Authors: Magnolia Smith
Tags: #Jamaica;Assassins;BDSM;CIA;Beignets;Vacation Flings;North Carolina;Political Intrigue;Military;Special Forces;Coffee;Murder;Suspense;erotic asphyxiation
Liking it rough is its own sweet reward.
The Black Orchid
, Book 1
That was then…
While hunting down his target in Jamaica, Kael Bradford fell hard for a beautiful, unsuspecting tourist. He thought the only thing he needed to protect her from was him. Until the line between personal and professional blurred in a cloud of deadly danger.
This is now…
Rain Howard thought she’d met the perfect guy. But after two romantic weeks in Jamaica, he disappeared. Two years of trying to forget him, and she’s finally found the courage to quit her job and open a beignets and coffee café. Then he appears out of the blue, wanting to pick up where they left off.
And there is only one truth…
Kael never wanted to leave her, but it wasn’t safe for him to stay. He had to put space between them before the bad guys figured out there was someone he loved. Besides, if she discovered all his secrets…she wouldn’t want to be with him anyway.
Now, the coast is clear. And he’s returned, finally, to reclaim what’s his.
Warning: Could inspire erotic new beignet-eating techniques that’ll get you thrown out of the Café du Monde. Also includes: spanking, dirty secrets, dirtier desires, political assassinations, and jealous best friends.
Tell Me No Lies
My first published novel is dedicated to my parents for their unwavering support and belief from the very beginning that I was meant to be a writer.
“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
Two years ago
My eyes lingered on her body. She couldn’t go out like that.
Smiling, Zelie did a model’s pivot. “You like?” She glided a hand up and down her body, television-game-show-hostess style.
Red marks striped her butt, thighs and legs. Handprints ringed her arms, and there was a bite mark on her waist. “You can’t wear that.”
She closed her eyes, threw back her head and sighed. “Why not? I don’t care who sees.”
I stood up and took the white mini-dress from her. “I care.”
Her heart-shaped lips poked out. “What’s the big deal? Thanks to that stupid book, the BDSM lifestyle is totally normalized.”
“Even so. Someone might think I’m abusing you.” And the last thing I needed was a visit from the local police. The goal was always to stay below the radar, just blend in.
“Is it abuse if it’s consensual?” She returned to the closet, her fingers lightly touching different outfits. “They’re marks of love.”
“Lust,” I corrected her.
She turned with another dress in hand. “Whatever.” She shimmied into it “Better?”
“Yes.” The flimsy purple material covered her arms and thighs minimally.
Zelie stepped into a pair of high-heeled sandals. “What are you doing today?”
I thought of the man in the forest. Slumped over. Dead. Finally. “My business is over here, so just tying up loose ends. Luke is also on the island. We’ll probably meet for drinks. Hang out.”
“Sounds nice. I’ll be at the spa all day long.” She styled her long dark hair into two pigtails on either side of her face. “So don’t look for me.” She blew me a kiss, grabbed her purse and left the room.
“So, how does it feel? You finally got him.” Luke handed me an icy cold beer when I reached the resort’s poolside bar.
We’d been recruited around the same time four years ago, me from the Army, him from the Marines. We’d gone through training together and stayed in touch, getting together for some R & R when we could.
One weekend during agent training, we’d both showed up at the same club in Washington DC, one that catered to our particular kinks. I’d recognized him as the guy who’d almost bested me during a timed mile run.
We had a few beers and come to the realization that we shared interests in more than serving our country. We both liked rough sex and had similar tastes in women. We developed a friendship during a rigorous training course, and then a year later when I saved his life in the field—well, that really solidified our bond.
He was the closest thing I had to a best friend, like a brother really, and I didn’t stick close to anyone.
At six-three, he was an inch shorter than me, but we shared the same athletic build. And while I was dark, he was fair with short, spiky platinum-blond hair, and bright blue eyes that made the girls cream in their panties.
I leaned over the bar, fiddling with a bowl of peanuts. “It’s a relief. There was a time when I thought I might not catch him.”
“Sneaky fucker,” he chuckled. “Switching islands every month, using private planes, dying his hair and adding glasses, of course.”
“Of course, glasses are the ultimate disguise.” I chugged my beer, slammed the bottle down and looked around for something stronger.
“What was the clincher? What gave him away?”
I thought of the Jamaican woman I’d used to locate him. Skype of all things. Skype was notoriously unsecure, and when he’d set up a chat with the pretty woman in her forties, detailing his plan to come visit her for a month, I’d simply arrived before him, set up shop and waited.
He snorted. “A woman will get you every time.”
“She’ll be devastated. I think she really loved him.”
