Sweetest surrender, p.1
Sweetest Surrender, p.1Part #3 of The Serafina: Sin City series by Katie Reus
The Serafina: Sin City Series
Copyright © 2014 by Katie Reus
Cover art and design by Sweet ‘N Spicy Designs
Copyediting by JRT Editing
Digital Formatting by Author E.M.S.
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author.
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A woman on the run…
Angel has been on her own for two years, moving from place to place to outrun her past. With no family and few friends to lean on, she’s managed to keep her secrets and stay safe. But when her past suddenly catches up to her, she has a choice to make. Run or stay and claim her life once more.
He’ll stop at nothing to protect her…
Vadim has never let anyone close to him—until Angel. From the first time he met her, everything changed. As a private consultant for Wyatt Christiansen, he’s good with computers and he’s got connections to unearth people’s deepest, darkest secrets. When Angel’s life is threatened Vadim steps in and uses all his resources to end the threat once and for all. As the danger closes in, he lies to her in an effort to protect her, not realizing that even once the threat is eliminated, he might lose her anyway.
Angel clutched the brown paper bag filled with the boxed up leftover food she’d planned to take home tonight. It didn’t matter that it would have been thrown out, what she was doing was stealing. Something she’d never thought to do. Ever. Stealing was wrong. Something she’d learned before kindergarten.
In the last two years, however, she’d learned to live in shades of gray, not black and white. The world simply wasn’t so nice and tidy—those who thought it was viewed life with rose-colored glasses. Okay, that sounded a little bitter. But it was how she was feeling.
She hated that she’d gotten to a point where she was actually stealing from one of her employers. She paused at the back door of the restaurant that would lead to a long hallway on out to the dumpsters behind The Serafina Hotel. No, she just couldn’t do it. She turned and headed back to the main kitchen. She’d planned to leave the bag out there and grab it after she’d clocked out. Pretty much no one was left at Cloud 9 this late. She’d been the closing server; the bartenders had already gone home while she finished cleaning up the kitchen.
As she stepped back into the galley of the main kitchen, she froze. Sierra Archer was standing there cataloging salad dressing. The petite woman had her long black hair pulled into a ponytail; she wore plain clothes, not her normal chef’s jacket. Normally she didn’t work on Thursdays and it was after hours so Angel was more than surprised to see her.
Sierra glanced up, smiling. “Hey, Angel. You getting out of here?”
Unable to find her voice, she nodded, clutching the bag.
Sierra lifted a dark eyebrow, her smile faltering. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” she managed to rasp out, hating the guilt suffusing her.
“You want me to ring you up?” her boss asked, nodding at the brown bag. “I’ve still got a register open. Haven’t gone through the night’s drink reports yet and it’s gonna take forever.” She made an annoyed face.
Before Angel could respond, Hayden, Sierra’s fiancé and also one of the heads of security at the Serafina, strode in. “Hey, sweetheart,” he murmured to Sierra.
Without his normal suit and tie and wearing just a T-shirt and jeans he should have looked casual and unintimidating. Unfortunately the huge man with the tattoos always made her feel nervous. Both he and his brother did. They were nice and Angel knew Sierra wouldn’t be with a loser, but still, in her experience she stayed away from men that big. She knew what fists could do.
Sierra gave him a quick kiss before turning back to Angel. “I’ll get you now.”
“No, it’s okay. This isn’t…” Oh God, she didn’t even know what to say. She hated confrontation and always clammed up when she felt cornered. Only Sierra wasn’t cornering her. She was just being nice. But Angel felt so guilty and it must have shown on her face because Sierra turned to her fiancé.
“Can you meet me out front? I need to talk to Angel alone.”
Hayden’s eyebrows rose, but he nodded and left after giving Sierra another quick kiss on the forehead.
When Sierra faced her again, she leaned one hip against the metal countertop they put hot plates on for the servers to deliver. Right now it was buffed and shiny. “What’s going on? Is that the throwaway food?”
Swallowing hard, Angel nodded. “Yeah. It expires tomorrow and I was…” She was going to tell Sierra she’d been bringing it back but didn’t think she’d believe her or that it would matter. Angel had packed it up and had been ready to take it. That was damning enough. “I’m sorry.”
Instead of condemnation, Sierra looked concerned. Which just made Angel feel even crappier. “I just need to inventory the loss before we throw it out, but…you can have it. You should have asked me though.” She rubbed a hand over her face. “You’ve been such a great employee, but…”
Angel knew that even small infractions like this were cause for being fired. Especially at a restaurant in a casino. If she took something small, who was to say she wouldn’t skim elsewhere? Her face heated up with shame, but she forced herself to hold the other woman’s startling green gaze. “I know and I’m really sorry. I’ll grab my last paycheck next week but…I get it.” Angel knew the other woman would have to fire her over this and there was no point in trying to convince her not to.
