Hi everyone!  I hope your holiday weekend was a blast!  I was at the local ConQuest 43 conference, a gathering of Sci-Fi, Fantasy fans and authors with a splash of Paranormal Romance thrown in.  More details to come on that this week.  Suffice to say it was an experience!

As you know, LIE TO ME's release date is rapidly approaching.  This is the second Black Opal book, written under my alter ego -- Tori St. Claire.  To gear up for July 3rd, I've decided that each week I'm going to give you all a peek at the opening of the book.  These posts (through the 1st chapter) will then be moved to my Tori St. Claire website and serve as the extended opening.  We'll have a brief break with a visit from Katherine Grey, but by the time July 3rd rolls around, you'll have the first few chapters here!

Warning:  The excerpted material below is suitable for mature audiences only.  It contains graphic content inappropriate for persons under the age of 18.

A man of action…

After helping to break up a Russian human trafficking ring as part of the CIA’s elite Black Opal team, Alexei Nikanova’s newest assignment is to rescue one of the stolen women and return her to her father. When he arrives in Dubai, he discovers his target is Sasha Zablosky—a woman he knows all too well, and who has haunted him ever since their unforgettable nights spent together in Moscow, two years earlier. But he finds Sasha reluctant to leave her Sheik, the only true friend she’s ever known. Only Alexei can’t give her a choice.

A woman of deception…

With their yearning roused by intrigue, Alexei and Sasha can no longer resist and spend night after night in forbidden pleasure. Soon Alexei finds himself falling for her even as he battles a shadowy menace to protect her. But Sasha is no innocent. She has a past darker than she could ever admit or that Alexei could ever forgive. And it is about to explode into her life once more. Now, as the lies they tell themselves—and each other—pull them deeper into a perilous desire, what began as simple passion becomes a love certain to destroy them and end the lives of countless innocents.



Two Years Earlier...

She 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. Moving . . .

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.”

Orders. 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.”

(Continued next Tuesday.)


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