Rochev knelt on the ground, holding his broken arm tight to his chest, cradling it like a weapon. Blood dripped from his face, his breath ragged, wet through split lips. Nikita stepped back and lowered his hands. Unlikely he’d use them again—he didn’t expect the other man to get up very soon.
“You’re not making this very easy on you.”
“I told you,” the man on the ground said. “I told you he’s dead.”
Nikita felt the sudden urge to kick Rochev in the face for saying that. Dead. No. Simply no. But kicking a kneeling man wouldn’t do his anger any good. Wouldn’t purge anything. He had to control that anger. Somehow.
He turned away, took a few steps to the car, and reached for a water bottle, then drank deeply. Beating the shit out of a man who’d clearly learned to take pain was tiring. His eyes fell on the folded newspaper on the driver’s seat. The Guardian. Cover story. “Russian Crime Haunts Europe’s Streets.”
And a large image of Andrei Voronin, still alive. Taken from the website of the law firm he had worked for. Andrei A. Voronin, Corporate Law, Harvard Law School, advised on family trusts, off-shore trusts, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, international tax law. Nikita had memorized the profile. Every scrap of information.
Rochev coughed, ragged, uneven sounds, but it took Nikita a moment to realize it was closer to sobbing. He turned, eyes narrow.
“Don’t kill me.”
Nikita put the newspaper down and stood near the car for a while, studying the crumpled figure on the oil-stained cement floor. The headlights tore him out of the darkness, bent over, muscular neck bowed, on his knees. If not for the obvious pain and fear, the position would have been inviting, would have made Nikita think of sex. But this was just submission, without the kick, without the charge in the air. Never mind that Nikita preferred his subs to be people he respected. No respect for a common criminal.
“God, please don’t kill me.”
“Stop whining.” Nikita stepped closer, now irritated at the jabbering. “Tell me everything. How did you meet Voronin?” He didn’t call him Andrei Alexeyevich. Too personal, despite the fact that using the first name and patronymic was the polite form to address a Russian. Maybe, Nikita reflected, they’d all spent too much time in the West.
“He worked for Zaitsev, my boss. He was his lawyer.”
The past tense of those statements balled Nikita’s fists. Liar, he wanted to shout, and punch Rochev, punch and kick him until he was flat on the ground, lifeless, beaten to a pulp rather than merely broken. Excessive force. Breaking his arm and kicking him in the balls could already be called excessive. Punching him in the face wasn’t; he’d mainly done that to stun him into compliance.
“Then he was attacked. It wasn’t us! You have to believe….”
“Just the facts.”
“Don’t piss me off.” Nikita stepped closer again, grabbed a handful of the man’s dark suit at his neck, and pulled him up like a kitten to look at him. “Just tell me.”
“They shot him in his house in Monte Carlo. Zaitsev’s enemies did.”
“Zaitsev thinks it was Shkadov, he’s been messing with Zaitsev’s organization. We thought Voronin was dead, but he survived.”
Yeah, and you promised to protect him, Nikita. You promised him he’d be safe. While you were too busy, they shot Andrei. “And then?”
“Then he vanished. Zaitsev tried to track him. Next thing we know, he’s in Paris. And they say he doesn’t remember anything. That a bullet went into his brain and wiped out his memory. Zaitsev doesn’t believe it, he thinks Voronin has sold out to the law or Shkadov. That he wasn’t shot, that he was tortured to tell everything. So he wants him dead. Hires a guy who’s watching Voronin to kill him. Next day, Voronin gets shot on the street in Paris and is finally dead.”
Nikita held back the punch and instead released the man with a hiss of distaste. Finally dead. That fucker was on thin ice and didn’t even know it. “Who fired the shot?”
The man hesitated. “A man called Christopher Gibson.”
“Who is he?”
“Freelancer. Hitman. As far as I know. Somebody tasked him to watch over Voronin, but Zaitsev paid him five million American and he shot him, sorting out the problem.”
The problem. One way to call it, Nikita thought. He’d call it treason. Killing the man you were paid to protect because somebody made a bigger offer? Worst kind of scum.
