USA Today Bestselling Author
After completing a difficult and secret task to eliminate the leader of a Russian terrorist organization, former Navy SEAL and expert sniper, Dane “Striker” Ryan, is booted from his SEAL team, destroying his reputation as a trusted servant to his country. Burned, angry and out of work, he agrees to take an assignment from a shadowy organization recruiting this Navy SEAL for a special project. For a sizable sum of money, he is to eliminate a dangerous assassin by any means necessary. Unemployed, and with no means to make his next rent payment, he accepts the lucrative work.
Alex Sokolov, self-trained assassin, is on a mission of revenge for her parents’ deaths, a mission that has spanned a decade. As she nears her ultimate target, the hunter becomes the hunted.
Tasked to kill each other, Striker and Alex join forces in this international intrigue to discover the kingpin orchestrating the murders of secret agents, including Alex’s own parents.
Dane ‘Striker’ Ryan was made the scapegoat for a mission that got more notice than it should have. With no job and no way to pay his rent he gets a call from Charley a mysterious woman who offers him a lot of money and resources to do a covert mission. He accepts and finds himself with a fake name posing as an escort at a high profile energy summit in France. He would be escorting one of the translators, Natalya Zotin to the reception and his mission is to prevent an assassination.
It’s when Anatoly Petrov heads to the gardens with a young woman who had caught Dane’s eye earlier that things start heating up.
Natalya notices not only Petrov leaving but also Sergei Baranovsky so she decides to call it a night, freeing up Dane to investigate the gardens.
This is a favorite scene.
On Striker’s initial inspection of the reception hall, he had followed different hallways and corridors to determine where they led. The one the woman in silver was headed down led out to a tropical garden. The beautiful woman could be going with Petrov for a private assignation surrounded by lush, flowering bushes and palm trees. Or she could be carrying a knife beneath her dress with the intention of assassinating the Russian in the darkness.
“If you’ll excuse me, ma’am,” Striker said. “I need to visit the water closet.”
“By all means,” Natalya said. “I need to powder my nose, as well.”
He indicated the direction in which the ladies’ room was located.
Fortunately, the men’s room was on the opposite side of the hall, conveniently positioned along the same corridor that led to the hotel garden.
“One moment, please.” Natalya tipped her head toward the taller of the two Russians. “It appears Sergei might be leaving the reception hall and Anatoly already has.”
All the more reason for Daniel to hurry and catch up with Petrov and the woman in the silver dress. However, he stood steady and gave Natalya his attention.
“Since they’re leaving the reception, there is no need for me to stay to translate. I find myself fatigued. I too shall retire.” She patted his cheek with the palm of her hand. “Your services are no longer required.”
He captured her hand in his and touched the backs of her knuckles with his lips. “The evening has been my pleasure.”
“Mine, too,” she said with a smile. “And you’re quite good at the waltz. The escort service did well in sending you.”
“You’ll have to look into country western dancing to learn the two-step for next time.” He smiled and waited for her to turn away. Once she did, he headed out across the floor toward the corridor leading into the garden. With no other doorways leading off the corridor, he didn’t wait or check to see if they’d stopped along the way.
When he stepped out into the hotel garden, he waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. His ears perked as he listened for sounds at the other end of the dimly lit area.
Once his night vision adjusted, he eased away from the chateau and followed a pathway, walking as lightly as he could in his patent leather shoes. He followed the sound of voices.
Before he’d gone more than twenty yards, he saw the two silhouetted against the stone wall at the rear of the garden.
Striker stopped within twenty feet of them. He could reach them quickly, if needed. Instead of rushing the couple, he paused and watched. For all he knew, it could be a lovers’ assignation. A tryst in the garden, away from prying eyes.
Petrov turned and gripped the woman’s arms.
She reached up in an attempt to pry his hands loose from her arms. Her voice turned from a conversational tone to a higher pitched, strained nature.
“Nyet,” she said and rattled off something in Russian. She tried to break free of the man’s grip on her arms.
When Petrov still hadn’t released her, her tone dropped low, the intensity increasing. A flash of movement brought her hands up through the middle of his arms, breaking free of his grasp. She grabbed his head, turned her back and flipped him over.
Petrov landed flat on his back.
In the next second, the woman had a knife pulled, the blade glinting in the moonlight.
Striker raced forward.
The silver-clad woman said something fast and furious in Russian as she held the knife over the man lying splayed out on his back.
Striker reached the woman before she could plunge the knife into the Russian’s neck. He grabbed her wrist and yanked it up behind her back.
“Damn it, let go of me,” she muttered.
Striker put his lips near her ear. “Ah, my dear, I found you finally. I believe they’re playing our song. Shouldn’t we be dancing?” He pretended to just take notice of the man on the ground. “What’s this?” He frowned down at the Russian. “Sir, have you fallen?”
