Because Viktor had been drinking heavily Vladi arranged a driver to send him home. Viktor agreed, thinking about sitting in the backseat with Merri he thought it wasn’t a bad idea.

 He was late and Merri was standing by the elm tree under an umbrella wondering if he forgot. She was looking for his black Maybach when a silver Mercedes pulled up to the curb. The driver got out and opened the back door. Merri looked at him with a complicated expression and he said, “I am Mr. Ruskin’s driver.”

  Merri hesitated then walked over, when she saw Viktor in the back seat she got into the car.

  Viktor smiled, “I’m sorry I’m late. I had a business meeting.”

  She could smell alcohol mixed with his unique woodsy scent.  “That’s okay. I wasn’t waiting long.”

 His tie was loosened and his hair was messy giving him a wild and unruly look. Merri was staring at him when suddenly the car swerved on the rain slick highway. She fell into his lap and he embraced her. He looked down at her and teased, “You didn’t buckle your seatbelt?”

  She blushed because she was staring at him thinking his unbridled appearance was unbelievably sexy and forgot to buckle. Merri quickly moved to the side and buckled the seatbelt. 

  Viktor felt a bit of a loss as her soft body left his arms. He leaned back and closed his eyes to control the rush of heat flowing through his veins as a light jasmine fragrance lingered around him. 

   Merri nervously looked out the window, her heart was racing from the feeling of being held in his strong arms.

   Both of them were deep in their own thoughts when the car pulled in front of the apartment building.

   The driver opened the back door and Merri and Viktor got out. Merri suddenly remembered they were going to stop at the grocery store. She smiled sweetly and giggled, “Mr. Ruskin, we forgot to stop at the grocery store.”

  “It’s fine I can have the food delivered.”

  When they walked into the lobby Merri saw Blair Pennington and ducked behind Viktor. He turned slightly and had a devilish grin, “Hiding?”

  Clutching onto the back of his coat and burying her face, in a low voice Merri answered, “I..I don’t want that girl to see me.”

 Viktor didn’t ask why and in one swift motion pulled her to the front and held her horizontally in his embrace. He covered her face with his coat and walked towards the elevator.

  Engulfed in his intoxicating scent Merri’s small hands rested on his chest him and she whispered, “What are you doing?”

 He chuckled, “Be good.”

  He breezed past Blair and her aunt and they watched him with their mouths open. They hurriedly followed into the elevator and Bair’s aunt blurted out, “Who is that?”

  Viktor smiled and responded in a natural tone, “My girlfriend.”

  Under the coat Merri felt like she was on fire and her heart was thumping. Did he just say girlfriend!

  When they exited the elevator both of the women were in shock watching as he carried Merri into his apartment.

  Blair turned to her aunt and her face was contorted in anger, “I saw who she was! Before he picked her up she tried to hide behind him.”

Furious, she dug her fingernails into her palm, “Merri…Merri Winslow!”

  Blair’s aunt held her arm and bent down, “You know the woman?”

   Unable to control her emotions, her eyes were filled with jealousy and rage, “I not only know her…I hate her! I hate her so much!” No wonder she hasn’t gone to the practice room at school. He has a magnificent Steinway in his apartment!”

   Blair stomped her foot and kicked the potted plant by her foot. “BITCH! SHE NEEDS TO DIE!”

    A slender man wearing an expensive custom made suit was exiting the elevator and Blair’s aunt put her hand over her mouth, “SHHH!” 


    She whispered, “That is my agent and I found a part for you. Act sweet.”

    Blair’s aunt smiled at the distinguished looking man approaching them, “Did you bring the script?”

   His eyes roamed over Blair’s face and body evaluating her potential.“Your niece?”

  “ Blair, this is Harry Bryant, my agent.”

   Smiling sweetly Blair reached out her slender hand, “Mr. Bryant, nice to meet you.”

   In Viktor’s apartment Merri was sitting on the couch, still in shock from being held so intimately by Viktor. He brought her a glass of wine, “Sorry I startled you. The woman who lives down the hallway is annoying and I thought if I said you were my girlfriend she would stop pestering me. You know the younger woman?” 

  “I do. Blair is my classmate and I have known her since Middle School.”

   He sat down on the couch next to Merri and set his glass of wine on the coffee table.  “Why were you avoiding her in the lobby?”

    Merri didn’t want to tell him the sordid details of their long history, she chuckled, “It is a long story.”

   “Is she in the same Competition as you next month? She mentioned it when she wanted to give me piano lessons.”

   Merri’s face paled, “Blair…she wanted to give you piano lessons?”

  “Yes. Well, her aunt suggested it and she seemed eager.”

    He had a faint smile noticing her unhappy expression as she gulped down the red wine.

   Merri gazed at him and opened her mouth to say something then closed it.  She lowered her head and her shoulders were trembling. How can I say anything…

   When he saw her dejected appearance he couldn’t continue to tease her. “I told them I was quite happy with my teacher.”

   She looked up and her eyes were sparkling, “Really?”

   He was dazzled by her bright smile and affectionately rubbed her head. “Really.”

   Merri blushed, “Should we order the groceries?”


  Viktor called his friend’s grocery store and after he hung up he said, “I have a business call, you can practice if you want.”

   He walked down the hallway to his study when he entered he shut the door and called Vladi. 

   Vladi stared at the white packet of powder in his hand as he answered the phone. This will at least be a stop gap measure and give me time to dissuade Viktor. Nothing good can come from him pursuing Alexi’s woman. I can’t let my good friend ruin his life because of a damn slut. Little angel? More like a little demoness to bewitch both Alexi and Viktor.

   He explained his plan and Viktor slammed his hand on his desk, “Are you insane?!”

   “Which would you rather have? The little girl in a hospital bed or in Alexi’s bed?”

  Viktor’s mind was in chaos, how can I poison the little angel? No, I can’t do it.

  Vladi played with the packet in his hand, “You can kill two birds with one stone. She won’t be able to go to England and the blame can be put on the Rimbaldi brothers. If he thinks they poisoned his woman he won’t let them go. I can make the trail lead back to them.”

   “Will she be in pain?”

   “She will have a fever then be in a coma. During this time I can try to come up with a plan for you.”

   Viktor’s heart tightened into a knot and his hand was trembling holding the phone, “A coma?”

   “I will give you the antidote. You could wake her up at any time.”

   “Where did you get this poison, are you sure its not dangerous?”

   “I have used it before. I wouldn’t give it to you if I thought it would harm the girl.” He laughed, “I don’t want to die without a corpse. It is your choice. On short notice it is all I could come up with.”

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