Authors: R.J. Lewis
SEX, LIES & NIKOLAI
Copyright ©2016 R.J. Lewis. All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, place, events, and other elements portrayed herein are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real persons or events is coincidental.
The setting of this story is completely fake, derived purely from the imagination of the author.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photography, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system without the prior consent from the publisher and author, except in the instance of quotes for reviews. No part of this book may be uploaded without the permission of the publisher and author, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is originally published.
To my readers. As always, your messages of encouragement and love are what push me to write in the first place.
Nikolai always comes in right when the rush dies down and there are no customers around. That’s usually mid-morning.
I stand behind the counter of the convenience store and watch him enter. His blue eyes meet mine for a fraction of a second, enough to make my spine tingle and my cheeks heat, and then he looks away and moves down the aisle of the tiny store. I watch him because I have nothing to do, and because he is the most intriguing man I have ever seen.
I wonder why he comes here of all places, dressed the way he does in a sharp black suit, brown hair slicked back, looking like money without even trying. The store looks small when he’s in it, and I’m suddenly wide awake, last night’s tossing and turning long forgotten as I watch him move with ease.
Sometimes he buys a pack of cigarettes, his tattooed hand raised and pointing to the particular brand he likes on the shelf behind me. Other times, like today, he grabs a glass bottle of orange juice in one of the fridges and slowly makes his way to me. There’s an air of ominous about him that excites me and makes me uneasy at the same.
He’s back to looking at me, and I’m not able to hold his gaze. It’s like he’s being purposely slow as he settles the bottle down and slides it across the counter, until it’s touching my clasped hands. Then he slides his hand down the bottle, his fingers a hair away from mine, before he lets go. He does this all the time, gets close to touching me but never making it all the way there. I’ve never been more curious of a man’s touch before.
I take the orange juice from the counter, staring at his tatted fingers drumming along the counter, and tell him, “Three dollars and fifty cents.”
I hear him rummage with his coins. One thing about him I learned long ago is he always puts down the precise amount of money owed, as if every single cent matters. He never hands me notes I have to break, or a credit card to swipe.
He drops the amount on the counter, slides it back to me so that it’s touching my hand again, and then pulls away. I can feel his gaze on me as I grab a bag and struggle to open it. It’s always this man that leaves me frazzled and pressured. There’s no ease in me. I look like a rookie instead of someone who has worked here almost eighteen months and served him for that entire time.
I look up when I hear his barely there Russian accent delivered in that smooth deep voice, and my heart hiccups in my chest at the way he is looking at me. He’s smirking, one corner of his lip turned up. His eyes are bright with amusement as they dance along my face, no doubt noticing the red in my cheeks. He must think I’m not accustomed to attention, or that I’m awkward in general. It’s neither, though. It’s just
, and I loathe that fact.
I nod, still trying to open this godforsaken bag and reply simply, “It is.”
I want to say something else. I really do, but every inch of me is protesting. He is bad news. My boss Ivan has said so on many occasions when he’s caught me watching him leave the store.
“You don’t want a man like Nikolai to notice you.”
But the way Nikolai is looking at me right now, his eyes alive and his expression so intensely curious, I can’t help but think he already has. Then again, he makes no gesture to take it further than our brief daily encounters. He’s likely used to girls falling over themselves. Maybe that’s what he thinks of me as, just another ditz effected by his tattoos and sharp suit and ridiculously nice hair.
The thought is a pang in my chest. I’m not like that. I don’t objectify men on a daily basis. I don’t have a fishing rod lined up, waiting for some good looking dude to be reeled in. But I can’t necessarily say to Nikolai, “hey, it’s just you and I’m not like that” because it would flatter him either way, and with that smirk on his face – the kind so fused with arrogance – the last thing I want to do is stroke his ego.
