Author's Notes:

I was seriously considering pulling this down off the site. It embarrasses me no matter how much fun I had writing it. The experiences I've written are not my own. I don't swear at all, I'm faithfully married for twenty years, and I don't even like tattoos. This whole story came from a prompt from a Mafia Wars fan on Facebook. The character Nikolai, a member of the Russian Vory, came from "Eastern Promises;" a movie I've never seen. I've only used his first name, the fact of his tattoos, and the criminal organization. I made the rest up myself.

This story was an experiment from start to finish. There's a ton wrong with the plot, and it's more twisted that a corkscrew.

I can't stress strongly enough that this is an M rated story. The first dozen chapters may lull you into believing it's not that bad, but it does get worse – much worse. It's not just the sex and language, but the extent to which they monopolize the story in later chapters that makes me want to put up a big red stop sign.

This isn't a simple love story. My protagonist is almost an antagonist as well – she's so messed up. You might like her at first, but by chapter 18 you'll want to slap her. If you're still reading by chapter 27, you'll want to slap me. If you make it to chapter 33 you'll get a clue what's wrong with her – but it's buried in tons of smut. You have been warned!

An Excellent Thief

Chapter one

The man wore tattoos on nearly every part of his body, including his hands. It proved that even in these days of acceptance he was not a rebel by night and a white collar office boy by day; it was part of who he was rather than something to be hidden under his sleeves.

It was a moment of weakness for sure, or maybe an act of desperation that lead me to the place beside this frightening, enigmatic man. The storage area was cold, and the dust from years of disuse threatened the very air we gasped into our lungs in deep ragged breaths. We lay together wet and nearly naked beneath the tarps he'd pulled from the old furnishings stored in the cramped space. Outside the sirens faded into the distance until I could hear his breath in my ear, much calmer than my own. I knew he was a bad man. No one would be chased by so many police, like he was, if they were just an ordinary thief.

They were searching house to house, and not just asking in the doorway, like polite well-behaved civil servants. They were demanding entrance. They explained that he was an armed and dangerous prison escapee. They were down the block when a neighbor phoned to warn me.

I saw him moments after I hung up. He was crouched in my bathroom with a roll of gauze in his hand trying to staunch the bleeding from a gash on his head. He was battered and bruised and he looked at me with eyes that told a story he didn't have time or words to explain. Instead of flight or fight his eyes begged me for help and mercy. He stood then, and I felt overwhelmed – not by his size – but by his cat like grace and fierce presence. His eyes never left mine as the banging started on my door. They were there already.

Shhh. I motioned with my finger against my lips. I pointed to the shower and quickly turned on the water, then the shower. Hurriedly he stepped in and I tossed in the bloody gauze, and a cloth he'd used to wipe his face. I had a moment to wipe the dirt from the floor and the sink before I turned my back to strip. I couldn't face him as I stepped in and yanked the shower curtain closed and we stood together in the warm spray.

All the lights were off and the place was silent, the way I liked it. It didn't take long for the suspicious cops to shoulder their way through my flimsy lock. I heard the shouts and boot steps as they rushed through my home in a search for the fugitive standing behind me. I was shaking with fear as they came through my bathroom door, and the piercing scream I let loose wasn't nearly as fake as I'd planned. Speaking with a curtain between us I told the officers that I hadn't seen anyone and I'd be sure to report this offensive behavior to their superiors. My tirade lasted until they'd finished their search and left my home.

As soon as they were gone he sprang into action. He stripped out of his now wet prison clothes while I did my best not to look, hurrying to grab a couple towels. He stood unashamed of his nakedness as he stuffed his clothes into a plastic bag and tied it closed. He quickly dried with the towel I offered, but didn't cover himself. I tried to be modest and not look, but my eyes betrayed me. He didn't seem to mind that I was entranced by the multitude of tattoo's on his skin.

Naked, he stepped from the tub and took me by the arm. "Let us go now," were the first words I'd heard him speak. His accent sounded like German or Russian – not American for sure. I tried to pull away, but he held me tightly and pulled me along with him.

"Thank you for helping me. They will be back soon, and with dogs; no one is safe here," he explained, as we moved down my hall to the bedroom. I thought I would get my clothes but he didn't slow down. I had to struggle just to reach around my door and grab my robe from the hook. I didn't have time to do more than drape it over my shoulders, as we rushed past my room and he pulled down attic door. He unfolded the stairway and pushed me up the old wooden steps.

