Sin of Silence (Sinner's Empire #1) - Nikita Slater

Chapter One

Jozef marked the woman for pickup, pointing to where she stood. Alone, vulnerable, and fragile against a backdrop of ruined concrete and military tents.

Havel’s eyes followed. Once he caught sight of her, a frown wrinkled his thick brows. He wasn’t comfortable with what they were about to do. It bothered him. Though it shouldn’t. He’d snatched plenty of people in his time, cut them up too, and shot some of them. Why this one woman should bother him was beyond Jozef.

“You sure?” Havel asked quietly, his eyes following her as she finished her break, stood up and stretched, arching her back and tipping her head from side to side, loosening tight muscles. Then she reentered the tent building she’d exited ten minutes before.

Jozef grunted an affirmative.

He wanted to follow her, to watch her while she worked. Those elegant fingers, touching her patients, healing them. She was a goddess. Striking and beautiful in a sea of ugly. Amidst the ruins of what used to be a permanent hospital, now a bombed-out shell, she was a thing of true beauty. Since the area was still considered central to the war efforts, the military had decided they would rebuild a makeshift hospital on top of the old one. She was foreign, she didn’t belong in Ukraine. She was providing medical assistance to those caught up in the war. It was almost a shame to mark her.

She was the best he could find. Unlikely to have family or friends in the area, no one to miss her. She would disappear as quietly as she arrived. Others would assume she went home, back to wherever she came from. Her family back home would believe she’d keen killed here. It wasn’t a perfect plan, but it would work for as long as they needed her.

Jozef would force her to help them, to heal the man who had information about his uncle’s abduction. Jozef’s uncle, Krystoff Koba, head of the Czech Koba crime family, had been taken from his vehicle in downtown Kiev by armed mobsters while visiting a family friend. The kidnappers were demanding a token ransom, but Jozef suspected deeper motives. His uncle ran a vast and complex crime syndicate; he was king of his empire. A hard man to deal with for everyone except his close family members. Once out of favour, always out of favour, and the man who took Krystoff had fallen from favour years ago. The war in Ukraine further complicated an already strained relationship.

Revenge was not the motive or Krystoff would’ve been killed in the street in a brutal and bloody statement of might. No, the person responsible for Krystoff’s abduction wanted something else, something valuable. Jozef needed to know the motive, needed to play the game carefully. He didn’t need the kidnapper getting jumpy and murdering his uncle. He also didn’t want the other Vory finding out. Jozef needed to get his uncle back and figure out what the fuck was going on, especially since the only person who could possibly gain from Krystoff’s death was Jozef, and Jozef sure as fuck hadn’t taken the old man.

While Jozef and his team made plans to infiltrate their enemy’s territory, Jozef’s brutally intelligent aunt, Krystoff’s wife, was distracting the kidnappers with promises of wealth and trade deals. Dasha would dangle them on the line until Jozef was ready to make his move. With any other woman, Jozef might worry about her giving away the game. But not Aunt Dasha. She would hold onto her icy poise even as the rival family mailed pieces of her husband’s body to her.

So far, they had only mailed a finger, the small one, cut at the knuckle. It was a clean cut and had obviously bled, indicating Krystoff was alive when the finger was removed. After a brief discussion with his aunt, Jozef had made his way into Ukraine, close to the front lines of the war on the Russian border. He hunted until he found the weasel who’d sent the package to Aunt Dasha; a shopkeeper by the name of Gustav, who had a good side hustle mailing objects of a sensitive nature.

Unfortunately, Gustav had collapsed under interrogation before giving up any information he might have had on the person who hired him to send the finger. Now the man was in a basement, in an abandoned village outside the city of Luhansk. Terek was with him, making sure he wouldn’t slip away while Jozef and Havel picked up a doctor. The man was

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