Hey you. Yeah, you! I’m getting ready for another release day and want to celebrate!
To share my excitement I’ve uploaded Chapter 1 of COVET, my newest paranormal suspense that will be released on March 25. Hope you enjoy!
I’m not a guy who plays games but right now I felt like a knight on a chessboard. Moving strategically but unable to set up for checkmate. It wasn’t that my patterns were ineffective. It was that fate had decided to throw an extra playing piece on the board.
“She’s going to make a move,” Galen said.
I’d seen the woman he was referring to from the corner of my eye, watching me. The problem was, she wasn’t my target. I downed my beer and ordered another from the bartender. He was juggling two martinis, some pink girly drink, and a white wine while someone at the other end of the bar whined about being cut off. I momentarily wondered if life as a bartender might be a lot simpler and immediately dismissed the thought. I thrived on excitement. That’s why I was here, senses alert, adrenalin pumping, on the edge. Ready. And if it got dangerous . . . well, I was ready for that, too.
“I’m telling you, Bellotti,” Galen said. “She’s interested. More than interested.”
This was going to be a problem. I took the fresh draft from the bartender, slid him a bunch of Euros, and watched the woman through the reflection in the mirror behind the bar. Not bad but I wasn’t interested. I’d already committed to the best. Back home.
“Concentrate on the op,” I said, lowering my voice.
The music pounded in the adjoining, jammed dance floor. People boozed it up and snorted stuff I didn’t want to know about in dark corners of Istanbul’s hottest nightclub.
I buried myself in my beer, keeping true to my cover. “We have a job to do,” I told Galen. “No distractions.”
We were to surveil a local drug dealer, Zev Sahin. Local for Turkey. Not local for Galen and me. I looked the Italian-American tourist, but Galen—a native Australian—somehow inherited Middle Eastern features. That made moving around the country a little easier. The nightclub was top-grade and the food and drink were covered by PROs, the professional military corporation we worked for, and if everything went as planned, in two days the op would be a wrap and I’d be vacationing back home with the love of my life.
Loud laughter broke out at a nearby table and I used the pulsating lights that illuminated the dance floor to scan the nightclub again. I watched the dealer, careful not to draw attention to myself. He sat on a sofa set back in a dark corner, surrounded by women, beefy bodyguards, and empty bottles of Cristal. And I waited for the lynch pin—the person who was going to set the wheels in motion for the night.
“She’s playing with her hair and she’s staring at you, Bellotti. I think she’s going to make a move soon.”
“Wipe that grin off your face or I’ll do it for you,” I told Galen.
“I’m just waiting for the fireworks.” Galen laughed as he picked up his glass. “What line are you going to use this time? You have an arsenal that always seems to piss off women.”
“I don’t piss them off,” I said. “They just aren’t used to honesty. Which doesn’t say a whole lot for relationships or dating these days, does it?”
Galen shrugged. “I think you’re jaded. You walk in with attitude and Armani, turn heads, and then moan about the unwanted attention you get.”
I studied the two of us in the mirror, both in designer clothes, both trying to blend in with the upscale crowd. Only Galen didn’t have the harshness on his face that I did. People probably looked at me tonight and saw someone who wanted to break a face. In reality, it was exhaustion. I really needed that damned vacation.
“You’re making too big a deal out of this,” I said.
I was going to say more but stopped when I saw our lynch pin walk into the club. She positioned herself near a granite column off to the side of the dance floor, all long legs, blonde hair, and killer body in a tight blue dress.
Lady in Blue slinked through the crowd, every man’s head turning as she moved. Galen stilled and said, “Wow.”
“We’re a go,” I said, setting down the beer. I glanced at Sahin once more through the mirror’s reflection.
“Do you think this will work?” Galen asked.
“It has to. If we’re to get into Zev Sahin’s compound and warehouse, we need that keycard he keeps in his wallet. His weak spot for women will get us that card.”
“Poor damned SOB has no idea what’s coming,” Galen said as Lady in Blue moved in. Then he sighed, had a little more of the vodka he’d been nursing, and shrugged it off. “You realize that this will be the easy part compared to getting him to turn.”
“That’s not our problem,” I reminded him, staring him down. Galen knew it was all about the rest of our team, the DEA, and the U.S. Government. All we had to do was get the card after the wallet was lifted and make the drop, and then the rest of our guys would get into the warehouse and take it down. After that, we stepped out of the picture.
And my vacation with Lottie began. With brisk walks on the beach, huddling in a warm blanket, and relaxing with a bottle of red. I shook my head. Who the hell was I kidding? I intended to keep Lottie in bed for a whole week.
“Do you think it will be that easy?” Galen asked.
I grinned, knowing Lottie wanted that week in bed, too. “Damned straight.”
“I hope you’re right.”
I realized Galen was talking about the op and that I’d let my mind wander. Not good. In this business, distraction led to death.
“She’s moving in, Bellotti,” Galen said.
Lady in Blue strode toward Sahin, bending over to adjust the strap on her high-heeled shoe, giving him enough bare leg and bare breast to catch his attention. It worked. Sahin smiled at her and beckoned her over with a bottle of Cristal. She cocked her head, giving him just enough coy to reel him in.
A warm body brushed against my arm. I ignored it, watching the way Lady in Blue moved and keeping Sahin just inside my field of vision. A hand settled on my bicep and squeezed. It was the woman who had been trying to get my interest.
“Hi,” she said, a smile on her face and in her voice.
“Hi,” I said, not smiling at all.
“My name is Yvette.” She was decked out in red hair and red dress, and was now officially baggage. “Mind if I join you?” She pulled up a spare barstool between Galen and me.