“Thank you for the information.” Nikita couldn’t bring himself to smile. In the last half hour, they had left the realm of pleasantries way behind and had achieved a deeper understanding. He reached inside his jacket.
“God, no, please don’t kill me. I told you everything!”
Nikita paused as if to consider it. “Would you prefer to go to a nice Siberian prison?”
“I’ve done nothing wrong….”
“Doesn’t count.” Nikita bared his teeth. “You know what kind of scumbag you’re working for. You still do it.”
“God, I haven’t….”
“Shut up.” Nikita straightened and pulled the gun, let it rest in his hand, pointing at the cement floor. Clearly visible in Rochev’s view. “You did cooperate.”
“I will… cooperate more. Please.”
“You’d betray Zaitsev?”
“I already did.”
“True.” Nikita let the silence drag on, forced his mind to focus on the present rather than a future when a man called Christopher Gibson would kneel in front of him, just like this. And Nikita would kill him. “You will report to me. Every one of Zaitsev’s meetings, every movement he makes. You will give me a full list of his contacts.”
“Yes. Yes, I can do that. He trusts me.”
“More’s the pity,” Nikita muttered. “I’ll make sure that your cooperation will be noted. Double cross me, and we will continue our little talk here.”
Just a little more. Do it. Push that bitch, Chris chanted silently with each rep of the two hundred-pound weight. Jaw clenched, breathing precise and timed, he fought against his muscles’ protest. He didn’t usually go this heavy unless he was stressed or bored. This week he’d been both. Three more. Two. One. The weight hit the support with a metallic clang, and Chris waited a moment before sitting upright on the faux leather-padded bench.
“You done?” the spotter asked.
“Yeah. Thanks a lot.” Chris flashed a smile, keeping eye contact with the stocky older guy he’d met in the locker room. “You need a hand?”
The guy laughed, his gaze lingering. “I would if I didn’t have a train to catch. Another time perhaps? I’m here most evenings after work.”
Chris nodded. “I’ll be in town a few more days.” He stood and extended his hand. “Nice to meet you, Eric.”
“The pleasure was all mine.”
His attention fixed to the guy’s tight ass as he left the gym, Chris regretted that he’d put off getting here. Chariotswas open all night, and he counted on the most interesting crowd showing up later. Too bad he hadn’t given a thought to anyone interesting in the nine-to-five crowd blowing off some steam.
The night was young, and the cruising room beckoned.
Chris took his time going from the shower area to the locker room. The lime green and blue locker room. It was a gay hang-out but damn. Lime green.
No matter. This place was a veritable gay buffet, and he’d forgotten how much he missed scoping out the local talent. There was something oddly attractive about these Brit boys. Hell, there was something generally hot about all European men for that matter.
It was one of the things that drew him to GORGON, that and the fact the international spy agency paid top dollar for a man with his skills. Just looking at the prices in London, he was glad for his salary. Granted, his pad in Montreaux wasn’t exactly cheap, either—the Swiss took it from the living and weren’t above fleecing corpses in his experience.
London, worn-down, dirty, stinky, crowded London, was much different from squeaky-clean Montreaux. Seedy in all the right places, faded and frayed like an old queen—and not the kind that got crowned—too much makeup, but at the same time relaxed, like it didn’t even have to try. Then of course, the breath of history, and the accent of the local population.
Britain was one of the countries where he preferred the men to the women. In Poland, it was the other way around. The Polish ladies were stunning, the men nothing to look at. In Britain, all the women looked the same. Unsettling. If one of the women’s mags started a new fashion, within days all the women looked exactly the same. And right now, the eighties were back with a vengeance. No legs, regardless how toned, should be squeezed into tight, metallic-colored tights. No ass, however tight and pretty, should be exposed like that. Fact was, though, not nearly enough of the women were toned enough to have even a hope of pulling that look off.
He noticed a man watching him and paused, his eyes narrowing.
