Yassen Gregorovich never speaks of the people he loved.
He never speaks about his mother and father. Their death seemed to silence him like a gag. They were one of the few people he'd loved, and like most people he'd loved, he'd lost them. Like John Rider.
An unexpected trail of tragedies haunts Yassen Gregorovich. It's unusual for a contract killer to have such a past. Most of them are untroubled by anything, and some of them have even killed their families. Most never love anyone. Most don't have a heart.
But Yassen Gregorovich is different.
Not that anyone knows.
He has a heart, however it's hidden. He's loved, but regrets it. One of the things Yassen hates is love. He wished he'd never come across it. But love affects everyone - the young, the old, the rich, the wealthy, the good and the bad, and the in between. Many people say love is the closest thing to heaven - Yassen believes it's the closest thing to hell. It hurts more than a bullet wound, it hurts more than torture. It wrenches your heart out of its place and tears it apart. It holds you prisoner, and you can't escape.
Yassen's been hurt by love.
His first mistake was to love his parents. He was an ordinary child, of course, extraordinary in his perception and skill, but led an ordinary life. He didn't have his life planned out, and thought he would simply live, and die, and go through life as a normal person. When his parents were killed when he was just 14 years of age, it hit him hard. He'd never dealt with tragedy before.
And then, again, he'd made the mistake of forming a friendship with John Rider. John Rider saved his life. Yassen didn't know how to repay him. So he did it with love. Even the people at MI6 knew that John Rider felt sorry for Yassen, and had some sort of attachment to his student. Yassen himself looked up to John Rider as a role model, and a mentor.
When Yassen heard that John had died, he felt the same pain as he had when his parents died. It hit him hard. And that was when he pledged to himself that he would never love again.
He hesitated for a moment before he pulled the trigger on Ian Rider. But he'd made a promise to himself and Yassen was determined to keep it.
But then he broke it again when he met Alex Rider for the second time.
Alex reminded Yassen greatly of himself, left alone at just 14 years of age, thrown into the real world far before his time. He had lost his parents too; he knew the pain that so many ordinary children did not. He understood far more than his peers, as Yassen had when he was a child.
As well as reminding Yassen of himself, Alex reminded Yassen of John. With his incredible skill and bravery, and the way he was always calm. Though Yassen knew he had promised himself not to get attached to anyone, Yassen couldn't help loving him.
He'd told Alex the truth aboard Air Force One, and though Alex didn't believe Yassen at first, he'd started to believe him during the end. Alex deserved to know the truth, thought Yassen.
And now, somehow, Yassen Gregorovich has found himself with someone that is another possible cause of disaster, someone who could turn his world upside down once more.
He doesn't like it.
The phone rang.
Little did Yassen know this single phone call would turn his life upside down.
It's unusual for an assassin's life to be changed completely by a ringing phone. Their lives are changed by guns, knives and bombs. Not phone calls.
But Yassen's not an ordinary assassin.
'Hello,' he said. There was no point phrasing the word as a question, Yassen thought. There was a time and place for questions. This was not the time.
'Ivan Gregorovich?' asked the female voice on the other end.
Yassen had survived the crash, and the bullet wound he'd sustained. When the ambulance arrived, Yassen was rushed to hospital with minimal damage from the plane, but was in a critical condition from the bullet. Yassen had survived. Before MI6 could come in to identify him, Yassen had slipped out of the hospital. After that, Yassen had set up a fake identity - it stopped the hoard of intelligence agencies on his tail.
'Yes. What do you want?' he asked coldly.
'I'm sorry to inform you that your cousin, Igor Gregorovich, has just died.'
'I'm sorry to hear that,' said Yassen, not sounding very sorry at all.
'Well… he had a daughter. Anya Gregorovich. In his will, he's stated that you'll be her guardian.'
Yassen was surprised, but he didn't show it. Igor? He didn't have a child!
But then again, he'd never talked to Igor since he was 14. After that, he'd never heard from him. Why would he leave his only child to Yassen? Didn't the girl have other relatives? Yassen could not be looking after a child, for heaven's sake! He was an assassin!
Yassen took a deep breath.
'Igor… left the girl to me?' he asked.
'Does she not have any other living relatives?'
'No,' said the woman. 'Her mother died when she was 1 year old, and she had no relatives. You are the only relative,' she said.
'No godfathers or godmothers?' asked Yassen.
There was silence. The woman decided to continue.
'You can come in tomorrow and make a decision. You don't have to decide now. Anya's with us at the moment.'
'I shall do that,' said Yassen.
'Alright then,' said the woman, sounding happy. Was it for her sake or the girl's? 'The address is 9 Smith Street, West London. What time should we expect you?'
'Around 5 o' clock,' said Yassen, hanging up. The woman was surprised - he hadn't even said goodbye. But then again, not many assassins say goodbye on the phone.
Yassen sighed. What was he getting himself into?