Amanda Skye made me want her. She made me trust her. She made me love her. Then she betrayed me. And now, a madman brings us together again and before our battle with him is over, I will make sure that she never forgets my name: Seth Cage. The Fixer for The Brandon Family Empire, but to a covert CIA operation, I will always be The Assassin. And to Amanda, I will be the man who made her moan, sigh, and beg. And I will make her beg.
***Note -- Poison Kisses is part 1 of a 3 part serial: All three parts are super sexy with an alpha man who has met his match in a kickass female. There will be naked moments that may or may not include a gun, which may or may not be his gun. ****
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed Inside Out series. In addition, both her Tall, Dark and Deadly series and The Secret Life of Amy Bensen series spent several months on a combination of the New York Times and USA Today lists.
Since beginning her publishing career in 2007, Lisa has published more than 40 books that have been translated around the world. Booklist says that Jones's suspense truly sizzles with an energy similar to FBI tales with a paranormal twist by Julie Garwood or Suzanne Brockmann.
Prior to publishing, Lisa owned a multi-state staffing agency that was recognized many times by The Austin Business Journal and also praised by Dallas Women Magazine. In 1998 LRJ was listed as the #7 growing women owned business in Entrepreneur Magazine.
Read an Excerpt
Fuck or get fucked.
That's how I lived my life in the CIA. That's how I live it outside the CIA.
Right now, though, with a gorgeous redhead straddling me, her body squeezing the hell out of my cock, fuck and get fucked works pretty damn fine for me. I shudder into release while she collapses against me, our breathing the only sounds in the room, and that's how I like it. No conversation. Fortunately, Tabitha is a barracuda of an attorney who's all about her career, and love doesn't work for her any more than it does me. We fuck. I leave. Which is exactly why this is over.
I roll her off of me and onto the mattress, standing up to ditch the condom in the trashcan by the bed before reaching for my pants. "You know you could stay," she says. "We could hit repeat."
My pants and shoes are on before she finishes uttering those lethal words that change everything. "I don't stay," I say, pulling my white T- shirt over my head. "That's never going to change." I grab my dress shirt and shrug into it, then my jacket, with my tie landing in my pocket. "You know this," I add.
Her legs shut. "I do know, but you were in Denver for months with that boss of yours. We have a lot of fucking to make up for now that you're back in New York."
I don't miss the breathless quality of her voice that tells me she's nervous, and looking for more from me than I've given her. I don't do more. I head for the door and just before I exit, I hear, "You aren't coming back again, are you?"
"No," I say without turning. "I'm not." I start walking, crossing the living room, and I'm at the exit to her apartment when I hear her voice.
"You know what, Seth Cage? I see you. Beneath that blond buzzed hair and all of your expensive, perfect suits, you don't fool me. You're afraid of anything real and that makes me feel sorry for you."
I don't reply. I've been honest with her. I've promised her nothing. I exit to the hallway and keep walking, amused as I always am at someone who wants to talk about real life with me when they don't even know the definition of real. I know real. I know betrayal. I know death. And I know blood. I don't fuck to feel the emotions Tabitha just tried to get from me. I fuck to feel something physical that gets the real shit out of my head. And sixty seconds after she's made it clear that she doesn't understand this, I'm at the elevator, and getting into a car.
Minutes later, my shirt is buttoned, tucked, my tie back in place, and I'm inside my pick of the day, a white Lexus LFA, a two-hundred- thousand-dollar gift from a high-ranking foreign official after he'd called me for help on a matter involving his daughter, a ransom, and a gang of rebels.
Thirty minutes later, I arrive at the high-rise I call home, owned by my employer, Shane Brandon, of the Brandon Enterprises empire, who is now on an extended honeymoon, a big payday in his pocket, and in mine, from a recent business transaction. One that required my kind of talents, which are not for the faint of heart, or for those who believe two wrongs don't make a right. Two wrongs can fucking make a right. My kind of right. And Shane Brandon needs my kind of right, even when he feels like it's wrong.
I exit the car and hand the valet my keys, and the hair on the back of my neck stands on end, a warning that someone is watching me. I tip the kid parking my car, wave at Joe, the doorman, and enter the lobby, the high ceilings towering twenty feet above, but it's not above me that has my attention. That sensation of being watched remains, and it's in all the places around me where one of the many enemies I've made over the years could be lurking. I don't play cat and mouse games unless I'm the cat. I cut right and into the nearly empty coffee shop, pass the register and turn left into the L-shaped seating area, continuing on until I'm sitting in the back corner, watching the entrance.
That's when a familiar face appears. Jack "Bear" Woodrow, who like myself, I know to be thirty-five and recruited into the agency while in college. The difference is he's still on the roster full time. I am not. He's also big, as in six-foot-five. Broad, as in linebacker. Gruff, as in attitude, but somehow still refined, in a black suit, and sporting a neatly trimmed goatee. He's also known to have battled a real-life bear — thus the nickname — and won, despite the Russian spy trying to get the damn thing to eat him. He walks toward me, sits down, and drops a folder in front of me.