European but not a Brit. There was something about the man that reminded him of one of his partners. Russian? Possibly. His facial structure was reminiscent of Andrei’s, and those sharp gray eyes were cold as a Siberian hell. He was a weightlifter, definitely, but not one obsessed with mass for mass’ sake. Chris didn’t doubt this guy lifted for the same reasons he did—partly for the strength but mostly to see how much punishment his body could take. His eyes had a pronounced love of pain lurking within.
Chris finished buttoning his white silk shirt. “How’s it going?”
“It goes.” The guy gave him a lingering look and continued past to the door.
Chris grabbed his leather blazer, threw it on, and ran his fingers through his damp hair. There was no sense playing too coy, not in a club like this, and Chris followed the supposed Russian into the lounge and ordered a beer. He took a sip at the bar and then sauntered over to lean against one of the square pillars next to the leather banquette sofa the Russian had chosen.
They both drew enough glances that Chris was reasonably sure he could arrange a three-or-foursome if he wanted. But it might be good to only have one partner. As much as he got off on his regular threesome, by now a twosome was really the more exotic option.
“Do you come here often?”
The other man more turned his head than shook it. “First time.”
But certainly not a virgin. He was around Chris’s age and didn’t look nervous in the least. “You here on business?”
“You could say that.”
“Then I do.” Chris met and held the other’s gaze and enjoyed the fact the man didn’t look away, didn’t break the contact. There was interest, despite the stony, unaffected exterior. Very different from Andrei, who was easily lured out and evaded only with irony. “I’m Chris.”
Russian. Weird that he had a broad’s name, but hell, as long as Chris remembered not to laugh when he called him that during sex, it was cool.
“What brings you to London?”
The Russian’s stare was aloof yet hit him dead center in the balls. He had a slow sip of his vodka. “I could tell you but would then be compelled to kill you.”
“Of course you would.” Chris took a long swig of his beer. “I’m doing a good deed for a friend. I have the loan of his place while I’m here.”
Nikita tossed back the rest of his drink, set the empty glass on a nearby table. “What makes you think I’m looking for an invitation?”
Chris shrugged. “Didn’t issue one. I’m just making small talk.”
“Indeed.” The Russian leaned forward a bit, his body language less unaffected than his face.
He’d have a good shot at the Russian Poker Championship, Chris thought, and laughed inwardly at the idea. Guy like that shouldn’t be called “Nikita.” “Nikita” was a cute name, a woman’s name, La Femme Nikita, after all. And that horrible Elton John video. Bruiser boy like this looked like some kind of bodyguard, maybe. There were many wealthy Russians in London that needed a lot of muscle to feel secure. Andrei, after all, had worked for one of those.
He still relished a challenge. That tough guy exterior could hide just about anything.
“I’m a fair bit more than you can handle.”
“Maybe I’m a size queen.”
The Russian huffed. “That too.”
Chris smirked and folded his arms. “For the record, I’ve yet to meet a situation I couldn’t deal with.”
Nikita chuckled and waved off the waiter who asked if he wanted another drink. “You Americans never cease to amuse me with your bravado.”
“And you Russians are so predictable in your megalomania.”
“Are we? You have vast experience with us?”
Chris shrugged. “I’ve been around the world a few times and I always take time to observe.”
Nikita stood, adjusting his posture in an attempt to look more formadible. Fucking Russians. He wasn’t much taller than Chris himself, though he had a bit of a weight advantage.
“I’m in the mood to observe things from a different perspective.”
Then he was a virgin. Interesting. “What do you have in mind?”
“You said you have a place. I would like a little privacy.”
“You and me both.” Chris grinned and left his beer behind. Seemed the Russian was ready to change lanes sexually but not ready to be observed doing that. He probably had a boss who stood on his toes. Or as Andrei had put it once, “Don’t forget the Sexual Revolution never happened in Russia.” It made Russian men very concerned about their masculinity when cruising, and Chris found that strangely endearing.
“Do you have a car?”
“I got here by train,” the Russian responded, but he followed him outside.
“Well, then we take mine.” Chris picked up the rented BMW from a garage nearby, set up the navigator, and followed the computerized voice to Andrei’s house in Sevenoaks, deep in London’s stockbroker belt. Andrei had a small flat in the center, too, but Chris preferred the bigger house. A huge, faux medieval Victorian building with lots of old trees around it, shielding it from the street and any passersby. Perfect.
