03 July, 2012

New Reviews! Lie To Me Release Day Teaser - Chapter 2 -- and Giveaway!

Well, here it is -- LIE TO ME's Release Day!  Yay!

And to celebrate, I'm bringing you the last of our Tuesday Teasers on this book, with the full Chapter Two.  Time to meet Alexei, ladies!

PLUS -- Another of my favorite bloggers has interviewed me today, and I have two reviews to share!

Join me at Under the Covers for the Lie to Me Blog Tour and an interview about the series.

Quick reviews:

4 Stars - Musings from an Addicted Reader: "Lie To Me has it all betrayal, suspense, explosive characters, and more."
5 Feathers - Under the Covers"A blood-pounding, edge of seat, toe curling adventure!  Truly a must-read book!"

Onto the excerpt!
For those of you just tuning in and wanting to know what this is all about, check out the previous posts:

Prologue, Part 1
Prologue, Part 2
Chapter One, Part 1
Chapter One, Part 2

A man of action…

After helping to break up a Russian human trafficking ring as part of the CIA’s elite Black Opal team, Alexei Nikanova’s newest assignment is to rescue one of the stolen women and return her to her father. When he arrives in Dubai, he discovers his target is Sasha Zablosky—a woman he knows all too well, and who has haunted him ever since their unforgettable nights spent together in Moscow, two years earlier. But he finds Sasha reluctant to leave her Sheik, the only true friend she’s ever known. Only Alexei can’t give her a choice.

A woman of deception…

With their yearning roused by intrigue, Alexei and Sasha can no longer resist and spend night after night in forbidden pleasure. Soon Alexei finds himself falling for her even as he battles a shadowy menace to protect her. But Sasha is no innocent. She has a past darker than she could ever admit or that Alexei could ever forgive. And it is about to explode into her life once more. Now, as the lies they tell themselves—and each other—pull them deeper into a perilous desire, what began as simple passion becomes a love certain to destroy them and end the lives of countless innocents.


Chapter Two

When he’d become an errand boy, much less a baby sitter, Alexei Nikanova couldn’t say. He thought he’d risen above the menial task of fetching coveted items and entertaining troublesome women when he joined the Black Opals ten years ago. Evidently, he’d been mistaken.

Glancing around Saeed’s opulent marble foyer, Alexei bit back a mutter. He’d also thought he was finally free of this damned desert weather and these power-hungry sheikhs. After Natalya Trubachev, the Opal he’d worked with in Moscow, had blown the Bratva’s human trafficking ring open, and he’d fought like hell to get the enslaved women home to somehow make amends for kidnapping them, Alexei thought he would never set foot in Dubai again.

If he hadn’t accidentally taken the wrong girl two and a half years ago, he might have seen that wish fulfilled. As it was, Sasha Zablosky’s father was raising holy hell about his missing daughter. When HQ realized she was the same Sasha holed up with Saeed, they’d borrowed the identity of Vasily, who they had very recently captured, and sent Alexei back to clean up his mistake so fast he barely had time to formulate a strategy.

He’d protested, to be sure. Between the risk of being recognized and his borrowed alias, no operative wouldn’t. But bitching got him nowhere except on a plane with false papers once again in hand. Halfway across the ocean, he’d kicked himself for refusing to look at the photographs they offered. He couldn’t. He couldn’t bear to look at the innocent face. Now, his guilt-driven reaction forced him to rely on someone else’s analysis and only made the situation more dangerous.

If Amir’s cherished son could actually arrive on time, Alexei might yet get out of this mess before things went from bad to horrible. The only saving grace he could take a modicum of relief in was that Saeed had never met Alexei or Vasily. Just Alexei posing as Vasily.

He shifted his weight, eyeing the doorway at the far hall that led to Saeed’s private wing of the palace. If he stopped to think about what he was about to do, he’d hate himself more. For fuck’s sake, he was entertaining the same sick pleasures that he had fought to stop. Sure, he had been an integral part of condemning women like the very same Sasha he was extracting, and that knowledge ate him up like cancer. But jobs were jobs, and they’d been that way since . . .

Since other things he’d stopped thinking about long ago.

Things that were better left in the dark. Where he couldn’t acknowledge who or what he was. What he’d become.

Where the hell are you, asshole?

Alexei was pissed off , nervous, and antsy. Individually, any of those emotions were enough to land him in an unmarked grave. Combined, they were nothing short of suicidal. If he had a bit of sense he’d get the hell out of here and forget about this little intimate arrangement, find some other way to handle the extraction. But no, he’d orchestrated this. It was the only way to get to Sasha alone. Besides, the more time he spent in-country planning alternate tactics, the higher the risk of being ousted. He couldn’t bail. Failure wasn’t an option.

He took a deep breath and willed the anxiety aside. The weight of his Sig resting against his side offered comfort. Saeed trusted him. Enough to let him enter the palace armed.

