Viktor, Her Russian Billionaire

By: Susan Westwood

Chapter One





Alia Jefferson walked out the back door of the bar she where worked. She turned back to wave to her co-worker, her best friend, Jess. “Have a good rest of your day,” she said.

Jess was short with red hair. A fireplug of energy and enthusiasm, even at three in the morning. “You, too, Alia. Text me when you get home so I know you’re safe.”

Alia laughed. “Yeah, if my phone works. It’s been giving me fits and I can’t afford a new one until payday.”

Jess frowned. “Then call me from your landline. I worry about your route home.”

Alia waved off her concern. She’d been walking these streets since she was still single digits. The only difference was the time of day. No one bothered her. Unlike the pale, little Jess, Alia was taller, with mocha skin. It gave her a little bit of cache in this neighborhood of many ethnicities.

The Hispanics thought her one of them, as did the African Americans. Having some white blood in her made her appearance not truly black, but not truly white, either. She shrugged. It just was.

She put her purse strap over her head so it would sit across her body. That way any purse-snatchers would have a harder time stealing it. She strode out of the alley as if she owned the place.

The other reason no one bothered her.

There were only a handful of people on the street in this part of town She recognized none of them. Often patrons of the bar who had hooked up at last call were still in the alley doing the nasty. The thought made Alia shudder.

Not that she was a prude, but sex among the dumpsters did not appeal to her.

Her footsteps echoed in the street as she left those people behind. Two more blocks to the subway station. Two more dangerous blocks. But her heart didn’t race. This was where she worked.

Well, she grew up in the Bronx and she didn’t back down.

She dared anyone to mess with her and her bag, which held a small brick in it, just in case she had to swing it at someone. No one had found out yet.

Noises came from an alley up ahead. She sighed. Should she tiptoe past it? She didn’t want to get involved. That was the other reason, no one touched her. She minded her own business.

She crossed the street to avoid the alley, but something drew her attention. A dim light shone into the small space. She saw a man on his knees, a gun to his head. He looked to be begging to a man in front of him.

She quickly averted her gaze. This was none of her business.

Then she heard the shot. She jumped and looked down the alley. The man who had been on his knees, was now writhing on the ground. The man with the gun turned his gaze to her.

Shit.

She spun away and ran halfway down the block. They would catch up with her. If she kept running, she might not make it to the subway. Even if she did, they might follow her onto it. What the hell?

There wouldn’t be enough people on it to make it safe. They would kill her and probably dump her body somewhere. Her brother would never know what happened to her.

Damn. She turned at the next corner, still in a full sprint. She noticed music coming out of a door someone had just opened. She slipped into that building before the door closed. She leaned on the door, her chest heaving.

Someone yelled at her, and for a moment, she thought the men from the alley had found her.

She looked around to see a plush red-carpeted hallway. The lights were dim and a large man was coming towards her. He spoke to her in another language. She had no idea what he was saying, but she bet she had a better chance with this mammoth then the two men who were chasing her.

She caught her breath finally as the man came to stand in front of her.

“English?”

“This is a private club. You need to leave.”

He sounded a little like those Russian bad guys in the James Bond movies she’d seen. “Please. There are men chasing me.”

“Why are they chasing you?”

He looked her up and down as if she were a piece of meat. Charming. I’m in danger and you’re looking to get laid. She pulled herself to her full height. She still only reaching his large neck.

“I saw a murder. Someone was shot. The guys who did it are after me.”

He frowned and appeared to be making a decision.

“Let me talk to Yuri,” he said. “You stay put.”

She nodded. She had no intention of going outside. The two men must have figured out where she had gotten inside. They could easily have seen her turn that corner. She waited for them to bang on the door that she figured out how to lock.

Probably illegal in Manhattan to lock the door, but she wasn’t going to chance them getting inside. She’d be dead.

The man came back. “Follow me.”

She did, knowing her luck was better with him. “Thank you.”

