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Authors: Anna Zaires,Dima Zales

Capture Me

BOOK: Capture Me
3.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Capture Me
Capture Me: Book 1
Anna Zaires
♠ Mozaika Publications ♠

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is purely coincidental.

Copyright © 2015 Anna Zaires and Dima Zales

All rights reserved. Except for use in a review, no part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.

Published by Mozaika Publications, an imprint of Mozaika LLC.

Cover by Najla Qamber Designs

Photo by Lindee Robinson Photography

Models: Sarah Stroven and Adam Stroven

Edited by Mella Baxter

e-ISBN: 978-1-63142-090-0

Print ISBN: 978-1-63142-122-8

The Assignment


he two men
in front of me embody danger. They exude it. One blond, one dark—they should’ve been polar opposites, but they’re similar somehow. They give off the same vibe.

The vibe that makes me go cold inside.

“I have a delicate matter I’d like to discuss with you,” says Arkady Buschekov, the Russian official beside me. His faded, colorless gaze is trained on the dark-haired man’s face. Buschekov says it in Russian, and I immediately repeat his words in English. My translation is smooth, my accent undetectable. I’m a good interpreter, even if that’s not my real job.

“Go on,” the dark-haired man says. Julian Esguerra is his name, and he’s a big-time arms dealer. I know that from the folder I studied this morning. He’s the important one here today, the one they want me to get close to. It shouldn’t be a hardship. He’s a strikingly handsome man, his eyes blue and piercing in his darkly tanned face. If it weren’t for that chill-inducing vibe, I’d be genuinely attracted to him. As it is, I’ll be faking it, but he won’t know.

They never know.

“I’m sure you are aware of the difficulties in our region,” Buschekov says. “We would like you to assist us in resolving this matter.”

I translate his words, doing my best to conceal my growing excitement. Obenko was right. There
something brewing between Esguerra and the Russians. Obenko suspected as much when he heard the arms dealer was visiting Moscow.

“Assist you how?” Esguerra asks. He looks only vaguely interested.

As I translate his words for Buschekov, I sneak a glance at the other man at the table—the one with blond hair cut in a short, almost military style.

Lucas Kent, Esguerra’s right-hand man.

I’ve been trying not to look at him. He unnerves me even more than his boss. Thankfully, he’s not my target, so I don’t need to feign interest in him. For some reason, though, my eyes keep being drawn to his hard features. With his tall, powerfully muscled body, square jaw, and fierce gaze, Kent reminds me of a
—a noble warrior of Russian folk tales.

He catches me looking at him, and his pale eyes flash as they lock on my face. I quickly look away, suppressing a shudder. Those eyes make me think of the slivers of ice outside, blue-gray and freezing cold.

Thank God he’s not the one I need to seduce. It will be much, much easier to fake it with his boss.

“There are certain parts of Ukraine that need our help,” Buschekov says. “But, world opinion being what it is right now, it would be problematic if we went in and actually gave that help.”

I swiftly translate what he said, my attention once more on the information I’m supposed to retrieve. This is important; this is the primary reason I’m here today. Seducing Esguerra is secondary, though likely still unavoidable.

“So you would like me to do it instead,” Esguerra says, and Buschekov nods as I translate.

“Yes,” Buschekov says. “We would like a sizable shipment of weapons and other supplies to reach the freedom fighters in Donetsk. It cannot be traced back to us. In return, you would be paid your usual fee and granted safe passage to Tajikistan.”

When I convey the words to him, Esguerra smiles coldly. “Is that all?”

“We would also prefer it if you avoided any dealings with Ukraine at this time,” Buschekov says. “Two chairs and one ass and all that.”

I do my best to translate the last part, though it doesn’t sound nearly as punchy in English. I also commit every single word to memory, so I can convey it to Obenko later today. This is exactly what my boss was hoping I’d hear. Or rather, what he feared I’d hear.

“I’m afraid I will require additional compensation for that,” Esguerra says. “As you know, I don’t usually take sides in these types of conflicts.”

“Yes, so we’ve heard.” Buschekov brings a piece of
—salted fish—to his mouth and chews it slowly, looking at the arms dealer. “Perhaps you might reconsider that position in our case. The Soviet Union may be gone, but our influence in this region is still quite substantial.”

“Yes, I’m aware. Why do you think I’m here right now?” Esguerra’s smile is reminiscent of a shark’s. “But neutrality is an expensive commodity to give up. I’m sure you understand.”

Buschekov’s gaze turns colder. “I do. I’m authorized to offer you twenty percent more than the usual payment for your cooperation in this matter.”

“Twenty percent? When you’re cutting my potential profits in half?” Esguerra laughs softly. “I don’t think so.”

After I translate, Buschekov pours himself some vodka and swirls it around the glass. “Twenty percent more and the captured Al-Quadar terrorist remitted into your custody,” he says after a few moments. “This is our final offer.”

