Nancy Haviland
Loyalties will be tested. Secrets will be told. Mob justice will be served.

WHAT’S NEW

As per a reader’s gracious request for an excerpt, this is the unedited and subject to change first chapter of VENGEANCE REVEALED (Wanted Men #6). The expected release date is late Feb/early March. If you haven’t read Ultimate Vengeance (#4), this excerpt will contain major spoilers for you and I would recommend you give it a miss.

ONE

Long Island, New York

Present Day

 

As far as drug-induced hallucinations went, this had to be the best goddamn high there’d ever been.

Too bad he’d yet to take the painkillers still tucked away in his pocket.

Vasily Tarasov felt his heart take up its life-giving function again and start beating in an erratic rhythm that hurt. He blinked a few more times, and even then, the miracle before him remained. Heaven. For the second time in his life, it was before him without warning.

This time, in the form of a dead kitten.

Only, she wasn’t dead. He could see her chest rising and falling. She was twitching. He’d heard her make a sound through the door leading into the minuscule room in his sister’s son’s basement. He’d come to this house because he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about it. Now he knew why. She’d been calling out to him. His soulmate. His other half.

With a breath too shallow to give him much air, he rose from where he’d fallen to his knees. “Kathryn?” His heart began to race, the blood flow exacerbating the throbbing in his chest and side where he’d been shot only days ago. He ignored everything as he went to her.

He didn’t touch her but stood, staring in wonder at the small blonde curled on her side. For decades, he’d lived the life he’d chosen, his insides dead but his outer visage strong and stable. This? This shook him to the core.

Fear gripped his entire being. If he reached out, she would disappear. Just like in his dreams.

“Kathryn?”

He formed her name on his lips again, but no sound came out. Kathryn Jacobs. His heart. His love. His life.

Alive.

“Please be real,” he mouthed as his heartbeat raged in his ears. “Please, save me here and now and be real. I’ll thank him for sparing you before I kill him. I swear to God I will.” His hand had the slightest tremble as he reached out and touched her pale cheek with the tip of his pinkie.

Warmth.

The physical proof of life had him falling to the small cot and dragging his daughter’s mother into his arms. He lost sight of the closet-sized room as he curled around her, forming a protective cage with his body. Wonder. Shock. A marrow-deep appreciation. His emotions overwhelmed him.

Twenty-five years. That was how long he’d waited for the pleasure of holding her again. And he’d have waited twenty-five hundred.

When he’d left them in Seattle, Kathryn had been a young, innocent nineteen-year-old. Their daughter had been but an infant. Both had been small, innocent, and defenseless, yet they’d owned him body and soul. They still did, and would until the day he died. And even then.

Drawing her in through his lungs, and even though it was redundant because he could feel and hear her breathing, he tipped his kitten’s head back and pressed his fingertips against the silky skin of her throat that was almost as beautiful as the rapid pulse he felt beating beneath it.

His curse mingled with footsteps that came to an abrupt halt in the doorway. He lifted his head and swiped a hand down his face, no way embarrassed by the emotion he was displaying in front of his stunned bodyguard. If there was anyone who would understand the significance of this moment, it was Dmitri Zolin. Their eyes locked and an immediate, unspoken understanding of what had led up to this moment passed between them.

It seemed Sergei Pivchenko, Vasily’s treacherous nephew, had been hiding more than the cowardice and disloyalty he’d revealed in the past weeks. Clearly, pulling the trigger on his Pakhan, attempting to murder his cousin’s infant daughter, and killing the only brother of the most powerful man among them, had been the least of his sins.

“Kathryn?” Vasily tightened his arms around her. “Kathryn? Wake up, kitten.” He cupped her pale face when she didn’t stir. Her hairline was damp, he noted before looking around for some clue as to why she wasn’t waking.

The cramped space surrounding him—her prison—hacked away at his joy and made the hair on his body rise. There was a toilet. There was a cot. And in the corner was a small pile of trash made up of protein bar wrappers, empty medication packets, and orange peels and grape stems.

How long had she been down here?

He spied a stack of sealed boxes; medication for diabetics. Next to those was an injection pen and a dozen vials of insulin. There was also a case of water in which every plastic bottle was empty but for two.

“I don’t believe what I’m seeing.” Dmitri’s voice was quiet with shock as he spoke in Russian.

