Not the easiest choice for Ana Moreno, who has a history of B and E convictions and a problem with authority. But it's a decision she and four other felons are willing to make to stay out of a jail cell.
When a deadly shipment of Ecstasy heads for San Francisco, Ana's team is sent to stop it. Ana's task: get close to the handsome and dangerous Jonas Saven, right-hand man of a suspected drug dealer with a deadly agenda. As Ana uncovers a web of secrets, betrayal and revenge, her heated attraction to Saven grows.
But with time running out to stop the dangerous drug lord, Ana must complete her mission--even if it costs her everything...
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About the Author
Kelly Lynn Parra's earliest stories were told with paintbrushes, but upon discovering the drama, forbidden love and danger of romance and suspense novels, those paintbrushes were replaced with a keyboard.
Now a multi-published author, she has created memorable characters such as a graffiti artist, a psychic teen and a tough undercover narc. A two-time RITA® Award finalist, she divides her time between her novels, freelance writing and the adventures of motherhood, where she juggles her home life with two children, a tattooed husband, a sweet poodle and a stealth turtle. Visit her website at KellyParra.com.
Read an Excerpt
Body heat and cannabis stench suffocated the air inside the crowded public bathroom, making her feel as if she were sucking tainted oxygen through a straw.
Trying not to inhale too deeply in order to avoid a contact high, Ana Moreno finger-combed the irritating strands of hair stuck to her face. Her lips and throat were dry, but her body was slick with sweat, pasting the screen-printed I'll Try Being Nicer, If You Try Being Smarter T-shirt to her stomach and back. She didn't pull at the black material, didn't fidget. Nothing to call attention to the wire taped between her breasts.
She kept her line of vision open as much as possible given the dimly lit area and group of stirring bodies. Enough to spot the thick rusted door that stood as a barrier between the bathroom and the decrepit theater vibrating with techno music and gyrating youths high on a variety of mood-altering drugs.
And enough to keep tabs on Stephen "Boner" Johnson, twenty-two-year-old drug dealer, and idiot.
In the light of a faint gas lantern set on a broken sink, Boner's rangy body twitched as he worked an illegal sale with two teenaged Candy Raverssuburban kids decorated with candy necklaces, fake tattoos and body paint.
Boner was small-time. A couple of possession charges with the intent to sell and a tendency to shoplift. Nothing major. In the last six months, she'd assisted in the arrests of plenty low-status dealers just like Boner. She'd strolled the streets as an undercover buyer, attended parties and learned who distributed the purest goods.
The thing was, none of her prior arrests had been the core focus of a SIDESecret Informant Drug Enforcementmission before. At no time had she been given an actual file on one specific dealer with the explicit instructions to find himonly himand initiate a transaction.
This entire set-up gave her a bad feeling.
There hadn't been time for questions. Even if there had, it wouldn't have mattered. Sarge, her boss, lived by a follow-orders-no-questions-asked motto. Just one of the several reasons they bumped heads as often as a junkie chased the dragon.
Paul Galvini, codename Skatesthe newest member of SIDE and her partner for the nightlurked five feet away in the center of the room. Tall and thin and just past twenty, with his blue Kool-Aid-colored hair and the crotch of his pants sagging to his knees, he blended in among the other partygoers. His usually vibrant blue eyes were now dark shadows flicking around the room, pale cheeks curved taut against high cheekbones, wide mouth tightened in a straight line. He played the lookout, in case something went wrong. Too bad the kid turned into a shivering puppy at any hint of conflict.
Boner finally turned toward her, rubbing his rigid nose. The dim light didn't catch any dilation in his pupils, but it did reveal the bumps of acne on his face and the way he continuously smacked on a piece a gum. Characteristics of a dealer who likely dipped into his own supply. Just what she needed. A strung-out target could be as unpredictable as any wild animal.
"Now," he said, his wide eyes scanning her up-and-down. "Anything you want, I probably got."
She took a step toward him. Gave the fool the impression she trusted him. Gave her concealed wire a clearer transmission. "You sure about that?"
