Her Russian Surrender

By: Theodora Taylor

“Oh, thanks for letting me know,” Sam responded, feeling somewhat glad Priya didn’t know she and Marco also used to have a thing. Yeah, it had been a much more chaste and short-lived thing than what had gone on between Marco and Nyla, but it had been a thing nonetheless, before Sam met Nikolai at a fundraiser.

“I’ll be sure to ask Nyla about it,” Sam assured Priya.

“Thanks, Sam,” Priya said, holding the door open so Sam could return inside. “I appreciate it!”

Sam responded to Priya with a sunny smile and a “no problem!” as she walked into the house, but a wave of pity overtook her as she climbed the stairs toward her office.

Poor Nyla. She and Marco had only gone out for a few months before breaking up the Thanksgiving before last, roughly a year before his death. But they’d dated longer and gone farther than Sam and Marco ever had. And if Sam was feeling this terrible about his death, she could only imagine how Nyla felt. No wonder she’d been so distracted and off-the-ball lately.

Unlike Sam, Nyla didn’t have a huge Russian hockey player husband and a house filled with a needy dog and three children, one of which was still breast-feeding to come home to at night. To distract her from thoughts of ex-boyfriends who’d died way too early.

Nyla has to be all kinds of broken up about Marco’s death, Sam thought, deciding right then and there to take care of next week’s security schedule herself rather than bother Nyla about it.

In fact, she was doing exactly that when her personal phone lit up with an unknown 971-number a couple hours later.

Sam frowned at the buzzing device. This was her personal phone. The one she only used for family business. In fact, Nyla, Dirk, and Carina—her toddler and newborn’s nanny—were the only ones outside her family who had access to it. So why would she be receiving a call from an area code she totally didn’t recognize?

“Hello?” she said carefully, after pressing the green “answer” button on the phone.

“Samantha ‘Sam’ Rustanov, This is Rodrigo ‘Go’ Gutierrez,” a rather direct voice announced.

“Oh! Mr. Gutierrez!” she said, sitting up in her seat. Well, that explained how he got her personal phone number.

She’d never met Marco’s brother, but Nyla had mentioned a while back that Go Gutierrez had become a billionaire about a year ago with the sale of his robotics company to a huge multi-national tech conglomerate. And from Sam’s dealings with very rich men, including her own husband, she knew one thing for sure: a little thing like an unlisted number wouldn’t stop a powerful billionaire from calling her personal phone.

“I was so sorry to hear about your brother, Mr. Gutierrez. He was a great friend to the shelter and is truly missed.”

A pause. Then: “Thank you. He was very upset when you broke up with him, so if you believe in things like an afterlife, I suppose he might take some comfort in the fact that you now miss him.”

What the…? Nyla had described Go as “a little strange” after an apparently disastrous Thanksgiving dinner with Marco’s family, but his response zipped right past strange and smack dab into rude territory.

“From your silence, I’m guessing I was too honest with you just now regarding your relationship with Marco. I should have accepted your condolences and moved on to the next subject.”

He said this, Sam noted, as if he were recording the social faux pas for a future phone conversation.

But before she could smooth things over, he stated, “I’ll do that now. I’ll move on to the next subject, since I didn’t really call you to discuss Marco.”

“Oh, you didn’t?” Sam asked, now more curious than insulted. Also, there was no such thing as the director of a non-profit whose eyes didn’t light up with hopeful dollar signs when a billionaire called to talk. “In that case, what can I help you with, Mr. Gutierrez?”

“This call is in reference to Nyla Weathers.”

“Oh…” Sam grimaced. Yeah, Nyla had mentioned that her presence at Marco’s funeral hadn’t gone over too well.

Marco’s family had never really approved of Nyla with her punk rock aesthetic and silver piercings. However, Sam knew in spite of appearances, Nyla had a truly good heart under that hard, edgy exterior of hers. And she was fully ready to defend her friend and employee, even if it meant losing a potential big time donor.

But instead of complaining about Nyla’s surprise appearance at her ex-boyfriend’s funeral, Go said, “Nyla is currently carrying my baby. I plan to move her to Portland and marry her. I’m calling to make you an offer so I can implement that plan as soon as possible.”

Oh! He isn’t calling to complain. He’s calling because Nyla is pregnant with his baby! Sam thought, right before Go’s words truly registered.

“Wait? WHAT?!?!” she shrieked into the phone.

* * *