Vasily brought his focus back to the woman in his arms and placed his hand on her chest. Thump. Thump. Thump. “Her fucking heart beats,” he said unnecessarily. A droplet fell from his chin to land on his tattooed knuckles as he took his phone out and called his private MD.

As plans started to form in his head, he and Yuri briefly discussed a possible diabetic coma. He had the distinct pleasure of giving Kathryn’s fragile body a clinical once-over in search of injuries while Dmitri checked the room and found a trash bag with a few syringes. He carefully wrapped and pocketed them as Vasily hung up after receiving confirmation Yuri would be waiting for them at home.

Once on his feet, the strain of even Kathryn’s light weight had Vasily’s new stitches failing. He paid no attention when he felt them pop as he brushed by a pale Dmitri and got them moving through the fully furnished basement that was neat and tidy from lack of use.

“Lucian owes me dearly for robbing me of the satisfaction of taking Sergei’s life.”

Lucian Fane was a close friend and associate whose only family had been one of Sergei’s victims. Sergei had killed Markus Fane in an effort to start a war within New York’s organized crime underworld, but thanks to Lucian’s level head, and his absence from the city since the day of Markus’s funeral, that had yet to happen. Vasily was praying it never would because, even though it would take some effort and planning, the powerful Fane organization was indeed capable of wiping them all out.

“No, he doesn’t,” Dmitri murmured distractedly.

Vasily stopped and tore his eyes away from Kathryn’s mouth to give his full attention to his byki. “Excuse me?”

Dmitri held his gaze with a steady look. “When you woke and were under the assumption Lucian had killed Sergei, we allowed it so you wouldn’t rush your recovery and try to leave the house.” He put up a hand. “You can take that up with Yuri and Eva. The rest of us were against it, but when your daughter put her foot down…” He shrugged as pride sparked in Vasily’s chest. His child was coming into her own, and he was enjoying that, probably more than he should.

Setting aside the fact that they’d deceived him, even if to protect him, he said, “Are you telling me Lucian has Sergei? My sister’s son is not dead?” Christmas had undoubtedly come early for him this year.

“He’s in rough shape, but alive.” Dmitri held his phone up to show Vasily a photograph of Sergei gruesomely staked on a sprawling front lawn with the Fane mansion as the backdrop.

Feeling nothing in the way of sympathy, he readjusted his hold on his newfound treasure and started moving again. Fireworks were beginning to go off behind his eyes. “Reach out to Lucian. I want a face-to-face with Sergei as soon as possible.”

“Vasily.” Dmitri stopped him with a hand on his arm just as they reached the stairs. “You’re bleeding through your clothes. Let me carry her to the car. I mean no disrespect, and I know you must not want to let her go, but you will be no good to any of us dead.” Genuine concern was written all over his face as Vasily’s steadfast protector held out his arms. “Please. Let me help.”

Primitive instincts he wished he’d never allowed to flourish, ones that had gone dormant last summer, were once more surging with power. They would not be ignored. “This woman is mine, Dmitri. Never again will I give her up.” As he started the climb, he added, “Not even to save my own life.”

They made it upstairs and exited the house to find two black Lexus SUVs parked at the foot of the drive.

Vasily’s eyes narrowed on them. “Your doing?” When they’d set out earlier, he and Dmitri had been on their own.

Dmitri kept pace beside him. “Alek’s.”

Vasily nodded at the boys who respectfully returned the greeting, and considered reprimanding his nephew when he saw him. “They wouldn’t have known we were here if you hadn’t told Alek we were coming.”

Dmitri unlocked the doors with the remote. “You placed your wellbeing in my hands twenty-seven years ago, my friend, and, during those years, I accepted your desire to keep our detail small. That has changed.”

Vasily stopped again. “Oh?”

Dmitri’s brow was pinched as he looked at the car that was still a few yards away. He wanted to rush Vasily along but never would. “I was content when you behaved in a way that made it easy for me to do what I felt was necessary to keep you alive. These past weeks have been different.” He was speaking quickly. “I cannot protect you against our enemies if I have to protect you from yourself. So, our men will watch our backs while I watch yours. Can we go before a puddle forms, you stubborn ass?” he finally ground out.

