Wickedly handsome and shamelessly rich, Tristan Stahl is a villain. A businessman by day and an underground cage fighter by night, he fears no one, and respects one man alone – his adoptive father, Mark Stahl. It’s at Mark’s request that Tristan recruits Isolde Molnar for her “special talents”. He doesn’t expect complications from this “piece of livestock”, but working closely with her turns out challenging in more ways than one. Throw a modern alchemist’s potion in the mix along with Mark Stahl’s growing infatuation with the girl, and there you have it – Tristan and Isolde Reloaded. Enjoy!
Isolde’s brother sleeps with rich women for money. With his designer muscles from Men’s Gym and his Latino tan, he’s perfect for the jobs he does – callboy and bar buffoon. To be frank, I think he actually likes screwing older ladies.
He beams a perfectly white smile at the wilted Marilyn he meets in the hotel lobby, her lips puckered under red lipstick. By the way he scans her up and down, I think he’s looking forward to stripping her of the white fur coat covering her from shoulders to ankles. She’s the one who’d recommended “Frany C.” – Marie France Cassel – to him, asking him to get the woman hired at the club. And she’s the one who’ll lead us to her again. As was to be expected, Ms. Cassel never made her appearance again at the club after the night she manipulated my drink.
Isolde sits across from me, gathering her coat tighter around her body. She’s uncomfortable, obviously. She’s watching her brother through the glass wall that separates lounge from lobby with a look of guilt on her face – in the end, she betrayed to me the time and place these two would meet.
“You did it for his own good,” I remind her in an even tone. She just nods, and presses her lips together. Doesn’t look at me, which makes me ball my fist on my thigh. I want her looking at me when I’m talking to her. As if she senses it, she braces herself rigidly, and casts her eyes down. She makes herself smaller in her armchair, like she’s hiding.
“Relax. He can’t see you here, the pane is a mirror on the other side,” I sneer.
Again just a short nod. It hits me, and I can’t keep back a sour grin. She’s not hiding from him, but from me.
I rest back in my armchair, and study the side of her face that she offers. She has the same Latino complexion as her brother but, other than that, they aren’t very much alike. Her features are finer, her lips darker, and the small craters in her cheeks – probably the marks of chicken pox – make her look pleasantly vulnerable. Little animal. I breathe in her scent that makes me think of a stable. And lilac.
“Get used to this, Isolde.” I feel wicked satisfaction as I say the words. She’ll betray everyone and, before this is over, the only one she’ll have left will be me. “You’ll bait many people working for me. This is only the beginning.”
Demerol walks on the other side of the pane and gives the inconspicuous signal that it’s time. I push myself up from the armchair. Behind me, the men grab Isolde from her seat and urge her to follow. I know every move that takes place behind me, I can “read” the shift of air against the skin on my nape, but I still feel the need to turn. To look at her, see those wet doe eyes beg me not to do this. I curse under my breath and steel myself against it.
The elevator ascends smoothly, the numbers blinking green as we ride to the floor where Roland is banging Marilyn. We wait on the corridor outside their room for a while, my men sending away anyone walking out of the elevator to get to their rooms. When they protest, Demerol invokes a mission of the Secret Services. By the look of us except of Isolde, the story isn’t hard to buy.
I glance at my watch. Half an hour, the cameras must’ve gotten enough by now. I look at the men by the door, motion with my chin, and the one closest produces a fine wire from between his fingers. He’s dexterous with that, he used to steal cars before I recruited him. He works the lock and opens the door silently. The others follow him in, and the woman inside shrieks.
As I make to cross the threshold Isolde grabs my wrist. I stiffen and look down at her, arching an eyebrow at her boldness. She releases my hand and drops her gaze.
“He’ll never forgive me for this,” she whispers. She’s shivering. I look away and make to step in again. My men shove her from behind, signalling her to follow me. She resists.
“Don’t make me do this, Tristan,” she pleads. “He doesn’t have to know it was me who made this happen.”
Against all odds, I find myself wanting to concede. I grit my teeth. “Fine, stay here.”
I walk in coolly, my fingers skimming over the white fur hanging on a chair at the tea table. The woman stands on her knees on the bed, I see her from the corner of my eye. Roland, Isolde’s brother, is fully naked, my men holding him back by the arms against the carved wood headboard, a silken pillow resting against his private parts. The canopy hangs flowingly from the bed frame.
“Well, Mrs. Simova,” I slur as I pace, hand caressing the fur. “I’m sure your husband – the man who paid for this fine coat, that fat designer bag and, I’m sure, unknowingly, also for your lover – would very much hate to –” I pluck the small camera from the vase on the table, “ – discover who his trusted wife of over twenty years really is.”
