Enslave: The Taming of the Beast - By Cathy Yardley Page 0,1

Bessonov.” His voice was warm, deep and enveloping, like a mink fog.

“May I tell him who is here?”

“Tell him I’m the owner of the rose,” he said. “He’ll understand.”

“If you could just wait here…” She knew it was rude, but she didn’t know the man, and didn’t trust his cryptic message. She shut the door, tucked the gun in the waistband of her jeans at the small of her back. Then she hurried to her father’s bedroom, knocking softly.

Her father opened the door. At sixty, he still looked good—good enough to land her stepmother, who was only thirty. He was in pajamas, his reading glasses halfway down the bridge of his nose. “What is it?”

She glanced over. Deidre was asleep, the large bump of her pregnant belly protruding against the covers. “There’s a man,” she whispered. “He said he’s the owner of the rose. He wants to talk to you.”

“The rose?” Her father frowned with irritation. “What rose? What the…”

Then, suddenly, he went ghostly pale.

“Dear God,” he breathed. “He’s here? Already?”

“Papa, what is it?”

“Where?” Her father’s voice shook. “Where is he?”

“I left him on the doorstep,” she replied. “I…”

“We’ve got to get out of here,” he said. “Are your sisters downstairs?”

“Yes,” she replied, fear now flooding her bloodstream with adrenaline. “But…”

The doorbell rang again.

Her father rushed to his pregnant wife. “Deidre, wake up,” he said, shaking her. “We’ve got to get out of here…”

There was the sound of a door crashing open. Deidre woke, startled. There was a scream. Nadia sprinted for the front door.

When she got there, she stopped. The man was standing there, beside the broken latch, in front of her sisters. Jelena and Irina cowered in the corner, holding each other, staring at the intruder. Nadia got a good look at him, and froze.

He was enormous. Easily six foot five, the man seemed to take up the entire foyer with his broad, muscular frame. Even in his tailored suit, there was something almost feral about him: an aura of leashed violence, just waiting to be released.

Then there was his face.

Angry red scars crisscrossed from his forehead, across his right eye, down the right side of his face, punctuated by a deep gash down his cheek. His eyes were a light, piercing color that seemed to hover between gray, then sea foam green, then a pale, clear blue. He stared back at her.

“Hasn’t anyone told you staring isn’t polite?”

His voice sent a shiver down her spine. He sounded urbane, sophisticated, bored. But there was anger beneath his words, a muted fury that singed her. She took an instinctive step back.

Her father hurried out in his pajamas. “I didn’t know,” her father said quickly, practically gibbering. She’d never seen him scared, not even when the Russian police had taken him to prison. “I swear to God, Roddy never told me who the car belonged to. Not until it was too late.”

“Perhaps you should have done a little more research on your own. Besides, I’ve already had words with Roddy.” The sentence, casually spoken, silenced her father immediately. Nadia sensed that the man had had more than “words” with her father’s friend and fellow car thief, Roddy Templeton.

She wondered, abruptly, if Roddy was still alive.

“You got the car back, then?” her father said, his voice hoarse but hopeful.

“Unfortunately, no.” Now the anger bubbled to the surface. “I hope you got a good deal of money, Mikhail, because that car was worth more to me than anything else I own.” He paused. “It was certainly worth more to me than the life of a sniveling, stupid thief who chose the wrong man to fuck with.”

The tension in the room nearly suffocated Nadia. This man was danger embodied. He wasn’t here to chastise, or call the authorities. He was here to do some damage.

She couldn’t allow this to happen.

She felt the cold steel of the gun barrel, nestled against her spine. Slowly, she reached behind her.

“Unless you’re positive you can kill me before I can reach you,” the man said, his eyes glowing, “think very carefully before you draw that gun.”

Nadia paused, her hand in midair. She was a decent shot, and a nine-millimeter round was nothing to sneer at. But he was possibly too large for it to actually stop him. There was also the possibility she might miss.

She waited a long second. Then, slowly, she put her hand back down at her side.

He continued staring at her, as if sizing her up. His eyes gleamed, and his scars twisted. He