Keep (Romanian Mob Chronicles Book 1)

By: Kaye Blue

One





Vasile



“Offer my guest a drink, bitch!”

The woman didn’t flinch, gave no outward reaction to David Ashmore’s harsh tone or insult. Instead, moving with unimaginable speed and grace for one perched on sky-high stilettos, she crossed the large room and stood in front of me, close enough that I could smell the softly floral scent of her perfume.

“May I offer you a drink, sir?”

Her words were low, a barely audible whisper, but her voice didn’t tremble. Still, I thought I caught a flash of wariness in her eyes. It was hard to tell through the heavy false eyelashes she wore and the long blond locks that hid most of her face and cascaded down her back to brush her ass.

I continued to regard her, taking in the thick layers of makeup caked on her face, the tight dress that clung to the more than generous curves of her body and exposed more of her ample cleavage than was decent. The dress barely covered her, exposing the fullness of her thighs, her rounded knees, the long expanse of her bare legs.

She was a study in contrasts, painted up and displayed as if she were available for the highest bidder, the ease of her movements and seeming lack of discomfort making it appear as if she didn’t mind her body was on display, that Ashmore had talked to her so crudely.

And yet…there was something about her. Maybe it was the healthy glow of her brown skin, the brightness of her brown eyes, both of which told me she hadn’t yet fallen to the ravages of drugs or other dangers of the lifestyle. Perhaps it was the distance in her eyes, an innocence, maybe, that told me she wasn’t as at ease as she seemed.

Experience had taught me innocence was nearly always a facade, but my gut told me her apparent goodness was real.

Which made no sense.

Good people, innocent people weren’t with men like Ashmore, men like me. And if they were, they didn’t last too long, not intact anyway. But there she stood, under the clothes and makeup looking every bit the good, normal woman. I tried to meet her eyes again, but she kept them lowered, staring in my direction but not looking at me, and I felt the inexplicable urge to make her, to look into her eyes until I had decided whether she was an innocent or it was all a front.

And on the heels of that urge came the question of why I cared. Whether she was what she appeared, how she’d found herself here, her ultimate fate, none of those things were my concern. But still I wondered, at least for a moment, preoccupied with the conundrum of this woman instead of the business I’d come here to attend to.

The woman moved then, and using those same graceful steps, returned to stand at Ashmore’s side. I followed her progress and after a final look, focused on my host, a worm of a man I’d rather kick to death than do business with. But my personal feelings on the matter weren’t important. What was best for my clan came first.

Always.

I ran the family now, and was quickly learning that dealing with dregs like Ashmore was more than half the job.

I hated it, would have preferred to be on the streets. There, things were simple and clear. Power was respected, our code held sacred, violations met with swift and brutal retribution. But here, with people like him, I had to pretend to be a businessman, make at least some effort to keep my disdain for Ashmore and those like him to myself, all in the name of peace. It didn’t come naturally to me. In fact, I hated it, but if doing so would stave off war, keep the blood of my clan from flowing in the streets, I’d hold my tongue and keep my fists at my sides.

My father had wanted this for me, had dreamed that one day me and my brother would get away from the streets, that I would rise to be leader as he had been. He’d groomed me for it every day of my life, and I would not dishonor his wishes, at least not entirely. He wouldn’t have given the woman a second thought, probably wouldn’t have noticed her in the first place, but her presence annoyed me, and I needed her gone so I could focus on the matter at hand.

I tilted my head toward the woman and then stared at Ashmore. “Should she be here?” I asked, speaking slowly in broken, heavily accented English.

“She doesn’t hear anything, and knows better than to open her mouth if she does. Ain’t that right?” he said, looking at the woman. “Can you hear me, bitch?”

The woman didn’t move, didn’t even blink, just stood on those ridiculous heels like a statue.

“Told you,” he replied, turning his eyes back to me. “Heard about your father. He was a great man, and there was a lot of respect between us. But I’m excited about our partnership.”

He flashed a wolfish grin at me, his overly white teeth clashing against his tanned, leathery skin. Whether the expression was intended to reassure me or not, it only managed to annoy me more. Respect between him and my father? My father had respected few men and none as foolish as Ashmore.

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