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

“Yes, Miss Sokolov. To what do we owe this pleasure?” Damien waggles his brows at me. Although both his parents are Russian, he is American born and bred, and therefore, he speaks without an accent most of the time.

They talk in English around me because they think I’m that ‘American’ who doesn’t belong with them even though I have proven again and again that I’m as much Russian as they are.

“Yes,” I say in Russian, looking at Granduncle. “I will report V Corp’s numbers for the last trimester as well as projection for future net profit.”

“You can do that in the company.” Mikhail doesn’t hide his aggression. “You have no place among the Vory, Rayka.”

I grit my teeth at the disrespectful way he used a nickname, but I plaster a smile on instead.

Kill them with kindness, Rai. Don’t weaken Sergei.

“I beg to differ, Mikhail.” I reach into my bag and retrieve my report, then start listing the numbers. After I finish, I interlace my fingers on the table and stare at him with so much dispassion I feel my face turning stone cold. “Last I checked, your brothels don’t bring in half what I do. Last I checked, a member’s worth is measured by how much he or she brings into the organization. Maybe we should double-check who belongs in the Vory and who doesn’t.”

He stands up, his round frame nearly bouncing with the effort, and points a finger at me. “You little—”

“Sit down,” Vlad orders. “Show respect to your Pakhan, Kozlov.”

Mikhail mumbles an apology and begrudgingly sits while still giving me the death glare.

“It’s good that you’re here, Rai. We have some business to discuss.” Sergei speaks for the first time since I came in. There’s a huskiness to his voice due to the cancer, and soon enough, it’ll be noticeable to everyone.

“I have business to discuss, too, Dvoyurodnyy Ded.”

Kirill scoffs under his breath at the affectionate way I addressed Granduncle.

My attention turns to him. “You have a problem?”

“None at all, Miss Sokolov.” He pauses, readjusting his glasses with his middle finger. “Yet.”

The threat behind his gesture doesn’t escape me, so I counter using his subtle way. Still keeping eye contact, I slide the cup of coffee in front of me then crush a piece of sugar inside before it melts. “Good to know.”

His brows furrow, and his most loyal soldier, Aleksander, stiffens behind him, his hand going to his gun. He has feminine features and a smaller frame for a guard, but he’s as merciless as his direct boss.

He won’t do anything, though, because they both know that at the sign of any danger, I won’t hesitate to bring Kirill and his whole brigade down.

Sergei clears his throat, and I smile, pretending to drink from my coffee in a leisurely manner. My granduncle doesn’t want me to provoke anyone in the brotherhood, not even if they belittle me.

So I do it behind his back.

What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

Damien hits my shoulder with his, grinning like we’re close friends and he wants in on the secret.

“Fun in paradise?” He reaches for the pack of cigarettes in front of him and retrieves one. Instead of lighting it, he places the lighter a breath away from it.

“None of your business,” I counter.

Kirill’s secret is mine and mine alone. If anyone else knows, it undermines the reason behind holding something over his head.

Adrian watches me for a beat, which means he’s also caught on to the fact that something is going on.

Vlad shakes his head at me, too, and Igor keeps watching Kirill and me from above his cup of tea. The only one who’s huffing and puffing like a damsel in distress is Mikhail. He’s too focused on not wanting me at this table and didn’t notice anything. The idiot.

His boyevik isn’t stupid, though. While he stands like a board at his back, he’s hearing and watching everything so he can report it all back to his boss later.

“We’re here because there’s a looming threat from the Irish.” Sergei speaks in Russian, using a moderate tone. “Adrian’s men have gathered intel that indicates they intend to attack the territories we rule with the Italians.”

“Those fucking Irish.” Mikhail snarls like the big bad wolf he thinks he is.

Vlad leans on the table, interlacing his fingers. “Rolan has always come strong against us, ever since he became the head of the Irish after his brother’s death. He tried before but has never gotten so close. This time he seems to be going all in, even bringing in some of his allies from the small eastern European organized crime families.”

“We wouldn’t have had a problem with them if it weren’t for your irrational attack, Damien,” Igor says in a low and accusatory tone.

Damien raises his hands in the air, expression incredulous. “I was protecting my fucking soldiers, thank you very much.”

“You were protecting your foolish pride,” Kirill mutters.

“You always put us in war,” Igor accuses.

“What’s better than war when it’s well deserved?” Damien lights his cigarette, takes a drag, and blows a cloud of smoke in the air. “It’s not my fault you’re too old to handle it anymore. How about letting your son inherit it if you’ve become such a bore?”