My lover is dead.
And they think I killed him.
I'm running rogue. Hell bent on both revenge and redemption. Whatever it takes, I'm going to finish a job that began nine months ago. An unauthorized assignment that turned horribly, devastatingly wrong. My miscalculation. My fault. My heart left shattered into incomplete pieces which will never wholly fit back together again.
But first I have to outsmart my former organization and the hired killer they've sent after me; a killer who knows my every move, who’s been inside my head, my heart, and my dreams.
I'm the traitor, Kylie. The rogue mercenary. Jaxson's newest assignment. And this is our love story.
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By Michele Mannon
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Michele Mannon
All rights reserved.
Paris. The City of Love. And it's everywhere. In the romantic arches and columned architecture, wide boulevards and cozy courtyards, in the way the midday light flirts across the cream-gray stoned structures of its boulangeries and fromageries, bistros and bars. It's even in the pastries — of which I've indulged in a few. The last city on earth a woman with her own twisted version of a clipped wing and an irreparably shattered heart should be flying solo in.
My lover will never see Paris.
My lover is dead.
He'll never kiss me down by the banks of the Seine. Or cuddle on a park bench with me while we watch the city light up at night.
My knees buckle and I drop to the ground, folding my body into a protective curl over the cool marble basin of La fontaine Médicis. Burying my face in the crook of my arm, my heart wedged deep within my throat. Broken. Choking on a trifecta of agony, regret, loss. Foolishly allowing my emotions to whip through me like a sudden windstorm. No matter what I do, the pain never seems to subside. Even now, surrounded by beauty from my impromptu stroll through the lovely Jardin du Luxembourg, there's nothing but heartache. And this time, I give into it, stealing a moment, struggling to catch my breath.
Yeah, that's what you get for trying to play tourist here, of all places.
As if somewhere, somehow, I'll recover that precious something that's unequivocally irreplaceable. I swallow hard then tilt my head back, knowing the sunlight will never be strong enough to soak up all my tears, yet still hopeful it'll guide me through another day.
I force my eyes open. A horrible move.
Damn you, Paris.
Two marble lovers loom over me. Yep, even the bloody fountain is working against me. I glare up at the impassioned pair, frozen in place and time beneath a one-eyed Cyclops. The watchful beast reminds me of someone ... reminds me of the situation I'm in ... an in-your-face reality check that sends me scrambling to my feet. I cautiously look around, cursing my stupidity, my weakness as I curl my fingers into a fist.
I might be surrounded by love but I'm running for my life.
There's a hit out on me. My former boss, Hayden, thinks I sold him out. Turned traitor on my own organization.
I'm running rogue. Hell-bent on both revenge and redemption. Whatever it takes, I'm going to finish a job that began nine months ago. An unauthorized assignment that turned horribly, devastatingly wrong. My miscalculation. My fault. My heart left shattered into incomplete pieces that will never wholly fit back together again.
Jaxson, oh Jaxson.
"Actions have consequences," Hayden's fond of saying. Forgiveness? Him pardoning me? Yeah, not going to happen. My chances of surviving are as likely as the two statuesque lovers overpowered by that domineering, overbearing creature — not a chance in mythological hell. Any hell for that matter, including the one I'm currently living in.
I'm the traitor, Kylie. The rogue mercenary.
Yeah, best remember it if I want to stay alive.
I shake out the pins and needles in my legs and adjust the light-pink scarf around my neck. Hey, when in Paris, right? And Parisians do love their scarves, despite the warm May temperatures. Scarves, cheese, bread, wine ... goddamn lovers.
Get a grip, hang low, blend in ... Frenchify. A scarf in late May? No problem. A boring, black T-shirt? I'm all over it. My bold red hair — nope, not my best idea. Still, my hit man will expect a blond. He likes blonds, likes women in general. If I were a gambling woman — well, okay, I am that — I'd say Hayden's bringing in his top gun. His big boom guy. Diego.
Casually, I let my gaze roam across the crop of nearby trees, fully expecting Diego to pop out of the shrubbery and change this serene setting into a bloodbath. There's nothing quiet or subtle about the way the handsome Latino handles business. He's the contractor Hayden uses to send a message to our enemies. Or, in my case, teach a lesson to the other contractors about what happens when you turn traitor. No, if I'm going to go out, I prefer to do it less dramatically. A simple slice to the throat or bullet to the temple would suffice.