I translate his words and sneak another glance at the blond-haired man, inexplicably curious to see his reaction. Lucas Kent hasn’t said a word this whole time, but I can sense him watching everything, absorbing everything.

I can sense him watching

Does he suspect anything, or is he simply attracted? Either way, it worries me. Men like that are dangerous, and I have a feeling this one may be more dangerous than most.

“We have a deal then,” Esguerra says, and I realize that this is it. What Obenko was afraid of is coming to pass. The Russians are going to get the weapons to the so-called freedom fighters, and the clusterfuck in Ukraine will reach epic proportions.

Oh, well. That’s Obenko’s problem, not mine. All I need to do is smile, look pretty, and translate—which I do for the rest of the meal.

hen the meeting concludes
, Buschekov stays in the restaurant to talk to the owner, and I exit with Esguerra and Kent.

As soon as we step outside, the frigid cold bites at me. The coat I’m wearing is stylish, but it’s no match for the Russian winter. The chill goes straight through the wool and into my bones. Within seconds, my feet turn to icicles, the thin soles of my high-heeled shoes doing little to protect them from the freezing ground.

“Would you mind giving me a lift to the nearest subway?” I ask as Esguerra and Kent approach their car. I know I’m visibly shivering, and I’m counting on the fact that even ruthless criminals won’t let a pretty woman freeze for no good reason. “It should be about ten blocks from here.”

Esguerra studies me for a second, then motions to Kent. “Frisk her,” he orders curtly.

My heart rate speeds up as the blond man comes up to me. His hard face is emotionless, his expression not changing even when his big hands travel over my body from head to toe. It’s a classic patdown—he doesn’t try to feel me up or anything—but when he’s done, I’m shivering for a different reason, the chill inside me exacerbated by a surge of unwelcome awareness.

No. I force my breathing to even out. This is not the reaction I need. He’s not the man I need to be reacting to.

“She’s clean,” Kent says, stepping away from me, and I do my best to control my relieved exhalation.

“Okay, then.” Esguerra opens the car door for me. “Hop in.”

I climb in and take a seat next to him in the back, giving mental thanks that Kent joined the driver at the front. I’m finally in a position to make my move.

“Thank you,” I say, giving my warmest smile to Esguerra. “I really appreciate it. This is one of the worst winters in recent years.”

To my disappointment, there isn’t even a flicker of interest on the arms dealer’s handsome face. “No problem,” he says, pulling out his phone. A smile appears on his sensuous lips as he reads whatever message is there and begins typing a response.

I study him, wondering what could’ve put him in such a good mood. A deal gone right? A better-than-expected offer from a supplier? Whatever it is, it’s distracting him from me, and that’s not good.

“Are you staying here for long?” I ask, making my voice soft and seductive. When he glances at me, I smile again and cross my legs—the length of which is emphasized by the silky black tights I’m wearing. “I could show you around town if you’d like.” As I speak, I look him in the eye, making my gaze as welcoming as I can. Men can’t tell the difference between this and genuine desire; as long as a woman looks like she wants them, they believe she does.

And to be fair, most women
want this man. He’s more than handsome—gorgeous, really. Women would kill for a chance to be in his bed, even with that dark, cruel edge I sense within him. The fact that he doesn’t do anything for me is my problem, one I’ll need to work on if I’m to complete my mission.

I don’t know if Esguerra senses something off or if I’m just not his type, but instead of taking me up on my offer, he gives me a cool smile. “Thanks for the invitation, but we’ll be leaving soon and I’m afraid I’m too exhausted to do your town justice tonight.”

I conceal my disappointment and smile back. “Of course. If you change your mind, you know where to find me.” There’s nothing else I can say without raising suspicion.

The car stops in front of my subway stop, and I climb out, trying to think how I’m going to explain my failure in this department.

He didn’t want me?
Yes, that would go over well.

Heaving a sigh, I wrap my coat tighter around my chest and hurry into the underground metro station, determined to at least get out of the cold.



he first thing
I do upon arriving home is call my boss and convey everything I’ve learned.

“So it’s as I suspected,” Vasiliy Obenko says when I’m done. “They’re going to use Esguerra to arm those fucking rebels in Donetsk.”

“Yes.” I kick off my shoes and walk into the kitchen to make myself tea. “And Buschekov demanded exclusivity, so Esguerra’s now fully allied with the Russians.”

Obenko lets out a string of curses, most of which involve some combination of fucking, sluts, and mothers. I tune him out as I pour water into an electronic kettle and turn it on.

“All right,” Obenko says when he calms down a little. “You’re seeing him tonight, right?”

I take a breath. Now comes the unpleasant part. “Not exactly.”

“Not exactly?” Obenko’s voice goes dangerously quiet. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“I offered, but he wasn’t interested.” It’s always best to tell the truth in these types of situations. “Said they’re leaving soon, and he was too exhausted.”

Obenko starts cursing again. I use the time to tear open a tea bag, drop it into a cup, and pour boiling water over it.

“You’re sure you’re not going to see him again?” he asks after he’s done with his cursing fit.