Luke waved his hand indifferently. “Did she know he was a criminal wanted by the United Nations War Crimes Commission?”
I signaled to the bartender, a local with a wide grin and long dreads pulled back into a ponytail with a leather tie. “Vodka straight. The best you got.”
The bartender smiled. “You sure you don’t want pineapple juice with that, mon? The vodka, it goes down like fire, you know?”
“I know. Give me shots. Just line ’em up. Keep ’em coming until I say when.”
The bartender raised his eyebrows. “I’m Theodore, just call me when you need me.” As he walked off to prepare the shots, he started singing the famous Bob Marley tune, “Don’t worry… About a thing…because every little thing…is going to be alright.”
“You alright? It’s barely lunchtime.”
I looked around the bar surrounded by sand and sunbathing tourists. “We’re in Jamaica. This is my lunch.”
“Right.” Luke picked up a menu. “Even so, I think I’ll get us some food.” He scanned the menu, and then set it down. “So, what’s wrong?”
I thought of the blonde, the hiker who’d witnessed the assassination. That had been a first. Not the fact that there was a witness, but me letting her go.
“Nothing. I’m fine.”
Blue eyes narrowed. “Any SNAFUs last night?”
The woman had looked at me like I was a monster, had screamed until I covered her mouth with my black gloved hands. That was when I should’ve broken her neck and buried her in the ground. It would’ve been easy to do. And no one would’ve ever found her body.
“Nope. It was a cake assignment.”
I accepted the first line of shots and tossed three back quickly. I couldn’t tell Luke about the witness. Not only was I breaking protocol but I’d look soft in his eyes. Luke would kill anyone at anytime. “No mercy. Ever,” was his motto.
He wouldn’t understand why I’d let the blonde go. I grabbed another shot, my mind switching gears to the target. That I could talk about with my pal, within reason.
“Thing is, right before I killed him, he begged for his life.” I gunned another shot. “Said his first grandchild would be born soon and he wanted to be there.”
“He was probably lying.” Luke rolled his eyes “You know the shit people say when they know the end is near.”
“Yeah, I know. But still.” I reached for another shot but stopped. “Whatever happened to due process? A jury by his peers? Straight kill orders bother me. Always have.”
“Well, they don’t bother me.” Luke ordered two burgers when the bartender stopped by. He waited for the bartender to move away. “You know that’s not what The Group is about.”
“I know. I read all of the fine print before I signed my name in blood.”
Luke raised a dark blond eyebrow.
I grinned. “Just kidding.”
“You signed up for this, Kael. You knew the score. You cash the checks, you complete the assignments. There is no buyer’s remorse.”
“I know, Luke. Damn, can’t I have a second to feel—”
“No, dude. No. You don’t get to
anything. This is what feeling does.” He tapped his temple. “Makes you doubt yourself. Doubt the missions. Doubt will get you killed.”
“I fucking know this, Luke. What’s your problem?”
“You don’t leave The Group unless it’s a mutual decision. You don’t decide you’ve suddenly got a moral compass and want to fucking open up a ski shop in Colorado or whatever it is you’re fantasizing about.” He lowered his voice and leaned toward me. “They’ll just have you taken out. You know too much, you’ve seen too much. Besides, they’ll be pissed that you tried to break our contract.”
Luke’s face flushed and his hands curled into fists. “You’re good at your job. You have a 100% kill rate. Enjoy it. You’re at the top of your game, bro.”
I glanced around the bar, making sure no one overheard our conversation. The bartender was in earshot, drying glasses but didn’t appear to have heard anything. “I’m sure that level of intensity you’re exhibiting right now served you well in the Marine Corps, but it’s just you and me here. Chill the fuck out.”
Luke paused and stared at me. “I’m chill.”
“Good. Then you’ll understand me when I say that I’m not trying to get out of anything. I’m just tired of fucking a different girl every night. I eventually want to settle down. Don’t you?”
“You can’t have a girlfriend, wife or anything serious while you’re in The Group. But you’re welcome to all of the no-strings-attached pussy you can handle,” he sneered. “No one’s going to feel sorry for you, bro. And hell no, I don’t want to settle down.”
He scowled at me for a moment. “You know what? You’re right, you need more alcohol.” He snapped his fingers at the bartender and ordered another round of shots. “Now, back to last night. That guy is responsible for so many women and children’s deaths—do you think he cared about any of them? When he ordered his army to go into town after town and decimate the area? Even Russia is no longer protecting him.”
“Of course not.” I raised his hands. “Hey, I know, he’s a bad guy. He got what he deserved.”
“What we do is important. The work The Group does is important. We kill people that need to die.”
