She was an angel and he was an assassin.
It would be impossible to keep her. Yet, with one look, David knew he had to have the dancing angel, no matter how difficult. No matter the cost. He didn’t know who she was, but he couldn’t look away from her. She was unbelievably perfect in both grace and beauty as she swept the stage. She moved with such perfection, such grace and speed she would often trick his practiced eye – not something many people could do. He would find himself watching her move only to have to search her out because she had flown across the stage in an instant. Emotions, normally foreign to him, swept over him, holding him in thrall. His muscles clenched with jealousy, knowing that men with more wealth were looking at her now, plotting ways to have her.
Perhaps they had more money, but they did not have more power or skill than David. Russia was his birthplace, Moscow his playground. He owned these heavyweights. And he would own her. As soon as he’d taken care of business. The reason he was drawn to the Bolshoi for the evening. His eyes sharpened on a man in the audience; his prey. Unfamiliar fury washed over him as he watched the greedy soon-to-be dead man watching his dancer as she dipped and spun across the stage, her perfection impossible not to watch.
Though it pained him to leave her, even for one night, he would. She would keep. A word in the correct ear and she would be tucked safely away, his to unwrap when he was ready.
With one last, long look, he turned away from his angel and left the theatre to complete his job.
“Do’svidanya, little dancer. Until we meet.”
* * *
Tasha stared in open-mouthed astonishment at the director. He had always had a soft spot for her. Protected her from this sort of thing. Knowing that she had no connections in Moscow and that her family was poor and far away, he’d taken her under his wing and protected her from the wolves. Apparently, this was no longer true. He could be bought. Or at least intimidated.
It was common for the dancers to be ‘bought’ by rich patrons of the Bolshoi. A disgusting practice, but one that many dancers actually embraced. They would vie for the attentions of the richest and most handsome. Unfortunately, there were a few, like Tasha, who saw the practice as little more than a form of slavery.
She’d been lucky though. When she’d been a young, impressionable dancer, Sergei, the director, had taken her and kept her out of harm’s way as best he could. He’d made up a story that kept the predators at bay. He would tell them that she was already taken by a very powerful man who insisted she must remain untouched. There were often whispers amongst the other dancers, as well as the patrons, as to whom her mysterious benefactor could be. She was a lovely girl, not out of the ordinary, or so she thought, but something about the story must’ve rung true enough that no one dared question the integrity of his word. Until now.
She stared up at Sergei, dismay written across her face. “But, sir!” she cried imploringly. “I-I… what shall I do? What shall I say to him? This cannot be. What is his name?”
He shook his head sadly at her. She was one of his best dancers and he feared that he would soon lose her. There was something in the way the man spoke of her, when enquiring, that told him Tasha would soon be taken away for good. Sergei was not surprised. She was stunning. With her rich, dark reddish-brown hair, deep blue eyes and her small, graceful body, there was just something about her that was spell-binding. She told a story with the simple movement of a hand or her chin. When she danced, it was magic. What was amazing, was that it took someone this long to see through their weak story and scoop her up.
“He calls himself David.”
“Just… David?” she asked, frowning.
“He is very powerful,” Sergei informed her with a shrug.
“But I don’t understand, you don’t know anything about him?” she asked, confused. Sergei usually knew about everyone.
“Not much,” Sergei acknowledged with a sigh. “But three of the most powerful men in Russia obviously do. And all three of them called me this morning to inform me that I was to hand over my prima ballerina to this man or suffer very severe consequences.”
Tasha felt the breath rush from her lungs and heat suffuse her face. Her legs began to shake. She felt them collapse underneath her. Sergei grabbed her before she could hit the floor. He led her to a bench and eased her onto the surface, taking her icy hands in his and rubbing warmth into them. She looked up at him, desperation written across her features. It was happening to her, the thing she’d feared for so long. She had achieved her dream of dancing on the stage as principal only to have it dirtied by the dark, underbelly of the dancer’s flesh market. Why was life so unfair?
“I h-hate this David, whoever he is!” she snapped, gulping back tears of misery.
“Hush, child. Do not upset yourself,” Sergei said, stroking the back of her wrist. “I have done what I could to keep you safe over the years. It hasn’t been easy. You are a lovely young woman, talented and constantly in the spotlight. But I also have powerful friends… perhaps there is something I can do. I will do what I can to make sure you are safely returned to my theatre. Alright?”
She nodded, sniffling. “Yes, sir.”
“That’s a good girl. You must be patient and you must be very obedient to this man, Natasha. Do you hear me?” Sergei said sternly, taking her chin in his hand to make sure she was listening carefully. She nodded slowly. He hesitated, as if weighing his words carefully. “Though you have learned your place here, you still have a spark. You have passion in you, child, a temper. We can see it when you fly upon the stage, letting it loose for your audience. You must, at all costs, keep it hidden from this David. I have heard some things about him.” He weighed his words carefully, his worried eyes hovering over her features. “You must promise to keep yourself safe and not antagonize your new… this man.”
Tasha nodded solemnly. “Yes, sir, I promise.”
Twenty felt very young all of a sudden. In dancing years, she was becoming mature, but as a woman, she still had many things to learn. Both Sergei and her time spent as a principal dancer at the Bolshoi had insulated her from the outside world. She leaned forward and gave him a quick hug. He had become like a father or an uncle to her when she’d left home at the age of fourteen. For six years now, she had been solely under his protection and guidance.
Now, she was facing the terrifying prospect of being sold to a stranger.