Happy friday. Things have been busy, busy. Here's a little something for you...enjoy.
© 2009 Suzanne Lazear
Stefano Gianni stared into four smug faces as he tried not to tear his hair out. Two royals, one novice, and one very junior sentinel crowded into his office as he attempted to administer the lecture to end all lectures. But the “fearsome foursome’s” wasn’t buying it.
“Do you want me to get Headmaster Henley involved?” His eyes focused on Prince Davit Ornesky and Princess Karina Elistina. He’d rather not go to Henley, which was why the royal students were in his office, even though students were technically out of his jurisdiction.
Sasha Kashin was out also of his jurisdiction, since even though she was only seventeen, she was a full sentinel, not one of his novices. But he’d since the incident right before Christmas that had robbed her of her confidence and some of her mobility, he’d taken her under his wing. It gave him something to fret about.
Novice Niccole Smith was the only one he was actually supposed to punish. But since Christmas the four of them threatened to break the record set by Sasha’s brother and sister so many years ago. Henley didn’t do shit since Karina and Davit were royals and seventh formers.
This wasn’t pre-graduation clowning around. This was full-scale rebellion.
“Please, call Henley.” Karina crossed her arms over her blue twin-set, looking every inch the stubborn, privileged princess. Small and blonde, she looked so very much like a softer version of Bonnie. “Maybe he’ll send us home.”
Therein lay the problem. Jesus Christ, these kids were going to be the death of him.
“Both of us.” Davit crossed his arms over his chest as well. A lock of dark hair fell in his eyes making him look ever the rake. As usual for free dress days, he wore a black trench coat and a rock and roll t-shirt.
Stefano focused on Niccole. “You don’t want to be sent home too, do you?”
Niccole worked very hard to overcome the fact that she arrived at Stornholdt Academy about four years later than most novices. Stornholdt was part boarding school, part training academy for sentinels. One day Niccole would protect people like Davit and Karina.
She shook her short, red hair. “No. But I want to see Bonnie, too. Why can’t we see her, talk to her? When we call, she’s always resting or some shit.”
“Bonnie’s been through a lot.” But Novice Smith has a point. In the incident right before Christmas, Bonnie Petrova nearly died. Oddly enough it was Karina’s family who saved her, taking her to the palace for medical treatment—and Karina’s family who kept her from them all. Even he couldn’t get through to her. Mikhail, her best friend and adopted brother did, once in awhile. Stefano should have asked Mikhail to steal her from the palace the moment they knew she wouldn’t be bedridden or in a wheelchair.
“They are keeping her from us.” Sasha’s face contorted with pain. She’d been one of Mrs. Elstina’s sentinel’s before the incident. She, too, was one of Bonnie’s adopted siblings and idolized her.
“Why would he do that?” Stefano knew why and by the four looks he got, they did as well. Gennady Elstin, Karina’s father, was convinced that Bonnie was his lost sister’s child.
That would make Bonnie a missing Kajal princess.
But the problem was, she’d trained for most of her life to be a sentinel. Sentinels were Kev, half-breeds of the blood, who dedicated their lives to protecting the Kajal from their sworn enemy, the Denali.
Bonnie was the best Denali hunter out there.
The Kajal were not supposed to be able to defend themselves from the Denali.
So if Bonnie were not actually Kev, but a royal princess who’d been raised as a half-breed and trained as a sentinel—well that could cause all kinds of problems. Especially if she turned down being a princess so she could return to being a sentinel—and him.
Being a princess was far more comfortable than being a sentinel or the Moscow breeder colony she grew up in. He was sure the Elstin’s ploy to draw Bonnie into the fold included dazzling her with delights and comforts and appealing to her orphan side by telling her about her mother, making her part of the family.
But her family of fellow orphans was as tight as a “real” family—tighter, fueled by poverty, desperation, and loyalty.
“Why do they keep her from me, she’s my sister, too?” Karina screwed up her face.
“I don’t know, princess.” Unless Gennady was into some sick shit, Karina and Bonnie were actually cousins, not sisters. But Karina wasn’t the most mentally stable person so they didn’t bother to correct her. The Elstin line was prone to madness—and unusual magical gifts.
