We romance writers are a supportive lot who truly enjoy celebrating the successes of our friends. So it gives me great pleasure to announce a release day for my Maryland Romance Writers chapter mate, Jamie Michele. Trust me, you are going to WANT this book (I pre-ordered, and can't wait for it to arrive today!)
AN AFFAIR OF VENGEANCE: Winner of a 2009 Golden Heart as "ROMANCE OR RETRIBUTION". A thrilling romantic suspense in which a daring intelligence officer pursues a mysterious Scotsman into the lair of the reclusive madman who killed her parents.
Undercover CIA officer Evangeline Quill stalks Oliver McCrea for one reason: the handsome scoundrel can lead her to the untouchable shipping magnate who ordered her parents’ assassination. She doesn’t want to see the pain in his golden eyes. Compassion for an outlaw, however chivalrous he may be, won’t help her exact revenge on her nemesis.
But Evangeline is the first good thing that battle-weary McCrea has touched in five long years, and even though he knows he should evade her pursuit, he can’t bring himself to turn away from her. She reminds him of the man he used to be, a man he isn’t sure he can ever be again, not with the ugliness of the underworld slowly disintegrating his humanity.
The closer they get, the hotter their forbidden desire becomes, but they’ll need more than passion to escape a deadly trap set by the criminal mastermind who manipulates both their lives.
Here's an excerpt to get you even more jazzed for this book:
Penard plopped down in a chair and grinned. “Now, tell me. How can I help the British kill each other today?”
The man had no sense of decorum, but at least he got to the point. McCrea did, too. “Half the last shipment was unusable. Rusted.”
“Impossible!” Penard threw his hands into the air. “I reviewed the containers myself before they left France. État parfait, perfect condition!”
“So I’m a liar?”
“No, no. It’s just that the problem is your salty English air, no? Je veux dire, les fusils—I mean, the rifles were fine when they left, bad when they arrived. Maybe they don’t like the boats you put them on. What more can I do?”
“You can try again. And don’t waste my bloody time.”
“Bah.” Penard shrugged. “These things happen. We again come up with a new deal. What do you want? I get you anything, best price in Europe. Certainement. I guarantee it.”
“I want what I ordered. New Russian AKs, not used Chinese knockoffs.”
“Chinese? Chinese!” Penard gaped, rolling his eyes to the ceiling. “You get nothing but the best from me. Straight from the heart of old Mother Russia!”
He was lying, and McCrea had proof. “The Russians know how to spell.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The guns were inscribed ‘Made on Russia’ instead of ‘Made in Russia.’”
“That is all?”Penard leaned back in his chair and flashed a broad white smile. “One word? One letter? Une erreur simple. Who cares?”
“I care. I don’t pay you for replicas.”
Penard lifted his huge shoulders again. “This is not state-of-the-art weaponry we’re talking about here. No one expects AKs to come direct from Kalashnikov anymore. Chinese, Afghan, Russian; who cares? All good guns that work. And I bring them to you at the best price, no?”
“It’s not a good price if half the shipment won’t fire.”
Penard waved a hand through the hazy air. “A bit of oil will solve that.”
“I’m not running a maid service. My boss is displeased.”
“And so is mine! Believe me. This is not good news for me, either. Dites-moi. Tell me. How we can fix this? You want more AKs? I get more AKs. You want something else? I see what I can do. But let’s work it out tonight.”
McCrea didn’t answer at once, struck by a detail in Penard’s pleading speech. Penard had said that his boss was unhappy. He’d never before admitted that anyone lay between him and the weapons production, always boasting that he was the man in charge of it all from supply to street. This was the opening he’d been hoping for—the chance to move up the ladder and take out a higher rung. McCrea needed to know who Penard’s boss was. But how to get him to talk?
He decided to push for material beyond Penard’s known capabilities to deliver. The gunrunner wouldn’t say no outright. He’d either stall or push him up the chain of command. McCrea hoped for the latter.
He dropped his chin a fraction of an inch as he made his request. “You’ll give me the rest of the AK-47s we ordered, plus twenty Stingers.”