Once in the attic, we climbed over beams and insulation to get to the end over the garage storage area. He surprised me again by opening the hatch to lower me down. He must have been a master thief, to know secret ways in and out of a house with such ease. I didn't have a car, since I took the bus or walked wherever I went. I think I was the only one in the neighborhood with an empty garage.

In the dark back yards of my neighbors, we ran from house to house, back the way the police had already searched. He knew right where to step to avoid the motion sensor lights, and we were several blocks away before my adrenaline wore off enough to notice how cold I was in the September night.

We stood behind one of the older homes of my neighborhood; one of the more expensive places around, with three stories and several cars in the garage. Needless to say he broke in without even tripping the alarm system.

That's how I found myself in the storage space over the expensive cars parked in the detached garage. He held me close, as we listened to the sounds of the night; sirens, barking dogs and more sirens. I could feel his warm skin against mine, and still I couldn't stop shivering. It was then that he started to speak in that odd accent that I'd almost immediately come to think of as Russian.

"The tattoos..." He whispered quietly in my ear. "...I saw you staring at them." He spoke in a hypnotically mellow, lilting, whisper. "They are not like your American tattoos...they are not something I take lightly like a twisted barbed wire or a heart, like so many wear to show they are manly." I could hear the scorn in his low voice.

"They are not to say, 'look at me every body I go out and get drunk and stupid, and pick a picture from the wall to have a cheap artist draw on me!'" Even in the dim light, he looked angry, then he continued. "I have a story for every mark on my body. I chose each and every symbol for it's significance and meaning. I endured many painful stabs with the needles in the hands of both professional artists, and prison hacks. They tell the world that I am someone who has experienced death, loss, loyalty, and leadership. They are as much a part of me as the wrinkles and grey hair of old people." He was so close I could feel his breath against my face as he spoke.

"Nothing I wear is as simple as it appears." He moved then and I saw a small light come on beneath the canvas. He pulled the tarp over our heads and I saw he held a tiny flashlight. He didn't have one with him, and I guessed he must have picked it up in the garage.

It was then that reality hit me. I was in some serious trouble. I was alone with a naked man and no one knew where to even look for my body if he should snap my neck in his strong hands. He was a road map of scars, bruises and ink. This wasn't the boy next door, or a stray kitty I'd decided to help out. This was a very dangerous man.

Would he kill me to keep his secrets safe, or would he choose to listen to the part of his soul that asked to bear the cross over his heart? In the dim light I could see his body, with it's well defined muscles coiled just beneath the smooth leather of his skin. The marks no longer held my interest as it was his closeness that had my mind in a spin.

He had the towel I'd given him but he didn't seem to care if he was covered or not. I felt that it wasn't a vanity. He wasn't looking for attention, or to show off. His was a casual nudity like you might see in a developing country through the lens of National Geographic. I got the distinct feeling he was used to being without clothes, and used to people not noticing.

But it was a problem for me. My pendant was all I was actually wearing, and I was very conscious that the robe and towel I'd fled with were in gathers and bunches as we laid in our cocoon. I was sure that if not completely indecent, I was certainly leaving little to the imagination. But he wasn't looking at my body.

I finally became brave enough to meet his eyes, and found him gazing at my face. He was so close I could see my movements reflected in his intense brown eyes. He had at least two days growth of beard on his face, and the gash on his head was still oozing blood. He smelled of dust and sweat, and his hair held the reminiscent smell of disinfectant soap. At the moment it was the most masculine scent I could imagine. It suited him well.

I looked into his eyes for an uncomfortable minute, then started trying to slide my body a bit further away from his without it looking intentional. In seconds his arms tightened around me and he pulled me snug against him. I felt his legs entangle mine, and his pelvis pressed against my hip. He shined the light toward our faces and he wore a small teasing smile, matching his raised eyebrow.

"You are afraid of me. Why is that?" I could feel his hands moving along my back, slipping absently through my hair. At that moment we both knew I was his in the most primal sense of a man and woman. I closed my eyes, unable to bear his gaze without losing control of all reason.