He jerked his thin shoulders. His black trench coat swayed around his knees with the movement. "Let's find out."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A heroine who makes the page glow with more brilliance than Lisbeth Salander from Steig Larsson's series? She's here in Ms Parra's Criminal Instinct. And not only that, the other characters are pretty perky too. Our misfit, Ana Moreno, is feisty and tiny but tough enough to break a man's face. She carries an illegal switch-blade in her boot, is carrying enough emotional baggage around that would flatten a goods train, and she's been sentenced to five years in prison for attempted murder. But she's opted, along with a group of other choice criminals, to join SIDE (Secret Informant Drug Enforcement program) and believe me, she and her peers are completely dispensable as they try to take down one drug baron after another. Life is so full of risks that I did wonder at times if prison might've been easier. The team's current assignment is to track down who is responsible for a deadly shipment of dangerous drugs heading for San Francisco. Ana is given the task of finding out all she can about Jonas Saven, a dangerous drug dealer, known for his playboy lifestyle and his casual attitude to death. It seems difficult to bond with two main characters who appear to be nothing more than damaged goods. But I was wrong in my assumption. Jonas Saven is the perfect hero, hunky, brooding and with no patience for bull. But is he really the dangerous criminal his reputation has led you to believe? Ana thinks so and nothing will get in this diminutive character's way, even if she does have a problem with authority and is about to be flung back in jail for breaking SIDE's rules. Yes, there is much bloodshed, guilty and innocents beaten to A pulp, torture of the nasty kind, woman-bashing and racial overtones. But a light of innocence, of being misunderstood, a keen sense of justice and an underlying reason why a person acts as she or he does glimmers through the gore. This brings a perfect balance to the plot which rushes along faster than a torpedo in full flight. Will they discover who's behind the shipload of drugs? Will Ana succumb to Jonas's apparent caring interest for her or is she just another notch on the bedpost? But, more importantly, will this mammoth undertaking be too much for our brittle heroine, even though she does tend to pop back up again like a jack in the box after fearful batterings? But then, of course, she's ever ready to throw herself into the fray. It's almost exhausting to read. Yet the romance scenes (not telling between which characters) are so tender and emotional. Beautifully written, and once again - like a breath of fresh air - a good balance in the plot. This humdinger of a rollercoaster ride never lets up, and keeps the reader entranced right to the end. My only criticism, if it can be called that, was the constant referral to the color of Ana's skin and her hang-up over it. It seemed overplayed. With one or two nasty villains turning out to be not quite so nasty after all, it brings back our faith in the world. I was engrossed in this story from beginning to its satisfying ending and I believe that those who enjoy this genre will consider they've found a gem. I say "ending", yet there's bags of room for a sequel that I for one would jump on. So I ask - no beg - Ms. Parra to get one out. Please. Originally posted at the Long and Short of It Romance Reviews
Checked this book out of the library via Overdrive on my NOOK...and loved it so much I then bought the book on my NOOK because I'm an avid re-reader. Ana hasn't had much of a life, abandoned by her Caucasian mother, a stranger to her father's Latino culture, always feeling the outsider even in her foster homes. She turns to a life of thievery to get by and also as a kind of kick-in-the-teeth to the wealthy who seem to have everything. When a job goes terribly wrong, Ana takes a beating and gets arrested and faces 5 years in prison. So the surprise offer of trading that sentence for a job working undercover with a group of fellow criminals in San Francisco's war on drugs seems more of an ultimatum...lose your freedom either way. When Jonas Saven follows a young pickpocket in hopes of retrieving his property and witnesses her opening a can of whoop-ass on two much larger assailants in defense of her companion, he is taken aback...when he sees her face, he's intrigued. But when Ana recognizes the man who intervened as none other than the man she's been inquiring about, the man who is part of a suspected criminal organization that may be behind a rumored influx of a dangerous drug camouflaged as Ecstasy, she's earned his interest and her in. Can this perpetual outsider keep her heart out of the investigation? Feisty doesn't begin to describe Ana who is street smart and wise beyond her years. And Jonas is her perfect foil in this book that focuses on action and suspense with just enough romance. Loved it and hope we see the stories of more of the SIDE crew.