Alexei (Her Russian Protector #8)

By: Roxie Rivera

Chapter One





“Shay, will you cover my shift tonight?”

I glanced up from the small workstation in my bedroom where I made the leather goods I sold online and frowned at my older sister. “It’s my one night off this week, Shannon. I’m trying to catch up on orders before the Christmas rush hits.”

“I know it’s your night off.” Wearing a slim-fitting sleeveless halter dress, Shannon leaned against the door frame and blew on her freshly painted nails. Her blonde hair was piled atop her head in fat hot rollers. “And I hate to ask…”

“But?”

“But Ruben called and there’s a last minute thing he can’t miss tonight. He needs me with him.” She did that batting her eyes thing that drove me crazy. “Please?”

I didn’t want to ask what event couldn’t be missed. Knowing what I did of Shannon’s drug dealer boyfriend, he had probably received an invite to some athlete or hip-hop wannabe’s mansion as a supplier of their recreational fun. “Shannon, I hate it when you go to these parties. You know I worry about you all night.”

“We aren’t going to a party. It’s a concert at the Arena. And Shay?” She rolled her eyes at me and huffed. “Seriously, you are going to give yourself an ulcer. You don’t need to sit up all night waiting for me. I’m a big girl. I know what I’m doing.”

“Do you?” I put down the metal punch and the leather strip I had been working. “Shannon, you just got popped for being a dog fight! It’s been less than two weeks since I bailed you out of jail. Ruben is on the hook for a felony!”

“They can’t prove anything against him. We were just there to watch the fights. That’s it.”

“You can pull that bullshit with your lawyer, Shannon, but I know better.” Shaking my head, I expelled a frustrated breath. “If you get pulled over or picked up with Ruben and he’s carrying again, you could go to prison. Okay? Like for real prison and not the county lockup.”

“That won’t happen.” She said it so quickly and easily, brushing off my concerns without a second thought. “He never carries weight on him. That’s what the slingers are for obviously.” She preened proudly. “He’s very careful with me.”

“But are you being careful?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Shannon,” I said her name in my no-bullshit tone. “I found your stash in your purse.”

Her stance turned aggressive. “Why were you digging around in my purse?”

“I wasn’t! Your purse fell out of our locker at work and I was picking up everything that spilled on the floor. I found a rolled up twenty and that dinged up credit card, Shannon.” My tightened and my stomach pitched with anxiety. “Are you snorting coke or molly?”

“Both. Sometimes.” She swallowed nervously but held my gaze almost daringly. “Look, it’s just a little bump here and there, Shay. I like to roll when we party. It’s not a big deal. I know what I’m doing.”

I had to give her credit for not lying to me but her nonchalance drove me crazy. “It is a big deal, Shannon. That’s how it starts. A little llelo at a party, a bump on a long night at work and then the next thing you know you’re a total junkie selling her ass on some dirty street corner for a fix.”

“Oh my God!” She snorted as if I were the most ridiculous person in the world. “Do you always have to be so dramatic?”

“I’m not being dramatic!”

“You are such a drama queen, and you’re so out of touch with reality. So what if I like to cut loose on the weekends? I know what I’m doing, Shay. I know how to control it.”

Irritated by the easy way she justified her use of drugs, insisted, “You promised me that you wouldn’t use Ruben’s product. You promised,” I repeated, my eyes burning as my fear for my sister’s life hit me hard.

Her jaw hardened and her eyes went cold. “You’re not a little girl anymore, Shay, and I’m allowed to have a life. I’m allowed to party with my boyfriend and have a good time. We aren’t hurting anyone.”

“You’re not hurting anyone?” I repeated incredulously. “Do you even watch the news, Shannon? Two months ago, there were cartel pushers dead in the streets, okay? Do you think that you’re safe from that? If Ruben screws up a deal, you could be collateral damage.”

She scoffed loudly. “You watch too much TV, Shay. That’s not the way it works. Ruben is protected. We’re safe.”

“Even after the dog fighting?”

She glared at me. “You just have to keep bringing that up, don’t you? You just have to rub it in my face that Ruben made a mistake.”

“A mistake?” I scoffed. “Shannon, he got busted and now the DA and the cops are digging around in his boss’s business. Lalo thinks he’s a kingpin. He thinks he’s some hotshot mob boss—and one of his soldiers just embarrassed him in front of the whole city.”

“Shut up, Shay. Just shut your mouth,” Shannon snarled. “Enough!”

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