Authors: Tori St. Claire
Tags: #Romance, #Erotica, #Adult, #Fiction
LIE TO ME
Titles by Tori St. Claire
LIE TO ME
LIE TO ME
Tori St. Claire
HEAT | NEW YORK
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This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2012 by Valerie Hatfield.
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Cover design by George Long.
Text design by Laura K. Corless.
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Heat trade paperback edition / July 2012
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
St. Claire, Tori.
Lie to me / Tori St. Claire. — Heat trade pbk. ed.
1. United States. Central Intelligence Agency—Fiction. 2. Human trafficking—Fiction.
3. Dubayy (United Arab Emirates : Emirate) I. Title.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For Jason, who believed even when I didn’t.
To my amazing agent, Jewelann Cone, who never fails to amaze me with her level of commitment, her wisdom, and her sharp eye for opportunity. Without your support and faith, the Black Opals wouldn’t exist.
To my equally amazing editor, Leis Pederson, a constant source of encouragement and positive enthusiasm, who knows just how to dig in and bring out the best. Thank you for believing me and making everything delightful.
To my family, my boys and my mother, three people who mean more than anything in this world and sacrifice time, fun, and interests to help me meet deadlines and accomplish this dream. Without you, there’d be nothing. Truly.
To Dyann Love Barr, my friend, my mentor, and my cohort, your strength amazes me, as well as your heart. Thank you for helping me overcome hurdles and always being ready with a solution to the dead-end problem.
To my critique partners and beta readers, Cathy Morrison, Judy Ridgely, and G. Aliceson Edwards, thank you for your insight, your critical eye, and your never-ending support.
To Aaron and Geno Jezek, thank you for providing some insight into situations that confused me, and offering an array of solutions to fix a conundrum. Janice McClaine, you also came through in a pinch, and allowed me to move forward and meet a pressing deadline.
To the members of Heartland Romance Authors, Mid-America Romance Authors, and Midwest Romance Writers, words can’t express how grateful I am to be a part of your individual families. Thank you for the lessons you’ve taught, the support you’ve shown, and your enthusiasm.
To Alexis Walker, Delilah Devlin, and Shayla Black, thank you for your insight and for making me feel a particular dream was within my ability to reach. Roni Loren, you’ve been a wonderful source of encouragement through this journey, and I’m sincerely glad to have shared it with you!
Jason, you are always willing to listen, always so supportive, always believing when I get mired by the details. I couldn’t do this without you anymore.
They exist only in shadow. An elite team of deadly operatives created to satisfy increasing international threats. Their world is the dark underground, where sin and pleasure dominate and lies are second nature. To those who cross them, they are professional killers. Within the CIA, they are the rare Black Opals…
TWO AND A HALF YEARS EARLIER…
he was moving.
Her eyelids refused to open, but the back-and-forth rocking and the up-and-down motion invaded Sasha Zablosky’s bleary mind.
The monotonous hum of an engine filtered through a dull buzz in her ears. A loud engine. Diesel, and not one built for economy, if she had to take a guess. More like the buzz of the open-top Gaz’s used to transport her and her team to explosion test sites. Only…different.
Why in the hell was she moving? What happened to Alexei’s bed, the warm muscular body she’d fallen asleep beside every night for the last week? For that matter, where was he?
Her entire body lurched as the vehicle hit a pothole. The back of her head smacked into something hard, and dizzying nausea rose, threatening to pull her into a dark chasm of nothingness. Distantly, she heard herself moan.
A strong hand latched onto her elbow, grounding her, warm fingertips soaking through her chilled skin. “Easy, Irina. Not much longer now, and it will all be over.”
It took a moment to place the name she’d assumed six months ago when she fled her home, but her native Russian language caressed her ears the same way those warm fingertips stroked the sensitive skin inside her elbow. Sasha focused on the familiar richness, the voice she knew so well. Alexei was here. Relief poured through her.
Grasping at the sound of his voice, she struggled to surface through
the fog that clouded her mind. Awareness grew. She was cold and lying on something made of cloth that did little to soften the harsh metallic floor beneath her back. Canvas…a tarp. The roar of the engine sharpened; her nose tickled at the faint musty scent.
