Ultimate Vengeance (Wanted Men Book 4), page 1
Table of Contents
ALSO BY NANCY HAVILAND
WANTED MEN GLOSSARY
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A WANTED MEN NOVEL
ALSO BY NANCY HAVILAND
WANTED MEN SERIES
A Love of Vengeance
The Salvation of Vengeance
An Obsession with Vengeance
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text Copyright © 2016 Nancy Haviland
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without express written permission of the author. For permission requests, email email@example.com
Cover design by Cassy Roop, Pink Ink Designs
Editing by Kristi Yanta, Picky Editor
Sixteen months ago
Still not sure if she should be afraid or excited, Sacha Urusski rushed down the sidewalk in the Financial District in Manhattan. For once, she barely noticed the intensely focused women rushing by. She didn’t see the briefcases or power suits and smart coats. She paid no attention to the important conversations they were having on their cell phones. Typically, when visiting her boyfriend at work, those things stood out. She usually left TarMor Inc. feeling inferior due to both her unfinished degree and lack of a high-paying job.
Today she was a queen. She was the happiest, most successful woman walking these busy streets on her way to meet her equally happy and successful boyfriend.
She pushed off the niggling of unease trailing her and made an amused sound under her breath as she neared her destination. Boyfriend was such a juvenile word. She wished she could call Alekzander her lover without blushing like the virgin she’d been when they’d met. But she wasn’t quite there yet, likely never would be. She wasn’t as sophisticated as he to use the title so easily. Having come to New York from a small town in Russia just over a year ago, her accent was heavy, her grasp of English still coming along, and, if she were honest, she still sometimes felt in awe of the man who’d chosen her to be his.
Next month would mark their one-year anniversary. She smiled as she pushed through the revolving door and murmured a greeting to the regular security guards stationed at a long desk inside the entrance.
The bald one came forward. “Uh, you here to see Mr. Tarasov?” His New York accent was almost as heavy as her Russian one.
Sacha paused, nodding, too distracted by the butterflies multiplying in her stomach to question why he was engaging her. He never had before. Normally, they nodded at her, and she went upstairs without exchanging more than a good morning or evening.
“Yes. He and I— Oh.” She faltered and looked at her watch. “Has he gone already? I was to arrive at eight o’clock.” It was five minutes to. Maybe Alekzander had forgotten they were meeting here rather than at home.
He had been unusually distracted this morning. She’d attributed it to him being tired as he’d kept her up until the early hours, focusing on her in their bed in an unusually intense way even for him. He’d burst into the apartment just before midnight, causing her to fumble the book she’d been reading. He’d scooped her from the sofa without a word, taken her into their bedroom, and hadn’t let up for hours.
As wonderful as it had been, as she’d fallen asleep, more exhausted than ever, Sacha couldn’t help but feel something had been different. He’d been upset, his touch almost desperate, but because it had been so late she hadn’t wanted to press him for an explanation. Maybe he would talk to her about it now.
“No, he’s, uh, he’s up there.” The guard shared a look with his co-worker who gave an almost imperceptible shrug. “Go ahead.”
She moved to the elevator, and by the time the doors swooshed open on TarMor’s floor, the disturbing display between the men was forgotten.
What would she say? He would be happy, right? How should she tell him? Right away? Or wait until they were having dinner. She should probably help him work through his upset from last night before bringing it up. How would he react? With anger? Would he feel as if she were trying to trap him? Or would he experience the same joy she was experiencing?
Going left, she passed by the empty reception area and paced herself as she traveled the carpeted corridor that muffled the sound of her heels. She smoothed her dress over her hips, feeling that prickling in her palms and the soles of her feet that she always felt just before seeing him. Her feelings for this man were overwhelming. They had been right from the start and had never settled into something she felt able to handle. She ran her hand over her still-flat abdomen just as she reached his office door.
With her knees weakening, she took a slow breath to steady herself. He would know something was going on with her the moment he saw her. He was like that. So intuitive. He seemed to know things almost before she knew them herself. He said that was a talent of hers, but he shared it. Which was why she’d had the doctor’s appointment today. He’d arranged it because he’d been worried about her.
She reached out and turned the knob, her incredible news rolling to the tip of her tongue. A joyous smile claimed her face as she stepped into the large office that already held so many good memories.
