He curled his fingers around the phone, barely restraining himself from snapping it in two. “What’s going on?”
“Come downstairs and I’ll tell you.”
He stood at attention. Shoulders back, eyes forward, and alert. A soldier responding to his commander. “You’re here?”
“I’m here,” Rurik answered and hung up the phone.
Through the steamy shower door, Jessalyn lathered soap into her skin, more mirage than woman. A dream? A nightmare? His eyes narrowed as he dispatched his heart, ignoring its wild protests as he deported it back to its void. Where. It. Belonged. “Fuck.“
Jessa’s sweaty hand grasped the banister. She pressed her palm under her ribs to settle her stomach’s quaking. Her heart descended, dropping lower with each step she took downs the stairs. She’d been shaking ever since he’d summoned her to his office. His voice was as cold and flat as when she’d first met him. No, that wasn’t true. He’d been silent and watchful. But not cold. The opposite, in fact, with his flaring eyes, when he thought she wasn’t looking. And then when he caught her stare, his fathomless back eyes had not retreated. They’d scorched her until she looked away and even then, she’d burned. No, he’d used the monster she’d met in the desert’s voice. The Sanyet with no mercy. No forgiveness and no passion. The one who’d ended Petur’s life and then coolly lifted his gun to take hers as well.
What happened? Was it about last night? It had to be. Somehow, he knew about her phone call. Certainty shivered down her spine, sending goose bumps along the way.
She’d tried to confess last night. But she’d cowardly accepted when he’d brushed it aside. Allowing herself hide behind his words. When he’d said, he wanted the night to be about their body’s their attraction. They’d tried to trust each other. Or at least each other’s body. She’d given herself to him. No barriers. No walls between them, and he’d done the same. Hell, they hadn’t even used protection. And she’d never had sex without a condom before. Even though they’d had an expedited medical checkup in the week before they married. It still took a boatload of trust to fuck a man bareback. Maybe the trust experiment had been all on her side. He was teaching her. No, training her to trust him. She froze mid-step. Had he trusted her in exchange? Damn, had it all been one-sided? She took a deep breath and another step. No, he’d given her something. He didn’t usually share those details about his life. He’d opened himself a little. More than a little. Why had he closed the door now? Everything had been okay until he had gotten that phone call. How could one call change everything? But then, with her one phone call, hadn’t she tried to do the same?
He met her at the base of the staircase. He and his brother were accompanied by another man standing beside them. His dark hair and eyes were a perfect match to Sanyet’s and Rurik’s. He must be family. Shit. Not good. Rurik’s eyes were as cold and hard as his brother’s, and Hannah wasn’t there to stand between them today.
“Good morning,” she greeted the two. Her hand gave a subtle stretch towards Sanyet’s. Just a pinky-flicker in his direction, but Sanyet didn’t move. Her heart completed its descent. And her hand slunk back to join its partner, the two clasping together in front of her body.
Rurik answered. “Jessalyn, this is Venedikt. Another of my younger brothers.”
Venedikt grunted but didn’t extend his hand to shake hers. Sanyet’s eyes narrowed and glared before she dropped it back to her side. Was everyone afraid to touch her? One look at Sanyet’s granite face answered. Probably. She studied Venedikt. He had the long square distinctive features of his brothers’. Hard jaw, dark black eyes with not even a glimmer to lighten the pupils. His nose had a crook and a bump, as if it had been broken more than once. But it was the press of his lips into one flat line that told her. There’d be no mercy coming from him. The three stone faces watched her like hawks on a wire watching mice. There’d be no mercy form any of them.
“If you could stop ogling my brother. We can get to it.” Sanyet growled.
She clenched her fists. Wanting to sock him and fix what was wrong at the same time. “Get to what?”
“Who did you call last night, and why?”
Three pairs of ebony-coal eyes locked on hers, hog tying her in different directions and then pulling her apart. Shit. “I… I… don’t.”
“Jessa,” shit nobody called her that but family. She swung to Venedikt, who’d leaped up the dangerous ladder above the other two. No easy feat. “Jessa, my brother didn’t finish introducing me. I am in charge of information security. I track, I surveil, I protect. Watching my family and everyone they meet. I make sure that no one harms them.”
“He’s our bird in the sky,” Sanyet clarified.
Both brothers rolled their eyes at his bird analogy, but she totally got it. “Last night, at a little before midnight, you placed a call to Linda Hernandez…”
“My mother.” She turned to Sanyet, but his obsidian stare drilled the spot above her head with his frozen glare. Refusing contact.
“I told you I needed them to know I was alright. “
His eyes snapped to hers. The glacier dropped away into an ocean of fire. Pucking the one word from her sentence like an eagle grabbing prey from a field. “Them or her?”
“Her. I called her.”
Venedikt nodded. “And that was fine. What woman doesn‘t want to reassure her mother?”
“Exactly. She would have worried. She hadn’t heard from me in a week.”
Venedikt continued. “But immediately after your reassuring call, your mother called Lieutenant Lou O’Malley in an alarmed and agitated plea for help. He immediately called Lieutenants Michael Bannon and Brendan Young. Officers in the homicide division. High-ranking officers who began devising an unfortunate rescue operation.”
“Destined to fail.” Sanyet growled. “Did you think I would let them snatch you away?”
“No. I just wanted to reassure them.”