Tears Of Betrayal: Chapter 17

DEMITRI

When night settles over the island, I make a fire in the living room fireplace, then stand back and watch as the flames grow stronger.

Alexei nudges my arm, and when I glance at him, he holds a tumbler out to me.

I take the drink and swallow a sip of vodka down.

“Is there anything you want to tell me?” he asks.

I shake my head.

“You sure?”

Letting out a sigh, I meet my friend’s eyes. “I’m sure. I’ll talk when I’m ready.”

“Okay.” Alexei downs half his drink. “Is it going to be a problem?”

In other words, will Ariana affect my ability to protect Alexei? I shake my head. “I can protect both of you.”

“That’s not what I’m asking.”

A frown forms on my forehead which has Alexei explaining, “What will you do when Ariana wants to return to her life once all the shit’s been taken care of?”

The fucker is trying to corner me.

Giving him a look of indifference, I mutter, “Then I’ll let her return to her life. She’s not our prisoner.”

“Hmmm.”

“Stop,” I grumble.

Alexei shrugs. “Just saying. Ariana’s fucking beautiful and the heir to one of the biggest established weapon smuggling empires. She’s a catch.”

I turn to Alexei and take a threatening step toward him before I catch myself. Possessiveness blinds me, making my heart beat faster and my muscles tense. It’s fucking intense, and it takes a moment before I can breathe through it.

Alexei’s eyes are locked on me, all the amusement gone from his face. “There it is,” he murmurs. “The sooner you admit you care about the girl, the better. Do it before you rip some poor guy’s head off.”

I down the drink and set the tumbler down on the coffee table. “I’ll deal with it when I’m ready,” I say. I head to the stairs. “Sleep well.”

“You too.”

I feel Alexei’s eyes on me as I take the stairs to the second floor, and when I reach Ariana’s room, my pace automatically slows. Wanting to check on her, I knock. When there’s no answer, I go inside and shutting the door behind me, I look to where she’s lying on top of the covers.

With the moonlight shining in from the windows, I can see her clearly. Slowly I move closer to the bed, and then I stare down at Ariana.

She turns onto her back, and opening her eyes, she just looks up at me. Seeing the vulnerability on her face stabs at my heart again, and I make a gesture for her to move up.

I kick off my shoes and pull my shirt over my head. When I lift the covers, she climbs beneath them, and lying down beside Ariana on my back, I position her against my side. I wrap my arm around her shoulders and place my other hand on the side of her head, pressing her cheek to my chest.

We lie in silence, and after a minute or so, Ariana drapes her arm over my abs and lets out a deep breath.

Earlier, when she broke and cried in my arms, it felt like someone took a bat to my heart. I might not be ready to admit it out loud, but this woman has an effect on me like no other. There’s no reason or rhyme.

I want Ariana.

End of story.

My mind fills with worry for her. Not about her safety because I’ll take care of her. But there’s no way Ariana will be able to be a part of the Bratva.

“I won’t be able to return to my old life, will I?” she whispers, her voice hoarse from all the shit that’s been thrown at her.

Moving my hand to her chin, I nudge her face up so she’ll look at me. “We’ll figure things out.”

“I don’t want my father’s businesses.”

“You can put someone in charge to manage everything on your behalf.”

“Who? The only person I know is trying to kill me.” Her voice cracks over the words.

It’s on the tip of my tongue to say Alexei will be willing to do it, but I can’t get the words out. After a long moment, I say, “Me.”

Ariana sucks in a breath of air, her features tightening as an emotion I haven’t seen before flashes over her face. “Really? You’ll even help me with that?”

My fingers brush up her jawline, reveling in the feel of her soft skin. “I’ll take care of everything.”

Hope flickers in her eyes, and the longer she stares at me, the more intimate the moment becomes.

Moving my hand behind her neck, I slowly pull her face to mine until her breaths warm my lips. “You feel that, Malyshka?”

Her eyes search mine, and then she nods.

I worry she only feels the attraction because I’m protecting her. Before I can voice the concern, she closes the distance between us, and her lips softly brush against mine.

Ariana pulls back to see my reaction, and when our eyes meet again, the intensity between us rockets.

Lifting my head, I nip at her lips before trailing kisses over her jaw. Her breaths instantly speed up, and her hand slides from my abs to my chest. I take a deep breath of her scent, and it’s fucking intoxicating.

My fingers tighten around her neck, and then our mouths crash together, and I plunge my tongue into her heat.

This time I focus on how she tastes and the velvety feel of her tongue as it strokes against mine. She lets out a moan, and it sends a bolt of electricity straight to my cock.

For a moment, the kiss spirals out of control, and I push her onto her back. Framing her face, I hold her in place as my tongue fucks her, my teeth biting her lips until they’re hot and swollen against mine.

Ariana moans into my mouth, the sound almost sending me over the edge, but I manage to keep control over the burning desire to fuck her until she’s only focused on me.

