Please enjoy this first chapter preview of The Director by Renee Rose
Chicago Bratva, Book 1
NO ONE TAKES WHAT’S MINE.
The lovely attorney kept a secret from me.
A baby she’s been carrying since Valentine’s night.
The night we were thrown together by the roulette wheel.
She never contacted me. Meant to keep me in the dark.
She’s about to find out what happens when you cross a bratva boss.
Punishment is in order. Sequestering until the birth.
And I’ll use that time to win her surrender.
Because I don’t just plan to keep the baby—
I plan to make his mother my bride.
And it would be much better for both of us if she were willing.
It might be time to stop wearing heels. Or choose the lower ones.
Fresh from another courtroom win, I step into the crowded elevator. I hide my wince, courtesy of swollen feet stuffed in my boss-bitch stilettos—the ones I use to assert my seniority, stature, and overall dominance in the courtroom and, more importantly, within my father’s firm.
I nearly wince again when I see Jeffrey’s on this ride.
He glances at my swollen belly then meets my gaze with a torment of conflict behind his grey eyes.
It’s not his.
We broke up six months before I had the very out-of-character sexcapade in DC that resulted in my changed state.
“Lucy,” he says. It’s a statement, not an opening. An acknowledgment of the eight years we wasted together.
I bite back a sigh. “Jeffrey.”
Thankfully, there are four other people in the elevator, so I snap into position beside him to stare at the doors as the elevator moves upward.
“How’s your dad?”
Oh, jeez. Were we really going to do this?
“Same.” I make the required glance his way.
“Yes. Well, it is what it is.”
I face unfriendly counsel daily—in my firm and opposite me in the courtroom. I can handle another elevator ride with my ex. But the mixture of pity and remorse in Jeffrey’s stare makes my Lafayette 148 New York blazer—the one with a straining button above my belly—suddenly unbearably tight and hot.
But, then, I imagine wearing any blazer in July while pregnant would be unbearable.
Still, I wish he’d work through his emotional crap and stop making my growing belly the source of some internal conflict. I assume he wonders what it would be like if it were his. Or maybe he feels guilty that I’m doing this baby thing on my own because he would never commit.
The fact is, I’ve gone on without him.
End of story.
The elevator stops on the floor of his architecture firm, but he hesitates, shifting his arm in front of the sensors, but not getting out. “We’re going to get drinks at The Rocket tonight if you want to join us,” he says then grimaces, probably realizing drinks are out for me considering the tiny life growing inside me.
“Another time,” I say in that disinterested tone of voice that’s supposed to convey never but falls a little short. I might have mixed feelings about Jeffrey, too.
Or maybe I’m just terrified I can’t do this alone.
I hold my head up, keeping my courtroom stance until the doors shut. Then it gets easier to maintain when the doors open on my floor, and I affect my confident stride to the shared secretary’s desk.
“First appointment?” I usually know my schedule without being told. I’m the type of person with the proverbial mind like a steel trap, but the hormones are messing with my memory, too. I feel muddled. Soft around the edges.
And I hate how vulnerable and out of control that makes me feel.
“The first appointment is with Adrian Turgenev, the young man charged with arson of the sofa factory on 11th,” Lacey, the secretary, tells me.
Right. Russian mafiya, or bratva, as they call it. The client was referred by Paolo Tacone, one of my Italian crime family clients.
Funny, are the Russians and Italians in bed together now? It doesn’t matter. It’s not my job to know the real details of their business.
It’s just my job to defend them with the facts collected by law enforcement.
I have to admit the slight foreboding tickling the back of my neck at getting involved with the Russians. Not because I take a moral high ground with the people I defend. You can’t be a defense attorney and ride that horse.
Only because of him.
Master R, the sexy Russian criminal I met in Washington, DC last Valentine’s day.
The unwitting sperm donor for my adventure into single parenting.
But he was in Washington, DC. Probably zero connection with the cell here in Chicago.
I unlock my office and go in then pull the file on Adrian Turgenev to review the notes the secretary made on the case. I sit behind my desk before I kick off the three-inch heels, which are digging into my swollen feet.
Lordy. Pregnancy is not for wimps. Especially not at age thirty-five.
“Lucy. Did I hear you’re taking on a new organized crime outfit?”
I try not to narrow my eyes at Dick Thompson, one of my dad’s partners in the firm. I’ve known him since I was a kid and have to work very hard to keep him from still treating me like one.
