Blake: A Romantic Suspense
Blake: A Romantic Suspense
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"A heart pounding start to a fantastic series. Ava and Blake are such a sexy couple. Love, lies, and danger. What more could you wish for to keep you turning the pages." ~GR Review
When Ava Dalton finds herself face-to-face with a criminal mastermind, it takes everything she has not to run the other way. After all, she grew up with a cop for a father. Not to mention she works with the criminally insane as a psychiatrist. She knows better.
But when she finds out startling information about Blake Volkov, one of the brothers connected to the notorious V Mafia, she knows his life is in danger. It’s Ava’s duty to tell him everything she knows, or at least that’s what she tells herself.
Ava just never expects to see the man behind the cocky façade… Someone who is far more loyal, protective, and charming than she ever expects.
As the chemistry between them heats up, Ava realizes she’s falling for a man she can never have. It isn’t until her own life becomes in danger that she understands the truth behind the V Mafia, and she just might not survive to reveal it. reveal it.
This is a standalone romantic suspense novel with no cliffhanger. Each book in the series follows a different brother and can be read on its own.
- Enemies to Lovers
- Opposites Attract
- Secret Identity
Emilia Hudson has never been one to consider arranged marriages, especially if it meant her fifty-five year old parents would have a say, but with her dismal love life, she’s almost reconsidering.
After her latest dating disaster, Emilia writes a simple blog post that goes viral. Worse yet, people start considering her a relationship expert, and all she feels like is a fraud.
As the emails and speaking engagements start rolling in, she realizes her only option is to take the bull by the horns and run with the unexpected fame.
What she doesn’t want to do is talk about the real reason why she won’t ever fall in love again.
However, when she gets an offer she can’t refuse from a major publisher, that’s all they want her to write about, but It isn’t until she meets the man behind the proposal that she realizes why…
Intro to Chapter One
Intro to Chapter One
“I smell money in the air.”
I turned my attention to the man who spoke, Abram Vasiliev. My best friend, Sarina, was engaged to him, and I still wasn’t sold on the guy. There was something shady about him, and his comment didn’t help shake that feeling. Although, his addiction to the green stuff had landed us here, so I couldn’t complain too much.
“Really? I smell hot dogs.” I smiled, shaking away the unease.
“Oh, Ava.” Sarina giggled and circled her arm through Abram’s as we sat on the field at a MLS playoff game in Seattle, and I mean on the field.
Somehow, Abram arranged for a group of us to dine and watch the game from the sidelines, complete with white tablecloths, servers, and unlimited alcohol.
I wasn’t a soccer fan, but I didn’t need to be to enjoy an evening like this. It was a wonderful way to finish my Seattle trip. The last three days, I’d attended a grueling conference for Contextual Behavioral Science and desperately needed to unwind. I still wasn’t sure I was buying their practice theory, but I thought it was good to expose myself.
I turned my attention back to the field as two players slid face first toward us on the turf.
I stood up to get a better look.
There was no doubt about it. Most of these players had it going on, or maybe it was the fourth apricot ale that made me think that.
Regardless, it was hard not to appreciate the sleek definition of the men as they stood back up and glared at one another.
I took another sip of my beer, and the blond player lunged at the dark-haired player. My eyes widened in horror as I watched the blond knee the player in front of me, but before any damage had occurred, team members pulled them apart.
The referee held up a yellow card, and the stadium thundered to life with boos and jeers as the players continued their stare-off. Fans wrapped from head to toe in blue and green yelled and threw their fists into the air.
“I thought soccer was a gentle sport.” I chuckled and Sarina shook her head.
“Not in the least bit.” She popped a calamari ring in her mouth, and I looked around our little area.
“What’s up with the yellow card?” I asked her.
“It’s a caution for unsporting behavior. Two, and the player will get thrown out of the game.”
“So the crowd is pissed even though he deserved it?” I asked.
She held up her finger to her lips and giggled. “Don’t say that too loudly or you’ll get mobbed.”
I rolled my eyes and noticed Abram glaring at the players only yards away.
“So what makes you think you smell money?” I shouted at Abram over the cheering crowd behind us.
“Just the bet I placed before the game.” He shrugged.
I knew Abram owned a successful staffing agency, but it was hard to imagine it did this well. Maybe with the current IT frenzy in Seattle, his timing had been perfect, but something told me otherwise.
“Who’s that guy?” I asked Sarina, pointing at the dark-haired player. “Number 11?”
“Cute, huh?” Her blonde hair bounced as she nodded.
“That’s an understatement.” I wiggled my brows just as he turned around, and his striking blue eyes connected with mine, sending a sudden jolt right through me. He winked before jogging back onto the field, and I literally felt my feet lift off the ground.
“Did he just wink at you?” Sarina gushed.
“No way. Not even.” I glanced behind my shoulder to see if there was a woman standing behind me, but it was clear. “You think he might have?”
Sarina giggled as Abram stood up, and I let myself imagine my first one-night stand. I suppose a professional athlete would make for an exciting story for my first time loving and leaving ‘em.
