Please, finish that sentence.
Shit. Glancing at my phone, I see the alarm is still active. I tear my gaze from the screen sitting on the passenger seat of my cocaine white Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4 Spyder to focus on the road in front of me. I’m still two minutes out, dammit…hang in there, Ruby…I’m coming.
I pull up to the gate guarding my home and enter the code into the keypad. I can barely keep my shit together as it begins to swing open. The wheels of my car spin in the direction of my front door the moment I’ve got an inch of space on either side of my mirrors.
My mansion comes into view, and I see two doors are wide open: the entry into my home, and the driver’s side door of my Mercedes GL550, which is parked in the driveway. Fuck. This doesn’t look good.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been living in a spare room at my boss’ place, because Ruby is living in my house. Who is Ruby? She’s the girl I saved from the clutches of a gang who dealt in drugs and other bad shit, like kidnapping women and using them to make snuff movies.
The moment I laid eyes on her, lying in a bed with an IV in her arm, I knew. I felt it in my bones she was meant for me. But, some fucked-up circumstances followed my gallant rescue, ripping us apart. By this I mean I had to do my job as the second-in-command in the Dudnik Circle. Some necessary actions resulted in me breaking her trust. It was those circumstances that got in the way of claiming her as mine.
She has no one left in this world. We did a background check the day we rescued her. Ruby’s parents died when she was little. She was thrown into the system and was bounced around until she was standing on her own two feet. Working her ass off to earn enough cash to keep going. Clearly not enough, because in the end, she lost her apartment.
I made the decision to give her the keys to my house. I made that choice because I had to know she’d be safe. Like I said; that was the only way I knew she had a roof over her head, and a secure one at that. I even monitor the house with an app on my phone that’s connected to my security system. I like to be informed. I need to know if and when something is up.
That something is now. The fucking alarm went off seven minutes ago, and I broke a land speed record to get here as soon as possible. Jumping out of my car with my Glock in hand, I bolt for the door. Silently, I sneak my way through the foyer.
A few bags of groceries are strewn across the floor. Ice races through my veins when I spot shards of glass shattered all over. I hear water running in the other room, and I follow the drops of blood trailing in that direction.
I’m dodging pickles on the granite tiles beneath my feet to get into my own fucking kitchen. Shaking my head at the floor I glance up and that’s when I see her. Ruby is bent over the sink, holding her hand underneath streaming water. Her head is turned away from both me and her hand.
“What the hell happened?” I growl.
She spins around and yanks her hand out from under the water. Now I can fucking see the cause of the mess everywhere. A piece of glass is jammed in her hand, sticking out far enough to see it from across the room.
“Oh, Little Spitfire.” My voice softens as I place my Glock on the kitchen counter and stalk toward her.
Ruby’s face is pale but her eyes indicate she’s glad to see me. Thank fuck, considering she’s been fighting me ever since I betrayed her trust. My hands cup hers and I study the piece of glass that’s lodged in her palm. Doesn’t seem to be in there that deep, but damn, what the hell do I know?
I reach for my phone, only to find it’s not in my pocket. Dammit, I must have left it in my car. The sound of footsteps reach my ears, and I’m immediately on edge. Spinning around, I grab my Glock in a fluid motion only to find the one I’m holding at gunpoint is none other than Nathan, the doctor for our gang; The Dudnik Circle.
“Mind aiming the pointy end somewhere else?” The idiot doesn’t even appear to be scared. Hell, he looks close to rolling his eyes.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I spit back, not moving an inch.
Ruby’s sweet voice flows from behind me. “I called him, Studly. Can you please let him help me now?”
Dammit. I can’t think straight when there are guys around her. Especially Nathan. How the fuck can she call him and not me? Because he’s a fucking doctor, that’s why. But for real, she hated him for giving her a sedative. Okay, I asked him to, and that’s why she hates me more.
When we saved her, she had been drugged. Hours later, I stooped to the same level by giving her something to make her sleep against her will. It was necessary for the circumstances and done without malice. She was still adjusting from being rescued out of the hands of those snuff film making scumbags, who kept Ruby’s mind numb by drugging her.
