The Russian Temptation
by Nikki Navarre
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…
Meet Author Nikki Navarre:
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.
Excerpt from The Russian Temptation
By Nikki Navarre
“Ilya,” Nikolai Markov said calmly, still watching her. “Take Dr. Rossi’s suitcase and attaché case to the train.”
Swiftly Skylar slipped in front of the hired muscle and blocked their path. She tightened her grip on her attaché case, not about to let it vanish the way her purse had. They’d have to be one hell of a lot more forceful to separate her from the documents she carried.
But she hoped to avoid that outcome.
Donning a professional smile, she extended her free hand. “I’m pleased to meet you, Mister…?”
“Just Ilya, Dr. Rossi,” said Nikolai Markov. “He’s a man of few words.”
Of course, without a surname she wouldn’t be able to look him up, using her contacts at the U.S. Embassy, when she returned to Moscow. No doubt any name they gave her would be false, but sometimes an alias turned up back at Langley.
Meanwhile, Ilya-with-no-last-name hulked over her, face buried under his muffler, gray eyes like dirty ice staring through her with a chilling lack of interest. This thug could break her in two with his bare hands. Thankfully, his orders were simply to assist with her luggage.
When he didn’t accept her hand, Skylar kept smiling and pivoted toward his partner. A scar snaked through the rough terrain of this one’s pitted face. But he gave his name gruffly as Artur—again with no surname, of course.
“Dr. Rossi,” Nikolai Markov said gently, “your train departs in one minute thirty seconds. Go aboard now, please.”
Sucking down another lungful of icy oxygen, she gripped her attaché case firmly with both hands.
“According to the schedule Anton Belov provided, my first meeting with the mayor of Khimgorod is scheduled in three hours. Even with Dr. Belov indisposed, I’m sure the mayor can resolve any minor issues that may arise.”
For a heartbeat, Nikolai Markov stared at her with those opaque black eyes. Perhaps she’d succeeded at last in surprising him, though his demeanor gave nothing away.
“I am afraid Dr. Belov’s…indisposition has resulted in the cancellation of your entire itinerary—from your meetings to your hotel reservation. Go aboard now, please, Dr. Rossi. This is no place for diplomatic negotiation.”
Without engaging in a physical scuffle, she couldn’t prevent Artur from hoisting her suitcase as though it weighed nothing. Well, she could work without a change of clothing if necessary, and pick up local toiletries in town. What mattered was that she still had her documents.
“I’m not leaving, Mr. Markov.” Skylar looked him straight in the eye.
“These discussions are a top priority for my government, and I’m operating under official instructions from the highest level. Moreover, my tickets were purchased with taxpayer dollars, and funds for my lodging were already wired to the hotel. I’m committed to these meetings, even if it means sleeping on a couch in the lobby.”
She angled her chin up and pinned him with the imperial look she’d learned from her celebrity mother. “I’d like to go to the hotel now, please, so I can freshen up before the mayor.”
As if to underscore her words, the train jerked forward, its carriages clanking and rattling as the locomotive did its work.
Too late now to send me back.
Another indication that Markov, whatever his agenda, wasn’t acting under official orders. Or else the train would have waited.
Still, a sense of mounting apprehension made her scalp crawl. All too clearly, someone didn’t want her here. Maybe the FSB had decided her presence was a liability. Wouldn’t be the first time the Russian spy agency and the Foreign Ministry had disagreed.
“This is unfortunate, Dr. Rossi,” Nikolai Markov murmured.
His dark eyes shifted to Ilya. Jerking a nod as some unspoken message flashed between them, the goon trudged forward. Violating her diplomatic immunity, his hard hand closed on her shoulder.
A coil of anxiety tightened her chest. People had disappeared in Siberia before—millions of them, in fact. Officially, the city of Khimgorod didn’t even exist. She’d called her office from Novosibirsk, but the Russians could claim she’d never even arrived…
She did her best to conceal her qualms. The secret to negotiating with Russians was embedded in the old deodorant commercial.
