Authors: Nicki Bennett & Ariel Tachna
Nicki Bennett & Ariel Tachna
All for One
“With well-drawn characters who all ring true, the erotic scenes have that vital emotive quality, from playful pop and sizzle to beautifully tender.”
—Whipped Cream Erotic Romance Reviews
“I’ve always loved a good swashbuckling story involving swords, danger and conspiracy. And these authors delivered all three…”
“…an exciting and well-written novel that I found difficult to put down.”
does what any good historical should do and that is pull the reader into the time period in which the story takes place.”
“I loved the chemistry between Blaise and Peter, it was almost tangible.”
“…a strong plot, fantastic characters, and plenty of action outside of the bedroom.”
—Fallen Angel Reviews
All for One
Something About Harry
Tying the Knot
382 NE 191st Street #88329
Miami, FL 33179-3899, USA
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are 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 entirely coincidental.
Under the Skin
Copyright © 2011 by Nicki Bennett and Ariel Tachna
Cover Art by Anne Cain
Cover Design by Mara McKennen
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 382 NE 191st Street #88329, Miami, FL 33179-3899, USA
Printed in the United States of America
eBook edition available
eBook ISBN: 978-1-61372-105-6
To Jean for making Patrick a believable cop, to Tati for making sure Alexei was really Russian, and to Jaime for coming up with a title when we couldn’t.
Police Detective Patrick Flaherty frowned as he passed through the dark door of the gym. This was where Alexei Boczar, the Russian he could sometimes convince to act as a Mafiya informant, had said to meet, and the door was indeed unlocked as promised, but the establishment was otherwise clearly closed. His nerves tightened as he automatically scanned the rooms for anyone who might be hiding, but he saw no one in the late evening gloom. Including the man he was here to meet. His frown deepened. Where the fuck was he? Patrick had taken a serious risk coming here. The Russian had better make it worth his while.
Making his way deeper into the building, he found the weight room, row upon row of skeletal machines, all silent and still with no one there to bring them to clanking life. The shadows they cast danced like formless phantoms across the walls in the red emergency light that tinged the white metal as if with blood. Patrick shivered at the thought, all too sure that they had seen blood shed. He had no illusions about Boczar or his associates. He just didn’t have any proof.
Spying another door, he pushed into the locker room, eyes blinking furiously as they tried to adjust to the suddenly bright light. Squinting a little until his vision settled, he searched the room, looking for his errant contact. Despite the light, though, this space was as devoid of humanity as the previous rooms had been. Still, it assured him that Boczar was here somewhere.
Alexei drew on his cigarette, the burn of the rich Belomor tobacco a sharp contrast to the sultry warmth of the sauna. He listened to Flaherty moving around the locker room and revised his impression of the police detective upward—he hadn’t been convinced the other man would really show up. Exhaling sharply, he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Flaherty!” he called out, loudly enough to be heard through the heavy door of the steam room. “In here.”
The sound of his name in the Russian’s heavily accented voice startled Patrick slightly. He searched quickly for the source, seeing movement through the tinted glass of the sauna. Resigning himself to enduring the heat, he crossed the room and pulled open the door, catching his first glimpse of the other man through the steam. It obscured his vision, taunting him with glimpses of Boczar’s face, his tattoo-covered body clad only in a towel draped strategically across his groin.
Stepping inside and letting the door swing shut behind him, Patrick studied the strong, lean muscles of Boczar’s chest, such a contrast to the way he had first seen the other man. The top coat and gloves the Russian had worn at the hospital as he came to check on a wounded associate had hidden all but the most basic shape of his body. The towel hid almost nothing, leaving Patrick free to study and admire to his heart’s content. He looked automatically for the Russian’s gun, but wherever Boczar had concealed it, he had done so well.
Inclining his head in greeting, Alexei bit back a smile at the younger man’s blatant stare. The tattoos always fascinated those who hadn’t seen them before, those not familiar with the hellish environment in which they were earned and ignorant of the meaning they held. He watched a bead of sweat form on the policeman’s temple and weave a sinuous path down a smooth cheek and long, slender throat before vanishing under the younger man’s shirt collar. “You must be warm,” he observed, taking a final drag of the cigarette and dropping it on the damp tiled floor. “Make yourself comfortable.”
Patrick stared at Boczar in disbelief. Could the gangster actually expect him to strip down? He supposed it wouldn’t hurt to remove his coat. Pulling it off and setting it aside, he met the other man’s gaze evenly. “I have a proposition for you.”
The Russian’s eyes narrowed, as much amusement as he would allow himself at his companion’s obvious discomfort.
Chiortov Irlandets, stubborn to the last
, he thought, though it didn’t stop him from running an appraising glance over Flaherty’s lean young body.
He’d strip down quite nicely
, Alexei mused; too bad it didn’t look like he’d have the opportunity to see it. Still, the unusual location for the meeting had left his adversary—for that’s what Flaherty was; it would be well not to forget it—off guard, as was his intent. “A proposition?” he repeated, his slow, accented drawl heavy with innuendo as this time he made no effort to hide his assessing gaze.
Patrick knew his target’s reaction over the next few minutes was critical. If Boczar wouldn’t even talk to him, he’d not only wasted his time, but quite possibly ruined the chances of his sting succeeding. “I still want the guy who shot your associate,” he began, hoping to appeal to Boczar’s family loyalty if nothing else. He resisted the urge to loosen his collar, which had already grown uncomfortable in the heat of the sauna. Before long, his shirt would be soaked through, the way he was sweating. “I thought maybe you could help me find him and the ones behind him… and bring them down for good.”
“He has already been found,” Alexei replied softly. He could almost see the wheels turning in Flaherty’s head, casting about for any news of recent killings. Just for a moment, he considered informing the other man that if not for the necessity of sending a message, the body would never be found. Flaherty was smart—likely he already recognized that. “The others will pay… soon.”
“And you will start a turf war that turns Chicago into a bloodbath with your family in the center of it,” Patrick retorted. “What if there were another way?”
“Another way?” The enforcer’s skepticism was clear in his harsh reply. Coming here had been a waste of his time, unless…. Dark circles were beginning to spread beneath Flaherty’s folded arms, sparking a dangerous idea that Alexei couldn’t bring himself to resist. “Let us make bargain,” he proposed. “I will hear your ‘proposition’—if you take off shirt.”
Patrick frowned. That was not the way this negotiation was supposed to go, but at least Boczar hadn’t dismissed him out of hand. Feeling supremely self-conscious beneath the blue-gray gaze that pinned him, Patrick loosened his tie and worked open the buttons down the front of his shirt, shrugging it off his shoulders along with the shoulder harness that held his Glock 9mm. He had to admit he was cooler in only his scooped-neck sleeveless T-shirt. “I want them,” he said bluntly, “not just the one who shot your friend, but the whole organization. And if you help me, I’ll make sure your family’s left alone.”
“Why should I help you?” Alexei answered, his gaze raking over the younger man’s sculpted muscles. Flaherty’s chest, what he could see of it, was smooth and toned, a chain holding a small gold cross rising and falling against the thin white cloth of his undergarment with each breath. “That too,” he nodded, leaning back on his elbows on the wooden bench.