ESSENCE OF FEAR
by Bethany-Kris A Boykov Bratva Novel
Publication Date: June 22, 2020
Genres: Adult, Romantic Suspense, Organized Crime. Erotic Romance, Standalone
Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/37G0KD3
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2Naixsn
Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2AOYWvo
The allure of fear is learning to love it.
Viktoria Boykov has heard it all—cold they call her. The spoiled bratva princess. She knows very well what people say when her back is turned. She doesn’t mind; let them talk. It’s better for people to assume what they want about her than for them to know the truth … until him.
Pavel Kotov knows what people say—death they call him. The Boykov dog. He’s heard all the whispers locked away in the cells of the Compound. As the reaper for the bratva, his life owned by someone else, he knows what they say doesn’t matter. His life has never mattered … until her.
Viktoria only wants to keep running from her past. Pavel doesn’t have a life to run from. Freedom is the one thing they both crave—for entirely different reasons. But this life is vicious, and scars like the ones they wear will never fade.
Together, they could have everything.
Or are they just pawns to a bigger game?
Note: Essence of Fear is a Boykov Bratva standalone.
Viktoria hated the Compound. No, that was too nice. She despised the place. It was huge, old, and smelled like it, too. In her memories from childhood, this place had never done anything good for her. The only time she remembered her father bringing her to the Boykov Compound was if something bad was going on, and he didn’t have a choice but to have her tag along, too.
She purposefully tried to avoid the maze of warehouses—and one old factory—that made up the Compound because unlike her brothers who had their offices here, there was nothing about the place that comforted her.
Because she was lost.
That was the thing about the Compound. It was far too easy for someone like her—who wasn’t familiar with the many hallways, stairwells, and connected warehouses—to get lost by simply taking a wrong turn. She was sure her brothers could navigate this musty-smelling hellhole with their eyes closed. After all, they’d spent the majority of their life behind these walls, under the watchful eye of their father.
She had no idea where she was.
Viktoria felt like she had now been walking around the Compound aimlessly for at least twenty minutes—a good estimation. She could absolutely call her brother, and have Konstantin come find her, but she didn’t want to give him that satisfaction. Knowing him, he would likely take great enjoyment from the fact she had managed to get lost and needed him to come find her.
He probably already knew she was lost.
She glanced up and saw a camera pointed in her direction at the end of the hallway in the right corner. A blinking red light told her the thing was live and watching every movement that happened in the hallway. No doubt, her brother was watching those cameras, and just waiting for her to call him for help.
She would figure this out on her own.
Viktoria stuck her middle finger up to the camera as she passed it by. Just in case her brother was watching her and getting a kick out of her predicament as she tried helplessly to find the floor where his office was situated. Then he could know how she was feeling before they finally came face to face.
She was starting to regret bringing her large kit instead of the smaller kit that she usually used to travel with when she was tattooing. She’d taken some time off just because her mind was everywhere but tattooing, but even when she was working regularly, she typically traveled with the smaller kit.
It was lighter and easier to unpack or clean up. The larger kit was making her arm tired as she navigated the maze of hallways.
She came around a corner at the end of the hallway and ran right into someone coming out of an opened door.
No, not someone.
Not just anyone.
A strange man.
Viktoria’s kit fell from her hand and crashed to the floor. Her first instinct was to immediately step back from the man, and put as much distance as she could between him and her. In her mind, her thoughts raced. They screamed at her to relax, calm down … don’t let him see you’re scared; don’t panic, Vik.
She hadn’t even looked at his face yet. Not that she needed to—just the sight of his large form, fit, tall, and lean, and the smell of his musky, spicy scent was enough to make her nervous. Her gaze drifted a little higher, traveling over the expanse of the black T-shirt that stretched across a broad, muscular chest, and then over his lower throat dusted with dark hair.
“Hello,” he greeted.
Viktoria’s gaze snapped up all at once to find his face. His eyes—a dark ocher color, flecked with brown and gold—met hers, and she sucked in a sharp breath that ached in her lungs. He really did have a beautiful face, with his strong jaw and sharp cheekbones. The strong lines of his face were only accentuated by the intense coldness in his stare and the way his lips seemed to be pulled into a permanent line.
His dark hair was a little long on the top, but messy, like he’d been running his fingers through it. A small scar through his left eyebrow only added to the straightness of his brow line, giving him an even more disinterested expression.
And fucking terrifying.
“Do you not speak?” he asked.
She wasn’t sure what to make of his tone—it was both flat, and yet dark. Like he was accustomed to speaking in low tones, but it was just husky enough to suggest he could get loud if he needed or wanted to.
Viktoria swallowed hard, determined not to show the fact that being alone with this strange man in a hallway put a fear into her very bones that she would never be able to get out. “I can talk, thank you.”
Yeah, she meant for that to come out as sharp as it did.
He only arched a brow at her. “Are you lost?”
His gaze drifted over her shoulder, and she swore the edges of his lips threatened to lift into some form of a smile, but he held back. She had the strangest thought, then—what would he looked like if he did smile?
Then, his dark eyes came back to her.
“You are lost.”
Viktoria balled her fists at her sides, but if he noticed it, the man didn’t say. “So, what if I am?”
“What are you looking for?”
“Who,” she corrected. “Konstantin.”
Immediately, and without questioning her further, the man nodded. “Da, this way.”
He turned and gestured with one hand for her to follow. She didn’t move, and he walked a bit down the hallway before he realized she wasn’t following him. He stopped and glanced over his shoulder with another arched brow.
“I will take you to him, come on,” he said.
Viktoria still didn’t move.
Who was this man?
She didn’t know.
That bothered her.
The look of him … the unknown … all of it was horrifying to her. Her worst fears and the nightmares that constantly plagued her sometimes started exactly like this, and that’s what scared her the very most. Not that she could tell this man that. She didn’t even tell her brothers these things, honestly.
She was terrified.
He was terrifying.
The world was playing a joke on her, surely.
“I don’t know you,” Viktoria managed to say.
Maybe then, he would understand her discomfort.
At that statement, the corner of his lips did lift into something akin to a crooked smile. It did nothing to soften his features, but rather, darkened them further.
“I don’t know who I am either, woman, but most people just call me Pav.”
“Pav,” she echoed.
That doesn’t help, really.
It seemed like he could read her mind because he shrugged, adding quickly, “At the end of this hallway, you will find an elevator. It’s loud and old, but it works. Press the button for the highest floor, and it will take you to Konstantin’s office.”
He didn’t give her the chance to say anything before he turned around and passed her by in the hallway. He took extra care not to touch her as he passed, and he didn’t even glance at the kit she had dropped on the ground. He disappeared around the corner of the hallway and never once looked back over his shoulder.
Viktoria was still frozen.
Fear was horrible like that.
Bethany-Kris is a Canadian author, lover of much, and mother to four young sons, one cat, and two dogs. A small town in Eastern Canada where she was born and raised is where she has always called home. With her boys under her feet, snuggling cat, barking dogs, and a hubby calling over his shoulder, she is nearly always writing something … when she can find the time.
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