Owned by the Badman (Russian Bratva #1)(2)

By: Hayley Faiman

“Haleigh,” said Amelia Stockhardt, her mother, drawing her attention to the beautiful woman in the room. She was sitting perfectly still on a soft sage green chair.

“Mother,” Haleigh said. It was never mom or mommy—always mother.

“I have decided it is time for you to marry. You are of age and you need to produce some children of worth. I was sure you would not find a suitable match on your own, so I have chosen for you,” Amelia announced. The air in Haleigh’s lungs disappeared, and her knees sagged in surprise.

“I … I don’t understand,” Haleigh whispered.

Her body began to shake, probably from the crash of adrenaline, her lack of calorie consumption, and the shock of what her mother was actually saying to her—or what she seemed to be suggesting.

“I know you aren’t the smartest woman placed on this earth, Haleigh, but I did speak plain English to you, did I not? You are to be married. The wedding date is in six months,” she announced. Her mother was not giving her an option. She was telling her, formally informing Haleigh of her future.

Haleigh took a deep breath and gulped down the air lodged in her throat.

“What about my career?” she asked. Her life had been her career since the age of two, surely her mother would not want her to throw away all of the money she had spent having Haleigh trained.

“It will be your husband’s decision whether or not you continue your dancing career. Go to bed now. You look terrible. Sunday you will meet your fiancé.” Her mother dismissed her with an arched a brow before Haleigh turned around.

Haleigh left in a daze, slowly walking to her side of the apartment and her bedroom. Confusion filled her head as she thought about her mother’s words. Amelia had lived vicariously through her daughter’s career. To flip so suddenly left an uneasy feeling in her stomach.

Looking around at her room, truly taking it in for probably the first time in her life, she sighed. It wasn’t her. Not in the slightest. The room was cotton candy pink; the ballet prints framed and placed throughout the space made her head spin. She was an adult woman living in a child’s room. The reality of that truth bothered her, and for the first time, the space was suffocating. She had never been on her own, and now, she never would be. Her life as she knew it was over. In just six short months, she was to be given to some stranger.

The days came and went until it was finally time to meet the mystery man himself. Haleigh’s parents had not told her anything about him. She was nervous, yet excited to meet him. It was odd to feel excitement over meeting a man she would come to know as her husband, but something about the situation intrigued Haleigh. This was not normal in America; nothing about Haleigh’s life had been normal for a child or teenager anyway, so why should her adulthood be any different?

This man, her fiancé, was going to change her world. Gone would be the sterile environment of her family’s apartment, and she would be able to create a home of her own. She only hoped the man she was to be given to would be kind, and she wished this first meeting would go well. However, it didn’t matter what she had hoped for. Her fiancé was unable to attend brunch as he had an emergency business meeting Monday morning that required him to travel. Haleigh tried to ask her mother just who this man was, but she was tight-lipped, which worried Haleigh.

No, it terrified her.

Her fiancé was perpetually unable to attend every single social, or private gathering, arranged for them to meet leading up to their wedding day. He had an excuse for everything. Her parents refused to entertain her questions, even withholding his name.

Nothing but wedding details were up for discussion, and even then, she wasn’t making any decisions for the affair—Amelia was. So although it seemed medieval, Haleigh’s first encounter with her fiancé was to be on their actual wedding day.

Haleigh wondered if he would even show?

If he would be cruel or kind?

Most importantly, she wondered why she let her mother force her, yet again, into something that terrified her.

No matter her love or hate for the ballet, this was more than just a show.

This was her life—her future—and she was scared.