Elena Popov would do anything for her ruthless father—including assassinate Viktor Sokolov, her best friend Alexandra’s husband. She’ll have no problem with this request, in fact, as Alexandra was forced to marry him. Elena will simply be rescuing her friend from a cruel mob boss.
Pretending she’s defecting, Elena heads to the Sokolov compound, escorted by the most maddening and distracting man she’s ever met. It’s almost as if Roman Garinovich was created just to get under her skin. Still, Elena won’t let Roman stop her from completing her deadly task. There’s just one hitch: Alexandra really loves Viktor, and killing him will crush her. Torn between her loyalty to her father and her best friend, Elena continues to plot, trying to ignore the growing instinct telling her to spare Viktor’s life—and also working to ignore her growing attraction to Roman.
Roman doesn’t believe a word that comes out of Elena’s mouth, however, and he’s not about to let his guard down around her. Deep in his gut, he knows something’s not right about her story… but that doesn’t stop him from acting on his unwelcome attraction to her. Even as he lets Elena into his heart, though, he knows she’s not all that she seems. When he discovers her true reason for being in the Sokolov compound, he’ll have to choose between the woman he loves and his deep loyalty to his friend.
As danger swirls around Elena and Roman, the question becomes whether they can learn to trust not only each other, but what’s in their hearts.
Suspicion and anticipation twisted in Roman’s stomach, but he waited for the rest of Viktor’s response. The clicking was right behind him now. Then, he heard someone clearing their throat. Roman turned around, phone pressed to his ear, only to see her.
“It’s Elena Popov,” Viktor said just as Roman’s eyes focused on the figure who’d come up right behind him. It was Elena Popov—there was no mistaking that model physique, those plump lips, or the disdain on her face.
When Roman had been assigned as Alexandra’s chaperone, keeping an eye on Viktor’s wife, he had met Elena twice: once at a café, and once at her apartment. Both times, she had proven to be almost unbearably outspoken, and if Roman had made a list of his least favorite people, Elena would have been toward the top of it. She was an insufferable brat whose sole redeeming feature was, for some reason, that she could count Alexandra as a friend.
He turned back to face the plane, holding in a curse. “I have to let you go,” Roman answered simply. “She’s here. And, yes, you were right. I wouldn’t have accepted the job if you’d told me. Good night.” He jabbed the ‘end call’ button before Viktor could answer and turned to face Elena.
“You’re late.” Roman looked her over. His eyes started at her face, then swept down her lithe body to her stiletto heels. The clicking he’d heard had been her ridiculously high heels against the concrete floor of the hangar.
“Oh, am I?” Elena asked, almost innocently, but with the faintest trace of venom, and then she spun a length of silken light brown hair around her finger. Roman noticed for the first time just how long her hair was—it fell all the way to her waist, with honey-colored highlights that reflected even the hangar’s dim fluorescent lighting. Despite the frost outside, underneath her pale pink coat she was wearing a revealing dress that accentuated long, graceful legs. The whole outfit was impractical.
She took a few steps closer to him, moving with breath-taking elegance. She would have been beautiful, Roman thought, if not for her personality. He remembered her as being both stubborn and rude. Tonight, she was true to memory, and Roman already felt prickles of irritation.
“Two hours late,” Roman added.
Elena rolled her eyes. “Whatever. I got here as fast as I could.” She squinted at him in recognition. “Oh my God, you’re the chaperone. The chauffeur. The chauff-erone.” One corner of her mouth twisted up at him in a smirk. She had a cruel sort of beauty, Roman noted, like a wildflower with plenty of thorns, and Roman wasn’t keen on getting jabbed. He’d stay back from this one.
“My name, in case you forgot, is Roman. But that is not the point. Your father killed Boris Sokolov.” Roman’s frown deepened. “And yet, I am supposed to take you straight to the Sokolov mansion. Why is that?”
“Aren’t you just a driver? You ask an awful lot of questions for being the help.” She held the handle of her rolling suitcase out toward him. “Why don’t you just be a dear and load this onto the plane for me?”
Roman stared. He could practically feel his blood pressure rising. The gall of this woman. Had he not called Viktor and heard it straight from his friend’s lips, he wouldn’t have believed this was the ‘cargo’ he had been sent to pick up.
“You can carry your own luggage,” he said flatly, reminding himself to at least stay outwardly cool and polite, no matter how much he loathed her. “But that’s only if I decide to allow you onto the plane.”
“What do you mean, if?” she demanded, taking another step toward him. “You flew all this way here. It’s your job.” Elena pouted and held the suitcase handle toward him again. Her arm faltered visibly for a moment, and she made an exaggerated show of how heavy the bag was. Roman didn’t care.
“My job is to keep Viktor Sokolov safe.” Roman crossed his arms over his chest, his posture just as military-straight as always. “Your father is a sworn enemy of the family, and I do not trust you.”
“Well, what do you want me to say?” Elena shrugged and finally stood the suitcase on the ground, albeit at Roman’s feet. He pretended not to notice.
“Let’s start with why I should trust you enough to take you with me,” Roman said sternly.
“Well, uh, duh.” Elena continued to spin her hair around her finger. “Because Viktor told you to, and Viktor’s your boss.”
“Not good enough,” Roman answered flatly. “Try again.”
“Really? I mean… really?” Elena’s pout turned into a sour glare. “It’s freezing here, we’re already running late, and you’re going to start interrogating me right now instead of just flying the plane like you’re supposed to?”
“You are freezing, Elena, because we are in Russia and you are wearing a short, impractical dress. We are running late because you arrived two hours late. And, I am interrogating you because your father is an enemy. Instead of wasting time by arguing and pushing your poor choices off on me, it would be much easier for you to just answer my question.”
Elena blinked a few times. Color rose to her cheeks and her eyes burned at him as he forced the stand-off, but Roman didn’t care. His priority was keeping Viktor safe, and he didn’t trust Elena. He wasn’t sure what she could say right now to change that, but his gut told him that she was no good, and that she’d have to say something.
“Just shut up and fly!” she finally snapped at him.
Roman didn’t move.