Smoke and Mirrors
The Gifted, Book 1
Deceit and desire, and a treasure beyond price...
When struggling Scottish writer Nell Black accepts a one-off job with the police, translating for an arson suspect from the isolated ex-Soviet republic of Zavrekestan, she stumbles into a terrifying world of organized crime and paranormal abilities that turns her whole belief system upside down. Faced with an incomparable thief, hit men who spontaneously combust, gangsters, drug dealers, British Intelligence and a fiery goddess, Nell no longer knows who to trust. The man who saves her life is a criminal to whom deceit is second nature. He has more smoke screens and more plans in motion than anyone else can keep track of. He is, moreover, probably insane. Even his fellow gangsters are afraid of him. So why is he the one man Nell wants to touch her?
Rodion Kosar is in trouble. His convoluted plans all lead to one goal - the retrieval of his treasure - and to achieve that, he needs Nell to believe he isn't the bad guy. He has many reasons beyond his own desires to make love to her. Especially when a plan goes wrong and he has to play dead before someone really kills him - either the police, the menacing Russian crime lord known as the Bear, or the powerful Guardian of the Gifted whom he's defied once too often. Nell's burgeoning gift of second sight could be his best route to the treasure, and yet keeping her with him spells danger. For Nell has her own agenda, her own mission, and she could just as easily cause his final downfall.
Marie Treanor lives in Scotland with her eccentric husband and three much-too-smart children. Having grown bored with city life, she resides these days in a picturesque village by the sea where she is lucky enough to enjoy herself avoiding housework and writing sensual stories of paranormal romance and fantasy.
Marie Treanor has published more than twenty ebooks with small presses, (Samhain Publishing, Ellora’s Cave, Changeling Press and The Wild Rose Press), including a former Kindle bestseller, Killing Joe. Blood on Silk: an Awakened by Blood novel, was her New York debut with NAL.
Nell followed Sergeant Lamont inside, to where a group of people sat around a rather bashed-up table, ornamented only by a crushed packet of cigarettes. Lamont clearly felt time was of the essence, because even as he pulled a chair forward for Nell, he was speaking, combining the social politeness of introductions with naming those present for the police recording.
His police colleague, seated beside him, was a young detective constable called Livingstone. The suspect’s solicitor on the opposite side of the table was Gregor Gallini. Nell’s chair was squashed in at the end of the table, with Gallini on one side and Lamont on the other.
The suspect himself, Kolnikov, lounged next to his lawyer. Nell found herself in no hurry to face him. Instead, she concentrated on sitting down and arranging her coat and bag, giving quick smiles and nods to everyone else as they were introduced. Her first impression of the suspect, gained from half glances and glimpses from the corner of her eye, was of long legs in blue jeans, a sloppy grey sweatshirt with the sleeves pushed up to the elbow to reveal colourful tattoos among the golden hairs on his forearms. And a sort of shimmering light—burning amber and gold—like an aura.
Nell didn’t believe in auras, largely because she’d never taken to the sort of people who talked about them. Therefore, she’d always felt slightly ashamed of the fact that she occasionally imagined different coloured outlines around some people, usually from exactly this kind of half glance. When she looked properly, the “aura” had always gone. Imagination combined with nerves, of course, and tonight she had an excuse for both.
“And Nell Black, translator,” Lamont finished, “present at the request of Mr. Kolnikov.”
“What are her qualifications?” Gallini demanded at once. “She must be fluent in Zavreki.”
“I am,” Nell said mildly. She reached into her bag and brought out copies of her degrees and diplomas. Although she was aware of Kolnikov’s gaze upon her, she passed the documents to the solicitor, who pushed them nearer to his client so that they could both view them. In the belief she would now have a free, if brief moment to examine the suspect, she lifted her gaze to his face. Mistake.
It was a bit like falling out of a tree when she was a kid: a sense of dizziness, followed swiftly by a thud that sucked all the air out of her lungs. Not because he was particularly good-looking—although he was, all straight, sharp lines and shaggy blond hair—but because his hard, intense blue eyes were staring right at her, as if he could see into every corner of her existence. She prayed he couldn’t.
At least there was no “aura” now.
His lips separated, and he spoke in Zavreki. “How come?”
The words were brief, without emphasis, and yet they threw her. Perhaps it was his voice, quiet and deep as dark velvet, that made her shiver.
“How come what?” she demanded.
“How come you speak my language?”
“My mother came from Zavrekestan.”
He picked up the packet of cigarettes from the table. “And they say you can never escape,” he said flippantly.
“You’re here, aren’t you?”
“Out of the frying pan, into the fire,” he observed, placing a cigarette between his lips. His hands were large but slender, his fingers long and oddly elegant compared to the rest of his flung-together if attractive appearance. He wore no rings, no wristwatch. And the tattoos licking down his forearms to his wrists were flames. Bizarre. Though no reason to arrest someone for arson.
“I’ve told you, there’s no smoking in here, Mr. Kolnikov,” Lamont said impatiently. “Can we get on? I take it you’re happy to have Miss Black as your translator?” He fixed Nell with his gaze, and she almost jumped with the realization that her job had now begun.
Hastily, she translated Lamont’s words, and Kolnikov threw the cigarette down on the table. “Hit me.”
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