As soon as the idea crept in, I shoved it right out.
I’d made it this far in life without a one-night stand. I certainly wasn’t going to screw up now. I didn’t spend ten years bathing myself in psychology courses to fall into those trappings.
“Are you serious?”
My eyes snapped to Sarina’s. “What?” I asked sheepishly.
“That’s what I thought.” She smiled and shook her head. “You weren’t listening to a word I said. Did you want to go grab the pretzel and cheese dip you’ve been talking about all day? If we go before the break, we’ll bypass most of the crowds.”
“Works for me.” I slid off the chair as Abram draped his arm around Sarina’s shoulders, guiding her through his personal party. I followed quickly behind, noticing how much he was relishing the thanks from all the people he invited to this event.
As we exited the field through a corridor, I thought back to Player 11. He wasn’t a Seattle player. He played for whomever Seattle was playing against, and I suddenly realized I didn’t even know what team that was.
What a horrible fan I’d be . . . or a one-night stand. I wouldn’t even know his name or be able to gush about his team when luring him in. I held in a chuckle and picked up the ticket looped around my neck. North Carolina Hurricanes. I’d always thought it would be fun to visit there, but not necessarily during a hurricane.
“Isn’t it odd to name your team after a natural disaster?” I asked Sarina.
She tilted her head and studied me as if my question were insane.
“The Hurricanes aren’t the only team like that,” Abram informed me as we stood in line.
“Yeah? What’s the other? Tropical Storm Georgia or Oklahoma Tornadoes?”
“San Jose Earthquakes, actually.” He nodded, tipping back on his heels.
I shuddered. “I’d never want to be in an earthquake.”
“You’ve never felt one?” Sarina asked. “It’s quite a ride.”
“Nope, and I’d like to keep it that way.” I smiled and glanced at Abram. “When you said you had tickets to the game, I didn’t think you meant on the field, so thank you for including me. It’s definitely an amazing way to experience my first soccer game and my last night in Seattle.”
“Absolutely.” Abram nodded and walked up to the cashier, ordering a slice of pizza.
Never mind that we had a table full of delicacies waiting for us. Apparently, we all craved the junk food and stale beer stadiums offered in addition to the calamari and steak salad waiting for us.
“So is this a day in the life of Sarina?” I whispered.
“It is now.” She stuck out her tongue and I chuckled. She was exactly the Sarina I knew and loved from college.
Even though distance made our relationship change from constant companion to mostly phone calls and texts, I still counted her as one of my closest friends.
The cashier motioned for me, and I quickly made my way up to the steel counter and ordered a pretzel with extra cheese and their domestic beer.
But then the worst thing happened just as I stepped away from the counter with everything falling from my hands.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I muttered, quickly setting my beer down on the counter as Sarina and Abram jumped back in unison to avoid the cheese sauce and pretzel I’d just dumped on the concrete stadium floor.
“I’ve never seen a pretzel do a front aerial flip before,” Abram said, laughing right before he took a bite of his pizza.
They both moved out of the way so the cashier could help the next person in line while I bent over and tried to clean up the yellow goo that resembled liquid plastic more than cheese.
“I’ve never known a man to know gymnastic moves that well, but I bet it’s the last time you two take me anywhere when I’m in town.”
“Not even in the slightest.” Sarina patted my shoulder as I rolled my napkin and lifted the pretzel out of the yellow goop.
“Can you grab my beer off the counter so I can toss this out?” I waved my pretzel at her and she nodded.
“As long as I don’t have to touch that mess, I’ll do anything. Do you want me to get you another one?”
“After seeing how this coagulated, I’d say no.” I chuckled, making my way to the trash, which luckily was right by the restroom. “I’ll be right back. I want to wash my hands and then I swear we’ll get back to the game . . . or is it called a match?”
“It all works.” Abram winked. “We’ll be waiting.”
I quickly rinsed my hands and turned to see a group of giggling women make their way to the stalls opposite me.
“If Blake Volkov lifts his shirt one more time to wipe the sweat off his face, I swear I’m going to jump over the wall and do it for him,” the bubbly brunette said, walking into a stall and locking it behind her.
“I’d fight you for him. Can you imagine what he’s like—” another one began.
“I do imagine it. Every. Single. Night,” the brunette cut her off. “I’m about to lose it just thinking about it.”
I held in a chuckle and dried off my hands.
I had a funny suspicion they were referring to the blue-eyed wonder on the field.
So it wasn’t just me who he’d cast a spell on.
By the time I reached Sarina and Abram, I must have had an incredibly goofy look on my face because Sarina rolled her eyes and shoved my beer back into my hands.
“What’s that about?” Sarina asked.
“Is number 11 by any chance Blake Volkov?”
“Oh, now you take an interest in players’ names.” She giggled as we worked our way through the crowd.
“So is it?” I asked again.
“Yeah, that’s him.” She laced her fingers through Abram’s as we showed our credentials to the ushers and walked back onto the field.
The bright lights of the stadium made me squint slightly, and a chill ran through me so I tugged on my newly purchased blue and green scarf.