"I would never hurt you, this I promise." His whisper was as soft as the brush of his lips on my forehead. I held my breath, eyes closed, waiting for the moment he would kiss my mouth, touch me intimately, and become sexual with me. But the moment stretched on and still he held off until my eyes finally opened. He was studying my face; the corner of his mouth turned up in a little grin that told me he knew what I was thinking.

"Why did you help me... and what is your name?" his solemn look gave way to a brief laugh. "No one helps me unless they want something, so I ask you, what do you want?"

I wanted to laugh out loud, but it would have been dangerous. "My name is Sue...Suzanna actually, and I don't know why I helped you, I wasn't thinking straight." I looked away so he wouldn't see the lie. But then he turned my face to his again and I confessed; "I had to help you. You looked so lost and fragile... almost broken for a second." I touched his cheek and he dropped his eyes for a moment before his defenses snapped into place.

"So Sooz-ahnna," he murmured, once again in charge. "You didn't tell me what you wanted from me. I owe you my life, and I always pay my debts." What did I want from the man? Good question even if the answer wasn't so simple. Finally I turned my body to face him and we lay side by side. I shook my head slowly trying to deny what I knew was true.

"I don't want a thing from you – I don't even know your name."

"It's Nikolai, and you must want something...everyone wants something," he insisted. I could feel his hand sliding down my back, leaving a warm trail and distracting me from my fear.

I couldn't look at that cynical smirk. I knew what I wanted, and I pressed forward to whisper it in his ear.


For just a moment he looked at me uncomprehending and even a little fearful. "I want you Nikolai," I whispered into the stubble of his cheek as my arms slipped around him, and my body came into close contact with his once more. I kissed the corner of his mouth and tried to pull him to me, but he resisted. He looked at me with curiosity and wonder, and my heart melted at the confusion on his face.

"Why would you want me?" he asked. "Do you have any idea how long it has been since I've been with a woman – even seen a woman, or breathed the same air she breathes? I've been an animal in a cage, and now with your help I'm free." He looked so serious. "Do you have any idea the Pandora's box you are opening up? Any idea how hard it has been minute by minute not to break my promise and ravish you?"

I let out a low growl of frustration. "I didn't expect you to protest so much...I mean if there's someone else, I understand. But I want you Nikolai – no – I need you. Even if it's just this time and this place and I'll never see you again, I still want you. I haven't felt this alive for a very long time, and I can't explain why I feel so attracted to you. All I know is that I want you to make love to me, Nikolai. I want to touch you and feel your body against me and..."

He attacked me then, not with violence, but with a bursting dam of passion. He covered my body with his and kissed me hungrily – deeply. He held my face in his hands while he kissed me, murmuring incomprehensible endearments in Russian. I let my hands roam over his shoulders, back, and lower. I could feel the coiled tension in his muscles and I arched my back to press into him more. I struggled to pull away the robe and towel between us so I could feel him skin to skin. The air was cold, but his hands took their place, warming me in frenzied caresses.

I was moaning and gasping, urging him on. Without fanfare he quickly took me, covering my mouth with his in case I screamed. It was pure animal lust, with each of us grinding and thrusting for our own gratification. It was stunningly ferocious and it satisfied me in a way I would never have believed possible. In minutes it was over, and I'd reached my climax just seconds before he did, and he collapsed on top of me dripping in sweat.

I couldn't stop touching him and kissing him and his hands kept caressing my body. We separated, only to come together again with me on top of him, slowly learning each others body with our hands, mouths and movements. The second time he took me I thought for sure I would scream. Slower and calmer, he paid attention to my cues and guidance. Our bodies rocked together in a fluid motion as we each strained to prolong the experience. When we finally reached our breaking point I was satisfied and a bit sore. I wanted to hold him and fall asleep in his arms, but he tucked me into our makeshift bed and kissed me long and slow, before he prepared to leave.

"Wait for me, I will come back for you." Then he disappeared into the darkness. I wanted to call out to him or maybe even follow him, but he was gone before I could even move from our nest. I laid there for a long time remembering him, and aching for his touch. I don't know how long I laid there, but I must have fallen asleep.

I woke up to the predawn light sifting in through the tiny decorative window. I started wondering how I was going to get out of my situation since I knew I couldn't walk home wrapped in a robe and a towel, or even a tarp. Even if I did, I imagined standing on my doorstep with no keys to get in.

