Chapter Seven - Chaos Meets Chaos
“What are you doing here?” I could hear Ivan’s intoxicating voice rumble through his chest from behind.
Staying behind Ivan felt secure and safe. The way his tall structure hiding what was beyond me, the way his back was constantly tensed, and the way his single arm positioned slightly behind him, keeping me away from what was in front of him. His chest lifted and fell in quick exchanges, and his one hand that was at his side clenched tightly.
I was curious enough to see what made Ivan this way, but Ivan’s arm only continued to block my view. I grabbed his arm, pulling on it tightly and setting it aside to look. The beautiful woman that sat on the bed across from us smiled lovingly at Ivan like a mother would. Her hair, that was hard to differentiate between blonde or brown, flowed in gentle waves, framing her heart-shaped face. Her long legs uncrossed each other and stood, revealing her tall height. Her juniper hues that gave life to her eyes were not of Ivan’s as his were of an unnatural, shining blue that made any person jealous.
“How long has it been? Five years since we’ve seen each other?” the woman spoke, her voice giving a youthful tune that could soothe any child to sleep, but her Russian accent ran a haunting shiver down my spine.
“Twelve.” Ivan’s jaw held tensely.
“You’ve been keeping track.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Believe it or not, I actually came to see you,” the woman responded as she crossed her arms in front of her.
Her eyes lingered on Ivan for a bit before she looked around the room with tired eyes. Her aged face was one of a few years older than Ivan, but she didn’t hold any authority like he did. Her lips were positioned in a forever frown, but when her eyes landed on Ivan’s ring, they creased further.
“You still wear that ridiculous ring?”
“Ridiculous? If I remembered correctly, you were the one who wanted this ring the most.” The woman’s eyes narrowed at Ivan accusingly as she stood in front of him. Ivan’s back held tensely at the closeness and the arm that I previously pushed aside now held out before me, his fist held tighter than ever. Hesitantly, I reached for his fist and spread my fingers across his. Even though they didn’t break their structure, I noticed the slight release of pressure as I continued to hold his hand within mine.
The woman’s gaze passed Ivan and towards our hands where a smirk grew, finally noticing my presence.
“And who’s this little manchkin?” the woman asked as she continued to observe me with hard eyes. (Munchkin.)
“No one,” Ivan growled, making the woman glare at him.
“My name is Eleanor,” I introduced myself while clearing my throat.
“Pretty name, Eleanor,” the woman smiled at me, “I’m Anisa, Ivan’s older sister.”
“Eleanor will be held here until the problem with the Irish-scum is solved,” Ivan stated robotically, catching both of our attention.
The hatred between the Irish Mob and the Russian Mafia was obvious in Ivan’s voice; the way he would spit the word “Irish” was enough evidence. They’ve treated each other like vermin: it’s a game to see who-can-step-on-who the most. I just don’t know how far the man in front of me would go to end the feud between the two.
“It’d be a shame for a young woman such as herself to be cooped up in here all by herself. I even bet that you don’t expect her to leave this room without your own authority.”
“What happens to her is my responsibility,” Ivan said with strict authority laced within his voice, “If something were to happen to her, it’d be my fault.”
The atmosphere surrounding the two was suffocating. Anisa’s eyes held a small amount of mischief within, but it was covered up by her own visible exhaustion. Ivan stood erect, like a statue. He stayed unmoving as she stood just the same. This reunion wasn’t one that was meant to be pleasing.
“She’d be bored to death without someone to keep her company,” Anisa hinted as she looked to me.
“She will be accompanied by one of my men.”
“I don’t think she’d be happy being surrounded by just men. Women also need other women in their lives too, you know.”
“We are all tired, Anisa. Let’s speak about this in the morning.” Ivan’s words contradicted Ivan’s position as he still stood as if he was in the presence of his enemy.
“Technically, it is morning. Meaning, we can talk about it now,” Anisa said before turning her attention to me, “Eleanor, dear, how does another company from a woman sound?”
“She is fine as she is,” Ivan said with a constrained voice.
“I can speak for myself,” I spoke gently. His fist relaxed just a bit at my voice. “If I am to be staying here by myself, someone else’s company couldn’t hurt.”
“See? All is decided,” Anisa said brightly, “Now, you go along as I can help Eleanor settle, and you come with me.”
Anisa grabbed my arm, ripping me away from my grip on Ivan’s hand, easily pushed Ivan out the door, and slammed it in front of his face. I saw the fierce expression on his face just as the door shut with a loud ‘click’, his eyes landing on me.
I stood further away from Anisa as she stayed staring at the door for a few moments. When she turned to look at me with a raised brow had me feeling self-conscious, but the upturned smirk plastered on her lips made me think back to Ivan.
