Home > Russian Tattoos: Obsession (Russian Tattoos #1)

Russian Tattoos: Obsession (Russian Tattoos #1)
Author: Kat Shehata



Chapter 1

 

 

Crooked

 

The old Camry turned onto a narrow driveway, overhung by naked tree branches, and stopped in front of a wrought-iron security gate. Dad popped a handful of mints into his mouth, then pressed an intercom button to announce our arrival. A buzzer sounded, and the gate opened. With barbed wire surrounding the compound and the elaborate security measures, it seemed more like a maximum-security prison than a private residence.

Dad rolled the car forward and eyed me in the rearview mirror. “Thanks for giving up your Friday night, Carter.” He has one of those round, jolly faces that put people at ease, but since his layoff, it was rare to see him smile. “Vladimir is anxious to meet you.”

“No problem. Campus is boring on the weekends, anyway,” I lied. I had no clue why some Russian billionaire had to meet me before he offered my dad a job, but since Dad had been unemployed since the spring, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

“Fair warning, your dad’s been bragging about you,” my stepmom, Karen, said.

The tires crackled on the gravel as we inched our way toward a humungous estate—grander than any of the houses we had passed on the road. It was hard to imagine a twenty-seven-year-old techie could afford this swanky mansion.

“Where did you meet this Russian genius?”

“Funny story. He was behind me in line at Starbucks and noticed a logo on my computer bag from an IT conference I’d attended last year. We got to talking and it turns out he’s hiring a CIO, so I gave him my business card. I know it’s a big jump from my last job, but…”

I patted his shoulder assuredly. “It must be fate. He’d be crazy not to pick the greatest, uh, IT wizard, programmer, tech support, computer fixer guy ever, right?”

Karen put her hand on Dad’s leg and squeezed his knee in support of my mini pep talk. Her lips quivered, and then she tilted her head up, blotted her index fingers under her eyes, and flipped down the visor to check for mascara smears. Our financial situation had reached the tipping point. Dad had to get this job.

“There’s a peacock.” I tapped on the window.

I guess the bird heard me, or maybe it was afraid of the car, but it cawed and escaped to the safety of a low-hanging tree limb. It sounded totally freaked out.

Beware. Turn around. Run for your lives…

At the top of a flight of marble stairs, a scowling butler opened the double mahogany doors and swept his arm forward, but didn’t utter a word. His invitation skills could use some work. The scent of burning firewood greeted us in the entryway, which was illuminated by an impressive crystal chandelier that hung above our heads. If it fell, it would kill us all.

The butler handed us house slippers in exchange for our street shoes, a Russian thing, I surmised. I changed out of my flats, and a domineering man with bushy eyebrows met us in the foyer. His body was so massive, I bet he could bench press ten of me.

“Good evening Mr. and Mrs. Cook. I am Boris Chuchin, Vladimir Ivanov’s personal assistant.” His creepy Russian accent was so thick, I could barely understand him. Dad introduced Karen and presented Boris with a bottle of wine I was certain cost more than our weekly grocery budget. Boris didn’t smile or nod or even pretend to give a shit about the wine—or Karen.

“And this is my daughter, Carter.” Dad put his hands on my shoulders and nudged me toward the big guy like he was serving up some tasty offering to appease the Village Giant.

Boris, who resembled a buffalo standing on his hind legs, let out a humph sound and glared at me like I was something nasty Dad had dragged into the master’s house on the bottom of his shoe.

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Ch-ch-chuch—” I held out my hand.

“Boris.” He stroked his bristly salt and pepper beard and eyed my hand like I had bird crap splattered across my palm. “I will let Vladimir know you have arrived.” He narrowed his eyes at me and then left to fetch his boss.

Jeez. Are college girls germy plague-carriers back in Russia?

As we waited, a black and white drawing of a woman with a lopsided face caught my attention. The picture hung on the wall next to an office to the right of the foyer. I squinted to see the signature: Picasso. The genius could afford anything he wanted.

From across the room, Boris opened a set of French doors, and Vladimir breezed into the living room with the confidence of a sexy, expensive-suit-wearing, long and lean Russian god.

“Ricky, my friend.” He cruised over to Dad and greeted him with a smile and a handshake like they had known each other for years. His perfectly tousled blond hair was slicked back in a devil-may-care manner, and soft ringlets congregated above his crisp, white collar. I made a mental note to sneak a picture of him for my best friend Kiki. I did not possess the vocabulary to do this sexy Russian justice.

Dad introduced Karen, and then Vladimir directed all his energy down on me. His stare was intense and his blue eyes lit up with adoration as though he recognized me. “Privet, Miss Cook.” His words were laced with a delicious Russian accent. “Your papa speaks highly of you. It is a pleasure to meet you in the flesh.”

Flesh. I felt my cheeks warm. “Nice to meet you.” I offered my hand for a businesslike shake, then pulled it back when I recalled Boris’s grossed-out reaction to my gesture. Vladimir’s lips curled into a smile. He lifted my hand. The warmth of his touch, the scent of his expensive cologne, and the rush of nervous excitement that his lips were about to make contact with my skin made my belly tingle with anticipation.

“Champagne?” Boris slid in between us with a silver tray glistening with five flutes of liquid gold, momentarily breaking the spell his boss had over me.

I inhaled a shaky breath and glanced away, embarrassed by my reaction to Dad’s incredibly hot, potential new employer. Vladimir placed his other hand on top of mine and patted it apologetically. “Pardon me for staring, but you have your sister’s beautiful hazel eyes.”

I blinked like a clubbed seal. “How do you know my sister? She’s dead.”

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

Neverland

 

Vladimir straightened his back and relaxed his penetrating stare. “My apologies, Miss Cook. I should have been more sensitive. The accident—such a pity.”

A pity? Sophia went up in flames.

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