Still, Hayden's anything but predictable. He might send another hit man after me. Hell, there's a whole handful of killers who'd like nothing better than to wring my neck. I barely dodged Declan's near hit back in Oklahoma until a funny thing called fate intervened. Yeah, I didn't see that coming. Luck and I don't often dance to the same heartbeat. Luck and love — but that's another story.
Though if I survived my organization TORC's most ruthless hit man ... I take a few seconds to fiddle with my scarf before setting a brisk pace through the tan pebbled paths. Anxious to leave the garden to the lovers, the pigeons, and my moroseness, which seem to be competing to take over the place. My attention turns toward taking care of old business before it takes care of me.
Exiting the park, I make my way to Montparnasse, where I duck into an electronic store and, using a prepaid credit card and fake passport, buy a more expensive burner phone than the kind I previously purchased in Switzerland. Unlike the cheaper phones now scattered all around Geneva — yeah, I like to be in control of who traces my calls and I wouldn't put it past Hayden to fully equip all of his contractors with the technological know-how to do so — this phone has Wi-Fi so long as I stayed within the 14th arrondissement. I haven't been online since going rogue. No better time than now to up my game if I'm going to tidy things up. Make amends for my failed assignment. Get my revenge.
Kill my target, that Prick Novák.
I plaster a friendly smile on my face. The old man waiting on me can't seem to decide if he should call me out on the fact the passport picture looks nothing like my bright, redheaded wonderfulness.
Don't even ask, monsieur. Bad decision, ah ... oui.
Transaction finished, I make one more important stop, breathing in the delightful scent of confectionary heaven as I enter the Petit Chocolat Patisserie. To the salesperson's amusement, I order two napoleons, three petite pains au chocolat and one café au lait. Blending in ... Frenchifying ... right ...
I take a seat at a small sidewalk table but close enough to the patisserie window where I don't stick out to the pedestrians passing by. Then I sip my coffee as I troll through social media, starting with that Novák's Twitter page. Like so many other subversive leaders, he's active online, primarily to recruit Pricks from around the world to work with him. Seems any asshole has the capacity to reach millions in the click of a button without censor.
I search for anything that'll give me a heads-up as to where he might be found.
Back in Oklahoma, I'd had an unfortunate last-minute run-in with his mobster pal, Franco — may he forever rest in peace ... okay, not. But aside from the firsthand knowledge the mobster's now six-foot-under, I escaped Declan and my hometown of Shelby with a clue — the two cities where Novák might be operating from. Geneva was a bust. Which leads me to, you guessed it, Le Gai Paris.
Ironic how I'm in the City of Love, heartbroken and with murder on my mind.
I pause, my thumb going numb, and I struggle not to spit up my coffee when I catch sight of a post. It's a call to action, with picture of me, with my vibrant circus-goth red hair and the caption KILL THE BITCH KYLIE beneath it.
My real name. Sporting my current coiffure. Except I'm wearing a classic Bruce Springsteen Born to Run T-shirt. I frown down at the screen. I gave up my penchant for wearing classic punk-ass T-shirts after escaping Franco's men. And Declan ... can't forget him. I've ditched the T's for more Parisian chic Boho dresses, fearful Diego will easily hone in on my T-shirt collection. A dead giveaway, so to speak. A petty sacrifice made in order to stay alive.
I carefully study the picture. I'm standing in front of a brick building and staring at something across the street. Oh shit, no. It can't be. I hold my phone closer to me as if that'll disprove what's blatantly obvious. Someone snapped a photograph of me, standing in front of the TORC safe house. Hayden's going to kill me for this. But that's not what has my pulse racing.
Since going rogue, I've only been there once and I don't have to see her face in the picture to know who I'm staring at. My sister, Madelyn.
Shit. Oh shit.
I squeeze my eyes closed and inhale deeply. She's safe. Don't panic. It'll be just for a little longer until you can call for an update.
Still, this is worse than I imagined. I'd been nothing but careful. Who was outside the safe house, close enough to me to snap a picture? And how did it end up on Novák's site? God, it's like that classic seventies song, with jokers on the outside and me being stuck smack in the middle. Holy hell, who doesn't want me dead?
I jump when a young waitress interrupts my thoughts. "Voulezvous quelque chose de plus?"
