Sneak Peek: Czarina Barinov

Over the weekend I added a prologue to my work-in-progress, a short two-page introduction of the main antagonist. I ended up liking it so much that I had to share with y’all right away, and I think you’ll like it too! She’s quickly becoming my favorite antagonist that I’ve ever written, and I’m really enjoying the cat-and-mouse games she plays with our hero, Conner Creed.

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments below. I thrive on feedback from my readers, and I’ve taken many of your suggested edits before!

Czarina Barinov waited just outside the Executive Suite of Bogatyr Tower, the corporate headquarters of Russia’s premier weapons manufacturer, Bogatyr Industries. She inspected her crimson lipstick one more time using the front-facing camera of her iPhone. Perfectly applied, not even the smallest trace of a smudge off her lips. The color, chosen purposefully to maximize her aura of unquestioned authority, made her venomous green eyes glisten in an unnerving way. Yes, she was ready.

“Ms. Barinov? The board is ready to see you,” the young woman at the desk said.

“Thank you, Anastasia,” Czarina replied. She stood up from the plush leather couch and smoothed out her black, knee-length dress. Some women opted for pants and a suit jacket when they wanted to intimidate men in a man’s world, but not Czarina. She viewed that as a sign of weakness, dressing like a man in order to feel powerful and confident. She didn’t need any help with feeling powerful and confident; she was those things. And so she wore dresses, heels, and jewelry, things that flaunted her femininity instead of masking it.

When she imposed her will on the men in that room, she would do so as an unabashed, unapologetic woman.

Anastasia opened the door to the suite and ten men in pinstripe suits sitting around a dark walnut table all rose from their chairs. “Czarina, my darling,” the man nearest the door said. He clasped her hands in his as they kissed each other on each cheek. “I hope you are taking the loss of your father better than I am.”

“Thank you, Uncle Sergei. I think I’m finally pulling through,” she replied.

“Please, have a seat in your father’s chair. We don’t wish to take much of your time. I know these kinds of meetings can be incredibly boring, especially for someone who has no real interest in all this.”

Czarina walked to the head of the table, fixing the men on the other side with a darting glance, one by one. When she reached the stately chair that once belonged to her father, she turned to the other side of the table and deliberately set her eyes on the other five men. She turned around and looked at the corporate logo of Bogatyr Industries on the wall behind her.

“Aleksandr Gerasimov helped your father design that logo,” Sergei said. “He was always very proud of that.”

“So I’ve been told,” Czarina replied. She sat down in the chair and the ten men in the room did the same.

Sergei folded his hands and said, “Let’s get right down to business. I know how much you love your current lifestyle, Czarina. And who wouldn’t? You travel around the world sightseeing, doing your little treasure hunts. I actually envy you. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand why Vlad left his controlling share of Bogatyr Industries to you when you’ve clearly never shown an interest in it.”

“Perhaps he had hoped I would, my poor father,” Czarina replied, silently amused that no one, not even her uncle, had ever realized just how much she had paid attention to her father’s business growing up.

“Perhaps, but we cannot force our children to be copies of ourselves. He could have simply left you a large sum of money if he wanted you to be taken care of after his passing, but we’re getting off track. The point is, this clearly is not for you. The board and I are willing to buy out your father’s share, and at a generous rate as well. We’ll handle your father’s company, his legacy, and you’ll never have to worry about this big, boring business again.”

Sergei took a sealed envelope from his jacket pocket and slid it across the table to Czarina. “I think you’ll like this figure.”

Czarina took the envelope and opened it, withdrew the expensive-looking paper, and read the short paragraph there. Condolences, a brief explanation of her father’s controlling share, and then a ruble sign with a one followed by several zeroes. I like this figure a lot, she thought. From what she knew of the company’s finances and projections, this was more than fair. Czarina set the paper down and looked up at the men around her, each wearing such a phony, expectant smile.

These vultures in suits had probably been popping champagne in this very room on the day of her father’s death. They hated how he kept a controlling share to the day he died, well past the time his doctors suggested he retire. They hated him, and that hatred now fell on Czarina, an attractive and strong-willed woman, the daughter of Vlad Barinov, and worst of all the owner of a controlling share of Bogatyr Industries.

Yes, they hated everything about her, and they thought that faux sympathies and a handful of cash would be enough to get rid of her.

I’ll not give them the satisfaction.

“I want to thank you all so much for this offer,” Czarina said, smiling sweetly as she stood up again.

“Well, we wanted to make sure that Vlad’s little girl would be taken care of,” one of the men said, making a condescending gesture towards Czarina.

Czarina fixed that man with a hard gaze for just a moment, then smiled again and said, “Thank you, Joseph.” She walked towards the door, set her hand on the handle, and paused, savoring the moment before she dropped a bomb on the room. “And I’ll see you all here at 9 o’clock next Monday.”

The men all flinched in their seats as if they’d been stabbed.

“Czarina, you seem to be confused,” Sergei said, “you don’t have to come to any more meetings. We’ll wire the money straight to your account for you.”

“No, Uncle. You’re the one confused, it’s plain on your face. I do not accept your offer of a buy-out. I intend to run this business and that is why I expect a full report from each of you Monday morning.”

Each man rose from his seat and began to speak at once. Sergei and a couple others attempted to maintain the façade of kindness and empathy, but the others now made their loyalties clear as they lambasted Czarina. Joseph seemed particularly outraged as the gestures he made now went from condescending to threatening.

Czarina relished this anger, the kind of anger one feels when something precious to them is taken away and out of reach. She knew that anger well, and though she hated feeling it herself Czarina loved to inflict it on others.

“Silence!” she barked, her voice cutting through the cacophony. Shocked by her outburst, the men all suddenly stopped talking.

“Monday. 9 o’clock,” Czarina repeated. She opened the door then and left.

“Is everything alright?” Anastasia asked as Czarina walked past her desk.

“Everything is great,” Czarina replied. “I’m your boss now, you answer to me.”

“Oh. Yes, ma’am.”

“You were my father’s personal assistant. Tell me, do you know this business well?”

Anastasia hesitated, then said, “I’ve been here for seven years, I would say I have a pretty good idea of what goes on.”

“And how often do those men in there harass you?” Czarina asked.

“Oh, never.”

Czarina lifted one eyebrow.

Anastasia licked her lips and whispered, “Frequently.”

“Not anymore. You’re a board member now. Please inform Joseph he’s been retired, then get right to work on hiring your replacement.”

“Ms. Barinov, I don’t–but I don’t know…Ms. Barinov!” Anastasia stuttered, but Czarina was already gone.

Published by Peter Martuneac

Marine, Boilermaker, husband and father. I'm here to share my thoughts on all things political or philosophical.

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8 Comments

    1. Thanks! I admit to not usually fully fleshing out my villains (they’re villains, that’s about 95% of what you need to know!) but I think I’m going to give Czarina more of the spotlight than I originally planned. Especially after giving her this little backstory.

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