Alexei (Her Russian Protector #8)(7)

By: Roxie Rivera



There were all sorts of things I was thinking but I didn’t want to believe any of them, especially not about my sister. Worried about my own position with the company that I had faithfully served for years, I asked, “Do I need to start looking for a new job, Juan?”

He seemed surprised by the question. “You’re one of my best employees. If I didn’t know about your plans to start your own business, I would push you into managerial training. No,” he said emphatically. “Your job here is yours until you don’t want it anymore.”

Relief rushed through me. “Thank you, Juan.”

He waved away my gratitude and tapped his fingers on his clipboard. “Since you’re here, would you like a few hours of overtime? I’m having hell filling a last minute cleaning call because of that concert tonight. No one is answering their phones.”

You have no idea, I thought crossly while thinking of the way Shannon was dodging my calls.

“Sure, I’ll take it.” Happy for some extra cash on my paycheck, I swiped my ID and clocked in for work. “Where am I going?”

“Sarnov Luxury Autos.”

The mere mention of the high-end dealership that sold outrageously expensive cars to Houston’s movers and shakers sent a zip of delight down my spine. An excited, tingling feeling settled in my lower belly. I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to see him again.

Him.

Alexei Sarnov.

Last Christmas, the dangerously sexy and overwhelmingly alpha businessman had rescued me from a run-in with Houston’s most notorious drug dealer, Lalo Contreras. Alexei had faced off with Ruben, his crew and my sister to save me from what had promised to be a forced double-date from hell. He had offered me his protection that night and a promise of safe harbor.

If you ever need anything, Shay, you come to me first. I'll take care of you.

His gruff, deep voice echoed in my ears, even all these months later. Since that cold, wet night, we had developed an odd sort of friendship. We never interacted outside of his car dealership and my weekly cleaning visits, but I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that if I asked for his help, Alexei would come through on that promise he had made to me.

“Hey, girl!” Kylee, my best friend, greeted me by bumping her hip against mine. She flashed me one of her bubbly, sweet smiles while gathering her honey blonde hair into a high ponytail. “You want to borrow some perfume and makeup from my kit? Because I know you want to look good for that sexy Russian fox you like to make eyes at,” she mercilessly teased.

“Hush!” I laughed it off but my cheeks were burning hot. “I do not make eyes at him.”

“Girl, please.” She rolled her eyes at me. “You’re over there blinking all pretty at him, and he’s standing there brooding and staring at you like he wants to just eat you right up.”

I squeezed my thighs together at the images her words evoked. Sometimes I let myself imagine that maybe, just maybe, Alexei was as infatuated with me as I had become with him. But those hopes died quickly when I considered how rich and powerful he was compared to me. He lived in a world that I would never understand. There was nothing good to come from crushing on a man who would never notice me.

“Do you want to come over tomorrow and see the new dresses I’ve designed?” Kylee adjusted her employee lanyard. “I’m trying to decide which two or three I’m going to include in my end of year portfolio. I could use your help choosing.”

“Sure.”

“And maybe you could loan me some of your purses and accessories for the photos?”

“I still owe you big time for loaning me the outfits for my graduation project earlier this year so consider it done. You can have whatever you want.”

“What I want is for us to finally scrape together enough money to open our own boutique,” she said before giving me a rib-cracking hug. “Because I’ve had it up to here with scrubbing urinals and mopping floors!”

“Two more years,” I reminded her. “We need two more years to save our capital, Kylee.”

She made a face but didn’t argue. Like me, she was conservative with money and terrified of debt. After watching her parents go through a humiliating and painful bankruptcy, foreclosure and an SEC investigation that had driven her father to take his own life, she pinched her pennies so hard that poor ol’ Abe Lincoln begged for mercy.

“Kylee! Let’s go!” Judy, one of the shift supervisors, stood in the doorway and waved her hand. “We’ve got a lot of stops to make before sunrise.”

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