“He’s a complete showboat,” Abram informed me, but a wicked smile spread across his lips. “But that’ll all change soon enough.”
The way he said it sent a deeply unsettling thought into me.
“How come?” I asked, winding through the tables.
I glanced at the field and saw a couple of players sprinting toward the keeper at our end.
Abram shoved his mouth into a pucker as he sat down. “No particular reason other than the cocky midfielder will age out soon.” He coughed as I sat down. “If an injury doesn’t boot him out quicker.”
“That’s what Blake is? A midfielder?” I asked, noticing Abram’s demeanor changing rapidly. He looked agitated and glanced at the field clock before locking his eyes on mine.
“Yeah. That’s exactly what Volkov is.” A smirk rested behind his features, but I noticed his jaw tensed when a buzzer echoed into the air.
The stadium quickly cleared out as people went to get their beer and snack refills. Music blasted as the shouting fans exited, and I searched the field for Blake. He’d already left with the rest of the team.
Not that it mattered.
“Looking for someone?” Sarina teased.
“Then why’d you just turn red?”
I rolled my eyes and took a bite of the steak salad that I still had in front of me. It was better for me than the pretzel and cheese sauce anyway.
“So is this like a halftime?” I asked, taking another bite of salad.
“It’s only fifteen minutes. Actually, I think there are only twelve minutes with the injury time they added on,” Abram said, busily texting someone. I was surprised he was getting any service. My phone was so slow in the stadium that I gave up trying.
“Looks like lover boy is coming back out,” Sarina said, pointing and standing up.
I smacked her finger down because with these seats, Player 11 would literally be able to see us ogling.
I felt bad for caring just because a player was cute. I wasn’t usually that kind of person, but I also wasn’t a soccer person. Actually, I wasn’t into sports in general, so I’d fully embrace whatever it took to stay awake. If a good-looking player at eye level made me appear interested, so be it.
Sarina took a seat as a loud boom echoed into the stadium, signaling the second half was starting again, and the crowd went wild.
“Now for the good stuff.” Abram laughed, throwing his head back.
A knot formed in the bottom of my stomach for absolutely no reason.
I looked over at my friend to see if she noticed anything, which she apparently hadn’t, and I forced myself to get over it.
I took in a deep breath. This was precisely what happened when I spent three days straight discussing character traits and behaviors. A person could only be so mindful before going a little nuts, and I suddenly felt on the verge for thinking such thoughts.
Until Abram shot up from his seat and stared at the field.
I watched Abram trading glances between his phone and the field. The energy rolling off him didn’t match the festive mood of the stadium. He was on edge, and he nervously tapped his index finger on his pants all while staying keenly aware of his surroundings. He was definitely waiting for something.
I took in a deep breath and forced myself to get a grip. Not everything had to be laced with diabolical intent. Not all men were like the ones I’d worked with. They didn’t all need to be analyzed.
Sarina cheered, and my gaze fell to the field in front of us where Blake and the blond player from before seemed to be juggling the ball back and forth. I watched the blond kick it away before a different player kicked it back when Blake intercepted the ball. Everything was fine. I was enjoying my first soccer game with friends.
And that was when it happened. The blond swiped at Blake’s leg, and I heard it.
The bone poked through Blake’s flesh, and my heart sank, watching Blake and his livelihood slump to the ground in agonizing pain.
I stood up and ran to the low fence separating our area from the field. Abram came up beside me, his eyes as fidgety as his fingers.
The stadium remained silent as Abram looked at me and then back to the unfolding scene. He glanced over his left shoulder into the crowd, giving a slight nod, before turning his attention back to the field.
Medics and teammates from both sides swarmed a writhing Blake Volkov, and my heart hurt for him. Deep crimson had spread onto the field, and my body trembled from the sight.
I felt hollow, but I couldn’t look away. I was watching a man who was experiencing a pain that would have most screaming in agony, but not Player 11. The writhing motion slowed, and his expression remained stoic and determined to get through whatever was before him.
The blond player had backed away and fallen to his knees, digging his hands into his long hair, looking shocked and horrified at what he’d just done.
But it was an accident.
I closed my eyes and said a little prayer for the man on the field. He was strong and unwilling to let others see the pain inside him. I recognized the ability to pretend the hurt wasn’t as bad as it looked to outsiders.
I opened my eyes to a deathly silent stadium as the medics rolled Player 11 onto a stretcher. My eyes connected with Blake’s, and what I saw scared me more than the accident.
Desperation and sadness overrode whatever pain Blake was in. I swallowed back the tears that my profession so easily produced as I put myself in Player 11’s shoes.
“My gawd. That was awful,” Sarina said, coming up behind me. “If that doesn’t give you nightmares on the plane ride back . . .”
I shivered and nodded slowly, watching Blake being hauled off the field.
Abram’s phone buzzed, and I glanced at a text that came over his screen.
Mission Accomplished. Nice work.
My body stiffened as Abram’s cold, brown eyes met mine, and I knew Abram Vasiliev was behind whatever just went down.