the bar, passing the bartenders busy pouring drinks. There’s a particular spot in the shadows I like, just next to the big pillar that hides the electrical wires within. I lean my shoulder on the wall and focus on the sparkling girl’s lips.

“They are fated mates, but he rejects her for another woman. She decides to run away from the pack. However, she can’t shift into her wolf form, so . . .”

I raise an eyebrow. Pack? Shift into a wolf? Even with dimmed lighting in the club, the booth is amply illuminated by the lamp next to the sofa, so I’m pretty sure I’ve read her lips accurately. The sparkling girl reaches to sweep away a strand of dark-brown hair that’s fallen onto her face and tucks it behind her ear. The mass of her locks is weaved into two messy French braids, starting at the crown and running down the sides of her head. Each braid is decorated with what looks like a series of small gold rings. With all the women around in gowns or cocktail dresses, their hair in perfect classy styles, she looks completely out of place. Maybe that’s the reason why I can’t stop looking at her.

A hand taps me on the shoulder. I turn around to find Filip standing behind me, looking in the same direction I was. “So? What do you think? Not exactly your type.”

I throw a quick glance at the girl in the black dress. “Why? I like blondes.”

Filip furrows his brows, a grimace taking over his face. “Not the blonde one, Drago. The chick in a gold onesie thing is Arturo DeVille’s sister.”

Slowly, I turn around and stare at the sparkling girl. She’s still talking, waving her hands in excitement, multiple gold bracelets dangling on her wrists. I focus on her lips.

“He’s dying because of a wound in his chest. The one he got when he fought her mate in his wolf form.”

I look at my second-in-command. “Are you sure?”

“Yup. Do you want me to call Ajello and say you won’t do it?”

“Not yet.”

I turn back toward Sienna DeVille, take another sip of my whiskey, and wait to see what happens with the wolf man.

“And she rushes into the room and sees him covered in blood. Bam! Cliffhanger. What do you think?”

The blonde girl tilts her head, so I’m unable to catch her reply. She laughs, then nods her head toward the crowd, saying something else.

“I don’t think so,” Arturo’s sister replies. “I only saw a few pictures of him, but the shots were taken from behind. I hope he’s hot. But even if he’s not, that’s okay. Based on what I see here, he’s loaded. I can’t wait to start spending his money. So exciting!”

She giggles, reaching for her drink. I shake my head and turn around, intending to find Filip and have him call Ajello. If there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s a gold digger. And I’m not saddling myself with one, business be damned. I throw a final look at the booth. The blonde girl is leaning to the side, searching for something in her purse. Nino is still fumbling with his phone. But the thing that catches and holds my attention is the expression on Sienna DeVille’s face. Instead of the mischievous smile of only a few seconds earlier, her face is completely blank. The drink she’s holding seems to be forgotten as she vacantly stares somewhere in front of her.

When one of your senses gets compromised, the body adapts, heightening the ones you have left. I’ve had two decades to adapt and hone various ways of perceiving things. Body language. Facial expressions. The look in a person’s eyes. All those things say so much more than the words people actually speak. I lift my glass to my lips, watching the girl. The outfit she is wearing might be glittering like a damn Christmas tree, but there isn’t even a hint of a spark in her eyes. Nope, Sienna DeVille is not thrilled with the idea of marriage any more than I am. No matter what she says.

The blonde girl pulls out the phone from her purse and turns back to Arturo’s sister. A beaming smile overtakes Sienna’s face as she wraps her arm around her friend, posing for a photo, laughing. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a person changing both their facial expression and their body language so fast. She seems to be genuinely enjoying herself now, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t decide which of those expressions was the true one.

 

Sienna

 

“So? Is he here?”

Nino ignores me, too focused on his phone.

“Nino!” I pinch his arm.

“What now?”

“Is Popov here?”

He rolls his eyes and takes a look around. “No, he’s not. As I’ve already told you at least seven times in the past hour.”

“It’s been two hours. Why isn’t he here? It’s his club.”

Nino mumbles something and looks down at his phone again.

Sighing, I grab Luna’s forearm. “Let’s go dance.”

I pull my friend toward the dance floor, swaying my hips to the beat. It’s difficult with four-inch heels, but I try my best. There aren’t too many people dancing, maybe twenty, and a good number of them are throwing curious looks in my direction.

I’m used to people staring. It’s unavoidable, considering my fashion choices. So, let them stare. Let them believe the persona I project—a carefree girl so sure of herself that she’d come into an upscale club dressed in a glittering outfit and feel good about it.

My brother thinks I accepted the arranged marriage because I’m bored and want to get back at him for being too protective. He said so himself while berating me and trying to change my mind. The don believes it’s because he threatened my brother’s life. I’m not sure what Luna thinks, but considering the number of times tonight I’ve mentioned how loaded Drago Popov must be, she probably believes I want to marry for money. It always amazes me how easily people come to conclusions when I let them see what they expect to see. I guess no one would believe I’d marry a stranger because I’m afraid to be alone.

I pass my eyes over the crowd, looking for a man in jeans. This doesn’t seem like a jeans-friendly place, but in all the photos I’ve seen, Drago Popov is wearing them. Nope, no jeans anywhere in sight. Only bespoke suits.

