“This is my house. Please do not stop me.”
No one had reported to him before Katya Udinov was at the door, speaking with soft, admonishing clarity. That Semak didn’t bother to upgrade the personal security around her spoke volumes. Ari found that much to their detriment, many men underestimated the women in their lives—he didn’t plan to be one of those men.
Ari rose solicitously at her entrance. “Madam, you should not be here.” Even as he spoke, he saw that Katya was not the woman he once knew, but the one he once remembered.
Katya smiled evenly, once a narcotic numbed body and soul, now embodying a long lost grace and attentive stature. “Yet here I am.”
The men glanced surreptitiously at him, waiting for an order. Katya might be the lady of the house, but the manner of his recent promotion was fresh on their minds. Ari dismissed them with a flick of his fingers, giving them the sign they were hoping for, to not see nor hear that of a clichéd history repeating itself.
The room cleared and the first hint of impatience laced Katya’s voice as she asked, “You’ve seen Alexandra?”
There was no reason to lie, no yet. Ari nodded affirmatively as he gestured for her to sit before him at his desk.
Katya’s face animated for the first time since entering his office. “I cannot believe how much she has changed.” She turned her full countenance on him, and Ari saw a remnant of the woman once desired by two of the most powerful men he knew. Kayta continued lyrically with deceptive ease, “Do you think your Stefan will still recognize her? And that boy Yuri? They all used to play together. I told Nikolai they were both good boys, good friends for Alexandra.”
Ari narrowed his eyes, lids heavy upon the sparks of flint at the mention of his son. Nikolai Udinov didn’t particularly approve of the playdates—they’d been too low on the hierarchy then. But where Nikolai was ruthless, Kayta was gracious.
Katya’s abrupt and stony stare was a wintry Udinov hybrid.
“I know of powerful men. And the inevitable nature of their right hand men,” Katya said, smiling without mirth. Behind her solemn gaze burned a familiar flame, without the same youth, but with many times the ferocity. “You, on the other hand, must understand the nature of a mother without her child.”
Katya leaned forward and slowly covered his hand with hers. The supple contact brought about a touch of cold. Ari saw upon her ring finger, a blood stone ruby. Its crimson glow eclipsed a bed of sharp, glittering diamonds.
“Tell me Ari, how is my Alexandra?”