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Silent Lies: Chapter 6

Sienna

I awake cocooned in something warm and big. It feels nice. I sigh and bury my face into the pillow. The hold around my body tightens slightly, and my eyes pop open, zeroing in on a thick tattooed arm wrapped around my waist.

There is a man in my bed.

I blink. Why the hell is there a man in my bed?! Screaming, I try to untangle myself, but the grip on my middle only grows stronger.

“Stop.” Drago’s husky voice rumbles behind me. “I’m trying to sleep.”

I push against his forearm, only managing the tiniest movement, then twist around, ending up with my face pressed into his neck. My God, he smells amazing. I tilt my head slightly and inhale. It’s something woodsy with a mix of—I breathe in again—oh, a touch of mint.

“Stop sniffing me, Sienna, and go back to sleep.”

“I’m not sniffing you,” I mumble and resume trying to free myself from his embrace. “Let me go.”

Drago doesn’t move a muscle. I press my palms to his hard chest and push. A heavy sigh sounds above my head, and his hold on me loosens. I roll to the other side of the bed and spring up.

“What are you doing in my bed?” Hands on my hips, I glare down at my husband, who’s watching me with hooded eyes.

Drago is stretched out on the bed, his right arm tucked under his head. He’s not wearing a shirt, but a sliver of navy-blue pajama bottoms peek from under the sheet.

“This is my bed. You were in it when I came home.”

“What? When Zivka brought me upstairs after dinner, she told me this would be my room. All my suitcases were already here.”

“And you are my wife, so it’s expected that both you and your suitcases would be here.”

I scan the room and realize that it does look like it belongs to a man. I was so mentally exhausted last night that I just changed into my pj’s, brushed my teeth, and went to sleep without actually paying attention to my surroundings.

“I think both my luggage and I would prefer to have a separate room.” I glance back at Drago. His eyes are closed, and his chest rises and falls in a slow rhythm.

“Drago?”

He’s asleep. Fucking great.

I should go take a shower and get dressed. Then, I need to find Zivka and ask her if there’s another room I could have. That would be a smart thing to do, but I can’t take my eyes off my husband. He looks different when he sleeps. Less . . . brooding somehow.

There’s an area of patchy skin on his neck. I noticed it during dinner yesterday, but his shirt hid most of it from view. What I could see looked like a small scar. Now, however, it’s clear that the bit I spotted yesterday was only a part of something much larger. The skin on his shoulder and down his left arm, all the way to his elbow where his tattoos start, is discolored and has a slightly bumpy texture. I put my knee on the bed and slowly lean forward to have a better look. Drago’s hand suddenly shoots up, his fingers wrap around my arm.

“Changed your mind about coming back to bed?” he asks and focuses his gaze on my lips.

“No.” I smile. “I don’t sleep with men I haven’t personally invited into my bed.”

Something dangerous flashes in his eyes the moment the words leave my mouth.

“If I catch any man touching you, even with just the tip of his finger, he’ll lose much more than his hand.” The hold he has on my arm tightens. “This marriage might have been arranged, but from this point forward, the only man allowed to look at you, touch you, or fuck you . . . is me.”

A pleasant shiver runs through me, and I bite the inside of my cheek. “Why don’t you, then?”

Drago tilts his head to the side, scrutinizing my reaction. He releases my arm, and his fingers glide over the swell of my breast, down the valley of my chest, and then lower, past the waistband of my pajama bottoms. My breaths quicken. His touch may be light, but my body’s response is anything but. I’m not accustomed to being touched by men I don’t know, and I’ve never spent a night in bed with one. I should be concerned, not turned on by his gentle strokes. Not wishing for his hand to slide lower. But I do.

How would it feel to be pinned under that big body while his heated touch sears my naked flesh? A pleasant shiver runs down my spine from the mere thought. Drago’s palm slips between my legs, pressing on my pussy over the silky fabric while his gaze captures mine, and I have to bite my bottom lip to stop the moan from escaping. I’ve never been attracted to hard, grumpy men, but for some remarkable reason, I’m absolutely enthralled by my stranger of a husband.