A tall figure leaning on the bar attracts my attention. He’s partially in shadows, but based on his posture, I’d say he’s in his thirties. The black dress pants he’s wearing are immaculately tailored and his black shirt, with the first button undone, stretches over his wide shoulders. He’s not wearing a jacket, and the sleeves of his shirt are rolled up to his elbows. There’s something familiar about him, but I can’t pinpoint it. He’s been looking my way ever since I noticed him standing there, but I’ve ignored him, just like I’ve ignored the rest of the men at this club who’ve been ogling me.

He leans forward to place his glass on the bar, and suddenly I can see him. Short dark hair, a little longer at the top. Olive skin that speaks of time in the sun. And finally, the sharp lines of his face, illuminated by the light from the sconce on the nearby pillar. He’s handsome, like many others in the club. But there’s a striking difference that sets him apart from other men here. While they have been gaping at my ass and cleavage, this guy is focused solely on my face.

I meet his eyes and smile. By all accounts, I’m still an unattached woman, so I don’t see anything wrong with a bit of benign flirting. He doesn’t smile back. How rude! I turn my attention back to the rest of the crowd but, somehow, my gaze wanders back to the brooding man. He’s still looking at me. Another guy in a gray suit approaches from behind and places a hand on Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome’s shoulder. Without breaking our eye contact, the rude hottie shakes his head and sends the suit guy away.

The song changes to a slow melody—“The Sound of Silence” performed by Disturbed. I’ve always preferred this version.

“I don’t like slow songs. Do you think Nino will let us get another drink?” Luna asks and heads back to our booth.

I don’t reply. I don’t even move because I’m rooted to the spot, staring at the man from the bar as he walks directly toward me.

Something in the way he carries himself commands attention. An air of danger surrounds him, the scent of it heightened by the way he walks. Each step is slow and deliberate as if he’s a wolf on the prowl. The intensity of his gaze is petrifying and enticing, like he’s somehow sunk invisible claws into me. I can’t look away.

The song blasting from the speakers rises in pitch, each word louder than the previous one. My heart matches the rhythm, beating faster and faster, and by the time he stops right in front of me, it seems like the damn thing is going to break out of my chest.

“Dance with me.” The deep timbre of his voice rolls over me, and it’s as if it brushes over every inch of my exposed skin. I’m convinced that I wouldn’t have been able to reject him even if he bothered to actually ask. His hand slides around my waist. Certainty sets in as I stare into his green eyes. My chance to escape whatever darkness he offers has long passed.

He tilts his head up, breaking our eye contact, to look at something behind me. Shit. I completely forgot about Nino. I glance over my shoulder, expecting to see Luna’s brother rushing toward us. But instead of coming over to stop the stranger’s advance whether I want him to or not, Nino is standing at the edge of the dance floor, glaring at the hottie. As I watch, Nino nods and remains in place. Immediately, the arm around my waist tightens, pulling me closer against the hard chest, demanding my rapt notice.

“Your babysitter decided not to bother us.”

He has a strange accent, rolling the R, which makes his voice sound kind of growly. My sister’s husband is Russian, and while Pasha has no accent at all when he speaks English, some of his friends do. This man’s accent is similar, but not exactly the same.

“I guess it’s your lucky day.” I smile, trying to hide my nervousness. Talking or flirting with men has never posed a problem for me before, but I find it hard now.

His hands move to the small of my back, just above where the low waistband of my jumpsuit rests. I know I should hook my hands behind his neck, but he’s much taller than me, so I just place my palms on his shoulders.

“It seems like it.” One of his palms drifts up slightly, touching my bare skin. “I don’t remember seeing you here before.”

“I came to have a look at someone.”

“Is it a male someone?”

His thumb strokes the skin along the beltline of my jumpsuit. With every brush, a spark ignites, sending a wave of heat through me while his eyes bore into mine. I blink a few times, trying to pull myself together.

“Maybe,” I finally say.

“Hmm. I wonder, what will your male someone think about your . . . attire.”

I grin, intending to give him a witty retort as I usually do in similar situations, but the fierceness of his stare is messing with my concentration, and I end up blurting out the truth instead. “I don’t really give a fuck.”

Something flashes in his eyes, and a corner of his mouth curves upward.

“Interesting.” He lifts his hand and traces my lower lip with the pad of his thumb. “Tell me, what happened with the wolf girl?”

“The wolf girl?” I chuckle. “What are you talking about?”

“The girl who found her man covered in blood. Will she save him?”

My jaw hits the floor. What? How?

The hot guy moves his forefinger under my chin and taps it lightly. I quickly close my mouth, then open it again to ask how the fuck he knows about my story when the song ends. A fast tune starts playing, and I realize we haven’t been dancing at all. We’ve just stood there, unmoving, this whole time.

“It was a pleasure meeting you, Sienna DeVille,” he says, and my eyes flare in surprise. “Call your don. Tell him Drago said yes.”

I gape at him, at a loss for words.

Drago’s hand falls from my face, and he turns away, heading across the dance floor and signaling to the man in a gray suit to follow him. They walk toward the back and, a moment later, disappear through a black door.

That is my future husband?


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