Regardless, I’m glad he doesn’t take it further. My life is a complicated mess, and the last thing I want is the attention of a wealthy pawn shop owner who does shady money lending on the side (the off the books kind that’s resulted in many broken bones from many people who haven’t paid him back, or so I hear). Besides, he’s in Armani and I’m in cut off shorts and a tank top (both items bought from the local Salvation Army). His taste in women is probably more on the…
“You need help?” he asks, his lips curling at my struggle.
“No, I’ve got this,” I strain out.
I finally tear the bag of hell open, and my jerking wrist slams into the juice, knocking it over. It rolls off the counter, and I swear to god the moment is so ridiculously slow, it makes my reaction time that much more embarrassing.
Just like that.
And I just stand there, mortified, as it smashes in front of my feet. I jump back, my face already burning hot to the touch, and I just want to die.
Only me. This would only happen to me.
I kneel down the same second Nikolai is around the counter. He drops down with me as I hurryingly gather the pieces of glass and place them in the plastic bag I now want to tear apart with my teeth.
“Let me do this,” he tells me gently, but I’m not listening.
I feel like a fool.
I can’t even open a plastic bag.
“Stop,” he tells me. “You’re bleeding.”
I pause, noticing the drops of red in the puddle of juice. I still mechanically go to gather the shards of glass when his hand abruptly seizes my wrist. His touch is firm, his fingers calloused and hard, but none of it is unpleasant.
“Let me do this,” he repeats, and I look up to meet his eyes, stunned to silence for a long moment. He’s never been this close. He’s always been across the counter. A nice safe distance away. A distance I am all too willing to accept.
His jaw is scruffy today, his lips blood red and plump. They’re the kind of lips you imagine as a little girl kissing for the very first time. Shame my first was with an eleven-year-old boy with tic-tac breath and lips drier than a cracker.
A shiver runs down my spine the second his eyes drop down to my mouth. He looks intrigued, like he’s curious how I’d taste. It’s wishful thinking, I know that. Most likely he’s thinking I’m a ditz bleeding too much into his spare time.
His gaze wanders down my neck and to the necklace visible over my top. The cheap chain carries a green looking gemstone that’s probably made of glass. He looks back up at me again, more inquisitive than before.
Then he looks away and his other hand grabs at the box of tissues on the counter. He tears one out and wraps it around my index finger. I watch him do it, mesmerized by the symbols tattooed into the flesh of his fingers. When he finishes, he lets go of me and returns to cleaning up the mess I made. He doesn’t look back at me. Doesn’t even acknowledge my presence the way he did moments ago.
I back away and gather a few rags already on the floor beside the mopping bucket. He finishes and closes off the bag and then stands up, disappearing from behind the counter. I do a quick work of mopping up the puddle, but it’s piss-poor work and I finish only because I want to see where he is.
By the time I’m standing again, he’s just come back with another glass of juice.
“Let’s do this again,” he tells me, smirking again.
I try to smile, but it’s so fake and filled with humiliation that it’s not even worth the effort. We do the entire process over, and this time my fingers are so sticky from the juice, tearing open the bag is a breeze. I make sure to keep the juice a safe distance away the entire time, eyeing it every millisecond because I’m absolutely certain it’s going to walk off the counter.
After I’ve accomplished that like a special little sport, I hand him the bag and receipt (because he always wants his receipt) and then I reach for the envelope Ivan told me to give him when he arrives. I know it’s filled with money, and I feel awkward doing this exchange because I feel like a creepy drug dealer every time.
“From Ivan,” I explain quietly, sliding the envelope across the counter.
Nikolai’s demeanour shifts entirely. His expression clears and he looks at it for a moment, as if silently deliberating something he doesn’t want to. Then he takes it. He peers inside it fleetingly, his lips pressed together in thought, and he pockets it inside his suit jacket.
“Third time you’ve done this,” he says, studying me. “Are you Ivan’s courier now?”
Not liking the probing tone of his voice, I shake my head quickly. “No, it’s just you.”
“Just me,” he says thoughtfully, those two short words rolling off his tongue in the most sensual way. “Tell him it’s not safe to give envelopes to pretty girls behind counters.”
