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The Bratva’s Bride (Wicked Doms #2)
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Bratva life is simple:
You steal from the brotherhood, you pay with your life.
My wedding band will be her collar.
She will be my captive bride.
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I slam my fist against the thick punching bag, dust sparkling in the single stream of sunlight like diamonds. My vision blurs, sweat dripping in my eyes from the exertion. I take a second to wipe my arm across my brow, before I’m back at it again.
Pain wraps across my back with every swivel and spin of my torso. Perspiration drips down my body in rivulets, my breathing fast and ragged in the humid room, and yet I’m nowhere near satisfied. I won’t stop until I’ve exhausted myself. Until the storm within me calms. Until I’ve exorcised my demons.
I pound the bag, the only sound in the room my grunts and the soft thumps when my fists connect. Sometimes, I imagine the bag holds the face of my enemies. Sometimes, my father. But in those moments, I don’t come away sated with revenge but thirsty for more. I’m left dissatisfied and empty, because you cannot beat a man who lies in a grave. When I pummel the bag, it leaves me unfulfilled and restless, but mercifully fatigued. It’s a weariness I welcome, as if somehow, I can beat the anger away with my fists if I try hard enough.
So when Maksym pushes the door to the basement open, he does so tentatively, my only indication he’s arrived the creak of the door between swings of my fist. He doesn’t interrupt me at first, out of respect. The man is like a brother to me.
“What is it?” I snap. I lift the bottle of water on the floor, tip my head back, and douse my mouth with the cool liquid before drenching my face with it.
“Filip found more details, Dem.”
That gets my attention. I grab the towel beside my water bottle and swipe it across my face to clear my vision before I look at him. His ankles are crossed, one shoulder leaning against the door frame. Large and broad, with a thick beard and black eyes that shine, he easily looks the most formidable of our lot, though he has a soft spot, and she lives in a remote cabin in Istra.
In the past two weeks, large sums of money have disappeared. Filip, our bookkeeper, is brilliant and impeccable, and until now, we’ve seen no loss in revenue since I’ve been head of our brotherhood. In fact, quite the opposite. Our income has soared, padding our pockets and investments, and Filip’s masterful manipulation of our funds makes illicit transactions fly under the radar. His careful calculations and technological finesse make it possible to have funds allocated in multiple countries that no one can touch. Theft is not uncommon in our line of business, but the severe penalty for stealing from us has kept us safe from extortion since I’ve run this brotherhood. Until now.
Maksym clears his throat. “It’s a woman, for one.”
I curse and kick the concrete wall. I have no qualms about exacting retribution and meting out punishment, but typically the thieves we’ve dealt with were men. Men, I can handle with fists, a knife, or worse. Women, though…
Damn. I can be vicious and cruel, but prefer the more fragile creatures punished in other ways.
I turn to face him.
“She’s left her location wide open as of last weekend.”
“What do you mean?” I frown at him and cross my arms over my chest.
“It seems almost intentional, Dem. She’s as easy to track as a performer in the public square.”
I shake my head. Why would someone willingly steal money from us and then not bother to cover her tracks?
“Where is she?”
An hour from here, near one of our brother groups. I feel my brows rise in surprise. So bold.
He leans against the wall and steps into the room. “If you want, I’ll go.”
I can see it in his eyes, though. He doesn’t want to go. Maksym is no wilting violet, but he has a code he lives by, and as he’s the most faithful to our brotherhood, I want to honor that code. He will take down our most violent opposition, and in recent months has risen to the top as our most accurate assassin, but when it comes to women…
When our brother Kazimir abducted a woman named Sadie last year, Maksym cursed out Dimitri and almost resigned. There is typically no real resignation from the Bratva but death. To Maksym, retribution was one thing but abducting innocents was another. He insisted she did nothing to earn how we treated her. And now that Kazimir and Sadie have settled back in the U.S., he keeps regular contact with them like a sort of doting uncle.
But this woman… what she’s done… she’s earned whatever happens and he knows it.
Hell, if this were a year ago and Dimitri still ran our organization, he’d murder her with one rapid command, not even bothering to punish her before death. And for a moment I fear being in this position of power has weakened me.