Promises After Dark (After Dark Book 3)

BOOK: Promises After Dark (After Dark Book 3)
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Promises After Dark

 

 

Sadie Matthews

 

 

 

 

www.hodder.co.uk

First published in Great Britain in 2013 by

Hodder & Stoughton

An Hachette UK company

 

Copyright © Sadie Matthews 2013

 

The right of Sadie Matthews to be identified as the Author of the

Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright,

Designs and Patents Act 1988.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,

stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any

means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be

otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that

in which it is published and without a similar condition being

imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance

to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

 

ISBN 978 1 444 77588 4

 

Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

338 Euston Road

London NW1 3BH

 

www.hodder.co.uk

To

 

J. T.

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

 

Fire After Dark

The First Week

Chapter One

Secrets After Dark

 

About the Author

Chapter One

I’m in a sleek snub-nosed Bentley, leaning against the black leather seats and looking out of the tinted window at the snowy streets of St Petersburg. In front of me are the driver and the meaty bodyguard who sits beside him, their salt-and-pepper stubble blurring the toughness of their skulls. The doors of the car are tightly shut, the stub of lock sunk down into the black leather below the window. For a moment, I imagine trying to claw it up with my fingernails but I know that would be impossible. There is no way I can escape.

But even if I could, where would I go? I don’t know this city, I don’t speak the language and I have no money; even my passport has been locked away in the hotel safe. And I’ve been warned that this place is dangerous. I’ve been told that I’m vulnerable and that’s why I will not be permitted to be alone at any point when I’m out of the hotel. I have my mobile phone but I’m not sure who I would ring. My parents are far away, at home in England. I wish with all my heart that I was there right now, walking into our cosy kitchen where my father is reading the paper over his afternoon cup of tea while my mother bustles around, trying to do six things at once and urging Dad to move his feet out of her way. On the stove something delicious is cooking and the radio is playing a classical concert.

I can conjure it up so clearly, I am almost able to smell the stew, to hear the music. I want to rush to my parents and hug them, tell them not to worry.

But they’re not worrying. They know where I am. They think I’m perfectly safe. And I am. I’m being very well looked after.

Too well?
I try to repress the shiver that threatens to convulse me.

A pair of blue eyes is fixed on me. I know this even though I’m not looking at the man beside me. I can feel his laser-beam gaze burning on my skin, and I’m hyper-aware of the body only a seat’s width away from me. I don’t want him to know that I’m scared.

Your vivid imagination!
I scold myself.
It’s going to be your downfall. You’re perfectly all right. We’re not going to be here for long. We’re leaving the day after tomorrow.

This ought to be a dream come true for me. I’m here because Mark, my boss, is too ill to come himself but despite the sad circumstances, it’s an amazing opportunity. I’ve always longed to visit the Hermitage, to see some of its massive collection of art treasures, and now I’m being taken there, not just into the gallery but into the very heart of it, to meet one of its experts. He is going to give us the verdict on the lost Fra Angelico painting that Mark’s employer Andrei Dubrovski bought recently, now that it’s been properly analysed. This is the trip of a lifetime and I should be elated, excited.

Not afraid.

I try to stifle the words before they’ve sounded in my head. I’m not afraid. Why should I be? And yet . . .

We arrived last night, touching down at the airport in Andrei Dubrovski’s private jet. As usual, the formalities were done quickly and confidentially. I wondered what it would be like when I had to go back to queuing at passport control, lining up for my security check and getting myself to some far-off gate to catch a flight. All this VIP treatment would spoil me for ever if I wasn’t careful. We went straight from the plane to a stretch black limo – a little flashier than I would have expected from a man of Dubrovski’s taste but maybe things were different when he was in Russia – and glided out onto the highway for the short trip into St Petersburg.

‘What do you think of Russia so far?’ Andrei asked as the car purred smoothly past the other traffic on the highway.

I gazed out into the night but there was not much to see beyond the car window. Ahead the darkness was tinged with orange, the illumination of the big city leaking into the vast night sky above us. ‘It’s hard to tell,’ I replied. ‘I’ll let you know in the morning.’

Andrei laughed. ‘I know what you’ll say. It’s bloody cold. Believe me, London will feel like a tropical paradise in comparison.’