"I've had enough," I reply far too forcefully. Yeah, I've had enough. Time to step up my game before it's game-over-for-Kylie. With my goody bag clutched in one hand and the phone in the other, I rush away and onto the hilly streets of Montparnasse. A sugary confection is not going to help me out of this shitty situation. But Francis might.
I stop on the corner of rue Broca and rue Claude Bernard, then dial my so-called ally and last remaining contact in TORC.
The phone rings and rings, and just as I'm giving up hope, he answers.
"Kylie? Where are you?"
"All over the sites, it appears. My picture's plastered all over Novák's organization. Any idea how it got there?" I demand.
"Um ... well ... no. Are you sure it's you?" Francis's voice quivers. Either he's hiding something or coked up — or quite likely, despite the early Oklahoma hour, both.
"On second thought, it could be Jessica Chastain."
I sigh. "The actress. She won a Golden Globe for Zero Dark Thirty?"
"Never heard of her. Where are you staying in Paris? I can wire money to you ..."
I stop before a pretty blue-shuttered building and turn my back to the crowds of pedestrians passing by. My reflection is mirrored back to me from the windowpane, so it's no surprise when I spy the frown marring my forehead. I never told Francis I'm in Paris. Though besides Geneva, where else would I be?
"Which whole number falls between six and eight," I ask him, glaring down at the phone.
"What? Seven. Are you okay?"
No. I'm far from okay. "That's what I thought," I reply. Yeah, little did I realize when I dubbed Francis with the nickname Worm how suitable it'd be. But I've known it for a while now. Nine months, to be exact.
Patience. You're counting on him to feed information on your whereabouts to Novák, remember.
I clench and unclench my fist, once, twice. So preoccupied with getting a grip on my temper, that on the third squeeze, I almost miss it — the gentle tug on my scarf. It tightens around my neck and I hastily reach for the soft cotton material at my throat. Alarmed, I drag my gaze back to the glass just as the scarf falls lax. But when I catch a fleeting glimpse of the tall blond man out of the edge of the windowpane, I feel like I'm choking. My throat hitches and my world goes topsy-turvy.
No. Impossible. It can't be.
"Are you going to answer me, Kylie? I can have money sent to your hotel ..."
"I gotta go." I disconnect, and spinning on my heels, fight my way through the crowded sidewalk, battling for breath even though my progress is slow. Chasing after a ghost, and desperately trying to prove to myself that I'm out of my bleeding mind.
Somewhere along the way, I drop the phone. Doesn't matter — hopefully someone will snatch it up and take it home with them. Drawing Diego's attention away from me, assuming Francis still reports into Hayden and that my calls are being traced.
Diego, with hair dark as a prairie sky just before a storm hits. No, the man I'm chasing after isn't Diego.
This man's an illusion. A ghost. Someone I'd give my life to see again.
Impossible. I'm inventing things that can never happen.
Jaxson, oh Jaxson.
I slow my pace, the abrupt pain in my stomach as familiar as the dizziness that's accompanied me since arriving in Paris a few days ago. A side street suddenly seems more appealing, somewhere away from this bustling crowd.
Halfway down a nameless street, I begin to regret my decision. With every step, in every limestone-colored building, in the worn cobblestone beneath my feet, I see Jaxson's smug face. Loneliness creeps back in. And guilt. Would he have understood why I did what I did? Why I wasn't there when he needed me most?
With shaking hands, I reach into my goody bag and take out a croissant. Therapy patisserie, I think. Though it seems to last long as the croissant does.
Despite it's name, hills are hard to find in Montparnasse yet I'm beginning to feel like I've climbed each and every one of them. My body's fatigued yet my thoughts have calmed. Paris seems to do that to me, crank me up then soothe me over.
Maybe it's because like me, Paris has a dark side. The concierge back at my hotel in the Latin Quarter says that beneath this light, bright city of lovers, this pastry-loving heaven are les Catacombes. Tunnels built centuries ago dug eight layers deep and running four hundred miles beneath the streets of Paris. A hidden labyrinth lay beneath the streets of Montparnasse.
Yeah, if a small town like Shelby has secrets — TORC being one of them — then Paris no doubt has its far share of them.
The cobblestone sidewalk disappears as I reach the end of the street. I pause to take a final bite of my pastry before turning the corner.
