Her Russian Billionaire

By: Theodora Taylor

Prologue

ALEXEI Rustanov hailed from a land where one could spot ex, current, and future supermodels walking down the same busy Moscow streets. But in his opinion, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen was currently sitting on the mattress they called their bed in his dumpy efficiency apartment.

When he came out of the bathroom that morning, he found her in nothing but the bikini bottoms from her yellow, polka-dot swimsuit, leaning into the nearby fan’s direct path, blissfully receiving its lackluster breeze on day six of one of the hottest heat waves on record in Dallas history. He ran a hand over the dark beard he’d been considering cutting if the heat wave didn’t break soon, and let his eyes roam over his girlfriend in quiet appreciation. Her ebony skin glistened with damp heat, and her thick, natural hair had been thrown into two haphazard, chunky French braids that barely reached below her ears. It wasn’t the most glamorous look, but he still felt himself go instantly hard, envisioning taking each of her breasts, which were beaded with sweat, into his mouth and lavishing them with the attention they deserved.

Though they’d been living together for almost three months, he could barely believe she belonged to him, that this beautiful and kind woman had chosen him, despite the shabbiness of his un-air conditioned apartment and the two-digit state of his bank account. She made him feel like the luckiest guy in the world.

As if sensing his gaze on her, her own eyes popped open and she unleashed that gorgeous smile of hers, the one that always stopped his heart.

“Hey, baby,” she said, her Texas accent lively as always despite the heat. “I didn’t hear you come out of the bathroom. You know, for such a big guy, you move like a cat.”

“I will replace your female-sounding ‘cat’ with ‘panther’ and agree,” he said, moving his six-foot-six frame to stand closer to the edge of the bed.

He wanted badly to join her in front of the fan, but he still had to get in his daily workout and another shower after that before his security guard shift at the School of Social Work began.

However, she made it hard for him to stay focused on his plans for the day when she looked up at him with a sexy grin and asked, “Are all you Russians trained to move like panthers?”

That gave him a moment of pause. Having grown up the scion of the Rustanov crime family, there were indeed talents he had that many other Russians did not. He could shoot several different kinds of guns, from the simple-to-shoot but easy-to-hide Walther PPK to the much more complicated Uzi. Thanks to the tutelage of his father and uncle, he could also sell those same guns to any interested party with a mixture of charm, marketing, and not-so-subtle aggression.

The reason he moved so quietly was because his father had made him start accompanying his uncle, Sergei, their family’s main enforcer, on retaliation killings at the age of twelve.

“The secret is to value the quiet above all things,” his uncle had told him outside the apartment of a man who had sold valuable information about their organization’s inner-workings to another crime family. “Become the quiet. People cannot prevent what they cannot hear coming.”

Five minutes later, he’d watched from a dark corner as his uncle snuck up behind the target in his own kitchen and slit his throat with only a whisper of sound. He’d then pulled out a GSh-18 with a silencer attached to it and shot the man, who was grasping at his bleeding throat, twice in the chest and then once in each knee cap, an intentional style of killing that had been in the Rustanov family since the early 1960s.

Alexei had barely made it to the street below the apartment before losing his dinner on the sidewalk. But his uncle had given him a few hearty slaps on the back, congratulating him on throwing up outside of the apartment, and therefore leaving no DNA behind for the Russian police. As with most of their killings, Sergei wanted everyone to know they’d done it, but they didn’t want any evidence left behind to officially attach the Rustanovs to the crime. Later, Alexei’s father told him he had also thrown up after witnessing his first killing.

“I will tell you as your grandfather told your uncle and me, if you are to order an execution, you must understand what you are doing. I will not have you be one of those spoiled princes who tell their men to murder like they are putting in an order for lunch.”

Six years later his father had been killed by one of those spoiled princes, a young man, Igor Stavnof, whose own departed father had been considered a friend to the Rustanovs. Igor and Alexei had attended the same private secondary school, and had even shared a bodyguard for a few hours once, when Igor’s fell sick during a snowstorm and a new one couldn’t immediately be sent out. But the Rustanov-Stavnof alliance came to an abrupt end when Igor had Alexei’s father gunned down outside a restaurant where they were supposed meet. Igor had meant this as a display of power, a warning to any enemy who thought his young age might make him any less of a force to be reckoned with than Stavnof senior. However, the move only served to seal Igor’s fate as someone who would die young.

After putting his father in the ground, Alexei had quietly hunted down the new crime lord, slit his throat, shot him twice in the chest and once in each knee cap.

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