I can't believe Lucy took off on foot. Why did I think she'd listen to me? She hasn't proved loyal this far, and why should she? She's not bratva.
Expecting her loyalty is foolish, especially considering how we met. She's deceitful, but I don't get the distinct impression it's by chance or free will. She's stumbled into trouble, and I'm crazy enough to consider helping her.
I like a good challenge, and the girl dares to fire me up in ways I haven't experienced before. What woman would be crazy enough to break into the bratva compound?
Was she trying to get caught?
Of course, she could be clueless and have no idea what we do for a living, but that seems doubtful. And now that she's taken off on foot, escaping my generous offer to give her a job, she's hiding something.
Okay, generous is probably a little too lenient of a term. She did steal my key, and Mikhail demanded restitution for her crimes. I rather enjoy the fact that I get to be creative in her punishment. Working at the club seems like a win-win kind of situation. I'm grateful for the help. It's hard to find good employees and ones who know to keep their mouths shut. Plus, I don't have to pay her outright, she's indebted to us, which is an advantage for me and the books.
But I have to catch her first.
And I'm not exactly sporting the type of clothes to go running in – my suit and shiny black dress shoes aren't going to win me any records on the track.
"You want to go after her?" Dmitri asks, interrupting our conversation when we all hear her footsteps pound the pavement.
I groan and hop into the pickup truck. She isn't going to make this easy. With her son in Chicago, running from us is the least of her priorities. Lucy will want to get away from whatever danger she's managed to bury herself in.
And it's not as though she has too many ties to New York. Her son is in Chicago with her sister. If I were her, I'd be finding my way to the windy city. Of course, that's not before she grabs her car.
Which, if I had to guess, she'll head there first. But not on foot. She'll run, lay low, and either hitchhike, call a friend, or get a cab. I didn't notice a purse or wallet on her, and unless she had money in her vehicle, a cab is the last option.
Her phone was also in the vehicle, so I doubt she's making any calls, especially while she's hightailing it away from us.
I press hard on the gas and pull into traffic, driving annoyingly slow to peer down the alley as I search for Lucy. She's not easy to spot, and she had a good head start, not by much, but traffic tripped me up.
I don't stay on the main road for long. She certainly wouldn't. I navigate the side streets, coming up into a neighborhood. I catch a glimpse of her tearing through a yard from a distance, and I yank the wheel hard to hurry in her direction, nearly missing the turn.
I'm not the only one following her.
My hands dig into the steering wheel. I recognize the vehicle in front of me. It's likely one of the Italians, the mafia. I hadn’t noticed them following us, but I'd been too busy this morning trying not to get a whiff of Lucy's fresh scent after her morning shower.
It was enough to rile me up and make my cock twitch in my trousers. My mind wasn't on being followed by the Italian Mafia. Perhaps I should have been more cautious.
Is she working with them, or are they after her to get to me? I'd put nothing past them. Antonio is a monster, and his wife, Mikhail's sister, Aleksandra, is no better.
I hit the gas, hurrying to catch up to Lucy, but she bolts between houses, making it difficult to chase her down by vehicle.
The Italians pull over and Aleksandra, along with Otello, another member of the mafia, jumps out of the backseat. They take off on foot, chasing her down.
Just as I pull around the Italians, the driver whips out in front of me, forcing me to slam on my brakes or smash into his vehicle. I'm tempted to wreck his car with my pickup truck, but that won't help me get Lucy, and I'm out-manned. There are three of them, and Lucy isn't likely to go willingly with me.
Maybe I should hit their vehicle to ensure that she gets away. But the Italians won't take kindly to my threats, and I'll be damned if they out gun me, but the odds of three to one doesn't help, either.
I'm a good shot, but I'll have no one to cover me, and I don't need a bullet wound. That won't help me track down Lucy any faster. Besides, we're in a heavily populated neighborhood. The minute we start shooting off bullets, every neighbor who's home will be calling the police and probably watching in the window with their smartphone.
We're not in the shitty part of town. These people aren't used to violence. At least not so openly and blatantly that it happens on the streets and in front of their homes.
The Italians round the corner. Aleksandra and Otello drag Lucy into the awaiting vehicle, forcing her into the back seat.
I growl and slam my hand against the steering wheel. I should have stopped them from grabbing her! I could have done more to help Lucy.
I tail their black SUV as they continue through the neighborhood. It's no secret that I've been following them, and they surprisingly don't try to lose me.
After a solid five minutes of driving through the neighborhood in a giant circle, they pull over, and Lucy is thrust from the back of the vehicle before they race away.
She stands, gasping for breath on the grass near the sidewalk. At first glance, she seems well enough, with no visible signs of injury. She's alive. That's a surprise. Why did they let her go? Is she working for them?
I stop the pickup truck and roll down the passenger window. "Get in!" I shout at her.
She gnaws on her bottom lip, huffs under her breath, but obliges.
Lucy treads toward my vehicle with hesitance. She's not doing this out of desire but perhaps necessity. How far would she get without her wallet, phone, or car?
Or perhaps the Italians insisted that she join me, wanting something from the compound. "Do you work for them?" It's the first question out of my mouth when she opens the passenger door. She hasn't even stepped foot into the vehicle, and already, I'm hounding her for information.
"Not because I want to," Lucy says. Her voice quivers, and her shoulders are slumped. She's less defiant.
What did they say to her while in the back seat? Did they threaten her? Her family? Is that why her kid is in Chicago?
"They're threatening you. What do they want?" I get right to the point. I can help her if she helps me.
We're not friends with the mafia. But we're not typically enemies, at least not anymore. We have an arrangement that we've been sticking with since Aleksandra left the bratva, her family, for Antonio.
"You can't help me." She sits in the front seat, her hands in her lap, fidgeting as she tries to calm down or maybe just sit still. The girl is nervous. But I'm not sure why other than her run-in with the mafia.
They're no worse than the bratva. They're practically boy scouts compared to us, but I wouldn't wish anyone to get involved with them, especially Lucy.
She's too young, too naïve, and doesn't know that they'd take advantage of a woman, especially a desperate one. And her bank account and finances wreak of desperation. I could help her, but why should I?
What incentive is there for me to be a nice guy?
It sure as hell doesn't come naturally to me. Since I was fourteen, I've been with the Bratva, thrust into the dark underworld to save myself from a cold, cruel world, not realizing the darkness that would envelop me.
I love no one but the bitterness and emptiness of family. My bratva blood are my brothers. My kin.
"Tell me what you owe them." It's no secret they want something from her. They kept her alive and tossed her back out onto the street. Likely, they were delivering a message or threat. "It's something in the compound, isn't it?"
Why else would she have stolen my key and risked her life by breaking into our home?