“Now,” Anisa said as she walked towards me with a confident stride, “Let’s get to know each other.”
My mind was racing as was my heart; it felt as if I was close to choking on my own spit. The longer I continued to stare at the door that slammed shut, the more anger began to build within my chest and my fists.
I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose, trying to regain some composer, but all it did was bring on more frustration. My body felt on fire and my mind felt ready to burst. It took everything within me to turn around and leave the hallway than barge back into the room and drag my sister out by her hair. My sister that I haven’t seen for twelve years. Well, “hadn’t” seen, until now...
I walked past my men who either bowed in my presence or murmured “Boss” out of respect. This is what I needed: men subjugating to my very appearance, not a thirty-five-year-old sister interrupting my life and dragging things to hell. Out of the twelve years that I never had to breathe her essence, I was, in a way, happy. I didn’t have to deal with her breathing down my neck: a very reminder that she wasn’t able to take up the “family business.”
Her very presence here can ruin everything that I’ve been planning.
Entering my own domain (A.K.A. my office), I harshly pulled on my tie, ripping it off and threw it on my desk. I fished out my phone from my pocket and looked through the few contacts on it. My thumb twitched to a stop when my eyes met my father’s name: Erseli.
My mind raced at all the painful memories that began to rush back in a pounding headache, causing me to wince. My phone slipped from my grasp as the pain continued to grow. I held my head in a hair-twisting grasp before I struggled my way to my desk and dug through the mess inside for the painkillers that I always had. After I swallowed the three pills, I slumped against my desk and tried to calm my breathing down.
I looked down at my hands and examined the way everything was still hazy. My head felt dizzy and I could feel my body shaking, while also heating up in an unnatural way; it felt as if my whole body was running a fever.
Looking over, I saw my phone just in arms reach and when I saw the cracks that had spread like cobwebs across the screen, I was close to throwing the damn thing at the wall. I breathed a sigh of relief as the thing continued to work, but a rush of nausea rushed through me, bringing me back to my temporary torture.
I dialed the one person I had the patience to talk to, but it wouldn’t last for long if he didn’t give me the correct answer.
“Boss?” Leonov’s voice spoke after the first ring.
“I swear, if you knew anything about this, I will rip your guts out and hang you by the neck,” I growled into the phone as my breath came out in short puffs.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about Anisa!”
A short pause was left between us and I felt close to my breaking point.
“She neglected to tell you, didn’t she?” he said in a small voice.
“When?” I growled.
“She called me a week ago.”
“Boss, I’m sorry. I thought she had told you before she called me.”
My heart picked up the pace, causing me to feel even more nauseated than usual. I pulled the phone away from my ear and focused on my breathing as my eyes closed tight. I could hear Leonov’s concerned voice through the receiver of the phone and I couldn’t block it out.
Placing the phone back to my ear, I said, “Forget it.” I hanged up the call and stared at the blank screen that was distorted by the cracks and scratches. I felt exhausted and frustrated, and there was nothing that I could do about it.
I felt my nose twitch at the hopeless thought and threw the broken phone against the wall with a loud roar.
All I knew in that moment was that I was all alone.
“Do you miss them?” Anisa asked curiously as she stared at me.
Anisa was great company. The longer I conversed with her the more confused I felt as to why I feared first meeting her. She told me that she came back from Russia to visit her two little brothers, but at the remembrance of them, it made me remember the situation I was in.
“They’re family, so of course I miss them,” I said with a shrug.
Katherine was the sister I always wanted and my grandmother was my grandmother. They were all I had. I’m worried out of my mind as to what irrational action Kat will take once she finds out that I’m missing and I’m afraid as to how my grandmother will react. They may be all I have, but I was all my grandmother had.
“I know that it’s useless thinking, but I wish there was some way that Ivan could at least let Kat stay here, or let me speak to her or my grandmother. They are all I can think about right now,” I said solemnly as I rubbed my arms, the cause of an old habit.
Anisa looked at me with a sort of pity, one that I felt ashamed of. But then her determined smile brought on confusion as she said, “Leave it to me.”
Her determination was one similar Kat’s. Their determination, their outstanding looks that could make any professional model jealous, and the way that they treated others were even similar. But Anisa had a mysterious atmosphere: one I couldn’t figure out. She was strong and domineering like Ivan, and frankly, it frightens me a bit.
The next day I took off the bandage that wrapped my arm, but the wound wasn’t even close to being healed. I swallowed the painkillers that Anisa gave me last night, but it did little when I took a shower. The water that used to always calm me in every situation didn’t help relax me as the water cascaded down my cut, constantly reminding me that I was lucky to even be grazed.
I had just finished dressing up in the new clothes that Anisa provided when the door to the room knocked. Anisa walked into the room with a small smile, her eyes observing the outfit that I wore.
