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Read an Excerpt
A Likely Story
By AJ Nuest
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 AJ Nuest
All rights reserved.
The office door flew open, and Eden froze at her desk, her gloved hand poised with the syringe in mid-air. Shifting her eyes left, she scanned the frustrated scowl creasing Tanner's pretty face. Well, shit.
"I couldn't get past his receptionist. I swear the woman's a member of the KGB." Tanner tore the straw hat off her head, scrunching the rolled brim in her fist. The door hissed closed at her back and the automatic bolt snapped in place. "The guy must've walked past me three times and it was like I didn't even exist."
Dammit. Eden refocused on the chocolate-covered cherry in her fingers and depressed the plunger, filling the candy with exactly one ounce of a powerful liquid laxative. She should've known better. Of all the dumb things Eden had ever done, scheduling herself to be out of the office at the same time Tanner was prepping for her first assignment had to top the charts.
Revenge was a tricky business. Booming, but tricky. And she should've been here to reconfirm the details with Tanner before sending their newest recruit through that door.
"It's those god-awful boots." Mocha looked up from the papers strewn across his desk, his neon orange press-on nails streaking through the fluorescent light as he waved off Tanner's failure. "I told that girl they're too manly, but she wouldn't listen."
Yep, Mocha was right. Eden arched a brow at the tan, ankle-high work boots laced up Tanner's feet. Those clodhoppers belonged in a construction zone, and threw the rest of Tanner's angelic, fresh-off-the-farm attire completely out of whack.
The brown papers rustled against Eden's rubber gloves as she returned the chocolate to the box and selected another cherry. "Did you get made?"
Not that it mattered. This early in the game, it wasn't like getting recognized was the end of the world ... even though it could be to Tanner. Balancing her elbow on her blotter, Eden shook an auburn coil out of her eyes and carefully injected the last of the laxative into the center. Those first few trips out were crucial, and Tanner's confidence would play a big part in whether or not she was successful in the future.
"No, I didn't get made." She clomped around the metal desk on Eden's left, dropping her basket of sandwiches on the floor. "Fat chance of that happening if I can't even get past the front gate."
She tossed the hat onto her desk and it skidded over the top like a downed Frisbee, the wide blue ribbon snagging on the edge. Her paisley print skirt puffed from her legs as she plopped onto her chair. Leaning forward to tug at her laces, she tossed a long blonde curl over her shoulder, toeing off her boots and kicking them aside. "I don't know how in the hell you always make this look so easy."
God, Eden remembered those days. She set the needle aside and carefully placed the chocolate in its little nest, centered the padded white sheet inside the box and lowered the lid. How irritating it could be when a scheme fell apart before she even got it up and running. "Try not to get too discouraged, sweetie. Things could be worse."
Easing the chocolates into a sleeve of shrink wrap, she spun her chair toward the machine on the back credenza. A flick of the switch and the conveyer belt hummed. She fed the box through the slot and waited for it to appear on the other side. "If he noticed you, we'd have to start from scratch. At least now we know what doesn't work."
Grant Dufferman's soon-to-be ex-wife had described him as a womanizer. A guy who got his rocks off preying on young women who were shy, naive. Innocents ripe for the picking and in need of some rescuing. Preferably by him.
Tanner's huge blue eyes and healthy Midwestern vibe should've done the trick. The creep was pretty twisted, though. Remove his Ivy League education and six-figure income, and instead of getting caught in bed with the underage daughter of his wife's best friend, Dufferman's sociopathic tendencies would've made him the perfect internet predator.
That being the case, he was also a lot smarter than she'd given him credit for. Eden pursed her lips. And he knew how to play it safe. Apparently, Grant Dufferman had gone the extra mile by surrounding himself with a dedicated staff, which meant getting the information they were after might be tougher than she'd originally anticipated.
"Did you smile? I told you not to smile." The phone rang and Mocha plucked it from the base. "Password." His high-glossed lips curled in a sneer before he dropped the receiver back into the cradle. "Wrong answer, Chuck. Can I get another contestant?"
Eden huffed a laugh, swinging the shrink-wrapped box around to her desk. She tied a wide gold bow around the center, slipped the gift card under the ribbon and snapped off her rubber gloves.
The password system was old school but effective, and ensured them a loyal, referral-based clientele. Those who preferred their dirty little secrets stayed that way. It never ceased to amaze her how much some people would pay to settle a score, and for those who couldn't afford their fee, a trade for services rendered was always negotiable. A girl could never have too many friends in her line of work.