Vasily could feel the waistband of his pants catching the blood dripping down his ribs. He started moving just as a Hummer pulled into the drive behind his Maybach. “Now, I’m irritated,” he grumbled, wishing he could hold Kathryn tighter. He also wouldn’t have minded a few more minutes alone with her so he could marvel at the fact that she was truly in his arms. Why was she still unconscious?

Maksim Kirov and Micha Zaretsky met them at the car.

“Get a processing team here,” Vasily ordered Micha. “Ignore everything but the small room in the south-east corner of the basement. I want every single item printed and bagged. Do not throw anything away. If prints other than Sergei’s are found, I want that person, or persons, picked up and brought to me. Once the boys are done, wait a day or two then torch the place.”

Micha nodded and got his phone out.

“What the fuck is this?” Maks was looking down at them from his impressive height, his silver eyes alight with interest on Kathryn. “He didn’t have a woman in the house. Couldn’t have. The boys went through it.”

The best thing about Maksim? One rarely had to explain a situation to him. His powers of deduction were a beautiful thing.

“They weren’t thorough enough,” Vasily informed him. “Because she was hidden in the house.” He bit down on a pained hiss as he climbed into the car while Dmitri held the door open. “Micha, follow us home. Maksim, ride with me.”

Micha disappeared without a word, and as they got moving, leaving Oceanside behind, Vasily did what he did best. He organized.

He took his phone out and pulled up a photograph as he talked. “Do you know who this is? Do you know who that sonofabitch kept from me?”

Maks leaned over with his hand out, presumably to brush Kathryn’s hair back so he could better see her face. Vasily shifted, not allowing the contact. Maks settled back with a raised brow and a crooked smirk. “You know her?”

Vasily held his phone up to show a picture of Kathryn that was taken last Christmas. She was standing with their daughter. Eva’s best friend, Nika, was next to them.

Confusion floated across Maks’s face. Then disbelief. He looked between the photo and the real fucking thing a handful of times. “Fuck…off.”

“It’s her.”

“No. It can’t be. I got into the morgue’s system and got the dental records myself. It was a lot of years later, but they matched. You said you and Dmitri saw the paper files the week she died. Again, the records matched. Your woman is gone. This?” Maks pointed at Kathryn. “This is that cocksucker fucking with you. This is bullshit.”

Vasily didn’t bother arguing. Maksim was hugely suspicious by nature, but he would see soon enough. “Someone had to have known she was there. I do not believe Sergei pulled this off alone. I want feelers put out in all areas.”

“We’ve had feelers out. This is bullshit, Vasily. Don’t let him sucker—”

“Maksim,” he snapped, looking into the eyes of a man he loved like a brother. But right now, he spoke to him as his Pakhan. “I want in my possession every goddamn man from every goddamn organization in this city who heard whispers about what Sergei was doing. Round them up and bring them to me. Pay whatever you must, threaten who you must, play them against each other if you must. I don’t care. Just get them. All of them.”

At any given moment, there was always a trace of irreverent humor lurking in Maks’s eyes. Not right then. “Consider it done.”

Vasily moved on. “Where is Tegan?” Kathryn would likely feel more comfortable dealing with a female, and Dr. Tegan Mancusso was just that, as well as a trusted friend. She’d stayed the course through a road that had gotten rocky of late, and was currently one of Vasily’s overly-attentive doctors.

“At the house with Eva.” Maksim was staring hard at Kathryn as if trying to determine if she was a robot. “This one appears to need a hospital.”

“She needs Yuri,” Vasily corrected as he took out his phone and dialed. “A hospital can’t treat a ‘dead’ woman, and I’m not about to explain to some nosy doctor what led to her resurrection.”

Maksim’s snort was full of ego. “No shit.” He, above all of them, didn’t often feel the need to explain himself to anyone, so he identified with Vasily’s lack of enthusiasm at the prospect.

“Go.”

“Where are you?” Vasily asked after receiving the terse greeting from his son-in-law.

“Home. You?” Gabriel Moretti, Don, doting husband, and soon-to-be father sounded less than impressed. “Your daughter’s wearing a fuckin’ track in the floor. You wanna give her some peace and come back so she can see you’re not stranded somewhere bleeding out? Fuckin’ imagination on this girl is something else.”

