Preview – Scorch: A Dark Bratva Forced Marriage Romance

Ten Years Earlier

THEY WOULD PAY and pay dearly. Every last fucking one of them.

The purr of luxury cars and the rhythmic click of heels and polished shoes mingled with the swish of neatly-pressed uniforms while Viktor maintained his distance.

Head down, dressed in nondescript, inexpensive clothing with his hands buried in his pockets, he looked like a nobody. Just like he’d planned. No one at Liberty Ridge Academy would give him a passing glance.

He glanced at his watch. Though he’d come early before his session with his mentor Kolya, time was ticking. Kolya detested tardiness and it mattered to him to show on time.

Where was she?

Sometimes she’d be cloaked in a scarf and a knee-length sweater, concealing her figure as though shielding herself from the relentless, judgmental gaze of her peers. But today, she was conspicuously absent from the usual flurry of student arrivals.

His pace slowed, and he moved away from the throng, even though most students steered clear of him. He was a giant among them, a decade their senior and twice the size of the biggest varsity football player.

Fortunately, the lack of surveillance at the school was laughable. Anyone paying attention would have noticed the imposing young man who was always there. Always watching.

“Here she comes,” one of the boys announced in a snide whisper about ten feet ahead of Viktor. “The fat girl with the big tits.”
Viktor clenched his fist in a surge of protective fury and made a fact: he’d deal with that fucker first.

He had only been training with Kolya for three months, but he had already begun to develop hard muscle under Kolya’s tutelage. It would come in handy when he cornered that asshole in the dark alley between school and home.

Viktor’s eyes narrowed as the familiar Lincoln purred to a stop at the curb. He held his breath. She was here, brought by her father. Viktor refocused his attention, his gaze icy and menacing as he contemplated knocking the boy’s teeth out. He cracked his knuckles, tension rolling off him in waves.

One of the boys shot him a wary glance before nudging his friend as the car door swung open.

“Sit up straight,” her father commanded from the backseat. “You represent the Ivanov family with dignity.”

Viktor’s breathing became labored. Time stood still for a moment when he saw her.

His angel.

Lydia Ivanova. The most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. The girl who lived in his dreams. The object of his utter obsession. He stroked the gold earring in his pocket and pricked his finger with the post to keep him focused.

Each tiny pain was a tether, keeping his thoughts sharp and his desire in check.

Viktor’s mind was a constant whirlwind of thoughts about her: her scent, the way her eyes, a striking emerald flecked with hazel, flickered with a mix of defiance and vulnerability. He knew her every expression, every quirk. He had watched her for months, always from the shadows, always unseen.

He knew it was wrong, the way he tracked her movements, the way he collected items she had touched—like this earring, lost one summer night and now a permanent fixture in his pocket.

He was her shadow, her silent sentry, driven by a need he didn’t understand, a desire so deep, it bordered on madness.

“Back off, motherfucker,” he said softly under his breath when Sterling Eldridge took a step toward her. “Back the fuck off.”

Lydia was fire, in more ways than one. He’d watched the way her eyes lit up when she set things ablaze, the joy and freedom she found in the flames. It was a part of her he loved, the dark side she showed no one.

His fingers tightened around the earring, the sharp sting grounding him.

She stood facing her classmates, a defiant spark igniting her emerald gaze as she swung one long leg out, then the other, her plaid uniform skirt grazing the top of her knees. Her glasses perched precariously on the edge of her nose. When she tossed her head, thick waves bobbing defiantly in the breeze, her chin lifted in silent challenge.

Fat girl with the big tits.

Viktor’s blood boiled at the thought. She was amazing.

Despite her father’s harsh, dismissive tone—always scolding, always belittling—she stood proud and tall. He fucking loved that about her.
But today from his vantage point under the shelter of a thick maple, he saw the sheen of tears in her eyes. A public scolding only added to the torment inflicted by her cruel classmates.

Fucking losers.

“Awww,” one of the said under his breath to the other. “Is she gonna cry?”

Viktor’s hand curled into a fist.

He would be victim number two.

He noted the golden Lincoln purring at the curb and narrowed his eyes before he zeroed back in on the boy with the big mouth and imagined what he’d look like missing his two front teeth. Viktor cracked his knuckles and rolled his neck. It would feel so fucking good to when his fist connected with flesh and bone.

As Lydia walked toward the school, one of the books fell from the large pile. She bent to pick it up.

