Lethal undercover agent Stefan Prakenskii knew a thousand ways to kills a man—and twice as many ways to pleasure a woman. That’s what made him look forward to his new mission: arrive in the coastal town of Sea Haven and insinuate himself in the life of an elusive beauty who had mysterious ties to his past, and a link to a dangerously seductive, and equally elusive master criminal who wanted only one thing: to possess her.
Judith Henderson was an artist on the rise—an ethereal, and haunted woman whose own picture-perfect beauty stirred the souls of two men who have made her their obsession. For years she has been waiting for someone to come and unlock the passion and fire within her—waiting for the right man to surrender it to. But only one man can survive her secrets, and the shadow she has cast over both their lives.
Review: Book two was an enjoyable read. I liked Rikki and Lev’s characters more than I did Judith and Stefan, but I wasn’t bored or disappointed. This book started out similar to the first, in the sense that, I didn’t think Stefan should have acknowledged/accepted/gave into his feelings for Judith so quickly. He doesn’t question the attraction enough for a man raised to be a killing cold-blooded machine. He should have fought it more. In his own mind, he stops questioning the attraction and acknowledges to himself that she is the one and he was going to have a new life with her, far too quickly. I would have liked to see him be a bit more rough around the edges, a bit colder.
Judith was an entertaining heroine. I liked her back story and she was a beautiful character to read. The plot and conflict mirror the first book, meaning there are two bad guys: one from the past and one from the present. I loved how Lev and Stefan reconnect. I absolutely loved the “bee scene” and the scene in the woods where they come face to face with each other after so many years apart. (I have not included either scene in my favorites section, you just have to read the book to find out how Lev uses a bee to “chase” Stefan off, and how the brothers reconnect after so long). I’m still waiting for the time the brothers meet up with Ilya, Jackson and all of the Drakes. That hasn’t happened yet, but I am very much looking forward to it and I hope it happens soon. Overall, Rikki and Lev’s story had more funny moments, this one did have a poignant moment on the balcony between Judith and Stefan, and one near the end when Stefan comes to the rescue, but overall the first book was better. I am looking forward to the next one though, so this one is still a definite read if you have loved the Drake Sisters and/or The Sisters of the Heart series.
Favorite Quotes 1: This scene is between Judith and Airiana and I call it “The Middle-aged spread.” It is a very cute scene between the sisters and shows how close-nit they are.
“There is nothing in the world like a good cup of tea at the right moment,” Judith pointed out. “Thanks for putting on the kettle.” She stretched, “I spend far too much time sitting on my butt. I think it’s growing significantly.”
Airiana turned her finger in a little circle. Judith obligingly spun around. Airiana widened her eyes. “You are so right. Middle-aged spread is settling in.” She burst out laughing again and ran for her life with Judith hot on her heals.
“The thing about long legs, you short little shrimp, is that I can outrun you.”
“Not with a large ass, you can’t,” Airiana called over her shoulder as she sprinted through the spacious rooms. The accusation that anything on willowy Judith could be large was so absurd, she laughed so hard she couldn’t see where she was going and crashed into an armchair. Tumbling over the side of it, she landed on the florr and blinked up at Judith. “Yikes. I guess your butt isn’t quite as big as either of us thought.
“I am not even close to being middle-aged, smart-ass.”
“True, but you’re still always going to be older than me,” Airiana pointed out smugly.
The front screen pulled open and a woman stuck her head in the door. Tall and blond, she was the picture of athleticism, her hair pulled back into a ponytail and her body in a tight, stretchy shirt and running shorts. As she stood on the porch above the stairs, she tapped her foot and wiped at the sheen of sweat on her face.
“Blythe,” Judith waved as she greeted the oldest of her sisters and the acknowledged leader of their sisterhood. “You went running again this afternoon? You ran this morning.”
“What in the world are you two doing?” Blythe Daniels ignored the inquiry and stepped inside to sink down onto an ottoman and remove her running shoes.
“Well,” Airiana said from the floor, “basically we’re discussing Judith’s butt and how big it’s grown while she sat and painted today.”
“Really?” Blythe frowned at them both, looking very concerned. “I don’t have my glasses to examine you up close and personal, Judith, but there isn’t much there. In fact, your butt might be considered flat.”
“I have a very cute ass,” Judith protested.
“You were the one just saying it was ballooning,” Airiana reminded her. “I was trying to be supportive and helpful.”
Judith flung a decorative pillow at her head. Airiana sent a push of air to counter it, stopping the pillow abruptly so that it fell to the floor.
“Show-off,” Judith accused.
Favorite Quotes 2: This scene is between Stefan and Judith and it is a bit explosive and passionate. I call it “It could be awful”
“What are we going to do, Thomas? Because this can’t happen.”
The little hitch in her voice, that innocent trust in him, the belief in her eyes that he was a good man, shook him as nothing else could have. She looked at him as if he could find a way to save them. There it was again, the need to be her white knight. His armor was tarnished a long time ago and he acknowledged to himself that he had no idea what he was going to do about their situation, but he wouldn’t walk away from her.