“I would enjoy that very much.” He puts more pressure on my quivering center, and I feel myself getting wet. “But I don’t fuck liars, mila moya.”

With one last caress, Drago pulls his hand from between my legs and turns his back to me. I grind my teeth, then get off the bed and march across the room into the bathroom, making sure I slam the door closed with all my strength.

Ten minutes later, I crouch in front of a suitcase and rummage through its contents, searching for something nice to wear. Bright clothes make me feel happy even when I’m not. I find underwear and a blue blouse, but my favorite orange jeans are not in there. I slam the lid of the suitcase closed and move to the second one. Drago keeps sleeping, absolutely oblivious to the racket I’m making. In the third suitcase, I finally find the jeans I’m after and the fluffy slipper booties. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I unwrap the towel from around me and start getting dressed.

He called me a liar. I guess he’s right, in a way. I did, after all, come here to spy on him for the don. But it still hurts. And the fact that it does, bothers me. There’re only two people whom I allow close enough to be bothered by—my brother and sister. As far as other people are concerned, I let their actions or remarks slide. If I don’t care about them, their opinions or behavior can’t hurt me. And I don’t give a fuck what Drago Popov thinks of me.

Once I’m finished getting ready, I grab the towel off the bed to take it back to the bathroom, but I stop halfway there and look over my shoulder at my sleeping husband. Chuckling quietly, I throw the towel at his face and run out of the room as fast as I can.

One of the women who looks after the house passes by me on the stairs, carrying a stack of sheets on her way to the upper floor.

“Good morning!” I chirp.

She gives me a somewhat hostile look, but her expression transforms into confusion upon seeing the fuzzy slipper booties I’m wearing. They’re orange and have big white polka dots all over. The middle of each dot is nested with a small orange sequin.

“Nice shoes,” she mumbles.

“Thank you.” I beam as I respond.

When I reach the ground floor, I notice several men standing by the front door, taking off their coats. I recall seeing them at the dinner last night and remember they mentioned heading out for night guard duty after the meal. Why would they come back here instead of going home?

I enter the great dining room, only to stop barely a step over the threshold. Almost every chair at the long table is occupied. Do Serbs celebrate special events for several days? The spot at the end of the table where I sat yesterday is vacant, and I make my way toward it, voicing a cheerful “good morning” as I pass. A few people nod, but most just glare at me. Looks like I’m not winning any popularity contests around here. I take my seat and lean toward Jelena, the red-haired girl with freckles I chatted with last night during dinner.

“So, what’s the occasion today?” I ask.

She furrows her brows. “Occasion?”

“Yeah. I see we have guests again.” I gesture toward the people sitting around the table.

“Oh . . . they are not guests.” She laughs. “They live here.”

“Here? In this house?” I gape at her. “But, that’s like . . . like forty people.”

“Forty-eight, actually. The first guard shift already had their breakfast, and others aren’t here at the moment.”

I look down the length of the table. Jesus Christ.

The door leading to the kitchen opens, and women carrying multiple plates over their arms and in their hands rush inside. Two take the right side of the table, while the other three take the left. They begin placing plates loaded with scrambled eggs and bacon in front of each person.

A guy in his early twenties sitting a couple of seats down from Jelena reaches for a plate being lowered before him, but the girl putting it down quickly moves it out of his reach.

“Keva said you’re on a diet. She’s making you a salad.” The girl slaps the back of his head and then sets the last two plates down on the table.

“Nato, sweetheart, don’t do this to me,” the guy calls after her as she heads back into the kitchen. “I’m starving. You know I can’t work when I’m hungry.”

Everybody ignores his whining and digs into their food. I grab a piece of bread from the nearby bowl and start eating, pretending to be solely interested in my meal while listening to the conversations going on around me.

I’m having a hard time understanding complete sentences because I don’t have experience with conversational Serbian, especially with so many people talking at once. My attention shifts from one exchange to the next, but all I can grasp is bits and pieces, and just some of the meaning. It seems most conversations revolve around a big deal that has been made and the new security measures.

Pop treba da se vidi sa ludim Rusom u vezi isporuke,” the big tattooed man sitting across from Jelena says.