“You heard correctly.” I raise my brows to inquire about his point.
He shakes his head. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea. We spent many hours deliberating the wisdom of taking on the Tacones back in the day when your father represented Don Santo or whatever his name was. We can’t have this firm pulled down with a nasty reputation.”
I remember. I worked here during my summer and winter breaks from the time I was sixteen. I also remember what my father had said at the time.
“This firm is famous for defending murderers and criminals. Organized crime simply provides the guarantee of return business.” I flick my brows with a cool smirk.
This isn’t about some moral high ground. It’s Dick being a dick. He pushes me on purpose. He always has. I’ve had to work doubly hard to prove I deserved the spot in this firm, both because I’m female and because my father helped me get it. Now there’s some kind of campaign going on behind my back regarding the partnership. Dick’s building a case against me. Or maybe my dad. Likely both of us.
As a woman in a cut-throat business in one of the most cut-throat firms, I’m always fully expecting the dagger that’s inches from my back.
My phone rings.
“That’s probably him. I have to go,” I breeze to Dick as I shove my feet back in my pumps and answer the phone.
“Mr. Turgenev and Mr. Baranov here to see you.”
“Send them in, please.”
I stand and walk around my desk, ready to shake their hands when they come in.
I should’ve been prepared for it.
I had that niggling feeling. Still, when the door opens and I catch the handsome, brutal face of the man standing there, the room swoops, dips, and momentarily goes black.
It’s him. Master R. My partner from Black Light, the BDSM club in DC.
The father of my child.
I catch the elbow of the lovely blonde attorney as she sways. I’m so shocked to find her here—in Chicago of all places—I fail at first to notice the cause of her swoon.
Then I see it. Her belly protrudes indelicately below the button on her designer suit jacket.
Her pregnant belly.
I do the math very quickly. Valentine’s night. Broken condom. Five months ago. Yes, her bump is the right size to be mine. But I could’ve skipped the calculation—everything’s there on her colorless face.
She’s having my baby. And she didn’t want me to know it.
I may have thought many times about our night together. I may have even returned to the club in DC to seek her—without luck. But her thoughts of me have not been so fond.
She’s definitely not happy to see me. In fact, she looks downright alarmed.
As well she should be.
I take in a measured breath.
“Luck indeed,” I murmur, releasing her elbow as she quickly recovers, her ice-princess mask snapping firmly into place on her lovely face.
Lady Luck was the name she chose at the roulette event where I met her. Until today, I didn’t know her real name. Nor that we live in the same city.
“Mr. Turgenev.” She offers a slim hand to Adrian, who slouches a little as she shakes it, intimidated by her presence. “And Mr. Baranov, was it?”
“Call me Ravil.”
Or Master, as you called me the last time we were together.
Her brown eyes skitter to my face again. She’s even more beautiful than I remember. Pregnancy has softened her already lovely face with a few extra pounds. She has a radiant glow.
“Nice to meet you. Please, sit down.” She indicates the chairs across from her desk.
“You came highly recommended, Ms. Lawrence.” I sit, and I watch her as she shuffles the papers in her file. Her hand trembles slightly. When she sees me looking, she immediately drops the papers, snapping her head up and fixing Adrian with a shrewd gaze.
“So, you’re charged with aggravated arson. You allegedly burned down West Side Upholstery where you worked. Your bail posted at one hundred thousand and was paid by Mr. Baranov.” She flicks a glance at me then returns to focus on Adrian. “Tell me what happened.”
Adrian shrugs his shoulders. He’s one of the newest to join my fold. His accent is still thick, despite my edict that he must only speak English. I require that of all my men because it’s the quickest way to learn.
“I work at sofa factory, yes. But I know nothing about the fire.”
“The police found lighter fluid on your uniform.”
“I had barbecue after work.”
He sure did. Right after he broke into Leon Poval’s home, hoping to kill him with his bare hands. When he found the man’s apartment empty, he burned his factory down to console himself.
He’s obviously unconvincing, still in his defensive posture from being questioned by the police. I don’t tell him to act otherwise. It’s not my habit to reveal any cards before they should be turned over, even if she is working for us.
I’m also far less interested in Adrian’s case now that I am working out what’s going on with my beautiful attorney. Why didn’t she tell me?
“You were only hired there last week?”
I cut him a look.
“Yes,” he amends.