The young sheikh’s first mistake—but he’d learn soon enough. The rest of the lessons Saeed would learn tonight . . . Well, with a little luck, things wouldn’t get out of hand. Alexei really didn’t want to up the body count any higher. Too many people had given their lives for this crazy nightmare. Those who died in body, and those who died in spirit.

Hurry the fuck up.

Before other memories surfaced about another woman he’d betrayed. A waif-thin scrap of a girl whose pale blue eyes still gazed up at him in silent acceptance of the hell he’d sent her to.

Footsteps echoed behind the closed door as Alexei’s thoughts took a dangerous slant. He rolled his shoulders and forced Irina down into the depths of his mind. She’d surface again—she always did. But for now, he needed to focus on getting himself, and Sasha, out alive.

Saeed’s strong frame filled the distant doorway, his smile as welcoming as if they were long-lost friends. Alexei’s gut cinched tight. They could never be friends, even though they shared the same sins.

“Vasily.” Saeed greeted him heartily. He clasped Alexei’s hand and gave it a firm shake. “Welcome to my home. I trust my security did not harass you?”

It took all of Alexei’s willpower to keep his voice even and void of the distaste that surfaced to the back of his throat. He took care to make his English stilted in accordance to his Russian cover. Though in truth, after so many years of speaking nothing but Russian, he didn’t have to work hard.

“No. It went as I expected.”

“Come then.” Saeed gestured at an open alcove where stark white modern furniture sat against steel gray walls. “Let us discuss business first. Then we shall indulge in the entertainment.”

Entertainment—Alexei forced himself not to grimace. Saeed might get off tonight, but Alexei wouldn’t. His body would respond, but just like before the Opals, his mind would be elsewhere. Saeed’s presence made it more tolerable. Distance was easier to achieve as the third.

He fell into step behind Saeed and followed him to the smaller room. As they approached a floor-to-ceiling gilt mirror, he cut his gaze to the man in front of him. Saeed’s stride spoke of natural-born confidence. Of Amir’s three sons, he was the middle boy. Rumor held he came into the kingship by chance. That Amir and Mohammad, his eldest, had a falling out at the last formal meeting between Arabic nations. In a fit of temper, Amir denounced Mohammad. He’d killed himself before ever taking the insult back. Alexei knew the truth, despite the rumor that he’d offed Amir when he was exposed as the head of the trafficking ring. Though Alexei wished like hell he had.

All things considered, Alexei thought Amir made the smarter choice. Intel reports labeled Mohammad as a radical loose cannon. At least Saeed didn’t support the terrorist Muslim factions. And from what Alexei had heard, Saeed didn’t subscribe to the practice of permanently marking his women. Something Sasha and her father could be glad about.

“Would you care for a drink?” From behind a stocked bar of moderate size, Saeed indicated a hanging row of empty glasses.

“Water, please.”

“Indeed. A much smarter approach to business, I must agree.” He filled two stemmed glasses with ice, then poured water from a dark green bottle. Rounding the bar, he joined Alexei and gestured at a black leather chair. “Do sit down, Vasily. We shall be intimately acquainted before the night is through.”

As Alexei sat, he couldn’t stop a frown. “Is she willing? Did you ask?” He refused to force himself on a woman.

Saeed chuckled. “I care for her. If she had protested, I would be offering you other choices.”

Another way of saying no, he hadn’t asked. Very well. Alexei would play it by ear. He didn’t need to fuck the woman to accomplish this mission. It had merely been the quickest, easiest option to get a little time alone with her and catch Saeed with his guard down. If she resisted anything tonight, Alexei would find an alternate solution. Even if it meant spending more time in this godforsaken city.

“So, these connections you possess. Tell me of them.” Suddenly serious, Saeed’s smile vanished and his demeanor took on the impassive air of business.

Alexei settled into the role he knew by heart. He’d done it too long. Let it get inside him, where it festered. Now it was ingrained routine. One he hated, but routine all the same. “The women are collected from private nightclubs where their . . . skills . . . are evaluated through their talent with dance.” Careful to adhere to Saeed’s preference to somehow dignify the act of trading women for sex, Alexei did his best to avoid the blunt truth that strippers were chosen by how thoroughly they aroused the crowd.

“And they are all blonde?”

“They were under your father’s direction.”

Saeed frowned. “I suspect there was a reason for such. Did he convey it to you?”

Alexei forced a grim smile. “American businessmen, tired of being away from home, spend money for women who appear to be American. European will work as well. After all, they are not required to talk, are they?”

He couldn’t keep the bitterness down. Worse than the trafficking itself was the fact he had been integral to it. That he had preyed on trust, drugged the unsuspecting like Irina, and transported them to a despicable fate. All the while, he had fed them heroin to keep them subservient, to hook them so they only cared about their next fix, not what the revolving door of strangers wanted from them. Even all the risks he took to restore their lives, to get them treatment for their addictions, couldn’t absolve his actions, even if they were in the name of national security.