The fork stills halfway to my mouth. Pop? That means priest. A priest is meeting the crazy Russian for something related to a shipment? Do they have a priest among them? What does the priest do, bless the drug containers? I try listening in to what he’ll say next, but the guy is back to stuffing eggs into his mouth.

At the other end of the room, the kitchen door is pushed open again, and an older man enters. His hair is completely white and gathered into a short ponytail. Combined with his long white beard, it makes him look like Santa Claus. A really weird Santa Claus, since he’s wearing army-green tactical pants, a matching T-shirt, and a shoulder holster with two guns overtop. He also has a knife sheath strapped to his thigh. The badass Santa takes a seat, pulls out a wicked-looking knife from its sheath and starts cutting the bacon with it.

“Who’s that?” I nudge Jelena.

“Oh, that’s Beli. Our gardener.”

“A gardener? What does he garden, exactly?”

“Tulips are his favorite, can you believe?”

“Nope.” I snort.

“He and Keva hate each other. A couple of years ago he planted white lilies all around the house, and Keva had one of the guys mow them down because she says those are funeral flowers. Beli makes sure he plants them every year now, picking a different place every time.”

“Well, doesn’t seem like things are dull around here. And what’s your role?”

“Most of the time I work with Mirko. He’s in charge of logistics.” She nods toward the salad guy sitting close by. “He arranges the trucks and the routes, and I help him with that. But he’s also in charge of surveillance here and at Naos. Oh, and I also help Keva to launder the money.”

“Keva?” I look toward the end of the table where the woman in question is pouring a cup of coffee for some guy. “I thought she’s the cook.”

Jelena laughs. “Yes, she prepares meals for everyone, provides first aid when necessary, and makes sure all the money that’s brought in passes through Naos and comes out clean.”

“Wow.” I shake my head. “And why do you call her Keva? Is that a nickname?”

“It’s slang. Keva means mom. Fitting, since she orders everyone around.”

“It must be weird to have fifty people calling you ‘mom.’” I glance down the table one more time. “I can’t believe that all of them live here. It’s like a hotel.”

“Oh, it’s nothing like a hotel, believe me.” She snickers. “More like a military base.”

“So, Drago insists on everyone living here?”

“God, no. He often grumbles about it, but he lets us stay,” Jelena says between bites. “When Jovan and I joined the organization a few years back, we got a room on the second floor. It was meant to be temporary, a way for us to get to know everyone and see how everything works since this is the main base of operations. But we ended up staying.” She motions with her hand down the table. “It was kind of the same for the rest. They feel safe here.”

“Because the house is well guarded?”

“No. It’s because of Drago. People tend to gravitate toward him. He makes them feel safe.”

I try to imagine living in one house with so many people. Unbelievable. Absolutely crazy. A small smile pulls at my lips. It’s almost . . . like the wolf pack in my story.

“I think it’s because they know Drago will take a bullet for any of them,” she continues. “They’ve witnessed it happen more than once.”

My head snaps back to Jelena, a smile vanishing off my face. “What?”

“He got shot during an attack on the compound a few years back. Even though there were plenty of guys on guard shift to fight the attackers off, Drago was the first to rush outside. He got hit while covering a position left exposed because one of the soldiers got wounded.”

I imagine a bullet piercing my grumpy husband’s chest, and a shudder racks my body. Jelena doesn’t seem to notice my distress because she keeps blabbing.

“And it’s more convenient when most of the people are in the same place. It makes organizing things much easier.” She gestures across the table, toward the guy who was talking about the priest. “That’s Adam. He’s been friends with Drago for a long time, even back in Serbia, and moved here fifteen years ago or so. He is in charge of the foot soldiers. As for the rest of the guys, there aren’t any strict job definitions. Everyone does what needs to be done. Transport. Delivery. Guard shifts. Some of them work as additional security at the club when needed.”

“Okay . . .” I nod as if it all makes sense. Only, it doesn’t. In Cosa Nostra, every member has a very strict job description and obligations. Cooks prepare food. They don’t launder money. I look again at everyone seated around the table. How can a crime organization function with such an undefined structure? “So, one big happy family.”

