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Charmed (Masters and Mercenaries #20.5)
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From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake comes a new story in her Masters and Mercenaries series…
JT Malone is lucky, and he knows it. He is the heir to a billion-dollar petroleum empire, and he has a loving family. Between his good looks and his charm, he can have almost any woman he wants. The world is his oyster, and he really likes oysters. So why does it all feel so empty?
Nina Blunt is pretty sure she’s cursed. She worked her way up through the ranks at Interpol, fighting for every step with hard work and discipline. Then she lost it all because she loved the wrong person. Rebuilding her career with McKay-Taggart, she can’t help but feel lonely. It seems everyone around her is finding love and starting families. But she knows that isn’t for her. She has vowed never to make the mistake of falling in love again.
JT comes to McKay-Taggart for assistance rooting out a corporate spy, and Nina signs on to the job. Their working relationship becomes tricky, however, as their personal chemistry flares like a wildfire. Completing the assignment without giving in to the attraction that threatens to overwhelm them seems like it might be the most difficult part of the job. When danger strikes, will they be able to count on each other when the bullets are flying? If not, JT’s charmed life might just come to an end.
**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you’ll enjoy each one as much as we do.**
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One Thousand and One Dark Nights
Once upon a time, in the future…
I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.
I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and
the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast
library at my father’s home and collected thousands
of volumes of fantastic tales.
I learned all about ancient races and bygone
times. About myths and legends and dreams of all
people through the millennium. And the more I read
the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered
that I was able to travel into the stories… to actually
become part of them.
I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher
and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I
would not be telling you this tale now.
But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off
One afternoon, curious about the myth of the
Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to
see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar
(Persian: شهريار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then
sent yesterday’s wife to be beheaded. It was written
and I had read that by the time he met Scheherazade,
the vizier’s daughter, he’d killed one thousand
Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived
in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged
places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had
never occurred before and that still to this day, I
Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have
taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can
protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to
protect herself and stay alive.
Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.
And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a
point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.
And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that
he might hear the rest of my dark tale.
As soon as I finish a story… I begin a new
one… like the one that you, dear reader, have before
“You need to get laid.”
Nina Blunt bit back a groan at the words and held her hand up to indicate to the bartender that she was definitely going to need another glass of wine. She adored Sandra Croft, the woman sitting beside her at the bar, but sometimes she could be a lot to take. She’d met Sandra months before when she’d shown up at the London office of McKay-Taggart and Knight with her daughter and granddaughter. Like many people Nina knew, Sandra was ex-military, and it showed in her no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners style of conversation.
“I’m not here to get laid. I’m here to do a job, and that job starts tomorrow afternoon,” Nina pointed out, sliding her empty wine glass forward so the bartender could pour out some more Pinot Noir.
Sandra turned in her chair, her hand on the beer she’d ordered. “When was the last time you got laid? I’m thinking it’s been a couple of years. Fess up. I’ve got a bet on this.”
This rarely happened in London. There was a reason she didn’t come work for the Dallas team often. Ever, really. It was her first time working directly with Ian Taggart’s team, and this was what she got. “It’s absolutely none of your business.”
“I totally disagree. I have to go undercover with you. I’m your backup. I need to make sure my girl is loose and ready to rumble. I’ve got some thoughts on hookers.”
Sometimes with Sandra she just had to go with it. Often with Sandra, things got so over-the-top awkward it was amusing. “I think they’re called gigolos when they’re male.”
Sandra shook her head. “I refuse that terminology. Look, a doctor’s a doctor whether said doc has lady bits or dangly parts or anything in between. A pro’s a pro. If there’s one thing my daughter’s generation has right, it’s sexual fluidity.”
Sometimes it was utterly fascinating to watch Sandra go. It was one of the reasons she was kind of excited about the upcoming job. Sure, it was a fairly simple catch-the-corporate-spy-in-action job that she’d done a hundred times, but Sandra was her backup and that meant the world might explode. “So you think I should call up an agency and tell them I’ll take whatever they send. Girl parts. Boy parts. Doesn’t matter.”
“I’m only saying these people are professionals and strap-ons exist.”
The bartender nearly dropped the bottle of wine she’d been pouring. That happened a lot around Sandra. The woman had no filter and absolutely no fucks to give. Still, she had to smile. Many good things had come out of the mission that had finally brought the Lost Boys full circle, but meeting Sandra had been a blessing to Nina. Sandra had become her friend, and she needed a friend who took no bullshit and told no lies. It was refreshing, even if sometimes challenging. “Well, I will certainly keep that in mind if I feel like I need a good snog.”