“I sign this, and I’m in the clear?”
“Yes, and I recommend you sign it immediately,” Charles said. He and I were sitting in a conference room at the US Attorney’s offices in Minneapolis. “Mrs. Andrews and her boss have agreed that justice would not require pursuing charges. You, John, and Patrick will be cooperating witnesses in the Federal investigation into a sex slavery ring. In exchange for reimbursement of search costs and the information you all have provided, and any testimony required at later trials, you three receive limited immunity from prosecution.”
“What is limited immunity?”
“It means that the acts you have already admitted to are immune from prosecution, but any acts not admitted to as of you signing are not immune. It’s a good deal.”
I thought about it as my pen hovered over the paper. “What about the war? We blew things up, killed people, hell it was a war.”
“That is hidden from humans. Alpha Sven’s Pack removed evidence from the fight. The dead will be listed as natural deaths over the next few months, with allied doctors and law enforcement handling the paperwork. You don’t have to worry about your acts coming back to you, the Council and the Alphas are on our side.”
I signed the paper. The bill for the search operation came to $152,282.87. “Yikes,” I said as I looked at the itemized list. “How do I pay for this?”
“They accept a cashier’s check, Visa or Mastercard,” he said with a smile.
I dug through my purse and pulled out the debit card for my Swiss account. “I can scorch the hell out of this, I guess.”
“Come on, let’s take care of this with the clerk then deliver the paperwork to the AUSA.” My hand was shaking as I signed the credit card receipt; my mother’s entire estate was a fraction of what I’d just paid. In the end, it wasn’t my money, and the fake death kept me alive and gave me a vacation with my mate. We returned to her office, where I thanked her for coming in on the weekend. I was glad I could get this all done so quickly. We shook hands then headed for the elevator.
“Are we still on for Moscow?” I had Skyped with my probate lawyer, Olga Alexandrov, earlier before we left for this meeting. She told me the death of Yuri would clear the way for a hearing on my father’s estate. The documents I had were enough, along with the DNA tests, to prove my claim, but I needed to be formally declared a Russian citizen.
“We leave in two hours for Washington, DC. I have an appointment for you at the Russian Embassy. I have to say that the Ambassador was thrilled to hear you were coming in and claiming your heritage. He promised they would issue you a Russian passport within hours.” The door opened, and I could see our Pack members waiting on the other side of security. Behind them, a group of reporters, cameras and paparazzi was waiting for me. “Sorry about this. Word got out you were alive and here.”
“Should I say anything?”
“The less you say, the better,” he said. “But, you can’t be seen as hiding, either.”
We pushed through the doors, surrounded by his men and the police called in to assist with crowd control. “JESSIE! WHY FAKE YOUR DEATH?” The man and other reporters were shouting out questions. I put my hand on Charles, stopping and looking at the gathered cameras.
I took a deep breath and tried to smile. “A few months ago, my life was forever changed when I found out the truth as to my heritage. My mother was sweet and innocent, at least until Yevgheny Zubkov took an interest in her, and raped her. Instead of supporting his baby, he had my mother killed. I was adopted by an American couple to keep me safe.” I looked around, taking comfort in the people from the St. Croix pack around me. “My father was a vicious mobster who wanted me dead. I never knew him, and I am nothing like him. His brother was no different, putting a bounty on my head so he could take his brother’s fortune. That inheritance is rightfully mine. He tried three times to have me killed. For my safety, I had to fake my death. I regret the inconvenience to those who spent their time looking for me, but it kept me alive. I cannot apologize for doing what I had to. I have paid restitution for the cost of my search, and in the government’s eyes, the matter is closed.”
“Jessie, will you be moving to Russia?”
I thought about it. “I only found out my heritage recently, and I didn’t have enough time in my brief visit there to satisfy my curiosity. I plan to visit, but I grew up here. I plan to stay here.”
Another reporter pushed forward. “Jessie, how can you accept a fortune from a father who did this to your mother? Isn’t the money tainted?”
I laughed. “Money has no inherent morality. It is neither good nor bad. The people who have it can use it for good or evil. It is my inheritance, and I will make it a force for good. Thank you.” They continued shouting questions as we walked off, the men making a wedge until we reached the vehicles with the darkened glass and got in. I buckled up as Charles and Stan sat with me. “How did I do?”
“You’re a natural, Jessie,” Charles said. “You hit all the right themes without saying too much.” Our car pulled out, one vehicle ahead and two behind. “Are we headed to the airport?”
“Soon, but we have a stop to make first. You are no longer a college student working tables at a bar, Jessie. You are one of the richest women in the world. Your wardrobe needs to reflect that,” Stan said. “I’ve made arrangements for a private fitting at Macy’s.”
We pulled into the parking lot, parking near a freight elevator where a store manager was waiting. “Is this necessary?”
Charles nodded. “You saw what happened at the courthouse. Your name is all over television and the gossip pages. You became rich and desirable overnight, and many will seek to take advantage of that or get close to it. Don’t be shocked if some humans try to woo you, either.”
I snorted. “I’m mated, Charles!”
“We know that,” Stan said, “But right now, you’re not even wearing a ring. John has the same problem right now. He’s picking up a ring, and we will formally announce your engagement in Moscow when he meets us there. You can get married over there, or when we return.”
