From a New York Times–bestselling author: A woman is kidnapped on a Caribbean pleasure cruise—only to be rescued by the most dangerous man she knows.
In the wrong place at the wrong time. Amber Larkspur is on a cruise ship headed to the Caribbean when she witnesses an abduction. The target is a powerful Washington senator who is a friend of her father’s and a member of the president’s inner circle. Then Amber is abducted too. Terrified that she’s going to die, she is shocked to be rescued by the seductive stranger who shared her bed a year ago. But Michael Adams hasn’t come to save her.
Haunted by the explosion that killed his wife and daughter, Adam Tchartoff lives for the day he can carry out his retribution. To the world he’s a heartless assassin. As Michael Adams, he can infiltrate the most impenetrable terrorist cells. Now a covert government mission has thrust Amber into harm’s way. The only way to protect her is to keep up the pretense. But will his hunger for revenge cost him the woman whose passion has brought him back to life?
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Heather Graham, including rare photos from the author’s personal collection.
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About the Author
Heather Graham (b. 1953) is a bestselling author of more than 150 romance, suspense, and historical novels that have sold seventy-five million copies worldwide. Raised in Florida, Graham went to college for theater arts, and spent several years acting, singing, and bartending before she devoted herself to writing. Her first novel, When Next We Love, was published in 1982. Although she became famous as an author of romance novels, Graham has since branched out into supernatural horror, historical fiction, and suspense, with titles such as Tall, Dark, and Deadly (1999), Long, Lean, and Lethal (2000), and Dying to Have Her (2001). In 2003 the Romance Writers of America, whose Florida chapter Graham founded, granted her a lifetime achievement award. She lives, writes, and scuba dives in Florida with her husband and five children.
Read an Excerpt
A Perilous Eden
By Heather Graham
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1990 Heather Graham Pozzessere
All rights reserved.
Washington, D.C. May 15
Ted Larkspur stood just inside the French doors, the dossier he carried held behind his back, his legs spread at ease. He was quite comfortable with the position; he was a retired military man who'd somehow found himself working on Capitol Hill. He was still a young man—at least, far younger than the chief executive.
The president was down on the floor, giving his attention to a jigsaw puzzle. From what Ted could make out, the picture was a Western scene.
The president looked up with a slightly absent smile, greeted Ted cordially, then looked at the puzzle again. Ted wasn't deceived; he knew he had the man's attention.
"You've got something for me?"
"Yes, sir. I think I've got exactly what you want."
The president reached out, and Ted stepped forward to hand him the folder, taking care not to tramp on the puzzle.
Still on the floor, the president opened the file. Dark eyes surrounded by the creases of many decades quickly scanned the report. He stared for a long time at the eight-by-ten glossy of a man he found in the file.
The face was an interesting one. Full of contradictions. Close-cropped light hair, light eyes—the color was impossible to tell from the black-and-white photo. Broad cheekbones, yet the face was still somehow slim. The nose had been broken somewhere along the line. The mouth was full, but held tightly. The standard glossy caught something of the man behind the face. Something of a sharp stare. Something keen, alert. Wary. Not so much as if he was always watching, but as if he was always ... prepared.
"Fascinating," the president said.
He set the dossier by his feet and picked up a piece of the puzzle.
Ted Larkspur cleared his throat. "I believe, sir, the piece you're holding goes up higher. It's not grass—it's sky, where the sun's rays start."
"I believe you're right, Larkspur."
He sighed with satisfaction as the piece fell into position. Then his gaze met Larkspur's again, and Ted shivered a little; there hadn't been a second during the interchange when the president had really forgotten his purpose.
"We have to do something, Ted."
Ted didn't reply. The president didn't really want an answer.
Once again the president gave his attention to the puzzle. "This man—this Adam Tchartoff—his citizenship is Israeli now?"
"But he was an American?"
"Yes, sir. It's all in the dossier there—"
"I got what I wanted from the dossier. The rest I want from you. You've seen him."
