By: Rachel van Dyken

I bent and pressed the remote switch beneath the table top and brought the lights up. I’d expected her to blink, momentarily disoriented. Instead, she leveled a stare on me.

“I don’t understand,” Maya said calmly.

She would be calm in this situation. She was always the type to fight rather than give up—I at least remembered that much about her.

“I’m not asking you to,” I said simply, my eyes focused in on her smooth neck and then her lips. “And you have no choice in the matter, no say, no voice.”

Her jaw clenched.

My heart raced. I loved the fight. It was like waving a flag in front of a bull. I braced myself against my desk, my fingers digging into the mahogany as I evened my breathing.

“I’m not something you can own or buy or purchase.” Her nostrils flared, “I’m leaving.”

“You can’t,” I said softly.

She stood, her knees knocked together, and then she sat and reached into her purse.

She was going for her phone.

Because a part of her believed me, which was fine because all I needed was a part of her. I didn’t want her to be whole, and it wasn’t my place to take more than she had to give.

I wanted a piece.

In order to give her peace.

In order for her to discover herself.

And in order for me to die without regret, without what I did hanging over my head.

Funny, I’d always believed myself to be a sociopath. Doctors couldn’t figure me out. My own parents were terrified of my intelligence. It made me too damn good at what I did.

And for a while I had been okay with it.

Until her.

And then, my world, the world that had always been so very black and white, started dripping with red.

Maya Petrov had been my game changer, but I still wasn’t sure if I was going to make her pay, atone for my sins, or destroy us both.

But what’s the fun in playing chess when you already know all the moves?

With shaking hands she dug around her purse.

Her hair was longer than I remembered, her body fuller. Alexander Petrov had known what he was doing when he sent her. I imagined him on the other side of the chess board, grinning like a damn fool. I sighed and looked away, mumbling under my breath. “Check mate.”

Love is evil. It will make you fall in love with a goat—Russian Proverb

MY BREATHING WAS ERRATIC, OUT OF control actually. I knew running would do nothing, plus I wasn’t really that type—a runner. My father had taught me that—the same father who had just sold me to the highest bidder. I paused, had there been an auction for my life? My body? My stomach clenched as memories assaulted me—I knew what he did, what he involved himself in.

My father worked for the Russian mafia it wasn’t a secret in our family or something we tried to hide. After all, he fought too hard to do things the right way, supported all the right universities, went to all the political parties. We were, from the outside, normal.

But there were always those times when I’d overheard conversations between my parents that I wondered… was my dad as good as he wanted people to believe or was it all a lie?

I got my answer when the very first boyfriend I had in high school lost his hand in a tragic accident.

The same hand that my dad had seen said boy place on my body just as I tried to shove him away.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, until every time I complained about something, an accident would happen. It was why I kept people away, because when they got close, they got hurt.

It was also why I was a certifiable nerd, pouring everything I had into studying and getting away from my family’s hold on me.

With a sigh, I pulled out my cell.

“I wouldn’t.” Mr. Blazik had somehow made his way from the desk to the couch again and was holding my hand, keeping me from dialing. “I really wouldn’t.”

“He’s gone too far.” I jerked my hand away and dialed my father’s number. It didn’t ring.

Instead, a chipper voice informed me that the number I was currently dialing was no longer in service.

With shaking hands I shoved the phone back into my purse and stared at the floor. “How much?”

“How much, what?” The couch dipped under pressure as Mr. Blazik sat down.

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