"Like you've been reasoning with Feliks Zhirov?" I pressed a hand to her mouth, as if simply speaking Feliks's name could conjure the Russian mob boss into the women's sportswear department of a Walmart. I checked the surrounding aisles, making sure we hadn't been overheard, but the old man in the lingerie section behind us was too busy sniffing the panties in the clearance bin to care. "Feliks is a businessman," Vero insisted over my protests, "and I don't see you waltzing into his office and reasoning with him."
"Feliks doesn't have an office," I reminded her in a low voice. "He has a jail cell. And he isn't a businessman, he's a narcissistic sociopath with an army of enforcers who like to slit people's throats. Of course he can't be reasoned with."
"He's also expecting you to stay in town and do a job. So unless you want his goons following us to New Jersey and dumping our bodies in a ditch, I say we stick close to home and start looking for EasyClean." EasyClean was the screen name of the mysterious contract killer who had been cultivating hit jobs through one of Feliks Zhirov's websites, a popular women's forum that had doubled as a front for the Russian mob. When I'd learned my ex-husband was EasyClean's next target, I'd coerced Feliks into shutting the entire website down. EasyClean had resorted to blackmailing the mob to compensate for his losses, and Feliks was holding me responsible for it all.
"If we can figure out who EasyClean is, maybe your very wealthy Russian friend would consider paying us a reward."
"Feliks is not my friend," I whispered. "He tried to have us both gunned down, in case you've forgotten."
"That was before EasyClean started blackmailing him." She stirred the air with a finger. "That whole enemy of my enemy is my friend thing makes you and Feliks friends by default. And your mob boss friend has rubles coming out of his piroshki."
"One, I don't want to think about Feliks's piroshki. And two, Feliks doesn't want me to turn EasyClean in, he wants me to kill him." I'd only laid eyes on EasyClean once. It had been dark when he'd climbed out of a very cop-like sedan, holding a gun. I didn't stick around to get a good look once he'd started shooting at me. Even if Vero and I could figure out who EasyClean was, I seriously doubted Feliks was going to pay us for half the job. I was already in debt to the man for the price of one very expensive sports car—the Aston Martin I'd "borrowed" from a dealership was now riddled with bullet holes and titled in my name. One misstep with Feliks and he'd make sure a copy of that title made its way to the police.
It wasn't hard to guess which detective Feliks would tip off first. Feliks was disconcertingly curious about the nature of my relationship with Detective Nicholas Anthony. Truth be told, so was I. But no matter how charming Nick was (or how amazing he smelled), there'd been too many skeletons in my closet (or, more literally, in my washing machine, my minivan, and Vero's trunk) to risk letting the detective get any closer to me than he already was.
"If Feliks wants EasyClean dead, he'll have to do it himself," I said firmly. Killing a man in cold blood was a line I wasn't willing to cross. Vero shook her head at her reflection as she tried on a pair of dark sunglasses. "I can't believe you're playing chicken with the Russian Mob."
"I'm not playing chicken. I'm putting my foot down. Feliks's trial is in less than a month. He's going to be convicted of murder and shipped off to prison, and this whole nightmare will be over."
"If Feliks goes to prison, he'll have nothing left to lose. You'll be lucky if he doesn't tip off Nick just to spite you. He called again, by the way."
I studied a rack of scarves, feigning disinterest. "What did you tell him?"
"That you were in the backyard, burying a body—Ow!" She giggled to herself, rubbing the spot where my elbow had jabbed her. "You can't keep avoiding him, Finn. He's been leaving messages on your cell phone since that dinner at your mom's, and you haven't once called him back."
I smacked my forehead. "You must be referring to the dinner Nick attended on crutches because he'd been shot by Feliks's thugs, who— incidentally—had really only been intending to murder the two of us. Yes," I deadpanned, "I can see where that would have been a promising start to a healthy and honest relationship."
"You're forgetting about the part where Nick made googly eyes at you across the ham platter while he thanked you for saving his life. Face it, Finn, he's crazy about you. And you two have great chemistry." She wasn't wrong, but no amount of chemistry was going to change the fact that I had done some pretty terrible things that Nick could never know about. Still, I couldn't help the flutter in my stomach whenever I heard his voice in my mailbox. Or when I remembered the seductive low rumble of it against my ear the last time we'd spoken, under the mistletoe at my parents' house. "What else did he say?"
"That he still owes you dessert. I'm pretty sure that's code for: he wants to see you naked." She drew a scarf over her head, wrapping it around her face until only the dark lenses of her sunglasses were showing. She waggled her eyebrows at me over the rims. "You saved his life, Finn."
"No more than he saved ours."
"Doesn't mean you can't indulge in something sweet if he's offering." She threw up her hands at my shocked laugh. "I'm just sayin', you know he's only going to keep calling until you answer."