Call it a dumb-blond moment, my sweet tooth, the loneliness that's seeped out of my soul all day like a bleeding heart, whatever the reason, I make a critical mistake and am caught off guard.
My goody bag falls to the ground as I'm grabbed by two men. I manage to nail one in the balls before a handkerchief is placed over my face.
Chloroform, shit. Fisting my fingers, I punch my attacker in the temple then rip the hanky from my face. Stars begin to twinkle before me but I ignore them, body-slamming my assailant, taking him down to the cobblestone sidewalk, then feeding him the chloroform-laced material.
Lights out for you, Charlie.
But I've taken too long, the effects of the chloroform addling my abilities. The second man's had time to recover. He's pissed, and as I'm pulled up onto my knees, he places a knife to my throat.
I've got a pitiful history with knives, so it stands to reason I'd die by one.
"Why you've been poking your nose into our busy-ness?" he demands in a heavy accent.
"Please," I faux-beg in a weak, so-not-me voice, "I have something for your boss. A ... gift."
The Prick rustles about behind me. Then, the knife is gone and he goes quiet. Thinking things over? Wow, that damsel-in-distress bullshit truly works.
I gasp loudly as I'm hauled to my feet and jerked backward, my body brought up tight against a firm chest. Muscled and strong ... unlike the big-bellied man I'd tackled. Glancing down, I study his still unconscious body lying on the cobblestone pavement.
One for me, one for ... I struggle within his firm hold, trying to twist around enough to lay eyes on my savior.
Or ... my executioner.
I twist and turn, kick and — when all else fails — bite him in the arm. Paris begins to spin, my movements growing more sluggish by the second. Bringing my heel back, I try to kick him in the balls. But as if he's anticipating it, he shifts slightly so my foot connects with his thigh.
I hear a low chuckle.
Then, it's bon nuit, Paris.CHAPTER 2
One year earlier
Some people say revenge is sweet. Delusional people who talk the talk but never walk the walk. People who haven't a clue what it feels like to have your world ripped apart, with you scrambling to find a Band-Aid large enough to secure all the shattered bits back in place.
Revenge is the salt on your tongue from the hailstorm of tears you've shed. Acidity churning like grease inside your gut when sorrow overshadows your desire to eat. An overwhelming bitterness after you realize the world isn't made up of flowers and rainbows and honest, smiling faces. That despicable things happen even to the kindest of folk. Inexplicable things that turn your life to shit and forever sours your soul.
Excerpted from Rogue by Michele Mannon. Copyright © 2016 Michele Mannon. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
## NOT FOR ME. I didn't care for the writing style. Jumping from past to present back to past again. By the time it came back to the present, I had forgotten what happened. Too frustrating so I lost interest. Did not finish. I did like "Mercenary" from this same author and can recommend that one.
Rogue is the first book in this great new series, and I thought it was a fantastic read. The story is intriguing and full of twists, and there's plenty of action, it's teaming with tension and the suspense is phenomenal. Kylie wants revenge for the murder of her father. Hayden lures her into joining his mercenaries. Joining will help her two ways, it will train her to be stronger and she needs the money to pay her mother's doctors bills as she has cancer. Jaxson is a mercenary, and he saw something in Kylie from the very beginning and he trained her and even though he had a reputation with the ladies he treated her differently, and gradually won her over. There's some steamy love scenes not a lot but there's plenty of action and suspense going on. A well written story, I'm looking forward to the next book in the series. 5/5.
LOVED this book! Very hot and sexy romantic suspense done well. Kylie is recruited to a super secret agency that does off the books investigations She has one very unique characteristic that none of the other operatives do, and the boss recruits her to take advantage of it. Once there, she meets Jaxson and is instantly in lust. What follows is a very hot love affair that the boss tries to stop at every opportunity. No one crosses the boss, as he hold himself as judge, jury, and executioner....emphasis on executioner. When an operation goes sideways, Jaxson is dead and the boss has put a contract on her life, sending his best hitman searching for her. Kylie races ahead of him trying to complete her original assignment and prove her innocence. What follows is a fast paced romantic suspense novel that had been turning pages just quickly as possible. While this is book one of a series, it is a stand alone novel. It was so good, I'm already looking forward to book two. I've added the author to my must read authors' list.