“Oh! I forgot Tara. Drago’s sister,” she adds.

“Drago has a sister?”

“Yes. She lived here, in this house, but she moved out last week.”

“Why?”

“Well . . .” Jelena cringes and avoids meeting my eyes. “There was kind of a confrontation between us and Cosa Nostra two years ago.”

“Yes, I heard about that.” I nod. It happened while Asya was missing, so I didn’t pay much attention to what was happening within the Family.

“Tara’s boyfriend got shot and died.”

“Shit.” I look down at my plate. “So, she left because of me?”

“Yeah. She didn’t take it well when Drago told her that his bride was from Cosa Nostra.”

I continue to nod like I’ve turned into a fricking bobblehead all of a sudden and focus on my food. No wonder most of the people here have been glaring at me.

“If you want, I’ll show you around the house later,” Jelena says between bites. “Also, did Drago tell you? Don’t go outside by yourself at night.”

“No. Why?”

“Because of the dogs. They’re not really sociable, I’m afraid. It’s best not to wander out there until Drago takes you to meet them.”

An image of my dog Bonbon rises before my eyes. He passed away last year, and I’m the one to blame for that.

“Sure,” I mumble, even though I have no intention of meeting my husband’s dogs and reopening that wound.

When I finish breakfast, I carry my plate into the kitchen, almost colliding with one of the girls holding a stack of dirty dishes. Four other girls are running around the room, cutlery clinking against the china as everything is being loaded into the dishwashers. This must be the biggest kitchen I’ve ever seen.

A long, wide island—piled high with used bowls, baking trays, and dishes—takes up most of the central part. An industrial fridge takes up space at the end of the counter and, based on its size, it can store food for a small army. Dozens of glasses, cups, and plates sit behind the glass doors of the white wood cupboards. The smell of freshly brewed coffee mixes with the sweet scent of baked apples coming from an enormous pot placed atop the stove. One of the guys I saw returning from the guard shift is reaching a spoon into the pot.

“Relja!” Keva yells, rushing toward him, and smacks his arm with a kitchen towel. “Don’t touch that!”

“I just wanted a taste. It smells amazing.”

Keva snatches the spoon out of his hand and scoops up something that looks like grated apples from the pot.

“Get lost.” She thrusts the spoon back into his hand, then turns toward the girl putting groceries into the fridge, shouting to her to make haste.

My eyes wander across the room to where Drago is leaning on the wall by the back door that leads to the yard. I thought he was still asleep. The guy who was at city hall with him is standing close by, and they seem to be talking about a shipment scheduled to arrive next weekend. I can’t hear everything they are saying from this distance, but something feels slightly off about their exchange. I just can’t pinpoint what it is. Instead of maintaining eye contact, Drago’s eyes are cast lower, as if he’s looking at the ground and not overly interested in what the other man is telling him. He grumbles a response I don’t catch and nods, then his gaze shifts to me.

Even though he is all the way on the other side of the room, it’s like I’ve been hit by a bolt of lightning when his eyes pin me with their power. I can still smell him on me even though I took a shower earlier. It’s as if, while spooning me, he somehow imprinted himself on my skin.

“We’ll speak later, Filip,” Drago says and heads toward me.

With each step he takes, my pulse skyrockets. When he finally stands before me, I can barely swallow over the cotton ball that has suddenly lodged in my throat, and my breaths become rapid and shallow.

He braces his hands on the kitchen island, caging me between his arms, and lowers his head. “Did you sleep well last night, mila?”

“Nope, not really. The mattress was too hard, and then an intruder snuck into my bed.” I smirk. Earlier, I googled the translation for “mila,” expecting to find a derogatory term of some kind, but instead, I was rather surprised to see that it’s a bit antiquated but still highly regarded Serbian endearment that means “darling”.

“I didn’t notice you complaining while you slept nuzzling my neck. Snoring.”

“What?! I do not snore.”

Drago leans in even further, his mouth just next to my ear. His breath teases my skin as he speaks.