“Looks a little big,” she murmured, “But, good news.”
“And that is?” I asked curiously.
“Well, I think it would be best if I showed you than if I told you.” She grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me along with her.
I faintly remembered the track we were taking that led upstairs, making me worried if I was even allowed back up there.
“What’s wrong?” Anisa paused when she felt my tugs.
“I can’t go back there.”
“Why not?” she asked with a confused tilt of her head.
“I don’t think Ivan will let me up there.”
“Don’t worry,” she said with a smile, continuing her track, “As long as one of my brother’s men keeps a watch on you, were good.”
“Doesn’t that mean they have to be here in order to watch me?” I was responded with a loud chuckle.
“You’re not very observant, are you?”
I frowned at her while mumbling that I was. She laughed again and said for me to look behind us.
I looked over my shoulder for my eyes to meet a familiar man marching behind us. His face was frozen in a forever stern expression, but that didn’t take away the handsome look he beheld. His face held the same chisel and sharp look Ivan had, and his height rivaled that of Ivan’s. His dark hair was slicked back and the familiar suit he wore looked rather uncomfortably tight on him. I saw the telltale signs of tattoos crawling from underneath his collar and swiftly climb just beneath his left eye. They looked rather peculiar, but it only made him look even more fierce.
“His name is Artem,” Anisa whispered, “He’s been here as long as I could remember.”
“Over twelve years?” I asked.
The mention of the number made her stiff to the bone, but a few moments later she relaxed and said in a small voice, “Yeah, twelve years...”
“If it’s not too bold to ask, but what made you leave in the first place?” I asked curiously.
There was an abrupt sound of someone clearing their throat behind us, making me jump, but Anisa ignored it and continued.
“That’ll be a story for another time,” Anisa said with a soft smile.
Through the twists and turns, I began to realize how huge this underground unit really was. If anything, it seemed larger than the club itself. And it made me wonder, if this was only one of the clubs Ivan owned as territory, then I can only wonder what it’s like in the others. Were they large and magnificent like this one? Or were they smaller and more inconspicuous? Did they attract many attentions like this one does or are they less attractive? One could only wonder, but I was certain of one thing: I didn’t belong.
Many people passed by us. Some either stared at us or completely ignored us: there was no grey area. Most of the people that did pass by were mostly men that wore the suit that every man seemed to wear when working for the mafia, but the women that did pass by were obvious workers for the club. Their slick eyes never strayed from Artem that continued walking behind us and their suggestive clothing made me feel uncomfortable.
I looked back at Artem to see how he reacted to the small advances, but all he did was face forward, ignoring their stares and annoying giggles. I thought, at first, he was watching where he was going, but the way his stare was more than just hard, but more of the wanting, lustful look, I traced it back to Anisa. But she gave no signal that she noticed his stare.
We passed through the same door that I ran through last night. I was expecting to see the place shut down for a bit and desolate, but I couldn’t be any more wrong. Even in the middle of the day, there were enough people to crowd the area, dancing to the tempo of the loud music. I felt rather uncomfortable, almost shaken at the closeness Anisa and I had to pass through, but I was comforted by Anisa’s hand. Never faltering, Anisa led us through the crowd of people, making it feel quicker than it was.
We pushed our way to the bar where it was crowded as well, but the sight of a familiar blonde caught my attention.
“Excuse me, have you seen this woman?” Kat asked the bartender while holding up a picture, “She’s been missing since last night and she won’t answer her cell.” The sound of her voice relieved me. Even if her voice was one laced with worry, it brought a sense of calming waves flush through me.
The bartender squinted at the picture as he looked closer and once he looked up we locked eyes. We stared at each other for a good minute before he looked back at Kat and pointed in my direction.
Kat whipped her head around and the sight of her eyes widening in surprise made me laugh. A sudden flash of emotions passed through her eyes, but at the sight of her rage, she raced towards me and enveloped me in her arms. Her bony arms crushed me to her and her tear-filled eyes soaked my shirt.
We didn’t say anything; it was all silent. We stayed like that for what seemed like a few minutes before she pulled back and took a good look at me. The way she stared at me was as if she just met me after years of being gone. I could only imagine what it would be like for my grandmother.
“Where the fuck were you?!” Kat cried angrily, “You idiotic, horrendous friend! Do you know that, Eleanor? You are idiotic and horrendous! Where the fuck were you?!”
Her eyes were gleaming and her nose was runny from the snot that was dripping down. I knew she felt hurt and angry. She was worried and I could only wonder what thoughts that were running through her mind when she found out that I didn’t come back home last night. She must have felt so scared.
“Forgive me about your friend here,” a familiar voice spoke behind me. That soothing voice that I knew all too well could either make this situation even worse or better.