“I know you all miss Bonnie.” He missed her as well. “But acting out will not bring her back. It will just land you all in deep kimchee.”
“But I want to go home.” Karina pouted. “My little sister gets to see her all the time. I want to see her...and,” her expression grew concerned. “She has gentleman callers. One of them is Jean Rampart. No sister of mine is dating a Rampart.”
That was news to him. Stefano didn’t want her dating a Rampart either. They were high-ranking royals--and rakes. Bonnie’s childhood in Moscow hadn’t left her unscathed. A man like Jean would take advantage of that. Of her.
“How do you know?” Sasha’s head perked.
“Oaklyn’s older sister saw them at a ball.”
That made Stefano pause. Bonnie was on the mend, but balls?
“Marty Finklestein also visits her.” Karina wrinkled her nose.
Stefano knew about that. Marty had been in awe of Bonnie since she was a first former. The Finklesteins were a well-respected family and royal as well. They weren’t as handsome or as high-ranking as the Ramparts, but they were more honest.
“Marty’s a good bloke.” Davit shrugged. “He was a year ahead Yev and Bonnie.”
Yeva was his older sister who was covering Bonnie’s classes while she recovered. She was probably behind Marty’s visits. Princess Yeva was making her own problems at Stornholdt.
“Lika says Bonnie needs protecting. Who will protect her?” Tears streamed down Karina’s pale face. Davit put a hand on her shoulder.
“Lika?” Stefano put his head in his hands.
“My little sister. My father won’t send her to school. She’s too fragile.” Karina sounded as if she were parroting words she’d heard a million times. Odds were little Lika was either mentally retarded or unstable. Royal families had a lot of inbreeding.
“Dominick will protect them. He promised to watch over my sister.” Sasha nodded solemnly. Dominick was one of the Elstin’s sentinels. Not that Bonnie needed protection, usually. But things were different now, and over and over again, he wished they weren’t.
“Back to your punishment.” He was running out of them.
There was a knock on the door to his office. The door flew open before he had a chance to tell them to come in. It was probably Fred—or Headmaster Henley.
The blond man in the expensive suit was not tall, but imposing, having mastered that trick of presence few non-royals do. He also reeked of trouble—the hired sentinels with him attested to it. Not that the man before him couldn’t defend himself.
“I want you four to go downstairs to the prefect’s common room and stay put until I get you.” Stefano stood, urgency in his voice, as he assumed a defensive stance.
“There is no need to send the children away. They might be able to help me.” His Russian accent was pronounced, adding to his nefarious mystique.
“No one can be of help to you here.” Stefano didn’t keep the distaste out of his voice. “Why are you on my campus, Kolya Chornyi?”
Sasha went on edge, but she probably had heard the name growing up. Kolya Chornyi was fit, handsome, and looked royal—though he wasn’t. For a man in his early fifties he didn’t look it, but the Kajal never did.
He was also little more than a gangster. A rich and powerful gangster who controlled a good chunk of Eastern Europe.
“I need your help.” A manila folder rested in his gloved hand.
“I told you, no one can help you here. Now leave before I have you escorted off.” First and foremost he had to think of the royals.
Kolya sighed and for a moment one of the most-feared men in Eastern Europe looked tired, defeated. “If you do not wish to help me, Training Master Gianni, then perhaps they will. I have a feeling that these four have the same motives I do.”
The man in front of him was bad news all around. “What do two royals, a novice, and a sentinel have to do with a gangster like you?”
He shrugged, a privileged and moneyed gesture, clearly unruffled by the gangster comment. “I am not here tonight as Kolya Chornyi.”
Stefano raised an eyebrow. Kolya did happen to be one of those odd Russian nicknames and Chornyi was Russian for something--bad, dark, or what have you. Whatever he called himself, there was no good reason for a man like him to be at Stornholdt. There were bad reasons. Stefano wanted no part of those, nor did he want those in this room—or anyone else on campus--to be part of that either.
“Then why are you here? You have five seconds before I have you hauled off my campus.”
Kolya threw the folder on the desk. “Tonight I am here as Nikolai Petrov and I need you to get my daughter back.”