Sergei’s Birthday

Today Zeven Vasiliev was going to die. Slow. Painfull.

I swallowed my ice-cold vodka, as the first rays of light burned the sky and sparkled on the edge of the Atlantic. Yuri’s houseboat had one hell of a view. This was going to be a great day. The seagulls hadn’t begun their squawking yet and today I didn’t even mind the constant stench of seaweed and motor oil. Another drink straight from the bottle. Ninety-seven days since he ordered three of his comrades to deliver my termination notice.

With wrenches.

As if those fools—Yuri included—could’ve done my job, no finesse or imagination at all. I would’ve—

“Sergei! Thank God you’re here.”

I choked on my booze. None of my neighbors knew my real name.

The caramel-skinned-legs-for-days knockout that started this whole mess made her way down the pier. Black dress stretched across mouthwatering curves while blood-red stilettos thunked on each plank.

Devora Vasiliev.

My pulse hammered. She shouldn’t have known about this place. No one did.

“What are you doing here?” I gripped the bottle neck, readying to use it on whoever showed up after her.

“Can I come in it’s important?”

“You alone?”

Her lips pressed together and an eyebrow rose.

“Fine get inside.” I set my makeshift weapon down then pulled close the folding doors to the deck, putting a wall of glass between us and the Atlantic. And any ears listening in.

Damn she looked good. Buttery skin, thick silky hair, eyes I could swim in, and a body I couldn’t keep my hands off of for one more second. I pinned her against the glass, my hands in her hair and kissed the hell out of her. She tasted like mint and smelled like honeysuckle; clawed at my lower back and kissed me like there was nothing else in the world.

Until my Gucci trousers started to shrink.

Now was not the time to be thinking with that head. Answers first, burying myself between silky thighs later. I forced myself away and headed for the coffee pot—what I should’ve done from the beginning. “What are you doing here D?”

“I missed you. I was beginning to think you were dead.” Her heels clicked against the Brazilian walnut floors while she observed Yuri’s living room. “If it weren’t for the “early retirement” of most of my husband’s staff that is.”

“I almost was.” Stabbing pain twinged in my left side on the fourth scoop of coffee grounds. When was that ever going to heal? I grit my teeth. “How did you find me, how’d you know about this place?”

“You won’t like the answer.”

“Don’t matter if I like it or not I need to know. Now. Devora.”

“A few years ago, I gave Yuri this place to keep his fat trap shut about… something. It’s off the books and not a dump.” She rolled her eyes, sliding her fingertip along the marble mantel then flashed me a knowing look. “Given Yuri and Erik’s acute renal failure a couple of months ago, I knew it was a matter of time before you found your way out here. I mean who’s going to look for you in Jersey?”

I could guess what kind of secret warranted a houseboat rivaling a penthouse apartment.

“Then you knew Yuri was a rat.” I slid her a coffee mug before grabbing a fresh bottle of booze from the liquor cabinet—business as usual despite my blood starting to boil. Patience and self-control gained more valuable information than brute force ever did. “But it never occurred to you to mention it.”

“Zeven knew. Why do you think he kept him close?” Her arms slid around my body, hugging me like she needed me. “I’m so sorry.”

Man was not designed to spend ninety-seven days with revenge and booze as company. Of their own accord my arms closed around her shoulders, her warmth and softness seeped into my body better than the finest vodka. But I still needed answers.

I kneaded the back of her neck. “You should’ve told me. I would’ve taken care of that cancer a long time ago.”

“That’s why I didn’t tell you. Yuri may have been a snitch but as long as he got paid secrets stayed buried. ”

“You mean as long as he was paid by the highest bidder.” I had to keep my cool. Our secret could’ve still been buried had she come to me first. I would’ve disposed of him and made the boss think it was his idea all along. Yet she did nothing about it. My teeth ground together. She knew Yuri was a rat with the boss’s ear and a snitch holding onto my secret.

She moaned, nuzzling into my ministrations. “You’ve always known what I needed.”

If I did she would’ve trusted me about Yuri. My fingers squeezed harder. She was the reason I’ve killed off comrades, tipped off cops… lived on a fucking boat. She did nothing. Might as well have recorded the video herself. My pulse slowed to a steady war drum. She had to die.