“Yes, you do. It’s very subtle, like the purr of a kitten.” His lips press to the side of my neck, and a low rumbling sound sends a shiver down my spine. “Just like that, Sienna.”

I bite the inside of my cheek and close my eyes, trying to extinguish the urge to wrap my arms around him and pull him even closer. My body is somehow gravitating toward him, and I’m barely maintaining control.

“I wonder,” he continues, and the tiny hairs at the back of my neck rise. “Do you have claws, too?”

I shake my head and bite my cheek harder.

“Liar.” The word, delivered in his gravelly timbre, rolls over me.

A pleasant shiver runs down my spine, and I lean into him, wanting more of that sensation. Quickly though, I realize what I’ve done and pull away. He still has me caged between his body and the counter, so there’s only so far I can move.

“I promised some friends I’d meet them for lunch later today, and we’ll probably go to the mall after. Can someone drop me off?”

“Jovan will drive you.” He takes his wallet out of the back pocket of his jeans and lifts a credit card in front of my face. “For your shopping.”

“I have my own card,” I mumble.

“But I thought you married me for my money.”

Shit. I forgot about that. “Yup, that’s correct.” I grab the card out of his hand and grin. “Just a heads-up . . . you’ll probably regret marrying me.”

He lowers his head until his lips brush my ear. “I don’t think so.”

Drago’s breath and warmth are suddenly gone as he walks away and leaves the kitchen. I have a silly urge to go after him and insist that he should drive me to the mall himself.

“So, ahem.” I clear my throat and turn to Keva who’s drying a glass. “Jelena told me there’s a fountain out front. Can someone point me in the right direction? I want to take some selfies.”

 

* * *

 

“I’m fine Arturo, as I already told you ten times today! Please stop calling.”

I shove the phone into my pocket and roll the last suitcase inside my new bedroom. It’s all the way on the other end of the fourth floor, the farthest from Drago’s. The space is small and has only one window that doesn’t even have curtains. A faint smell of fresh paint lingers in the air, hinting that the room was probably renovated recently. My eyes fall on the narrow bed next to a wall and stay glued to it.

I don’t like sleeping alone.

The night after my parents’ deaths was the first time I snuck into my sister’s bed to sleep. Arturo found me there when he came to check on us in the morning, but he said nothing. I kept sneaking into Asya’s bed every night after that, for years. I had a bone-chilling fear rooted deep inside my mind that Arturo would wake me one night to tell me that Asya was gone, just like our mom and dad. I was convinced that if she was next to me when I fell asleep, she would be there in the morning, as well.

Asya never asked me to go back to my bed. Not once. Even when her bed became too small for the two of us. My twin sister. My other half. People have often made the mistake of assuming she was the more fragile one. Asya has always been an introvert, the quiet one, and nothing other than her music held her interest for too long. But she is so much stronger than me. I’m just better at pretending.

As we got older, I stopped sneaking into her bed. I was a big girl, and it was expected that I would sleep in my own. It was always cold and lonely, never peaceful. Most nights, I managed, but there were times when I couldn’t rest. I would toss and turn until the bed beneath me would squeak as Asya climbed in next to me. She always knew. God, I miss her so much.

I’m so glad she found Pasha, though. The day of her wedding was the most joyful day of my life. Seeing her happy and smiling, after everything she’d been through, was a wish come true for me. Even if, in a way, it meant losing her.

I take my phone out again and stare at the screen. It’s too late to call Asya now, and we already chatted this afternoon. Throwing the device on the bed, I crouch next to my yellow suitcase that holds the essentials and start digging around, searching for my notebook. Writing always helps lift my spirits when I’m feeling down.

Five minutes later, I’m sprawled on top of the duvet, leafing through my thick glittery notebook when a thought strikes me. I never did ask Drago how he knew about my story.

 

Drago

 

The blond man sitting across from me in the booth leans forward and points his finger at me. “I don’t like you, Drago.”

“Well, I don’t like you either, Belov, but, as it happens, your pakhan likes the ammunition I’m offering. So, are we doing business or not?”

