Collateral Damage

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Publisher: Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller

 

Power. Money. Fear. I’ve wielded them all. But not with Cerys.
My angel, my light. My everything.

 

Cerys: Blind since birth, I’ve learned the hard way I can’t rely on my father. When he gets in too deep with the wrong sort of people, I find myself the property of Viktor. I’ve heard whispers of the mob and what they’re capable of and know I should be terrified, but it doesn’t take much for me to fall for Viktor. I see a side of him he seems to show only to me. His kisses make my knees weak, and just one touch makes me dream of forever. He makes me feel… special. Precious. Important. But what would a man like him want with collateral damage? He can have any woman he wants, and probably has. I don’t see a happily-ever-after in our future, no matter how much I might want one.

Viktor: Death and destruction cling to me, blood and violence just a way of life. I didn’t climb my way toward the top of the Bratva by being a saint. I may be gruff and dangerous, take what I want when I want, but when it comes to Cerys, I find that I can’t be harsh with her. She’s gentle. Sweet. An angel. My myshka. She’s the light to my darkness. Now that I have her, I know that I can’t let her go. I’ll make her mine in every way possible. Only one problem. Artur Orlov. He wants me to marry his daughter, but I won’t. I didn’t count on him retaliating by taking my myshka from me. I’ll get her back, and if she’s been harmed in any way, I won’t stop until every last man responsible has breathed their last.

WARNING: This story contains adult content, including language and violence that some may find objectionable.

 

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Releasing with Changeling Press on November 22

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Excerpt

 

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Harley Wylde & Paige Warren

Cerys

I could hear my heart thundering in my ears as I strained to listen to my father’s conversation. The men had forced their way into our home, and I’d heard the crash of furniture. At first, I’d been terrified because I’d thought we were being robbed. Now I knew different. I’d known my father was in trouble, but I didn’t realize how much. Money had been tight for a while, since Mom died several years ago. Things had been getting better, or so I’d thought. I never realized the reason we suddenly had money, or rather my father suddenly did, was because of some shady dealings he’d had with the wrong men. He’d claimed he’d been working, and I thought things were going well. Had he lied to me? Why did he always have to control me? Everything he did seemed to be designed for the express purpose of keeping me under his rule, and miserable.

“Please, Maksim. I just need more time,” my father begged.

I didn’t know a Maksim. The Russian accent of the men in our living room sent a shiver down my spine. In our neighborhood, the only Russians I knew were an elderly couple, or people who belonged to the mafia. I’d heard it called the Bratva, but it meant the same thing. The men sequestered with my father did horrible, evil things. Every last one of them had blood on their hands. I could only imagine what they’d ask of him, or the ultimatum they would give.

“You’ve had time,” said a deep voice I assumed belonged to Maksim.

“You don’t understand. I’ve moved as much product as I can, but I don’t have enough connections. I can get them! I just need… a month? Yes, give me another month.”

“Nyet.”

I heard the rustle of clothing and it sounded like something was being screwed onto something. I strained, needing to know what was happening. The door I hid behind was cracked open a bit, but it didn’t do my sightless eyes a bit of good. I’d relied on my other senses from birth, but sometimes it wasn’t enough.

“Nikolai, tie up the loose ends,” the man said.

No! I knew what that meant. I now understood the sound I’d heard. A silencer. At least, that’s what they were called in books and movies. They were going to shoot my father. Kill him. He might not be the best dad, but he was all I had. What would happen to me if he were gone? I shoved the door open and stumbled into the room.

“Don’t!” I fell to my knees and pushed myself up, but I’d lost my bearings and as I stood, I stretched my arms out, feeling for any furniture or people. I didn’t know how the room had changed after they’d barged in and started throwing things around. “Please. Don’t kill him.”

“And who is this?” Maksim asked.

“My daughter. Cerys. Don’t hurt her. She’s blind and can’t recognize any of you. I beg of you. Let her go,” my father said.

Now he was going to act like a loving parent? Maybe we should have invited these men over sooner. Not that they’d received an invitation now.