“You needed to pay off the snitch.” My muscles tensed, my fingers clenching the back of her head. One quick bash to the corner of the marble—

“I did.” She chewed her lip and fidgeted with her phone, refusing to look me in the eye. “Eighty grand, it wasn’t enough I guess.”

Words would not form. I couldn’t decide who deserved my wrath more; Yuri the greedy rat, Zeven the jealous dog, or Devora the pawn.

“Right after you and I started sleeping together,” she said after the long silence between us. “I called him. You know how crazy Zeven is with me, so I wanted to pay Yuri off before he could blackmail either of us. ”

“Yeah, force feeding a man his own testicles crazy.” Heat flushed through my whole body. Was she serious? She volunteered up the one nugget of knowledge that would send the jealous psycho off the deep end? And to his personal rat no less. I paced back and forth in front of the sink. How could she have been so careless, so naive? So stupid?

“I’m sorry baby, I never thought…” Her nails drummed against her phone but she cleared the tears from her voice. “But that’s why I was hoping you’d find your way out here, why I needed to talk to you.”

A switch no man should possess flipped inside of me, shutting down any emotions. She had to die. They all had to die.

I grabbed her throat and slammed her against the refrigerator. “You did this Devora. Zeven would’ve never found out about us if you’d kept your mouth shut.”

She clawed at my hand, gasping and choking.

Her excuses and pleas didn’t matter, everyone begged. My fingers clenched tighter, pressing on her carotid arteries. There’d be bruising but I could make it look like kinky sex gone bad. Accidents were my speciality.

Her heels clattered against the floor and tears leaked from the corner of her rolling eyes. “You’re… killing… own child.”

Somehow realty snapped back into focus. I loosened my grip enough to let blood flow again. “My ch—”

Her elbow smashed down into my forearm, then she snatched the back of my neck and drove her knee into my unprepared gut. Pain exploded in my almost healed ribs, my vision swam and this morning’s dose of vodka lurched up my throat. Where the hell did she learn that? Her heels sounded like sledgehammers on the floor then there was a black and white image shoved in my face.

And a snub nosed revolver in my balls!

I forgot how to breath.

“That,” she snarled. “Is thelast time. You will ever. Lay hands on me in malice. Yuri betrayed the both of us, but that doesn’t matter.” She jerked the ultrasound closer to my nose. “This does. This is why I’m here, sixteen weeks. If my husband finds out I’m pregnant, your little beating will be a picnic compared to what he’ll to do me.”

“Maybe it’s his.”

“God you’re such an asshole. Zeven couldn’t get his dick hard if his life depended on it and since every other guy—aside from you—is too afraid to have their own forced down their throats, I don’t even get handshakes. So yeah it’s yours.”

My kid? Anyone who killed people like I did and still slept like a baby couldn’t ever be a father. If I got up her skirt then anyone else could too. Hell she could’ve printed that off the internet, she didn’t look pregnant.

“What do you want with me then? You can handle yourself. Besides it won’t matter in four hours anyway. Zeven won’t be around to care if you’re knocked up or not.”

She tossed the ultrasound on the countertop behind me but kept the gun aimed at my crotch. Dead steady. “You’re right I can handle my business, you don’t want to have a kid fine. But you’re going to kill my husband.”

“Were you not listening? I just said I’m already on it, in four—”

“Hours. Yeah I heard you. But unless you’ve developed super powers, whatever you have planned for today won’t work. He’s not at the house, or the club. He’s not even in the country.”

“Bullshit. I know Zeven’s every move, every routine, every unbreakable habit.”

“See for yourself.” She motioned with the gun at her dropped phone. “Go on pick it up and read the text.”

Slowly I followed orders. Three times I read the words. My stomach dropped into my fifteen hundred dollar shoes. Fuck, she wasn’t lying. How was this possible?

“How did I not know about this? And how the hell did you?”

“You’re very good at your job but that doesn’t mean you know anything about business.” She lowered the fancy piece but kept it at the ready by her side. The smile that had the ability to turn a man’s brain to mush spread across her still reddened lips. “See Sergei this is why you have to keep your rats well fed… and alive.”

“If you know so much then go kill him yourself.” My teeth ground together and my fingers dug into her phone. Today couldn’t get any worse; first the kid, then the chance to have my revenge yanked from my grasp.

“Like I said you know nothing about business. I have motive, the means, and every opportunity which is why you now work for me. By the way, happy birthday.”

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