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Tormentor Mine(87)

By:Anna Zaires



* * *

I watch Sara sleep for a few minutes; then I quietly get up and leave the bedroom. I could sit by her bedside for hours, doing nothing more than watching her, but I have a phone call with a potential client at noon, and I have to discuss a few logistics with Anton before that.

It takes only a couple of minutes to clean up in the kitchen, and then I’m on my way, slipping out the back door to cut across a neighbor’s yard. Ilya’s armored SUV is parked on the street two blocks over, and as I walk, I pay attention to everything: the distant barking of a small dog, a squirrel darting across the road, the brand of sneakers on the jogger who just rounded the corner… The hyper-vigilance is as much a part of me now as my lightning-fast reflexes, and both have kept me alive more times than I can count.

Ilya starts the car as I approach, and as soon as I get in, he pulls out, heading down the quiet suburban street at precisely three miles above the speed limit.

He believes that blending in requires acting like a typical civilian, right down to minor traffic infractions.

“Any trouble?” I ask in Russian, and he shakes his shaved head.

“All quiet, like always.”

Unlike his twin brother and Anton, Ilya doesn’t sound disappointed as he says that. I think he’s enjoying our little stint in suburbia, though he’d never admit it out loud. Out of the four of us on the core team, Ilya looks most like the quintessential thug, with his skull tattoos and a jaw thickened by a youthful flirtation with steroids. His twin Yan, on the other hand, could pass for a professor or a banker, with his neatly pressed clothes and brown hair cut in a conservative corporate style. Personality-wise, though, it’s Yan who revels in our high-adrenaline lifestyle, while Ilya prefers to focus more on strategy and working behind the scenes.

I suspect if Ilya hadn’t followed his brother into the army, he would’ve ended up as a computer programmer or an accountant.

“Anything from the Americans?” I ask as we stop at a stoplight. Since my guys are fairly busy, I’ve been using the locals as backup security. Their job is to keep an eye on Sara when she’s not with me and alert us of any unusual activity in the neighborhood.

“No. Your girl doesn’t deviate much from her routine, but I’m sure you know that.”

I nod, scanning the row of neatly manicured lawns as we drive past them on our way to the safe house. Something is bugging me, but I can’t place my finger on what it is. Maybe it’s just that it’s too quiet, with no big jobs on the horizon and minimal progress with locating the North Carolina general who’s the last name on my list. The paranoid fucker disappeared along with his family, and he did such a good job of covering his tracks that even the hackers I retained are having trouble finding him.

I might have to go to North Carolina at some point, see what I can shake up in person.

“Tell them I want to review the next few reports myself,” I tell Ilya as we pull into the driveway of our safe house. “And tell them to expand the perimeter to twenty blocks, not ten. If anyone so much as sneezes in Sara’s neighborhood or around her hospital, I want to know.”

“You got it,” Ilya says, and I jump out of the car.

Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I can’t let anything fuck up what I have with Sara.

I need her too much to risk losing her.

* * *

She’s lounging on the couch with a heating pad and a tablet when I get home, her slender limbs gracefully arranged and her shiny chestnut hair caught in a messy knot on top of her head. Even dressed in sweatpants and an oversized T-shirt, my little bird looks like she could star in a black-and-white movie, the delicacy of her features accentuated by the loose tendrils of hair waving around her heart-shaped face.

My lungs tighten as she looks up, her soft hazel eyes locking on my face. Each time I see her, I want her, my need for her a clawing hunger in my chest. Over the past three weeks, I’ve had her so many times the craving should’ve diminished, but it’s only grown, intensifying to an unbearable degree.

I want her, and I want this—the quiet pleasure of sharing her life, of knowing that I can hold her in the middle of the night and see her across the kitchen table in the morning. I want to take care of her when she’s sick and bask in her smile when she’s well. And sometimes, when my grief wells up, I want to hurt her too—an urge I suppress with all my strength.

She’s mine, and I will protect her.

Even from myself.

“How are you feeling?” I ask, approaching the couch. I didn’t have a chance to fuck her this morning, and I’m semi-hard just from being near her. However, my lust takes a backseat to my need to make sure she’s healthy and well.