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Authors: Gemma Halliday

Play Nice

BOOK: Play Nice
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For my boys, Will, Nicky, and Tommy

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

I want to send a big thank-you to the crew of lovely ladies who helped make this book a reality. Thanks to Nephele Tempest for pushing me out of my comfort zone to write something daring and dangerous. Thanks to Kaila York for reminding me how cool this concept could be even when I had my doubts. A huge thank-you to Holly Root for her fantastic encouragement, her amazing business savvy, and her tireless cheerleading. A big thanks to Allison Strobel for putting the polish on my raw story until it sparkled. And lastly, a great big squishy thanks to Jax Cassidy for being a shoulder to lean on and a true friend always.

 

 

CONTENTS

 

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgments

 

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Epilogue

 

Also by Gemma Halliday

About the Author

Copyright

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

“Take it off.”

Anya looked across the over-furnished room at the man who’d issued the command. General Fedorov. Fifties, salt and pepper hair, eyes as dark as two bottomless pits. He took a deceptively casual position, leaning back in a plush, velvet armchair, one leg crossed over the other. But Anya wasn’t fooled. She could see the tension still present in his limbs, as if he were ready to pounce at the slightest provocation. He held a lit cigar in one hand, the cloyingly sweet scent tickling her nostrils as she complied, slipping the straps of her dress down her right shoulder, then the left. She shimmied her hips until it fell to the floor, leaving her bare beneath his gaze but for the red, patent leather heels on her feet.

“Like this?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper.

Fedorov nodded, looked her up and down. A flicker of appreciation crossed his sharp features. He took another long drag from the cigar, as if dragging in the sight of her, then slowly blew it up toward the ceiling.

“Come closer.”

Her stomach clenched. But she did. Her long legs crossing the distance between them until she was standing directly in front of him, so close she could feel the heat emanating from his body.

“And now?” she asked.

“Kneel down.”

Again, Anya did as she was told, her bare knees hitting the cool marble floor. She swallowed a shot of apprehension, noticing the growing bulge beneath his tailored slacks.

You’ve done this a thousand times before. You can do it again.

One last time.

“And now?” she asked. Even though she knew full well what “and now” would be. They’d been watching him for weeks. They knew his habits, his mannerisms, what kind of soap he washed with in the morning, and what color socks he wore at night. What kind of cigars he smoked and what kind of recreation he indulged in. Blondes. Expensive ones. If they were lucky, he let them leave in the morning. Others became just another casualty of war.

Fedorov reached out, trailing a finger down Anya’s cheek. His hands were rough, calloused, like him. She shivered but leaned into his touch all the same, doing a kittenlike mew deep in her throat. He gave an answering groan, telling her she’d done her research well. He liked.

His hand left her face, and Anya could swear she felt her skin sigh in relief. Fedorov moved to set his cigar down, his free hand reaching for his zipper.

“No. Let me,” Anya purred, sliding her hands up the expensive wool fabric that covered his thighs. “Please,” she begged.

A smirk crossed his features before he picked up his cigar again.

He liked it when they begged.

She smiled up at him, holding his eyes as she slowly lowered his zipper. She did another feminine coo, letting her eyes flicker to him as she licked her lips.

He chuckled, leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes in anticipation.

Anya’s heart pounded in her chest, her hands shook. No matter how many times she did this, nerves always hit her. She supposed some small part of her was glad. At least it was a sign she was still human, still had some notion of right and wrong. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath.

Then quickly thrust the zipper back upward, jamming Fedorov’s scrotum in the sharp teeth.

He howled, hands going to his crotch as he jumped to his feet.

But not quickly enough. Anya’s right hand shot out and grabbed the double-action revolver he always kept strapped to his right ankle. She didn’t hesitate, didn’t think, didn’t feel.

Just aimed and pulled the trigger.

The first shot took out his right knee, sending him to the ground just long enough for Anya to put some distance between them. She backed up, quickly firing off another to his temple. He hit the ground with a sickening thud, and the room was plunged into eerie silence.

Two deep breaths, in and out. Anya’s heart pounded in her ears, her hands steady now as they held the revolver straight-armed in front of her. Mission accomplished. It was done.

And done well.

She could almost hear the praise of her handler’s voice echoing in her head.

Perfect shot, my
dragi,
my darling. Now get out.

