I’m pretty excited to feature Carolyn Crane’s latest release in her Associates series! I first picked up one of them when she mentioned her hero was a linguist and I was immediately pulled into that book and her world, and read all the rest. These are great romantic suspenses with hot, tortured heroes and smart heroines. I started reading this on release day and am already enjoying it. At the bottom is information on a contest she’s holding during release week!
Here’s the Book Summary:
TO SAVE HER PROSTITUTE TWIN SISTER SHE HAS TO SWITCH PLACES WITH HER…
When her estranged sister is won in a card game by a brutal drug cartel, Zelda knows what she has to do: take her place. Save her. Focus on infiltrating the shadowy group–and try not to think about why she left the spying game years ago. She’s slept with dangerous criminals before; she can do it again.
Hugo Martinez is one of South America’s most lethal and wanted men, a legendary mercenary living on a windswept mountain. Even at the height of the war he wasn’t in the habit of taking women captive, but the American whore has seen his face. And he and the orphan boy need a cook. He shouldn’t want this woman, but there’s something so unusual about her…
Meanwhile, Zelda finds herself falling for her captor…but is he the killer she’s been hunting all these years?
Want more? I’ll let Carolyn introduce her excerpt:
Carolyn: This scene is when Zelda, posing as her prostitute twin sister, first meets Hugo. (They’re in South America.) Hugo has just killed a bunch of drug guerrillas who kidnapped her…using only blades and swords…because he’s super badass! Zelda is shocked at what he’s done, and she is trying to figure out if he had once been this legendary masked mercenary (Kabakas) she used to hunt years before while in the CIA. Supposedly Kabakas is dead.
The attacker turned his masked face to her.
His deep brown eyes met hers, invaded hers. She felt electrified by the darkness, the fury of his gaze, and its endlessness. His eyes were beautiful and terrifying, shining from the kill, or maybe pain or fury. Her heart pounded out of her chest, but she refused to look away or to freak out. She had the deep sense that she knew this man; that she always had.
She glanced down at those hands. He was near enough now that she saw a sunfire insignia on one of the barong swords, a small mark near the hilt.
The sunfire insignia. He was using street-corner mercado swords!
That decided it. This was not Kabakas. No way. He was an imposter. A pretender.
Kabakas’s swords had the ouroboros, an image of a snake swallowing its tail, the insignia of a blacksmith in Mindanao. The CIA kept that detail under wraps.
She stared him down as she tried to work herself free, using everything she had to picture the knot in her mind.
Still, attacking a guerrilla contingent with toys? She didn’t know whether to be impressed or disgusted.
“We will take on any army, any day. Do you understand?” the kid continued. “You will carry this message.”
Still the man looked at her. Her heart pounded. She didn’t know what to do with this eerie recognition of him, this connection.
Fuck you, she thought. You’re not Kabakas.
The boy was on the other side. He yanked open the door on the driver’s side and pulled a rifle and three revolvers out of the Jeep, then a lug wrench. He grunted and stepped back, casually spinning the weapon, eying her. He shot a querying look at his master, who watched her still.
The stars on the mask seemed to glitter. Probably also fake.
The man advanced on her, street-corner barongs shining with blood.
He was coming for her. She sat up, pulsing with anger, aliveness, that strange energy from when she’d heard his name on the plane.
This couldn’t be how it ended.
Time slowed as the barong blade came down on her. In that moment, she wondered if she’d died on that plane, if this was her mind’s weird way of replacing the death.
The blade banged down onto the bar atop the door, severing the rope the held her in place.
She tumbled back into the Jeep seat. Quickly, she scrambled over the door, thinking to run, but the attacker grabbed her hair and forced her to the side—in protection, domination, or ownership, she didn’t know, but all her fight came back suddenly and she rammed against his legs, wishing her hands were free so that she could hit him and loosen his grip somehow.
“Go!” he bellowed, glowering at the last remaining guerilla.
The man jumped into the driver’s side and sped away to spread the tale.
The kid looked up at Kabakas questioningly.
Kabakas stared back at him. The two seemed to be communicating.
Fingers tightened on her scalp. Her heart pounded as she struggled, but it was like struggling against a boulder.
The fighter looked down. Brown eyes speared into her core.
He had the same hair as his sidekick—short, dark, but it was those eyes that got her, seeing so much, containing so much. He seemed near, yet far. Drugged. In a trance. Something.
His voice, when he spoke, was a gravelly baritone. “Do you cook?”
Accented English. Valencian…but not quite.
“Do you cook?”
“Yes,” she said, blood racing.
“Did you graduate from high school?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Twenty-one times six. What is that?” he asked.
She gaped at him. “One hundred and twenty-six.”
He shoved her to the ground and walked off. “La puta viene con nosotros.” The whore comes with us.
Zelda stiffened. Had she heard that right?
The boy aimed his Uzi at her, eyes filled with disgust. “No la necesitamos.”
The man halted in his stride. Slowly he turned. The boy stiffened, slim limbs taut with fright.
Zelda’s heart pounded as the man pulled off his mask, as his wild and stormy gaze zoomed into the boy. He had those high Valencian cheekbones, gleaming with sweat, eyes sharp, dark hair sweaty and tousled. His features were large, like the rest of him, not smooth or polished, but jagged and proud, as though chiseled in stone, all crude power and beauty. “Cómo?”
The kid stiffened even more.
He addressed the child in Spanish, “Free her hands and help her find something to wear. Her outfit disgusts me.” Then he turned to her, eyes dark and expressive. “You run, you die.” A simple statement. He hardly needed to emphasize his willingness to carry out the threat.
The boy whipped off his mask, a small gesture of defiance.
“Nothing bloody,” the attacker added. He picked up a rag from the ground and began to polish a barong.
The boy gestured with his gun. “Up.”
So the boy spoke English, too.
Kabakas was from Valencia. Kabakas reportedly spoke English. But Kabakas would never show his face. Unless he meant to kill her.
The jungle chatter had started back up.
About the Book
Title: Behind The Mask (Associates, #4)
Author: Carolyn Crane
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Category: Romantic Suspense
About the Author
I am a RITA-winning author of romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and other tales of love and adventure (and erotic & dark romance as NYT bestselling author Annika Martin). My books have been published by Random House and Samhain, and I also go the indie route. I work a straight job as a marketing writer, I love to read in bed and run, I’m passionate about helping animals, and I make my home in Minnesota with my husband and two cats.
(1) $75.00 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (winner’s choice & open internationally)
(32) Digital Copies of either Against the Dark, Off the Edge or Into the Shadows (winner’s choice & open internationally)
To enter, visit her Rafflecopter entry page!