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Ante

Vows and Vendettas: Mafia Anthology


Taylor Swift blares through my headphones as I sing along and clean the room. I hold the stick vacuum up like a microphone on the pole when the song hits the chorus. I’m energized and several rooms ahead of my counterpart today.

I strike a pose in the mirror across from the bed and scream when I look up. There’s a man standing in the doorway behind me. Yanking my headphones from my ears, I turn around and hold the vacuum in my hands as a weapon. He doesn’t miss the move and his lips tip up slightly.

His eyes move down my body from my head to my feet. I’m used to men staring at me. It’s Vegas, where most men think every woman is available for a price.

Even housekeeping.

I’m not though.

I’ve never even been kissed before. Never had a boyfriend. I had to drop out of school when I was fifteen. The only things I’m allowed to do are go to work and home. Even my volunteering is closely monitored. But something about this man affects me. He makes my heart beat faster, and yet he also calms me. Maybe I could let him kiss me just so I would know how it feels. He looks like a man who could kiss a girl like in the books and movies.

I take him in more. He’s dressed in an expensive-looking all-black suit, nothing like the one my brother pulls out when he’s trying to get another loan. He’s taller than me by probably a foot. His long legs carry him toward me. He has no speck of color except for the glint of silver on his belt buckle. His dark brown hair is brushed back and hangs down his neck. He has a trim mustache and beard on his angular chin, but it’s his eyes that I can’t stop looking at. They are such a pale blue they are almost gray, and laser focused on me.

“Who are you?” he asks me. His voice is deep and heavily accented. It sounds French, but it has a hint of something else to it too. Something I can’t place. I pull my full bottom lip between my teeth and bite it.

He shouldn’t be in this room. I look over his shoulder and see two equally big, if not bigger, men blocking my only escape. My brother has warned me not to trust men such as these. He says they’ll steal me…for my virginity. He calls them made men, says they are part of the underground. I’m trained not to talk to strangers in general, especially men. They just want to hurt you. My own father and brother have proved that to me my whole life. They’ve beat it into me over the years. I lost my mother because of a man I was supposed to trust.

“I asked you a question, little one. Answer me,” he growls. He’s now standing directly in front of me, and I have to look up at him.

“Sp-Sparrow.” My voice catches and I swallow. “Sparrow McCall.” I don’t know why I give him my full name, but some little voice tells me not to push this man. He has a dangerous vibe to him; however, something deep inside me says he wouldn’t hurt me. It’s as if I’ve known him forever.

“McCall?” He looks over his shoulder at the men behind him, and one of them nods. “You’re related to Brett?” he asks, looking down at me again.

I nod and swallow deep before I answer him. “He’s my brother.”

He rears back like he’s been slapped then advances on me. I step back and hold the vacuum up between us. Is this man here because my brother owes him money?

“Don’t come any closer. I’ll scream.” My voice trembles. I’m not so much scared as concerned about what he’s going to do. I turn my head to the side, waiting for the slap to come. I should stand up for myself, but I just can’t. The reaction is too ingrained in me. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to talk back. If he owes you money, I can pay. Please don’t hurt me,” I beg him.

His hand wraps around my chin and tips my head up to look him in the eye. His grip is firm but gentle, something I haven’t felt in a long time. His long fingers caress my cheek. He smells like spicy cigars. The aroma is enticing, not like the yucky ones I’m used to smelling. The scent along with the deep wood and cinnamon fragrance of his cologne pulls me in. It’s clean and I like it.

“Who has put their hands on you, malen'kaya ptitsa?” His voice is so soft but still deep and rumbling.

I don’t know if I could lie to him. Something deep down inside me makes me think I won’t be able to. But I can’t stop myself from trying. I look down. “No one.” His grip tightens ever so slightly.

“Don’t lie to me, ptitsa.” There is a bite in his voice. He could tell I was lying when I wasn’t even looking at him, just like I worried. My brother can’t tell when I’m lying to him while looking him right in the eye. Maybe it’s because I learned to lie to him when I was small due to the fact he’d hurt me if I didn’t sometimes. Who am I kidding? Brett would hurt me all the time if he could. He hates that I was born, and our mother loved me so much.

“I can’t tell you.” I’m honest this time because if Brett ever learned I gave this man his name, he’d beat me worse than he already does.

Ptitsa.” He leans over me, his face drawing closer to mine. “How old are you, Sparrow?” he asks. My name is a sigh on his breath. He is so close to my lips I feel the puff of air from each word against them.

“Seventeen.” I practically moan, and he pulls back.

“Tell me when.”

“When what?” I draw my brows down, not sure what he’s asking me.

“When you are legal.”

“September.” I don’t know why I’m giving him everything he asks for. “What is ptitsa?” I try to say the foreign word just like he does, but I know I slaughter it.

He smiles as he looks down at me with his hand still wrapped around my chin. Even his hands are big.

“Bird.” He releases me and turns to walk away from me. He stops and looks back at me when he reaches the door. “You have until then to get yourself ready.”

“Ready for what?” My voice sounds breathless.

“Me,” he growls. “Don’t let any man touch you. Any part of you.” The last bit of his statement has a bite to it. He walks out and leaves me standing there confused.

I rush to the door and look down the hall. “But I don’t know you.” I raise my voice so he can hear me, but he keeps walking.

“You don’t know who that is?” a voice says from behind me. I turn to see one of the other housekeepers watching him walk away with a look of appreciation in her eyes. I feel like smacking that look off her face, but I don’t.

“No. Who is he?”

“That, little girl, is a man. A very important man.” Her hand goes to her hip, and she bats her eyes at me. She’s constantly trying to pick up men. The urge hits me again to smack her for looking at him like that.

“Okay, so what kind of important man?”

“That is Andrei Morosov, the head of the Bratva.” She turns and walks away from me with her hips swinging. I know about the Bratva. My brother has told me terrible things about them.

I step back into the room, and for the rest of my workday I think of Andrei over and over.





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