Alexei (Her Russian Protector #8)(8)

By: Roxie Rivera

“I’ll see you around, chica.” Kylee playfully tugged my ponytail. “Make sure you bat those thick eyelashes of yours when you tell that Russian fox do svedaniya.”

She was too quick for me to whack as she scampered toward the door, her giggling lighting up the room. I stuck my tongue out at her back. There was no way in the world I was going to flirt with Alexei. The odds of embarrassing myself were too high, and I valued our friendship too much.

But as I climbed into the front seat of the work van Manny was driving, I wondered if tonight was the night I would finally break down and ask Alexei for help.

Chapter Two

Alexei Sarnov blew out a noisy breath of frustration and flopped back in his desk chair. He wiped his hands down his face and rubbed at his tired eyes. His irritated gaze landed on the computer screens on his desk. His stomach swirled like a pit of black despair as he took in the evidence of what he was beginning to fear might be an attempt at full-blown theft of his clients’ financial information.

All that money he had spent hiring Kostya’s little hacker to set up his computer system seemed to finally be paying off for him. He hadn’t been sure that investing in that blue-haired tattooed pixie was a good idea but now he thanked his lucky fucking stars he had taken Kostya’s advice. The former spy could be overly paranoid at times, but he had been right about this.

But who would be stupid enough to try to steal from me?

That question perplexed him the most. Although he had left Nikolai Kalasnikov’s mafia family and created a new, clean life for himself, Alexei still had a reputation as a brutal street enforcer and a businessman willing to cut his rivals off at the knees. When he discovered the identities of the people who had tried to compromise his clients and ruin his business? He was going to make them hurt.

For now, though, he was reassured that no client information had been stolen from the finance department. And thank God for that! He had built a solid name for himself among Houston’s elite and moneyed crowd as the go-to guy for high-end luxury vehicles. If people lost their trust in him, he would lose everything. Thinking of all the hard work he had put into growing his business empire, he experienced a wave of nausea.

He refused to lose anything. He had fought and clawed his way off the streets of Solntsevo and into the Prokhorov crime family. He had proven his loyalty and his worth and earned a spot on Nikolai’s hand-picked crew.

Later, he has used his fists and cunning to buy his way into a better life here in Houston. From one dealership, he had grown to a string of them up and down I-45 as well a trucking company, a couple of automotive parts stores and a small fleet of tow trucks and tire service shops. He had built something real and successful. He would fight to the last breath to protect that.

Still seething with fury that some stupid bastard had dared to steal from him, Alexei ignored the soft knock at his closed office door. More than an hour after closing, there were only a handful of employees remaining and he had given them explicit instructions to leave him alone. When the knock grew louder and more insistent, he shoved out of his chair and stormed across his office with forceful strides. He jerked open the door and shouted, “What?”

He instantly regretted his snarled outburst when he spotted Shay Sandoval standing in the hallway. The discovery that he had just yelled at the sweet soft-spoken beauty hit him like a punch to the gut. Those dark eyes of hers, the ones that tormented his dreams, were now wide with fear. Her luscious pout wasn’t curved with its usual smile either.

“I’m sorry,” she stammered out quickly. Seemingly shocked by his angry greeting, she shrank back and quickly retreated from his doorway. She gulped as if suddenly nervous and tightly gripped the small plastic tote packed with cleaning supplies and a microfiber duster. “I’m really sorry.”

Her gaze dropped to the gang tattoos visible on his forearms and hands. Not expecting to be bothered for the rest of the night, he had rolled up his sleeves. The inked evidence of his history in the Russian mafia were now on full display, and he was painfully aware of her reaction to them. Remembering what he knew of the men who had knocked her around when she was a little girl, he felt instantly shamed at scaring her.

“Blin,” he muttered under his breath and took a careful step forward. Thankfully, she didn’t flinch when he touched her shoulder. It was the first time he had dared to touch her so intimately. A quicksilver spark of need burned his fingertips, and he had to fight down the urge to slide his hand toward the sleek curve of her neck where he could stroke her silky brown skin. “I’m sorry, Shay. I didn’t realize it was you.”

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