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You Don’t Own Me (The Russian Don #1)
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I knew I should have listened to my inner voice. I should never have said yes to helping out my friend, but I did, and the Russian with the dangerous eyes shocked me by how easily he stirred outrageous desires in my body and made me lose complete control. I did the only thing I could. I walked (all right, I ran) away to the sound of his cheap parting shot, ‘you’ll be back when you need my help.’
But I haven’t been able to run away from him in my dreams. God knows I’ve tried. Then something unthinkable happens. My sister goes missing while on a backpacking trip, and the ruthless predator is the only one who can help.
He sits in his study, a beautiful, powerful man with eyes cold enough to freeze my blood.
She ran like a spooked deer, but I always knew she’d be back.
But I’m not a man given to doing favors. I’m an opportunist. There’s always a price for my help.
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– I’ll tell you just how much a dollar costs
it is the price of having a spot in Heaven –
‘Oh, my God, Dahlia, you have to help me,’ Stella, my best friend and roomie cries. She has burst open my bedroom door and is standing at the threshold theatrically wringing her hands.
Stella is a well-known drama queen so I don’t panic. I mute my video and turn towards her. ‘Calm down and tell me what’s wrong.’
‘I have a massage client in less than an hour and I’ve just realized that I’ve also got another client coming here.’
See what I mean about drama. ‘Just cancel one of them,’ I suggest reasonably.
‘I can’t do that. The one who is coming here is that crazy rich bitch from Richmond who told me she is going to recommend me to all her crazy assed rich friends in Richmond. She’s probably already on the train. And the other is a Russian Mafia boss.’
I frown. First of all, I didn’t know she had a Russian mafia boss as one of her clients. Must address that one later, but not yet. ‘So what do you want me to do?’
‘Can you stand in for me?’
I shake my head resolutely. ‘Nope. Absolutely not. You’ll just have to tell the Mafia boss that you can’t make it.’
‘I can’t do that,’ she wails. ‘One of the clauses in the confidentiality agreement I signed was that I would never miss any of my appointments once I agreed it unless it was a life or death situation.’
‘Huh?’ I cock an eyebrow. ‘He made you sign a confidentiality agreement?’
She makes an exasperated sound. ‘Yes.’
‘What kind of person puts an unreasonable clause like that into an agreement with their masseuse?’ I ask, genuinely surprised.
‘Dahlia,’ she screams in frustration. ‘Can you focus, please. I’m running out of time here.’
‘It’s simple. Go on to the Mafia boss, and I’ll tell your other client when she arrives that she can have a free massage next week.’
‘No, she can’t come next week. She is away, and anyway, she’s in pain and really needs me.’
‘So tell the Mafia boss that you can’t make it because you have a life and death scenario.’
‘You want me to lie to Zane?’ she asks incredulously.
‘If that’s what his name is,’ I reply coolly.
She comes into the room and starts pacing the small space like a caged animal. ‘I’m not going to lie to him. He’ll know.’ She stops and stares at me. ‘He’s got like the coldest most piercing eyes you ever saw. It’s like they can see right through you.’
I laugh. ‘I can’t believe you said that.’
‘I’m serious, Dahlia. Lying to him is out of the question.’
‘Well, then you’ll have to let the rich bitch down.’
‘Did you not hear me? She’s in pain. Oh, please, please, can you help me this time. You can have my fee and I’ll owe you big time.’
‘No,’ I say clearly. The solution to her problem seems obvious to me —she should cancel the Russian guy.
‘I’ll do the dishes for a whole month,’ she declares suddenly.
I pause. Hmmm. Then I shake my head.
‘I’ll do the dishes and clean the apartment for a whole month.’
I hesitate. ‘Even the bathroom?’
‘Yes, even the bathroom,’ she confirms immediately.
‘I’d love to help but—’
‘Two months,’ she says with a determined glint in her eyes.
My eyebrows fly upwards. I open my mouth and she shouts out, ‘Three fucking months.’
To say that I am not tempted would be a lie. I HATE cleaning the bathroom. I am very tempted, but I can’t actually take her up on her offer even if she offered me a year’s worth of bathroom cleaning.
‘Jesus, Stella. Just stop. You know I’d love to take you up on your offer, but I simply can’t massage like you. I just about know the basics and rich bitch’s problem sounds complicated. For all I know, I’ll just end up making her back worse and instead of giving you a glowing recommendation to all her rich friends she will do the opposite.’
Stella fixes her hazel eyes on me. ‘I wasn’t thinking of her.’
I look at her, astonished ‘What?’
‘He just needs a simple basic Swedish. Just exactly what I’ve already taught you. You just need to put a bit more effort into it. He likes it really hard.’
‘Like hell, I’m massaging your Mafia boss.’
She falls to her knees. ‘Oh please, please, please.’
‘If you’re trying to make me feel guilty, it’s not working,’ I say.
She looks at me pleadingly. ‘Pleeeeeeease. I promise you he’s really easy to do.’
‘Oh yeah. Is that why you’re so terrified of him?’
She turns her mouth downwards. ‘I’m not terrified of him.’
‘Could have fooled me.’
She sighs. ‘Actually, I’m a bit … in lust with him,’ she confesses with a wry smile.
‘A bit? You?’ I explode in disbelief. This is Stella, the woman who turns a spider sighting in her bedroom into a shrieking Victorian melodrama.