Title: Beauty and the Assassin
Author: Nadia Lee
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense
Release Date: January 7, 2022
A sociopath has stalked me mercilessly for eight years. It’s only a matter of time before he kills me. Until I meet Tolyan.
He bursts into my life like a god of vengeance, seething with raw power and danger, trained to protect—or kill. He has a scowl for the world, but for some reason, he’s gentle with me and the combination of deadly power leashed only for me makes my heart flutter.
One night, he kills a man and I realize he’s the answer I’ve been searching for, if I can convince him to help.
Ten years ago, a man murdered the mother of my child. It’s time he pays. And I’ve finally found what he wants—Angelika.
Those wide innocent eyes and a smart mouth that makes me laugh are things I love about her. But she’s going to be my perfect bait, willing and obedient. All I have to do is not fall for her…
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“Look, I know I sound crazy, but please. I’m not.” Her words come out fast and desperate. “My stepbrother’s a psychopath. He’s been harassing me, and the police say they can’t do anything until he does something more physically threatening. Apparently, playing mind games doesn’t count. He has to do something concrete.”
That’s always the case. Mental torture is far superior, and it’s much harder for law enforcement to deal with, especially when the target keeps moving. It’s virtually impossible to build a case among so many different jurisdictions. That’s one reason the most prolific serial killers generally kill across state lines.
Roy Wilks is a cunning little jackal. It’s so simple to break a person. And you don’t even have to touch them to do that.
Just look at this girl. She wouldn’t be asking a man she barely knows for help if she hadn’t been driven almost to her breaking point. For all I know, she might be broken already.
“I can pay you,” she adds. “I have some money saved up. Just in case.” Just in case I need to hire somebody to take my brother out is what she really wants to say.
I raise my eyebrows. The last time I checked, she had nine thousand and fifty-six dollars and twenty-two cents in her bank account. According to the statements over the years, she’s been saving a little bit at a time, despite working minimum-wage jobs.
It came with sacrifice. She doesn’t go to movies, doesn’t go out, doesn’t buy anything except the bare essentials—clearance-rack clothes and shoes—and she eats only what’s cheapest. Given her reaction last night, I’m pretty sure she skips meals when she can.
The notion puts a nasty taste in my mouth. People who don’t need killing should eat.
“I can give you all of it,” she says, then nods for emphasis. “It’s all yours.”
“I don’t want your money,” I say.
Her chin comes up as fire sparks in her whiskey gaze. “Look, it’s not a small amount. I have almost ten grand.”
“I don’t care if you have ten billion.”
Her fingers tighten. Her hand is barely large enough to circle half my forearm, but she’s trying her best to hold on to me.
For a reason I can’t quite identify, I like that. And because I like it, I want to be a jerk about what she’s saying even though I’m going to say yes at the end anyway. I don’t want her knowing how much I enjoy this small contact.
Before I can say anything, her mouth firms. “Okay. I hate to have to use this, but… I know what you did last night.”
I give her a purposefully salacious smile. “I should update my security. I didn’t know you were watching me masturbate in the shower.”
Her face flushes.
I let my smile grow wider. “I came hard. Twice. Hope you enjoyed it. If I’d known you were watching, I would’ve—”
“No!” She hunches her shoulders as though just realizing how loud she was. “I meant,” she hisses, “I saw you at the house. The man in the news today who supposedly committed suicide. You…suicided him, didn’t you?”
Suicided. When did that become a verb? “You were there? At the house?”
“Yes.” She tries for a hard-bitten stare.
This is an amusing turn of events. I didn’t expect her to attempt to blackmail me. What’s next? Trying to strangle me into submission? She just might, from the desperation in her eyes. Whatever she got in the package from her stepbrother freaked the hell out of her.
Strangely enough, I want her to try to put her hands on my bare skin, even if it’s around my neck. Of course I’m too tall for her to strangle me while standing, so she’d have to pull me down to the ground, then straddle me, her inner thighs pressed tightly against my sides. As she strained—futilely—her hot breath would fan my face, her eyes burning into mine. When I’d had enough, it’d be child’s play to flip her over, watch her gasp while she was spread underneath my much bigger and stronger body. And I’d enjoy the realization dawning in those whiskey eyes that she was utterly in my power.
“I’m very willing to go to the police.” Her words break my thoughts.
I almost laugh. She honestly believes she was good enough to tail me without my noticing. Either she’s lost her better judgment, or she’s too desperate to think clearly.
“And I’ll tell them everything I saw,” she says, her hands in tight fists.
I let out a soft sigh. Her threat is about as serious as a kitten smacking a lion with its tiny paw. “And after I fed you dinner last night.”
Her throat works as she swallows. She shifts her weight and looks like she wishes she could sink into the concrete. Ashamed, aren’t you, little fawn? You have a functioning conscience. A liability in my business.
“That’s…different.” She can’t meet my gaze. Her face is red, too.
She’s cute. “Ah, yes. Say thank you for the sandwich, then run to the cops and put the man in jail. Two very different activities.”
“I don’t want to do that.”
“I don’t know what kind of person you think I am, but I’m not for hire. I’m too busy with my job at the foundation as an assistant.”
Confusion crosses her pretty face. She probably thought I worked in security. Cute. Very cute.
I pull out some money from my pocket, then smack it square into her hand. “Here. Take this and buy yourself something nice.”
“Ow!” She gasps, but not because I just placed three hundred bucks in her hand. “What did you…?” she says numbly. She tries to look at her hand, but her legs start to fold.
I catch her and pick her up, like Prince Charming carrying his Cinderella. She grows increasingly limp, her eyes unfocused. “Wha…”
“Don’t worry.” I smile. “The needle’s very thin. You won’t even find the hole when you wake up.”
“I could strip, too.”
And talk to him while he’s sitting there naked? Given how shameless he is, I doubt he’d cover himself. No. He’d sit there, one ankle over the other knee, and smoke his cigar and sip his water, like he has the world at his feet.
“That’s…okay,” I say finally.
“If you’re certain. Just let me know if you change your mind. I wouldn’t want a guest feeling uncomfortable.”
If you wanted me to feel comfortable, you’d give me my clothes back! But the words stay trapped in my mouth. Right now, that isn’t the point.
The point is, I’m in his home. Under his control. I could put up the best fight of my life, but it would be about as effective as a mouse fighting a panther. I really wish I’d been able to snag a knife from the kitchen.
“So. Now that you can’t just run off to the authorities when you hear answers you don’t like, talk. Tell me why you came to me.”
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Nadia Lee writes sexy, emotional contemporary romance. Born with a love for excellent food, travel and adventure, she has lived in four different countries, kissed stingrays, been bitten by a shark, ridden an elephant and petted tigers.
Currently, she shares a condo overlooking a small river and sakura trees in Japan with her husband and son. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading books by her favorite authors or planning another trip.
Stay in touch with her via her website, http://www.nadialee.net, or her blog http://www.nadialee.net/blog