Mikhail exhales a heavy sigh as I stride down the last of the steps. "And the child? How is he?"
"Doing well, considering that the house was shot up last night when I arrived."
"Damn, well, it's good you managed to get Lucy and her son out alive. They can stay in the guest suite until we figure out our next steps regarding the Morettis."
"About that, sir. I was thinking it might be a good idea for me to pay a visit to Aleksandra."
"You want to talk to my sister?" Mikhail rubs a hand over his face. He looks about as exhausted as I feel at the mention of Aleksandra.
"She's involved. I saw her yesterday when Lucy took off on foot while at the club."
Mikhail's hands drop to his side. "Just wonderful." He's not the least bit thrilled to hear the news. He's not in contact with Aleksandra. They went their separate ways after she got involved with the mafia. They're married or getting married; I haven't exactly kept tabs on the little spitfire.
But Mikhail can't be thrilled that I'm bringing up her name and planning on visiting her. I almost expect him to forbid me from seeing her, but it's not a social visit.
"Do what you have to, but tread carefully. I don't want to retrieve your body."
* * *
I'd rather not visit Aleksandra, but my options are limited on how else to handle this situation with Lucy. And I haven't the slightest notion on how long she'll listen to me and remain within the confines of the compound.
I do a little background reconnaissance on Aleksandra and the twins, finding out what elementary school she's enrolled Liam and Sophia. I'm exhausted and could use a few hours of shuteye, but I forego my desires out of necessity.
Protecting Lucy and Zion is at the top of my list.
I grab the pickup truck's keys and drive to the elementary school. Aleksandra should be dropping them off at any moment. I'm taking a chance, assuming the kids aren't shuttled via a school bus.
I doubt Antonio would allow his children to ride a school bus. He'd be too concerned about their well-being. He has more enemies than the bratva.
I park a block away, the nearest space that I can find, and walk the rest of the way. Within minutes, I spot Aleksandra a few feet behind Sophia and Liam, the twins hurrying with their backpacks strapped to their shoulders, rushing toward the main entrance.
"Uncle Nikita!" Sophia shouts, her eyes widening as she runs up to me and throws her arms around me. The kid has grown so much in such a short period. What's it been, almost two years?
I'm not technically her uncle, but I shuttled the twins to preschool countless times. I spent a great deal of time with them but never babysitting.
I crouch down, hugging her. Liam glances me up and down. There's no forgiveness in his gaze. Only anger and bitterness. He's Antonio's son.
"You should head inside. You don't want to be late," I say to Sophia.
"I missed you," Sophia says before releasing her grasp and grabbing Liam's hand, dragging him toward the open doors.
Aleksandra stops walking, halting in front of me. Her attention is briefly on the twins as she makes sure that they enter the school doors before landing her tight gaze back on me. "What are you doing here, Nikita?"
"I'm here with a warning. You need to leave Lucy and Zion alone. I'd hate to think something might happen to the twins."
"Is that a threat?" Aleksandra snarls and steps forward into my personal space. She's not one to back down from a threat or a fight.
I don't want to threaten her children, but if she has nothing at stake and nothing to lose, then she won't cooperate.
"It is precisely what you make it," I say. "Leave Lucy and her family alone. Zion has no place in your fight, any more than Liam or Sophia."
She bites down on her bottom lip. Her hands are bunched into fists at her sides. I almost expect her to slug me, but she hasn't.
"Why are you doing this?" I ask.
Aleksandra scoffs at my question. "Lucy works for us."
Is that what she thinks? The mafia owns her because she mettled in something that she shouldn't have. "Not anymore."
She smirks and shrugs. "You know the only way the mafia will leave Lucy alone." Her pointed stare makes my stomach flop.
Lucy must become part of the bratva and not just a low level employee. It's the deal we made and why Lucy had broken into the compound. Antonio couldn't send a member of the mafia or an associate in. It would have started a war.
He did the next best thing, found a girl in trouble and used her to get what he wanted. "You don't own Lucy."
"Neither do you," Aleksandra says. "If you want her left alone, you know what you must do. Marry her."