Never let them see you sweat.
“Artur,” Nikolai Markov said. “Take our American guest’s suitcase to the car.”
Pivoting, Markov glided toward the only break in the top-security barricade, where a concrete guard shanty, bathed in harsh light, guarded the exit. The silver gleam of a cell phone flashed as he tucked the device against his ear and muttered into it.
Skin prickling with apprehension, she followed, her shoulder gripped by Ilya as he quick-marched her from behind. Nikolai Markov crossed the treacherous platform with balletic grace, stepping lightly as a deer across the black ice—almost mesmerizing, in a way. The man looked and moved like no security watchdog she’d ever encountered.
Thanks to her father, she’d encountered the best.
At least he’d agreed to bring her into town, which moved her one step closer to her goal. The chemical weapons combine was a thirty-mile drive past the city itself, according to the satellite imagery.
As they approached the station exit, Markov snapped the phone shut and dropped back beside her.
“I’ve modified your travel arrangements, Dr. Rossi. Although your stay will, of necessity, last no longer than 2300 hours this evening when the next train arrives, all guests are required to adhere to the laws and regulations that govern this closed city.”
“I’d expect nothing else.” Discreetly she tried to slip free of Ilya. But the hired muscle only tightened his grip. Despite the insulating layers between them, her shoulder began to ache.
For a heartbeat, Markov’s gaze flickered toward her.
“Ilya,” he said quietly.
Just like that, his trained watchdog released her.
Skylar resisted the impulse to rub her aching shoulder and returned to the business at hand. “I’ve been thoroughly briefed on the laws that govern the closed cities—”
“Given the possible consequences of any deviation, allow me to refresh your memory, Dr. Rossi.” As they approached the barbed-wire fence, his gaze swept the perimeter. “No photographs are allowed anywhere in the city or its environs. If you disregard this rule, your camera will be confiscated and destroyed, and you may be subject to legal penalties, possibly including detainment.”
“I understand.” The weight of her smart phone, with its embedded camera, seemed suddenly heavy in her briefcase.
“No PDAs or smart phones.” For a breath, his eyes flickered toward her, as though he’d read her mind. “If you disregard this rule, the device will be confiscated and destroyed, and you will be subject to legal penalties, possibly including detainment.”
“I understand perfectly, Mr. Markov. This isn’t the first closed city I’ve visited.”
“No laptop computer or tablet,” he continued, “no radio equipment or other electronic device is allowed to visitors anywhere in the city. If you disregard this rule—”
“My equipment will be confiscated and destroyed, and I’ll probably be thrown in jail. I catch the drift,” she said lightly, working to interject a note of humor.
They hadn’t gotten off to an auspicious start. If she intended to succeed, she needed to build goodwill and lay the foundation for future cooperation with the local officials, including the security office. “I believe I understand the seriousness of our situation.”
“For your sake, I hope so.” He slanted her an ironic glance. “Immediately upon arrival at the hotel, you’ll be required to surrender your mobile phone and laptop, that automatic quartz watch you’re wearing, and any other electronic devices secreted among your possessions. Your telephone may be used in the lobby if a representative of our security office monitors your communications.”
“I understand.” Carefully she stepped around a patch of icy ground. If she went sprawling, she doubted the charming Ilya would catch her. Then they’d be airlifting her to the hospital in Novosibirsk.
The security measures were identical to those in a dozen closed cities—locations whose secret facilities performed covert nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons activities. They didn’t appear on any map, but they turned up in the satellite photos—far too extensive to camouflage.
In fact, the existence of these top-secret regulations at Khimgorod, a city where the Russians insisted they’d never done any offensive work, told Skylar her hunch had been right. Something nasty was going on at the Khimgorod Chemical Combine.
“I hope you do 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,” she said softly.
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 athttp://amzn.to/1caeAtA
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