Authors: Roxie Rivera
Tags: #alpha male romance, #mob romance, #damaged hero romance, #her russian protecto roxie rivera, #possessive hero romance, #tattooed bad boy romance
NIKOLAI (Her Russian Protector, Book
By Roxie Rivera
Copyright © 2013 by Roxie Rivera
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Table of Contents
With a sharp inhale, I bolted awake. Blinking
rapidly, I tried to clear my fuzzy, panicked thoughts. I wiped a
shaking hand down my face and shoved up into a sitting position.
Still confused from the nightmare, I frantically searched the
bedroom until my gaze landed on the nightlight near the
It was the same dream that had plagued me since
the night I'd been shot. Nearly eleven years had passed since that
awful April night but the memories were still so real, still so
raw. I rubbed the spots on my chest and belly that ached with the
phantom pains of bullets ripping through my flesh.
My gaze jumped to the doorway and I half
expected Lena to come running into my room to check on me. Even
though she'd been officially out of the apartment for a week, I
still hadn't adjusted to her absence. After living together for so
long, it was going to take some time for me to get used to being
Certain I wouldn't be able to sleep, I glanced
at the clock. It was a bit early to start my morning run but I
couldn't sit here in this quiet, empty apartment with my troubled
thoughts. I switched off my alarm, slipped out of bed and went
through my morning routine.
A quick peek out the window helped me choose my
running gear. Though the streets were dry now, the Houston weather
could change without waning. I made sure to wear layers because of
the late December chill and chose a thin rain jacket with
reflective tape on the sleeves and back.
With my hair pulled into a high ponytail and
ear warmers snugly in place, I pocketed my MP3 player and headed
for the kitchen. My gaze lingered on the box sitting on the kitchen
table. I'd found bits and pieces of Lena's stuff since she'd packed
up and left. When she returned from her winter vacation with Yuri,
I'd make sure she got it.
I snatched up my keys and cell phone and tucked
them into my pocket. Thumbing through the playlists on my iPod, I
picked a mix of alternative and electronica and slipped my ear buds
into place. My MP3 player fit neatly into the pouch on my ear
Out in the cold morning, I stretched my arms
overheard and yawned a few times. I adjusted the volume of my music
before jogging down the sidewalk and across the parking lot. I
wasn't at all surprised when two headlights popped on and a silver
SUV eased out of a guest spot. I rolled my eyes in annoyance but
waved at the poor guy Nikolai had forced to babysit me
Such were the "perks" of having a Russian
mobster as a guardian. Though I loathed being followed every minute
of the day, I understood why I had that SUV shadowing me along my
run. I'd hoped things would go back to normal for me after Lena and
Yuri survived their harrowing brush with death and the Guzman
Cartel had let her father go but it wasn't to be.
In the last week, word had reached
Nikolai that my incarcerated father's impending release had been
bumped up. Not knowing the exact date of his release left me on
edge. Even more troubling for me? No one knew
he'd managed to get early release
from the pen. A man like my father wasn't going to earn release for
good behavior. Just thinking about what he might have done to get
popped from lockup made my stomach sour. Deep down inside, I knew
he'd find a way to drag me back down into the shit with
As my feet pounded the familiar three-mile
path, I let my mind wander. Lately, my thoughts seemed to always
circle back to Nikolai. Our odd relationship was one that few
people could understand. From the moment he'd appeared in my life
that terrible April night nearly eleven years earlier, we'd been
My chest tightened as I remembered the stupid
thing I'd done. So desperate to be loved by my loser father, I'd
let him talk me into helping him break into a house. He'd sworn the
owners were out of town and that we were simply going to take some
jewelry and money from a safe. Then he'd take me away from Houston,
away from the grandparents who were suffocating me and keeping me
away from him, and off to a new life where we'd be
Looking back, I couldn't believe I'd
gullible. Even at the tender age of eleven, I should have
known better. Hell, maybe I
known better but I'd been so emotionally damaged
by the suicide of my mother that I didn't care. I just desperately
needed to believe that one of my parents loved me enough to want
But the house we'd broken into wasn't empty at
all. Someone had been sleeping there. Someone with a gun. Someone
with very good aim. Someone who shot me while I tried to flee out a
second-story window with a hoodie stuffed with jewelry and cash
while my father ran out the back door.
My gut lurched as the memory of the
free fall from that window hit me hard. I jogged in place at an
intersection and tried to get a grip on my wild emotions.