Nikita stood by the car, looking the house over. “You travel in a posh circle of friends.”
“Always,” Chris said with a grin. He gave his keys a jingle, set the alarm, then led the way along the brick path, the sexual tension taking on a whole new level as they approached the front door.
Damn. He hadn’t felt this much like a horny teenager in a long time. It had to be the lure of breaking in a neophyte as he gave Nikita’s ass a second look before closing the front door.
He turned, and the Russian was right there, mere inches away. Chris grinned and grabbed Nikita’s shirtfront to pull him in for a kiss, only to be spun and slammed into the solid oak door.
Chris jabbed his elbow back and turned, using his weight to press forward. He shoved, sent the Russian into the sturdy antique table in the entrance hall’s center. The table wobbled, the vase crashed to the parquet floor.
“What the fuck, dude,” Chris said, bracing for more, hand poised to reach for his gun if need be.
Nikita continued to stare. He pulled his own weapon but laid it on the tabletop. “I play hard.”
Makarov. What the fuck else. Chris reached inside his jacket and pulled his Beretta and placed it right next to the Russian pistol. Between them they had enough hardware to give an average British copper a heart attack.
“Hard to get?” Chris asked, grinning. He thought of his boxing trainer. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, he’d say. From the look of him, Nikita qualified as a super heavyweight. Russia—and the Ukraine—produced lots of those. “Want to be wooed a little, Nicky?”
Nikita gave an irritated snort. “You understood me.”
Chris peeled off his blazer, folded it in half, and set it atop his gun. Nikita did the same with his suit jacket. Chris flexed his hands, his blood running hotter when Nikita cracked his knuckles. He could damn near smell the testosterone between them.
Summoning his cockiest grin, Chris stepped back and made a “come forward” gesture. “Bring it.”
Nikita circled, and Chris’s smirk grew wider. He threw a playful jab that had no chance of connecting. “Afraid to muss up your hair, big guy?”
The Russian laughed, kept circling.
He sprang and kicked. Chris dodged but not far enough. He crashed to the floor, rolled, and scrambled to his feet. Nikita charged again; Chris caught his sleeve, pushed and slammed the other man back first into the thick carved newel post at the bottom of the stairs. As solid as the wood was, the whole railing shook, and Chris winced for a moment. Last thing he wanted was to fuck a man with broken ribs, even though this “playing hard” was fun.
“Let’s set the price, Nicky. Loser takes it up the ass? How does that sound?”
“Fair deal.” Nikita straightened, but Chris could see that the collision with the wood pillar had hurt him. Good. Less work. He’d love fucking the big guy, he just knew it.
He motioned, moved deeper into the entrance hall, and the Russian followed, an angry bull gathering his resolve. Chris stepped in, feinted a punch to the man’s face while taking his wrist in an Aikido move. But instead of dropping the bastard on the floor, he found the tables turned. Chris hit the stone-tiled floor with back and shoulders, breath knocked out of him. The big Russian dropped on a knee with him and punched him with a palm strike into the solar plexus.
God, that fucking hurt.
“Give in, make it easier on us both,” Nikita taunted with a shit-eating grin.
“Never.” Chris sucked in his breath, bit back the lingering pain. He shot a punch to the Russian’s balls and struck gold. He shoved Nikita over, then pulled himself up. “Don’t worry, I’ll kiss it better.”
He let Nikita get to his own feet and gave him the “come on” motion again.
Nikita cupped himself. “You want it so much, you come here.”
“Hurting a little more than you’re willing to admit, eh, Nicky?”
The words had barely left his lips when Chris slammed into the door. Shit, that boy moved fast. Chris landed a shot to the ribs. The Russian took a half step back, and Chris swung again.
Nikita countered, spun him into a chokehold. “Andrei Voronin. You killed him.”
“What if I did? What’s it to you? Were you his bitch?”
