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One man has vowed to protect her.
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Men ran up and down the hall outside her bedroom, their heavy footfalls making the glass in her windows rattle. Her father would be pissed tonight. He hated when his men let business get too close to home. She expected at least one of his hired guns would be executed to make an example, to instill fear in the others.
Always with the fear.
Sophia could practically hear his speech already. What was worse than everything, was the fact she’d become immune to the violence. It was ingrained in her life, and her father did little to hide his business from her. He believed not teaching her his native Russian tongue would be enough to keep her in the dark, but she wasn’t so naïve.
A barrage of gunfire rang out downstairs.
Sophia didn’t flinch.
She sat on the window bench in her bedroom, looking down at the cars driving by, wishing she was being whisked to someplace far, far away. But, no, she was here, practically a damn prisoner in her own home.
Sophia had everything money could buy. If only there was a price tag on her freedom. She walked over to her dresser and picked up a framed picture, running a finger against the glass, smiling at the memory. It was her graduation, and her father had pride on his face, his arm around her shoulders … God, how she missed those days.
It was soon after the picture was taken when things changed.
Once she started maturing, he grew distant, saying she looked too much like her mother. He was convinced she’d become a whore like her and began accusing her of trying to sleep around. Men on his payroll who showed too much interest suddenly disappeared, never to be heard from again.
So, most of her time she was home, under careful watch, unable to embrace her independence. She lost herself in reading, studies, and her passion had always been painting. One corner of her room was a mess of canvases, easels, and unfinished projects.
At twenty-four, she still didn’t know what the fuck real life felt like. Some days she wished she’d never been born, that she’d been slaughtered along with her mother. Taking her own life had infiltrated her thoughts more and more over the years. It both disturbed and fascinated her. Her imagination was the only thing keeping her sane.
She set the picture back in place, next to one of her many Russian dolls. Whenever her father became especially cruel, he’d bring her a new one the next day as some kind of peace offering. Her collection was growing. It seemed guilt was stronger than love. No matter how beautiful or priceless, the collection only represented the pain it was meant to cover up.
Sophia rolled her eyes.
Maybe a stray bullet would end her misery. Would her father regret being an asshole once she was dead?
Her door burst open. She gasped and whirled around.
“Come!” Hawk motioned for her to take his hand. He was out of breath, a sense of urgency in his voice she’d never heard before. He was one of her father’s enforcers and the babysitter who constantly kept tabs on her activities.
“What is it?”
“We have to go. Right now, Sophia.” He took a couple brisk strides into the room and wrapped his hand around her wrist, yanking her along with him. She stumbled, half protesting. The scent of gunpowder stung her nose when they emerged into the hallway. He switched hands, holding her wrist with his left hand so he could pull out a Glock with his right.
“Tell me what’s going on,” she said.
He navigated down the hallway toward the massive winding staircase. The stairs always reminded her of fairy tales. When she’d been younger, she would pretend to be a princess trapped in a castle.
Today was more of a nightmare.
A body lay sprawled out near the final steps, blood pooling, dripping down like a morbid waterfall.
She bolted to a stop, digging in her heels.
“Not now, Sophia. Your father wants you safe. Let’s go,” said Hawk, his hand still shackling her wrist. There was no way she could escape from him. The man was built like a brick shit house, solid muscle and covered in ink. One of her father’s top enforcers. But she wasn’t afraid of him, even though everyone else seemed to be.
As much as she wanted to protest, she allowed him to lead her down the staircase. He kept his gun at the ready, aiming at every new angle as they descended. Another man lay dead in the foyer, and several of the stained-glass panels had shattered, colorful shards of glass scattered over the white marble. There was commotion coming from the back kitchen, garnering Hawk’s full attention. He opened the coat closet in the foyer. “Get in there. Don’t move until I come back. I have to find your father.”