It was starting to sink in how impulsive and stupid my actions had been. It wasn't like me at all to be so carried away. I had no idea how was I going to get out of the situation. Nikolai, you sure got me into fine mess. You were so worth it!

The sun continued to rise, and about an hour later, I heard footsteps. Someone came into the garage and I could hear them get into one of the cars and slam the door. I heard and felt the garage door opening just below me and I held my breath as the car backed out of the garage and drove off. As soon as it was gone I realized that I'd missed a perfect opportunity to call for help.

I ran through several scenarios in my mind of how I could get back home. I could run the distance back the way we came and hope no one noticed. I could pretend I was kidnapped – no I wouldn't lie about him. I waited.

The sun came up along with the morning activity all around: cars on the roads, birds chirping, someone mowing their grass in the distance.. Another hour went by and I was about to do something foolish when I heard footsteps crunching in the gravel outside the garage.

When the side door opened, I waited breathlessly as I heard the attic steps being lowered. I was scurrying for a place to hide when I saw his face emerge from the opening. Nikolai! He smiled and motioned for me to come out.

He was well dressed, showered, and shaved. He escorted me from our hiding space and handed me a stack of clothes. I wanted to ask him where the clothes had come from and what he'd been doing, but I was afraid of the answer I'd get. I started to dress while he watched my every movement,.

Before I was finished, he suddenly came to me, wrapping me in his arms, and kissing my face and neck. I could feel his restraint slipping, along with my own as we kissed.

"You waited for me," he breathed against my neck. He opened the rear door of one of the expensive sedans in the garage and pushed me down on the expansive leather seat. The belt, catch, and zipper keeping him from me were no match for my need. Once again I was his woman and nothing else mattered. In the midst of our union I moaned, begged, and whispered endearments and encouragement. I heard myself say 'I love you,' but I wasn't sure what that meant, or even if he heard.

When the wave finally crested and we were both spent, I helped him dress and forgot what I had said. I put on the clothes he brought for me; a woman's pants and blouse, with panties, and a bra that was too small. The shoes were a near enough fit, but a size too big. After dressing he told me to get into the car. I looked at him with a half smile and asked, "oh my, so soon?"

He handed me a paper bag and shook his head. "No, get in the front seat, and buckle up, we're leaving now." I did what I was told and watched him go back for the towels and his bag of wet clothes. He must have fixed up our crawl space since he was smudged with dust when he returned and got behind the wheel of the car. He had the keys and I didn't question how he got them, or ask any other questions for that matter. He started the car and opened the garage door with the remote and backed out into enemy territory.

"Open the bag. I've brought you something to eat, and what passes for coffee in this country." I cautiously opened the bag and found several bagels, slathered in cream cheese and wrapped in plastic. There were also two travel mugs of coffee tucked in as well. As I pulled them out I saw more clothes, along with a jewelry box spilled open. I hurriedly closed the bag and turned to place it on the floor behind me. He took one of the cups and drank while he expertly maneuvered the car at a sedate speed past my house. I noticed the door was slightly ajar.

I didn't ask where we were going, and he increased his speed once we were out of town. When we were away from the populated areas I begged him to stop someplace that had a bathroom.

At a convenience store gas station, I was able to clean myself up a bit in the bathroom, but he seemed nervous and jumpy when I came back to the car. Maybe he thought I would call the police or leave him there. I'm not sure why I didn't.

I studied his profile as he drove, noting that there was a dagger tattoo showing above the crisp white collar of his shirt. I imagined him lying still while someone passed a needle over his jugular. What kind of trust and determination would that take?

When he finally started to speak he didn't turn to look at me but kept his eyes focused on the road. "Two, no three days ago, I escaped from prison. I have been running for all that time, trying to keep them from taking me again." He said it so simply it took a minute to sink in that he was admitting he was a wanted fugitive. "I deserved to be in prison here – I steal cars." He looked at me with a devilish grin behind the wheel of what was obviously another stolen car. "It's what I know, it's what I'm good at, and it's what got me arrested and imprisoned for five years. But I not only steal the cars, I give them new numbers and identities and ship them to buyers in other countries, or strip them for their parts. It's a big business and I make lots of money to send back home."

He waited a minute before he continued with his story. "I was foolish getting caught this time – too trusting of my crew. In Russia there is a code of honor that if we are captured we will never tell who we work for, even if tortured or killed. In America there is no such honor and the men I trusted turned against me to save themselves." He looked a bit pained as he said this.

