Throne of Power (Throne Duet #1) by Rina Kent

On the other hand, that’s also usually the last thing they see before they’re ‘taken care of’. While we invite our associates here, we also invite our enemies.

Heaven and hell. Angels and demons.

Dedushka—Grandpa—was poetic that way, which shouldn’t have been a surprise considering his origins. He was not only the leader of one of the most successful Bratva branches in the States and Russia; his roots go back to the beginning, dating to the end of World War II.

I am part of that bloodline.

In fact, I’m the only one who can protect it anymore.

Today, I opted for black suit pants that give me a sharp edge. My beige coat hangs on my shoulders without me having to wear it. It’s a quirk I learned from Dedushka. My blonde hair is twisted in an elegant bun. My makeup isn’t loud, but it’s a few layers thick, making me look like I’m in my thirties instead of twenty-eight.

Being young is a weakness in the Vory world, and there’s no way I will let them exploit any of my shortcomings.

I’m stopped by a radiant face at the bottom of the stairs. Anastasia, my great-cousin, smiles upon seeing me, revealing perfectly straight—and petite—teeth. In fact, everything about her is, from her nose to her lips and her frame. The only thing that’s big are her huge green eyes. It’s like staring straight into the calm of the tropical ocean.

She’s wearing a modest long-sleeved dress that stops below her knees. Her blonde hair, a few shades lighter than mine, is gathered in a low, neat ponytail by a long ribbon. As usual, no ounce of makeup covers her face. Her smile falters for a second, and my red alert goes up all at once. The bloodthirsty mama bear in me comes out to play.

“What is it, Ana?”

“It’s…” She shakes her head. “Nothing, Rai. Have a nice day.”

“Ana.” I speak in my no-nonsense tone that she knows no one should challenge. “You can either tell me now, or we can stand here all day until you do.”

She bites her bottom lip, peeking up at me from underneath her naturally thick lashes. That should mean she’s close to letting it out.

Ever since I was brought into the Vory world, I always thought I only had Dedushka, and that was enough considering he was the Bratva’s Pakhan.

But then, my great-uncle Sergei, Dedushka’s youngest brother, brought in Anastasia to live with us. The first time I met her, I was thirteen. She was only five years old. Back then, she looked up at me as if she saw the world, as if I were her savior from whatever life she used to live before.

We instantly became best friends—or more like I became her protector, as she’s too fragile to be out there in the world.

Fifteen years later, she still considers me the same way she did before.

I step closer to her, lower my bag to my side, and try to remove the sternness from my tone. Anastasia trusts me, but she also told me I can be scary—not toward her, but scary in general.

That’s the last thing I want my Ana to feel toward me, but if it’s to protect her, I won’t only be scary—I’ll blow the whole fucking world to smithereens.

I place a hand on her shoulder, stroking gently. “You know you can tell me anything, right?”

She nods twice.

“Then what aren’t you telling me?”

Anastasia bites her lower lip again. “You won’t be mad?”

Unlike most of the Vory who have a noticeable Russian accent, she speaks English in a perfect American accent, probably because I’ve been teaching her since we were young.

“I will never be mad at you.” I smile at her, which is possibly the warmest type of smile I can offer to anyone.

“Papa said…he said…”


She gulps. “He said I need to get ready.”

“Ready for what?”

“You know.”

“Unless you tell me, I don’t, Nastyusha.” I use her Russian pet name since she responds better to that.


“For what?” I snap, and she flinches, her shoulders turning rigid under my touch. I internally curse myself for frightening her and take several seconds to calm down. “Did he mention who he’s marrying you off to?”

She shakes her head once while staring at her flat shoes. “He just said I need to get ready. Does…does this mean I can’t continue my studies?”

Her voice breaks with her last sentence. Few things affect me this deeply, and Anastasia is definitely at the top of the list. Seeing her in pain is like having one of my limbs cut off.

I raise her chin and she stares up at me with a wretched expression. There are no tears because she was brought up to be the perfect Vor’s daughter from a young age.

For her, crying isn’t a weakness like I consider it. In Anastasia’s dictionary, tears aren’t ladylike and shouldn’t be shown in public.

The fact that she wants to express her sadness, but can’t, digs the knife deeper into me.

I force a smile, stroking her hair back. “You don’t need to get ready for anything. I’ll talk to Granduncle, and none of this will happen.”

Her expression lights up. “Really?”

“Have I ever made a promise and not kept it?”

A gentle spark invades her expression. “Never.”

“Go study and don’t worry about this. Since you have exams coming up, you don’t need to come to the company.”