The Russian narrows his eyes at me and bursts out laughing, then takes his phone and calls someone, probably Petrov. Sergei Belov has a deep voice so I can hear everything he says, but it doesn’t give me much insight into the conversation he’s having in Russian with the Bratva pakhan.

“Delivery every two months,” he says when he ends the call. “And Roman wants to meet you in person. Next month.”

“All right. I’ll let you know the time and place.”

Belov nods and stands up to leave, then looks down at the armchair he just vacated. “Mind if I take a picture of the booth? I keep trying to convince Pasha to change the interior of our clubs to white. He said he’ll consider it when I retire.”

I raise an eyebrow. “Any particular reason for that?”

“Yeah.” He lifts his phone and snaps a shot. “It’s a bitch to get blood out of the light-colored upholstery, apparently.”

I follow him with my eyes as he strolls toward the exit, whistling along the way. It seems the guy is as crazy as I’ve heard people say.

Picking up my phone off the table, I check the message Filip sent me earlier—an address for the man who squealed to the Romanians about our shipment. It’s a couple of hours away, but there’s still time to drop in and see what my sparkling wife is up to before I head out. Jovan has been sending me hourly updates, and the last one said Sienna and her friend just entered a restaurant that’s fifteen minutes from the club.

The underground garage below Naos is filled with several vehicles, including the SUV I drove here and two beat-up cars I use when I don’t want to be noticed. I move past all of those and approach the black bike I parked in the far corner. Riding on two wheels is a much wiser choice when handling delicate issues. Our snitch, Wesley, has become one of those issues and needs to be made into an example so our other associates know what will happen if they follow his lead.

When I reach the restaurant, I park my bike on the driver’s side of Jovan’s white sedan and raise the visor on my helmet. My wife is sitting at a table next to a floor-to-ceiling window, and the blonde girl from Naos is with her. They are laughing about something. Sienna is wearing a sweater in an awful shade of blue. As if that’s not enough, it has glittery gold detailing that sparkles whenever the sunlight falls upon her. My eyes slide down to her legs, clad in shiny gold skinny pants, and stop on the shoes. Same blue hue as her sweater, with small bows on the heels.

“I’m listening,” I say and turn to Jovan.

He leans his elbow out of the open window and nods toward the women. “She met up with this girl, Luna, and another friend at the mall. They went to a few boutiques to buy some trinkets, then she dragged them to a store that sells stationery.”

“What did she buy there?”

“A few notebooks and some pens. And a pen holder that looks like a rabbit.” He rolls his eyes.

“And after?”

“They strolled around the shopping complex for a bit, taking selfies, and then we dropped off the other girl at her home and came here.”

“Anything else?”

“Her brother called her on our way to this place.”

“What did they talk about?” I ask.

“I couldn’t hear his side of the conversation, but based on her replies, I think he wanted to know if she was okay. She said she’s having a great time spending your money.”

I look back at my wife. The bank sends me a text message every time my card is used. I didn’t receive any today. She was paying for her purchases with her own money.

Jovan says something else, but with the helmet on, I don’t catch it.

“Repeat,” I say and turn to face him.

“She got another call just before we reached the restaurant, but didn’t answer it. When she looked at the phone, she must have declined and put it back into her purse.”

“Interesting. If she gets any more strange calls, let me know.”

“Sure.”

I switch my gaze back to my wife who’s currently giggling with the waitress, motioning with her hands through the air. Her nails are gold today. I move my eyes from her hands to her lips wondering what got her so excited. Her lips are moving, and I can see them clearly, but I can’t decipher anything she’s saying. The waitress responds, but I don’t catch what the young Asian woman says, either. I look up at the sign above the entrance. It’s a Japanese restaurant. No wonder I can’t get a read on their conversation. I don’t speak Japanese, but it looks like Sienna does. Well, isn’t my glittery wife full of surprises?

“Call Keva,” I tell Jovan. “After dinner, I want her to ask my wife to help around the kitchen.”

Jovan stares at me, his eyebrows hitting his hairline. “All right,” he mumbles, confusion written all over his face.

“Small tasks, nothing hard. If Sienna says no, tell Keva not to insist.”

“Is that all?”