I felt like i was lost a couple of times, like maybe a page or two were missing. The transition from scenes was a little iffy. Other than that it was pretty good
In general, the plot of this book was good. I am not a fan of this every other back and forth, past and presetn chapters. I would've preferred the Shelby chapters first followed by the Paris chapters 9 months later. Would've added to the suspense a bit more, I think. When Kylie thought she saw Jaxson's reflection in the window and then went on to think about him and the insta-love they had and how she thought he was dead, I knew he wasn't and that ended that. The phone call to Francis, got that too. It was easy to figure out, for me. I still wonder, why exactly was Kylie recruited to TORC? Please explain their moto, because I didn't get it. Seemed like one big organization of disrepect and childishness. This book is full of romantic suspense and twists and turns all over the place. Jaxson came across as the fun loving guy that everyone loves, but not as a serious guy. So his demeaner change in Paris, didn't make sense to me. Also, how did they get to Florida?? *ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
Action packed contemporary romantic suspense. This is the first story that I’ve read by this author, and I doubt if it will be the last! This is a romantic suspense with so many twists and turns it keeps you guessing throughout. It is told from two time periods but concerns the same main character, Kylie, a feisty, hot-headed young lady whose life was changed when her father was murdered, especially as no one was arrested for the crime. She’s determined to get revenge and unexpectedly gets the opportunity to do so when she’s recruited by Hayden to join a group of mercenaries investigating the very people she suspects are behind the death of her Dad. The story alternates between the present time and when she was first recruited and trained. There are a whole group of alpha males for her to interact and train with – and she falls into instant lust with one of them, Jaxson. Their attraction is mutual but is frowned on by their boss who does all he can to undermine it. Find out how she puts herself and her new life in danger. The story is packed with suspense, danger, action and uncertainty. Go read it to explore the hidden areas of Paris, get ready for mis-direction, betrayal, love and romance as you read this great adventure which will keep you on the edge of your seat! I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This is the first book that I've ever read by Michele Mannon and it definitely won't be my last! I couldn't put this one down! I ended up devouring it in one sitting. This is the first of a new series called Deadliest Lies and can be read as a standalone. Kylie is determined to get revenge for her father's murder so she joins Hayden's group of mercenaries. Another reason she joined with them is because she needs the money to pay for her mother's expensive healthcare cost, due to her cancer. Kylie is hot-headed and often lets her temper get her into trouble. Jaxon is smitten with Kylie from the very beginning. He's got a playboy reputation but is determined to show her that with her it would be different. He continually used his charms to try and win her over. He is also fiercely protective over Kylie. The chemistry between the two of them was sizzling. There wasn't a ton of steamy scenes in this one but I thought that worked better with the seriousness and suspense being the focal point. Since this is a book about a group of mercenaries there is a good deal of violence in this, so if that isn't your thing then this is probably not the book for you. There was nothing that I would call over the top tho. This story alternates between present day and the past when they first met at "The Ranch". The author always made it clear at the beginning of the chapter if it was present day or in the past, which I liked, so there was no confusion. I did feel like the constant back and forth pulled me out of the story a bit a times. Every time one story line was getting really good the chapter would end and we would jump back or forward. It built suspense but also drove me a little crazy. ** I received an ARC of this title via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. **
This was an excellent read. Full of adventure, hot sexy times, and revenge. The mc are great. Jaxson is big, tough, and all alpha. Kylie is strong and determined. The story goes back and forth between past and present so that we get the full picture of how Kylie got involved with this intense group of mercenaries and why she is now running for her life. Running from the man she loves with her whole heart. This stories as more twists and turns than you can imagine. It definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. This is a book I highly recommend.
This one had me from beginning to end. I could not put it down. Why? Alpha males in Hayden, Jaxson, Diego, Declan and perhaps McDuff all working for TORC were HOT and then to add in Kylie who gets to train and work with them made it a lot more interesting. The instant attraction felt by Kylie and Jaxon was so much fun to read about as it became more. Jaxson surely did have a way with words! Kylie was focused on revenge for the murder of her father and because of this she came to the attention of TORC. She has monetary needs so joins the group to achieve the revenge they promise her as well as make money to provide for her family’s needs. Set up to take the fall for compromising her team she is chased by assassins sent to kill her. Will she survive? What happened to set this all in motion? Will she get the revenge she is focused on? Will she find love? You will have to read the book to find out ;) Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I have to say I am eager to read more about the Alpha males that work for TORC and look forward to reading more in this series.