Ivan (her russian protec.., p.13
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       Ivan (Her Russian Protector #1), p.13
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         Part #1 of Her Russian Protector series by Roxie Rivera
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  Ivan controlled the desire to throttle Dimitri for his poor timing. He'd never felt closer to Erin than when she'd been half across his lap while he poured out his darkest secrets. Her acceptance of his past had stunned him. She'd taken a reasonable stance on the crimes he'd committed and the punishment he'd served and seemed willing to accept that he was a different man today than the awful person he'd been when he'd done those things.

  He would never stop trying to fix those wrongs. The charities he supported weren't enough—nothing could ever really clean away the smudges on his character—but they gave him a sense of peace. Knowing that Erin was willing to walk beside him without embarrassment or shame and with her head held high filled him with such strong hope. Maybe the life he'd always wanted wasn't so far out of reach after all.

  "Do you see the entrance up ahead? Turn in there and then take the first right."

  Ivan's gaze moved to the windshield. Erin gave Kostya instructions as they neared her childhood home. Dimitri followed in his truck not far behind. The neighborhood she'd been raised in was filled with big houses and large yards. It was the kind of place he'd dreamed about as a hungry child living hand-to-mouth in an orphanage. Even though he'd surpassed his wildest dreams, he still had mornings where he woke in a daze, unable to believe he'd risen to such heights.

  "The brick two story with the dark shutters," she said and pointed to a house near the cul-de-sac. While Kostya pulled into the driveway, she dug around in her purse and produced a key ring. He noticed the way she gripped the keys so tightly. Whether it was the painful memories of losing her parents in this house or the uncertainty of what they would find inside that left her so upset, Ivan couldn't say.

  Out on the sidewalk, he gripped her hand. She started to take the lead but he stopped her. He held out his hand. "Give me the key."

  "Why?" Erin asked but did as instructed.

  "Because Andrei might have been stupid enough to booby trap the place," he said matter-of-factly. "You stay back with Dimitri and Kostya."

  "No," Dimitri interjected. "I'll go first."

  Ivan nodded and handed over the key. Those years in the military and later in Spetsnaz had given Dimitri quite a few skills Ivan would never possess.

  He pushed Erin behind him and waited near the SUV while Dimitri unlocked and entered the house. A few minutes later, Dimitri returned. He shook his head and said, "You aren't going to believe what's in there."

  Ivan's stomach clenched. "The drugs?"

  "And the money and piles of stolen electronics," Dimitri added. "It's all there plus more."

  "I can't believe she used our parents' house like this," Erin whispered, her voice laced with pain. "Doesn’t she realize it can be seized?"

  "I don't think she cared," Ivan replied bluntly. "But you bring up a good point. I don't want you to be any part of this."


  "No." He spoke firmly but gently took her hand to lead her a few feet away. Frustration radiated from her in waves. Running his fingers down her cheek, he said, "This is tricky business, Erin. I need to concentrate. I can't do that if I'm worrying about you."

  "Oh." Her annoyance with him fled. "I didn't think of it that way."

  "I want you to go back to the hotel and get a room there." He withdrew his wallet and discreetly slipped her a large sum of money. She started to argue with him but he silenced her with a demanding kiss. He plundered her mouth, stabbing his tongue between her lips, and tasting her until she whimpered in his arms.

  She sighed softly and pressed her cheek to his chest. "Is that the way it's going to be? Every time I want to argue about something, you're just going to kiss me until I'm dizzy?"

  He laughed. "It sounds like a good plan."

  She rose on tiptoes and brushed her mouth against his. "A very good plan." Then, more seriously, she begged, "Please be careful, Ivan."

  "I will. Text me the hotel room number. I'll be sliding into bed with you in no time."


  He kissed her forehead. "Promise."

  Reluctantly, she made her way back to Kostya. He shared a look with his longtime employee. Kostya would protect Erin with the same vigor he had, if the need arose. Standing next to Dimitri, he watched the SUV until the tail lights disappeared from view.

  Ivan turned to Dimitri. "Do you have a way to contact Besian?"


  "And the Hermanos?"

  He hesitated before nodding. "I can use Johnny to get a message through."

  "Then do it and let's finish this."

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