Hundreds of fists layered her with punches. The blows landed on her stomach, chest, back, face, and head. Over and over. She blinked and choked back a gasp, and shattered into a million pieces.
In reality, she was untouched and remained whole.
A soft moan from across the way mingled with the strangled sound that escaped her at what she was seeing. Two occupants behind Alekzander’s large desk looked over. The woman stopped on the downward glide and rolled her hips as though she just couldn’t help herself. Bile filled Sacha’s throat, scorching it until her eyes watered. With the height of the desk being what it was, it was easy to see how Alekzander’s beautiful hands held the woman, her skirt bunched in his fists at her waist.
Agony poured into Sacha’s every cell. At least the woman’s upper body was still covered, which was unusual considering Alekzander was a “breast man”—if that was the correct term.
It wasn’t until her chest started to burn and little squiggly lines filled her vision that she remembered to breathe. She forced some air into her lungs and used the death grip she had on the doorknob to hold herself up as she stepped back out into the corridor. Not a word was
Why didn’t Alekzander care that she’d seen him in such a position?
Because he doesn’t care about you, a saddened voice whispered in her mind.
As she repeatedly swallowed, trying not to vomit, her heel slipped on the last step of the flight. She grasped the railing to keep from falling. Her raspy breathing sounded amplified in the empty stairwell as she pulled open the door in front of her. She needed to try twice because her muscles weren’t cooperating, but she finally got it and shuffled to the elevator as if she were a hundred years old. It took a short moment for the lift to arrived, and as she stepped into the thankfully empty car, she pressed the button for the ground floor and stared unseeing at the numbers as they flashed. Why was there no blood? She couldn’t understand it. How could these fatal injuries not be gaping wide and bleeding rivers?
She put one foot in front of the other and retraced her steps through the lobby, passing the security guards who gave her sympathetic, pitying looks—their earlier behavior now made sense. Humiliation layered over her pain as she pushed her way through the door and lifted her thousand-pound arm to call for one of the taxis speeding by. Tires chirped as the driver swung to the curb. She got in, carefully placed her purse on her lap, and mechanically gave the driver the address to the apartment she and Alekzander shared.
She was dropped in front of the luxury high-rise, and as she traveled up in yet another elevator, let herself into their quiet unit and packed only a few things, that insecure, reserved girl that lived inside her, the one who’d moved on her own from Russia to the United States with the hope of finding a good life, screamed and screamed and screamed.
Amid Christmas decorations and colorful Chinese lanterns, Alekzander Tarasov sat at the long table in the small restaurant and looked around at his family. They were celebrating an engagement. Another one.
His three best friends were wrapped protectively around their women, their contentment making everyone nearby want to kill themselves.
Or maybe that was just him.
His gaze swung away from all the happy when wind chimes tinkled, signifying the door was being used. In their line of work, it was ingrained to always be aware of who was coming and going—
The sound of rushing water filled his head. Or was that blood? Because every time this happened lately and he snapped back to reality to find himself staring at a stranger, he bled. How often had he seen her across a busy restaurant? On the street? In a passing vehicle?
In his fucking dreams?
Too many times to count.
Are you really seeing this? his brain asked calmly, forcing him to blink his burning eyes. Or have you manifested her because you need the visual so damn badly?
His head was silent for a few seconds.
And then the positive identification came, his mind whispering two beautiful words. Reverently. In a stunning relief.
Sacha. His angel. Please be real. He’d been searching for over a year for this one he’d pushed away so callously. Would have searched until the end of time. Because it had been proven that he simply could not live without her.
Even though he could barely grasp what this meant, everything in him once again centered, focusing on the woman he was destined to share his life with—
The woman who’d just turned her head, as if in slow motion, to face a man who’d come up behind her.
A man who placed his hands on her upper arms.
A man who then bent forward to drop an intimate kiss to her temple.
The roar that sounded off in Alek’s head was tortured and enraged, and without even being aware of it, he surged to his feet with his hand already closing around the nine millimeter under his jacket. A chair scraped, falling back to land on the tile, and before he could aim and take out the dreaded competition, his uncle was in front of him, blocking Alek from view of the other patrons eating their dim-sum.
“Put that goddamn gun away!” Vasily whispered furiously in Russian.
But Alek wasn’t listening. Because Sacha had glanced over at the commotion and was now staring right into his eyes with an expression of such shock, such horror, all Alek could do was try to deny he was seeing it. It should be love and tenderness in those gold eyes. This was wrong. All wrong.