"You know why I'm here."
He's here because at the level of CIA I was, and he is, there is no escape. You're a life-timer, even when you exit the agency. Even three years later, as is my case. "Why can't you do whatever the job is in that folder?" I ask.
"Dr. Franklin Ross resurfaced."
Dr. Franklin Ross being an insane, ex-CIA agent turned spy against his country, who hates America, and has a history of violence against its people. "Where? When? With what end game?"
"Chatter indicates Texas as his location and that he's planning an attack on American water facilities with a nerve agent. Since we've now found the scientist working on the project for him dead, we have to assume the worst, which would be that the process of stabilization in water is complete."
"Or the man turned against Franklin," I say, bypassing the next ten questions I have in order to focus on the why of the matter. "Why me on this one?"
"You studied him. You hunted him. You know him."
"And there are another dozen active agents that fit that profile," I say. "Some of whom had direct contact with him, which I did not."
"He's not the reason you're involved. There are only four scientists intimately familiar with this nerve agent. Three are dead. Two were murdered in one of our labs. One was murdered while working for Ross, presumably by Ross. The other is a rogue agent. One of our own."
"Two of the dead scientists are her parents. When they died, she disappeared, until a week ago. We located her in San Francisco."
"Then pick her up. You don't need me."
"We need her to create an antidote for that agent. That means finding it first."
"Again. Why me?"
"We need to know that she lives to help us and dies before she helps him."
"In other words, you want someone who will kill her no matter how sweet she might seem."
"That, and you know her." He taps the folder. "You worked with her on a contract job three years ago, the night she disappeared."
My blood runs cold with the certainty that I now know who we're talking about. I pick up the folder and pull out a photo of a blonde, pretty, female, with unique turquoise-green eyes, a heart-shaped face, and full lips that I've been hunting for all of those three long years, right along with the agency. They just don't know it. I don't react. I don't so much as move a muscle, but I not only know this bitch, I know her intimately. A detail that if known by the agency would be a problem for them. They'd think I wouldn't kill her. They'd be wrong.
I glance up at him and slide the photo back in the envelope, sitting it back in front of him. "Amanda Skye," I say, confirming her identity. "I'm waiting on details."
"She's been living in a humble little row house in San Francisco, and working as a research assistant at a high-tech company. A brilliant scientist and doctor, doing absolutely nothing with her credentials."
"That we know of," I amend.
"Whatever her end game, she was blending in with the crowd and it was working. We couldn't find her."
"But she made a mistake," I say, stating the obvious. "What was it?"
"As we both know, time has a way of making people let down their guard."
As I did with this woman. A mistake I will never make again.
"She must have felt safe and forgotten," he continues. "Whatever the case, clearly the brilliant doctor and scientist couldn't take wasting her brain another day. She took a job at the university, teaching biology. That set off one of the trigger profiles we had in place." He doesn't wait for any input on my part, adding, "We need you on this."
"I'm in," I say.
He doesn't praise the decision. He moves on to business. "Details will be sent to you encrypted within two hours. A private jet is waiting for you at the airport. And Seth. Remember. She dies before she helps the enemy."
I don't agree or disagree and he doesn't wait on either. He stands and leaves, but my mind is not on him, but on Amanda, the woman responsible for the death of a man I considered a brother. Amanda, who I fucked and then who fucked me over. Amanda, who I thought I was in love with, and who I know I'm going to kill.
I'm on a private jet to San Francisco two hours after that meeting with Bear, which puts me in the air for nearly six hours, half of which I devote to sleep to be alert once I land. The other half I spend studying the encrypted material delivered to me right as I stepped onto the plane. I devour it, reading up on recent developments related to both Dr. Franklin and Amanda, as well as the death of her parents the night she disappeared three years ago. The conclusion is that she may or may not have had something to do with their demise, which essentially is no conclusion at all.
By dawn, I'm dressed in black jeans and a black T-shirt meant to help me blend in with any crowd. The black leather jacket I'm wearing conceals the shoulder holsters, where my best friends, Glock and SIG, are hanging out, along with a small, efficient blade that I consider a pal as well. I park my rental down the road from Amanda's house and exit, scouting the area, and the exterior of her building, before returning to my car, where I sit and watch. And while I'd like to charge right in and grab her, taking another trained agent on their own turf is like walking into a trap waiting for a taker. And I'm not a taker. I'm also certain that I'm not the only one watching her. The agency will be here, and where there is the agency, there are good and bad players. And where there is information that leads us to a target, there is information that leads others there too, such as Franklin. I'm here to kill her, but not until she does her job, which means I protect her first.
By seven in the morning, she exits her front door, dressed primly in a black suit dress that hits just above her knees, those long legs I've had at my shoulders and around my waist, demurely on display. She's blonde now, of course, which I already knew, and I liked her a hell of a lot better as a brunette. I don't like blondes, but that works for me, just like killing her will later.