Tugging open her side desk drawer, she pulled out Dufferman's file to take another pass over the information his wife had provided during her interview. Maybe there'd be a useful tidbit in his profile. Something Mocha had found during his research phase so they could be confident right off the top their work wasn't based on a bunch of false accusations.
The front end contained the usual — high-profile job, Mercedes-Benz, weekend squash game with the boys. Boring. Eden flipped the page and kept reading, bumping the chocolate aside with her elbow so she could spread the file open on her desk. Ah ha. She ran her finger along a line of Paris Dufferman's loopy scrawl. Right, right, here was something they might be able to exploit. Coupled with the dozen or so teenage girls he'd used up and tossed aside, seemed as if Dufferman's favorite pastime was loading up on gin and using his fists in the bedroom.
"You need to act nervous, hon. Unsure of yourself. Get his attention while acting like you don't want his attention." Standing behind his desk, Mocha shimmied his black spandex mini-skirt down his thighs, the ruffled lapels of his cropped black blazer and orange vee neckline framing his generous cleavage. "And lose the boots. No man in his right mind would go after a delivery girl wearing those steel-toed nightmares. They scream toe jam and bunions."
Eden lifted a photo of Paris from the file, the woman's left eye a hellacious black-and-blue mess, her bottom lip bloody and swollen. Yep. Disgust twisted Eden's stomach and her nostrils flared. Dufferman was one sick puppy, all right. She flipped the picture to find another showing a series of bruises running down Mrs. Dufferman's back. The woman had been right to come to them. This case deserved special attention. The kind Paris had said she hoped to avoid given her status as one of Chicago's premiere socialites. The kind Eden's team specialized in so Mrs. Dufferman would be left clear of any blame.
Mocha's size twelve, patent-leather stilettos left little depression marks in the gray carpet squares as he approached Tanner's desk and plucked the sandwiches off the floor. "Which ones are safe?"
"None of them." Tanner swept the blonde wig off her head, removed her net cap and tossed it beside the straw hat. "Unless you're itching for a bionic case of food poisoning."
He arched a finely tweezed eyebrow and batted his false eyelashes by way of a droll response. Hosiery swishing, he walked the basket past Eden's desk to the door of an adjoining office she'd had converted into a refrigerated room and industrial grade freezer. After he'd tapped the code into the keypad, the bolt slid open with a clunk, and he and the basket disappeared inside.
Eden flipped the file closed. "Did you get anything?"
"Hell, no." Tanner combed her fingers through her dark angular bob, twirled her chair around and fitted the wig on the empty mannequin head sitting on a recessed shelf built into the wall. "I stood there like an idiot until his receptionist finally gave me the stink eye."
Hmmm ... Perhaps the time had come to ramp up their efforts. It was imperative Tanner position herself as Dufferman's next, ideal candidate if they hoped to take him down.
Leaning back in her chair, Eden slid open the lower panel on the credenza and lifted out a thick, three-ring binder. "The next time you go in, I'm sending you as Cherry." She set the binder on her desk and paged to the section marked Virgins. "She's innocent, but sexy. Has a little more of a wild streak to her than Coral."
Eden tapped the Polaroid Mocha had snapped of her in a soft-pink lace dress, cap sleeves tied with silk ribbon, handkerchief hemline landing a smidge above the knee. The blonde ringlets of the wig added to the baby doll image, but the matching pink pumps made the look classy. Eye-catching, but not ostentatious. She chewed her bottom lip. With the right accessories, Cherry should work nicely. "What time's his lunch?"
Tanner tipped her head back as if Dufferman's schedule was written on the ceiling tiles. "He rides elevator eighteen up from the lower level gym and arrives at his floor anywhere between three minutes after one and one-twelve, depending on how many secretaries cross his path."
Eden smiled and stood, smoothing away the creases in her white linen dress, and curled her finger for Tanner to follow as she walked the narrow lane between the row of desks to the supply room.
While emotional attachments weren't really her thing, Eden had to admit Tanner had found a way into her heart. She reminded Eden of a younger version of herself. A blank slate — no close friends, family scattered across the globe, and too sharp to get stuck inside a cubicle only to dream of a better life.
Tanner was a lost soul who'd fallen through the cracks in the system, just like Mocha and exactly the same as Eden had been before Malcolm had found her and offered her a way out by grooming her to take over the business.
She punched the code into the keypad and led Tanner into the large walk-in closet. Training another to follow in her footsteps was only the first phase in Eden's long-term goals. Goals she'd put on hold far too long, waiting for the day her financial status made them viable.