His hand tightened on his glass, and he set it aside before he snapped the stem in two. As it always did, the thought of Irina and the likely fate she had met twisted his heart. He’d tried like hell to keep her out of his mind. Even went so far as to try to forget her for several months by living life at the bottom of a glass. Nothing worked. She was a canker that wouldn’t heal.

He’d betrayed the only woman who had ever provoked his dead emotions.

“I suppose not.” Saeed looked like the admission didn’t sit well with him either. Then he shrugged, as if it weren’t something to concern himself with. As if this business of human trafficking and sexual slavery was apart from him. Even when he owned and enjoyed one of those very same women. “And Moscow’s Bratva—they are stable enough to relaunch this venture?”

Not hardly. “Yes. I have spoken with them directly. They are willing to put their trust in you.”

“I find that difficult to believe in light of all the upheaval concerning my father.”

Alexei chuckled. “Why should they care? No one will miss a stripper. Money is power. Power is influence.” And sex goes hand in hand with both. How well he knew that truth.

“You make a good point.” Saeed nodded thoughtfully. “Very well, when this night is concluded, what are our next steps?”

There wouldn’t be any next steps. With Dmitri Gavrikov’s arrest, the Bratva was in chaos trying to decide their next permanent leader. Several key figureheads were in detention, and every last person involved with the human trafficking ring was either dead or behind bars. This was all an elaborate fiction created by Black Opal operatives for one woman whose aggrieved father couldn’t accept the likelihood she was dead. One very lucky woman who’d escaped the fate of whatever the men who paid for her desired, and who had a wealthy sheikh to support her heroin habit.

Alexei took a drink to let the lies percolate, then set his glass back on the mirror-topped table. “When I leave, we shall be agreed on a date of delivery. I will deliver the cargo personally, to a place of your choosing—though I suggest not your palace—and you will make the payment at that time.” He squinted for emphasis. “In United States dollars.”

“They will be . . . subdued?”

“Of course.”

“And once they are here—who shall attend to their care?”

Alexei shrugged one shoulder. “You will have to hire someone. I suggest you find a nurse. Their dosages must be carefully monitored.” As Saeed likely already knew.

“Very well then. I shall make the necessary staffing adjustments. It is April now, can you deliver by August?”

Making a show of putting great thought into his answer, Alexei took his time with a slow nod. “That can be arranged.”

A smile broke across Saeed’s face, hesitant at first, then assuming more emphasis as he reached to shake Alexei’s hand. “Consider it agreed.”

Alexei shook, then clasped the young sheikh’s hand in both of his and added an emphatic squeeze. “It is done.”

“Now, let us talk of more important matters.” All hints of good humor vanished under Saeed’s sudden, piercing stare. “I will tolerate no abuse to Sasha.”

“I understand.”

“If she expresses any displeasure, this ends, immediately. I have promised her she will only enjoy this evening. I will not have that vow compromised.”

Alexei nodded again. Odd how this man protected his possessions. She was a sexual toy, one he’d purchased, and yet, he genuinely seemed concerned about her well-being. Damned odd.

Saeed’s voice returned to its normal amicable warmth. “I will be the third this evening. You will aid in her preparation, but you may not find your release inside what belongs to me.”

Good. No need to push himself to the brink with pretending. He could roll aside and let Saeed take over while Alexei quietly jacked off to alleviate the need for physical release. No fear he might whisper the damnable name of the woman who haunted him each time he tried with another.

Still, the disclosure he would not act as third surprised him. He cocked his head and repeated, “You will be the third?”

Saeed passed a hand over the neatly trimmed line of hair that edged his jaw. “She belongs to me. Her happiness is my responsibility.” He paused to give Alexei a troubled frown. “As it is also my responsibility to remove all her pain.”

In that moment, Alexei witnessed a different man than the young sheikh who sought to patch together his father’s crumbling legacy. He stared into the brittle eyes of a man who genuinely cared for the woman that had come into his possession. Saeed didn’t want to share Sasha any more than Alexei wanted to be here. And yet, Saeed was willing to sacrifice to protect his family from destruction. His decision had been made for him.

Alexei understood that.

He respected it even more. He’d been there once. Knew the anguish of having no choice. Understood how that kind of circumstance shredded a man inside.

Son of a bitch, he didn’t want to be responsible for forcing that on anyone. He could find another way to get Sasha out of here. It would be better for all of them.

Standing, he cleared his throat. “I should leave.”

Saeed’s lips formed a tight, hard line. Jaw set, he shook his head as he rose to his feet. “I honor my promises, Vasily. In all things.” Turning crisply, he beckoned Alexei to follow. “Come. She waits.”

And for a bonus -- I have a signed copy of Lie To Me for one randomly drawn commentor who can tell me why you read erotic romance.


I can't wait to read more of this book! Congrats & Happy release day!!!
manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

Hi, June! You're my happy winner! THe books haven't arrived yet, but I will email you when they have and let you know its ship-to-you date.

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