Victoria wondered how her parents were handling Dmitri. Hell, she wondered how Dmitri was handling her parents. The shock on their faces, especially her mother’s, when she had arrived home in a limo made her feel a little chagrined. She really should have called to warn them. She had just stepped out of the shower and had plugged in for a quick charge while deciding on an outfit for the evening.
She couldn’t decide whether to wear a skirt or slacks. Finally she chose a pair of slate gray linen dress slacks. They would have the modesty of pants with nearly the lightweight comfort of a skirt. Besides, her father would feel better about her going if her legs weren’t bare. A dark red rayon shirt was offset by the addition of a white scarf. Opting for flats instead of heels so as to ensure she was a lot shorter than Dmitri, Victoria gave herself a once over in the mirror.
“Not bad. Not bad at all.” A quick brush of mascara and a touch of blush was all she needed to complete her look. Unplugging her charging cable, Victoria grabbed her purse and checked her phone. Seeing a message from Eugene she listened to it before heading downstairs.
“Hey Victoria, I’m heading to meet with a potential buyer for dinner, normally I wouldn’t consider such a thing but the Global Enterprise Group has made a very compelling sales pitch. Now I’m not signing anything tonight so don’t worry about that, I just wanted to give you a heads up on the development.”
The Global Enterprise Group? That sounded like a bunch of shit to her and Eugene certainly wouldn’t have left a message had he not been worried. Also the stress patterns in his voice indicated a level of unease he usually didn’t display when driving and she could hear the Aston rumbling in the background. She sent a quick message to Yuen-Ja asking her to look into the Group and got a nearly immediate response.
“Have fun on your daaaate! I checked on Dmitri Federov and he does not appear to be too bad. Maybe some black market dealings here and there but what businessman does not have some skeletons in the closet? Most of that was from his father anyway. Dmitri has kept his nose amazingly clean, I think you are safe. I have not heard of the Global Enterprise Group but I agree that it sounds suspicious. I will kick over a few rocks and let you know what I find out.”
Sending a silent ‘Thank you’ to Adam for making this direct electronic communication between herself and Yuen-Ja possible, Victoria made her way downstairs. She could hear her father talking in the living room.
“No I haven’t competed in years. My last defense of the title was in 1995 and from there I let it go. I thought about teaching for a bit but found I didn’t have the patience. I still practice from time to time though. I didn’t think you would be old enough to remember that.”
“I was seven years old at the time. My father got us ring side seats for your last title match. It was the most amazing fight I have ever seen in my life. Your absolute defense was never even cracked and in the end you only struck one blow to end it.” The admiration in Dmitri’s voice sounded alien to Victoria.
“I actually stress fractured my right arm simply by blocking one of those failed attacks. He wasn’t able to land a blow, that is true, but the damage was done anyway. The danger associated with it is what really caused me to give it up.”
“Of course your daughter was born the next year correct? That had to play some part in your decision as well.” There was a clink of ice in a glass. “Thank you for the whisky I appreciate a good single malt.”
“Hey Dmitri, I’m ready!” Victoria walked into the room smiling. Her father’s face lost a little color, perhaps the shirt fit a little too well, but Dmitri’s expression didn’t change.
“You look wonderful Victoria. Shall we adjourn to the restaurant?” Dmitri offered his arm.
“Yes, I don’t want to make us late.” She gave her father a kiss on the cheek and her mom a hug. “I’ll be back in a couple of hours.”
“By nine at the latest OK?” Her father said, his voice firm.
“Sure daddy by nine.” Victoria said, smiling and putting a hand on her father’s arm.
“I will bring Victoria back to your doorstep by eight thirty at the latest Mr. Scott. Have a wonderful and relaxing evening Mrs. Scott, your daughter is in the safest and most respectful hands.” He gave them the same strange bow he had given her before and turned, tucking Victoria’s arm under his.
When they reached the car, Dmitri’s driver was waiting to open the door for them. He was a tall man who only seemed short due to his very wide stature. The suit fit him so well it was obviously custom made and the lightly embroidered French cuffs of his shirt had cuff links that were shaped like tiny hand grenades.
To Victoria’s eyes he also appeared to have a faint orange outline. A ghostly group of words trailed across her vision. It read ‘Threat Reconnaissance Assessment Protocol V 1.2, subject unknown, likely armed, likely dangerous.’ Well. That was new, ADAM must be messing around with things again.
“Ivanov, to the restaurant please.” Dmitri said, his tone obviously demanding obedience.
“Yes sir. At once.” Ivanov closed the door gently and soon they were off.
“Iced Perrier with a twist of lemon?” Dmitri was offering her a glass of her favorite water.
“Yes, thanks. How do you know so much about me? It’s a little disconcerting you know?” She took a sip, sighing in satisfaction. “Although it’s also quite convenient.”
“I make a habit of getting to know things that I am interested in no matter who or what they are.” He gave her a smoldering look from half lidded eyes, the first time she had seen him express any emotion.
“How has the integration gone?” He asked, the question startling her, “You seem to be totally normal but I know it must have changed you somehow. Just look at how confident you are, not normal for an eighteen year old girl I wouldn’t say.”
“It’s been life changing that’s for sure. Like being reborn you might say. I never realized how much mobility I had lost before I had the operation.” Her voice trailed off. “Look, it’s weird to be talking about this with someone who isn’t intimately acquainted with my prosthetic and its functions. Would it be terribly rude of me to change the subject?”
“Not at all what would you like to know about me?” Dmitri fidgeted with his breast pocket for a moment before his movements stilled.
“Well, what have you been doing with yourself since high school?” Victoria saw him frown briefly and hastily continued. “I mean I haven’t seen you for quite a few years.”
“I am sure you know I was late in starting high school.” Dmitri said, “Although I am seven years older than you I only graduated three years ahead of you. There was some trouble with my immigration and the Russian middle school system was, shall we say, slightly inadequate so I had some catching up to do.”
“Actually I had no idea. You were somewhat of a legend to my class, you always arrived in a limo, always wore designer clothes… the caviar and foai grais for lunch was interesting too.” She laughed, “You always kept us guessing.”
“Well I was just living the way I was used to. My father was quite connected in Russia and when he decided to move his business here we simply maintained our way of life.” He shrugged, “I did not think much of it until much later when our extravagant lifestyle made things difficult.”
“I always thought Russia was in a bit of an economic depression after the capitalist revolution. What exactly did your father do?” Victoria crossed her legs and leaned in, resting her chin on her hand.
“In Russia he had a small oil company which he sold shortly before it was taken over and subsequently run into the ground by a large conglomerate. He did some consulting for them for a time and then after a few misunderstandings he immigrated to the United States and started his own acquisitions and distribution business.”
The car had arrived at the restaurant and Ivanov was opening the door for them. It had just opened the week before and getting reservations here was supposedly impossible. It appeared Dmitri hadn’t stopped living decadently after all. She stepped out of the limousine after Dmitri and accepted his hand. Victoria’s phone buzzed in her purse and she tapped into it through the Bluetooth connection to read a message from Yuen-Ja.
“OK, I have good news and bad news. The good news is I have the information you wanted on the Global Enterprise Group. The bad news is they are small fish trying to make big waves. Whatever they are offering Eugene is a lie but I cannot figure out exactly how they think they are going to get what they want. I will keep on it and let you know what I come up with.”