Her Russian Surrender

By: Theodora Taylor

“You will stay with me, no divorce, and I will take your love.”

She tilted her head to the side. “Okay, that’s not exactly how it works.”

“No?” Nikolai asked, with what sounded like genuine confusion. “How does ‘it work?’”

“I’m in love with you and I’m putting some distance between us because I don’t want to be in love with you.”

“Why not?” Nikolai asked.

“Because it hurts too much.”

“Why?” he asked again.

Was he serious?

“Because you don’t love me back!” she answered, stringing the words out carefully since obviously Nikolai was even lower on the emotional intelligence spectrum than she’d originally feared.

Nikolai’s brow wrinkled and he turned fully towards her, laying his arm across the back of the couch.

“Zhena, I have important question for you. When you said I could learn be good parent, did you mean it?”

“Yes, I meant it,” she answered immediately, though she had no idea why he was asking this in response to her confession of love.

“So why you think I not learn to love you?”

Before she could answer, he looked down, almost as if he were frustrated with himself for not being able to solve a tricky math problem. “No, I not ask right question…”

He looked back up at her, his green eyes the opposite of ice now. So heated, they seemed to burn.

“I will answer now question you asked me before,” he told her. “Yes, zhena, my father was enforcer for our former Rustanov mafia family. Yes, he taught me everything he knew. I did not, how you say, follow in his footsteps. I became hockey player. But I did remember these things. I did use them to kill those Russians. I killed them to protect Pavel, and I killed them to protect you.”

Sam stared at him wide eyed. Why was he telling her this now? To get her to stop loving him? To convince her she’d made a mistake by bringing her heart into it? If that was the case, then he’d used the wrong tactic.

She looked down, then back up again to say, “I see where you’re going with this, but unfortunately that only makes me love you more. Nobody’s ever gone out of their way to protect me before.”

Nikolai looked at her for a few moments and let out a sad sigh, as if she were the most pitiful woman he’d ever encountered—which maybe she was. Then he said, “When you did not realize it was date until I say to you, ‘Zhena, this is date,’ I thought maybe you are smart in some ways, and maybe not so smart in others. But now I see question I should ask you is are you same as your mother?”

Her heart stopped, her back going up straight. “Why would you ask me that? Because I’m not upset about you killing the Russians? You think I want to be in an abusive relationship?”

“No, I asked you, because you thought I told you about my killings to make you stop loving me. This is why I ask,” Nikolai answered, his voice harsh and angry. “Are you same as your mother? Do you think you are—how did you say—undeserving of loving relationship?”

Sam froze. “I…”

She wanted to say no. She wanted to say she used to dream about being in a loving relationship, of having a family with someone she loved, so obviously she thought she deserved one. But she ended up telling him the truth instead.

“I don’t know,” she whispered.

Nikolai reached out to her then, cupping the side of her face gently with his large hand. “I will tell you another secret now, zhena. I was not talking on phone with cousin. I was talking with Pavel.”

“Pavel? But why?” she asked, sitting back in stunned surprise.

And his hand fell from her face.

“Why did I ask nine-year-old boy how to make you my wife in every way? Because I was desperate,” he answered with a miserable look. “So I ask Pavel his help. And he told me story. He said when you saved him, he thought, ‘She is good person. I wish she was my mother.’ So he called you mama, because he wanted you to be mama to him, and after we married you became his mama. This made him very happy. So when I ask him advice, he told me to do same. He said to be nice to you, treat you like real wife and he said if I do this, you become my real wife, same as you became his real mother.”

Sam stared at him in horror and he shifted his gaze away from her. “You look at me like this because I took advice from child.”

“Not because you took Pavel’s advice, but because you asked a child how to get me into bed!”

Nikolai screwed up his face. “You think this is about sex only?” he asked. Then he reset with an annoyed huff. “Okay, you have been in Indianapolis less than year. Maybe you don’t understand yet. I am big deal. I could have many girls at any time.”

“Oh, I get that, Nikolai,” she answered with a pained expression. “I totally get that.”

“Then why you think this way about me?”

Nikolai asked this question, both his tone and his face filled with hurt, and it disarmed Sam. Not only because she wasn’t used to him showing emotion, but also because… “Because yeah, maybe you think you can learn, but I’m not sure you can. I don’t even know if you’re capable of love. You said it was a silly custom. Remember?”

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