When I found Ruby, she latched on and wouldn’t let go. I needed to handle a life or death situation that involved my boss and I had no other fucking choice. Ruby was freaking out and wouldn’t calm down. I am second-in-command and needed to leave but I had to keep her safe and handle things at the same time. So yeah, I lowered myself to scumbag level and ordered Nathan to sedate her. Knowing it would screw up my chances for a future with her.
It doesn’t mean shit that I did it to protect her, so I could go after that same fucking gang who’d kidnapped her. We wiped the whole gang out, once and for all, so she won’t have to look over her shoulder for the rest of her life.
With resentment, I holster my Glock and let Nathan pass. He places his bag on the kitchen counter and reaches for her hand.
“I’m gonna go grab my phone from my car.” I mumble as I walk out, putting distance between us, because dammit, I might shoot the guy for touching her.
Even though the contact is meant to help, my mind can’t seem to tell the difference. She’s mine…except she isn’t, because we’re not together. She’s still holding a grudge, and I respect that. I knew I blew my shot with her the moment that needle entered her skin. I sound like a broken record, but shit…I only did it because I wanted to protect her.
She may not think she needs me now but I sure as fuck will be there for whatever she may need in life. Like I said, my mind can’t tell the difference. I’m hers, whether she wants me or not.
After I’ve closed the doors of both cars and calmed a bit, I walk back inside the mansion. I tuck my phone inside my pocket and saunter through the hallway. I can hear them talking softly and see Nathan close his bag as I approach.
“That was the last set of results we were waiting on. You’re all clean and in the clear. Well, as long as you don’t do anything foolish, like try to catch pickles in a jar that exploded, and you’ll live.” Nathan chuckles.
“What the fuck are you talking about, in the clear?” They both stare at me and their expressions indicate it’s something they kept from me.
Nathan speaks first as he walks past me. “Medical shit, Yegor. She wanted a full rundown. Like a woman gets when she might have been raped.”
My vision flashes red. In the blink of an eye, I grab his shirt and I spin him around. His back hits the wall as his bag slides across the kitchen floor.
I press my gun against his forehead. “Your hands were on her pussy?”
“Oh. My. God.” Ruby gasps behind me.
“Stay out of this, Ruby.” My voice is rough but I am trying to hold on.
“I’m a doctor, you idiot. I don’t even see it like that. It’s work.” He fires back at me.
Preventing a fucking eye roll, my gaze stays locked. “Oh, yeah? So you never bury your cock in one? Slide your fucking tongue through it to taste sweet cum after you make a chick tremble through her orgasm?”
“Oh. My. God.” Her voice trembles, but it’s surely not from being afraid I might pop a round in the doc’s head.
“Stop fucking saying that, Little Spitfire. Especially when it’s laced with fucking awe, dammit.” I growl while my hand starts to tremble.
Hell, with Ruby’s history? How the fuck can she be turned on by my fucking words while I’m holding a guy at gunpoint?
“You will never put your hands on her again. Am I clear?” My voice is deadly.
The idiot chuckles. Chuckles. I push myself off him in one swift move, creating more space between us. I raise my aim slightly, and fire a round, inches from his head. “Am I making myself clear right fucking now?”
The dude steps away from the wall and looks behind him. “Yeah, I think you made your point… or hole, for that matter.”
The fucker still thinks it’s all a joke? The next second, a shot rings out and he drops to the floor, holding his leg. Yeah, totally nailed a bullet in the idiot who thinks I’m not serious.
“Fucking idiot! You’re one of the most…”
I take aim right between his eyes. “Please, finish that sentence.”
“Well, never fucking mind now. Give me my damn bag, asshole.” Even though he’s in obvious pain, he glares at me.
Ruby appears next to him with his bag and crouches down. A flash of fear trails in Nathan’s eyes. Yeah, fucker, glad to see my message came across this time.
“Thank you, Jude. Now step away, please.” Nathan averts his eyes and starts to patch himself up.
Double points for the fucker, backing off, calling my woman by her birth name, Jude. Not Ruby, the one I gave her, because she’s got the brightest ruby-red hair. I know it’s dye, but who the hell cares? It suits her fucking perfectly. With her pale skin and those bright green eyes that show just a hint of gray, it really stands out.