Sierra turned at a slight scuffing sound to find Hayden and Vadim entering the big galley kitchen. What the hell was Vadim doing here? He was part of the hotel’s security team, but she hadn’t even thought he was working tonight.
Right then Angel wanted the floor to open up into a giant hole and swallow her. For a brief moment she met Vadim’s pale blue eyes but quickly looked away. To say she had a massive crush on him would be an understatement. So many of the wait staff were afraid of him but she didn’t understand why. He was so sweet and gentle and right now she simply couldn’t bear to have him witness her getting fired.
“Sierra.” She tried to keep her voice steady as she dragged the other woman’s attention back to her. With the bright lights of the kitchen overhead she felt as if she was under a giant spotlight. When her boss looked back, Angel said, “I’m going to go, but I really am sorry. Please don’t…” What? Don’t fire me in front of them? Them, meaning Vadim Sokolov, the man she’d been lusting after for months. She could feel her face turning even redder and thanks to her Irish coloring, she probably looked like Rudolph’s nose.
Sierra took a step forward, closing the distance between them. “Let’s just talk about this in my office,” she murmured, motioning toward the back of the kitc
“Is everything okay?” Vadim asked, still standing in the entry with Hayden. The slight trace of his Russian accent was ever present, the delicious sound rolling over her like a warm, all-enveloping embrace.
Angel swallowed hard. “Fine.” She gave Sierra a beseeching look. She seriously doubted the other woman wanted to call the police over some food, so she was going to make her exit before Sierra could tell her fiancé what Angel had done. For all she knew, the head of security had protocol to follow. Setting the bag on the metal countertop, she clutched her purse to her side. “Sorry, Sierra,” she muttered before making a beeline for the exit. She mumbled a quick goodbye to Vadim, who looked oddly hurt by her getaway, but she couldn’t think about that now. She just needed to get home and away from here.
And figure out her next move. She’d been lucky enough to find work in Vegas but she’d been here months already. It was time to move on. Tonight was just a sign that she’d stayed in one place too long.
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Vadim wanted to rush after Angel, but needed to find out what the hell was going on first. “What’s wrong with Angel?” he asked Sierra.
The petite woman bit her bottom lip nervously. For a moment he thought it was because of him and he bit back his annoyance. At six feet tall, he wasn’t overly large, and he was good looking enough. Not hideous at least. He simply did not understand why women seemed fearful of him when he would literally cut off his own arm before harming a female. But then he realized Sierra was watching Hayden nervously.
“If I tell you something you have to promise not to get involved or try to fire Angel.”
Hayden frowned, shoving his hands in his pockets. “What’s going on?”
Sierra stuck out her chin mutinously. “Promise.”
At that moment, Vadim found himself liking the chef even more. What the hell had Angel gotten herself into?
“Fine. I promise. Now what’s up? She looked like she was about to burst into tears.”
Vadim had seen that too and the thought of Angel crying raked against his insides like jagged glass. He’d known her for five months, but it felt like a lifetime for how attracted he was to her.
“It’s not a huge deal, but I caught her taking food.” Sierra motioned to a brown bag on the counter. “It’s going to be thrown away since it expires tomorrow, but it’s more than fine to eat. We just have standards…and that’s not the point. She was taking it without telling me, but I wasn’t going to fire her. I just wanted to talk to her to see if she needed some extra help or wanted more shifts, but she hurried out of here after telling me she’d get her last paycheck next week. I think…” Sierra looked at Vadim, her face flushing. “I think she was embarrassed you were here.”
Vadim blinked, not sure what Sierra meant. If Angel had a problem she could come to him. They were friends and Angel knew that. Or he thought she did. He was more worried about why she’d had to steal food. The thought of her not having enough to eat pained him. “I think you’re mistaken, but I’m going to check on her. Does she still have a job?”
Sierra half-smiled. “Of course. I just want to talk to her so we can straighten this out.”
Vadim nodded at her and Hayden, then hurried from the kitchen. He made his way through the closed restaurant, the lobby of the hotel and got caught in a rush of people by the valet parking outside. He knew Angel must have come this way.
She always took the same bus home every night. A quick glance at his watch told him he might miss her, spurring him into moving faster. Not bothering to be polite, he plowed his way through the thickening crowd of partiers and gamblers making their way into the hotel and casino. The place was busy most of the day but at ten o’clock at night it was always the busiest. Ignoring a few protests, he elbowed his way around people and bounded between the idling cars waiting to be parked by the dozens of working valet drivers.
