I never thought I’d see him again.
Until he kidnapped me.
I gasp, scrabbling for the railing of the staircase as my heels almost slip out from under me. My fingers curl tight around the frozen metal as my heart leaps in my throat. But I catch myself before I manage to slip onto my butt on the frozen stairs.
“First time in the snow, sweetheart?”
An older guy with a jackass smile and a Bears-logo puff jacket smirks at me.
Yes, kind of.
It’s not literally my first time walking on snow and ice. But this is my first winter in Chicago, and my first winter that hasn’t been spent in Georgia. Also, I’m in heels. On ice. Coming down the L staircase, at night.
Give me a freaking break.
“Just some ice, thanks,” I mutter back.
He keeps grinning at me as his eyes slide over me. I glare back as I pull myself upright and take the last step down the staircase to get away from him.
“Where you goin’ tonight lookin’ all dolled-up like that, sweetheart?”
“Yeah? How about you let me take you someplace nice, huh? Unless you already have a date,” he chuckles.
“I do, actually.”
I hear him turn to follow me, so screw it. I whirl and level my eyes at him.
“With the biggest crime Kingpin in the city.”
The guy grins widely. “All the tough guys say that to pretty girls who clearly ain’t from here. What’s his name, sweetheart?” He snickers. “I bet I know his goofy ass—”
The man’s face stills and goes white. I smile widely.
“He’s Russian. Maybe you’ve heard of him?”
“Have a good night, miss,” he says stiffly. The guy whirls and all but sprints up the frozen staircase.
I roll my eyes to myself. I probably shouldn’t go around name dropping “Komarov” like that. But whatever. Extenuating circumstances.
I turn and start to head down the sidewalk towards the restaurant. My name drop is mostly true. I mean, I amabout to have dinner with Viktor Komarov, whose not just the most well-known “gangster” in Chicago, he’s the international head of the Kashenko Bratva. I’m not just exactly his date.
My cousin Fiona—aka Mrs. Komarov—is.
Up until a year ago, I barely remembered her. We’d probably played together a few times at the odd family reunion when we were much, much younger. But then the Murray side of the family—that’s her maiden name—started to distance themselves from the Morgans, which would be my side.
I don’t blame them. Her dad was seeking political office. But even aside from that, no one in their right minds, family or not, would want to associate themselves with my family. Not after my dad died in a prison fight while serving a life term on federal drug and murder charges. Not with my junkie mom on a constant rotation of rehab, street corners, jail—rinse, repeat—until she finally disappeared.
After that, it was just me and my older-older brother, Jason.
I can go a long time without his name or his face entering my head. My longest streak is two months. But other times, he slips his way in, like a poison.
I scowl as I shake my head to clear it free of him.
Chicago is a clean start. Once Fiona and I reconnected when she heard I was applying to grad schools up here, she insisted I come visit to catch up. A weekend turned into a week, then two weeks, and then I just made the decision to stay.