The Russian Temptation by Nikki Navarre
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Tone: Sexy, smart, splashy, glamorous, seething with international intrigue
Heat Level: hot
Elements/Tags: spy romance, international intrigue, Russia, espionage, thriller, spy thriller, romantic suspense
Publisher: River Valley Publishing
Publishing Date: October 1, 2013 (ebook), November 1, 2013 (print)
Series: Foreign Affairs, Book Two
Format: Print and ebook (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords)
She wants the truth. He wants her.
Ambassador and scientist Skylar Rossi is determined to expose security breaches in an illegal Russian chemical weapons plant. Her mission is personal. She’s spent a lifetime atoning for the sins of her father, an international arms dealer. But the moment she steps off the Trans-Siberian train in Khimgorod—a city that doesn’t exist on any map—she’s alone, isolated and deep in enemy territory. She can trust no one, especially her so-called security escort, the refined and lethal Nikolai Markov.
Ex-KGB agent Nikolai Markov’s assignment is to keep Russia’s dirty little secrets out of Skylar’s hands…by any means necessary. But Skylar Rossi is more than just the mark. She’s responsible for his brother’s death and it’s payback time. So why is he suddenly feeling protective about a woman he might have to kill?
The stakes quickly turn deadly, and Skylar needs Nikolai to keep her safe. But their own chemistry may be far more dangerous…
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Meet Author Nikki Navarre:
DOSSIER FOR NIKKI NAVARRE DECLASSIFIED
Subject: Nikki Navarre
Assignment: Double Agent
Cover: Diplomat. Playgirl. Author of The Russian Temptation.
Nikki Navarre is the author of the award-winning Foreign Affairs series and the sinister twin of unsuspecting historical romance author Laura Navarre. In her other life, Nikki is a diplomat who’s lived in Russia and works on weapons of mass destruction issues. In the line of duty, she’s been trapped in an elevator in a nuclear power plant and has stalked the corridors of facilities churning out nerve agent and other apocalyptic weapons. In this capacity, she meets many of the world’s most dangerous men.
Inspired by the perilous realities of her real life, Nikki writes romantic suspense set in glamorous international locales and laced with political intrigue. Her literary credentials are suspiciously similar to those of her innocent twin. A member of Romance Writers of America’s Published Author Network (PAN), winner of the 2012 Pacific Northwest Writers Association award for romance and many other awards, Nikki holds an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine, an M.A. in National Security Policy from The George Washington University, and other alarming credentials.
Based in an island compound in the Pacific Northwest with her screenwriter husband and two Siberian cats as accomplices, she divides her time between her writing career and other adventures for U.S. government clients. Her notorious exploits in the world of diplomacy will get her in trouble one of these days.
The Russian Temptation may be the last mistake she ever makes.
“I hope you understand, Dr. Rossi.” Halting at the guard shanty, Nikolai Markov pivoted toward her. “Any violation of these rules will result in your deportation. In addition, you may face other… consequences. Regrettably one can never be certain, in such a provincial region, whether the local militsia will recognize diplomatic immunity—or choose to ignore it.”
“That would make my government very unhappy, Mr. Markov,” Skylar said softly.
Now the bastard was openly threatening her. No doubt he believed, like many Russians in this patriarchal society, that a woman was easily intimidated. Sooner or later he’d realize, as his counterparts in Moscow had done, that underestimating her was a mistake.
She removed her black diplomatic passport from the travel pouch suspended around her neck inside her coat—a security precaution that had paid off in spades when her purse was snatched. As she passed it through the tiny window to the unsmiling matron who manned the post, the back of her neck tingled.
Markov stood at her shoulder, clearly intent on the exchange, close enough to feel his warm breath brushing her nape.
“Skylar Dane Rossi, age thirty-five,” he murmured. The unpleasant woman behind the glass darted them a suspicious look as she thumbed through the passport. “Named after your Italian father, if I’m not mistaken. The same Dane Rossi who served five years in your American prisons for illicit arms dealing, wasn’t it, before his lawyers overturned the conviction? According to some rather unflattering coverage in Newsweek, he was convicted of selling chemical weapons precursors to North Korea.”
Burrowed deep in her pocket for warmth, her hand knotted. This wasn’t the first time someone had connected her with her notorious father, but it was the first time a Russian had confronted her with it during a diplomatic mission. Usually they were hungry for the foreign assistance funds she oversaw, and eager to engage in peaceful research with her organization.
Swallowing against the burning ache in her throat—the lump that still rose when she thought about her father—she pinned her gaze impersonally on the colorful visas filling her passport.
“You’ve done your homework, Mr. Markov. If you know the story, you’ll also know my father passed away eighteen years ago. His police record is ancient history. I like to think he’s gone to a better place.”
“Your father was a very well-known figure in certain circles.” He leaned forward, breath teasing her ear. “Gone but not forgotten, Dr. Rossi.”
Panic fluttered in her chest. Why was he raising this? The bastard probably wanted to throw her off-stride.
She cleared her throat and squared her shoulders. “Aren’t there other security regulations you need to brief me? When I visit a closed city, I’m usually assigned a permanent security escort.”
“Indeed. All visitors are prohibited from leaving the hotel without a security escort. In this case, your permanent escort is myself.”
He paused. “I hope this is not unpleasant for you?”
“I’m certain I’ll enjoy your company,” she said sweetly.