“I’ll be dealing with Wesley tonight and won’t be home before midnight. Tell Keva to message me with what happened in the kitchen.”

Jovan responds, but I don’t pay any attention to him, my eyes back on my wife. This morning, I woke up with Sienna in my arms, curled up like a kitten. I wished I didn’t have to leave her. Staying in bed, with her snuggled into my body, sounded like a much better option than heading to work, even without sex in the picture. I tried to recall if I ever had an urge to spend a night with a woman if there wasn’t sex involved and came up blank. And I most certainly have never delayed business obligations so I could check up on one, either. But here I am now, spying on my wife, instead of heading to off the fucker who couldn’t keep his mouth shut. And wondering who the fuck was on the other line of the phone call she disconnected.

“If any man approaches my wife, take care of him,” I growl and lower my visor. Time to pay a visit to the snitch.

“Take care of him?” Jovan asks. “In what way?”

I meet his gaze through the tinted shield. “In any way that ends with requiring a spot at a cemetery, Jovan.”

 

* * *

 

It’s well after midnight when I finally arrive home. I had to take a longer route back because the police presence around Wesley’s block was heavy. Someone probably reported screaming.

I nod at the man on guard by the front door. “Anything?”

“No. The guards outside the perimeter fence confirmed there is nothing suspicious.”

“Good,” I say and head upstairs.

It’s just a matter of time until Bogdan makes his move. He’ll probably hit one of our warehouses or maybe the club, but I prefer to cover all my bases, so I made sure we have men positioned along the road leading up to the house.

I step inside my bedroom and instantly know something isn’t right. The pile of colorful suitcases is gone. My bed is empty. Looks like my wife thinks she has a say about our sleeping arrangements. I throw my jacket onto the recliner next to the balcony doors and head into the bathroom.

After a much-needed shower, I walk down the hall, checking the rooms along the way. There are several unoccupied suites on this floor because I’d rather not have anyone around me for the few hours I allow myself to rest, so she could be in any of them.

The first few rooms I pass are empty. I slip by Keva’s and Filip’s without checking, as well as some others used by my men, and proceed further down the hallway. My wife is in the last bedroom on this floor, sleeping under a thin blanket on a tiny-ass bed that could never fit my large frame. Her suitcases are stacked in the corner, all eight of them.

Leaning my shoulder on the doorframe, I watch her sleeping form. I was convinced she would decline to help around the kitchen. But the message I received from Keva wasn’t a text, it was a photo of my wife standing on a small stool in front of a sink, scrubbing an enormous, burned pan. She was wearing the same gold pants and blue sweater she had on at the restaurant, only instead of high heels, she had on some fuzzy monstrosity on her feet. Several more photos followed. Sienna placing glasses into a cupboard. Leaning over the stove, looking inside a steaming pot. Carrying dirty dishes while clearly laughing over something. I was seriously tempted to leave my task of killing Wesley for another day and head home just so I could watch Sienna while she appeared to be enjoying her tasks.

The Italians in Cosa Nostra are a very special lot. Those at the upper levels of the hierarchy are treated almost like royalty, and a lot of them act as if they actually are. Especially women. I went out with the sister of one of the capos a few years back and was tempted to off myself twenty minutes into our date. I don’t even remember the name of the woman, only the feeling that I was sitting across an empty shell of a person. A mannequin in a shop window whose only purpose in life was to showcase the expensive clothes she had on. Peel those away, and nothing but a plastic dummy remained.

My wife may wear equally expensive attire, but I have a feeling that there are many, many more layers under her surface. And I intend to peel every single one of them and find out what hides beneath.

Walking toward the suitcases, I pick up the first two and carry them back to my room. After repeating the act three more times, I approach the bed where Sienna is sleeping and slide my arms under her slight frame. I may not have any intention of having sex with her yet, but there is only one place she’s allowed to sleep. In my bed.

Sienna stirs, mumbles something, and buries her face in my chest. I carry her back to my bedroom, carefully lower her onto the bed, and climb in to lie behind her. She keeps sleeping even when I wrap my arm around her waist and pull her against my body.


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