His fingers curled around the nape of her neck and he pulled her another step closer. Thomas Vincent was long gone and Stefan Praknskii was not about to give up this woman, not here, not now.
“I’m going to kiss you.”
She blinked rapidly. Those long feathery lashes knotted his gut and tightened his groin. His physical reaction to her remained terrifying and exhilarating, even stronger than the night before. This woman had a hold on him that was unbreakable. He was already lost, craving the genuine emotions she brought out in him. She opened floodgates. His needs poured out of him around her.
“Do you think that’s a good idea?” Her voice was no more than a soft whisper, a caress that teased his cock into aching thickness.
“No.” He knew better. He knew he’d be damned for all time. “But I’m going to kiss you anyway.”
“It might be awful,” she pointed out with a brief flare of optimism.
He had to smile. “Perhaps. We can only hope.”
There was a small moment of hesitation. Her teeth sank into her lower lip, betraying her nerves. She nodded slowly, knowing just as he did, that it was a very bad idea. “Okay then.”
He stared into her eyes for a long time. Forever would never be long enough for him to live there. Right there in her eyes. He saw inside of her, into something so beautiful it made his heart ache. She didn’t move, didn’t pull away, just absorbed him in the same way he needed to absorb her.
Favorite Quotes 3: This scene happens after the wonderful night Stefan and Judith have together. It is one of my favorites because it shows a different side to Stefan, a glimpse into what the future will hold for both of them. One where he teases and smiles and flirts freely with Judith. I call it “This is not a challenge!”
“I’m never moving again. Two days and nights in bed has just about killed me.” Judith tilted her chair back, set her feet up on the balcony railing overlooking her garden and stared up at the stars.
She was exhausted, completely and utterly exhausted. Her body was boneless and every muscle felt limp and useless. She was sore in places she hadn’t known existed, but it was a delicious soreness.
Stefan’s arm curled around her neck from behind and she looked up at his face looming over hers. He always looked so intent, so much the hunter. There was no way for him to hide what he was. She found herself smiling, joy bursting through her.
“If you’ve come to assault me, crazy man, I’m not moving.”
His mouth quirked. “A challenge then. I do not like to lose.”
“No! No way. It’s not a challenge. I made that mistake an hour ago and I had to crawl out here. I can’t even stand up.” Laughing, she held her hands up in surrender
“In that case, I’ve come bearing gifts.” He bent his head and took her mouth.
She loved the confidence in him that bordered on arrogance. He knew he had wrapped her around his little finger. She wouldn’t say no to kisses–or sex–with him. Ever. It didn’t take much persuasion on his part and her body belonged to him. She lost herself in his kiss, in the heat of his mouth, the taste of passion and love. She had to come up for breath before she simply drowned in him.
“Hot chocolate,” he announced. “I would have made tea, but you need to sleep it you’re going to work tomorrow.”
She took the hot mug and licked at the dollop of whipped cream on top. “You’re my savior. I was just thinking chocolate would revive me, but I didn’t have the strength to go get it.”
“I read your mind,” he admitted, toeing another chair around to sit beside her. “You don’t have to work tomorrow. We can take another day.”
“I wouldn’t survive another day,” Judith admitted, laughing. Happiness danced in the air around, small threads of silver and gold that sparkled with the stars. “And Airiana definitely would do me in if you didn’t–in a completely different way, of course. She’s covered for me at the shop, but she can’t keep it up.”
“I suppose I have to share you with the world,” he said. “I’ll go with you to Sea Haven tomorrow and go over the books at the gallery.”
“You’re really thinking of buying it?”
He shrugged. “I’ve got plenty of money, but I wouldn’t enjoy doing nothing. I spend a lot of my time going to galleries all over the world and maybe in the back of my head I always considered what I’d do with one.”
“This is a small town, Stefan.”
“Thomas. Stefan Prakenskii doesn’t exist. There’s no photograph of him and no fingerprints. I doubt if a birth certificate exists. I’m a ghost, Judith.Sorbacov has never heard of Thomas Vincent, the American businessman. All of us develop numerous covers we can disappear into when needed and Vincent’s cover is solid. He’s going to settle here with you, make kaleidoscopes, own an art gallery and make babies.”
She laughed, taking a cautious sip of the hot chocolate. She should have known it would be the perfect temperature. Stefan saw to the little details, she was learning that about him. He always saw to her comfort, running a bath, carrying her to it after the’d made crazy, wild love, wrapping her in blankets or handing her a sweater almost before she knew she was cold. He would never have served her chocolate that would scorch her mouth.
“You are obsessed with babie.”
He grinned at her. “With making babies,” he corrected. “I’m practicing until I get it right.”
“If you get any better at it Stefan…Thomas, I’ll be dead. I’m getting schizophrenic just thinking about this. So you’ll be Thomas Vincent.”
“And you’ll be Mrs. Thomas Vincent.”