Romance? Not. As a girl, I used to dream of the moment when my love got on his knees and asks me to marry him. I thought of the big wedding I might have, with the fairytale dress and the packed church. Instead, I got bitten on the neck while he was banging me into a puddle of quivering limbs underneath him. I reach up and feel the mating scar, smiling to myself. I wouldn’t change a thing. A wedding will only be for humans since we are already tied together for life.
The doors open, we met the manager. “Good morning, Miss Donato. My name is Natalie, and I will be helping you with my assistant Mary. If you would?” A short ride later and we were in a well-appointed room with a couch, bar, and an elevated carpet platform surrounded by mirrors on three sides. The ladies were very efficient, taking measurements and then bringing in carts with clothes I’d never dreamed about owning. Dresses I’d only seen in magazines. Lingerie that made me blush but feel so beautiful. An hour later, a closet full of clothes and shoes waited in Gucci leather suitcases. I ended up in a skirt, white blouse, and jacket with a pair of Jimmy Choo heels and Agent Provocateur hose and lingerie. “You look amazing, Miss Donato. You make anything I hand you look like it was made just to show you off.”
“Thank you. You’ve been wonderful.” She let Stan and Charles in, and I smiled when I saw their jaws drop. We were escorted back to the cars and driven directly to a private jet for our flight to Washington. Along the way, I was briefed by Charles on what to expect.
A limousine with Russian diplomatic plates picked us up and drove us to the Embassy. The door opened, and a handsome man in his forties, dressed in an immaculate suit, extends his hand to me. “Welcome to the Russian Embassy! I am Cultural Attaché Boris Levtovsky, and I will be your guide tonight. Do you go by Miss Donato, or would you prefer Klishnina?”
I smiled; his English was perfect. “Jessie, please. I haven’t known my birth name long enough to respond to Natalya. Спасибо, что встретили меня (Thank you for meeting me.)”
“Я рад приветствовать вас в вашем доме (It is my pleasure to welcome you to your home). You are learning the language, excellent!”
Charles and Stan had come up next to me. “Yes, but I’m not that good yet. May I introduce my foster father, Stan Larsen, and my lawyer, Charles Thompson.” They shook hands, and he led us inside.
“We will be dining with the Ambassador and his guests tonight,” he said as we walked into the beautiful building. “Your bags are in the guest rooms, but we have some business to attend to first. If you’d follow me, we will get the photograph and paperwork done for your passport.” We stepped into a small office where the clerk greeted us with a smile. I took a photo, and he made copies of my Russian birth certificate and adoption papers. “Your passport will be ready before dinner. You have dual citizenship now, Jessie. We would never turn away one born in our country. I would hope you visit and grow to love it as much as I do.”
“That’s very kind,” I said. “I certainly enjoyed visiting my mother’s home and town, and I would love to see more of the Embassy if there is time.”
“Of course, Jessie. Stan, Charles, would you like to join us?” They did, and our small group headed off. Boris was a fantastic guide, introducing us to people, showing us the antiques and history of the Embassy, and making us feel at home. All too soon, I had a Russian passport in hand, and we were back in our room to dress for dinner.
All eyes turned to me as I entered the ballroom, with Charles and Stan at my sides in their tuxedoes. I was wearing a formal gown I had fallen in love with at Macy’s. It was a coral-colored gown, with a broad fake-diamond band just below my breasts, falling into a mermaid shape to the floor. The top was strapless, the built-in support enhancing my breasts. Paired with matching heels, I felt like a princess as I looked down at the room where the guests were waiting. “Announcing the arrival of Miss Jessie Donato, formerly Natalya Klishnina, and her escorts Mr. Stan Larsen and Charles Thompson, Esquire, of Minnesota.”
The guests applauded as we walked down the stairs into the room, and Boris brought us to the reception line. We met the senior staff, finally the Ambassador. “Welcome home, Jessie,” he said with a smile.
“Thank you, Ambassador Mendev,” I said as I came up from my curtsy. “Boris has been very helpful to me, and I am happy to have a chance to meet you all and learn more about my original home.” The three of us circulated and drank champagne, meeting Ambassadors and dignitaries from other countries. It was only at the end that he pulled me aside.
“Jessie, I know your life has changed greatly in these past few months, and it must be overwhelming at times.”
“It has been a whirlwind,” I said.
“I saw what you said in Minneapolis. Jessie, you are young, rich, and free. Do not dismiss your heritage easily; you are a citizen of Russia as well, and Russia would like you to learn about her before you make decisions about where you will live for the rest of your life. There is so much to learn and experience, and Russia is a better place with you in it,” he said. “You have already done so much for us. If there is anything I can do to help you out, please ask.”
It wasn’t what he said that made me nervous; it was what he didn’t voice. “Thank you, Ambassador. Your people have been so welcoming, and I’m looking forward to being in Moscow soon.”
“You will not regret it. The Moscow Pack will be better off with you at the helm, and your John is a good man. My parents are in that Pack. They have been praying for a leader like you to restore it to its former glory. I can feel your strength. You truly have the Alpha power to do the job. Only you can keep the evil men who rose to power in your father’s generation from taking over again. Please, Natalya… take the place you were born for.”