The Promise (The Darkest Lies Trilogy #2) - Bethany-Kris

ONE

The mind was a messy thing.

A fickle thing.

Karine’s was even worse. Her hair blew in the breeze coming through the rolled-down window, while she kept her face turned away from Roman because she didn’t want to meet his eyes. The intensity she always found staring back from the striking blue gaze distracted her in ways she couldn’t explain, and the last thing she needed was to drown in them.

Hell.

She was already drowning in herself, after all—in her mind, the hellscape was a dying carcass circled by the vultures that were her thoughts. Things she didn’t want to see, others that she’s worked so hard not to know ... she couldn’t possibly deal with an overwhelming man, and the violent currents inside her mind at the same time.

Karine also didn’t know what to say to Roman without it sounding like an attack. Instead, she remained silent, her stare locked beyond the window at the passing scenery whether she was actually seeing it, or not.

So did Roman.

The only sound came from Masha’s soft, rhythmic inhales and exhales from the backseat. She seemed content to sleep, probably the longest stretch of rest she had for the first time in decades. It was also entirely possible that she had helped herself to the pills she used to ply Karine with—they did say what was good for the goose was good for the gander.

Every time Karine glanced in Roman’s direction, she found him glaring at the black patch of road stretching on ahead of them. A hardness had set into his handsome features that made her pause with each glance she stole his way. He gripped the steering wheel tight until his knuckles turned white, and his mouth shut. The entire drive had been that—it felt like.

Unbearable silence.

Unexplained anger.

She didn’t know how much further they had to go—never mind where he planned for them to end up. He rolled into her life at the worst possible time, seemingly unaware but too curious and interesting for his own good, and she barely knew him at all.

Except she wanted to.

A dangerous thing for someone like her.

Karine almost had to wonder what was broken inside Roman Avdonin that made him do the things he’d done. What he still was doing, even. It would have made sense—maybe—if the other woman who hid within herself was one who had lusted after and seduced him, and then spent the night with him.

Karine would be lying if she said a part of her didn’t blame him. That didn’t change how she felt sitting beside him, not knowing where they would go—safe. She had no choice but to trust him now.

What else could she do?

“Are you scared?” Karine suddenly asked, breaking the silence that had become something else that was just too much for her to handle. Yet, it was also something she could control.

And maybe if he talked, then that loudness in her head might quiet. If only for a moment ... God, she’d take a single second.

Roman didn’t have a particular reaction to that question—almost like he had been expecting it. “Scared of what?”

The way he grumbled the words had her blinking back in response. His rumbling annoyance didn’t seem to be directed at her asking, but she still shrunk subtly back like it might be. Roman chanced a quick look her way, his shoulders gently rising at the tilt of her frown, before he continued to concentrate on the road ahead.

“Sorry—I’m just tired,” he said.

Karine let out the breath she’d been holding and nodded. From the corner of her eye, while she stared at his chiseled profile, she noticed the New York State sign zoom past.

“I meant them—back in Chicago,” Karine replied, softly. “Are you scared of them?”

That was all she needed to say for him to know exactly who she was talking about. She didn’t really think he needed a clearer picture.

“I didn’t realize I had any reason to be afraid of them,” Roman murmured.

Karine swallowed the lump that formed in her throat, promising to keep her fears locked tight in her chest, thumping there with every beat of her heart. He didn’t know what he was talking about—he still said it with enough confidence to convince someone else he might.

But not her.

Even if she wished he could.

Maybe he genuinely didn’t know how things operated in Chicago, but Karine’s entire life had been an unfortunate lesson in the topic. Her father might be distracted with the plot to assassinate him, but it was only momentarily. She was supposed to marry