"I hired a good lawyer. Five years is nothing to me; I've done worse sentences for lesser offenses. It's been two years and I was content to wait another three. You Americans treat your prisoners very well. I've had worse treatment in a Russian boys school than I received here." He smiled as if remembering a happier time, and I noticed his teeth would have been perfect if not for a chipped canine. When he continued his story, I could see a change come over him. He became darker and more intense, if that were possible.

"They want to extradite me to Russia; this is why I must escape." The car accelerated with his mood, and I reached out to touch his arm. He flinched from me sending the car into a slight fishtailing that reminded him to slow down. He offered a casual "sorry," and he covered my hand with his left. There were more tattoos etched on the fingers covering mine. "I can not go back." Words softly spoken with the intensity of a promise of death if not true.

"Family is very important to me. I am Vory v zakone, like my grandfather and his father before him. There is the family I'm born into and then Vory which I chose a very long time ago. Both are equal in importance to me. I have learned the business from the ground up from as far back as I can remember. I delivered packages as a boy of 7. Made collections during my teen years, and spent my first time in prison for driving the car after an assassination. I've seen more of life and death than most, and all in the name of family and loyalty." His expression seemed pained and he seemed reluctant to go on.

He squeezed my fingers. "Everything changed ten years ago. I was moving up in the ranks, making a good living and making plans to marry." He looked my way as if to ask me to stay with him until he finished. "I had spent too much time in prison so I was doing all I could to get ahead. I wanted Katya, my bride-to-be, to have a home and the wealth she desired.

I found myself in charge of a smuggling operation – very lucrative and very dangerous. We would take expensive cars coming in from America and other places, and sell them to buy the drugs coming up from Kazakstan. The cars would be rerouted to places in Europe to be cleaned and sold and the drugs would be sent back to the places where the cars came from. We of course made the profits from all the transactions including the price increase for the cars and drugs." It startled me how casual he was in describing a criminal organization with international connections.

"It didn't take me long to realize I had a problem. Shipments weren't making it to their destinations, money came up missing, and everything pointed to me. There were questions about my business sense, and then about my loyalty. When I traced it to its source I was stunned to find my fiance behind the thefts. She had told our rivals where our shipments would be and she had stolen a cash delivery as well, making me look guilty. When I confronted her she didn't even try to hide it. She called me stupid and said I was nothing but a Vory lap dog, and claimed she scrubbed her skin to remove my stench whenever I touched her. It turned out she was the daughter of our rival's leader." I could see the pain in his eyes, and his knuckles were white where he gripped the wheel.

"I should have killed her; duty demanded that she die at my hands, but I could not. Perhaps there is a part of me that wants to believe in Juliette. I took her instead to our commander, who is also my uncle. I waited until he had her locked up, then I begged him to spare her life. He gave me his word that he would not kill her and I went away satisfied that I had done right by both family and the woman I thought I loved." His voice grew very soft and I had to lean closer to hear him.

"It would have been better if we had followed in the footsteps of Romeo and Juliette and killed ourselves. The Montegue's and the Capulet's have nothing to compare with the blood thirst of our rivalry. I was promised that Katya would not be killed, but I forgot to ask that she not be harmed. Maybe I secretly wanted her to be hurt the way she hurt me.

"Our commander questioned her for days about what she knew regarding our lost shipments as well as the plans of our rivals. She was well schooled in the code and gave nothing away. For days she suffered at his hands, the most brutal of beatings. In the end I believe he lost his temper – angry that a mere woman could resist so strongly." I watched him flex the tension out of his jaw before he continued.

"I'm told the girl was sent back to her family in a shipping crate. I was ashamed to be a part of the family that did such terrible things to her. She was alive – barely – but no longer in one piece. All of her fingers and toes were shipped in a separate box, along with her tongue. Her pretty blue eyes were gouged out and left to dangle on her broken cheeks. She was in the hospital for two weeks before she regained consciousness. A day later she threw herself out the window and died." He didn't look at me and I could see his tension, like a coiled spring.

"I was foolish to think it would end there. I was arrogant to believe that our family was strong enough to defend against any retaliation. I believed that Katya was our retaliation for their sabotage and we were even. I was wrong."