Tears Of Betrayal: Chapter 22

ARIANA

Suddenly arms wrap around me, and my head swivels. I relax when I see it’s Demitri. Placing his hands beneath my forearms, he nudges my hands up. “Higher. You want to hit the chest or head. Don’t try and look down the barrel at the target. You have to get a feel for where you want the bullet to go.”

“Like throwing darts?” I ask.

“Yes.”

“Okay.” I take another deep breath and fire the gun to see where the bullet goes and when it clips the bottom of the target, I adjust my hands higher and then fire another shot. When the bullet tears through the chest of the target, a wide smile spreads over my face.

“You’re a natural,” Winter comments. “I’m going to check on Nikolai while you keep practicing.”

Demitri moves to my side and crosses his arms over his chest. There’s a pensive expression on his face as he watches me fire shot after the shot until the target is riddled with holes.

“I thought it would be harder,” I mention when the clip is empty.

“It will be hard,” he states as he uncrosses his arms and moves closer to me. He takes the gun from my hand, and then pulling his own weapon from behind his back, he hands it to me. “Aim the gun at me.”

“What? No,” I gasp.

“The safety is on. Aim it at me,” he orders, and then he takes a couple of steps back.

I swallow hard, and lifting my arms, I train the barrel on Demitri’s chest. Instantly my hands begin to tremble, and my breathing begins to speed up.

I don’t like this at all.

“Killing another human being is hard, Ariana. That first shot changes you forever.” Demitri sets Winter’s gun down on a shelf near us, and then he moves so fast, I don’t even have time to let out a startled shriek. He rips the gun from my hands, and then he’s behind me, his arm tightly around my throat. Right by my ear, he says, “Holding onto your weapon in a fight is the most important thing.”

“I wasn’t expecting the attack.” I glance to the side, and my cheek brushes against his mouth. “Do it again.”

Demitri lets go of me and hands the gun back to me as comes to stand in front of me.

My body is tense, and I watch him closely. This time when he moves, I yank my arms back, but he still grabs the gun from me, and then he sweeps my feet from under me. I land hard on my backside, letting out a huff of air.

There’s a sinking feeling in my stomach that I’ll never be able to protect myself.

Demitri holds his hand out to me and helps me back to my feet, then he says, “Don’t get discouraged. I’ve been doing this all my life.”

I hear movement behind me, and glancing over my shoulder, I see everyone coming in.

I guess the training session is over.

Winter gestures to a large sparring mat. “Come. We’ll show you how it’s done.”

As Winter steps onto the mat, she winks at Damien. “Take it easy on me, babe.”

He lets out a chuckle, shaking his head as he begins to slowly move around her. My eyes are glued to them. I expect Damien to attack first, but Winter explodes into action. Lunging at her husband, she slams her body into his side, and grabbing hold of his shoulder, she freaking climbs his back like a tree. She quickly wraps her thighs around his neck, and then she flips him off his feet.

Holy crap.

My mouth drops open, and I can only stare.

Demitri moves forward, and my eyes widen. “Come, little brother. I miss a good fight.”

Winter comes to stand next to me, and then I have a running commentary.

This time they don’t waste time, and Damien instantly attacks Demitri, his body lifting off the mat as his leg shoots out to hit Demitri on the side of the head. But Demitri grabs hold of Damien’s ankle, and yanking hard, he sends his brother flying.

Damien’s instantly on his feet with a flip I can only dream of doing. Then they explode into action, and I can’t keep up with who hits who.

“Watch Damien. He’s on defense,” Winter says. “See how he mirrors every move from Demitri?”

“They’re moving too fast.”

Winter places her arm around my shoulder, then points to the men. “Look at their feet. See, it looks like a dance?”

“Yeah,” I murmur.

“That’s important. You have to anticipate your opponent’s steps.”

Shaking my head, I admit, “I’ll never be able to fight like that.”

“With enough training, you will,” Winter assures me.

Just then, Damien takes a swing at Demitri, hitting him hard on the jaw. Demitri doesn’t even flinch and just grins at his brother.

Nope, in no reality will I be able to take a hit like that and keep standing.

 


 

DEMITRI

 

After the impromptu sparring session, which turned out to be fun, Damien begins making a fire so we can grill some steaks.

By the sounds of things, Winter’s planning on giving Ariana more training after we’ve had our early dinner.

I walk to where the women are talking, and wrapping my arm around Ariana’s shoulders, I say, “I’m stealing her for a moment.”

“Sure,” Winter smiles at me, then heads to where Nikolai stands next to Damien, watching his father make the fire. I tug Ariana away from our friends and family and steer her toward the forest.

Once we’re walking between the trees, I glance down at her and ask, “How are you holding up?”

She grins up at me. “I’m actually having fun. I really like Winter.”

“That’s good,” I murmur. “And how are you coping with all the shit that’s been thrown at you?”