Another year, maybe two, and she'd finally be able to see them through.
"Here." She lifted the lace dress from Cherry's section on the hanger bar and dropped it on the hook near the three-way mirror, brought over the shoes and set them on the floor. "The next time you go in, I want you to arrive so you and Dufferman end up on the same elevator." Eden pointed for Tanner to stand in the middle of the mirrors, unhooked the dress and held it in front of Tanner's shoulders. "As you're getting off on his floor, trip and drop the basket."
Eden shook the hanger and Tanner squinted, grabbing the dress from Eden's hand. "What if he doesn't stop to help me pick up the mess?"
Plucking Cherry's wig from the mannequin head, Eden brought it over and tugged it down Tanner's dark hair. "Please. The man has a reputation to uphold and you'll be a damsel in distress. He'll not only help you, he'll get you past his receptionist by inviting you into his office. You know. Just to make sure you're okay."
Grasping Tanner's upper arms, Eden leaned close. As much as Tanner had proven she could handle the job, the last thing Eden wanted was Tanner getting hurt. They needed to be careful. Play it every bit as safe. "No matter how much he insists you stay, you get in, sell him the sandwich and get out. The man is dangerous, Tanner. Underestimating him would be a bad mistake. Your only goal at this point is to leave a lasting impression." She tipped her head. "For next time."
Tanner frowned. "And the food poisoning?"
An evil smile curled Eden's lips in the mirror. "Oh, that's just a bonus. By the time we're done with him, a few days in the bathroom will be the least of Grant Dufferman's problems."
* * *
Flipping up the collar on his leather jacket, Detective Kelly Riordan shot a glance at the icy rain spitting against the windshield of his Dodge Charger before shoving open the door. A freezing blast of wind careened in off the lake, and he winced as a sheet of hard drizzle doused his face.
Mother Nature during October in Chicago could be one mean bitch. He slammed the door and assessed the small group of onlookers standing a few feet down the beach. The flashing lights of the parked squads bounced off their umbrellas, tinting the rainy sheen blue then red.
Well, at least he could count himself lucky the shitty weather had cut down on the rubberneckers. Whatever evidence the rain hadn't washed away, the rest of the scene should be fairly clean.
He swiveled his shoulders to scan the row of stately manors facing the lake. Too bad he hadn't caught the same break with location. A dead body washed up on the shores of this gated Gold Coast community was gonna cause him hell. The DA would be on his ass like white on rice until he'd closed the case.
He swung back toward the beach and jerked his chin at Néna Ramirez as the officer trudged up from the cordoned off area near the water, tossing her long, dark braid over her shoulder. "Whadda we got?"
"Caucasian female, mid-to-late twenties." She stepped onto the black top and stomped her feet, knocking clods of wet sand off her boots. "Working girl, from the looks of her."
Christ, a prostitute. In this area. A headache bloomed behind Kelly's eyes. Fucking great.
"It gets better." Lifting the back of her hand, Ramirez swept a raindrop off the end of her nose, and then nodded toward a middle-aged couple huddled together under a blue umbrella a foot or so from the crowd. "Mr. and Mrs. Weaver. They found the body about an hour ago and called it in. DeFranco's ruled it homicide. Victim took multiple stab wounds to the chest and torso before getting tossed in the lake."
Jesus. Kelly shifted his attention to the medical examiner, squatting over the body, and raked a dripping piece of hair off his brow. "Any ID?"
"No personal effects." Ramirez turned to follow Kelly's stare down toward the scene. "Time of death is still up for grabs, but DeFranco's estimating three days based on water temp and rate of decomp." Pivoting back toward Kelly, she lifted a brow. "He wants her back at the lab before confirming anything."
Yep, that matched square with DeFranco's MO. His Type A personality brought obsessive-compulsive disorder to a whole new level. Hell, if not for his coke-bottle glasses and missing pointy ears, the guy would make the perfect stand-in for Mr. Spock.
Good news was, DeFranco's practice of trusting science over supposition made him the best damn medical examiner in the city, and Kelly trusted his guesstimate over scientific fact any day. He'd been lucky to pull DeFranco on the case.
He nodded and jerked his thumb at the unlucky folks who'd found the victim. "Put 'em in a squad and get 'em some coffee." Doing so wouldn't help. No amount of time or money could scrub the image of a violent murder from a person's brain, especially when it came to the bloated remains of a floater. But at least they'd be warm, tucked out sight for when the local television jackals arrived. "Keep the press clear. I won't be long."