Vasily stroked Kathryn’s hair, knowing Eva had gotten that from her mother. “This, she wouldn’t have dreamed up in a million years.”

“Oh, yeah? What’s up?”

“Bring her and Tegan to my house. Meet us in the infirmary. Tell them you want to check on the repairs or something.” The day Sergei had shot Vasily, he’d also blown a hole in the front of Vasily’s house. It was currently being restored to its original state. “Do not alarm my daughter.”

“Yeah. Because that’s what I live to do,” Gabriel muttered sarcastically. “What’s going on?”

“See you in a few.” He hung up without answering the question and dialed another number right away, but soon put his phone away when it went to voicemail. “Did you get through to Lucian?” he asked Dmitri. “He isn’t picking up for me.”

“I left a message with both him and Sorin. Maybe they’re still away.”

“They’re back.”

Vasily looked at Maksim as they slowed to turn onto the road leading to his house in Old Westbury. “How do you know?”

“I have people watching him. Fucking prick is too well covered to get close, but I know he sent the gallery assistant to Paris before flying home the next day. He hasn’t left his place in the Hamptons since.”

Directly after his brother’s funeral, Lucian had left for Romania with a lovely distraction named Yasmeen Michaels. Though, being out of the country hadn’t stopped Lucian and his team from returning momentarily to snatch Sergei away the moment he’d come out of hiding.

“Where is he holding Sergei?” Vasily’s tone made it clear he knew the sonofabitch wasn’t dead.

Maksim’s trimmed goatee ticked a few times before he spoke. “Your daughter laid down the law. When G stood behind her, we were fucked. I’d have told you when I got you alone today, but you were gone when I woke.”

Only after Vasily accepted that with a nod did Maks answer his question.

“Every vehicle and aircraft Fane owns is tagged. I give you my word, I will find out where he’s holding that cunt, and I’ll get him back.”

“I’d appreciate if you could move that along,” Vasily said as they reached his drive and a newly installed gate rolled back to reveal the formerly unused gatehouse was now being manned by four Tarasov men.

Could the new world order be visible security in significant numbers?

He met Dmitri’s eyes in the rearview mirror.

“Warn anyone you invite over by chopper to call ahead,” his byki suggested. “Otherwise, they’ll be shot out of the sky before they even set eyes on the house.”

Rather than feel trapped or frustrated by the ostentatious claim, Vasily simply smiled. “Very well.”

Surprise flashed in Dmitri’s eyes as Vasily dropped his stare to the woman in his arms. He concentrated on the weight of her body as it rested against his and accepted that now more than ever a clear message needed to be sent. He had to set aside his distaste for the practice and reveal their power. Show those who thought to cross them just how unforgiving and harsh the Tarasovs could be when provoked.

Because he’d abhorred the tyrannical way his father had behaved, most times Ivan Tarasov traveling with a dozen in his entourage who enjoyed cutting down any and all who dared take a stand against them, Vasily had taken to leading the organization in a more subdued manner. Whenever he could, he adopted the role of gentleman rather than barbarian. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t capable of being both.

He lifted his hand from Kathryn’s knee and touched Maksim’s arm to interrupt a phone conversation. “Call Ezar and book two rooms. One with him, and one with Ephram. I want them available to me for three days.”

It seemed the gravity of the situation had indeed registered because, again, Maksim didn’t say one fucking word. He just nodded—while trying to hide the anticipatory light that flickered to life behind his eyes—then went back to giving the boyevik his orders.©

#comingsoon #theWantedMen #thePakhanandhiskitten #thedeepertheshadowthedarkerthesecret


Revisit Nancy Haviland’s bestselling mafia series with this Wanted Men prequel novel featuring a Russian mobster forced to put vengeance aside in order to appease the Pakhan he calls father.

VENGEANCE ASIDE

He sees her. He falls. He proves it by killing for her in a room full of his associates.
Now he’ll take her home and try to convince her a love that descends like a hammer is one that can last a lifetime.

She sees him. She stumbles. She proves her sophistication by fainting, then comes to in a Russian mobster’s compound.
Now she’ll protect herself while experiencing all the things she’s been denied her entire life.

**This novel is a prequel novel but it can absolutely be read as a standalone. The timeline within the series puts this book three months before A Love of Vengeance (WM #1)**

Cover design by AWT Cover Design

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