The Bully (Kingmakers #3) - Sophie Lark



The Bratva high table meets tonight in a private room on the top floor of the Bolshoi Theater. This is a meeting my father cannot skip. He’ll have to leave our house on Noble Row for the first time in months.

As accustomed as I’ve become to the chaos inside our mansion, I was still shocked when I came home from school in the spring. From the exterior, the sandstone facade looked as expensive and well-maintained as ever. But the moment I opened the front door, I was hit with a wave of fetid, rotting air.

No clear path into the house remained. My father’s burgeoning collection of trash overflowed into the entryway: stacks of books, newspapers, magazines, boxes, bags, and packages piled to the ceiling in labyrinthine channels that forced me to weave my way down the hallway and up the stairs.

Where the house used to smell of dust and mold, now I had to pull my shirt up over the lower half of my face to filter out the stench of something that had died beneath the mounds of garbage. Rats certainly, and perhaps even a pigeon or a cat.

He banned the maids from the house years ago. I doubt you could offer them a king’s ransom to return.

My father hadn’t met me at the airport—I had no expectation that he would. I scaled the stairs in anger and resentment at how far he had allowed our house to continue to decay. It’s like he wants it to collapse on top of him so he can suffocate in the rubble.

I went straight to his office.

That space, at least, he had always kept clean. And he had always maintained his personal appearance, even as the rest of our home fell to ruin.

But I found him sitting behind his desk in a filthy robe, his hair down to his shoulders and his fingernails two inches long. He looked up at me, confused, with his one good eye bleary, the other milky and blind.

“What are you doing back here?” he muttered.

“School is done for the year. It’s summer holiday.”

He stared at me like he had no idea of the year, let alone the month. Then, slowly, he seemed to understand.

“They sent me your grades,” he said, nodding toward a heavy gray envelope with a handwritten report.

“I finished second in my class,” I told him.

“Who was first?”

My jaw twitched.

“Anna Wilk,” I said.

“A girl?” My father sneered.

“She’s heir to the Chicago Braterstwo. You know her father.”

Then it was his turn to flinch. We never mention Chicago. And we certainly never mention the people who live there still—not even our closest living relatives.

“Next year I expect you to place first,” he snapped.

“I intend to.”

Anna and I scored within a percent of each other on our final exams. We didn’t know who had triumphed until the results were posted in the commons.

She congratulated me as if she hadn’t beaten me.

It was the first time we’d spoken since . . . a very long time.

I still felt a tightness in my chest at the sound of her voice. My skin burned where her long, silvery hair brushed my arm as she turned away. I crushed those sensations like insects beneath my heel.

I learned my lesson from that infatuation. I will NEVER allow love to make me weak again.

I feared that my father had been neglecting his work as much as his hygiene, but the stack of ledgers strewn across his desk seemed to indicate that he at least had not forgotten how to do his job. He’s the head bookkeeper for our territory in Moscow, with a team of accountants beneath him. Lucky for him, it’s one of the few jobs in the Bratva that can be done from home.

He hates to be seen.

My father was handsome once. Athletic, charming, beloved by women of all ages. He couldn’t smile in the direction of a female without her blushing red and slipping him her phone number.

Of all the pretty girls in the world, none adored him more than his twin sister Yelena.

Then she betrayed him.

She married his mortal enemy, Sebastian Gallo.

Sebastian tied my father to a chair on the top floor of his mansion. When my grandfather threw a Molotov cocktail through the window, Sebastian left my father to die, burning alive in the collapsing house.

But he didn’t die. His lungs bubbled, his flesh peeled off, his hair burned away, and yet he survived. He was carried to the hospital where they stuffed him full of tubes and shoved an