Authors: Leona Lee
Russian’s Innocent Lover
(Drobilka Crime Family Series #1)
By: Leona Lee
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2015 Leona Lee
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Table of Contents
A screeching voice shouting, “Wake up! Wake up!” over and over sent Bethany to the floor as she fumbled in her jeans for her phone. Finding it, she quickly turned off her alarm as she leaned back against her bed and took a deep breath. She looked around and simultaneously thought that she was too old to sleep on a futon, but was glad it was so close to the floor, as she didn’t relish bruising her tailbone.
Rubbing her temples, she went over the list of things she needed to do:
Get her ass up off the floor.
Take some acetaminophen.
Get in the shower.
Consume more caffeine than humanly possible.
Get to her graduation.
Taking a deep breath, she started with step one as she pushed herself up from the floor and stumbled into the bathroom. Halfway through the night, she had known that she had too much to drink, but they were celebrating their graduation from the FBI Academy and they needed to blow off some steam. She took small comfort in knowing she wouldn’t be the only one with a hangover at the ceremony.
Turning on the shower, she slipped out of her t-shirt and panties before padding under the hot stream. She closed her eyes and allowed the hot spray to wash away the night’s events. What started as a friendly game of pool at Tucker’s Bar had devolved into a competition that ended in far too much drinking and not enough playing. She vaguely remembered the heavily tattooed guys hitting on her and her roommate, Elise. She only hoped that neither of them had done anything stupid.
She stepped out of the shower, wiping the steam off the mirror before drying herself off. Looking at herself in the mirror, she grimaced at the scars left by her stepfather. Who was she kidding, one look at her and even big, bad, and macho would have turned and run.
Not that she was bad looking. At five feet, nine inches, Bethany was taller than most of her female classmates. Being of a generic Anglo descent, or what her brother would have called Heinz 57 sauce, she had typical features – long brown hair that she preferred to wear in a ponytail, pale skin that broke out in a sea of freckles whenever she spent any time in the sun, high cheekbones, small lips, and blue eyes. All in all, so long as she was clothed, she wasn’t half bad.
But on the rare occasion that she managed to get anywhere with a guy, once they saw her with her clothes off, they were finding an excuse to leave. Okay, granted, it had been a couple years since she had last tried having sex, but the look on his face was enough that she decided that maybe sex and dating wasn’t for her.
So, she immersed herself in her studies and graduated in the top five at the academy. She couldn’t do better than that, and once she got her badge, she could put her past behind her. At least, after she passed the remaining background checks. Biting at her lower lip as she dressed, Bethany worried that the problems with her stepfather would affect her chances at securing a good position within the organization.
She flinched at the sudden pounding on the bathroom door as she realized that she had forgotten to take anything for her headache.
“Hurry up!” her roommate yelled. “I got Starbucks.”
Brushing her hair out, she pulled it into a ponytail before joining Elise in the living room. As she walked out, she stopped short when she saw the condition of the room, which looked as though a party had taken place. Grabbing the proffered latte, she sipped noisily.
“Please tell me we didn’t take those guys home last night?” she asked.
“Wish I could, but we did,” came the laughing response.
“Um, I woke up alone, did anything happen?”
“Not with you, girlfriend. You passed out in the car. Tall, blond, and yummy carried you upstairs and put you to bed. I offered to have him stay because, well, you know I’m always up for a threesome, but he declined,” Elise said with a grin.
“So, um, how did I lose my pants?”
Snorting, “Oh you did that in the car. Said something about absinthe making the heart grow fonder and the pants come off.”
“Oh damn, did you happen to catch their names?”
“Heck no, wasn’t planning on ever seeing them again, so didn’t see the point.”
“Well, crap, I hope this doesn’t affect my background check.”
“You need to quit fretting about background checks. I passed mine just fine.”
“Yes, but you don’t have a stepfather doing time or was raised by an aunt who grows marijuana for compassionate care.”
“Since you like lists so much, here’s one for you. One, have you ever smoked any of this mara-jah-wanna? Two, have you, yourself, ever committed or been convicted of a crime? And three, you are not responsible for the actions of others – especially since you were a minor at the time. So get over it. You’ll find out soon enough.”
Nodding her head, Bethany rubbed absently at a scar from a cigarette burn on her wrist. Her stepfather was a cruel man when he was drunk and beat both her and her twin, Davis, regularly. When she was twelve, he had decided to up the activities from physical abuse to rape. She had managed to get away and run to her mother for help, but she was taking sleeping pills and wouldn’t wake up. Davis had come to his sister’s defense and took a beating that ended his life. If it wasn’t for the neighbor who heard their screams and called 9-1-1, there’s no telling what might have happened to her.