Penard erupted in thick laughter.
“Or Russian Iglas,” McCrea continued, ignoring Penard’s continued incredulity. “Strelas are acceptable if you can’t find anything more modern. But I need them within the week. Can you do it?”
“Well,” Penard drawled, looking away. Dawdling.
“It’s a yes or no question.”
“You want them here, in Marseille?”
“Within the week.”
“Bah! What do British gangsters want with anti-aircraft missiles?”
McCrea flexed his jaw. It was no business of his what McCrea intended to do with them. The Frenchman should know better than to ask such questions.
Penard lifted a dark eyebrow, but let his question die. “Très bien. I get your missiles. But I need more than a week. I’ll call you when I have them, oui?”
“Non. Not good enough.” A week’s delay meant Penard didn’t have easy access to the missiles. Penard would have to ask someone more important for them, maybe have them transferred to Marseille. McCrea would rather talk to that higher-up person himself. Seeking to apply mental pressure and knowing that Penard didn’t want to lose a sale this big, he stood and took a step toward the exit.
It worked. As McCrea passed Penard’s chair, the man grabbed for McCrea’s arm. McCrea paused, looked down at the fat fingers grasping his suit jacket, and then back to Penard’s pinched, red face. The Frenchman released the fabric and stood, licking his lips.
“Attendez, s’il vous plaît. Wait, friend. Please. I might know someone. Give me a day or two.”
“Give me a name.”
“Names are money.”
“Money I already gave you. Money you’ve wasted. Money I have no inclination to ever give you again.”
Penard’s mouth tightened to a thin purple crease. “I don’t like to be threatened.”
The two men locked eyes, neither flinching, neither budging. Negotiations had stagnated. Time to retreat, or advance.
McCrea always advanced.
In a single fluid motion, McCrea pulled a tactical knife out of his pants pocket and flipped it to length. He pushed its dull black blade against Penard’s jugular.
Penard yelped. McCrea hoped the bodyguards down the hall hadn’t heard him.
“Is that a no, then?” McCrea said, disturbed by how calm he sounded. As effective as this quick violence would be, he hated how easily he’d pulled the knife, and how composed he felt with it pressed against Penard’s wide neck. He hadn’t second-guessed the decision, and now, his pulse barely quickened as he contemplated how hard he’d need to push to get the result he needed. Maybe because his pulse always beat at high speed, his body no longer seemed to notice when he was engaged in a particularly violent or dangerous endeavor, but it shouldn’t feel so natural to threaten another man’s life.
Penard’s slick, hot sweat ran onto McCrea’s hands.
“Non—oui, eh, yes, yes,” Penard squealed. “Tu me casses les coquilles!I call my cousin. I call him right now. We sit down, we figure it out. Just put the knife away, you crazy bastard. Merde!”
McCrea shook his head. He wanted to talk to Penard’s cousin himself. He rammed the blade a fraction deeper into the man’s tanned skin. “What’s your cousin’s name? Where can I find him?”
“Putain,” Penard cursed. “Just let me get my phone out. We solve this right now.”
“Tell me his name.”
A small trail of blood ran down Penard’s neck. McCrea kept his face impassive, but the sight of blood startled him. He’d brought the discussion to this point, not Penard. He’d initiated the bloodletting. But it’d been necessary. Men like this lived and died by a code of violence. Anything less didn’t hit their radar.
Penard’s eyes showed white as they strained to see the knife at his throat.
Good. McCrea shook off the self-doubt. He’d get what he wanted now. Just a little more pressure…
He heard Penard’s panted plea as if from a faraway place. He paused with the knife tip buried in the other man’s thick epidermis.
What in the hell was he doing? This was torture, even of a son-of-a-bitch like Penard. Good men didn’t use torture to get what they needed.
McCrea didn’t know any good men.
He growled and pushed the knife a hair further into Penard’s neck. The Frenchman held his breath as a trickle of blood pooled on his collar.
“The name,” he repeated.