If she senses she's being watched, she doesn't react. No hesitation in her actions. No glancing around the area, but then she's a skilled agent, taught how to live this life by her CIA parents from the time she was in diapers. I have no plan to underestimate her or assume she doesn't sense I'm here, because I'd know I was being watched. It's a sixth sense you develop over time, but then, she's let her guard down or she wouldn't have taken the job at the university.
She climbs into her car and it's not long before she's on the road, and I'm in my rental, following her. I might not have had time for surveillance of her apartment, but I used my resources, of which I have many, to access the campus cameras. I've pre-planned how this plays out. I know where she will park. Where she will enter the building, and unfortunately, we will both be required to leave our weapons behind, thanks to the metal detectors at the doors. I remove my weapons, place them under the seat, and I'm out of the car by the time she's walking across the campus to the white stone building where she teaches, shadowing her.
Once she's in her classroom, a massive auditorium-style setup, I dare to step inside, flattening on the wall of the alcove leading to the seating areas. Watching for anyone who might have the idea of taking her before I take her. Watching her. How she moves. How she teaches. How she is. For two classes and three hours, I stand at that wall, out of her view, and I look for what I missed in her three years before. I look for the woman that she really is, not the one I'd seen then. But I don't find her. She's still the woman I knew. Proper when speaking formally. Knowledgeable when speaking about science, her eyes lighting on every formula or complex compound she discusses. And it's still sexy as hell to me, which only makes me want to kill her more.
Finally, just past eleven, her last morning class adjourns, and the students begin to disperse, exiting the three doors at various places around the auditorium. Amanda walks into a doorway I know to be her office. Several minutes pass, but I do not go to her. Not when she could be waiting on me. Planning an attack. And so, I instead wait on her. Finally, she emerges, purse on her shoulder, and then heads toward a doorway to her right, which will lead her to a faculty-only area. I exit the room as well by way of the door right beside me, circling around to a hallway and private entrance for the staff.
I open the door and enter anyway, and do so like I have every right and privilege. Amanda is nowhere in sight, but then the hallway is slim, long, and the optional doorways only a few: several bathrooms and a break area. I bet on the bathroom and that she's waiting on me. She knows. I don't know why I know. I just do. I reach the women's restroom, but I don't go inside. I walk to the men's, open the door, and check out the setup. A sink. One stall. A urinal. I now have a general bathroom layout and I turn, and with the hallway still clear, I walk back to the women's restroom where I expect a fight. And while I have fought by her side and I know she's good, I'm bigger, stronger, and she's been dormant for three years.
Inhaling on the high of having this woman within my reach again, I shove open the door, and damn it, if I don't have a handgun pointed at me. She's good. She's planned for this, and obviously found a way past the metal detectors I didn't expect.
"Lock the door," she orders, those piercing green eyes of hers hard, flat, but her voice isn't. It quivers ever so slightly, telling me she's affected by my being here, but I won't underestimate her as a doctor and scientist first, and an agent second, as I had before.
"And don't assume because I haven't shot you," she says, as if driving home that thought, "that I won't. Not only is my gun equipped with a silencer, it's been a long time since I had the pleasure of using it."
But she's already told me what I need to know. She doesn't want to shoot me. At least, not here. Careful never to take my eyes off of her, I lock the door, but I'm already moving the minute the task is done, charging at her, forcing her to shoot me or fight me. She doesn't shoot me. She hits me in the fucking head with the gun, which stings like the bitch she is. I knock it from her hand and my hand goes to her throat, her back slamming to the wall at the same time that her knee slams into my groin. I push through the pain, my legs clamp around hers, her sweet little curves too damn familiar, the intimacy welcome and hated at the same time, but I'm not about to let her knee me again.
"Bitch," I hiss.
"Bastard," she blasts back. "I hope your balls hurt for a week."
"This is nothing," I say. "Not after I've had a hard-on to kill you for three years. Put your hands on your head or I'll end you right now."
"We both know you like my hands in places other than my own head," she rasps out, as the grip I'm holding at her throat is not gentle. "And if you came here to kill me, I'd be dead already."
"Oh, I came here to kill you, Amanda, and I'm going to enjoy it when I do."
"Because I left you?" she challenges. "That's the definition of a crazy ex."
"Danny died because of you. You worked with him for a month. Smiled at him. Fucked me. And you killed him."
She visibly pales. "Danny ... he's dead?"
"Don't play dumb. Dumb pisses me off and makes me want to kill you sooner than later."
"I didn't know. I liked him. He saved my life in Rome."
My fingers flex at her throat. "And two nights later, you and Danny were supposed to trade information with a high-ranking Mafia leader in exchange for terrorist names and locations while I searched his home. But you no-showed and an hour later, that leader and Danny dropped dead, poisoned. You set us up and I want to know who you were working for."
"I set you up?" she whispers incredulously. "I know, Seth. I know what you did. I know what you planned."
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
"I know what you did. I know they call you the Assassin."
I don't know which of my many sins as the Assassin she references, and I don't ask or care. "Don't pretend to have some moral high ground that drove your actions. We both don't believe that."
Excerpted from "Poison Kisses Part 1"
Copyright © 2018 Lisa Renee Jones.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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