The Life by +Bethany-Kris Bragdon
Sequel to The Arrangement The Russian Guns, Book Two
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Release Date: August 4th, 2014
The mafia life is a dangerous one revolving around honor, duty, and greed—a troublesome thing like love isn’t meant to play a part, but no one follows the rules.
Surrounded by men waiting for the Russian mob boss to show weakness, Anton Avdonin should have known showering affection so openly on his new bride wasn’t a good idea. Of course, that didn’t stop him. When Anton’s wife begins attracting unwanted attention from an unknown source, he’s determined to find out just who is playing the risky game and put a stop to it by whatever means necessary.
From a Cosa Nostra princess to a Bratva queen, Viviana “Vine” Avdonin was made for the life. Pregnant, safe, and loved, she’s more than happy to move on from the history that haunts her to start out fresh. Then again, someone else has other plans. Old rivals from the past and bad blood from the present have mixed in the worst way, threatening to take away the things Viviana loves the very most. No matter what, she can’t let that happen.
Both Viviana and Anton know there’s only one way this can all end and it’s up to them to do it. But, who is behind the veiled threats and personal attacks, and how far are they willing to go to get what they want? When the truth finally surfaces, the consequences will be devastating and no one could have seen it coming.
In a life where everybody plays for keeps and no one fights fair, one mistake might cost them everything.
*Please Note, The Life is not a standalone title. The first book in The Russian Guns series (The Arrangement) should be read before the second book*
Anton rested back to the headboard to catch his breath and brought his wife closer to his side with one arm. Not bothering to make any attempt to leave his sweaty grasp, Viviana laid a soft kiss to his arm as his hand rubbed up her naked side.
After falling into bed around three in the morning once Erik and Ivan were gone, Anton was woken up by his wife not a couple of hours later. It wasn’t like her to be up so early, never mind wanting to fuck like they had, given the new pressure and pain she’d been experiencing in the mornings. Anton had no idea what came over Viviana, but he sure as hell wasn’t about to complain.
Their coupling had been rough—rougher than he liked given her stage of pregnancy. But even when he tried to slow them down, to take her softer, Viviana wouldn’t have it. Anton wasn’t one to deny his wife, especially not of that.
“Jesus Christ,” he mumbled into the palm of his hand. Even though his body was still humming from her high, his mind was downright exhausted. Three hours of sleep wasn’t new to Anton, but he could use a bit more. “Thanks for the wake-up call, baby.”
Viviana giggled, but even the sound felt off. “Yeah, I guess.”
“Hey,” he said into her hair. The grip he had on her tightened momentarily. “What’s wrong?”
“Hmm?” Viviana turned just enough to lean up and press her silken mouth to the underside of his jaw. “Nothing, just thinking about Sergei.”
“Don’t fret over that idiot. He’s not even a blip on my radar. We’ll get that dinner done and move on.”
Anton was lying through his teeth, but concerning his wife just wasn’t okay with him. What he wanted her doing was focusing on the end of her pregnancy, their son, and her health. He was the boss, so he’d handle the Bratva issues. There was no way she was going to be brought into the crossfire of Sergei’s nonsense, so he didn’t think she had any need to be properly informed.
“Actually,” he said, thinking about his conversation the night before with his spies. “I think you might just show, and then go. You haven’t been feeling terribly great lately, so it’s not a stretch to think you might not feel well that day. Just stay long enough to say hello, forgive Tatiana if you want, and then Rory will escort you home and Joe will follow. Business as usual.”
“Forgive her if I want,” she repeated dully.
“It’d be better if you did, or at least say you do, but it’s not expected. You did ask for her, though, so you have to be respectful about whatever you choose to do.”
Viviana snorted. “When am I ever not? Can I claw her eyes out after?”
“No,” Anton said, laughing. That’d surely be a sight. He bet Viviana would give Tatiana one hell of a run for her money. “Not while you’re pregnant with my child, anyhow.”
“Yeah, but making her swallow a few teeth would sure make me feel a heck of a lot better.”
“My God. You know there’s nothing there, right? Her and me, I mean. That’s not … It’s just not there, baby. You don’t have to be jealous.”
“I’m not jealous, Anton.” Strangely, he believed her. Viviana shrugged under the weight of his arm resting around her shoulders. “Why should I be … of Tatiana? I have exactly what she doesn’t. Everything she thought should have been hers is mine. I have your life, your son, and your love. Even if she was nothing more than your whore, which she isn’t, she still wouldn’t have any of those things. So no, I’m not jealous of that girl. On the other hand, I do wonder if she is envious of me.”
“I have no doubt of that.”
Viviana sighed. “Exactly. Tatiana has defied her father, you, and God knows how many others just to hurt me once. That was before we were married, before Demyan, and she only managed to sling words. This time might be different. At this dinner, she’s going to see me pregnant, happy, and protected, all because of you. Again, all that she doesn’t have and everything she wanted. So it brings me back to safety, I guess. You made it clear you don’t want her in any way so would she hurt me, or worse your baby, because of her resentment? Is she that crazy over you?”
Anton stayed silent, letting his wife’s words sink in as he considered them. It wasn’t that what she said didn’t make sense, because it did, but he wondered why Viviana had asked for Tatiana’s presence at all.
“You asked for her to be there, Vine. If you were worried about all of this, why ask at all?”
“I also asked for no guns.”
“And I’ll make sure that’s adhered to as best I can,” Anton said, still feeling confused. “You won’t take a step into any establishment unless it is weapon free.”
Viviana felt tense in his arms. “You don’t need a gun to kill someone.”
“She won’t have any chance to be alone with you.”
“Then what?” Anton asked.
“I want this done,” she said so low he strained to hear. “Put an end to it, however you have to. I don’t want to worry about her or her goddamned family after it’s over. I don’t want to think if she can’t hurt me, she’ll go to the next best thing.”
“You’re worried she’ll try to hurt Demyan.”
“Or you. To me, that’s just as bad.”
“You know that’d never—”
“No, I don’t,” Viviana interrupted coolly. “But if I didn’t have them to worry about, it’d be one less thing for me to consider.”
It was only then that her hidden meanings were starting to dawn on Anton. Viviana never asked him for anything in regards to business. She didn’t like to have her hands in his pots, so to speak. This was entirely different, especially if she was asking what he thought she was asking.
“Come on, Vine …”
“I want it done,” she repeated thickly. “Please.”
“On your head, though? You want that on your mind, bloodying up your hands, too?”
“Stop it,” Anton said, practically spitting the words. “Fuck, just don’t say that shit. I’ll handle it.”
“Before or after one of us is dead?”
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