Five years ago, her stepfather contacted them and asked to come see him in prison. Evidently, he had been attending AA classes and wanted to make amends. She refused to go, but her mother did, and after quickly forgiving him, had welcomed him back with open arms and was regularly attending conjugal visits. Bethany shook her head. Her mother was always weak that way. Despite the evidence and the police, she had refused to believe that her husband would hurt the twins, let alone attempt rape, which was why her Aunt Melissa stepped up and sued for custody. The only living relative on her dad’s side, she readily welcomed Bethany into her home.
“Hey! Snap out of it.” Bethany looked up startled to see her roommate waving her hand in her face. “Wow, were you someplace else. Come on, we have to get ready.”
Nodding her head, “Sorry, was thinking about my past.”
“No good is going to come from that. Hurry up and get dressed, we leave in an hour.”
The ceremony was going to be one of the longest ones in academy history with more than three hundred graduates making the walk across the stage, and while Bethany was eager to receive her badge, she still had a hangover and wasn’t looking forward to sitting for the next several hours while name after name was called out. And given her placement in line, she didn’t think that she could duck out unnoticed.
Sighing, she settled down in her seat and kept her sunglasses on. She had almost dozed off when she felt people in her row stand. Quickly rising to her feet, she shuffled forward with the rest of them to await her name.
rang out as she walked across the stage to shake the director’s hand.
“Come to my office after,” he told her as he handed her an empty diploma case and moved on to the next student. Nodding her head, she walked off the stage and returned to her seat.
It took another two hours before the ceremony was over as she waited in another line to receive her actual diploma. She was surprised to find out that it wasn’t there before remembering that the director had asked to see her. Excusing herself from the cluster of students she had grown to consider friends, she mounted the stairs to the executive level and knocked on his door.
When she walked into Director Williams’ office, she was surprised to see the director with two other suits she didn’t recognize. Motioning for her to sit down, she joined the men as introductions were made.
“Bethany Michaels, this is Miles Turner, Director of our Southwest region and Jacob Sanderson, agent in charge out of our Dallas-Fort Worth office.” Nodding her head at the two men, she turned back as the director continued to talk. “As I understand it, you have indicated interest in working with one of our regional offices in the trafficking division.”
“Given your outstanding test scores and less than exemplary background check,” Turner continued as Bethany fisted her hands in agitation, “we would like you to come out to Texas to work on a new team I’m putting together, headed by Sanderson.”
“And what will I be doing?” Bethany managed to ask.
Texas? I thought I was done with Texas.
At her question, Sanderson spoke up, “We’ve been having problems with large-scale smuggling. As you are well aware, given the recent crack downs at both the New York and New Jersey Port Authorities, much of the dealings have shifted to smaller operations out of Maine, Florida, Louisiana, and now, Texas. We need someone with your language skills and background to assist us in not only catching these people, but in mounting a case to give us the leverage we need to shut it down for good.
“What sort of smuggling are we talking about?” Bethany asked as she contemplated returning to Texas.
“Everything from alcohol, tobacco, and firearms, to drugs and humans,” Sanderson replied.
“But, I have no field experience,” Bethany ventured.
“We are well aware of your experience,” Turner interjected. “However, based on your background, we think that you will be an ideal candidate for some of our planned undercover operations. Given that your stepfather is in prison on murder one charges and that your aunt is still a marijuana grower…” As Bethany was about to comment, Turner held up his hand to silence her. “We aren’t holding it against you. In fact, we want to use it to get you closer to these people than we’ve been able to do thus far.”
“So, what exactly will I be doing?”
“We have you enrolled at the University of Texas in the graduate languages department where you will meet regularly with your handler,” Sanderson replied.
“And how, exactly, will I be helping if I’m back in school?”
“In your off time, you will need to start frequenting the clubs and other businesses run by the Drobilka cartel,” Sanderson answered with a grin. “Oh, and, in case you haven’t figured it out from your empty diploma case, you won’t be listed as a graduate of the academy or a part of the FBI until all this is over. Welcome to covert operations, graduate.”
“It’s imperative that no one knows that you work for us. As far as the university is concerned, you are there on a special fellowship scholarship. Your pay will come through them. Your assignment will be to get close to the cartel and find out whatever you can about how the shipments are making it past customs, and there’s no way that will happen if someone decides to run a background check on you.”
“But what about the other students?”
“As far as they’re concerned, you didn’t pass the background check. No one will question it.”
Looking down at her hands, Bethany stared absently at the half-moon shaped marks she had left in the palms.
Walking out of the air-conditioned building, Bethany pulled off her sunglasses to wipe the steam off them for what would be a continual activity for her given future, as the Texas humidity made her sweat. She had just checked in with her handler, who also happened to be her graduate school advisor. Sighing, she went over the plan in her head.
Since arriving in Dallas, she had found a furnished apartment in a not so nice area of town and set up house, stocking it with some basic necessities and finding a hiding place for anything that she wanted to keep away from prying eyes. Her handler, Professor Marci Chase, would serve as the go between for anything she needed. As one of her students, Bethany had relative free rein coming and going on campus and any research she needed to do or files to view had to be done at her office.