“Lydia,” her father muttered. “Don’t be so damn clumsy.”

Always scolding, always dismissive and harsh. Viktor didn’t know how anyone could withstand the constant berating. Did it make her feel small and unworthy? From what he’d seen, her father was relentless.

In his eyes, Lydia was neither overweight nor clumsy — she’d developed earlier than her other classmates, all curves and voluptuous temptation, and she simply hadn’t grown into her own body yet.

And who the hell were they, anyway? Who decided what her body should look like and who decided it didn’t meet some set of random fucking expectations?

She was perfect.

Viktor stood taller and glanced at the time. He had seven and a half more minutes before he’d have to jog to get there on time.

Lydia’s father frowned and sat up straighter. “I’ll be here to pick you up today. We have something urgent to discuss,” her father said, glancing at his watch.

“Yes, Father,” she said in a clear, graceful voice. “See you then.”

As the car left, she stepped forward and wobbled. A few of the boys made derisive comment. The leader winked at a tall, slender blonde girl exiting a silver Mercedes behind Lydia. They shared a look when the girl pressed her finger on her nose and wrinkled it at the girl, as if mimicking a pig. Snickers erupted all around them.

Fucking spoiled, pretentious brats. Viktor delighted in imagining how he would punish them all.

“Lydia! You okay?” A thin girl a full head shorter than Lydia sidled up beside her. Maybe he’d spare that one.

“I’m good, thanks,” she said in that beautiful voice that haunted his dreams.

The first bell rang. It was time to go. If he showed up late, he’d be in deep shit. Kolya didn’t warn twice.

The blonde walked in front of the boys, standing tall and flaunting her breasts. She’d left a few of the buttons on her uniform shirt undone, her meager breasts push up to flaunt. Pretending to sneeze, she made a big production of scattering tissues in Lydia’s direction. Laughter erupted all round them. Lydia’s pretty cheeks pinked.

Viktor’s growl rumbled deep in his chest. This particular girl had been hitting at Lydia stuffing her bra for weeks now. Jealousy was an evil little bitch.

“Morning, Lydia,” the girl said with fake camaraderie. “Need help?”

“No.” Lydia held herself erect, not trusting the girl. She held her head high and turned away. The boys watching on and snickered.
“Fine,” the girl said, shaking her head. “Not sure why you have to bring so many home anyway. Show-off,” she muttered under her breath. She flicked her hair over her shoulder and turned to walk away as one of the boys, the tallest and obvious leader of the group, discreetly stuck his foot out.

Viktor risked coming out of the shadows. If he could — fuck.

Lydia stumbled but quickly righted herself. Her cheeks flushed, she turned on the boy.

“You fucking asshole! You did that on purpose!”

Pride surged in his chest.

Atta girl.

“Lydia!” A sharp voice came from several paces ahead where a tall woman with her hair in a merciless bun at the nape of her neck marched over to them. Snickers erupted all around them as she approached. “Come here at once.”

Viktor’s gaze hardened. Lydia might have stood up to him today, but it left her more vulnerable than ever to the cruelty of her classmates. 

His protective instinct, already fiercely attuned to her, flared. He could not stand by while she was mocked and isolated.

Stepping forward, his presence immediately silenced the group. His voice, when he spoke, was low but carried an unmistakable threat. “You find something funny? Maybe you’d like to share the joke with me.”

The snickers died in their throats. Lydia, her gaze flicking briefly from the teacher heading her way to Viktor, seemed to straighten even more, her eyes meeting his with a silent thank you that said she knew, at least for today, she wasn’t alone against them.

No words passed between them, only a quiet understanding before her teacher reached her.

“This is the last straw, Ms. Ivanov,” the woman said severely. “But soon you’ll be no bother to me. Perhaps your father will tell you of his recent decision and how it impacts your attendance here.”

Lydia stared and paled. “They were—”

“I don’t care what they were doing,” the teacher dismissed.

Viktor kept careful note of all of them. The tall pompous football player. The stuck-up blonde. The critical teacher.

They would all pay and he would take his sweet time making it hurt.

“What are you talking about?” Lydia marched after the teacher. Her bag was slightly open, and a few papers and a slim, well-worn paperback book fell to the ground. Viktor bent and picked them up, but when he went to give them to her, she was gone. 
Her classmates scattered like scared little ants.

He tucked the under his arm and headed to meet Kolya and face the consequences for being late.

He came the next day.

And the next.

And the next.

But she never returned.