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He’s not a criminal, he’s the criminal. Ruthless and gorgeous, he rules half of New York. Everyone knows his name: Konstantin. I’m the exact opposite. As an FBI surveillance specialist, my job is to be invisible and that suits me just fine. I spend my life watching Konstantin, and he’s never once seen the shy girl taking photos from across the street.
But when Konstantin’s beautiful but evil “companion,” Christina, is injured in a car crash, we get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Plastic surgery can make me look just like her: I can take her place at Konstantin’s side and learn every secret he’s got. I must learn to mimic her exactly, from the way she walks to the sounds she makes in bed. Because if he suspects for one instant that I’m not her…he’ll kill me.
I soon discover that there’s more to Konstantin than anyone knows. That cold exterior hides a lifetime of pain and a deep, scorching need that takes my breath away. As our feelings spin out of control and my loyalties are tested, I need to know: is he falling for me…or the woman I’m impersonating? I was sent to destroy him but I might be the only one who can save him. And the love I was told to fake might just be real.
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I FELL for Konstantin Gulyev long before I ever met him.
That hard, tan jaw with its perfect shadow of black stubble was etched into my mind from staring at it day after day. I spent so much time looking at his lips, the top one hard and stern, the lower one soft and sulkily pouting, that I knew what they’d feel like brushing against mine. I knew him so well, I could tell you whether the shirt he was wearing came from his tailor in Russia or his tailor in New York, from the way the snow-white fabric stretched over the broad slabs of his chest.
There are other crime bosses in New York. Even a few other Russian ones. But none are as notorious, none have produced as many myths and legends as him. They say he takes three women to bed each night. They say he kills his enemies with his bare hands. They say his mansion has a vault stocked floor-to-ceiling with gold, and the government doesn’t dare try to arrest him because he has so much money he could crash the economy…
That last one, at least, isn’t true. I know because I’m on the FBI team assigned to bring Konstantin down, and we are trying. We’re just failing. His organization is huge and unimaginably strong, protected by guns and bribed officials and encryption. He’s untouchable and he knows it.
Watching him was my job. It had become my obsession.
As his limo entered the deserted construction site, I was a tiny speck in the distance, perched in the darkened window of an abandoned building over half a mile away. But the camera’s long lens brought me close enough that I could see the rivets on the limo’s license plate as it prowled across the muddy, churned-up ground, the tattoos on the bodyguard’s hand as he opened the limo door. And then I was looking at him. Konstantin.
He was impeccably dressed as always but he didn’t even glance down as his Italian leather shoes were ruined by the mud. He ignored the rain that hissed from the slate-gray sky and soaked his hair. With his coat billowing out behind him like the devil’s black wings, he marched over to where the other man cowered beneath an umbrella. He stopped so close, and he was so tall, that the other man had to look up into the rain to keep eye contact, blinking and spluttering, his face bone-white with fear. I held down the camera’s shutter button, taking a flurry of shots.
Everyone is scared of Konstantin Gulyev, from the small-time crooks at the bottom to the white-collar crooks at the top. You don’t run for mayor in this city unless Konstantin says so. Rumor is, you don’t run for senator.
Smuggling. Gambling. Guns. Protection. Billion dollar construction contracts obtained through bribes. He’s not a criminal, he’s the criminal.
And we—the FBI—can’t prove any of it. That’s why I’ve been watching hfim for two years.
And at some point, during that time… I started to get obsessed.
It might have started when I was listening to his phone calls, every long r and hard k of his Russian accent earthquaking down my spine to pool in my groin. Or when I was in a building across the street, a telephoto lens bringing that brutally handsome face so close, it felt like I could reach out and press my cheek against his dark stubble. It might have been the time I was in the next hotel room, my palm pressed to the wall, feeling the vibrations as he fucked his girlfriend up against the wall, his muscled body slamming into her no more than a foot from me.
He’s pure bad, given human form. And he’s not just my enemy, he’s my nemesis. I’ve run surveillance on plenty of criminals and Konstantin is the only one I haven’t been able to bring down. I should hate him. But….
But there’s something about his raw, dark power that pulls me in and holds me. He terrifies me and yet I can’t look away. I knew that, if we ever actually met, he’d utterly destroy me. But he’s as hypnotic as a tornado, as tempting as a cliff edge.
He looked up.
I knew that he couldn’t see me. I was dressed in black, my camera was painted a dull gray, and I was deep in the shadows, up on the tenth floor of an abandoned building. But none of that mattered, not with him staring right at me.
Konstantin’s eyes are like no one else’s. At first, you think they’re utterly devoid of color, a pale gray that puts me in mind of a winter sky about to unleash a truly biblical ice storm. But if you look long enough, if you really concentrate, there’s the faintest hint of blue there. Just enough blue to give you some sort of forlorn hope. Just before he crushes it completely.