“My name is Nicola. And I don’t know who I am anymore.
I’ve been thrown into a whirlwind of lies and danger. My entire existence is a deceit. Even the illusion of safety has been torn from me, leaving me raw and functioning on pure adrenaline. It seems I can trust only one person. A man…whose forest green gaze makes my already upside down world wobble a little on its axis.
This is my story. It’s a story of hate and greed and violence. But it’s also a story of love and hope and fighting for what you believe in. I can’t let the war I find myself in define me. Or I’ll be no better than the shadowy figures who are trying to take us down.”
“If you love thrillers with strong women who know how to stand up for themselves, with hot bodyguards and secrets to unveil then look no further. You will be happily entertained.”
“Who are you? Why did you kidnap me? My parents don’t have any money if that’s what you’re after.”
He studied the lit firecracker across the seat from him, his respect for her acting abilities growing with every moment. If he didn’t know it was her… “The dark wig and nearly there dress don’t fool me, Elena. Your father’s really gonna be pissed when he finds out where you’ve been.”
She glared at him, her hands fisting as if she were considering going after him. It was all he could do not to smile. He’d never known she could be such an alley cat.
“Stop calling me that! My name is Nicola Roche. Obviously you’ve grabbed the wrong girl.” She smoothed a hand over the impossibly short skirt of the tight red dress, attempting to appear calm. Her long, long legs were tucked demurely together at the knees, but they ended in shoes with four inch tall spiked heels that were considerably less than demure.
The lie fell smoothly from her lush lips, delivered with an earnestness that almost made them believable. But Franco knew her too well. He noted the slight shaking of the pale, tapered fingers and the way the vein in her long, slender throat pulsed when she was agitated. He frowned, narrowing his gaze. “Is that blood?”
He reached for the tiny spec of red and she slapped him away, covering the spot with her hand. “I just scratched myself, that’s all.”
He didn’t believe her. Franco had been around long enough to know what an injection site looked like. “You’ve been injected with something.”
She turned a flashing hazel gaze his way, her lips quivering with outrage. “I told you I scratched myself. It’s none of your business anyway so back off!”
He lifted his hands and sat back, watching her out of the corner of his eye. She stuck a fire-engine red fingernail between her teeth and sat back, her gaze locked on the window and the flashing lights of the city beyond the glass.
She looked different with the uneven brown bob. He realized he liked the look. It was perky and cute. Though her runway model height and looks didn’t normally scream ‘cute’ to him.
Franco noted the way her gaze kept sliding hopefully toward the small, leather bag he’d taken off her and realized she must have a weapon of some kind in there. Gordon had raised her from the age of about five with a fighting spirit, teaching her self-defense and the use of a variety of weaponry. Elena was a talented marksman and was good enough with a katana to beat even her brothers handily in sparring matches. And if all else failed, she knew enough about street fighting to buy her some time until one of her bodyguards could get to her. She was good enough to fight off most attackers. She had to be. Only Franco was immune to her tricks because he’d taught most of them to her. “What were you thinking, Elena?”
She turned a glare on him. “Are you stupid? I told you my name is Nicola. You grabbed the wrong girl.”
Looking at her pretty face, the flushed cheeks and flashing, tear filled hazel eyes, Franco had a brief flash of doubt. But then he shook his head, disgusted with himself that she could still play him. It was probably the dress, and the way it painted her curves, drawing a man’s eye to things he shouldn’t be noticing. An uncomfortable tightness coiled in his belly and he looked away. “You’re not fooling anybody, Elena.”
She expelled a frustrated rush of air and sat back, her gaze going to the window again. He knew her well enough to know she wasn’t really seeing what was outside the glass. He was pretty sure she was hatching an escape plan. Franco fought a smile. The woman was damn annoying. But he couldn’t help admiring her pluck.
A pickup truck flew past, too close, and Franco turned just as a bloom of light flashed from one of the tinted windows. The glass on his side puckered inward, tiny striations spreading quickly from the place where the bullet had impacted it.
He grabbed the back of Elena’s neck and shoved her down to the floor. “Stay down!” He pulled his Glock free of its shoulder holster and lowered the window a few inches, returning fire through the crack. “Mike!”
“On it!” The well-trained driver turned the wheel, sliding into oncoming traffic with practiced ease. Horns blared as the big black car slipped down the exact center of the road, leaving just enough room on either side for oncoming traffic to divert.
Several more bullets found the limo but didn’t penetrate, the special metal and glass holding them back. Franco realized it had to be getting harder for Mike to see with a bouquet of glass blooms marching across the windshield.
Racing along with them on the opposite side of the road, the truck fell back for a moment and Franco took the opportunity to eject one magazine and insert a second one. He threw Elena a glance. Her eyes were wide and her knuckles were white where she clutched the seat.
“Are they shooting at us?” she asked, clearly flummoxed.
“It’ll be okay,” he reassured her. “Mike and I have it under control. Just keep your head down.” She blinked at the gruff command and Franco forced himself to soften his tone. He gave her a smile. “You okay?”
Though that little vein on the side of her neck was throbbing wildly and her eyes looked like they might pop out of her head, she firmed her lips and nodded briskly. “I’m fine. Just get rid of those guys.”
“That’s the plan,” he told her as the pickup slipped back into view. Franco didn’t wait for them to shoot first. He aimed for one of the truck’s oversized tires and fired, missing the first three times and blowing the rear tire closest to them on the forth. The truck shimmied violently as the tire exploded out from under it and plunged sideways, barreling toward a concrete barrier at the side of the road. Franco lifted his phone and snapped a picture of the license as they flew on past.
A moment later, Mike pulled the limo into a wide alley running between two modest homes and stopped, turning in his seat. “You two okay?”
Franco sent the picture he’d taken to Gordon’s private email and slipped back into his seat. He nodded. “Thank god Gordon outfitted this car to withstand bullets.”
Mike laughed. “That’s the understatement of the century.”
Franco ejected the spent magazine and was digging for another one when he realized his seat mate was way too quiet. He turned to look at her and she was leaning forward, one hand on the door handle and the other buried inside her purse.
His pulse fired. “Don’t do it, Elena.”
She shoved the handle down and pulled her hand free, spraying him in the eyes with pepper spray. Agony speared his eyes and he grunted, shoving the heel of one hand into them as he blindly groped in her direction. “Elena!”
A second spray, followed by some very energetic swearing, told him Mike had also been subjected to a dose of Elena’s bad judgment.
The car door opened. “I told you my name is Nicola. And I have a gun so you’d better not follow me.”
Something about the way she said it made Franco fumble for his forgotten Glock. It was missing. “Dammit, woman!”
The door slammed shut and he heard the clack, clack clack of her ridiculous shoes as he grappled for the handle, intending to follow. “Call Gordon,” he instructed the driver.
“How are you going to follow her?” Mike growled.
“I’m just going to follow the sound of those stupid shoes.” He lunged out the door and stopped, listening.
The irritating woman had taken them off.
With a growl of pure frustration, Franco took off running, the world a hazy, unclear wash of vague shapes that swayed and rose up unexpectedly in front of him.
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/revealing-nicola-sam-cheever/1125551874?ean=2940154169070
Sea to Sky Books: http://www.seatoskybooks.com/978-1-63587-971-1-revealing-nicola