Not tonight. I can’t fuck Ariana while she’s in shock from her brother’s betrayal. Taking her right after she learned of her father’s passing was bad enough.

The next time I bury myself deep inside her, it will be because she wants me and not because she’s looking for an escape.

I slow the kiss down until we’re just gasping for air, and when I lift my head, I brush my thumbs over the curves of her cheeks.

Once Ariana has control over her breathing, she gives me an unsure look. “What’s happening between us?”

I shake my head. “Let’s not label it and just see where it goes.”

Especially once she returns to her everyday life. Then only will we see if what she feels is real or whether this is all because of our forced proximity.

 


 

ARIANA

 

I wake up alone and even more confused. I swear, it feels like I’m stuck on a rollercoaster ride from hell.

I go through my morning routine on automatic pilot, unable to focus on anything long enough to try and make sense of it.

Last night when Demitri kissed me, I had a moment’s relief. It was so primal and intense I couldn’t think of anything but how he tasted and felt. He dominated every part of me, and I wouldn’t have stopped him if he took things further.

Stopping by my bedroom door, I just stare at it for a moment.

With my life going to hell at the speed of light, this thing… the attraction I feel for Demitri… it’s become the only good thing I have right now.

The horror swirling around me amplifies the safety I feel when he holds me.

It’s as if all my emotions have been set to full blast.

I take a couple of deep breaths, trying to regain some control, but it’s useless.

My shoulders slump as I open the door. I make my way to the kitchen, and the second my eyes land on Demitri, where he’s standing by the stove, it feels like I can take an actual breath.

Alexei glances at me from where he’s sitting by the island. “Morning.”

“Morning,” I whisper, still not sure what to make of Alexei.

I prepare a cup of coffee, and just like yesterday morning, Demitri takes hold of my chin and forces me to look up at him. His eyes search mine, then he asks, “How are you holding up?”

I shrug, and this time I’m unable to lie and say I’m okay.

His thumb brushes over my skin, and then he gives me a quick hug before he moves back to the stove.

Taking my cup of coffee, I sit down on the opposite side of the island, so the slab of marble is between Alexei and me.

I feel him staring at me and taking a sip of my beverage, I swallow hard on the warm liquid.

Even though I don’t have the strength and all I want to do is slink down to the floor, I force my eyes up to meet Alexei’s.

“So you grew up in Seattle?” he asks.

I just nod, wrapping both my hands around the mug.

“Tell me about yourself,” he orders.

I shrug. “I’m just a normal twenty-three-year-old.”

Alexei shakes his head. “Tell me.”

I lower my eyes to the mug. “Up until my life went to hell, I was a make-up artist who’s struggling to get my business off the ground. I only have acquaintances, and I visit my mom every Saturday.”

“So you’re a loner?” Alexei asks.

“You could say so,” I mutter.

“Boyfriends?”

A frown begins to form on my forehead. Lifting my eyes, I meet Alexei’s intimidating gaze. “Why are you asking me all these questions?”

The corner of his mouth lifts. “Just making small talk.”

Raising an eyebrow at him, I throw his order back at him, “Tell me about yourself.”

His mouth lifts into a smirk. “You’re traumatized enough without me adding to it.”

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Alexei rises to his feet, and then it’s as if he flips a switch. His demeanor morphs from predatory to relaxed as he saunters closer to me. When he gives me an actual friendly smile, there’s even a freaking twinkle in his eye.

My frown deepens as I try to figure out what he’s up to.

He takes the seat next to me, and resting his elbows on the marble top, he gives me a look that can be mistaken as interest.

Then he lifts his hand, and bringing it to my face, he gently tucks some hair behind my ear.

“So?” he asks, leaning closer to me, “Are you single?”

What. The. Hell?

I begin to blink, having no idea how to handle this situation.

The next second, Demitri grabs hold of my hips, and I gasp as I’m lifted and moved to another chair, and then he sits down between Alexei and me. Demitri assumes the same position as Alexei and then warns him with a bite to his voice, “Don’t go there.”

Alexei leans back, letting out an amused chuckle. “Christ, you make it so easy to fuck with you.”

My eyes dart between the two men. “I’m lost right now.”

“Ignore him,” Demitri snaps at me, and then he gets up again. He places a plate with eggs and bacon down in front of me. “You better eat everything.”

I glare up at Demitri. “Yes, Sir.”

Alexei bursts out laughing, and the sudden sound startles me.

“God, I’m going to love every second of this.” He grins as his eyes flit between Demitri and me.

“Every second of what?” I ask, directing my glare at him.

He shakes his head, and when Demitri hands him his plate, he immediately digs in.

I stare at Alexei as he wolfs the food down until Demitri sits down again. When I give Demitri a what’s-going-on look, he reaches for my hand and gives it a squeeze. “Eat, Malyshka.”

Letting out a sigh, I pick up a strip of bacon and nibble on it.

My life has become the freaking twilight zone.

 

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