Three seconds. She knew in three seconds his bodyguards would be at the door. A quiet syringe to the neck would have made escape easier, but in the skimpy dress Fedorov had wanted her to wear there’d been nowhere to hide it. She’d had to work with what she had on hand. Noisy as it was.

Two seconds.

Anya grabbed her dress, slipping it back over her head as she dove for the pair of French doors leading onto the balcony. She quickly pushed one open. But instead of jumping toward freedom she slipped behind the heavy, velvet curtain at its side, holding her breath.

She heard the doors to the general’s bedroom burst open, a cacophony of shouting voices drowning each other out as bodyguards swarmed the room. Anya closed her eyes, trying to make out how many. Three. Maybe four? Heavy footsteps hit the polished floor, running to the body, down the hall, toward the French doors. She was sure her heart was pounding loudly enough to match the stomping rhythm of their boots.

The scent of cheap cologne warned her one of the Russians was approaching her hiding spot. She closed her eyes, letting her knuckles go white as they tightened around the revolver.

He shouted something to his pals, so close that his voice made her jump. He’d noticed the open door. More footsteps, leading out onto the balcony. More shouting. A thin line of sweat trickled down Anya’s back as she clutched the gun to her thigh. If they found her, she was done. She was good, but three to one were odds no one could escape from. Especially when the three were trained killers.

Then again, what am I?

She shoved that thought deep into the recesses of her brain, focusing instead on the commands one Russian was shouting to the others. She wasn’t fluent, but she’d picked up enough of the language to understand he was telling them she’d escaped, over the balcony. Go find her.

Three pairs of feet pounded out of the room, receding down the hallway.

She waited, counting off two beats before daring to move a muscle. Slowly, she drew back the curtain, using reflections in the windowpane to check the room. The general’s lifeless body lay slumped in the middle of the floor.

Alone.

She sprang into action, adrenaline pumping through her limbs as she crossed the room, out the door, running left, opposite the exit, she knew. Deeper into the compound, but farther away from the expanse of property outside the general’s bedroom window where the bodyguards would now be searching for her. The sound of her heels pounding with practiced speed was muffled by thick carpeting as she counted the doors she passed. Three, four. She’d been studying the blueprint of the house for weeks, but she still held her breath as she passed the fifth door and slowed, opening number six and slipping inside.

An empty office. Just as it was supposed to be.

She quickly shut the door with a soft click behind her, hearing her own ragged breath fill the silence. The room was dark, moonlight filtering through the window the only light. Anya blinked, letting her eyes adjust. The windows faced east, toward the woods, beyond which ran a little used road where a car awaited her. Her handler had set up surveillance on the road to monitor every person who’d gone in or out of Fedorov’s compound for weeks. All she had to do was get to the car, and she knew they’d all be watching her on their monitors from their big, safe room that, as far as anyone knew, didn’t really exist. Her handler, the generals, the faceless men who controlled her fate.

And she’d finally be safe.

She paused, put her ear to the door, praying she didn’t hear the telltale pounding of feet behind her.

Nothing.

She crossed to the window, lifting it open. The bite of night air stung her cheeks, giving her instant goosebumps in the flimsy dress completely ill-suited for Kosovo in the spring. But cold was an indulgence she didn’t have time for. Instead, she pried the screen from its frame with her fingernails, dropping it to the floor as she threw one leg, then the other over the sill.

It was a two-story drop. One she’d anticipated, but it looked far higher now that she was straddling the sill, all that empty air below her.

You can do this. You’re almost there.

If she thought about it a second longer, she knew her resolve would waiver. So she didn’t, instead, kicking off her shoes, she plunged into the darkness. She hit the ground with a thud, sharp pain instantly shooting up her left leg. Anya bit down hard on her lower lip to keep from crying out, her hands sliding out from under her in the dewy grass. She looked down. Her left ankle was twisted under her. Probably sprained.

But pain was another thing she had no time for.

The taste of blood filled her mouth as her teeth ground down on her lip. She struggled to her feet, favoring her right side. She forced her legs to hold her up, then glanced around in the dark, quickly getting her bearings. Ahead of her lay an expanse of grass, a fence to the left leading to the yard where the general carried out his own private training exercises. She shuddered. She’d seen the files on his victims and could only imagine the tortured souls who still haunted those tainted grounds.

BOOK: Play Nice
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