He raised his arm. Pointing a finger at me, he warned, “Don’t you dare!”
I threw it.
He ducked in time for it to smash against the wall behind him.
“Liar!” I cried as I launched another missile, a glass cylinder holding an unlit candle.
He lunged for me. I feigned right then left and bolted to the other side of the room, placing the sofa between us.
“You’re a fucking liar! You’ve been fucking lying to me this whole time!”
“Language!” he roared as he circled around. I kept out of arm’s reach, always keeping the length of the sofa between us.
I fired back, purely out of spite, the one phrase I knew would piss him off. “Poshol nahuj!”
Reaching down, he used both hands to shove the sofa. It easily slid across the polished dark bamboo floor, removing the barricade between us. He rose to his full, unbelievably intimidating height. A vein pulsed in his temple as his chest rose and fell with each agitated breath. I had angered the beast. Without the sofa between us, I was vulnerable and unprotected.
“Apparently,” Mikhail snarled, “my bad girl needs another lesson from me.”
There was only one option left for me. I turned and bolted for the front door.
He was right behind me.
Snatching my arm, he swung me around and used the force of his body to press me against the wall of windows. Behind me was a panorama of stars and the flickering lights from the boats out on the Potomac, a peaceful scene that belied the war brewing between us.
He pressed his fingertips into my upper arms. “Listen to me.”
Not wanting to listen to his excuses and lies, I clawed at his grasp, trying to wriggle away.
He shifted his hold to my waist and swooped down to capture my lips in an attempt to subdue me; I shifted my head to the side, avoiding him. It didn’t work.
Tightening his hold on my waist, he lifted me high off my feet. I was anchored against the glass with his hips, his hard cock pushed against my stomach. He released his hold and wrapped his hands around my jaw, forcing my head forward. He then took possession of my mouth. When I tried to keep my lips closed, he pressed his thumbs into the soft flesh of my cheeks, forcing my jaw open. At first, I returned his kiss, then I returned to my senses and fought back and bit his lip.
His head reared back. He swept his tongue across his lower lip, lapping up a tiny bead of blood.
He wasn’t deterred.
He captured my mouth again. I could taste the metallic tang of his blood. His fingers slipped into my wild strawberry curls, holding my head steady for his continued assault. He pressed his body tighter against my soft curves, refusing to give quarter till I accepted him and accepted his dominance over me.
He broke the kiss and breathed against my mouth. “You’re mine. Fucking mine.”
I knew the moment the fight left me when I felt the brush of the back of his knuckles down my cheek. Swallowing my capitulating moan, he deepened the kiss. He interlaced his fingers with mine and pressed my hands against the glass on either side of my head. The cold, hard surface brought reality crashing back. I desperately wanted to return to the warmth and ignore all else but knew that was not possible.
Using every ounce of strength I possessed, I pulled back. He ran a thumb over my cheekbone, feeling the soft warmth of my flush. I never wore makeup, but at this moment, I was certain my swollen lips looked as if they were bright with a kiss-smeared crimson lipstick.
“Why?” I whispered, the sting of betrayal bright in my eyes.
He took a deep breath and told me the jaggedly raw truth. “All I can say is, from the moment I met you, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that you were meant to be mine and mine alone. Part of that meant you were mine to protect.”
“So you snuck a security camera into my shop?”
His eyes hardened as he shifted his gaze away from mine.
Fuck. It was so much worse than just a single security camera. He and my brothers had probably been watching and monitoring every step I ever made from the moment I left Gregor’s house, seeking my so-called independence.
He took a step back and let me slide back onto my feet. From this position, he towered over my slight frame. “Baby, you are just going to have to trust me.”
“Trust you? I feel like I don’t even know you anymore, if I ever did.”
“I never had any cameras in your apartment. Just the entrances and exits and your shop.”
I threw my arms into the air. “Oh, well, that makes things all better.”
“I will not apologize or feel guilty for doing my fucking job, for wanting to keep the woman I love safe.”
I shook my head. “No! No. You can’t do that to me. You don’t get to say that. You don’t get to give me the cold shoulder for three years and then one day announce that we’re together and you love me because you’ve finally decided you want me. That’s not how this works.”
He slammed his fist against the window. The glass vibrated from the impact, and the starburst crack a few feet away lengthened. “Damn it, Nadia. You know why we couldn’t be together. It was for your own good.”
I shifted away from the window and backed up a few paces, needing space from him. I couldn’t think straight when he was that close to me. “For my own good. For my own protection. You’re no better than my brothers. Deciding what is best for me without even bothering to ask me!”
He started toward me. “I am what is best for you. I’ve always been what is best for you. Me and me alone.”
Picking up the nearest object I could lay my hands on — a blue glass bowl — and I shouted back, “Then you should have put a ring on it instead of just standing on the sidelines all these years.” I threw the bowl straight at his head and once again bolted for the door.
I didn’t make it two steps before he caught up with me. Grasping me from behind, he wrenched my body close to his own. He leaned down to whisper in my ear. “You’re not going anywhere.”
My hands balled into fists as I stomped my foot, trying to step on his toes and force him to release me. “Let go!”
Mikhail moved so quickly I didn’t even have time to protect myself. He spun me around in his embrace. His right hand struck out, wrapping his fist into a shock of my messy curls, then he wrenched my head back. His other hand went to my lower back, pushing me forward and against him. My hands rose to press back against his chest. He didn’t budge.
He stormed back. “You need to understand that as of tonight, things have changed. We’re together now, and I’m not letting you go.”
I twisted my head to the side. “We’re not together. All I’ve ever been to you is a security job.”
“You’ve been a whole lot fucking more to me than some stupid job, Nadia.”
His mouth swept down to capture my own.