“Assez, enough! I tell you. The man who can get your weapons is called Ménellier. He is not my cousin; he is my brother-in-law. He works for Kral. Lukas Kral. You know him, yes? Everyone knows him.”
McCrea’s hand tightened on the knife. He knew both names, but Kral’s was infamous. He’d heard rumors that his brother had hooked up with Kral to run all manner of illegal shit out of Asia and into Glasgow on his behalf. The money had been good, for a while, and Aaron had moved up in the ranks and out of Glasgow, only to end up back there a few years later, dead in a Govenhill ditch, his veins loaded with heroin.
McCrea had expected about as much. His brother never did seem to have the capacity for rational thought that a man needed to stay alive in a world like this. Immediately after graduating from the academy, McCrea had slid undercover into the same London network on the strength of his brother’s reputation and now wanted little more than to excise everything his brother had ever touched from this world. Getting to the kingpin of the European black market, then, was a top priority.
Because of his friends in high places, Lukas Kral had been off-limits to law enforcement for years, but McCrea’s group—the Serious Organized Crime Agency—had grown tired of ignoring the beast in the garden. They’d pushed for permission to investigate, and the Home Office had fought an internal war over it, but at last word, Lukas Kral was ripe for the picking for any SOCA agent who could get a hold of his branch.
McCrea nodded.“I’m familiar with the name.”
“Then you know he can get what you need. He can get you anything. Tanks, RPGs, planes. Anything!”
“How do I reach him?”
“His number is on my phone,” Penard wheezed. “You have to let me go so I can find it.”
McCrea released Penard. The man fumbled in his pockets for his phone, then found it and started rattling off Ménellier’s number.
“Not him,” McCrea interrupted. Ménellier was bigger than Penard, but was nonetheless a stepping stone. “Give me Kral’s number.”
“I can’t. I don’t have it.”
McCrea flinched toward Penard. “Are you wasting my time again?”
Penard cringed. “Merde! I can’t give you what I don’t have. You have to go through Ménellier.”
“If you’re playing with me, Penard…”
“I’m not playing with you. Mon dieu, man. I’m trying to help you out. Even I go through Ménellier. I never talk to Kral. No one does.”
“If Ménellier can’t give me what I need, I’m coming back for you.”
“Sure, sure. You’ll get what you’re looking for. Don’t worry.” Penard tried for a smile, but it showed too much of his gumline and made him look afraid. “It is a shame that it worked out this way, mon ami. I get you your AKs in a few days, okay? Then we are bons, no?”
“As bons as we can be.” McCrea straightened his tie, and without a second glance, walked straight past Penard and into the hallway, where he stumbled into the small, dark-haired woman who’d walked right into him.
The waitress. He tried to halt but couldn’t stop his momentum. She began to fall.
He couldn’t let that happen.
Without thinking, he reached out and grabbed her, sliding his hands beneath her arms and pulling her close to him.
Her body folded into his, with her strong thighs caressing his knees and her slender arms slipping around his waist. They pressed together for a long, bewildering moment, her breasts yielding softly to the firm plane of his torso, and her wild hair curling against his chin. The scent of her shimmered around him, green and sweet like a grassy meadow, reminding him briefly, painfully, of home. As much as it hurt, he wanted to sink into that remembrance, and briefly, he did exactly that, lowering his nose to her hair.
But then his brain sounded an alarm.
Why had she been standing so close to the door, and what had she overheard?
Award-winning romance writer and former zookeeper Jamie Michele has wrestled a giant python, hand-captured a rogue vulture, and brushed the teeth of an alligator, but when she decided to write a novel, she did the unexpected: she didn’t write about animals. Instead, she indulged her long fascination with international espionage, merging it with her deep knowledge of the trials of love to produceAN AFFAIR OF VENGEANCE (Montlake Romance, November 6, 2012), winner of a prestigious Golden Heart from the Romance Writers of America. Now trapped in a very boring suburb in Maryland, Jamie writes sexy, page-turning romances while managing her own little zoo, which consists of three cats and two exceedingly handsome great apes.