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“Serge!” I said, out of breath and in shock.

“Miss Volkova, what are doing out of the house? You know it’s not allowed.” Serge reprimanded me, and then all I felt was pissed off.

“Serge, I needed fresh air. My fiancé and my papa are out at a titty bar. Alik’s probably screwing a long line of whores while I’m trapped inside my bedroom like a naughty child. He told me not to move or I’d piss him off, and that’s not how a good wife of a Bratva boss should act. So I needed some fresh air, okay? I’m twenty-five, I run a multimillion-dollar gambling ring made up of murderers and psychos, and I just wanted to take a damn walk on my own for once in my life!”

Serge’s face softened as I panted, my breath lost through exertion, and pulling the car to a stop, he got out of the driver’s door.

“You can’t be out here, Kisa. It’s too dangerous. Too many men wanting revenge on your papa, Alik, Abram, Ivan… Hell, take your pick! I know you feel trapped. I’m not stupid. I’ve been with you since you were little, but I can’t disobey orders or they’ll kill me.”

Dropping my head, feeling guilty at my tirade, I insisted, “I’m not going back yet, Serge. I’m suffocating under their rules. I’m drowning…” Tears filled my eyes and I tried in vain to blink them away, but I found myself whispering, “I’m miserable.”

Serge sighed and stepped forward, pulling me into his chest for a hug. “Then I’ll drive you somewhere. That way I’ll know you’re safe and you can still have some freedom.”

Tipping my head back at the bright moon, I then looked to Serge. “Fine, thank you. Please take me to the gym. I may as well get some work done if I can’t sleep.”

Serge’s face relaxed and he opened the rear door for me, nodding his approval. He slipped back into the driver’s seat, and we raced through the streets of Brooklyn. I smiled at the groups of women stumbling from bars with their friends, not a care in the world, and the couples wrapped around each other’s waists, high off being together, enjoying each other’s company—probably heading back home to make love.

I was happy for those people, but what I felt was crushing disappointment. It would never be me. I would never be allowed out with friends. I would never, could never, have a loving relationship with Alik. Jealous possession isn’t love. I knew that much. He would always control me. I was becoming so desperate to escape my fate that I was imagining a homeless fighter being the only boy I’d ever loved.

I would be a prisoner until I died… the life of a Bratva queen.

Deciding to close my eyes to any other sight that would cause me pain, I rested my head back on the seat and zoned out until we arrived at the gym.

As I opened the back passenger door, Serge tried to follow me inside to the gym.

“No, Serge, please. I want to be alone,” I pleaded.

Serge stopped in his tracks.

“Miss Volkova, you know I can’t leave you. It is forbidden.”

“I know. Can you please just wait out here until I’m ready to go home? Please… I need some time alone.”

Serge stared at me, and my stomach rolled, thinking he was going to say no, when on a sigh he shook his head. “I’ll wait in the car. If you need me, call,” he said, getting back into the cab and waving his cell to show me he was keeping it close by. Giving him a thankful smile, I unlocked the side door and entered the sparse and empty warehouse-turned-gym, switching on only minimum lights. I headed for my place of solitude, my office.

As I approached the office door, I noticed a muted glow coming from under one of the training room doors at the back of the gym. I frowned. Nobody was meant to be here. The gym had been locked and secured once all the fighters had gone to The Dungeon earlier in the day.

Someone was here.

Feeling a sense of fear run down my spine, I hurried to my office safe and, checking over my shoulder, opened a heavy door to pull out my Beretta. Papa insisted I could access one of these bad boys wherever I went—all over our house and at several secret locations here at work.

My breathing was shallow as fear took hold. I walked slowly and silently toward the back room that emitted the light. Rather too preoccupied with steadying my shaking limbs, I took little note of where I was and whose training room it was.

Standing at the door, I steeled my nerves and took in a deep breath before placing my hand on the doorknob and slowly turning it. The door creaked open.

Bringing my gun up higher, I edged through the doorway. The first thing I noticed was a mat on the floor and a thick blanket forming what looked to be a makeshift bed.

Someone was sleeping here?

Who—?

Taking me off guard, a hand slapped across my mouth. I tried to scream as I was quickly disarmed and held in an unyielding grip. Warm breath ghosted past my ears and a pit of dread opened in my stomach.

I could feel a heart pounding in the attacker’s chest pressed to my back. All I could think was that my father wouldn’t cope if I died too. He’d lost my brother, my mother, and I was now sure I was going to die here too, until my attacker rasped out, “Stop struggling.”

All the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and every muscle froze, obeying his command.

“Good,” he growled. “Don’t scream and I’ll remove my hand.”

I nodded awkwardly, still trapped in his grip. As I tried to relax my muscles, his hand gradually pulled away from my mouth. His large body stepped back from being flush to my back.

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