I shot him an amused glance. “Didn’t realize you’d moved into recruiting. Look. I did my research. I’m on the right side here and I know it. Because this guy had connections with some important people in NATO, it was in everyone’s best interest if he just died in a tragic waterskiing accident in Montego Bay.”
“I’m sure the presidents of both France and Spain thank you.” Luke raised his beer in the air and smirked. “I, for one, thank you for your service.”
“I was proud to be a soldier. Proud to be a Green Beret. But this…now? Not so much.”
Luke gave me a sideways glance. “Maybe you should go talk to your handler.”
“Tell him how you’re
. Discuss your emotions and shit with him,” he smirked, “See what he says.”
I thanked the bartender and accepted my basket of onion rings and cheeseburger., while Luke ordered another beer. “You don’t ever feel…
“No, I sleep like a baby every night.” He took a large bite of his burger.
I definitely felt something. I felt evil, like a monster. I killed husbands, fathers and sons as a matter of course. Taking a life was supposed to get easier the more you did it, and it did. I was almost completely desensitized to the death of others. Almost.
I fought for that last sliver of humanity inside of me. I didn’t want to let it go. I didn’t want to become a soulless, heartless robot that killed indiscriminately. Like Luke.
But it was hard. Killing was an acquired taste, definitely not for everyone, and a part of me liked it, relished it even. The problem with killing is that the more you did it, the easier it got, and the ease with which I killed bothered me. It wasn’t supposed to, but it did.
Who didn’t like getting the bad guy? I did. That’s why I joined the military after college. But something happened to me when I killed. I call it the darkness. It began to cover me like a cloak until there was nothing left of the old me. And then, all I wanted to do was kill or fuck.
When I moved within the darkness, I was a mass of seething violence, high on bloodlust. I wanted to inflict pain, see fear, hear screams. That’s the person my employer wanted me to be, incapable of real emotion, unable to have relationships, which is why I rarely saw my parents. It was why I went out of my way not to connect with anyone. I had coworkers. I had fuck-mates, assets, targets…
A part of me wanted to be completely taken over by the dark. It was nice and warm, and I was very comfortable there. But a small part of me begged for something or someone to bring me back into the light.
Luke snapped his fingers in front of my face, bringing me out of my reverie. “I’ve got a gorgeous girl in every city, a couple million in the bank and the most awesome job in the world. What could be sweeter?”
“You think we have the most awesome job in the world?”
Luke wiped ketchup from his face with a napkin. “Dude, there are video games, movies and books written about guys like us.”
I bit into an onion ring. “I think professional hockey player would be the most awesome job.”
Luke leaned toward me, his blue eyes shining. “We’re assassins. How cool is that?”
I didn’t like the bloodlust shining from his eyes. I looked away, trying to distance myself from that particular motivation those of our ilk often had. “I prefer spy.”
Luke almost choked on his hamburger. “We’re not spies.” He grinned at me. “You like to think we’re doing James Bond shit? Deactivating bombs, decrypting secret messages.” He wagged a finger at me. “That’s the funniest shit I’ve heard in a while.”
He reached for his second beer, took a swig and then turned to me. “Our mission is clear. We track down people and we kill them. That’s it.”
His words rang dully in my mind. He’d summed up my fear nicely. I did not in general fear anything, but I was afraid of one thing: that I’d turn into him—into a killer and nothing more.
Living the way I was living, running with the people I hung out with, it was bound to happen. I tried to fight it in small ways: questioning missions, turning targets in instead of killing them on the spot. None of which had brought me favor with the higher-ups. I wasn’t paid to ask questions or make moral judgments; I was paid to end lives.
My co-workers and friends were killers. The women I’d slept with? Inconsequential. Eventually I’d be just like Luke, a hired gun who enjoyed his work a little too much. I pushed my onion ring basket away. “Spy has a nice ring to it.”
He shrugged. “Whatever it takes for you to sleep at night. We’re artists, you know that, right? All the training we’ve received. We can kill anybody with anything. It’s beautiful don’t you think so? The skill involved, the stealth required to never get caught…we’re living a freaking video game. It’s awesome.”
“Sometimes I have a hard time admitting it to myself.” I cleared my throat. “But it’s a rush.”
“Fucking A, it’s a rush. It never gets old.” He shook his head firmly. “Ever.”
“You feel like you’re just a killer, nothing left of the old you?”
“Who is the old me?” He made a face. “Fuck the old me. I like who I am now.” He finished his food and pushed his basket back. “When I was in MARSOC, you think they were training me to build hospitals? Marine Special Forces was not designed just so we could give kids candy. You either. You weren’t training freaking militaries. That’s feel-good shit for the media, for recruitment posters. But you know what we were—what we are.”