Trouble in a Tight Dress(9)

By: Lori Sjoberg

“Who the fuck knows? Maybe he got it at a really cheap price. Or he’s got more money than brains.” Nate tapped on his phone and frowned. “Piece of shit.”

Austin’s gaze flicked to the rearview mirror before returning to the road ahead. “What’s wrong with it now?”

“Nothing. It just keeps freezing up.”

Ryan snorted. “That’s what you get for downloading Mexican donkey shows.”

Austin barked out a laugh while Nate flipped Ryan off. The light ahead turned red, and Austin slowed the SUV to a stop. “Why don’t you have Larissa take a look at it?”

“I would, but she’s got something going on tonight at Emma’s school.”

“How about Nina?” Ryan asked.

Nate glanced at his watch and frowned. “She’ll be long gone by the time we get back to the office.”

Twisting in his seat, Austin held out his hand. “Give it to me. I’ll drop it off at her apartment on the way home.”

“You sure?” Nate asked. “I don’t want to be a pain in the ass or anything.”

“Dude, you’ve been a pain in the ass since birth. Now give me the phone before the light turns green.”

Nate handed over the phone and Austin placed it in the center console. Normally, he wouldn’t bother Nina after hours with something like this, but if he didn’t, his brother would bring it to the phone store, where he’d promptly get suckered into trading up to the latest model. Again.

Besides, knowing Nina, she’d root out the problem in less than an hour and have it working better than new. As long as she didn’t have plans for the night, she was usually open to the overtime. And if she wasn’t, then Nate would just have to wait until she got to it the next morning.

The traffic light turned green. Shifting his focus back to the road, Austin tried to ignore the way his body hummed at the thought of seeing Nina. It was business, he told himself. Nothing more. And maybe, if he repeated it enough times, he might actually believe it.

AFTER STOPPING AT the box to pick up her mail, Nina pulled into an available spot in front of her apartment building and cut the engine.

One of her roommate’s cars was parked a few spots down, which was surprising, considering Dorcas was supposed to be working tonight at the Paisley Pig. The bar was about a mile north of the university, with over two dozen beers on tap and décor that could best be described as well lived in. Maybe later, after Nina had time to decompress, she’d drive over and play a few games of darts with the regulars.

As she got out and slipped her purse over her shoulder, a large, four-door black Mercedes parked in the spot beside hers. She glanced over, noted two men in suits up front, and her breath caught in her throat at the sight of her brother, Ivan, in the backseat.

Apparently, Victor had recognized her after all.

The older man gave her a curt nod and a thin smile from his spot behind the wheel. A younger man sat beside him, staring at her in the same way a predator sized up prey.

Her first instinct was to run, but what was the point? They obviously knew where she lived. Probably knew where she worked. She might as well get this over with and see what they wanted. Leaning against her car door, she folded her arms across her chest while she waited for Ivan to get out.

Dressed in a black Armani suit with his dark-brown hair slicked back, her younger brother looked serious, and a little pissed off, especially when his gaze met hers. She inwardly cringed as a twinge of guilt went through her, and she ruthlessly brushed it aside.

The last time she’d seen Ivan, he’d been a fresh-faced teenager about to graduate from high school. As kids, they’d been close, only a year apart in age, and she’d often wondered how he’d handled her sudden break from the family. More than once, she’d considered sending him a message, but in the end decided against it because she didn’t want to take the chance of her family finding out where she’d gone.

Ivan closed the car door and straightened to his full height. He was taller than she remembered, at least six two, and an extra forty or so pounds padded his once-athletic frame. Even though the heels of her boots gave her a couple extra inches of height, she still had to tilt her head up to meet his eyes.

“Antonina.” His voice was clipped and carried a slight Russian accent, which struck her as strange, considering he was born and raised in California. Deep-set eyes stared at her, sharp and assessing, and she fought the urge to squirm. “You look good. Different.”

Years ago, for obvious reasons, she’d made a point of altering her appearance. As soon as she left home, she’d chopped off her waist-length hair and ditched the preppy clothes her mother had picked out for her. The drastic change felt weird at first, but it didn’t take long before she’d embraced a style that better reflected her true personality.