He grunted as if her apology was not necessary or wanted. Once again, she couldn’t get past his charm. Guess when you were that big, you didn’t need charm.

The man could probably snap her into two.

First, he’d have to catch her and she’d been a track star in high school. He led her up a set of stairs. Below, men and women danced to a techno beat. Colored lights swirled all around her. Then they were through a door and the music couldn’t be heard anymore.

This hallway was well-lit and had carpeting that muffled their footsteps. He pointed to a chair. “You wait here. Boss will call you in.”

He spun on his heel and left her to contemplate who the boss was.

***

Viktor Kozlov stood at the window in his office that overlooked the dance floor. Bodies moved and writhed to some music that always gave him a headache. That’s why he’d soundproofed the upstairs of his club.

Every club he owned was this way. No matter what city in the world, he’d built the second floor the same way. Each club looked different, but not his space.

He ran a legitimate, private club, keeping a low profile in some nice neighborhoods around the world. This venture in Manhattan was newer to him. He wasn’t sure he liked it here in America.

Bribing did not work. You had to work within most of the laws. Unless you found a dirty official who could be bribed. Not as simple as Russia where you knew everyone wanted to be paid off.

He sighed. And now this woman was out the hallway with a story of a murder. He ran a tight ship and didn’t let any crime from the outside world invade his place.

“She’s waiting,” Sacha, his younger brother and lawyer, said.

“I know.”

“Just hear her story, then let her loose. No one’s knocked on our door so they have no idea she’s here.”

Viktor frowned then turned back to his brother. “Let her in and leave us alone. Have someone check around the block to see if anyone suspicious is about.”

“You want to see her alone? What if she says you tried to do something with her,” Sacha said.

He was always looking at things from a legal angle. Once in a while Viktor was sorry he’d paid for his brother’s schooling. The kid thought too much.

“Alone. Send her in,” Viktor said.

He was the oldest. He was the one to be obeyed.

Sacha nodded, then left. The girl didn’t walk in meekly. No, she strode into his office as if she was ready to take it over. Pretty ballsy for a woman who’d supposedly seen a murder. Then he looked into her eyes and knew her posture was mere bravado.

She was scared and her gaze darted around the room. Probably looking for a second escape route. Viktor remembered thinking like that. He was out of practice as his life had been very good since making his billions on nightclubs.

He brought the hottest Russian acts in, so, for a few hours, ex-pats from that part of the world could feel as if they were home. They paid well to have membership and in return, he made the place a safe haven.

Now this dark woman stood tall in his office. She might bring crime to his peaceful slice of heaven.

“Sit down.”

“I’d rather stand,” she said.

Her voice was sexy. Husky and smooth at the same time. Deeper than most women’s voices. It stirred something in him. He tamped it down. She would be on her way in a matter of minutes. As soon as his men said that, the area was safe.

He wanted her gone, but he had enough of a conscience to make sure she arrived to her destination safely.

“Tell me what you saw.”

“There were three men. One had a gun on another man. The other man was kneeling. I looked away then heard a gunshot. When I looked back, the kneeling man was on the ground. The man with the gun saw me, so I ran.”

Viktor sat down on his buttery leather chair. He steepled his hands in front of him then observed her. Now that her gaze had alighted on him, she wasn’t backing down.

“So you ran and found my club.”

“The door was open and about to close so I slipped in.”

“You could have entered any establishment on the block. Why mine?” he said.

“Yours was the only door open. All the bars are closed.”

“Mine is not because it is a private club.”

“I didn’t check the sign before I came here. I was running for my life.”

She had spunk. Even when she didn’t have the upper hand, she stood up to him.

Other than his mother, no one stood up to him. He wanted to laugh.

His phone on his desk buzzed. He answered it. “Viktor.”

“There are two men lurking on the other side of the street from us. Do you want me to take care of them?” his guard, Yuri, asked.

“No. That would make them suspicious. Leave them. I’ll deal with the woman.”

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