She dipped her chin and walked off as he started down the beach.
Thunder rumbled in the distance. Another wall of icy water hit his face, and Kelly yanked his jacket zipper higher as he ducked under the yellow police tape stationed around the scene. A black plastic tarp covered most of the body — no doubt DeFranco's attempt to keep any more evidence from disappearing — and Kelly couldn't help but razz the guy. Just to make him a little crazier than he already was. "Beautiful weather we're having."
The medical examiner glanced up from where he was bagging the victim's hands and used the edge of his shoulder to shove his glasses back up his nose. "Damn rain makes everything harder."
Tugging a rubber glove from his pocket, Kelly dropped to his haunches and flipped the tarp away from the victim's face.
Shit. He lowered his chin to his chest, one hand hanging limp between his knees. The bright-red dye job, those huge brown eyes staring off into space ...
Someone up there really hated his guts. This case just kept getting better and better.
"You know her?"
Excerpted from Dirty Deeds by AJ Nuest. Copyright © 2016 AJ Nuest. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An intriguing and suspenseful mystery as Eden Smith, owner of Dirty Deeds, specializes in getting revenge on those who need it for those who were unable to do so. Eden is skilled in changing her looks with various disguises and has been trained to take care of herself - that is until someone is targeting her business. A dead body is found and the only clue that the police have is Eden’s business card found on the body. Homicide Detective Kelly Riordan is tasked with learning what he can about Dirty Deeds. Since you must have a password in order for someone at Dirty Deeds to even accept a call, this is turning out to be much harder than he planned. Kelly is not going to give up and the interaction between Kelly and Eden makes for some interesting action, emotions, and humor. I really enjoyed this first book in the trilogy and am looking forward to starting book #2. I did not get a free copy of this book and was not asked to write a review, but enjoyed what I think is a good first book to the trilogy. (by paytonpuppy)
Loved, loved, loved this book!!! This book has all the romance, action, and suspense, anyone could possibly want. The action is fast and continuous, the romance is very steamy!!! I Absolutely love Eden, she is intelligent, strong and sexy as well, and Kelly, he is just delicious!! This is a book with fabulous characters that you won't want to put down!
These types of romantic suspense are what got me loving romance in the beginning. I'm now reading all kinds of romance genres but these types are what got me started. I really loved it. Kept me on my toes throughout the book! Eden runs a company bent on revenge for the little guy legally of course! Its what she does and she loves her job. Well things are about to get frosty! Her past is coming to bite her in the ass and she gets in a bit of a pickle because she's definitely a person of interest in the cases of 2 homicides. Homicide Detective Kelly Riordan knows she's hiding something and he will find out what and Eden is connected to both. Is he focused on the wrong person? These 2 characters get under each others skin which leads to some major chemistry. These 2 have passion in spades and I loved reading about them. By the end of the book I didnt really want it to end. I see there is a book 2 and I am definitely eager! A very enjoyable read and I recommend!
Been victimized? Justice system not working for you? Call Dirty Deeds (revenge busters)! Eden and her team (Tanner and Mocha) get results! Kelly, a homicide detective, is investigating a murder. A clue points towards Dirty Deeds... Gratifying, page turning mystery romance. Eden and Kelly are both alphas, as are most of their team members. Two leads who "don't love," each other have never been better together! (smile) Enjoyed the characters, mystery and romance! Looking forward to the next book in the series.
This book has all the action, suspense and romance anyone would want. The action is fast and continuous. The romance is hot and highly satisfactory! Eden is strong and smart and doesn't need protection, but Kelly is bound and determined to protect her. I am going to tell you that once you start this book, there is no going back...there is no dinner, no laundry, nothing. You cannot put this book down until the end. This is story is so well-written, the secondary characters will have you laughing and the main characters will have you hot and bothered. Be prepared for a thrill ride because that is what you get!
Hold onto your hats from the first page to the last , the reader is drawn to find out the answers and see how these characters survive. Ebook from netgalley and publishers with thanks. Opinions are entirely my own.
Wow! I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Eden's strength to survive her past and still care about others blew me away. Kelly's honest ability to read her despite her games, disguises, and secrets ensnared me. The ups and downs, dangers, and love that happens between these two was worth the read. My emotions followed the two as they traveled to their HEA. I highly recommend this book, and I look forward to the next one. I received a copy of this story through Netgalley, and this is my unsolicited review.
