Enslave: The Taming of the Beast - By Cathy Yardley
“My life is over!”
Nadia Bessonova tried not to roll her eyes as her youngest sister, Irina, wailed. She shot a quick glance at her elder sister, Jelena. Jelena was the picture of patient suffering, listening intently to Irina’s tale of woe.
“It’s been over a month,” Jelena finally said, her voice soft and modulated. “It can’t have gotten worse, Irina darling. We’ll figure something out.” She paused, then added hesitantly, “You might want to keep it down. Deidre is trying to get some sleep, and with the baby coming…”
Irina’s nose wrinkled at the mention of their stepmother. “Always Deidre,” she muttered. “Jelena, why can’t I stay at your house? You’ve got more than enough room in that mansion.” Irina cast an irritated glare at Nadia. “It’s too crowded here. I can’t turn around without tripping over someone, and forget about privacy. It’s as bad as being back in the Ukraine.”
“Hardly,” Nadia said, her irritation rising. Irina had only been a child when they had truly hit rock bottom in the Ukraine. Nadia hadn’t been that old, but she could still remember it clearly: the freezing cold, the packs of wild dogs roaming the streets. “Sharing a three-bedroom house in Las Vegas is better than sharing a single room in Kiev. It could be worse.”
“Don’t give me your ‘we’ll work through it, we’ll survive it’ speech, Nadia,” Irina said sharply in Russian. “You’re not the one whose wealthy husband just dumped her for an eighteen-year-old Chinese girl, fresh off the boat.”
“He married you when you were an eighteen-year-old Russian girl,” Nadia pointed out. “Really, how surprised could you have been?”
Irina yowled in protest, and Jelena stepped between them. “This is getting us nowhere,” she said, her voice sharp and imperious as only extreme confrontation tended to bring out in her. “We need to focus. Thanks to Irina’s prenuptial agreement, our family won’t be getting the monthly stipend from him.”
“Bastard didn’t even let me take the jewelry to pawn,” Irina muttered.
“So,” Jelena continued practically, “we just need to figure out a way to make up the difference.”
Nadia nodded, sighing. Especially with the baby on the way. The family survival depended on them.
Irina looked shrewd. “Maybe your husband, Jelena…”
Now it was Jelena’s turn to sigh. “I will ask,” she murmured. But the tension etched small lines at the corners of her eyes, making her look older.
“You just don’t know how to handle him,” Irina sniffed. “If he were my husband, I’d screw him like crazy until he’d do anything I wanted, then show him who was really boss in the household.”
“If he was your husband,” Nadia muttered, “he’d be changing the locks after picking up his mail-order bride catalog.”
“Nadia, how’s father’s import-export business doing?” Jelena asked, quickly changing the subject. “He acted like the caviar alone would make us some money.”
“It’s not going quite as well as we’d hoped,” Nadia said, pushing aside the gnawing fear that had been eating at her for months. “But that’s about to change, apparently. Papa said something about getting a big influx of money, by the end of the week.”
“Really?” Irina looked hopeful. Nadia could almost see her developing a wish list in her head. Or, rather, a shopping list.
Jelena, on the other hand, narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “Did he say from where?”
Jelena’s eyes widened. “He wouldn’t,” she breathed. “Not again.”
“Of course not.” Nadia fidgeted, wandering around the sparsely furnished living room. “He promised.”
The doorbell rang.
The girls were on their feet. Jelena asked, glancing at her watch, “It’s ten o’clock at night. Were either of you expecting anyone?”
Nadia’s stomach clenched. Nothing good ever came from late-night visitors. Either it was “business associates” of her father’s, who were angry about something, or police showing up to cart him off to jail. Neither choice was appealing.
He swore he’d stopped stealing cars, she thought despondently. Why do we keep believing him?
The doorbell rang again, insistent.
“I’ll get it.” Nadia strode to the front door, looking out the peephole as her heart started to hammer with dread. The outside light was broken: she could barely make out a looming shadow. She swallowed hard.
The doorbell rang a third time.
She went to the small table in the foyer, where she normally dropped her keys. Opening the drawer, she pulled out a Beretta nine-millimeter, holding it behind her back. Then she opened the door with her other hand, keeping the chain latched.
“Can I help you?”
The shadow was immense. His eyes gleamed, but everything else about him was masked in shadow. “I’m here to see Mikhail