Porca puzzola! This jerk was really starting to annoy her.
When the matron behind the window stamped her passport, satisfaction surged through her—along with another pang of apprehension. Despite the obstructionism of the man behind her, she was finally making headway. From the hotel, she’d call her office. Once they knew she’d arrived, it became much more difficult for the FSB or the Chemical Munitions Agency to make her disappear.
As she passed through the steel turnstile, she addressed Markov over her shoulder.
“I do hope you’re not too bored or confused by our rather technical discussions on the science of chemical weapons. The lexicon can be a bit daunting for a layman. Have you brushed up on your organic chemistry, Mr. Markov?”
“I know very little about chemical weapons which are, after all, banned by an international treaty to which Russia adheres.” Though he appeared unruffled, a glint in his eyes told her he hadn’t missed her attempt to put him in his place. “You’ll also find that the scientific experts stationed here know nothing about these prohibited technologies.”
And perhaps there’s a bridge in Brooklyn you’d like to sell me.
“Then I trust our discussions will prove enlightening.” Tucking her passport safely away, she followed Ilya onto the snowy expanse of the parking lot, deserted under the harsh glare of floodlights. Directly before her, a black Volga sedan sputtered. Artur hunched behind the wheel.
With a courtly bow, Markov opened the vehicle’s back door.
Briefly she hesitated, struggling against a last violent instinct for self-preservation. Visiting a closed city always knotted her tummy, because she walked in places no American had ever been meant to visit. Even with every i dotted and every t crossed, she was too conscious that the biological and chemical agents cultivated in these Soviet-era laboratories were lethal. And the Soviet-era safety precautions were laughable.
Unfortunately, the paranoia induced by six months of living under constant surveillance in Moscow hadn’t helped.
“If you please, Dr. Rossi.” Markov’s gaze assessed her.
After his initial determination to corral her onto the train, her permanent escort’s courtesy suddenly seemed a bit too obliging. Still, balking at the last second would gain her nothing. She’d never find a taxi in this godforsaken outpost. Nor could she stand shivering on the platform, slowly freezing to death, for seventeen hours until the next train arrived.
Drawing an unsteady breath, she climbed into the back seat and placed her attaché case across her lap. The unsociable Ilya heaved her suitcase carelessly into the trunk and wedged his hulking form up front.
Markov closed her door gently and circled the car to slip in beside her. Though he was a slender man and the Volga spacious, suddenly the back seat felt crowded. In the enclosed space, a whiff of his fragrance curled around her: a masculine blend of amber and cedar wood, cut with the tang of citrus. Sophisticated like the man who wore it, that warm and layered scent. She wondered what else was hidden beneath that enigmatic FSB façade.
Discreetly she edged closer to the window and put a few more inches between them.
As the Volga churned through the snowy lot, snowflakes began to swirl through the Arctic night. When they turned onto a narrow road, a blaze of headlights swept through the car as another vehicle turned onto the road behind them. This barely-there road through the Siberian landscape seemed as deserted and devoid of amenities as the moon. The impenetrable blackness of the Siberian night closed in around her.
The elegant Mr. Markov sat quietly beside her, seemingly at ease. But she tingled with nerves under his watchful gaze.
Clearing her throat beneath that subtle regard, she snapped open her attaché case and pulled out her crowded itinerary. Its contents had been scrupulously negotiated with Anton Belov and the Chemical Munitions Agency in Moscow—a process that had taken weeks—but she knew all bets were off now. With Dr. Belov out of commission, she’d have to roll the dice and take her chances.
Parking her black-framed reading glasses on her nose and switching on her penlight, she flipped through her schedule. But it was difficult to concentrate under the intent gaze of the man beside her. However long she was allowed to stay in Khimgorod, evidently she’d be spending that time in his company.
With a sigh, she tucked her glasses away and initiated another effort at rapport.
“Have you worked long in Khimgorod?” She offered a friendly smile.
“No.” He spoke without a flicker of warmth or any other human emotion.
She slanted him a look. He arched his brows, as if daring her to try again.
“Where was your previous post—if it’s not a secret?”
“Minsk.” He stared back, his gaze curious. The electric headlights from the car behind them illuminated half his face, and cast the rest in shadow. His eyes were black as the Arctic night—and just as unknowable.
“Minsk is a lovely city,” she said, voice edged in challenge. Though she tried to camouflage her reaction, this guy’s taciturnity was really getting under her skin. If there was anything she disliked, it was outright rudeness. “The Belarusians are quite hospitable people, I’ve found. Don’t you agree?”
“That depends on your perspective, Dr. Rossi,” he murmured.
I’ll bet it does, she thought wryly. If you did the same work in Minsk that you’re doing here, the Belarusians would despise you—if they knew about it. Quite possibly, his hosts hadn’t known a thing about him.
No more than she did herself.
Intrigued? Comment here for a chance to win a print or e-book copy of The Russian Seduction, Book One in the Foreign Affairs series. Skylar and Nikolai’s adventures continue at http://amzn.to/1caeAtA
You can also read my review HERE.
One commenter per the total number of stops will be gifted a digital or print copy of THE RUSSIAN SEDUCTION, book one of the Foreign Affairs series. Please follow the Rafflecopter directions.
Additionally, Nikki has a $50 electronic gift certificate giveaway going on on her Facebook page in celebration of the release and her upcoming Facebook event!