Home > The Bastard's Betrayal (Scandalous Scions #1)

The Bastard's Betrayal (Scandalous Scions #1)
Author: Katee Robert

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Rose Romanov was in trouble.

She’d known it from the moment she got the summons from her parents. And it was a summons. She stared at the closed study door and tried to calm her racing heart. For twenty-seven years, she’d been the perfect daughter. Sure, there was some teenage rebellion shit, but she wasn’t a saint. No one expected her to be a saint.

More like the exact opposite.

Which was fine. As the heir to the branch of the Romanov empire in New York, she’d long ago made her peace with the path set out before her. It was better than the fate of most women in mafia families. Her father was something of a Renaissance man when it came to that. He’d fought the other Romanovs to protect her position, and she’d never once done anything to make him regret the decision.

Until Jackson.

Even now, even knowing she was about to suffer through a lecture at least, if not a flat-out ultimatum, she couldn’t help smiling. Jackson was her one rebellion, the moment a few months ago when she’d turned left instead of right and thrown everything into the current tailspin. He was just a guy, a normal guy who didn’t know who her parents were or what role they played in the NYC underworld. He just saw Rose, the woman, instead of Rose, the mafia princess.

She’d fight to keep that. Even if she had to fight her parents.

Things with him were never supposed to get to this point. When she’d seen him across the bar for the first time, all golden good looks and roguish charm, she’d only been looking for a night of pleasure. He’d given her that. But one night became two, became a few months. When she met him, she’d never expected him to provide her with a safe space outside of all her family shit. She loved her family. She did. But it was really nice to date someone who just saw Rose the person, rather than Rose Romanov, heir to the New York Romanov empire. Sure, she couldn’t be an unedited version of herself with Jackson, but she valued their time together.

Truth be told, she’d expected this conversation with her parents before now, but Mama and Papa were both patient hunters. They were willing to play the long game, and they had to be operating under the assumption that Rose knew Jackson couldn’t be endgame. And…they were right.

It didn’t matter how nice it was to hang out with him for lazy afternoons when she could sneak away. Or that he seemed so heavily invested in her opinions on everything from the most mundane to the big, serious topics. Or that they shared a surprising intimacy she’d never felt with another person.

Jackson wasn’t in the life, which meant her relationship was doomed the moment it began. She wasn’t willing to drag him down into the dark with her. She just thought she’d have more time. It had only been a few months. Surely after a lifetime of mostly good behavior, she was allowed more time with this man?

She took one last fortifying breath and opened the door to their shared study. Stepping inside sent a wave of home through her. She’d spent countless hours in this room. Her first memories were of playing on the floor with Papa, him sitting oh so seriously and listening to her babble on about whatever her favorite cartoon of the week was. He never lost patience or got distracted. Papa always acted like every word out of her mouth was priceless, at least when she was a child.

He’d learned a thing or two since then.

Her parents were on the other side of the massive desk, their expressions carefully blank. Another sign she was in trouble. Rose took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. This wasn’t the first difficult conversation she’d had with them, and it wouldn’t be the last. Staying calm and in control was vital when dealing with her parents. “Papa. Mama.”

Her father, Dmitri Romanov, terror of the city and most of the Eastern Seaboard, sat in his chair with his hands steepled before his face. With some men, the years faded them, made them more approachable. Not so with her father. His features had only gotten sharper, and his hair might be leaning more silver than black, but it was still thick. He was also wearing a suit at eight in the morning on a Sunday, which gave her pause.

Was something else going on? Surely a family discussion about her boyfriend didn’t require such formality?

She turned her attention to her mother, who was perched on the arm of Papa’s chair. Keira Romanov had always been petite like Rose and her sister Anya, but where time had sharpened her father, it had softened her mother. She wasn’t one of those women in her fifties who wanted the body of someone in their twenties, and it resulted in very good hugs. Her hair—always dyed a perfect warm brown—fell around her face and shoulders in carefully created waves. She wasn’t wearing the normal lazy Sunday clothing either; she had on one of her red dresses.

Red dresses meant trouble.

Rose considered sitting, but she didn’t like this. Not one bit. “What’s going on?”

“Shut the door.” Papa spoke curtly.

Oh shit. She quickly obeyed. “Is there trouble?” The Romanovs had been at peace for as long as she’d been alive. She’d heard stories of how Papa had almost gone to war with Mama’s family, but once they were married and eliminated the single threat within the city, things had settled down. There were skirmishes—there were always skirmishes—but if she’d learned anything, it was that things could change on a dime. It only took some new group to come into town and decide to start throwing their weight around.

“Sit down, Rose.” Mama was speaking Russian, which sent alarm bells ringing. When it came to business, she only switched to Russian when she was very, very serious.

Rose slowly sank into one of the two chairs across from the desk. “You’re scaring me.”

Mama sighed. “You’ve done a foolish thing, daughter. You should be scared.” She glanced at Papa. When Rose was little, it seemed magical how they could have entire conversations without saying a single word. Now, she recognized it as thirty years of shared life together. She couldn’t help a little twinge of envy at the thought.

She wanted that. Someday. With the right person.

Papa gave a sigh of his own. “We give you a significant amount of freedom. Too much, apparently.”

That had her straightening. “Excuse me? I’m twenty-seven. I do everything you ask of me and more. I deserve what little freedom I have.”

“Da.” He glanced at her mother.

Mama picked up a tablet from the desk. “We know you’ve been slumming it with some civilian, and we allowed it because, as you said, you do everything we ask and more. You’re a good daughter and an asset.”

Rose tensed. “I’m sensing a but coming, and it feels like a doozy.”

“This is the boy you’ve been playing with for the past few months, da?” Mama flipped the tablet around. On the screen was a picture of Jackson. He wore a white T-shirt and faded pair of jeans. The same thing he had on during their most recent date. He’d brought her flowers, just like he did on every date, even though it’d been months and she had a toothbrush at his apartment. Roses for his Rose. Jackson was a dork, but she liked it. She liked him.

Rose’s breath stilled in her lungs as she realized the implications of this photo. “You had me followed.”

“You slipped your detail. Again. It’s our job to ensure you’re safe.” Papa’s gray eyes were cold, cold, cold. That, in and of itself, was a warning she couldn’t afford to ignore. He only ever looked like that before violence occurred.

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