I laughed too, and hoped it sounded convincing. Ever since our flight, my emotions had been in turmoil. Andrei, for whom I’d been working for a few weeks, revealed that he knew about my relationship with Dominic, and that Dominic and I had parted. Even so, he didn’t bother to spare my feelings by telling me that as far as he was concerned Dominic was now his enemy. And then he said those three words, the ones that had turned my world upside down.

No more games.

Those were the words spoken in my ear by the man who made passionate love to me in the darkness during a party in the catacombs. I had thought it was Dominic but now I feared that it had been Andrei after all. The problem was, my perceptions were completely undermined by the fact that I had almost certainly been drugged, most likely by Anna, Andrei’s now ex-lover and employee, whose passionate feelings for Dominic caused us all sorts of trouble.

Just thinking about that night at the strange underground party made my stomach swoop and churn.

If I made love to Andrei then I was unfaithful to Dominic, consciously or not. And if Andrei is the kind of man to take advantage of a woman who is clearly not herself, what else is he capable of?

I glanced over quickly at Andrei, who had taken his eyes off me for a moment to lean forward and mutter something in Russian to his bodyguard. His physique was simultaneously attractive and a little menacing, his shoulders broad inside his dark overcoat, his hands large and strong. The perfectly tailored charcoal wool suit he was wearing did little to disguise the hard, muscled body within. His face was craggy, with piercing blue eyes and an unsmiling mouth with its stubborn, jutting lower lip. Despite my love for Dominic, I had at times felt the shiver of attraction that his physical magnetism exerted over me. I hated myself for it, but I couldn’t help it. Perhaps that was why I was in such agonies over the possibility that he and I had made wild passionate love against the cold stone wall of the cave: part of me knew I wanted it, despite what I told myself.

It wasn’t as though he’d acted against my wishes. He had asked me if I wanted to and I had practically begged to be fucked as hard as possible. It had certainly been consensual.

Except for the small matter of his identity. Did he know that I thought he was Dominic?

It was impossible to know without asking him and I hadn’t yet gathered up my courage for that particular line of questioning.

‘What is it, Beth?’ Andrei’s rasping, almost harsh voice breaks into my thoughts. Startled, I jump. I haven’t realised that I’m still staring at him as my brain whirls round the recent events, trying to piece it all together.

‘N-nothing,’ I say. I regain my composure as quickly as possible. ‘Are we nearly there?’

I realise that we’ve slowed down and have been edging forward at a snail’s pace for a few minutes now.

‘St Petersburg traffic,’ Andrei says shortly. ‘It’s renowned for being awful, especially when there’s snow on the roads, which you can imagine is fairly often. But I think we’re almost there now.’

It’s only mid-morning but already it feels like evening, with the low grey clouds heavy with more snow pressing down upon us. I stare out of the window again, and realise that we are coming up to a vast broad river and on the opposite side is the most incredible façade of buildings: a collection of baroque palaces, their hundreds of windows glittering darkly, pressed close, distinct and yet a group. They are dominated by a palace so large and ornate, it looks as though it comes from a film or a storybook.

‘The Hermitage museum,’ Andrei announces proudly. ‘Surely the most beautiful museum in the world. Such grandeur, such beauty.’ He indicates the largest, most baroque of the palaces, with its vast stretch of white columns and dark green walls between porticoed windows. ‘That’s the Winter Palace, home to the Russian Emperors. From there, they ruled over 125 million souls and one sixth of the earth’s surface. Impressive, isn’t it?’

He’s right; it’s a magnificent sight. For a moment I imagine I’m Catherine the Great being conveyed in a magnificent carriage towards my spectacular home, full of the extraordinary works of art I’ve collected. Then I remember what it must have been like to be an ordinary Russian, excluded from the luxurious, gilded life within, only good for toiling on its construction, or being taxed to pay for the glorious art on its walls without ever having the privilege to see it.

But times have changed. These are now public buildings that can be accessed by all. Everyone can enjoy their beauty and the treasures that lie inside.

‘What do you think?’ Andrei presses.

‘Amazing.’ I can’t say more, I’m overwhelmed. We cross the river and approach the Winter Palace by the Embankment, then stop at a large wrought-iron gate that’s shut fast. A moment later, a man rushes out to open it and wave us through and then we’re inside a courtyard with a garden in the centre that’s blanketed in snow, its bare trees with their white-laden branches black against its walls. The gate is closed behind us.

BOOK: Promises After Dark (After Dark Book 3)
13.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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