Memories flashed through her mind. She’d danced for the leering men in her cousin’s nightclub. Stripped for a handful of rubles that wouldn’t feed her through the week. After she exited the ramshackle stage, Alexei had been waiting outside. Long golden-brown hair blew in the wind as he lounged against the brick exterior wall. Her gaze locked with his light green eyes, and all the desire that had flared between them upon her arrival at her cousin’s club three weeks earlier ignited once again. Barely able to keep their hands off each other long enough to make the short ride to his flat, she’d tumbled into his bed. What he’d done to her there…
The feel of Alexei’s hands and mouth on her body, the unending ache he created, the way he’d taken her hard and fast, then later slow and torturously—every vivid image burst forth in full color. On her hands and knees begging for release. Spread out beneath him, a slave to the flick of his tongue against her pussy. Astride his firm hips, his thick cock filling her up. She gave herself like she had with no man before. Body, heart, and soul.
It had always been that way between them. Alexei somehow reached inside and touched parts of her she didn’t realize existed. Last night though something drove him as well. When he’d finally had his fill of her, she’d fallen asleep exhausted beyond her means, well used. Significantly appreciated.
Sasha surged through the layered haze clouding her thoughts, and with a startled blink, opened her eyes. Shadows blanketed the small confines, but the hand on her arm kept panic at bay. Slowly, she turned her head. Her gaze registered on Alexei’s unshaven face and his sharp frown.
“Alexei?” She swallowed to moisten her dry throat.
She squeezed her eyes shut tightly to refocus her vision. When she
looked again, Alexei’s hand fell away from an overhead lamp. Dim yellow light illuminated the steel gray walls of what had once been a military transport vehicle. He wore the same jeans and loose, long-sleeved black shirt he’d worn earlier. Only he hadn’t fastened his shirt all the way, leaving the first three buttons open to reveal smooth bronzed skin dusted with faint dark hair. The vehicle bounced again as it traveled over uneven terrain.
“Irina, I’m so sorry,” Alexei whispered.
As Sasha settled into her surroundings, she attempted a smile. “Where am I?” She glanced down at her rail-thin body, observing she wore only the bra and panties he’d so easily stripped away earlier. “Where are my clothes?”
The glint of metal caught her attention, and her gaze focused on Alexei. He fiddled with a small leather case in his lap. As his hands paused, a syringe loosely clasped in his fingers, he lifted remorseful green eyes to hers. “You’ll never forgive me, but for what it’s worth, what happened between us wasn’t part of my orders. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but I will never forget.”
. Her thoughts skidded to a stop as Alexei reached for her arm once more. Years spent working in the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation made that word stand out more than anything she’d heard in the last six months on the run. Had someone found her? Discovered what she’d done?
Was this Russia’s way of disposing of a loose cannon?
She jerked free of his grasp. “Wait.”
Anguish passed behind those light green eyes as he winced. He looked away. “You shouldn’t be awake, little one.” Shadows cut harsh lines into his already chiseled features and gave his unshaven face a dangerous appeal. His throat worked as he visibly swallowed.
Struggling to sit upright, she eased away from the enticing pull of his strong upper body. A harsh note crept into her voice. “Where are you taking me?”
“You don’t want to know.”
The nearly inaudible response sent chills skittering across her exposed skin. She crossed her arms over her breasts and rubbed at goose bumps. “I do. Tell me where you’re taking me.”
He didn’t look at her as he murmured, “To Dubai.”
Dubai. Sasha blinked. Last she’d heard, Dubai wasn’t a place to drop off
informants. Dmitri Gavrikov and the rest of the Moscow mafia preferred to dispose of their liabilities in rivers, abandoned plots of lands, snow-covered forests—not metropolises.
“What’s in Dubai?”
“A sheikh.” His gaze slid to hers for the briefest of seconds before it fixed once more on the flat gray wall. Muscles flexed in his cheek, sharpening the angle of his bristly jaw. “You’ve been…traded.”
She squinted at his handsome profile. Apprehension bubbled beneath her skin, chasing away the tremendous chill of the late October night. “Traded for what?”
Alexei glanced down at the syringe in his hands, and his hair fell over his shoulders to curtain his expression. His voice was a strained whisper. “There’s an elite hotel. You’ll join…the others. For half a million U.S. dollars you’ll entertain businessmen.” He tapped the covered needle. “This will keep you sane.” He looked up, his unsettling gaze locking with hers. “Somewhat.”