Past Yvette, Lady in Blue nuzzled onto Sahin’s lap. Sahin snagged a waitress, said something to her, and stuffed a wad of Euros down her cleavage. She strutted away, happy with the fat tip.
Yvette snuggled onto the barstool, blocking my view.
“Yvette,” I said firmly, “I’m not looking for company.”
“Oh.” She seemed put off at first but quickly recovered. I got the feeling I’d just become a challenge and she leaned in closer. C-cups, pressed hard against my arm.
That gave me a clear view of the action again. Lady in Blue slipped her arms around Sahin, slid off his jacket, and ran her hands over his chest and stomach. Good. All she had to do next was distract him the way only a woman like her could, snatch the wallet, and pretend to break outside for a smoke, where I’d meet her to make the exchange.
“You’re the hottest guy in here,” Yvette said, leaning in and giving me a clear view of a nicely filled red and black bra. “You alone?”
Galen tapped the bar to get my attention and flicked his eyes to a position behind him. His six o’clock.
My gaze slid past Yvette’s other shoulder. Another woman, dressed in a black pantsuit, stood at the entrance to the dance floor where Lady in Blue had been earlier. Only this woman’s body language said she was ready to kill, and I immediately knew who the victim would be.
It was Sahin’s wife. I looked back at Yvette. “I saw you making the moves on that Navy guy over there,” and I jerked my head to where he sat with a bunch of his friends.
She looked at him then looked back at me. “I’m not interested in him.”
“Yeah.” I grinned. “But I am.”
Yvette’s mouth opened and stayed that way.
“Should we move in?” Galen asked.
Yvette shoved away, probably thinking Galen was talking about the Navy guy.
I watched Sahin’s wife weave through the crowd to her husband, whose head was buried in Lady in Blue’s breasts. One of his bodyguards saw the wife coming and tapped Sahin’s shoulder. Sahin ignored him.
Sahin’s wife stood, hands on hips, staring down at her husband. Then, without warning, she picked up a bottle of Cristal and slammed it on the table and started screaming. She took another and smashed it on the floor, then another. The loud pops startled the crowd, someone yelled “she’s got a gun!” and the place went berserk. People scrambled to get out, shoving off the dance floor, jamming into the doorways, and screaming for safety. Bouncers pushed against the tide of patrons, yelling for them to calm down, and rounding them up like cattle.
Sahin barked at his wife in Turkish. His wife lunged for Lady in Blue and swung at her with another bottle. Lady in Blue dodged the attack, a foot slid out from under her, and she went down, her head clipping the coffee table. She didn’t move.
“Watch my back,” I told Galen.
“I’ll go after Blue,” he said. “You get that wallet.”
I nodded and took off.
Sahin argued with his wife, surrounded by the bodyguards. I moved in fast, knowing I had one shot at this. Screw it up and I blew my cover. Succeed and I still had a career. I strode toward the group of them, eyes on Lady in Blue but my mind on that wallet. One of the bodyguards slammed a hand to my chest, stopping me. He said something in Turkish that I didn’t understand but I got the message. I wasn’t getting any closer.
“She’s hurt,” I said, pointing a finger to our spook on the floor. “She needs help.”
I made to move in again but the guy put a gun to my head. I stared at him, calm on the outside, heart pounding within. I held my hands up in surrender. No need to piss him off. Let him think he had me. I just needed another plan.
Galen was one step ahead of me. He muscled his way in to Lady in Blue, distracting the bodyguards. The gun that was on me swung to Galen. I grabbed Sahin’s jacket, swiped the wallet and threw the jacket back on the chair. I kept going, not breaking stride, slipping the wallet into my pocket. I didn’t look back.
I was almost at the door when a gun fired, followed by a heavily accented shout. “Stop him! Stop him!”
I blew out the entrance and took off, hustling through the panicked crowd. Another gun fired and police sirens sounded in the distance. I made a left down a small street then a right into an alley, jumping a garbage can, hurtling over a short wall, and disappearing into the neighborhood. If Galen didn’t make it to our backup rendezvous point, I had to get to the safe house and that was five miles away. And right now, I had no idea if Galen and Lady in Blue were still alive.
I skidded past a corner, wondering if I should take the chance and call an alert into HQ, when I heard screeching tires. I backed up, pressed myself against a wall, and realized who it was. Galen in a Toyota. He threw open the passenger door and I jumped in, slamming the door shut as Galen jammed the gas pedal.
“You get it?” he asked, swerving through a turn then dropping our speed so we didn’t draw attention.
I nodded. “Is Lady in Blue okay?”
Galen hugged another turn. “She will be. She came to when the gunshots were fired.”
I blew out a sigh of relief. It wasn’t the first time a distraction job had taken a bad turn, but it was still a worry. “And the cops?”
“All at the nightclub. But we will have to lose the car.” He used his cell phone and dialed our contact, making arrangements for cleanup.
I pulled out Sahin’s wallet and lifted the keycard. “Payday,” I said, holding it up.
“Mommie Dearest says we should leave the wallet and card with the car.” Galen disconnected the call. “They will pick it all up at the Starbucks near the safe house in ten minutes.”
I drew in a breath and held it, forcing my heart and my lungs to calm down. Another close call. I loved this shit.
“You love this shit way too much,” Galen said, glancing my way.
I had known Galen all of three months and he was far too good at reading my mind already. I was trying to get my head wrapped around the fact that we were connected in a way that didn’t make sense, but that didn’t mean I had to like it. Ignoring him, I sank into the seat, letting the adrenalin wear off.
“Let’s see what else we’ve got on this guy.” Inside his wallet I found a black American Express, a MasterCard, and over five thousand Euros in the billfold. A picture was tucked in with his identification. I pulled it out and held it up to catch the light from passing street lamps.
It was a photo of the love of my life kissing another man.
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