A hand grasped mine, rough and large. I was pulled against a firm chest and a tantalizing scent teased my nose. I couldn’t help but lean in a little closer. It was stupid, and maybe the stress of the situation was skewing my logic, but I used my hands to explore the body holding me, inching up toward the man’s face. My fingers scraped across a close-cropped beard and up to a strong nose. I didn’t feel wrinkles, only firm smooth skin. I couldn’t guess his age, other than he was likely under forty and over twenty.

“Who are you?” I asked.

The man gently grasped my hand and pulled it away from his face. I felt an odd sense of loss. Again, I wasn’t reacting like a normal person. Not that I’d ever been considered normal, but this was out of the ordinary even for me.

“Viktor, you seem intrigued by the young woman,” Maksim said. “Perhaps we can make a deal, Mr. Humes? Your daughter in exchange for the debt you owe.”

“What!” I heard my father struggling. “No! You can’t do this! Cerys is blind. Please, don’t hurt her.”

I wanted to snort and roll my eyes. The man had never given a damn whether or not I was hurt. He’d actually enjoyed moving pieces of furniture on occasion just to watch me trip over them. Then the bastard would laugh. I’d had to learn how to fend for myself after my mother died. If it weren’t for the elderly couple down the street, I’d have never gotten as far in school as I did. After my mother died, Mrs. Popov had ensured that I continued with my education. I’d been a few months from graduating, when my father pulled me from school completely. Somehow, he’d gotten forms signed saying I was dropping out of the homeschool program, and out of school all together. He’d heard me tell Mrs. Popov about my excitement over graduation, and had decided to ruin it like everything else in my life.

The fact he was acting like a loving, concerned parent, made me wonder exactly what he was up to because I knew he’d never loved me. Not since he’d discovered I was blind. He wanted them to think I was important to him, and in a way, I was. Without me, the house would be completely trashed and he’d probably starve to death. The man would certainly never go fetch his own beer, that was for damn sure.

“Who said anything about hurting her?” Maksim said. “I doubt very much that Viktor plans to cause her any harm. In fact, he’ll likely have her screaming in pleasure.”

The men chuckled and the breath froze in my lungs. He couldn’t mean what I thought he did. The man holding me tightened his grip around my waist and I felt the evidence of his arousal. My cheeks warmed and I stared at what I assumed was his chest. I’d never been with a man, never been kissed. Truthfully, I’d thought I would die a virgin, alone.

“She’s barely eighteen!” I heard my father struggling again, and assumed they were holding him back.

I knew the only reason he was trying to talk them out of it was due to the fact he’d lose his servant. Me. Even though I couldn’t see, I’d learned how to keep our home clean, and I managed to cook microwave meals. Each box was marked in a way that I knew what it was, and my father had me memorize the heat settings and cook time for each one. The lazy bastard couldn’t even be bothered to pop a frozen lasagna in the microwave.

“Barely?” Maksim asked.

“Yes. She just turned eighteen two days ago. She’s a child, Maksim!”

I felt someone run their hands down the length of my hair, then squeeze my ass. From the direction, I knew it wasn’t Viktor. I squeaked and pressed closer to the man holding me. Someone laughed before harshly grabbing my breast. I whimpered and my hands fisted on the material of Viktor’s shirt.

“Enough, Feliks.” I could feel the rumble under my fingers and knew Viktor had spoken. His voice was deep and rich with a hint of roughness. “Touch her again and I’ll remove your hands.”

“You’ll tire of her. Then I’ll have a turn. We all will.” The man laughed. I assumed it was Feliks and a shiver raked my spine. Was that my fate if I went with them? To be their whore?

“You can’t do this,” my father said. “Surely, you can’t condone this, Maksim. You have daughters. What if someone took one of them?”

“I always pay my debts,” Maksim said. “And no one would dare come for my family, unless they wanted to die. I’m sorry, Mr. Humes, but my terms are simple. Either you give your daughter to Viktor, or I’m afraid we’ll have to use you as an example to others who owe us.”

Someone laughed. “And then we’ll take your daughter anyway.”

Viktor’s arm tightened around me again until I worried I wouldn’t be able to breathe. I felt his body shift, then his lips brushed my ear.

“Do not fear, myshka.”