That roar was pure, sheer rage, and surprised Chris. He squirmed in the chokehold, kicked, elbowed, thrashed, using every ounce of strength to break the hold, but his vision dimmed and a numbness filled his head, oxygen-and-blood-starved brain shooting frantic light sparks through his vision. Fuck, the bastard was going to kill him.
In a motion that was more instinct than contemplated surrender, he tapped his thigh, twice, rapidly, indicating he gave up. Any martial artist knew that signal.
Another roar, this time of frustration, and then Chris blanked out.
Nikita loosened his grip but didn’t let the limp American fall. Instead he surprised himself by shifting so he could lift the unconscious Chris over his shoulder. The weight made his battered muscles protest, so he took time to steady himself, and he looked around on his way to the stairs.
This was Voronin’s house, he was sure of it. He’d been thinking of buying one before their last contact, and this definitely suited his taste. Expensive, representative, but not gaudy.
He should have checked in one last time, taken the opportunity to befriend his contact. Befriend. The thought made him laugh, and the solid feel of the unconscious American over his shoulder made him admit the truth.
Nikita paused upon reaching the upper hallway. Five doors. The first a small study. The second a full bath. The third undoubtedly the master bedroom from its size and furnishings. No. Voronin’s suite wouldn’t do.
The next room across the hall would suffice. He lay the American on the bed and then began to strip, his cock already hard and straining, aching to take the prize he’d won.
And what a handsome prize it was.
But he had standards. His libido would have to be patient.
He took his time disrobing Christopher Gibson, wondering if Chris had put such attention into the detail of watching Andrei before pulling that trigger.
Kill him and be done with it. That’s what he should do. And yet… that cocky challenge, that self-possessed, big balls grin. The infuriating teasing. No, Gibson had had no idea who he was fooling with. Tapping into a carefully hidden desire, something Nikita had wanted to do forever: fuck a man.
He patted Gibson’s clothes and found lube. He wasn’t surprised. Wasn’t that what gay men did? Always ready. Chris had been cruising for sex, after all.
Good-looking man, dark hair and eyes, and he looked wholesome when passed out. Nice. Not much like a hitman at all. Too much joy in life.
Nevertheless, he’d killed Andrei.
Nikita bared his teeth in a snarl, hating that thought, and bound Gibson’s wrists in front of his body, then tied his hands to the bedpost. The sight turned him on even more, a shot like from one of the internet galleries. He ran his hands up the strong, muscular thighs, touched, carefully, the man’s dick, surrounded by dark hair. His balls. He lifted one leg and pushed it to the side. The ass. He’d fantasized about it, kept imagining it when he was alone at night. Forbidden, impossible pleasure. Gibson had offered it willingly earlier. And Nikita wanted it. But he also wanted the man aware.
Chris jolted awake when the water hit his face.
“Hello, darling,” Nikita said. He glanced down to Chris’s erection, hard and ready from the stroking of his lubed hand. “I thought you’d be awake before your cock.”
Chris strained at the bonds. “Untie me—”
“Or what?” Nikita threw his head back and laughed. He squeezed the cock in his hand, liking the way Chris’s jaw tensed as he fought voicing the pain. “You made the rules. I won.” He took the small tube of lube from the bed and slicked his own cock. “Loser takes it up the ass, if I recall.”
Nikita laughed again. “You will.” He positioned himself, lifted the American’s hips, poised the head of his cock at the puckered hole.
“What’s the matter? Not sure how Tab A goes into Slot B?” Chris sneered. “You’re not that big, go for it and be done.”
Nikita pushed forward, keeping his gaze locked with the American. The brown eyes flickered, maybe pain, maybe anger, but his body accepted Nikita.
Hotter and tighter than he had imagined. Nikita’s heart was beating so hard he could feel it under the roof of his head. Finally. He pushed deeper, fully savoring the other man’s body, its resistance, and he heard a strange sound from Chris, a choked little noise, not quite a sob, though. Pleasure?
Gibson was still hard, staring at him like a wolf, unwilling to submit despite the fact he was tied up and taking a cock up his ass. He had to admire the American’s nerves, but right now, all he admired was the fact that Gibson took him like that and still stared at him.
