Dear fabulous ARC reader! Thank you so much for supporting, reviewing and promoting my books! As a little thank you, I’ve got the start of Kissing Games for you below. Don’t forget we’re now putting our ARC team together so if you’d like to jump onboard, click here!
Charlie scanned the area. They were almost home free. This was what he’d trained for: protect lives, save lives, take lives. He was on high alert, muscles primed. He pushed through the crowds, his body shielding hers. Through the glass front doors, the car waited, engine running. Nearly there. He shouldered the door open and hurried her outside.
She stopped, holding the package out for him. He ignored her, pulling the back door of the car wide. ‘Get in, ma’am.’
‘No, ma’am,’ he said, his eyes fixed on the street, the people, the danger. His asset was another’s target. ‘Get in the car, ma’am.’
The woman pursed her lips. ‘Do your job,’ she hissed.
The pressure was rising. The longer they were out here, the greater the risk. ‘I am doing my job. Now get in the fucking car. Ma’am.’
She dropped the package at his feet, got in and slammed the door. He heard her shouting at the driver, then the car screeched away. He was stranded.
He bent down and picked up what she’d dropped.
‘Hey, sexy!’ A group of teenage girls giggled at him. One took out her phone. He moved and they ran off through the crowds. A passing van driver wolf-whistled. He looked at what he was holding: an oversized, pink, fluffy, heart-shaped pillow, the words ‘Hey, Sexy’ emblazoned on it – a present from Olga Petrova for her oligarch husband, Igor. Charlie sighed and strode away from the front door of Harrods. It was a fifteen-minute walk to their Belgravia mansion. Five minutes to prepare himself.
Once again, he was in the shit.
Igor Petrov sat behind his desk, elbows resting on the expanse of white Carrara marble, pudgy fingers playing idly with a razor-sharp letter opener. He stared Charlie down.
Charlie stared back.
Igor looked like a secret military experiment: part bull, part bear, and all berserker. The sleeves of his tailor-made silk shirt were rolled up revealing thick forearms covered with coarse black hair. A Rolex glinted around his wrist. The folds of his giant neck mirrored the grooves in his forehead. His eyes, cold points of darkness.
‘Mr Hamilton,’ he began, his voice low and guttural. ‘What am I to do with you? When you disrespect my wife, you disrespect me.’
Charlie bristled. He wasn’t the fucking problem here. He remained silent. Whatever he said would be wrong.
‘I am a businessman,’ Igor continued, opening his hands wide, the letter opener gleaming with intent. ‘I choose the best and expect them to perform. You,’ he gestured to him, ‘are one of the best. But …’ He sighed theatrically. ‘You came with a certain …’
Here we go.
‘Reputation. Very popular with the ladies.’
A muscle twitched in Charlie’s jaw and the side of Igor’s mouth turned up. Fuck. Charlie relaxed his stance. He’d been up against bigger bastards than this. He wouldn’t rise to the bait.
Igor leaned forwards, the letter opener now tight in his fist. ‘I see the way you look at Tatiana. She is my pearl. If—’
‘I have a girlfriend,’ Charlie spat, clamping his mouth shut before putting Igor straight about his coke-snorting, vapid little pearl of a daughter who kept trying to get into his bedroom at night.
Igor turned his attention to the tip of the letter opener, using the point to clean his fingernails. ‘Ah yes, Caroline …’
What the fuck?
Igor’s dark eyes flicked up to meet his. ‘Caroline Eleanor Baskerville. A married woman.’
Charlie clenched his fists.
‘Enough!’ barked Igor, slapping the letter opener on the desk with a clatter. He sighed again and sat back in the leather chair, hands behind his head. ‘Charlie, synochik. You can’t be a playboy all your life. When are you going to settle down?’ He reached a fat digit towards the intercom on the desk. ‘Because if you can’t,’ he shrugged, ‘the only job left for you will be policing copper mines in the Congo.’
He pressed a button. ‘Bring the car.’
Igor lifted his hips to free a phone from his trouser pocket and opened it up. He flicked in a dismissive motion at Charlie as he put it to his hairy ear. ‘Mischka! Kak dela?’
By the time Charlie reached his room, his rage was volcanic. He slammed the door and kicked off his shoes. He needed a shower to wash off the filth of the Petrov family. He felt soiled.
He knew about Caroline … Charlie shook his head at his own naivety. Of course he did.
Petrov would know everything about him. And her. He pulled off his clothes, throwing them to the floor. He wanted to burn them. Scour everything in his life touched by the Petrovs.
He stalked into the shower and turned it on, letting the full force of the cold water batter his face. Ice-cold needles pointing out his stupidity, over and over again. Resting his forehead on the wall tiles, he let the water flow down his back.
Is this my life? Always judged by my looks and what happened with Caroline? By what happened before that?
He turned off the shower and got out, staring at his reflection dispassionately. He filled the mirror. Six foot, four inches of battle-hardened, gym-sculpted muscle, decorated with tattoos. His thick chestnut hair was cropped short, his green eyes hard, his jaw set tight with frustration. Water dripped down the inked planes of his body, following the contours of his chest. Pulling a folded towel from the rail, he rubbed himself dry, watching the movement of the muscles under his skin. In the army he’d always wanted to be the best. The fittest, the fastest, the strongest. But his killer body also came with killer looks. ‘Pretty boy’, ‘player’. People decided who they thought he was before he’d even opened his mouth.
Then he met Caroline, his commanding officer’s daughter …
His bedroom door opened and closed with a click.
Fuck’s sake! Would she ever leave him alone? That’s what happens when you don’t lock your door, dickhead. He wrapped the towel tightly around his hips and sighed. He’d made the same mistake twice before and wasn’t doing it again. Even if he could see past Tatiana’s façade, any physical attraction he might have felt was rendered void by her personality. Entitled, arrogant, stupid. Her mother’s beauty may have lain under the contoured layers of make-up, but she had all the charm of her father.
‘Char-lie?’ A soft, sing-song voice drifted in from his bedroom. ‘Are you in there?’
He tensed, icy fingers of fear scraping up the back of his neck. No fucking way. It couldn’t be. He glanced around the sparse bathroom. No robe. Fuck!
‘Charlie, darling.’ The voice was coming closer. ‘I wanted to say sorry.’
He wrenched open the door.
There, standing in a thin silk robe, her nipples pointing straight through at him, and holding an oversized, pink, fluffy, heart-shaped pillow, stood Olga Petrova, his boss’s wife.
‘Hey, sexy,’ she purred.
I hope you enjoyed the start of Kissing Games! If you’d like to be an ARC reader for this one, sign up here!
And you can read more about Kissing Games here!