Alexandra frowned as her plane touched down. Zetrov heir. The new shoes she was in now were just not comfortable. She did not want to be photographed like some minor royalty or Hollywood starlet. She had developed a taste for shadows and Alexandra Udinov felt like just another cover to her. This would be the first time that she had returned home since it all happened.
She had to do this, she had to appear to want this. All she really wanted... was in the arms of her best friend. She deserved this. She deserved to lose the love of her life to someone as great as Chihiro. Alex blinked back tears and stood as the door of the airplane was opened. A new day, a new life.
A short time later, she found her way to her new/old home and stepped out of the stretch limo. A chill hit her as she stared at the Udinov estate for the first time in years. The board of Zetrov had already arrived and was no doubt noshing on the buffet she ordered for the dining room and speculating what the young heiress wanted. She smiled darkly. No doubt there were those who felt they could cuddle up to her right from the start to gain a kind of regency while she sunbathed and gambled and did whatever else heiresses did these days.
She blinked. "Annika?" The woman was years older and her face worn with care but this was the woman who had saved her all those years ago.
Annika smiled. "Alexandra. When I learned you were coming home, I asked to be hired here again."
Alex opened her mouth to speak but instead threw her arms around the former upstairs maid. She still smelled of peppermint and lavender and Alex's lips slid into a wide smile. The smile faltered as other sense memories filled her but she pushed away the metallic smell of remembered blood to take joy in the knowledge that Annika was still here.
Alexandra pulled back and pulled Annika's hand through her crooked elbow before walking to the front door. "You aren't still an upstairs maid are you?"
Annika laughed. "No miss. These days I am Housekeeper. The only ones here who outrank me are you and the Butler."
"Pffff we can get rid of him if he gives you any trouble." Alex smiled broadly. Annika was to proud not to work. Otherwise, Alexandra would have set her up somewhere with maids of her own. "So I imagine there are wolves in the dining room," she said quietly.
"Voracious ones my dear Alexandra. Their assistants are in the kitchen gossiping. I hope Fedya taught you how to take command of a room."
Alexandra frowned. She missed Fedya. He did teach her a lot. She forced a smile for Annika. "I hypnotize with my breasts and then hit them with a two by four until they are mine to command."
Annika slapped Alex's arm lightly. "You are so bad. Fedya is a good man deep down, but a terrible influence." She chuckled.
Alex looked around the foyer as they walked in. She grew still and sad. "Annika, you know I can't live here."
Annika smiled tremulously. "I know Alexandra. This was your home, and it is convenient to claim it for a time. I will be proud to be a part of it until you find your permanent home. I know though, that blood may be washed away from a floor, it never really cleans itself from the heart. This is a wonderland of a home but blood makes it an unbearable nightmare."
Alex smiled. "Lead me to the wolves Annika."
Alexandra sat at the head of the table nursing a glass of wine. The meal had been delicious and she was actually having a bit of fun watching power players trying to get the upper hand with tactics from familiarity to verbal bludgeoning. She cleared her throat.
She smiled and stood. "Gentlemen. You have already guess that I am not interested in running Zetrov day to day. I am however still in charge here. I will eventually relinquish all claim on this little empire, but not today gentlemen."
There was a hum around the table. She took a deep breath. "We will maintain the current structure. Anything of company wide importance will be prioritized and sent to me." She turned to the right. "I want research and development budgets and outlines before I leave Russia again."
The elderly man nodded. "Yes Miss Udinov." Alex smiled fondly at him. The only one at the table who hadn't made a run at her and the only one who safeguarded anything of interest.
"Let's convene to the library for coffee and brandy and we'll finish our discussion."
Chihiro sat in the car. She frowned. "Get away driver sucks."
"I'll get you one of those hand held games next time," came over her ear bud from Nikita.
"Bullshit. I am on deck next." Chihiro leaned her head back. She reached into the seat next to her and started chewing on a hamburger. She picked a chunk of fallen meat off her shirt and popped it in her mouth.
"What's that sound?" came over the com.
"Me communing with with a cow. Mmmmmm." Chihiro grinned. "What's taking so long?"
Nikita smiled at the bank manager. "I have checked dozens of vaults a month this way and only rarely flag a box." She slowly walked down a wall of safe deposit boxes waving a strange device. She looked at the screen. "Hmmmm."
"Hmmm?" The bank manager tensed. "What hmmmm?"
"I'm reading high density explosive material in this section. It's faint but... " She circled the scanner slowly.
"What does that mean?" the suddenly pale manager stammered.
She looked at him. "It means a bomb or something hidden by a bomber. Terrorism, Sir. Do you have any terrorists opening boxes at this branch?" She put her hand on his arm. "This is what I trained for Mr. Donnelly. We will open the door. We can be certain that it is safe... Once the door opens, I want you to get upstairs. The walls are reinforced in here, if there is a problem it will be contained."
They opened the outer door. She nodded. "Go."
The frightened bank manager obeyed instantly, running up the stairs as fast as he could. She followed minutes later. He was twisting his hands. "Well?"
"Money, lots of it. Its been exposed to explosives. I need a name and number so the Patriot Act can do its thing."
"Of course." He flipped through the cards. Pulling one he handed to her. "I would never allow..."
"Of course not. No one is accusing you...yet. We are the United States Government, Sir. We always get the bad guy ... Justice will take its course. Now, lock the money back in Mr. Donnelly. If this is a terror circle, we may use it as bait."
"Thank you thank you." He ran back downstairs. She smiled and stifled a laugh. "Now should we even bother to pay a visit to..." she looked at the card. "Mr. Smith." She rolled her eyes. "Seriously?"
Chihiro laughed. "How often was he coming in?"
"Once every two weeks. Last visit Tuesday."
"Leave him." Nikita strode out to the car. "We got bigger fish to fry."
"Damn. You need to buy me a drink then if I don't even get to hit anyone today."
"Done. Let's roll."