Home > White Nights (White Nights #1)(7)

White Nights (White Nights #1)(7)
Author: Anna Zaires

“Alexander said you’re not to worry. Everything is taken care of.”

I lift a brow in surprise but climb into the car. Is Alex planning to give me a change of clothes when I get there?

Yuri closes the door and gets into the driver’s seat, leaving me alone in the back of the car. A partition separates us, like in a limo, although the car is more of a full-sized, luxuriously appointed sedan.

Before I’ve even settled into the plush leather seat, he smoothly pulls away from the curb and onto Ocean Parkway.

Three minutes later, we’re in front of the restaurant.

Tightly clutching my purse, I exit the car and follow Yuri inside.

 

 

4

 

 

I step through the doors and stop, staring at my surroundings in awe.

The restaurant is opulent. There’s no other way to describe it. The interior is huge, easily fitting in five hundred guests or more. Soft music plays in the background. Everything is decorated in shades of red and gold with richly textured fabrics and gleaming surfaces. I can easily imagine some nineteenth-century czar dining here, surrounded by his loyal nobles.

Of course, instead of a czar, I’m meeting Alex Volkov, who’s as close to a czar as one can get in modern-day Russia.

I walk deeper into the empty restaurant. Where are the diners? The tables are pushed to the walls, leaving a large empty space in the middle. Only one round table remains, and a familiar figure is waiting for me there.

At my approach, Alex rises to his feet. Like me, he’s dressed casually, in the same jeans and sweater I saw him wear earlier. Maybe the restaurant isn’t as dressy as I imagined, or—more likely—Alex doesn’t have to follow any rules and dresses however he pleases.

I bet he can wear rags, or nothing at all, and still look like the most powerful man in the room. It’s not the clothes that make him so impressive. It’s something within him, some inner steel that’s as much a part of him as his muscular body and chiseled jaw.

He watches me walk toward him with a hooded gaze, his face giving away nothing of his emotions. Doubt creeps in again, making me question the wisdom of coming here. But then his mouth softens, one corner curving upward, and I forget about my reservations, again feeling that inexplicable pull of attraction.

Reaching the table, I pause for a second to look up at him. “Are we the only two people here?” His height is both arousing and intimidating, making me feel helpless and feminine in a way I’ve never experienced.

“We are,” he says, pulling out a chair for me. “I hope you don’t mind.”

Uttering a shaky laugh, I sit down. “No, but why this huge place?”

“I like their food and music,” he says as he walks around to take his seat across from me.

I give him a disbelieving look. “So you rented out the whole enormous restaurant?”

“Why not? I like my privacy.”

Why not, indeed? When one is richer than Croesus, what does a measly few grand matter? Trying to match his casual attitude, I nod as though it makes sense.

“Tell me about yourself, Katerina.”

His softly worded command catches me by surprise. Does he truly want to get to know me, or is he making polite conversation? Either way, there’s one thing I definitely want to tell him. “Please call me Kate.” I give him a smile. “That’s what I usually go by.”

“Kate,” he repeats, his blue eyes gleaming. Somehow, he manages to make even that simple word sound deliciously foreign. “Kate. Hmm, I’m not sure if it suits you. Too simple. Not like you at all.”

“Oh? How would you know what I’m like?”

His lips curve into something resembling a smile. “I don’t know what you’re like, Katyusha, but I’d like to find out.”

I swallow, my throat suddenly dry. The sexual intent behind his words is unmistakable. And what is that word he used? Katyu-something?

A waiter approaches our table, interrupting my thoughts. He brings a bottle of sparkling water and what looks like high-end vodka.

Alex gestures toward the drinks. “Would you like wine or cognac, or is this okay?”

“This is fine.” I’m not a big drinker, so anything he orders is fine with me.

He nods and pours us each a shot of vodka and a glass of Perrier before addressing the waiter in Russian. The man departs and promptly returns with two elaborately decorated menus. I study mine. The dishes are listed in Russian but have English translations.

“Have you ever been to a Russian restaurant?” Alex asks, looking up from his menu.

“Actually, no,” I say, slightly embarrassed about the fact. “I work in this neighborhood, but I’ve never explored it much. By the time I’m done with my shift, I’m usually too tired to go out afterward.”

A small smile appears on his lips. “Yet you’re out with me tonight.”

“So I am.”

“Why?” He seems genuinely curious. “I got the impression you weren’t that interested at first.”

I lift a shoulder in a shrug. “A girl can always change her mind, right?” I could add that I’ve thought about him constantly for the past two days and realized I’d be an idiot to miss out on this kind of chemistry, but I don’t think his ego needs stroking.

He gives me a cynical look. “A girl sure can.”

Puzzled, I frown but let it go. “How long have you been in America?” I ask instead. “Your English is excellent for someone who’s not a native speaker.”

“I came here last year,” he says, taking a sip of his water.

“Where did you learn to speak English so well?”

“I studied with a private tutor for a couple of years in my early twenties.”

“A couple of years? That’s all?” I stare at him in amazement. I studied Spanish in high school for four years, but I’m far from fluent in it.

His tone is casual, as though it’s no big deal to gain near-native proficiency in a foreign language in such a short time. “I have a talent for languages. I learn them easily.”

I’m beyond impressed. “Do you speak other languages as well?”

“French, Italian, Ukrainian, Polish, Mandarin, and some German.”

My jaw drops. The man sitting across the table from me isn’t only rich and hot, but also a freaking polyglot.

“Do you know what you’d like to order, or do you need more time?” he asks.

Realizing I’ve been staring, I close my mouth and turn my attention back to the menu. “Maybe another minute.” The majority of the options are unfamiliar, but the potato-mushroom appetizer seems promising.

“Is there anything you don’t like or eat?”

“I’m a vegetarian.” I look up to measure his reaction. “No meat or fish. I do eat eggs and dairy, though.”

“What about caviar?” he asks, seemingly neither surprised nor put off by my dietary preference.

I wrinkle my nose. “I’m afraid not. For its eggs to be harvested, the fish has to be killed.”

He nods, again completely unoffended. “How about I order us a few meat-free appetizers then, and you can try different things?”

“That would be great, thanks,” I say, offering him a smile. I’m pleasantly surprised by Alex thus far. He’s considerate and accommodating, at least when it comes to accepting my diet.

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