Kat leaned farther away from me to where she was a couple of steps ahead of me. Her reddened eyes widened at the sight of Ivan standing behind me, making her quickly wipe the tears and snot from her face.
“She was in a bit of trouble last night and I thought it would have been best if she stayed with me,” Ivan shallowly explained, “I apologize once again for making you and whoever else worried about her wellbeing.”
“You could have at least texted me,” Kat scolded me, “Grandma Maggie is worried sick because of you. She couldn’t even get out of bed because of the stress that was sickening her.”
“I had a feeling...” I mumbled as I rubbed my arm, making me wince at touching the bandage on my arm, “Her panic attacks didn’t come back, did they?”
“Thankfully, no, they didn’t. Come on, we need to go back so Grandma Maggie can relax.”
Kat grabbed my arm, but a tight grip held me back, causing us to stop and look back at Ivan in confusion.
“Forgive me once again, but she can’t leave,” Ivan said in a formal tone.
“Excuse me?” Kat blurted out with a fire blazing through her eyes. She took a step forward, but before she could say anything rash, I pulled Ivan away where Kat wouldn’t be able to hear us.
I looked up at him, remembering how this man in front of me protected me from the one thing I feared most. I opened my mouth to speak whatever I could to make him change his mind, but whatever I was going to say was stuck in my throat as I noticed the tired look in his eyes. His cobalt blue eyes that always look like they were set ablaze to show the life within them looked dull and dead. It was as if I were staring into the eyes of the dead. Now that I had a better look at him, I noticed how disheveled and exhausted he looked. There was even sweat glistening his forehead.
“Are you okay?” I asked as I reached up to touch his forehead, but I was stopped when his hand caught mine in a flash. His eyes were closed tightly and his head was brought closer to mine as he looked down. I could smell the sweat coming off him.
“I can’t progress in anything if you were to go back home,” Ivan explained quietly, his voice in a deathly, forbidding tone, “You are valuable to me. Somehow in some way, you are connected to the Irish-scum and I will figure out how.”
“You think I work for them?” I asked in disbelief.
"No. No, not working for them or with them.”
His cold eyes softened at his answer and his face was closer than I thought it was. His hot breath breezed over me. It smelt of alcohol and mint. I didn’t want to push him, but I wanted to know:
“What would you do if I was?” I asked him.
His fingers that were gripping my hand tightened, but he brought them between us where he purposely grazed them across his lips. His now cold eyes staring right into mine.
He leaned so close to my ear, lips purposely grazing against the lobe. A cold shiver ran down my spine, causing me to lean forward into him. His body that radiated abnormal heat was sharing my coldness and his other hand that was free to his side was brought up and held the side of my face so I couldn’t move away from him as he said, “Bylo by nevozmozhno dazhe voobrazit’ to, chto bylo by ya delat’ k Vam, yesli by Vy byli odnim iz nikh.” (It would be impossible to even imagine what I would do to you if you were one of them.)
He pulled away from my ear, his eyes locking with mine once again, trying to figure out what kind of reaction I would hold. His tone of voice was constricting, controlling. If he expected me to feel any type of fear or if he was trying to make me feel meek and powerless, then he succeeded. I continued to stare silently into his dark, enigmatic eyes that held mine. I wanted to say something, anything to him, but all that came out was silence.
His expression lightened before a smirk lightened his features. He pulled away from me and any contact me had with each other disappeared. I stared blankly ahead of me as Ivan walked towards Kat, but once I caught sight of Anisa, I noticed the familiar look of anger that pierced her expression. Her sight was narrowed at Ivan, understanding and knowing what Ivan and I conversed about.
“I am still worried for Eleanor’s safety,” Ivan said behind me to Kat, “The only way she can be protected is by staying here. Not a finger will be laid on her in my company.”
“Who are you?” Kat questioned him, “I thought you were just some hotshot owner of many clubs.”
Kat, you fool... He is some hotshot owner of many clubs. There are only so few people who own such clubs in a great amount of territory.
“You may visit her as much as you like, but she is not to leave.”
Ivan walked pass by me, giving me no sign of looking back. Anisa’s gaze turned cold and obstructive as she looked at Ivan when he passed by her. Whoever Ivan was, he wasn’t who I thought he was. Whatever mask he showed me before had just broken and I saw witnessing a new side to him that I was afraid to see again.
But, I wanted to know why. I wanted to know what was wrong. I wanted to run after him and demand to know why he was like this. Yes, he’s a criminal, but even the hardest of candy can encase the softest of textures. But, something was telling me “no.” Something was telling me that if I were to continue with my actions, then I would be messing with sparks that would soon erupt into flames. Only my conscience could be telling me these warnings, but I felt more than ready for those flames to burn it away.