"Briefly. We weren't introduced."
"But you've seen him, Ted." The president tapped the dossier at his feet with a puzzle piece. "Don't ever let anyone fool you, Ted. This paper—pulp—with some neat facts and figures in ink. You never know a man until you've seen him."
"Yes, sir," Ted agreed.
"So." The president started to rise. Ted moved forward to help him, but the older man waved him away. "I can still rise on my own power, boy." He walked behind his desk and sat, folding his hands prayer fashion and leaning his head against the back of the chair as he stared at the ceiling.
"Why do you suppose he gave up his U.S. citizenship, Ted?"
"I, uh, don't really know, sir," Ted offered.
The president shifted and tapped a pencil on his desk. "Born in Linz, Austria, in 1950 of a White Russian refugee and a Polish Jewess. But the Austrians weren't giving refugee infants citizenship in those days."
Ted was surprised that the man had read so much in the few seconds his eyes had flicked over the file.
"That's right, sir. His parents moved to the United States in 1954—he acquired his citizenship a few years later. His father died in 1967—that's when he moved to Israel with his mother."
"But he didn't change his citizenship right away," the president mused. He lifted a brow. "He let us draft him into the U.S. Army first."
The president continued. "He served out his time in 'Nam, then he became an Israeli. What do you think of that?"
"Well, begging your pardon, sir, there's really not much for a man to do once he comes home, after he's been in the Special Services. I mean, you spend weeks, months, years, learning to be a savage—" Ted broke off.
The president laughed dryly. "Yes, I see your point. It's hard to come home to a suit and tie and Wall Street." His fingers drummed against the desk. "But he wasn't a violent man. He was an accountant."
"For several years, sir. He was asked by his government to work in a ... new capacity about five years ago. They needed his expertise for a rather tricky situation."
The president looked at Ted sharply. "That's when his alias was created?"
"When were his wife and child killed?"
"Two years ago. A car bomb went off when they were at the seashore on vacation. His name had become known. His wife and child were inside—he had gotten out to buy a pack of cigarettes."
"It's a shame. A real shame."
"Yes, it is."
The president exhaled, staring at his puzzle. "But now, for our purposes ... you're sure he can't be recognized?"
"He's always worked undercover. No one would recognize him since the car bombing. To the world at large he's a completely harmless bureaucrat. On the other hand, in certain circles, the alias, Michael Adams, is legendary. His reputation under that name allowed him to infiltrate the Death Squad without any difficulty. The Israeli connection is completely unknown."
"I'm not sure I understand."
"The persona was created slowly and carefully. Events, assassinations were all laid at his feet. The Death Squad is quite a conglomeration, you know. Dissatisfied Central and South Americans, and then a hard-core group from a number of the Arabic countries. They train in North Africa—we know that. Codes are usually in Spanish—but sometimes in Arabic. Once Adam tried to infiltrate as Michael Adams, the group pounced right on him."
"Tell me more about Tchartoff."
"He first went to Israel to see his mother, then he stayed for his wife." Ted hesitated, then added softly, "Then, I think, he stayed for revenge."
The president gazed at his desk, his fingers drumming on it "So he's still angry ..."
"Bitterly angry. That kind of loss is a pain that doesn't go away."
The drumming ceased as the older man stared at Ted abruptly. "I think he's perfect. Can you arrange a meeting? Not in Washington, of course. The United States government is going to have nothing to do with this, you understand."
"I understand your position perfectly, sir. No information of any kind will be on file. No one will know anything about it, except those directly involved, and they'll know only what they're told."
"I want our men back. I want that ring of cutthroats busted sky-high. I do not want a pack of mercenary terrorists calling the shots in this country, and I don't want them getting off in any foreign court."
"No, sir," Ted agreed. He hesitated a moment. "He's in Washington now. I called him about a ceremony to honor his old unit. He should have come in just about—" he paused to look at his watch "—an hour ago."
The president glanced at Ted with some surprise, then he smiled with slow and rueful admiration. "When is the ceremony?"