He pulled back and thrust in about an inch, which made Gibson grind his hips a little. Yes, he liked it. Nikita inhaled, paused, gathering his resolve when all he wanted was to plunge fully into him and fuck him until he broke. Until they both broke. “I warned you,” Nikita said.
“Do it already, you pussy.”
Nikita shoved all the way in, lost once more in the tightness, the heat, the thrill.
“You do know how to actually fuck?”
Nikita growled, glared at the smug American, who had the nerve to grin at him. He pulled his hips back, shoved in again, setting a quick pace that took his control to the limit.
“Is that the best you can do?” Chris taunted.
To Nikita’s surprise, he used the bonds to his advantage, planting his feet on the mattress, raising his hips, meeting Nikita’s thrusts. His breathing became ragged. “I lied. You are big enough, Nicky.”
Nikita met his gaze, kept it as he gripped Chris’s hips, held tight and pumped harder. Chris’s eyes positively gleamed with fierce lust now, and that was something that he hadn’t seen on the internet. None of the porn actors showed this relish for sex. None wrestled for control like this, and not a single one of them grinned like that.
Nikita wasn’t quite sure anymore who fucked whom but didn’t care. He thrust hard and fast, used his weight, his strength, every single thrust rocking Chris and making the bed creak. Flesh slapped together, and Chris’s cock traced wet lines over his stomach, until the American suddenly stiffened and tightened, groaning, cum shooting over his stomach up to his chest. Nikita thrust harder into the spasming heat and just barely remembered to pull out before he came, mixing his cum with Chris’s over his body.
“Thanks, bro. I was… worried about the condom thing,” Chris panted.
“I’m negative,” Nikita said gruffly, and he pulled away. He saw Chris’s ass, reddened and open, inviting him again, couldn’t help but touch it, sliding a thumb in, then back out.
Chris murmured softly and pressed against him. Was it really so enjoyable?
“Untie me, okay?”
Nikita looked up. “And if I don’t?”
“You’ll piss me off, and I won’t fuck you again.”
Covered in both their cum, that was a funny demand. Nikita got off the bed, pushed his half-hard dick back into his trousers. “Voronin. You killed him.”
Chris shrugged as best he could. “I’m not discussing business with you. Not like this, okay, Nicky?”
He should shoot him. But fact was, shooting a man he’d just had sex with would be damn near impossible. First, his genetic traces were all over the bed; secondly, he’d just had sex with this man, and his anger was almost done. Andrei. Shit. His house. The whole place just breathed Andrei’s presence, and Nikita felt more stricken than angry. He took hold of the strips of cloth that held Chris’s arms in place and tore them. The fabric only gave a dry snap. Chris would be able to free himself from the remaining restraints. Last time Nikita had done it, it had taken his captive about fifteen minutes.
Enough time to get a taxi back to Hackney and pick up his car.
“Aw, c’mon, Nicky. Don’t make me work to get free,” Chris called. It didn’t surprise him when the Russian ignored him, slipped on his shoes and shirt and left.
As soon as the door closed, Chris worked at the bonds and, once free, scrambled from the bed. Peeking into the hall, he ventured out and to Andrei’s room. In the rear of the huge amoire, he felt for the hidden compartment and sprung the catch. Bingo. Andrei’s memory flash had been right on. There was a gun. A shit Makarov, of course.
Chris eased back into the hall and toward the stairs, his back to the wall, conscious of his dick swinging in the breeze. He peered over the stair railing. No sign of the Russian. He inched down the stairs, checked the ground floor, and then, satisfied the place was empty, he went back to the stairs. His jacket was where he’d left it, his Beretta still on the table and loaded. And on the white table cloth was scrawled in ink:
We’ll meet again.
He stared at the the strong script, went back upstairs, showered but didn’t call GORGON or John and Andrei, who were off in the States while Andrei went through training.
He should and he would, but not right now. Now he wanted to leisurely jack off and remember cold-eyed Nikita fucking him like no tomorrow.
At the end he’d thought he’d be on the receiving end of a fisting, especially when he took the chance of mouthing off, but he wasn’t. And damn it all to hell if the thought of experiencing that didn’t intrigue him.