I had once been a cheerleader and an honor student. I wasn’t sure where my life had gone wrong, exactly, but I was pretty sure it started with the day Anthony approached me on the steps of my house when I was a kid. I had worked summers at a big cat rescue farm. I had dated normal guys in high school. Sure, my father died when I was a teen, but honestly, he had it coming. And thinking like that was probably why Karma occasionally kicked my butt really hard. Of course, if Karma had met my father, it would side with me. My father was a real piece of work. It was actually kind of amazing that I turned out this normal.
I literally grabbed the back of Vasilii’s shirt as he lead the way into the main part of the restaurant. Zeke was right behind me. I could feel him moving with us, as if he were attached via umbilical cord, which was a weird thought to have really. All the baby nonsense, no doubt still filling my brain because of Kenzie and Anthony’s new bundle of joy and all the crap with their pregnancy. I was surprised Anthony was the only one that had suffered Couvade’s Syndrome. By the eighth month, I was expecting us all to be having hormone issues and crying all the time while breaking plates and complaining about sore nipples, because we were a close-knit group. Or for all of us to get Baby Rabies, luckily only the Great Danes had gotten those, which is why I had 2 bobcats at my house with an infant whose parents didn’t seem interested in moving out right away along with Zeke’s mom and my mom and there was a reason I was in Russia. I much preferred getting shot at. Emphasis on the shot at part, I did not enjoy getting shot. I’d done that, and it wasn’t fun.
Plus, for some reason I was positive that getting shot in Russia would win me a free trip to Never Never Land and hooked on opium, not pain pills, but actual opium, smoked from a pipe or however people did opium.
My knowledge of opium use was limited to severe injuries which required Percocet and Sherlock Holmes stories.
The mob was probably hard on tourism, but I bet dead mob bosses in front of St. Basil’s was much worse. People didn’t need to travel to see dead bodies, they could find them in their home countries. Finding a dead body on vacation didn’t make the vacation better if it did make it memorable. Unless you were Malachi. Malachi Blake would probably travel to see dead bodies. When we were dating a half a lifetime ago, he took me on some weird dates, like the weekend we went to Tennessee, so we could go check out the body farm. That had been a memorable, trip but not one I had taken many pictures during. That weekend I had realized that Malachi while charming was not going to make husband material, even if my mother did like him. My goal in dating him had been to poach him from the FBI and put him to work at Daniels’ Security. It had been a great idea, but I had realized a little too late that I couldn’t work with him. He was bossy and nosy and a little malignant to be around all the time. He had a severe case of resting serial killer face, which was fine if it didn’t unnerve you like it did me. There were times I swore his expression was the same as the tiger’s when it had attacked me, and I couldn’t live life worrying that I was prey.
Because that was the world all of Daniels’ Security walked around in, except maybe Sebastian, they were either predator or prey. Until recently, I had considered myself a predator, equally as capable as Zeke or Anthony. But then the death threats had started, and I quickly realized I was out of my league. I wasn’t the predator that Zeke or Anthony was. My ability to stay alive was often the result of dumb luck not killer instincts or incredible skills. My entire life was summed up by the pearls that didn’t go around the neck that were in a plastic baggy in my pocket.
Vasilii made a noise, like he was clearing his throat. I literally grabbed the back of his shirt and pinned myself as close to my cousin as I could stand to get. It was awkward to pin yourself to family. Normally, Anthony was my human shield in these situations, but that would all change now that he had a baby at home. She looked like an alien right now, but one day, she might be cute, and I would hate for Kenzie and Nadia to continue life without Anthony. They needed him more than I did. Maybe I’d put Vasilii on the payroll. More often than I cared to admit, I needed a human shield.
Zeke stepped in close behind me. It was like being at home, with fewer attackers at one time. Nadine mentally prepared herself for this run out of the restaurant. It wasn’t the sniper, it was that everyone was taller than her and had longer legs, so she had to walk faster and over reach to keep up with them. It was a problem with Anthony and Vasilii was taller. Not for the first time she wondered why she kept coming back to Russia. It had never resulted in sniper fire before, but it never went her way either and she usually returned home starving. When she’d come over a few years ago, she’d returned home and ended up bamboozled into marriage and the trip had been nice, because she had gone on the Trans-Siberian Railroad trip, but that had been her best trip to Russia so far and this one wasn’t shaping up to go great.
Of course, she was meeting with mobsters and her own instance and request, so maybe she couldn’t complain this time, it was sort of her own fault. Then again, Tatyana Olegyvna’s freedom as an American citizen free of Russian Mob demands was at stake. Harry Burns was already in the works of pulling strings to get her asylum VISA turned into a green card. It would all be worth it if they got out of the restaurant, of that she was almost certain. Maybe she needed to spend less time around her brother. He was the Mary Poppins of the family while she was like Magneto. Her phone rang five times. She ignored it and moved with Vasilli. He was currently in charge of not getting her shot. It was important she not get too far behind him. It started ringing again. She ignored it again.
Vasilii pushed open the front door and the threesome spilled out into the street. No one shot at them. She let out a sigh. Her phone started ringing again. Again, she ignored it. A car screeched to a halt near her. She whipped her head in time to see Vasilli draw a gun from some hidden location and then she was shoved into a car without Vasilli, without Zeke. Just three strange guys that didn’t seem to want to talk. Her phone rang again. It rang until it went to voicemail while the guys gestured at her and spoke loudly.