I nod obediently. “I’ll tell him that.”
“You have a weapon nearby?”
“Uh, well, I have a whistle.”
He just blinks at me for a second. “A whistle,” he repeats, poker faced.
“Yeah, like a rape whistle, but more of a robbery whistle in this case.” It’s as ludicrous as it sounds.
He tenses his jaw, a look of disbelief in his eyes. He should have seen my disbelief when Ivan made me take it from him. “Have you ever had to use it?”
I shake my head, the delight evident in my sudden contrived smile. “No, actually, I haven’t.” Thank God. What can I do with it? Whistle someone to death? I’d sooner die of humiliation than at the hands of a robber who would most likely look at me like I’m some kind of special.
Ivan has had robberies before, but they’ve never occurred on my shift. Besides, it’s a tiny store and Ivan only allows a certain amount of money in the cash register, unlike the bigger places which I suspect have more.
Nikolai doesn’t respond after that. The awkward exchange is over. He’s got his juice, his receipt, and his envelope of money from whatever debt Ivan owes him. Yet he stands there for a few more moments, dragging it out by dragging his eyes over every inch of me. As always, he’s so blatantly unapologetic about it.
“Would you like anything else?”
Why do you look at me like you want to kiss me?
He gives me a soft smile, eyeing my mouth. “Not yet.”
Despite how tense I feel, I steel myself and look back at him. The words
have a nice day
are at the tip of my tongue, but he beats me to it.
“Do svidaniya, rybka,” he says, his voice low, like his words are private and reserved for my ears only.
I know what he’s said. Ivan translated it for me once.
Until we meet next, little fish.
They sound like words of endearment, and they’re delivered in such a tender way, you’d think he’s read a sonnet to me.
For a solid second we make eye contact, and I feel his gaze travel all the way to the pit of my belly, warming me from the inside. My heart doesn’t know what to make of it, so it rattles speedily in my chest as I work hard to keep my breaths steady and wait for him to go.
He leaves, but as he opens the glass door on his way out, sliding his sunglasses over his face, he looks over his shoulder at me. He pauses for a brief second, a smile curling at his lips as I stare right back, my breath held, my body tight. I watch him, my eyes running all over his tall frame, admiring him because in my sad little life he’s a fantasy I can almost taste. Then he turns away and lets the door go, vanishing seconds later from sight. My body relaxes, that warmth inside me instantly beginning to cool. Good, I don’t want a man to have this kind of effect on me. I don’t want him to think that either. I’ve got a small reserve of pride left inside me I can’t afford to lose.
Still, I can’t deny I haven’t gotten used to his presence. There is an abundance of good looking men in this world, but to consistently be taken aback every single time you encounter one in particular is almost non-existent for me.
Nikolai has defied what no other man has.
“Do svidanya, rybka.” Oksana’s mocking words make me roll my eyes.
She comes out of the backroom, arms crossed, dark hair in all kinds of directions. She’s Ivan’s niece and she’s in that annoying teenager stage that makes me want to drill holes in my head.
“You know he wants to fuck you, right?” she asks, popping her hip out against the counter as she chews on her bubble gum with such ridiculous intensity.
“Restock the shelves, Oksana,” I tell her dismissively. “Your point being here is to relieve your brother’s absence.”
“Benji’s a cunt.”
“Your vocabulary is enthralling.”
“I’m just saying Russian men want one thing,” she carries on. “And it’s the wet pocket between your legs. If I was you I’d stick to your kind. Russian men of the Bratva bite, and they don’t let go.”
I give the deranged girl a look. “Bratva?”
She nods. “Nikolai is mafia. He’s said bye-bye with a bang-bang on a lot of people.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I can handle myself.”
She gives me a once over with her dark eyes and then grins. “You’re right. He’s not into your kind, anyway.”
My kind? The bitchy little twat.
“Restock the fucking shelves, Oksana,” I snap, losing my cool now. “And mind your fucking business. Unless it’s to do with the store’s up-keeping, I don’t want to hear it.”