Ariana shrugs and crosses her arms over her chest in a defensive move. I don’t think she realizes that her guard just went up, not to keep me out, but because she’s probably scared of what’s coming.

I tighten my hold around her shoulders and press a kiss to her temple. “You’re going to be okay.”

She nods then glances up at me. “I know.”

When we reach the shoreline, the sun is starting to set on the horizon. I sit down on the sand, and when Ariana’s seated next to me, I rest my forearms on my knees and look at her. There’s more color in her cheeks from all the excitement of the day, and she seems relaxed.

Then the corner of her mouth trembles, and she takes a deep breath. “How do you do it?”

“What?” I whisper, lifting my hand and brushing a strand of hair that’s come loose from her ponytail away from her jaw.

“How do you live a life where it’s kill or be killed all the time?” Ariana’s eyes leave the water, turning to me.

“It’s second nature to me.”

“How old were you when you killed for the first time?” she asks, her gaze glued to my face.

“Sixteen,” I answer. “Our father took both Damien and me for our first kills.”

Ariana shakes her head lightly. “And you were okay with it?”

I shrug. “Like I said, it’s the way I was raised.”

“How old are you now?” she asks, and I’m taking it as a very good sign that she’s trying to get to know me better.

“Thirty-one.”

Her eyes widen. “Wow, that’s eight years older than me. I don’t know how I feel about that.”

“Why?” I ask, narrowing my eyes on her.

“That’s a big age gap, Demitri. The guys I’ve dated were my age.”

There’s a burst of anger in my chest, and I grumble, “The guys you’ve dated?”

“Ah… yeah.”

“How many?” I demand.

A slight frown forms on her forehead. “Three.”

Then I remember she’s only slept with one other guy, and it makes my anger rocket through my chest.

“You’re upset?” Ariana asks, her eyes searching my face as she tries to read my mood.

“Of course I’m fucking upset. No man wants to know how many men his woman has been with,” I practically bark. “It’s enough to send me on a killing spree.”

Her eyes grow huge, and she turns her body to face me while she quickly explains, “It was nothing. The longest relationship I had was three months. They didn’t mean anything.”

I pin her with my eyes. “You cared enough to give one of those men your virginity.”

Ariana smiles awkwardly. “It was more an experiment on my part. I just wanted to know what doing the deed was like.”

“And?”

She pulls a disgruntled face, and shaking her head, she looks back to the lake. “Nothing memorable.”

It makes me feel a hell of a lot better hearing the fucker didn’t measure up to her expectations.

“And you?” Ariana asks. Her teeth tug nervously at her bottom lip, then she continues, “How many girlfriends have you had?”

I shrug. “None.”

“Huh?” Her eyes snap back to me. “That’s impossible.” When I just shrug again, she gasps, “So what? You just have one-night-stands?”

“Something like that,” I answer with a chuckle at her shocked reaction.

Confusion washes over Ariana’s features. “But… then why are you so insistent on a relationship between us?”

I lift my hand and wrap my fingers around the back of her neck. Leaning toward her, I answer honestly, “Because you’re the first woman I’ve ever wanted.”

“Why me?” she breathes, the atmosphere between us beginning to fill with tension.

I brush my thumb against her soft skin and stare deep into her eyes. “Because I worry about you. Before we met, I never cared about a woman. With Winter, I felt some pity when she lost her family. With Haley, I was more upset that a woman got beaten. But I never actually cared what happened to them.”

I shift my hand to her chin and brush my thumb over her lips. “You’re the only woman who’s made me feel a fuck-ton of emotions. Everything from anger to possessiveness.”

“It’s only been two weeks, Demitri,” she whispers, but her eyes are soft on me.

“So?” I shrug.

“How can you fall so fast?”

“If I didn’t fall hard and fast, we wouldn’t be sitting here, Malyshka. It’s all or nothing with me.”

Ariana tilts her head, her gaze searching mine. “Are you scared of failing or…” she takes a breath then continues, “losing me?”

The thought of Ariana dying sends an overwhelming surge of wrath through me. My muscles instinctively tense as if the threat is nearby. “Losing you is not an option.”

“Why? You don’t owe me anything. You can walk away right now.”

My heart beats hard in my chest, and I stare at Ariana, realizing she’s become just as important as Alexei to me.

If I lose Alexei, it will cripple me. I’d be lost without my best friend because up until now, he’s been my sole purpose for living.

If I lose Ariana, I will fucking lose my mind. I can’t even think it.

“You’ve become as important as Alexei is to me,” I finally admit. “I won’t lose either of you.”

Ariana moves onto her knees next to me, and placing her hands on my jaw, she leans into me and presses her mouth tenderly to mine. When she pulls back, her eyes are filled with emotion. “Thank you for kidnapping me.”

I let out a burst of laughter. “That’s the last thing I ever expected you to say.”

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