"Tomorrow at two."
"I assume that my schedule is free, and that I'll be able to attend?"
"Yes. You'll be able to observe Mr. Tchartoff before you meet with him."
The president nodded, satisfied. "Let's just hope, shall we, that he's still angry enough to accept our bait. Does he know our latest intelligence?"
"That the Death Squad was responsible for the bomb that killed his wife?"
"I don't know. He may have suspected."
"But we have proof." The president sat back. "I'm looking forward to meeting Mr. Tchartoff." He smiled. "I hear that someone else is due in today."
Ted felt a wide grin form. "Yes." He glanced at his watch. "Amber should have arrived this morning. She said that she wanted to explore the Smithsonian, then she would come to lunch."
"I'd like to see her. Can the two of you come to dinner this evening?"
"I'm sure that Amber will be delighted."
Amber Larkspur stared at the giant elephant in the center of the rotunda of the Museum of Natural History. As many times as she had come here, she still loved the place. Just as she loved the Museum of the American People and the art museums and the Air and Space Museum and everything else about the entire Smithsonian Institution.
There was no place quite like Washington, D.C. She had missed it.
A group of schoolchildren came running out of the hallway leading to the sea creatures. Laughing, they raced for the elephant.
Amber carefully stepped out of their way, smiling. As an army brat, she'd done a lot of moving around. But what time she had spent in one place had been here—or, really, Alexandria, Virginia. As a kid she had come on field trips here, just as these kids were doing now. Life had been so simple then—and, of course, she hadn't had the good sense to appreciate it. Not the simplicity, not the beauty. She smiled to herself, remembering the old saying—youth was wasted on the young.
Not that she was old, she reminded herself. But she had just turned twenty-nine, and she couldn't deny that it was knowing thirty was just around the corner that had made her change her life so drastically last week.
A young couple looking around a little bit helplessly caught Amber's attention. She smiled, realizing that they wanted to be together in a picture. She stepped forward, offering to snap a shot for them.
"Oh, will you?" The young woman, a pretty little brunette, flushed. "Thank you so much. This is our honeymoon, and we haven't got a single picture together so far."
"What a shame!" Amber said, smiling. "You should just ask. People here are great. Honestly. They'll be happy to help you."
She took a few pictures for them, then glanced at her watch. She wasn't due to meet her father for a half hour yet. Not enough time to see another museum, but too much time for hurrying.
The couple thanked her, then asked her advice on the city. She suggested an itinerary for them, then saw them off with a wave.
Babies, she thought. Neither one of them could be over twenty. And they were married and off on a honeymoon. Just like playing house, only it was the real world.
Amber stepped outside. May was such a beautiful month here. The sky was mostly clear, with only a soft puff of cloud visible here and there. The cherry blossoms were out, the grass was green, and the world was beautiful.
She stuck her hands into the pockets of her blazer, crossed the street and idly began to wander along the grass toward the subway station. It felt like summer was here; even on a workday, it was evident. A young man tossed a Frisbee to a dog. Two women—office workers, perhaps, judging by their fashionable dresses—picnicked on the lawn. There was a softball game going on about a hundred yards away. All around her she could hear laughter, and it was nice.
"This is the world," she murmured to herself. "All you have to do is open the door and step into it."
She smiled and picked up the tempo of her walk, her shoulder bag swinging beside her. She passed by a park bench with a man sitting on it.
She didn't know why, but when she had passed the man, she turned back to look at him.
He was just sitting there. He looked like a million other men on a warm day in the park. He was wearing jeans, sneakers and a denim shirt. His arms were stretched out along the back of the bench, and his face was turned to the sun, as if he was savoring the warmth.
Even as she stared at him, he looked up, staring straight at her in return. It was uncanny. He had sensed her. She wasn't moving, she hadn't uttered a word, but he had known that she was watching him, and he had known exactly where she was standing.
