Her Russian Surrender

By: Theodora Taylor

“Hit him up for a donation,” Sam answered glumly. “But this wasn’t some old money millionaire! The guy is fry your brain hot. And huge. Seriously, the locals call him Mount Nik! It was hard to even look at him. Matter of fact, I’m surprised I was able to talk to him as long as I did, because all my alarm bells were going off.”

“Alarm bells, like you think he might be abusive?” Josie asked, sounding worried.

“No, not abusive… just scary… you know… alarm bells scary.”

Josie let out an audible sigh. “Okay, I know you don’t get out much, which makes me wonder about this cop you’ve been seeing…”

“It’s not his fault,” Sam quickly said, defending the local beat cop she’d eaten takeout with three times over the past month. “It’s early days and Marco is really respectful of my schedule. Plus, it’s not like we don’t see each other every day when he’s doing his rounds. He always makes sure to text me, so I can come out and say hi.”

“And do you?” Josie asked.

Ugh, her bestie was so good at asking the questions Sam didn’t want her to ask. “When I’m not too busy, I do.”

“So that would be like, what? Once a week?”

“Sometimes twice,” Sam said. “And more over the next few weeks, since the shelter’s empty and I’ll just be catching up on paperwork. My point is you shouldn’t blame Marco for not taking me out. I’m sure he would if I wasn’t so busy.”

“And my point is when someone sets off alarm bells inside of you—not because they’re abusive or about to punch you out for harboring their wife—then that usually means you like the guy.”

“Really?” Sam asked.

“Yes, Sam, really,” Josie answered, like she was talking to an idiot. “I still get all goosey inside if I let myself look at Beau too long.”

“Yeah, me, too. No rando, but your husband’s crazy hot.”

Josie laughed. “See, why can’t you be like that with this guy?”

“I told him he was beautiful!”

“And then you told him being attractive wasn’t all that great.”

Sam screwed up her mouth. “Yeah, I guess I did say that.”

She sighed into the phone, a wave of homesickness washing over her. “I’m just no good at this, at flirting or fundraising. Can I just come home to Alabama now? The shelter’s already open and doing great. And Nyla is doing a terrific job. She could easily take over as director.” She could hear the slight hysteria in her voice now, but kept on going. “Plus, I’ll be such a good play auntie to that baby you have on the way. I’ll babysit whenever you want, just please let me come home?”

Josie laughed. “Nyla is only an intern. You don’t even pay her!”

“I didn’t even pay you at first, but now you’re running Ruth’s House Alabama!” Sam reminded her.

“Yes, and you made me at least get my college degree before you felt safe enough to leave it in my hands. This is your dream, Sam. You’re back in Indiana where it all started, opening another shelter. At least give it a year before you give up on it.”

“I’m not giving up on it, I’m just…” Sam trailed off, not exactly knowing how to finish that sentence.

“Homesick,” Josie supplied for her. “And a little scared about being back in Indiana, even if you are making your dreams come true.”

Exactly. That’s what she loved about Josie. She got her. Really got her. “This conversation isn’t making me any less homesick. I miss you so much, girl.”

“I miss you, too,” Josie told her. “But Beau and I went through a lot of trouble to get you into that party, so go back out there and flirt with the money like a good non-profit director.”

“Well, I’ve already got my coat thanks to the hockey player’s assistant. If I go home now, I can probably get some to work done on another grant application.”

“Or maybe you could get your Russian hockey player to fund the Indiana Ruth’s House like Beau funds our Alabama location.”

“Beau does that because you’re his wife. The Russian hockey player was all, like…” Sam pulled out her best Swedish Dolph Lundgren pretending to be a Russian accent, “‘I do not date. I just want to bone you down.’”

“He said that?!?!”

“No, not exactly,” Sam admitted. “It was more like a bunch of stuff about pleasure, then I called the other woman over so he could bone her instead of me.”

“You are a trip and you have me down here rolling on the floor, but I’m going to cut you off now because I know you’re just using me to avoid hobnobbing with the people who could be giving Ruth’s House Indiana donations.”

“I’m totally not,” she protested. She totally was, but she thought it was truly unkind of Josie to point that out.

“Good, then you won’t mind if I hang up. Bye, Sam!”

“No, Josie, don’t hang up. Don’t—”