|Название||The Price Of His Redemption|
|Автор произведения||Carol Marinelli|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Modern|
‘Don’t call me that again,’ Daniil warned, and picked up the book and held it over his head. He made to rip the pages out but, as Sev swallowed, Daniil tossed it back on the bed.
He wouldn’t have torn it—Sev only occasionally had a book to read—but Daniil hoped he would heed the warning.
‘Did you find any matches?’ Nikolai looked up from the wooden ship he was painstakingly building and Daniil went into his pocket and took out the handful that he had collected when he had done his sweeping duty.
Daniil would do it; he would smash Nikolai’s ship. His breathing was hard and angry as he stared down his friend.
The four boys were, in fact, far more than friends.
Yes, Daniil and Roman might be identical twins and Nikolai and Sev no relation, but all four had grown up together. With their dark hair and pale skin, they were the poorest stock amongst the poor. At the baby house they had stood in their cribs and called to each other at night.
Daniil and Roman had shared a crib.
Nikolai and Sevastyan had slept in their own on either side of the twins.
When they had graduated to beds they had been moved to the children’s orphanage and placed in the same dormitory. Now, in the adolescent wing, they shared a four-bedroomed room.
Most considered them wild boys, troubled boys, but they were no real trouble to each other.
They were all they had.
‘Touch my ship...’ Nikolai threatened.
‘Don’t call me shishka, then. Anyway, there is no need to—I’ve decided that I’m not going to live in England.’ Daniil looked over at Roman, his twin, who lay on his bed with his hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling. ‘I’m going to say that I don’t want to go. They can’t make me.’
‘Why would you do that?’ Roman asked, and turned his head and fixed his brother with the cold grey stare that they shared.
‘Because I don’t need some rich family to help me. We’re going to make it ourselves, Roman.’
‘We are,’ Daniil insisted. ‘Sergio said...’
‘What would he know? He’s the maintenance man.’
‘He was once a boxer, though.’
‘So he says.’
‘The Zverev twins!’ Daniil was insistent. ‘He says that we’re going to make it...’
‘Go and be with the rich family,’ Roman said. ‘We’re not going to get rich and famous here. We’re never going to get out of this hole.’
‘But if we train hard we’ll do well.’ Daniil picked up the photo by Roman’s bed. Sergio had brought his camera in one day a couple of years ago and had taken a photo of the twins and, because the others had nagged, he had then taken one of all four boys.
It was the photo of the two of them, though, that Daniil now held up as he spoke to his brother. ‘You said that we would make it.’
‘Well, I lied,’ Roman said.
‘Hey...’ Sev had got back to reading but, even though he had just teased Daniil, he cared for him and could see where this was leading. ‘Leave him, Roman. Let him make up his own mind.’
‘No.’ Roman sat up angrily. Things had been building for months, since they’d first been told about a family who wanted to give a good home to a twelve-year-old. ‘He wants to blow off his one chance because he has this stupid dream that he can make it in the ring. Well, he can’t.’
‘We can,’ Daniil said.
‘I can,’ Roman corrected. ‘Or at least I could if I didn’t have you dragging me down.’ He took the picture of the two of them out of Daniil’s hand and tossed it across the floor. There was no glass in the frame, but something broke then. Daniil felt something fracture somewhere deep inside.
‘Come on,’ Roman said. ‘I’ll show you who can really fight.’
He got up out of the bed and there was a buzz around the dormitory as the twins eyed each other.
Finally they would fight.
The Zverev twins trained all day.
Sergio put them through drill after drill and they pushed through all of them. The only complaint they ever had was that they wanted to spar. Sergio had refused to allow it until a few months ago, but even then it was always under Sergio’s watchful eye. As an ex-boxer himself, he knew better than to start the boys too early.
These boys were beautifully built. Tall and long-limbed, they were fast, light on their feet and hungry.
He knew that with the right training the twins would go far.
What a package!
Two peas in a pod, two pitched minds and two angry youths.
All Sergio had to do for now was contain them.
But he wasn’t there tonight.
‘Tell the others,’ Roman said, and the room started to fill, beds were pushed back to make floor space and the gathering spectators knelt on them.
‘Show me what you’ve got,’ Roman jeered, as he came out fighting. He had Daniil straight on the defensive, blocking punches and moving back.
No headgear, no gloves, no money to get them.
Roman gave him nothing, no rest, nowhere to hide, and Daniil, with everything to prove, fought back with all he had.
The other boys were cheering while trying not to, as they did not want to alert the workers.
Roman was at his fiercest, and though Daniil did his best to match him it was he who tired first. He moved in and took Roman in a clinch. He just needed a moment to rest but his brother shrugged him off.
Daniil went in again, holding on to his twin so that Roman couldn’t punch him, doing his best to get back some breath before he commenced fighting again.
Roman broke the clinch and the fight restarted, both blocking punches, both taking the occasional hit, but then Daniil thought he was gaining ground. Daniil was fast and Roman rarely needed to rest but it was Roman who now came in for a clinch and leaned on his twin. Daniil could hear his brother’s angry breathing but as he released him, instead of giving Daniil that necessary second to centre, Roman hooked him, landing an uppercut to Daniil’s left cheek and flooring him.
Daniil came round to stunned faces. He had no idea how long he’d been knocked out but it had been long enough to have everyone worried.
Everyone except Roman.
‘See,’ Roman said. ‘I do better without you, shishka.’
The staff had noticed that some of the dorms were empty and, alerted by the mounting cheers, had started running to the room where Daniil now lay, trying to focus.
Katya, the cook, took him into the warm kitchen, calling to her daughter, Anya, to bring the box of tape. Anya was in there, practising her dance steps. She was twelve and went to a dance school but for now was home for the holidays. Sometimes she would tease the twins and say that she was fitter than them.
Anya still had dreams and thought she would dance her way out of here.
Daniil had none now.
‘Hey, what on earth were you doing?’ Katya scolded. She gave Daniil some strong, sweet black tea and then she tried to patch up his face. ‘The rich family don’t want ugly...’