Vasilije Markovic is the prince of the Serbian mafia and one of the most powerful men in Chicago. His smile may be razor sharp, but he"s crueler than the devil.
I"m playing a dangerous game and betting my life I"m going to win. I pretend to be his pawn. I do as he says and move where he tells me, letting him think he"s in control as I position myself for revenge.
Every turn brings us closer. His grin doesn"t seem as evil when we"re alone. Behind closed doors, I welcome his unrelenting and vicious personality. He"s confessed all his secrets, but I"m holding one back and it"s a game changer.
If I survive the board, this pawn turns into a queen. I become the most powerful player and send all the other pieces running. To get what I want, I must make sacrifices, but am I willing to draw the line at him"Books in Series:Sordid Series by Nikki SloaneBooks by Author:Nikki Sloane Books
Three Years Ago
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My father"s office made me uneasy. Today it was worse, because Ilia walked in as I was cleaning the desk. He was twice my age and married, but it did nothing to stop the way he looked at me. His blue eyes raked over my body and made my skin crawl.
He"d been warned not to touch me again.
The first time it happened, I didn"t know what to do. He was my father"s employee and had a temper. He"d kissed me with slimy lips, and when I pushed him away, he apologized.
The second time, he didn"t. He grabbed me and pressed me against the hallway wall while my father was out, and the tongue shoved in my mouth was invasive. Ilia"s hands pawing at me made me buck and squirm away.
I reminded him about his wife, but all he"d done was laugh and say it was my fault. I was too tempting to keep his hands off.
Somehow, no matter how hard I tried to avoid him, he found a way to get me alone, and his unwanted advances escalated. I stopped wearing skirts after he"d put his hand up one while my father and brother were meeting with the Italians one afternoon. Ilia was my father"s right hand man, but the Italians were old fashioned and would meet with family only.
He threatened me, saying he"d tell my father I was trying to seduce him. Only a few people knew I wasn"t actually a housekeeper, but Sergey Petrov"s illegitimate daughter. My father hated me, and I wasn"t going to let Ilia give him any more ammunition. I gathered my courage, marched into my father"s den, and pleaded for help while my eyelashes were wet with tears.
He didn"t believe me.
And it broke me almost as much as the day my mother died. I felt like there was nothing left of me.
It was a blessing in disguise, though. It focused my fear of Ilia, condensing and polishing it down until it was a sharp point of anger I could wield. I fought back against every unwanted stroke or caress, every time he put his mouth on mine, even as he became more aggressive and I knew my time was running out.
Soon, touching me wasn"t going to be enough for him.
My half-brother Konstantine must have sensed something was wrong the day he"d come into my room, or maybe he"d seen Ilia go in there. I"d been changing and was down to my bra and underwear when the source of my constant torment slipped into my room and shut my door.
"Get out," I said, grabbing a blanket off my bed and using it to cover up.
Ilia gave me the sly smile he always did when he was going to ignore my protests and do whatever the fuck he wanted. He stalked to me, wrenched the blanket from my grip, and had his hands on me a second later. His disgusting lips flattened over mine, muffling my cry. His rough fingers wormed their way beneath the waistband of my panties.
"Stop," I said in a shaky voice.
My door burst open, and although Ilia moved fast, he was too late. My brother had seen everything, and his face turned to ice. Konstantine was barely twenty, and although he appeared skinny, he had a swimmer"s build and was deceptively strong. It took him minimal effort to drag Ilia from the room and down to my father"s office.
This time, when my father heard the story from Konstantine, he had no choice but to listen. My brother told my father to handle it, or he would. So Sergey gave Ilia a lecture, capped off with a throwaway threat not to touch me again, and Konstantine felt satisfied. My father"s orders were supposed to be law.
It kept Ilia away . . . for a while.
Then, his desire-filled glances my direction were back. He stood too close whenever we were in a room together, and he lingered. He slid back into his behavior so slowly, I couldn"t say anything about it. There was no specific moment when Ilia defied my father"s order, but I felt it increasing every day.
Building toward something terrible.
I dreamed he died in a horrible, bloody way, and it wasn"t a nightmare. It was a fantasy. I pictured different scenarios of his death in my head, and let them comfort me. Maybe I was na"ve, but I believed bad people got what they had coming to them.
It was late morning when Ilia came into the office and I froze, the damp washcloth mid-wipe on the desktop. Alarm spiked and tensed my muscles. My father and Konstantine were out, and my stepmother and half-sister were in the garden in the back yard. It meant no one would hear me. I was alone, and the sly smile on Ilia"s face told me he knew this.