As he raced down the exit to the main road, he spotted Angel’s normal bus pulling away from the curb—and saw that familiar flash of red hair as she sat at a window seat. Biting back a curse, he turned and headed back the way he’d come. He knew where she lived and even though he knew it would annoy her, he was going to see her tonight.
For some reason she always refused to let him drive her home after work, even though he offered practically every night. She didn’t live in a safe neighborhood and he was almost certain she was embarrassed by her place of residence. He’d been there before to check on her, but he’d never told her, knowing it would bother her. Now he didn’t care if she got annoyed with him.
If she knew where he’d grown up, she’d have nothing to be embarrassed about.
Tonight he’d planned to ask her on an unofficial date after she got off work. Hayden had said that they could join him and Sierra at one of the bars for drinks. Vadim sucked with women and relationships, but Hayden had told him to stop being a pussy and just ask her out. So he’d planned to do just that, but under the guise of friendship, so if she rejected him, things between them wouldn’t be strained afterward.
He didn’t have many friends, but he valued his relationship with Angel. She was kind and giving and one of the few women who didn’t look at him like he was an un-caged tiger. And he planned to find out why the hell she needed to steal food. Because whatever she needed, he would give to her.
Angel stared blindly out the window of the bus as she neared her stop. Because of the fluorescent lights all she really saw was her reflection. And right now she didn’t want to look at herself. Still reeling from that entire embarrassing situation where a woman she respected now probably thought the worst of her, and a man she liked way too much… Ugh, Angel mentally shook herself. She didn’t have time to worry about stuff like that. She needed to get home and check on her neighbor’s kids.
The woman she only knew as Dee left her fourteen year old boy and six year old girl alone more often than not because she was hooking up with losers or scoring drugs. Mark, the boy, hadn’t told Angel that directly, but he’d alluded to it in so many words. And it broke Angel’s heart. He’d also warned her not to call social services—and she’d been planning to—because he’d said they’d end up in a worse situation than at home. The fear in his eyes when he’d told her had been real too, so she’d listened. She understood that he didn’t want to be separated from his sister or dumped somewhere even worse. Sometimes the devil you knew was better than the alternative.
Angel knew they weren’t her responsibility, but she didn’t care. She couldn’t turn her back on two innocent kids in need. So she’d been looking after them when she wasn’t working, buying them food and making sure they got to the bus in time for school. It had been exhausting and she knew she should probably ask someone for help, but she hadn’t known who to turn to. And she’d been doing fine balancing everything—until someone broke into her place and took most of the cash she’d saved. She couldn’t believe they’d found it. She’d hidden it in a box of baking soda in her refrigerator, making sure it was buried in the white powder. Hadn’t seemed to matter because whatever jerk had robbed her had found it.
As the bus shuddered to a halt, she jumped up and called out that it was her stop, knowing from experience that this particular driver would keep going if she didn’t stand within five seconds. Hating that she didn’t have any food for the kids, she hurried off the bus. Luckily the stop was right in front of her apartment complex. Which wasn’t exactly in the best part of town, but it wasn’t terrible either. She reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out her keys and her pepper spray. Holding each in one hand, she made her way to the second building down. Her apartment was on the second floor.
She could hear and see a couple teenagers who sometimes like to harass her on one end of the long balcony walkway, so she used the stairs on the opposite side before heading to Dee’s place. Shivering against the cold January air, she knocked once and was surprised when the door swung open.
“Hello?” she called softly. It was late an
When no one answered, she stepped farther inside. Frowning when she didn’t see any of Chloe’s toys scattered in the hallway, she shut the door behind her and clutched her pepper spray tight. “Mark? Dee?”
“They’re gone,” a familiar male voice called out. Mr. Botkin, her landlord, peered around the corner at the end of the hallway and smiled warmly at her. He was Russian, like Vadim, and had taught her a few words, which she’d tried to impress Vadim with.
Vadim had simply smiled at her attempts to converse with him, amused. And she loved making him smile. She shook herself, not needing to think about the sexy Russian now. “What happened?” she asked, hurrying down the short, tiled hallway to find him already repainting the living room. Plastic sheets covered the hardwood floors of the empty room.
Even though this place wasn’t in the greatest part of town, Mr. Botkin took great care to keep up the interiors of the apartments.
“They left this afternoon,” he said. “The boy called his grandparents and told them what was going on with their mother. They had no clue about their daughter and came with a moving truck. They give her…” He paused and she knew he was trying to figure out the right word. “An ultimatum. She go to rehab, they take the kids while she does.” He patted his coveralls almost absently then reached into the pocket and pulled out a small envelope. “This is from the boy for you.”
Angel was speechless as she took the card. Clearing her throat, she found her voice. “They just left? Did the grandparents seem nice? How were the kids?”
Sweetest Surrender by Katie Reus / Romance & Love / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes