WIP Wednesday: Essence of Fear (Boykov Bratva, 3)

Hey, loves!

This week I am working on a side project before I begin Michel and Gabbie's book next week on Monday (I can't start a new book until a Monday; strange habit, I know).

So this week, you get a peek at the third book in the Boykov Bratva series, which is Viktoria's book. I have no doubt that she wasn't well liked way back when she was first introduced ... but don't I always make you come around?

ha.

Enjoy.

***

The screams down the hall were only muffled when a morbid crack echoed down the corridor. Pavel continued his work three chambers down as though he hadn’t heard anything at all, and nothing was wrong. That was best, really. A decade working in the Boykov’s Compound taught him there was nothing worse than sticking one’s nose where it did not belong. Unless something directly involved him, Pavel was better off to stay far away. 
Filling the bucket with ice-cold water again from the tap sticking out of the wall, he headed to the man shackled in the corner. Other than the food Pavel brought him once a day—which wasn’t much; water and bread, just enough to keep him alive in between daily beatings and whatever punishment he was delivered from Vadim—this was the man’s hell. 
Cold water splashed on him regularly. A beating whenever someone came in to deliver it, unless it was Pavel ordered to do it. Food when the time struck twelve in the afternoon. A hard, cracked cement floor that was always cold and wet. Shackles around his wrists and ankles, and occasionally one around his throat when he needed to be reminded he was now a Boykov dog, and nothing else—an animal made to sit in his own waste, and be fed or taken care of when someone else deemed it appropriate. 
He was no longer in control of his life. 
Pavel didn’t even know the man’s name. He also didn’t know why this man—or why any of the other people locked in the chambers of the Boykov Compound—had been brought to this place. All he was told was that quite simply, these people deserved to be here because perhaps they had broken the rules, or maybe they had stepped out of line and needed a reminder about who exactly was the boss. 
It didn’t matter. 
He’d never asked for more details. His curiosity was not important enough to risk his own safety. He could be the next person shackled to a cement floor getting cold water poured over his head regularly with daily beatings in between. 
Wasn’t it bad enough he was here
That he’d been here for ten fucking years?  
It was easier this way. 
Hauling the water across the floor, Pavel tipped the bucket over the sleeping man’s head. How he was able to fall asleep while a man was killed just two chambers down—making sure he screamed the entire time right up until his last few seconds on earth—was anyone’s guess. 
Maybe because they became numb. 
This was life now. 
It took the cold water splashing down over the man’s shaking body—even in his sleep, he trembled, his bruises darker than normal, and his one arm twisted at an awkward angle—for him to wake up. The man gasped, and his eyes flew wide. Bloodshot, and terrified. Like for the moment, he was somewhere else in his dreams. Now, he was awake again. 
“Welcome back to hell,” Pavel murmured. 
Bending down to be eye-level with the man, he used the rag he’d tucked into the pocket of his black jeans to wipe at the mess of the man’s face. No one had ever told him not to be kind to these prisoners. No one had ever told him that while he often was made to deliver harsh punishments, and keep them alive until their next ride through hell, that he could not give them some sort of reprieve. 
If anything, it helped him. 
The man’s trembling didn’t let up, but he was far more relaxed to see Pavel standing in front of him, and not someone else. Pavel knew that depending on who woke this man up would determine how the remainder of his day would go. 
Either pain, or … well, less pain. 
Sometimes. 
Death,” the man croaked. 
Pavel’s hand slowed from wiping the rest of the dried vomit from the man’s mouth. “What did you say?” 
It was the first words he could ever remember saying to the man. He rarely spoke—if he didn’t indulge conversation, it was highly unlikely that he would learn anything about them. Learning things about them might cause him to get attached. He could not afford to be attached to people who were only destined to die. 
Possibly by his own hand. 
“When I see you,” the man whispered, “I see death.” 
Pavel stilled in place. “Why?” 
“Doesn’t death always offer a kind hand before he pulls you to the other side?” Swallowing hard, the man said, his voice tired and raspy, “your kindness only hides what you’re here to do. You will use that same kind hand that you use to feed me and help me to kill me someday, won’t you?” 
“I—” 
“You are the Zhatka—the Reaper.” 
Pavel hadn’t realized it, then, but conversations always traveled in the chambers. This man hadn’t been the only one to hear that nickname. He wouldn’t be the last one to use it, either. 
It was not a name Pavel wanted. 
Not one he needed. 

And yet, as the days melted into months, and then into years … he found being Zhatka in the chambers was easier than being Pavel. He even started to forget who Pavel was. 

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