Glancing both ways, I crossed the intersection
and hopped onto the curb. The tightness in my chest eased as I
remembered the way Nikolai had saved my life. While my rotten,
cowardly father had fled the scene, Nikolai and some of the
neighbors had been awakened by the gunshots. He'd knelt at my side,
cradling my head with one hand and pressing a wadded up towel to my
bleeding belly and chest with the other until the paramedics and
police had arrived.
Later, when I'd woken up in the hospital, I'd
learned that Nikolai and my grandparents actually knew each other
from back in Russia. From that point forward, he'd been a shadowy
character in the background of my life. It wasn't until my
grandmother suddenly passed during my senior year of high school
and my grandfather succumbed to an aggressive case of early-onset
Alzheimer's that Nikolai stepped out of those shadows and offered
his help and friendship.
Generally, people made one of two assumptions
when it came to our curious relationship. They assumed Nikolai had
taken on the role of my father figure after my own had been thrown
in the federal pen.
Or, they assumed our relationship had some kind
of sordid, twisted sexual component.
It absolutely didn't.
The truth was rather simple. Nikolai was my
guardian. Not in the legal sense, of course, but in a broader
sense. He watched out for me. He kept the heat of my father's
connections with the Guzman Cartel and that wretched motorcycle
gang he ran with off my back.
When I'd needed a job, he'd offered me a spot
as a waitress at Samovar, the extremely successful restaurant he
owned. The few times I'd run into problems with my college tuition
or health insurance premiums, he'd taken care of it without me even
having to ask. How he always knew when I needed help remained a
mystery to me.
Looking back, I recognized he'd silently
interceded on my behalf on numerous occasions. It was clear to me
now that Nikolai had been the source of the funding for my private
high school tuition. He'd been the one who paid for my
grandfather's medical care and nursing home expenses. He'd even
arranged both of my grandparents' funerals.
Other men would have held those acts of
kindness and charity over my head or used them to exploit or take
advantage of me—but not Nikolai. He'd always kept me at an arm's
length, always ensuring that my honor remained intact and that our
friendship was beyond reproach.
And it drove me crazy.
I wanted to be wrapped up in his strong arms,
not constantly held at bay. Though I wasn't brave enough to come
right out and tell him how I felt, I was absolutely certain he
understood that my childish crush had grown into something deeper,
something more real. Sometimes he looked me and I swore I could see
the same longing reflected in his green eyes.
But, just as quickly as the flash of need
appeared, it would vanish, and I'd be left doubting myself. Maybe
it was merely a case of wishful thinking on my part. Not wanting to
make a complete jackass of myself, I'd continued to cling only to
the closeness of our friendship without ever daring to take a step
across the line. The last thing I wanted was to drive him
away—because I needed him.
Of all the people in the world, Nikolai was
among the very few who could truly understand my history and how
far I'd come in life. My best friend, Lena, came very close, but
even she had been spared the very worst horrors in her childhood.
While she'd witnessed gang violence and drug dealing and had been
abandoned by her mother, she'd always had one parent—her father—who
But me? I'd had no one.
My mother's untreated mental illness left her
incapable of loving or caring for me. When she wasn't abusing me,
she ignored me completely, often going days without even feeding
me. My father had been a little better when he was around but that
wasn't often. He'd been in and out of prison or running around with
the miscreants in the Calaveras motorcycle gang for most of my
I hadn't known kindness or love until my
mother's parents had taken custody of me. Though they were strict
disciplinarians, they'd showered me with real love. As emotionally
broken as I'd been when I'd come into their home, I'd rebelled and
fought them every step of the way. It wasn't until I'd escaped my
brush with death that I'd woken the hell up and realized how
incredibly lucky I was to have two people willing to fight so hard
Nikolai understood what it was like to be
abandoned by his parents. He understood what it was like to be hurt
and neglected by the people who were supposed to love and care for
him. He knew only too well what it felt like to have that gaping,
raw hole of pain swirling in the pit of his stomach.
When waiting tables at Samovar, I'd watch the
happy families enjoying a Saturday night dinner with such envy.
Though I'd finally known happiness and security and contentment as
a teenager, I'd spent the most impressionable and vulnerable years
of my life aching for love and comfort. To see smiling fathers
feeding their toddlers and mothers coloring with their preschoolers
while they waited for their meals left me feeling so