She flushed, but though she meant to, she didn't draw her eyes away from his immediately. He was too intriguing. She couldn't begin to judge his age, except that he was still young enough—though young enough for what, she wasn't sure. He wasn't handsome; he was arresting. His features were rugged and strong, his eyes mesmerizing. They were light, she thought. She couldn't really see them, but they were light, and he was reading her quickly, like an open book, instantly storing away whatever he saw, whatever he thought. There was a brooding intensity about him, she thought. An energy that lingered beneath his pose of lethargy.
Then he smiled. It wasn't a lascivious smile—not the type of smile she might have expected from a strange man who had caught her staring at him in the park. It was just an interested smile, and maybe a slightly amused one. If he didn't smile, she thought, he might be the type of man to make a person tremble. He wasn't a man she would want to cross.
"Hello," he said.
Amber felt a little like a fool. She nodded, then smiled in return. He was an intriguing man, but Washington was full of them. Powerful men, ambitious men. She felt that this one was powerful, but maybe not so ambitious. Or maybe he just didn't have the same ambitions as other men. It didn't matter, she assured herself. She was standing there staring at him, which was rude, and the least she could do was say hello back.
"Hello," she returned. Then she swung around quickly and started for the subway station. As she walked, she felt that he was still looking at her. She turned around. He was watching her. And he didn't pretend to look elsewhere when she caught him; in fact, he waved. She waved back, then kept walking, more quickly. She even ran down the steps when she reached the subway.
Once she was seated on the train, she tried to think ahead to lunch with her father, but the face of the stranger kept coming back to her.
It would fade, she assured herself.
By the time she reached the restaurant, she had almost forgotten his face. She wanted to tell her father the truth about what she was doing. She didn't want him to feel sorry for her—she didn't want him to say, "I told you so," and she didn't want him to worry. But neither could she forget five years of her life, and she didn't want to pretend that what she was going through wasn't heartbreaking.
They had arranged to meet at Zefferelli's, a hole-in-the-wall not too far from the Capitol building. Amber arrived first. She was pleased when Zefferelli recognized her and led her to a small booth in the back with a single glowing candle and a spotless white cloth. Amber ordered wine, then sat back to wait for her father.
He arrived within five minutes. She saw him enter and speak with Zefferelli. She jumped to her feet, waving. She was so proud of him. He was a handsome man, with a distinguished touch of gray at the temples and his lean, straight form. He meant everything in the world to her, now more than ever.
He weaved his way among the tables and came over to her. She hugged him enthusiastically, curiously near crying as she did. She laughed, and her eyes watered, and they broke apart at last and sat across from one another.
After they ordered, Amber began by asking him about life in the White House. He told her about the president's granddaughter, an eighteen-month-old, who had been left with the goldfish for a moment. She had taken all the pretty little creatures out and laid them on the table. The poor baby had been heartbroken to discover that they had all died.
Amber laughed; then Ted told her with a sigh that things weren't going very well. They'd had another diplomat kidnapped in Rome the other day.
"How terrible!" Amber cried softly. "Did he have a family?"
Her father swallowed a sip of water. "Two little girls, a young, pretty wife."
"It makes my problems seem rather shallow," she murmured.
Ted Larkspur took his daughter's hands in his own. "Nothing about you has ever been shallow, sweetheart. What's going on? I've been worried sick since you called."
"I left Peter, Dad."
Ted absorbed the information silently, nodding. "For good?"
She shrugged. "Maybe I didn't really intend to at first. I don't know. Maybe I was dreaming. I might have thought that if I actually walked away—packed my bags, stored my belongings—he would realize that I wasn't bluffing." She smiled ruefully, picking up her wineglass. "We all just keep on believing in Prince Charming, I suppose. I thought he'd run after me and swear that he understood. So far, it hasn't happened."
Ted looked at Amber. He didn't want to say, "I told you so," but his values had been right in this case.
"Maybe you never should have moved in with him."
Excerpted from A Perilous Eden by Heather Graham. Copyright © 1990 Heather Graham Pozzessere. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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