Home > Vow of Deception (Deception Trilogy #1)(7)

Vow of Deception (Deception Trilogy #1)(7)
Author: Rina Kent

I cut off eye contact as soon as I make it, because if I keep staring, my skin will crawl, my head will get dizzy, and I’ll feel like vomiting my empty stomach out.

Using my foot on the door, I pull and push on the handle with all my might. At first, I thought the bulky man could be with the police and that he’s picking me up for killing Richard, but there’s no way this Russian stranger is a cop.

He doesn’t look like one.

Maybe he’s a spy, after all. This seems oddly similar to the beginning of some spy movie about an underdog—me—who will be recruited to work in secret for an intelligence agency.

When all the pushing and pulling doesn’t bring me any results, I jam my elbow into the glass. A zing of pain shoots through my whole arm, but I won’t stop, not until I’m out of this place.

It’s starting to feel like that damn closed box. I need out.

I’m about to punch the glass with my fist, when the stranger’s voice fills the air, “It’s bulletproof, so you’ll only hurt yourself.”

My arm lies limp beside me. I might be willing to sacrifice pain, but I won’t do it for no result.

“Are you done?” he asks in that calm, almost serene tone—just like royalty. His voice is velvety, smooth as silk, but still deep and masculine.

I don’t look at him and, instead, lunge to the front seat. If I can open the door or go out the window, I’ll run and—

Strong hands grip me by the hips and yank me back with effortless ease. I’m now so close to him that his thigh touches mine.

I expect him to let me go now that he has me by his side, but he doesn’t. If anything, his hold tightens on my hips, and even though I’m wearing multiple layers of clothes, I can feel the controlling warmth in his hands. It’s different from the heat in the car. This is burning, tearing holes through my clothes and aiming at my skin.

This close, I can smell him—or more like, I’m forced to inhale him with every drag of air. His scent is a mixture of leather and wood. Power and mysteriousness.

He speaks against my ear, his tone dropping in range with the purpose of cementing the words in my bones, “It’s useless to fight me, for you’ll only get hurt. You’re not at my level, so do not cause me trouble or I won’t hesitate to throw you to the wolves. I’m giving you my hand, so be grateful, thank your lucky stars, and take it without asking any fucking questions.”

My lips have been dry the entire time he’s been talking. He’s issuing clear threats, but he sounds like a calm lawyer presenting a case in front of a judge.

He has a particular way of speaking. His words are deliberate, sure, and have a commanding edge, without being too much in your face.

“What do you want from me?” I want to kick myself for the small voice. I almost sound scared. Scratch that. I definitely sound scared, because holy shit, I am. I just met this man today, and in the span of a few hours, my life has flipped upside down.

Up until now, my only purpose has been to live, but even that sounds impossible at the moment.

“I have an offer for you, Winter.”

How do you know my name? I want to ask that, but it’d be useless. He seems like the type of man who knows everything he needs to.

“What offer?”

His lips graze the shell of my ear as he murmurs, “Be my wife.”

 

 

5

 

 

Winter

 

 

My mom used to say that the best way to disarm someone is to tell them what they least expect.

I don’t know what I thought the Russian stranger would say, but ‘Be my wife’ certainly was not it.

It takes me a few seconds of staring blankly, caught in a state of shock I can’t shake off. He remains calm, composed. Unrailed.

Ever since I met him this afternoon, he’s been as sturdy as an oak and as still as a statue. Now, I realize why I kind of wanted him to smile earlier, why I waited for it with bated breath. It would’ve humanized him a little, and I was desperately and irrationally looking for some human trait in his robotic features.

Now, though? He seems like some sort of a force. A current. A tyranny that’s about to sweep away everything in its path before changing lanes to something else.

Be my wife.

His words, though calmly spoken, explode in my head like the Fourth of July fireworks. They’re so loud that they drown my own thoughts in a web of nothingness. They’re trapped somewhere beyond reach, in that tiny black box that brings on a shiver whenever I think of it.

The most proper reaction to his ludicrous offer is to actually laugh. But I don’t have the sense of humor for that. And I suspect he wouldn’t take it well if I somehow burst out laughing in front of him.

He’s so serious, it’s etched in his features, his mannerisms, and even the way he speaks—as if he’s never smiled a day in his life.

Like the act of smiling would be offensive to him.

He and the men outside are not normal. I can see that without having to learn who they actually are. It can be tasted in the air. It instantly shifted after they came into the picture.

Dangerous people need to be dealt with using caution, not force, because the second option will only get me hurt.

“Be your wife?” I repeat, my tone low, but it projects the incredulity I feel.

The Russian stranger releases my hips and I scoot to the other side of the car, putting as much distance between us as possible.

The lack of his touch is like losing warmth in the middle of an icy storm. But I’d rather freeze than be burnt to death by him.

“Correct.” He interlocks his fingers in his lap. They’re long and manicured, and I can’t help but stare at the wedding ring on his left hand.

“You’re already married.”

His gaze slides to his ring as if he’s forgotten it’s been there all along. His thick black lashes frame his eyes while he takes a moment, studying it. His expression is weird. When someone thinks about their spouse, they would ordinarily either soften out of adoration or grow grim out of sadness or despair.

He’s doing neither.

His lips thin in a motion that suggests he wants to strangle the ring and the one who slid it on his finger.

Before I can read further into his reaction, his attention glides from his hand to me, and the emotions I thought I saw in his steel eyes vanish as if they never existed. “You’ll pretend to be my wife.”

“Pretend?” I don’t know why I keep asking these questions, entertaining him, but the situation is so surreal, it feels like I’ve been thrust into one of those Christmas tales.

“My wife passed away a few weeks ago, and there’s no one who can perform her duties anymore, so you will be her replacement.”

“Oh.” I don’t mean to say that out loud, but it escapes from me anyway.

I stare at him from a different perspective. At his straight, confident posture, at his choice of dark wardrobe, at his black hair and thick stubble, at the shadows caused by his cheekbones. And, finally, at the dimness in his gray eyes that appear to have been cut from New York’s gloomy sky.

Have I felt uncomfortable around him because of this negative energy he projects? Now that I’ve learned the reason behind that energy is the recent death of his wife, I don’t know how to feel.

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