The Russian grunted and struggled to get to his feet.
With his free hand, Striker reached down and gave the man a hand up.
The woman he held with the arm up behind her back stood straight, unmoving, her chin tipped upward in defiance.
As the Russian stood, he brushed leaves from his suit and glared at the woman in silver.
“Are you okay?” Striker asked. “Do I need to call for medical assistance?”
The Russian shook his head. “Nyet, I am quite fine,” he said in his stilted English. “Is this your woman?” He jerked his hand toward the woman in silver.
“Why, yes,” Striker said. “I came to get her because I’m ready to leave. Are you ready to depart, my dear?”
She gave him a narrow-eyed glance out of the corner of her eye.
Using her body as a visual barrier, Striker removed the knife from her hand, folded the blade and slid it into his pocket. He lowered lowered her arm to her side and slipped a hand around her waist, his grip firm. “Please, sir, allow us to see you back to the reception hall.”
The Russian adjusted his suit. “I do not need assistance to find my way back.” He turned and walked back toward the building.
Striker guided the woman in silver behind the Russian, giving him several yards of distance between them. Once the Russian reached the reception hall, Striker came to a halt, stopping just short of the building. He turned the woman around and lightly gripped her arms. He stared down into eyes as black as the night, the only light in their dark depths that of moonlight reflected off their liquid surface. “Who are you and why were you trying to kill the Russian?”
She spoke in Russian.
He shook his head. “English.”
Again, she spoke in Russian.
“I heard you curse in English. Talk, before I turn you over to the security guards.”
She stared up at him through narrowed eyes. “He attacked me. I was only defending myself.”
“Sure, and you always carry a knife to diplomatic receptions?
How did you get that past the security guards and metal detectors?”
She lifted a narrow shoulder. “A woman has to defend herself.”
Her English held no trace of an English accent; it was American.
“You speak American English. Are you American?”
The woman crossed her arms over her chest, tipped back her head and stared down her nose at the man. “What’s it to you?”
“Let’s just say that I like to know my enemies.”
“Am I one of your enemies?” She arched a black wing of a brow.
“I don’t know. Are you?”
Her eyebrows dipped. “Only if you’ve done something to hurt me or my family.”
“And is that what Petrov has done to you?”
Her mouth firmed into a thin line. “Perhaps.”
“Do you make it a habit of trying to kill those who hurt you or your family?”
“No, but if he hurts me again, I will defend myself.”
“In this case I will give you the benefit of doubt. In what capacity are you here?”
“I could ask the same of you.”
“I’m here as a paid escort. And you?” He waited for her response.
She lifted a narrow shoulder and let it fall. “Alexa Sokoloff.”
The name didn’t ring a bell. None of the people who were attending the reception that were in the news had gone by that name. He’d have to put Charley to work discovering all there was to know about the raven-haired beauty. In the meantime, he’d do well to watch his back lest she plunge a knife in it.
James, Elle ; Sisters, Shadow. Shadow Assassin: Shadow SEALs. Kindle Locations (210-277). Twisted Page Inc. Kindle Edition.
Now preventing any problems with Petrov and the young lady only opens another can of worms. As they are reentering the reception room, Petrov is stabbed. Now with Alexa’s knife in his pocket he has to pass it off to some unsuspecting soul or they’d never get out of there.
Between that incident, a break-in of Alexa’s room, and rumors of the Russians skimming off the existing gas line things heat up really fast. Alexa has loads of secrets and Dane is determined to figure them out.
Of course having her stay with him for protection has his thoughts wandering in other directions as well.
Lots of suspense, intrigue, and action with a simmer to sizzle romance.
5 Contented Purrs for Elle!
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Award-winning author Elle James grew up as an air force military brat. She received her work ethic from her rock-solid father, her creative streak from her artistic mother and inspiration from her writing partner and sister, Delilah Devlin.
As a former member of the army reserves and a current member of the air force reserves, she’s traveled across the United States and to Germany, managed a full-time job, and raised three wonderful children. She and her husband have even tried their hands at ranching exotic birds (ostriches, emus and rheas) in the Texas hill country. Ask her, and she’ll tell you what it’s like to go toe-to-toe with an angry three-hundred-and-fifty-pound bird and live to tell about it!
Her adventures in the army and air force reserves, and the wild antics of her life on a small ranch in Texas give her fodder for mystery, suspense and humor in her writing. Elle writes gothic, paranormal mystery for the Harlequin Intrigue line and paranormal romantic comedy for Dorchester Publishing. A former manager of computer programming and project management professionals, Elle is happy she now has the opportunity to pursue her writing full time.