When Tristan Riley drags Lillian Maddox onto the dance floor at Teplo, he intends only to protect his cover… at least that’s what he tells himself. But the lovely Lillian would tempt a saint, and Tristan is far from a gentleman. Beneath the bright lights of the Vetrov family’s dangerous club, the weary DEA agent finds himself captivated by the ballerina, coaxing them both into a reckless, erotic encounter.
But Tristan isn’t prepared for the intense connection between him and Lillian, or for the fallout of their tryst. In a matter of days, their lives careen wildly off course, catapulting them both into a deadly game of hide and seek with the Vetrov family and one of Mexico’s deadliest drug cartels.
Trying to keep his hands to himself while working alongside Lillian to stop Anton Vetrov’s deadly new drug proves almost impossible for Tristan, but what choice does he have when being with her might get her killed? He should know: his entire family was murdered by people just like Anton.
When the stakes are raised and innocent lives are lost, will Tristan be able to let go of the guilt, or will he destroy his chance at happiness with Lillian before it ever truly begins?
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Terror fired through Kalani Abrams like mortar exploding from a cannon. Everything raced… her mind and heart pounding so fiercely she couldn’t catch a breath. Pained sobs wracked her body as she fled, her bare feet flying across the cold living room floor.
Her assailant followed, his boots hitting the old hardwood with ominous thumps.
“Why are you running from me, Kalani?” Paulo Vetrov asked, amusement lacing his conversational tone. “My father asked me to come speak to you. He misses you.”
Another bolt of fear shot through Kalani at the reminder of her former employer. The emotion threatened to drown her, crushing air from her lungs as certainty grasped at her like choking vines. No way had Anton Vetrov sent a bastard like Paulo to speak to her. She’d warmed Anton’s bed long enough to know better.
His son was the worst sort of monster, a soulless sociopath who terrorized others for the fun of it. Anton set him loose on those who betrayed him as if setting free a hellhound. And like a hellhound, Paulo thrived on the damage he inflicted.
Already, Kalani’s cheek throbbed where he’d struck her. Her eye was swollen shut.
God, why had she answered the door?
Let him wrestle her cell phone away from her?
Both were mistakes. And mistakes were fatal.
“Leave me alone,” she pleaded, the words almost incoherent as she scrambled toward the kitchen, praying for Thomas to appear on her porch. She’d give anything to see him. To tell him she was sorry for kicking him out. That she wanted to be with him, had left Anton’s employ to marry him.
If Paulo caught her, she’d never see Thomas again. He’d never know the truth.
Kalani rounded the kitchen table, reaching blindly for the carved wooden chair tucked against the two-seater. The cool wood glided across her palm. Clutching the edge, she jerked downward, praying the obstacle slowed Paulo down.
The chair hit the floor with a solid thump.
Kalani kept going, the promise of freedom and safety beckoning to her.
No more than five feet stood between her and the back door. If she made it out, she could scream for her neighbors to help her. They’d call the police, and she could tell them everything about Anton, Paulo, and their horrible family.
In ten years as Anton’s paid whore, she’d seen enough – theft, rape, assault. Murder.
How many more would suffer for their greed?
She didn’t know, but their latest scheme was the worst of all.
“You can’t outrun me,” Paulo said from behind her in that same sickening, almost conversational tone.
The chair crashed into the wall half a second before Kalani slammed into the faded wood door.
She clawed at the knob, desperately trying to unlatch the sticky lock.
The salt of her tears burned her injured eye.
Sobs caught in her throat, choking her.
“I told you,” Paulo said, so close his hot breath washed across her neck.
“No,” Kalani cried when the old lock refused to cooperate. “No, no, no.”
Paulo’s arms closed around her, dragging her backward, away from the door and the promise of safety on the other side. He spun her around, one of his hands raised as if to strike her. Even twisted into a sneer, his face was too beautiful, all sharp angles and arresting planes.
Kalani wanted to vomit at the excited gleam lurking in his dark gaze… as if watching her scramble for her life turned him on. She kicked her feet, aiming for him.
Paulo grunted when her bare toes connected with his shin.
His hand came down across the side of her face.
Pain ripped through her cheek, stealing her breath.
“Where are they?” he asked her.
Kalani tried to scream at him to go to hell, but all she managed was a voiceless whimper. She tilted her head back to spit in his face, determined to fight until she couldn’t fight anymore. If he wanted to kill her, she intended to make him work for it.
She wouldn’t go quietly like his other victims. Victims she’d kept silent about for so long, pretending they didn’t exist. Pretending her boss, his son, and the rest of their terrible family weren’t monsters. And for what? A steady paycheck? A life off the streets? A few hits of Ecstasy?
Maybe she deserved death.
“Stupid woman.” Paulo shoved her to the ground.
Pain ripped through her head.
He dropped to his knees, straddling her as she struggled to catch her breath.
In one quick, effortless move, he pinned her arms between his legs and then reached into his pocket to withdraw a small plastic bag. Horror turned Kalani’s vision black for a moment when she caught sight of the syringe inside.
“Oh God, please don’t,” she begged as Paulo loomed above her, his weight immobilizing her.
He ignored her, plunging one hand inside the baggie.
Kalani tried to thrash beneath him, fighting for escape.
But he was too big, too strong.
Despite the desperation fueling her attempts, she barely managed even a wriggle.
Paulo jerked the needle from the bag, and leaned forward, forcing her arm straight before securing it with his knee on her hand. The pain of his weight crushing her fingers barely registered as he searched for a vein.
“No!” Kalani screamed when he found one and pushed the needle into her arm in one fluid move.
“Shh. This won’t hurt at all,” he whispered, depressing the plunger.
Kalani’s arm burned, giving away his lie. She jerked beneath him, unwilling to give up and just let him kill her even if that was what she deserved. She might as well not have bothered, though.
Paulo sat still, seemingly unaffected by her weak struggles.
“No one steals from the Vetrov family,” he said when she stopped fighting him and accepted the inevitable. “While you choke on your own vomit, I’ll find those papers. You’ll die, and no one will even know why, you stupid, little whore.”
“No,” she groaned, the lethal drugs hitting her in a rush. Her heart rate slowed and then sped, faster and faster. Her body jerked involuntarily. Everything around her blurred, fading. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she tried to say, though whether she apologized to God, to Paulo, or to Thomas – who she’d never see again – she didn’t know. And it didn’t really matter anyway. The words were little more than soundless gasps.
Fluid filled her mouth, gagging her.
She scratched at the ground with her free hand, grasping for air, for hope, for another chance, but it didn’t come. After everything she’d done in her life, she should have expected that, she supposed. But she hadn’t.
Death, it seemed, didn’t care if she regretted her choices or wanted to make amends.
And neither did Paulo Vetrov.
Kalani’s fingers twitched beneath his knee, and then lay still.
“Whore,” Paulo whispered, reaching out to stroke her cheek.
His hateful, angelic face was the last thing Kalani saw.