Author Note: I did something a bit different in this book. The point of view of the story is third person, except I used italics to show the thoughts of the two main characters, Sonya and Dmitri, in their own voices. I think this gives the reader a more intimate connection to both of them. Only Sonya's and Dmitri's thoughts are written in italicized sentences, not the thoughts of any other characters. - Alyna
As a thank you for reading Mafia Bossed, I'd like to give you Offensive, a
and The Bedroom Contract, a
It was a hot September night in Tampa when Sonya started working at Sultan’s Palace. The swanky “gentlemen’s club” sat on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, a bridge built on a thin strip of land that juts into Tampa Bay on the way to Clearwater.
Sultan’s Palace sat on that narrow ridge of sand, with water on both sides, as if it were taunting the waves to wash it into the sea and cleanse the Earth of the sin and excess that occurred behind its windowless walls.
It shouldn’t have even existed, at least not on the causeway, an area meant for families and retirees to have picnics and sunbathe, to build sandcastles and drink fruity cocktails. But the club’s owner took advantage of a loophole in the law.
Technically, the city limits of Tampa end where the land reaches out into the bay. So Sultan’s Palace was built just past that point, keeping it in a legal free-for-all where zoning rules and other laws were never clear or easy to enforce.
The mayor of Tampa couldn’t do anything about Sultan’s, and the State of Florida officials way up in Tallahassee didn’t want to deal with this notorious club.
There might have been a few political bribes and free lap dances for the governor involved. There always are.
Sonya Valentina didn’t know about all that. She just knew she needed a better job than the one she had, waiting tables at a diner downtown. So there she was, Sultan’s Palace.
The sea breeze kept the nights cool enough, even in Florida’s late summer. But Sonya started to sweat as soon as she got out of her car.
Once she walked past the hanging gardens, Arabian statues and faux marble pillars outside the club, then wound her way up a spiral staircase, the breezy air turned congested and stale.
Now she was really sweating. And it wasn’t just because of the heat and humidity. She was short of breath, too.
Sonya wiped the wetness from her forehead with a napkin she found in her purse. She took out her compact and added rouge to the sticky mess that her face was becoming.
Then she sighed and shrugged. In Florida, bad hair days and melting makeup are the price you pay for a year-round tan.
She knocked on the door.
As she waited, Sonya noticed that her feet already hurt. She wasn’t used to wearing high heels, but Halim had told her they would be an important part of her attire when she was working at his club.
She knocked again, harder this time. The door was so thick and heavy, she could barely make a sound when she tapped her little knuckles against it.
She wondered if anyone could even hear her inside the club. She looked around to see if she was missing a doorbell or intercom button. Nothing.
Finally, a buzzer sounded, and a voice came through a speaker hidden in the wall somewhere over Sonya’s head.
“Who’s there?” a man said, his words garbled from static.
“Sonya. Sonya Valentina. I’m here to…” She stopped talking when she heard the intercom click off.
Confused and annoyed, Sonya made a sarcastic face and shook her head, then froze with embarrassment when she realized someone inside might be watching her on a hidden security camera.
A moment later, the door creaked open. A large man stood there. He raised his eyebrows questioningly but didn’t say anything.
The stranger standing in the doorway was Middle-Eastern, Sonya believed, because of his angular nose, dark skin and wavy black hair. He was tall, just over six feet, and had a huge pot belly that peeked out from beneath a wrinkled dress shirt.
The man finished chewing a bite of his dinner and now licked each of his fingers as he looked Sonya over. His eyes rose from her feet to her breasts, where they lingered with a hunger that food alone could never satisfy.
Sensing his desire, she blushed and stared down at the floor. She'd never been the kind of girl who revels in attention from random men.
He made a slurping sound and pursed his lips as though he were trying to suck out a piece of meat stuck between his teeth. He belched, coughed, and spat in the general direction of a garbage can.
Only then did he speak.
“Well?” he said with a grunt.
“I’m here for a job. Halim said…”
The man smirked and turned his back while Sonya was mid-sentence. He walked over to a table and sat down in front of a spread of food, then picked up a beer and took a long, slow draught.
“Go ahead,” he grumbled in a thick accent as he stuffed a piece of pita bread and roasted lamb into his mouth. “Dance.”
“Take off your clothes and dance, or get the hell out of here,” he said, his voice now loud and frustrated.
The grouchy man scowled at her as he spoke, before returning to his food and casually eating, as though he were indifferent whether this gorgeous young lady would soon be naked in front of him.
Sonya wasn’t about to jump up on a dance stage and strip, but she knew this jerk wouldn't listen to anything she said. So instead of arguing with him, she tried just remaining quiet, hoping he’d forget about her until Halim showed up and explained to him that she wasn’t going to be a stripper.
I’m here to be a… Hmm, I’m not sure… she thought.
She considered leaving, but Halim had always been such a gentleman, and Sonya would have been embarrassed to run into him after bailing out on the job he offered her. Plus, there were those credit card payments, car insurance premiums, gas, rent, car repairs, student loans…