He finds his phone and brings it to his ear. “Can you drop by Yegor’s place and come get me? No, I fucking can’t….just come here and you’ll see….fine.”
He drops the phone in his bag and leans his head against the wall. “You need to tell him, Jude. Clearly, you have to step over the issues you hold against him and let him in. You know that, right?”
I throw a glance over my shoulder and I find her studying the floor.
“I know…and I will. I see that now.” Ruby releases a deep breath.
“So thankful to help out, you know…by taking a freaking bullet in the leg. Took you long enough to realize it’s him you need to turn to.” Nathan grumbles with his eyes closed.
The fucker is lucky I already shot him and he can’t see the tear sliding off Ruby’s pale cheek. Stepping forward, I risk rejection and pull her against my chest. The way we’ve been firing off arguments at each other, there’s a possibility she’ll kick me in the nuts or punch me in the face, but I will take that chance. She's got an injured hand, and she’s fucking crying. I’m unable to resist.
Ruby doesn’t return the hug, but she lays her head against my chest and leans into me. My heartstrings tug. I should never have given her space. Even if it meant that she would hate me more than she already does. I regret stepping away for those few weeks. Clearly, there’s something going on beyond dropping pickles and cutting her hand in the process.
“Come on, Ruby. If you can make some coffee or tea or some shit, I’ll clean up the hallway.” I murmur against her hair.
Squeezing her once more, I regretfully step away. She doesn’t even grace me with one word but walks to the stove and grabs a little pan sitting on an unlit burner. Holding it under the tap, she fills it with water.
“What are you doing?” I wonder out loud. Because usually, one would either make coffee with the machine or use the kettle for tea.
“Making ginger tea.” She throws over her shoulder.
Ginger tea. That shit burns in your throat. I shake my head and walk towards the closet to get a broom and start cleaning up the shards of glass in the foyer. I have a cleaning company come by twice a week, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do things myself. Normally, when I’m called in to clean up a mess…I make it even worse before everything becomes squeaky clean. But that type of cleaning involves bodies instead of pickles.
It doesn’t take long before I see Ford walking into my house with his wife, Tarzan, close behind. “Mind telling me why Nathan called me to come get him?”
“Probably ‘cause I shot the fucker in the leg.” I shrug, not feeling remorseful in the least.
Ford snorts. “Just the leg, huh? Lucky. Where’s he at?”
See? That’s why he’s the boss and I’m his right hand. Our background runs deep. Hell, he didn’t even care that I wasn’t full-blood Russian when he made me second-in-command. Trust isn’t a word, it’s something that’s rooted deep into your whole being. It’s built up through years, with actions, behavior, and shit like that. That’s why he doesn’t question my motivation.
And yeah, the fucker is lucky. I always aim for the head when my Glock comes to play. “Kitchen.”
My boss, the head of the Dudnik Circle, strolls toward my kitchen.
Tarzan’s gaze hits mine. “Ruby okay?”
Again…see? I don’t mind Tarzan calling her Ruby. Tarzan is one hell of a tough woman and also my boss. Her gang merged with ours and instead of choosing a leader, we have two. Yes, Tarzan was the head of her own gang. She’s damn impressive with ropes too so don’t get on her bad side.
“She dropped a glass jar and cut her hand. I have a feeling something’s up though because Nathan was talking to her, and I kinda flipped when he mentioned something about test results.” My hands disappear into my pockets.
Tarzan steps closer and drops her voice. “Lock up your weapons and the door, be sure to hand Ruby the keys when she starts to talk…and fucking listen to what she has to tell you, okay? Keep calm. That’s all I’m gonna say.”
Fuck. That’s two damn people she talked to about whatever it is that she’s keeping from me. Tarzan and Nathan. Not me. Fury starts to build inside my body, piling up and flowing through my veins.
“Keep calm.” Tarzan repeats in a fucking sing-song tune before she goes in search of her husband.
I’ve been standing on the fucking sideline for what feels like forever. Giving her space, and now I wonder why. Keep. Calm. Calm. Can you eat it that shit? No. Then why the fuck should I keep it then?