*I was given an ARC of this book for an honest review--I don’t give out spoilers! Please allow me to take a moment to fan myself. . Once again, AJ Nuest has completely blown my mind and left me wanting more with Dirty Deeds, her new romantic suspense. It’s no secret I’m a huge AJ Nuest fan, and there’s a reason. Dirty Deeds is an exciting action/thriller/romance with spice more potent than the chocolate covered cherries her heroine, Eden Smith, uses to get revenge on and unsuspecting man. As the owner of a revenge-for-hire agency, Eden's smart, tech-savvy, and in control of her life at all times…until she meets sexy Chicago cop Kelly Riordan. Investigating a murder of one of Eden’s past customers, Kelly knocks her off-kilter. Eden isn’t sure what to do with this alpha-male, tough guy when he wants to protect her -- she’s always looked out for herself. Kelly is just enough alpha to make even us independent girls swoon. He's a homicide detective--smart, analytical, brooding--oh yeah, sexy--enough said. AJ’s action-packed style of writing and her gift for character development keeps me on the edge of my seat, and Dirty Deeds was no exception. I read the book in an afternoon. I was enthralled with the plot line, and I just couldn't put it down (not to mention I was bound and determined to find out what that darn password was!) My new fav, Dirty Deeds is reminiscent of She’s Got Dibs, my other favorite AJ Nuest book. She takes a reader and plops them deep into her hero and heroine’s twisted and broken psyches, and you can’t help but root for them in the end. I love that with all of her alpha males, there’s an equally alpha female. And some of the greatest lines of her book come from her secondary characters, Mocha and Tanner. I laughed myself silly at Mocha’s over-the-top drag queen persona. You don’t know the password? Mocha always has a great comeback. Bottom line: The concept of Dirty Deeds is pure genius…anonymous revenge for hire using old school tactics like using secret passwords and undercover beauties with personas that leak into their real lives…it’s Nelson DeMille meets Meg Gardiner mixed with Jill Shalvis -- all favs of mine. I’m excited that AJ's turning this into a series. I can’t wait to read the next one!
Eden was putting one ounce of laxative into a chocolate covered cherry when Tanner came back in very frustrated and said she couldn’t get past the receptionist Eden’ business was called Dirty deeds and was a business to get revenge. Revenge was a tricky business, Eden and her team would only go so far. Eden felt she should have been there to reconfirm the details before Tanner went out. Tanner was Eden’s newest recruit and the first few trips out were crucial and Tanner’s confidence would play a large part in if she was successful in the future. Grant had been caught in bed with his wife-Paris-best friend’s underage daughter but he had an Ivy League education and a six figure income otherwise with his sociopathic tendencies would Have probably made him an internet troller. Eden thought of Paris Grant’s soon to be ex wife with a black eye and swollen bloody lip. This case may be a little rougher then Eden thought but Paris deserved justice. Especially as Grant is a womanizer who likes to prey on young woman who needed rescuing.Grant was a sick puppy and Paris had the right to come to Eden and those who worked with her. This case needed special attention. Then the phone rang and Mocha answered and asked for the password,the password system was effective and ensured loyal referral based clientele. Those who wanted their dirty little secrets to stay that way. It never cease to amaze Eden how much people will pay to even the score. Also if the client didn’t have the money for their fee a trade could be done. In Eden’s line of business you have to have many friends willing to help at different times. Tanner was a lost soul as had been Mocha and Eden herself until Malcolm found Eden and trained her to take over the business.Malcolm took in youths to teach them skills they could use in life and not always legal. Training another to follow in her footsteps was only the first phase of Eden’s long term goals. Goals that were put on hold until Eden’s financial status made the goals achievable. It should only take another year or two. Kelly was a homicide detective and he just picked up another case. A dead female named ruby who had one of Eden’s business cards in her hand who had been a past customer. Kelly then proceeds to talk to Eden and feels she is hiding something. Kelly is determined to uncover Eden’s past . Kelly and Eden are attracted to each other and it builds to more than lust. People are turning up dead from Eden’s past. Then Keely discovers that Eden is the ultimate target of this sick killer. Eden is not sure what to do with Kelly as he is protective and Eden has always taken care of herself. I liked this story a lot. Eden didn’t actually kill people for her clients but she did get payback to some degree. I like how independent Eden is yet she lets Tanner into her heart and worries about her safety. I liked the action in this book and liked the plot. I also liked how Kelly became protective of Eden. I thought this had a good pace and my attention never strayed from the story. I was also rooting for Kelly and Eden. I liked the characters and how they interacted with each other and i loved the ins and outs of this story and I recommend.