Font Size:  

Chapter 2


It was just me and my father, Alexander Stepanov, in his office at Erect-it Corporation. We specialized in real estate and construction, and my grandfather had founded the company. To say that we were financially successful would be a gross understatement, but our income didn’t just come from our legal businesses.

The Stepanov Family was one of the most prominent Russian mafia families in the world. We had business dealings with all different lines of work, from small hair salons to large department stores. Even when our legal business dealings had slight cash-flow problems, the illegal ones more than took care of our losses. Plus, our father had close government ties, which meant that we flew well below the radar.

My father went over to his wet bar and poured himself some vodka. He was a tall, burly man with a receding hairline that he tried to hide with a combover. From behind, he looked intimidating, but he always had a smile on his face. Even though people had a reason to fear him—he had fifteen people killed via hitmen—he knew the key to having a productive workforce was high morale.

“I’m so proud of you, Hugo. You and the guys have been taking good care of me. Things have never been better with our businesses, and the money speaks for itself.” He pulled two stacks of cash from his desk and put it in front of me.

“What about Nico?”

Nicolai was my brother, and we always worked together. There was no way that I could accept a bonus without him getting paid, too.

“As soon as he wakes up and gets in here,” he said, “I’ll give him some money. This money is in addition to your regular paycheck, of course. It’s my way of saying ‘thank you’ for everything you’ve been doing.”

“That means a lot to me, Father. Just knowing that you’re proud of the job we’re doing makes it worthwhile.”

“Now, don’t get me wrong son, we will always have our loose ends. For example, a few storefronts are behind on their rent. I don’t want you to worry about that, however. I’ll have a few of the guys shake the bosses up.”

I wiped a bead of sweat from my forehead, hoping that he didn’t plan on having them executed. Nico and I never asked about the killings, though. The less you knew in the Bratva, the better off you were.


“Especially your brother,” he continued. “By the way, how’s he doing, son?"

“Nico seems to be coming around, although he’s still following my lead for the most part. I can tell that he wants to take on more responsibility, but of course, that means less partying, and you know him.”

My younger brother wasn’t quite as business-oriented as our family would have liked him to be. He was a grown man who still wanted to party like he did in college, which meant that he occasionally missed essential business meetings. If he hadn’t been his son, our father would have fired him by now.

“Yes, well, I’m just happy that he hasn’t landed our family in any gossip blogs.”

Unlike myself, Nico had a roaming eye when it came to the ladies, and it sometimes got him into trouble. He once spent an entire weekend with a Russian escort only to wake up on Monday to find she had taken his wallet.

“He hasn’t been in a bad predicament in a long time now,” I said. “If we can just get him to bed at a reasonable hour, then everything else should fall in place.”

My father laughed and nodded his head. “He reminds me of how I was at his age. Always partying and chasing women. It gets old after a while, though, son. Chasing women stops giving you that adrenaline rush, and when that happens, you pour that energy into business.” He held up his vodka and swallowed the rest of it, then slammed the empty glass on the desk.

“I never had that rush when it came to women,” I replied while chuckling.

“No, son,” my father said. “You’ve always been more like your mother when it comes to relationships. You crave stability, and that same attitude has worked well for our company. I’m proud of your business decisions.”

He was referring to the recent construction contracts we had wrapped up. I was quick not to rush into things, and by being cautious, everything had panned out perfectly.

“Speaking of the devil,” I said when Nico entered the room. Both of us were wearing black Tom Ford suits and similar leather loafers. He was three years younger than me and had somewhat of a baby face, which was enhanced by the short curls of hair that dangled in front of his face.

“Were you two talking about me again?” My father and I laughed at him while shaking our heads.

“Nothing bad, son. Now that you’re here, I have a gift for you.” Our father pulled out two more stacks of cash from his desk, then set them down in front of my brother. Nico’s eyes bugged out as he looked at the money, and then at me. I pulled my two wads out from my briefcase on the floor.

“Thank you! What is this for, though, Father?”

“For doing such a good job of taking care of me, son. It’s a bonus for you to enjoy.”

Nico quickly put it in his briefcase.

“Now, I have some good news to share with both of you. Have you boys heard of Affinity Finance in the United States?”