“She’s unfinished business. And I’m not dumping you for her. I want to take care of this tonight, but Emilio will call you when I get back to New York and we’ll go out to dinner.”
Caroline gritted her teeth. He could tell she craved answers, but didn’t want to press for them for fear of talking herself out of the set-up she had with him. But he knew she would cave to his commands. All women could be manipulated with money. Eva had taught him this the hard way.
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll call your assistant when I get back to the room.”
He nodded to the hotel’s doorman who had been standing patiently on Caroline’s side of the limo for a few minutes. He opened the door for her, and that was it. She was out of his space, leaving him free to deal with Eva St. James.
It only took his assistant, Emilio, about thirty minutes to track down Eva’s reservation at a chain hotel just a few blocks away from the one he’d just abandoned Caroline in. But a few minutes later, Emilio informed him she’d already checked out and a few minutes after that, Alexei found out she was on a plane back to Dallas.
Hearing this made Alexei’s usual scowl deepen. Just like eight years ago, when Eva ran from him, she really ran. Back then he hadn’t been able to track her down, as much as he had embarrassed himself trying, calling her closest friends over and over again and haunting the School of Social Work outside his shift hours, hoping to catch her on her way in or out. But she never showed up and a few weeks later one of the social work students took pity on him and let him know she had transferred to another program.
After that, he couldn’t study. He couldn’t sleep. If not for Emilio, who was back then his fellow minimum-wage security guard and three years his junior, he would have gotten fired from his job and kicked out of the MBA program. But after the third time he’d shown up for their shift switch, hungover from the night before because he’d drunk himself into a stupor over Eva, Emilio had abandoned the front desk, taken him to his nearby dorm room, and thrown him in a cold shower. From that point on, he made sure Alexei ate and studied and didn’t keep any liquor in his apartment until the worst of the heartbreak passed and he could move on.
But not forget. No, Alexei would never forget that condescending note she left on his refrigerator door. He eventually had it framed, and he kept it in the bottom drawer of his work desk in his New York offices. Whenever he felt his energy wane for the legitimate business world—which turned out to be in some ways even more cutthroat than his former crime world—he took the letter out and re-read it. That was all it took to feel his angry ambition spike again.
“I want Drummond Oil,” he told Emilio over the phone. “Set that in motion.”
A long silence came from Emilio’s end. “Are you sure about that, man? You’ve come a long way, buddy. She’s not worth going off the deep end again.”
“I know she’s not,” Alexei said. “That’s why it’s the perfect time to get my revenge. Now make it happen.”
Emilio sighed, but didn’t say anything else before hanging up. He now made more money than he could have ever dreamed of back in the day when he and Alexei had been unarmed security guards just trying to scrape by. Like most people in Alexei’s life, he didn’t poke the dragon if he didn’t have to.
Alexei hung up, just as the driver pulled into the private field from which his jet would be taking off. Oh, yes, Eva might have run, but this time she definitely wouldn’t be able to hide.
EVA ended up spending more to get on the last direct flight of the night from Pittsburgh to Dallas than she had on her entire Pittsburgh vacation package. And she’d also have to deal with the three-hour drive back to Drummond when she got in, but it was worth if it meant she’d be back with Aaron tonight.
Guilt gnawed at her, making her desperate to see him, to remind herself how much she loved him and what a wonderful life they had built together.
An image of Alexei lifting her leg around his waist suddenly seared through her mind. Without warning, she felt her pussy moisten at just the thought of him bringing her to release with her arms pinned above her head like that.
She cursed herself and her treacherous body, but it had always been like that with Alexei from the very first kiss.
She could still remember being taken by surprise when she stopped by his security desk the night before Christmas break.
“Hey, Lexie,” she’d said, tapping on his business book to get him to look up at her. She’d had to use this tactic often, because Alexei was almost always studying whenever she saw him. Unlike her, who only cracked open her books a couple of nights before a paper was due.
“I can see you’re studying and I don’t want to disturb you…” she started to say.
“You disturb me every night with the tap, tap, tap on my book while I am attempting to make study,” he pointed out. “I think this is maybe hobby for you.”
She continued on like he hadn’t said anything. “…but I know you’re going to be here all alone over the holidays, and I wanted to give you your Christmas present before I left.”
“My Christmas present,” he repeated, his usual scowl deepening even further.
“Yes,” she answered. “I’m sick of seeing you sitting around here looking like an angry bear all the time. So this Christmas I’m going to give you a hug. It’s more than obvious you need one.”
He looked up her from his sitting position, his hulkish body completely eclipsing the tiny rolling chair he sat in. “You want to give me hug.”
“No, we will not hug.”
“Boy, I am Texas born and raised. We do not take “no” for an answer,” she informed him. “Now you can either get over here and let me give you this hug, or you can argue with me. But if I were you, I’d just give in. That way you can get back to your book.”
“I am not boy.” Alexei slammed his book shut and came around the desk to confront her.
“You are friendly,” he said, pointing at her in a way that made his observation seem more like an accusation than a compliment. “You come here to say good night and make, what is it called? Small talk every night because maybe you want to be friends. You are not like me. You have many friends. And I see you also talking and smiling to other guard, Emilio, too. Maybe you are girl who does not like when man not friendly to you. But I am a man, and I do not want to be your friend. No hug.”
For a moment she stared at him in shocked silence. “Okay,” she said, drawing out the word. “Well, I think this proves two things. One, you’re really rude in a way that goes way beyond all that stuff we learned about in my Cultural Sensitivity seminar and two, you really, really need a hug.”
Before he could offer any more protest she slipped her hands under his arms, which were clenched into fists at his sides, and wrapped her own arms around his wide torso. She laid her soft head against his massive chest and squeezed as a hard as she could given their size difference and the fact that he was built like a stone statue. “Merry Christmas, Lexie—“
And that was when she felt his insanely large erection press into her stomach. She froze, her eyes popping wide.
“I told you, I do not want be friends,” he said above her, his voice quiet and furious.
For some reason, she still felt compelled to cling to him, if only to prove her point. “I still maintain that you really needed this hug,” she said, from the relative safety of his chest.
They stood there like this, her hugging him, him not hugging her back, neither of them saying anything, his erection filling the silence louder than a scream.
“You are adult woman but like kotenok, you do not listen. Like kitten, you do what you want and are surprised when your actions make trouble.”
She kept her face pressed to his chest, even though this position had become more than awkward at that point. “Am I in trouble?” she asked, her voice as shaky as her nerves.
“If you had listen when I say no, you would not have to know what you know now,” he pointed out.
“Listen more, yes. Less kitten, more listening.” Finally she mustered up the courage to draw away from him. “I’ll keep that in mind for the future, Lexie.”
She began to take back her arms, but he kept them pinned underneath his own and said in that stern way of his, “I do not think you have really learned this lesson. I must teach you.”
He lowered his face and kissed her hard and sure, cueing the all-consuming passion that would become the hallmark of their relationship. The kiss soon turned into groping and the groping turned into stumbling into a nearby supply closet where they consummated their fledgling attraction just five minutes after she accidentally found out that it existed. That had led to a less frantic session back at his place. And then Eva lost count of how many times Alexei initiated another session and how many times he sent her over the edge with his deft fingers, his tireless tongue, and his heavily muscled body that just kept going and going and going…