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Dangerous Beauty (Dangerous Beauty #1)
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A beautiful fugitive. A hot bodyguard. A high-stakes game of temptation.
For Nasir, former Special Ops military man and bodyguard, his new job seems like an easy-money gig: trail a Russian mobster’s runaway wife in Mexico, enjoy the sun, observe, and report. Just one rule: don’t get too close. But it’s all Naz can do not to watch the alluring dancer’s every move. A closer look is irresistible—especially when she’s in trouble.
Evalina escaped to the island getaway to live an untraceable life—as far away from the past as she can get. But Eva can’t ignore the dark, muscled stud who rescues her from a drug gang. He says he’s an ex-cop on vacation. When providence throws them together time and again, Eva thinks it’s all a beautiful coincidence. Now she’s giving in to a strange new sensation: trust.
But Naz has a mission to accomplish and a secret to keep. Eva has her share of secrets, too. And as the heat flares between them, Naz knows that trust could become the most dangerous impulse of all.
***Part one of a three part series.***
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Women are like roads. The more curves they have, the more dangerous they are.
Having been followed by men for as long as I can remember, I’ve developed a sixth sense for it.
A crackle of electricity on the skin. A few pricked hairs on the arms. Animal awareness that brings my surroundings into sudden taut focus, the way a lover’s teeth pressed gently against the neck can make the nipples grow hard.
Someone is watching me.
Someone close by.
I don’t outwardly acknowledge that fact, though my pulse skyrockets and it becomes impossible to catch a breath. I simply continue browsing through the display of peaches on the wooden stand until I find one perfectly ripe and unblemished, then stash it in the canvas bag slung over my arm, pay the fruit vendor, and continue on my way through the shade-dappled outdoor market.
I force myself not to hurry. Against my hip, the small revolver concealed in the pocket of my full skirt is a cold, reassuring weight.
I knew this day would come. Dimitri never lets me go for long. But this time, I’m not going back.
This time the only way he’ll get me back is in a body bag.
Oranges. Mangoes. Loquat and cherimoya, both slightly bruised from their trip over from the mainland, but edible. A few vegetables, then a piece of yellowfin from the fishmonger, and my shopping is finished.
The market is busy, as it always is on a Saturday when the cruise ships dock in the port. Laughing children chase each other over worn cobblestones. Tourists admire overpriced trinkets in a jewelry stall. Swaying in the ocean breeze, hand-dyed scarves hang from a line, as colorful as exotic birds.
I nod hello to a few familiar faces but stop to speak to no one. I have to deal with the tail quickly. My voice would betray my fear, anyway. Turning high and strained whenever I’m afraid, it’s the one thing I’ve never been able to train myself to control.
Fortunately, I don’t need my voice to take care of the man following me. All I need are my hands, which are steady, a deserted alleyway, and the weapon hidden in the folds of my skirt.
Like the rest of Mexico, Cozumel suffers from its share of violent crimes. A dead man in an alley will hardly raise an eyebrow.
But he isn’t dead yet. My shadow is careful. He keeps an invisible distance as I wind through the maze of fruit stands, flower vendors, and T-shirt stalls, the sun hot on my head and my pulse pounding.
Passing the pickups with truck beds full of watermelons and pepino amarillo lined up along the sidewalk outside the market, I quicken my pace. My apartment overlooks the ocean, but I head in the opposite direction, farther into town. My destination is a street notorious for its drug trade, where tourists can buy anything they desire from dead-eyed thugs who’ll rob them for their trouble afterward.
Sweating from humidity and adrenaline, I turn a corner, then another, then another. I feel my watcher’s steady presence behind me, cold and creeping, like a fog.
A skinny stray dog noses through a pile of trash in the gutter. An old man smoking in the shade of a palm tree squints at me with watery eyes. Pigeons burst into sudden squawking flight from the dirt when I round the next corner, and I start, sucking in a hard breath.
Keep cool. Get it done, then get the bug-out bag and disappear. You’ve trained for this. You’re prepared!
I’ve never killed a man before, though. I have no illusions that my time spent shooting at trees in the woods will prepare me for the devastation I’ll feel after that. And the blood—
I curse under my breath and cut off the thought before it can go further. This is no time to get sentimental. Whatever the identity of the man following me, one thing is for certain: he’s a mercenary. Dimitri hires only hardened men—ruthless men—and this one will be no exception.
It’s him or me. I’ll let God decide the degree of my guilt later.
He alone knows my reasons.
I find myself in a narrow alley between two abandoned buildings. The stink of piss and rotting trash sours the air. Flattening myself against the rough brick wall, I drop the canvas bag and draw the gun from my pocket.
Then I wait, holding my breath.
If you want me, come and get me. I’ve got a surprise for you, friend.
A bead of sweat rolls down my temple. In the stillness of the hot afternoon, my heartbeat sounds like gunfire. I hear the quiet shuffle of feet approaching and raise the pistol.
I nearly shoot the old man in the head.
“Dinero?” he says in a wheezy voice, holding out an arthritic hand.
“My God!” I shout, swaying with horror. “I almost killed you!”
He squints at me again, unconcerned by the gun. “Dinero?”