Twisted Love (Twisted 1) - Page 79



“You look like shit.” Ralph sank into the chair opposite mine and appraised me with sharp eyes. “Haven’t ‘cha heard of a skincare routine?”

I didn’t look up from the screen. “Carolina!”

The door to my office opened, and my assistant poked her head in. “Yes, Mr. Volkov?”

“How the fuck did he get in here?” I gestured at Ralph.

“He’s on your approved list of visitors who don’t need appointments.”

“Remove him from the list.”

“Yes, sir.” Carolina hesitated. “Do you—”

“You can leave.”

She fled without a second thought. I didn’t blame her. I’d been in a foul mood for months, and she’d learned it was best to stay out of sight.

Ralph arched his eyebrows. “Someone’s in a bad mood.”

“Don’t you have a business to run?” I clicked out of the spreadsheet I’d been examining and leaned back, irritation coiling in my stomach. I didn’t have time for bullshit today. I barely had time for lunch.

Ever since I took over as CEO of Archer Group, the company’s stocks had shot sky-high. Likely because I worked nonstop, more than I ever had. I barely left my office. Work kept me busy, and busy was good.

“Ah, about that.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I wanted to tell you in person.”

“Whatever it is, make it quick. I have a phone call with the Vice-President in an hour.” I picked up my glass of whisky and drained the rest of the Macallan.

Yes, it was only noon. No, I didn’t give a fuck.

“The Vice-President of the United—” Ralph shook his head. “Never mind, I don’t wanna know. But since you asked, here it is. I’m retiring and moving to Vermont.”


“I’m not joking. I’m retiring and moving to Vermont,” he repeated.

I stared at him. Ralph stared back, his face calm. “You’re shitting me.”

Ralph was one of those guys I pictured working till the day he died, simply because he loved his job. He took immense pride in the fact he’d built KMA into the city’s best training center over the years, and he hadn’t given a single indication he wanted to retire until now.

“Nah. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I love KMA, but I ain’t no spring chicken anymore, and Missy and I have saved up enough for retirement. Plus, the missus has been wanting to get out to the country for a while.” Ralph drummed his fingers on the desk. “She grew up in Vermont. Always wanted to go back.”

I needed another drink. “What the hell are you going to do in Vermont?”

“Fuck if I know. Guess I should find a hobby.” Ralph flashed a crooked smile before it dimmed. “I know it’s sudden, but I didn’t decide until yesterday. I wanted to tell you first. Don’t tell the other students, but…you’ve always been the biggest pain in my ass.”

That was as close to a sentimental statement as Ralph would get.

I snorted. “Thanks. So.” I assessed him with narrowed eyes. “What’s happening with the academy?”

“My nephew will take it over. He’ll do a good job.” Ralph laughed at my grimace. “I know you’re not his biggest fan, but he’s been running things alongside me for years. He has what it takes.”

“We’ll see.” His nephew may have what it takes, but Ralph was Ralph. “When are you moving?”

“End of August. Gives us time to put our affairs in order here, and fall in Vermont is nice as hell.” My mentor’s face softened. “You can call or visit anytime. My door is always open for you.”

“Fine.” I shuffled the papers on my desk. “We’ll grab a meal before you leave.”

“I mean it, Alex. Don’t give me that I’m-an-asshole-who-doesn’t-need-anyone shit, either. I know it’s been a tough couple o’ months with Ava—”

“Don’t.” My jaw clenched. “We’re not discussing her. Period.”

Ava had stopped taking Krav Maga lessons at KMA, which I’d expected, but Ralph hadn’t stopped bugging me about her since he found out about our breakup. I didn’t give him the nitty-gritty; I simply told him things didn’t work out.

Which didn’t stop him from prying. He was a persistent bastard.

“Never figured you one to run away from your troubles,” he said.

“I’m not running from anything.”

“Then why do you look like hell? Not to mention you’ve been in a foul mood since January. Whatever you did—”

“We’re. Not. Discussing. It.” A vein throbbed in my temple. This was why I abhorred human companionship. People couldn’t shut the hell up. “Now, if you’ll excuse me—”

“Sir?” Carolina poked her head in again, her face pale and not a little terrified. “Uh, you have another guest.”

“If they don’t have an appointment, I don’t want to see them.”

“About that, it’s—”

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