“Before that you worked for Mr. Baranov?” she glances my way. “As a…structural engineer?”
Adrian shrugs again. “Yes.”
“Why did you take a minimum wage job at a sofa factory when you’re trained as an engineer?”
“I have an interest in building furniture.”
Lucy sits back, a flicker of annoyance crossing her face. “I am better able to help you if you give me the truth.” She glances my way, as if for support. “Do you know about attorney-client privilege? Anything we discuss about your case will remain confidential and can’t be compelled from me in a court of law.”
I do nothing to intercede. This is her job. She can work for my money.
Adrian gives her a bored look.
She blows out a breath. “So you didn’t go back to the factory after work that night? Or stay late?”
Adrian shakes his head. “Nyet—no.”
She continues to interview him, jotting things down and studying both him and me. I remain silent. Let her wonder and worry.
I’m already making my plans. This afternoon I need to find out everything there is to know about Lucy Lawrence. And then I’ll know exactly what angle to take with her.
“I can probably plea-bargain it down to arson. It carries three to seven years in prison instead of four to fifteen for aggravated.”
“No,” I cut in. “He will plead not guilty. That’s why we hired the best to represent him.”
She doesn’t look surprised. “All right. I require a fifty thousand dollar retainer, payable before I enter the plea. And I will need more to work on if I’m going to win this case.”
I stand, signaling the end of the interview. “I’ll transfer the money today, and we will discuss the events some more. Thank you, counselor.”
She stands and walks around the desk. Her high heels would say fuck-me if they were red, but because they’re nude are more of an I’ll-fuck-you. Especially the way she struts in them like she lives at that altitude. I’ll bet she’s a barracuda as a lawyer. Paolo Tacone said as much.
The pregnancy does nothing to soften the edges of her imposing stature. If anything, it makes her even more goddess-like. The female form to be both worshipped and feared.
Except I know she’s the one who prefers to be dominated.
I’m guessing that’s a secret not many share. She was untried at submission when I had her. If she hasn’t pursued it since, I may be the only man who’s dominated her.
That thought shouldn’t get me hard, but it does.
I will dominate her again.
I adjust my cock at the idea, and her gaze drops to my crotch. Some of her regal composure falls away. A flush colors her neck and the flesh visible in the open V of her expensive blouse.
I take her hand when she offers it, and I squeeze, but don’t let go. Her intelligent brown gaze tangles with mine, and I hold it.
Her breath stutters and stops.
“Adrian, wait in the hallway for me. I’ll be there in a moment.” Adrian leaves, and I shut the door behind him, still holding her hand.
Her eyes slightly widen. She resumes breathing with a little gasp as she tugs her hand away as if I scalded her. “Ravil.”
A prickle runs through me at the sound of my name on her lips. Because she says it like she’s claiming it for herself. Like she, too, regretted the absence of personal details after our encounter.
But that’s impossible. If she’s carrying my child, she had every reason, right, and responsibility to contact Black Light and request my personal information. To contact me with the news.
And she didn’t. Which means she didn’t want to know my name.
“Do you have something to tell me, Lucy Lawrence?”
“No,” she clips, turning away, her business-like demeanor in full command.
I catch her arm, and she rubberbands back. I immediately release it when she shoots a laser-beam glare at my hand.
“You really should have called.” I give her belly a pointed look.
She draws herself up taller, the muscles in the front of her neck going stiff. “It’s not yours,” she blurts as color suffuses her face. Her pupils are tiny points of fear.
The lie hits me square in the chest. I was right. She didn’t want me to know the existence of this child.
I cock my head. “Why lie?”
Her neck and chest spread with color, too, but she keeps her voice as even and low as mine. “I know what you are, Ravil. I don’t believe your”—she clears her throat for emphasis— “profession lends itself to fatherhood. I won’t ask for child support. Don’t ask for visitation. Don’t make me prove in a courtroom why you’re unfit to parent.”
My upper lip curls at her threat. I am a man who’s reached the top of my organization and this city with quick, emotionless thinking. I don’t usually take offense. I don’t usually make things personal.
But this time, it’s fucking personal. Lucy Lawrence thinks I’m unfit to parent my child? She thinks she’ll keep this child from me?
I give her a smile that promises retribution. “Don’t worry, counselor. I won’t ask.”
“I look forward to seeing you again.” I pack everything into my words—innuendo and warning—and she reads it all.