“Reasonably sure, yes.” I blow on my tea to cool it down. “He just wasn’t interested.”

Obenko goes silent for a few moments. “All right,” he says finally. “You fucked up, but we’ll deal with that another time. For now, we need to figure out what to do about Esguerra and the weapons that will flood our country.”

“Eliminate him?” I suggest. My tea is still a bit too hot, but I take a sip anyway, enjoying the warmth going down my throat. It’s a simple pleasure, but the best things in life are always simple. The smell of lilacs blooming in the spring, the softness of a cat’s fur, the juicy sweetness of a ripe strawberry—I’ve learned to treasure these things in recent years, to squeeze every ounce of joy out of life.

“Easier said than done.” Obenko sounds frustrated. “He’s better protected than Putin.”

“Uh-huh.” I take another sip of tea and close my eyes, savoring the taste this time. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

“When did he say he was leaving?”

“He didn’t specify. He just said ‘soon.’”

“All right.” Obenko seems impatient all of a sudden. “If he contacts you, let me know immediately.”

And before I can reply, he hangs up.

ince I have
the evening off, I decide to indulge in a bath. My bathtub, like the rest of this apartment, is small and dingy, but I’ve seen worse. I spruce up the ugliness of the cramped bathroom by putting a couple of scented candles on the sink and adding bubbles to the water, and then I get in, letting out a blissful sigh at the warmth engulfing my body.

If I had my way, I’d always be warm. Whoever said hell is hot was wrong. Hell is cold.

Russian-winter cold.

I’m enjoying my soak when the doorbell rings. Instantly, my heartbeat spikes and adrenaline blasts through my veins.

I’m not expecting anyone—which means it could only be trouble.

Jumping out of the tub, I wrap a towel around myself and run out of the bathroom into the main room of my studio apartment. The clothes I took off are still lying on the bed, but I don’t have time to put them on. Instead, I throw on a robe and grab a gun from the drawer in my nightstand.

Then I take a deep breath and approach the door, aiming the weapon at it.

“Yes?” I call out, stopping a couple of feet from the apartment entrance. My door is reinforced steel, but the keyhole is not. Someone could shoot through it.

“It’s Lucas Kent.” The deep voice speaking English startles me so much, the gun wavers in my hand. My pulse jumps another notch, and a peculiar weakness seizes my knees.

Why is he here? Does Esguerra know anything? Did someone betray me? The questions blaze through my mind, making my heart race even faster, but then the most reasonable course of action comes to me.

“What is it?” I ask, doing my best to keep my voice steady. There’s one explanation for Kent’s presence that doesn’t involve me getting killed: Esguerra’s changed his mind. In which case, I need to act like the innocent civilian I’m supposed to be.

“I’d like to talk to you,” Kent says, and I hear a hint of amusement in his voice. “Are you going to open the door, or are we going to continue talking through three inches of steel?”

That doesn’t sound like Esguerra’s sent him for me.

I quickly evaluate my options. I can stay locked inside the apartment and hope he won’t be able to find his way in—or get me when I come out, as I will inevitably have to—or I can take the chance that he doesn’t know who I am and play it cool.

“Why do you want to talk to me?” I ask, stalling for time. It’s a reasonable question. Any woman in this situation would be wary, not just one who has something to hide. “What do you want?”


The one word, uttered in his deep voice, hits me like a fist. My lungs stop working, and I stare at the door, seized by irrational panic. I wasn’t wrong then, when I wondered whether he might be attracted to me—whether the reason he kept looking at me might be as simple as human biology in action.

Yes, of course. He wants me.

I force myself to start breathing again. This should be a relief. There’s no reason to panic. Men have wanted me since I was fifteen, and I’ve learned to cope with it. To turn their lust to my advantage. This is no different.

Except Kent is harder, more dangerous than most.

No. I silence that small voice and take a deep breath, lowering my weapon. As I do, I catch a glimpse of myself in the hallway mirror. My blue eyes are wide in my pale face, and my hair is messily pinned up, wet tendrils trailing down my neck. With the terrycloth robe wrapped carelessly around me and the gun in my hands, I look nothing like the fashionable young woman who tried to seduce Kent’s boss.

Reaching a decision, I call out, “Just a minute.” I could try to deny Lucas Kent entry to my apartment—it wouldn’t be that suspicious for a woman alone—but the smarter thing would be to use this opportunity to get some information.

At the very least, I can try to find out when Esguerra’s leaving and tell Obenko, partially making up for my earlier failure.

Moving quickly, I hide the gun in a drawer underneath the hallway mirror and unpin my hair, letting the thick blond strands stream down my back. I’ve already washed off my makeup, but I have clear skin and my eyelashes are naturally brown, so it’s not too bad. If anything, I look younger, more innocent this way.

More like “the girl next door,” as Americans like to say.

Confident that I’m reasonably presentable, I approach the door and unlock it, trying to ignore the heavy, frantic beating of my heart.

BOOK: Capture Me
3.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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