And then she was turning and rushing by the man at her back, who quickly and wordlessly followed her out with a concerned expression on his soon to be inanimate face.
Alek immediately went to follow, his heart feeling as if it were tearing in half, but he was stopped by a python wrapping his neck in a tight hold and jerking him back around the corner into a narrow hallway that led to the restrooms. He struggled like a madman for a few seconds until a solid fist to the gut had him doubling over. His pride was all that kept him from vomiting on his shoes. But that’s what came after a hit from six-and-a-half-feet of impudence wrapped in a package of tattooed malice. Maksim Kirov was one of their organizations most respected and valued. He was also their resident hacker and one of Alek’s best friends.
“Sorry for that, brother,” Maks said, clearly meaning it. Then he held up his phone.
Alek pulled in some air and looked at the face of the man who’d just left with Sacha.
“Facial recognition software is fun. I’ll tell you who he is and where we can find them in five minutes, then we’ll go get her together.”
Five minutes? On top of the sixteen months he’d already waited to reclaim what was his? Fuck no!
Outwardly, he nodded, but the minute Maks let his guard down, Alek was shoving hard through the bodies in his way. A round of Jesus Christs followed him as he left the restaurant.
Moving at a smooth but steady pace down the sidewalk, he leisurely did up the button on his black Tom Ford, uncaring that he’d left his coat behind. Barely felt the frigid bite of the early December evening. He was concerned about only one thing.
He’d waited too long for this moment, and not a damn thing was going to stand in his way of getting to the one he so badly needed. Not his uncle, or his best friends; not even the woman herself, whose gloved fingers had just closed around the door handle to a sleek black Mercedes.
The volume of his voice was low, but the warning carried on the still air. As he spoke her name, his blood sped through his veins, energizing him, bringing him out of the death sleep he’d been in since he’d last seen her.
“Do not open the door.”
Her back went rigid at his quiet order spoken in Russian, and remained that way when she turned her head. Their eyes met, and Alekzander’s chest filled as that connection immediately breathed life into the walking corpse he’d become. A rich gold in color, and tipped up just slightly at the outer corners, her eyes had never failed to draw him in. One shy glance and he was lost.
She let go of the handle just as he reached her.
And so it was on the sidewalk outside a small Chinese restaurant in lower Manhattan that Alek came face-to-face with his soulmate again for the first time in sixteen months. Sacha Urusski. The innocent girl whose heart he’d broken.
And it was there that he fell in love all over again. Fell with a shattering speed. He landed, broken and bleeding, which was a state he’d become too familiar with in the time they’d been apart.
He covetously took in the fair skin and the fragility of her jaw, and stared openly at the bow lips that were the softest he’d ever known. Her nose was dainty but was blessed with some character in the form
They stared through the cloud their exhalations produced in the cold air between them. Neither said a word. But then, that had been their way. Words hadn’t always been necessary.
They’d met over two years ago when he and one of his friends had gone to a small diner after having attended a funeral. Sacha had been his and Gabriel’s waitress. Alek had taken one look at the angel—literally, as it had been the end of October and she’d been in wings and a halo for Halloween—and he’d known. Known without a doubt that she would be his. The rush of it at that moment had been so spectacular he’d refused the very idea of leaving that grungy little place without her. And he hadn’t.
Fast forward eleven months to a heinous week spent deep in the family business. The dark week where his cousin’s wife and son had been taken by a rival family. Renee and Evan had been snatched from a local soccer field in broad daylight, and even though the organization had swiftly put together a search and rescue, it had been too late. Mother and son were sent back to Sergei, brutalized, unrecognizable. Alek’s control had fled, his emotions taking over. He’d followed through on an impulsive, fear-driven plan to get Sacha away from even the possibility of something so inhumane and vicious happening to her. His means, though cruel, had been successful; he’d annihilated their relationship with one solid blow. He’d given up his life, to ensure she was able to live hers.
It looked as if that’s exactly what she’d been doing. He could see her date in his periphery, looking over the roof of the car with interest while Alek looked at Sacha with wonder and she looked at Alek with apprehension.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you leave.” Alek kept the conversation between him and Sacha by sticking to Russian. He wanted to vindicate himself with the truth right then, to convey his mountainous regret without the million words it would take, but he had to content himself with offering his hand, palm up. “I’ve been—”
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