The Institute:Daddy Issues(3)By: Evangeline Anderson
“How are you not?” I demanded. “You just admitted that you treat me differently because I’m female. That’s the very definition of a chauvinist.”
“You don’t understand…” He leaned forward and put a hand on mine though I don’t know how he dared touch me when I was so obviously pissed off. “Yes, I treat you differently,” he said in a soft, low voice. “You are female. And women are to be cherished…protected. Not because they are weak or stupid—because they are precious. You are a woman and my partner, Andi—this makes you doubly precious to me. Therefore, I take care of you. Yes? It is the Russian way.”
I was still pretty angry but the look in his ice blue eyes was so sincere it actually made me reconsider. Still… “the Russian way?” Was he serious with that bullshit?
Apparently, he was. That night, after swallowing both the sandwich he had ordered me (and insisted on paying for) and my pride, I did what I should have in the first place—I did my research.
I’m ashamed to admit I had to get most of my information off dating sites. Not that I had any interest in my partner that way but still—those were the places where they had the most information about Russian men and the way they interact with their women.
I learned that your typical Russian man was generous, helpful, courteous and extremely protective of his chosen woman. According to the sites I read, they also tend to get serious quickly about a woman they consider to be theirs. Now that I was Salt’s partner, he apparently considered it his job to protect me and shield me from harm. Not a bad quality in a partner, if I could get over my feminist prickliness and adjust to being treated like more than one of the guys for once.
It took some effort on my part and constantly reminding myself that the way Salt was acting toward me was cultural, not in any way sexist or demeaning. But finally we fell into a routine. Salt still opened doors for me, helped me in and out of my coat and insisted on buying my lunch when we ate out together. (In Russia, the man always pays—it’s an insult to ask to split the bill.) And in return, I had him over to my place for a home cooked meal at least twice a week—I know I don’t seem very domestic but I’m actually a pretty good cook. I even learned to make borscht for him which is more complicated than you might think.
The only place I really had to draw the line was when Salt wanted to defend my honor. I don’t know what the Russian police force is like, but I don’t think they get the concept of police brutality. In the beginning, any perp we brought in who mouthed off to me was likely to be picking his teeth up off the floor the next minute. I finally made Salt understand he was going to get us both suspended if he didn’t stop, so now he contented himself with simply threatening anyone who disrespected me. It was a distinct improvement, especially from the Captain’s point of view.
And speaking of Captain Douglas, I hoped he was finally going to explain why he needed Salt and me to go to the infamous Institute.
“We need you to go undercover,” he was saying. “Get in good with the other…ah participants at the resort, and see if you can identify the source of the Please. This new batch is the most dangerous yet so if we can catch the manufacturer and dry up the supply, we can save a lot of lives.”
“Go undercover in what capacity?” I asked, frowning. “I mean, what exactly do they do there, anyway?”