Make You Mine - Jackie Ashenden

CHAPTER ONE

Alex couldn’t work out what had woken him, but something had, since his eyes were open and he was awake. The ceiling above him held no answers; neither did the two warm bodies of the women sleeping on either side of him.

It was dark, which meant it was still the middle of the night.

Fuck. This was the third night in a row he’d woken up. And unusual for him, since he had people with him. It was only when he slept alone that the nightmares came.

Yet it hadn’t been a nightmare that had woken him this time—or if it had, it wasn’t one he remembered.

Whatever. One thing was certain: He wasn’t going to be able to go back to sleep.

He managed to extract himself from between the two women–a couple of socialites he’d picked up in the Second Circle bar a few hours earlier, both of them thrilled to be invited up to his private penthouse apartment–then bent to grab the jeans he’d left on the floor in the middle of the room. Ordinarily he wouldn’t have bothered with clothes, but the past couple of weeks had left him with an odd sense of exposure and he couldn’t quite feel comfortable walking around totally naked.

And of course, there was Katya to consider. Even if she didn’t usually bat an eyelid. In the normal scheme of things that would have been enough for him to make it his personal mission to make her bat several eyelids, put a crack in that fearsome icy Russian façade of hers. But the past few weeks had given him more important things to think about than ruffling the feathers of his Russian bodyguard.

Things like a past he’d thought he’d left behind years ago. A casino. His sister, Honor.

A pair of silver dice.

Alex stepped out of the bedroom and made his way silently down the hallway to the lounge area. Massive windows gave a view out over New York’s 2:00 A.M. skyline, the city shivering in late February snow.

He liked looking at the view when everything was dark and still–though in New York nothing could ever be said to be still. But there was a quiet to it. A peace.

Alex stood for a moment, watching the snow falling outside the window.

Because it was better to watch snow than look at the dice sitting on the table.

The dice he should have given back to Gabriel the day his best friend had given them to him.

But he hadn’t. He’d kept them instead, leaving them on the low coffee table in front of the window. Burning a hole through the wood. Burning a hole in his mind.

A hole that burned straight through nineteen years of excess to a sixteen-year-old boy left bloody and traumatized on the sidewalk outside an underground casino.

His shoulder blades abruptly itched.

Alex didn’t turn. “Sorry,” he said unapologetically. “Did Marie wake you? It’s always the quiet ones that turn out to be screamers.”

“You didn’t wake me,” Katya Ivanova’s uninflected Russian accent came from behind him.

“Don’t tell me, because you haven’t been to bed yet.”

“No, sir.”

Sir. She always called him that, no matter how many times over the past three months she’d been in his employ he’d told her not to. Not Mr. St. James or Alex. Only sir. He rather liked it.

“Why not?” He turned around.

Katya was sitting on the sectional sofa, a laptop on her knees. She was dressed as she always was, in a plain white T-shirt and black tailored pants. A shoulder holster. Her long blond hair in a tight braid. He’d asked her once why she had long hair–an obvious disadvantage to a warrior such as herself. She’d just looked at him, her green eyes full of walls and shut doors. Fair enough too. He had a few walls and doors himself.

She put the laptop down beside her. “I had to check my e-mail.”

“Until two in the morning?”

“Time difference.”

“Mother Russia, huh?”

She said nothing.

Usual fucking story. Alex leaned back against the window, the cold of the glass seeping into his skin, and folded his arms. “E-mails home from Mom and Dad? Brother? Sister?”

“Private e-mails.” She said the words like that was the end of the conversation. “Can I do anything for you, sir?”

“Uncle? Aunt?” He paused, watching her face. She wasn’t beautiful, her features too strong for something as insignificant as beauty, but there was a pleasing symmetry to them all the same. “Lover?”

And there it was, a flicker in her eyes. Easily missed if you weren’t watching closely, but he always watched