“It’s your sister,” he says, not looking up from the pan.
“Did you know she was coming?” I ask.
“I did when the alarm at the end of our driveway alerted me that someone was here. I saw Sokolov on screen, so I’m guessing Violet is nearby.”
I smile, knowing that Sokolov is probably making her stay behind him to protect her. Even though I’m her sister and she’s not in any danger here.
“She’s supposed to be on her honeymoon.” At least I think she is. It’s been two weeks so maybe it is over. Still, one would think she’d head back to the resort. I should have known better. Sokolov will agree to mostly anything that Violet wants. I bet she asked him to bring her here and he couldn’t tell her no. There are no boundaries for Sokolov when it comes to Violet’s happiness. It’s endearing and I never knew how much I longed for such a thing until I found it for myself. The way Sokolov looks at Violet is the way I often catch Grey staring at me.
“Open this door.” She bangs on the front door. Grey finally looks up from his pan.
“I don’t want to burn the grilled cheese.” He flips them. He might want to make extra because I doubt my sister is going anywhere quick.
“I don’t want you to either.” I hop up from the breakfast bar, heading for the front door. When I swing it open, Violet tries to throw herself at me but Sokolov stops her. She wiggles in his hold.
“Kotyonok, you are with child. You do not fling yourself at anything.”
My mouth falls open. “You’re pregnant!” I’m not shocked, just excited. I think we all knew this was coming. Violet will make an amazing mom.
“I was going to tell her.” She smacks Sokolov’s chest. He grabs her hand.
“Do not smack me. You might hurt your delicate hand.” He kisses her palm. She melts into him, forgetting that he spilled the secret she wanted to tell me.
Violet looks up at Sokolov, who is holding her close. I can feel Grey come up behind me before he touches me. It’s crazy how fast this bond has settled between us. This love thing is something that’s so surreal that I don’t think people really understand it until they have it. When I look back on my ex I almost want to laugh at the idea of him and me ever getting married. I know I was only doing it because of my parents but I had no idea what there was to lose by being in a loveless marriage. Now that I know what love is, I realize my old relationship was almost like giving up your soul. Grey wraps his arm around me from behind, pulling me into his big, warm body. I go willingly, loving when he’s wrapped around me. I soak up the soft affection he always gives me, not caring who might see.
“You think we can get my sister one of these tracker necklaces?” Violet plays with the necklace around her neck. Sokolov put it on her so that he would never lose her. I didn’t understand the logic because where she goes he goes. I don’t think she actually needs the thing.
“You already track my location with my phone,” I remind Violet. She took it upon herself to turn that crap on when I got a new cell phone. After what my mom and ex did to me, I needed a new start. The phone had been the first step in that process. Moving away and starting over was the next and finding Grey had been the best part of it.
“I like the sound of this,” Grey says as he holds me a little tighter. I shoot Violet a stern look but instantly smile afterwards. We both start laughing because we know pretty soon I’ll probably be wearing a matching necklace.
“You gonna let me in or make me stand outside all day?” Violet asks as if she really needs an invitation. Grey steps back, taking me with him to give Violet room to enter our home. Before she can take two steps, Sokolov picks her up and carries her.
“I do not know the dangers that lie within these walls,” he tells Violet as he carries her toward our kitchen. She doesn’t even protest. Instead she wraps her arms around him and smiles.
“Sokolov, you helped me set up my security system here,” Grey reminds him.
“He’s just looking for a reason to carry me,” Violet says over his shoulder. “Do I smell grilled cheese?”
“I’ll make more.” Grey lets his hold of me go but not before kissing me. When he’s done I’m left breathless.
I look over to see Violet smiling at me. “Victor gave me all the details on Greyson here.” No wonder she isn’t giving him the third degree. “Who knew my Victor was a matchmaker?”
“For you I am everything,” Sokolov says. He doesn’t sit down but stands behind my sister’s chair. “My Kotyonok would like extra cheese.”
“I figured, if she’s anything like my Amie.” I smile, moving more into the kitchen.
“I hear there are mother-in-law quarters,” Violet says. “And I’m still packed from my honeymoon,” she says innocently, making me laugh.
“You can stay. I’m sure Amie will want you here for the wedding,” Grey answers as he slides a grilled cheese onto a plate.
“Wedding?!” Violet and I half shout at the same time. I might be shouting but I am still smiling. My eyes lock with Grey’s.
“Yeah. Wedding,” he confirms.
“You didn’t ask me.”
“We are refurbishing a baby crib. I think we both know we’re getting married.”
I want to say something smart-mouthed and sassy but instead I walk over and kiss him, knowing I’ve been saving all these kisses for him.
The only ointment in planning the wedding is figuring out the mom problem. It weighs over Amie’s head. Mrs. Collins has been calling and apologizing nearly every day for the last few months.
I know there’s still a part of Amie that loves her mom because it’s her mom, after all, but there’s also a part that can’t ever forgive the woman. I don’t have the attachment so it’s easy for me to think Amie should get over it. But then I think about what if it were my mom who was trying to ruin my life for some selfish reason. I wouldn’t be able to turn my back on her so easily. My girl’s wedding day is not going to be one of those shitfests where everyone’s crying because of some drama going on in the pews and not what’s happening at the altar, which is why I’m in New Jersey waiting for Mrs. Collins and Marks to show up at the Four Seasons.
Amie’s upstairs in our suite, reviewing wedding plans and supply contracts for Sokolov Security. She was quiet on the plane ride here, but she wants some resolution, too. Whatever it takes, I’m going to give it to her. The problem is that she’s not sure what she wants. She vacillates between wanting her momma there and wanting to cut her out of her life like the cancerous tumor that Mrs. Collins is.
Mrs. Collins drives in first, the top of her Mercedes convertible down. She hobbles out of her car on four-inch heels and sweeps by the valet without a word of thanks. Marks pulls up before Mrs. Collins reaches the front door. She freezes when she spots his car. Her eyes swing toward me and she tries to rabbit back to her car, but it’s gone because I paid the valet before she even got here.
“I’m already a step ahead of you. Give in and come inside so you don’t cause a scene,” I tell her. “I know you don’t like those.”
“You know nothing about me,” she declares with her nose in the air, but she goes inside because ultimately she wants money. As long as there’s a chance I’ve got some cash at the end of a string, she’ll stay around. Same for Marks. They’re both greedy, which is how they got into bed with each other in the first place.
“What’s that bitch doing here?” Marks snarls when he reaches me.
“For the same thing you’re here for.” I jerk my head toward the door. “Let’s get this show over with.” I lead the feuding exes to a conference room I leased. I didn’t want them dirtying up the air that my Amie breathes.
On the table is a briefcase. Both of them gravitate to it upon entering the room.
Marks breaks the silence first. “What’s in this?”
“What do you think is in there?”
“It’s money,” Marks responds, unable to hide the eagerness in his voice. He lost his job af
ter we turned over the information that he’d engineered a kidnapping and then a rescue of the Collins girls. Even the corrupt police department didn’t want him around. Since his termination, he’s been looking for work but it’s hard after you’ve been fired from a job as a police officer. He couldn’t even get a job as a mall cop. Last I heard, he was working part time at a lumber yard, hauling boards around.