The woman clutches the silken sheet above her breasts, her ash-blond Marilyn locks ravished, the skin on her arms sagging.
“Who are you? Why are you doing this?” she babbles desperately, her eyes darting around at the men in black who now flash more cameras in her face, producing more proof. Roland jerks from the men’s hold toward me, but they keep him back. His pumped up Latino chest heaves, and I barely refrain from ordering him thrown in the cages. Let him try to take it out on me there, the piece of shit.
“You bastard!” He glowers and wriggles. “You come in here with a whole squad to threaten a poor naked woman?”
I snort, which comes out more like a laugh full of contempt. “Poor isn’t exactly a word I’d choose to describe Mrs. Simova, young man. In fact, it’s the opposite of it that lured you to this bed, is it not?”
His knitted eyebrows form one dark line that now quivers like he’s confused. It must be the way I talk, it throws many off balance. It’s a mark of the old day I haven’t quite gotten to master over the years.
“I’ll leave out the pleasantries.” I stop by the end of the bed, squaring my shoulders. Demerol throws the picture of Marie France Cassel on the bed, right under Mrs. Simova’s nose. “You had this young man find this woman a job at the nightclub. Her true intention was to get to me, and manipulate my drink. She succeeded, and disappeared. Where do I find her now?”
Mrs. Simova takes the picture in her trembling fingers, the other hand still holding tightly to the sheet above her chest. I scan her and her much younger lover. They seem two maggots on the bed, slimy and stinking. It would be so easy to squash them. And hell knows they deserve it, both of them. Maybe I’ll send those pictures to the woman’s husband anyway when this is all over. And the callboy, I could throw down in a cage, feed him to the Dutchman. Isolde wouldn’t know, she’d be long cold by then. My insides knot at the image of her lying stiff in a coffin, and rage burns in my fists.
“Talk,” I thunder, and the woman winces.
“Frany, yes, she used to be my maid,” the woman babbles. “My husband was unhappy with her.” She gives me a meaningful, almost reprimanding look under her fine eyebrows, which are barely more than faint blond lines on a face like crumpled paper. “I’m not the only one with guilty pleasures, you see. He’s been screwing secretaries and maids for a lifetime, and this one wouldn’t give in.”
I nod, unimpressed. “Go on. I don’t have all day.” I didn’t come here with a squad to intimidate a woman and her paid lover, indeed. I’m going straight after Cassel when this is done, and I expect she has serious back up from the Institute. In the end, they create men like me.
“I don’t know where she is or what she does now,” the woman bursts in obvious despair. “I swear, I don’t.”
“No need to panic,” I say coolly. “I’ll just take the next best lead. Who got her into your house?”
She frowns. “Excuse me?”
“Who recommended her to you?” I flash a glance at Roland. “I was in contact with his sister. So Ms. Cassel must’ve known you were seeing him, and she manipulated her way into your house. So who got her working for you?”
The woman ponders. I’m sure she sees my point. “Boris Podgor, my husband’s partner. He owns a Russian restaurant down in Mitte.”
Connections bolt through my head. Boris Podgor, a Moscow scumbag who trades girls and crocodile in the underground. Particularly nasty. “Thank you, Mrs. Simova.”
I throw the tiny camera device on the bed, spin round and head for the door. Behind me, the men shift and shuffle, expertly removing all proof of our presence there, starting with the cameras. On the corridor I encounter Isolde. I make to stomp by her, and she withdraws by the wall, still clutching her coat tightly around her. Her lips form a distorted line – is she crying, or is she disgusted with me? At that thought I stop brusquely. My face snaps to her, and I can feel current flash in my eyes.
“Thank you for your cooperation.” I sound cold as ice, but on the inside I’m bustling with hot rage. Rage because I want to sink my fingers in her thick messy bun, pull her head back and bite into her full, dark lower lip until I taste blood. For a moment I picture pulling her into the next room, throwing her on the bed, and ripping her clothes off. Subduing her, branding her mine. Like cattle, she’ll be put to death when the time comes, that’s inevitable, but until then I can consume the heat of her body, the essence between her thighs. The Dutchman roars, my rod stiffens with an urgent need to feel her skin on mine. It’s so strong it clouds my head, and it’s so new I don’t bother to understand it. Just this once.
I reach for her, but the elevator doors zing open, and Gertrude walks out of it, one silky, toned leg in front of the other. She’s wearing a pencil skirt, shiny pantyhose and patent leather shoes. She’s been trying real hard to impress me, but she fails every time. Her white silk gloves give out a smooth sheen in the corridor light. She throws Isolde a bad glance.
“Your father wants to see her,” she tells me. “Right away.”
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