Plain, soft-spoken Nell Calder isn't the type of woman to inspire envy, lust - or murderous passions. Until one night on an exotic island in the Aegean Sea, at an elegant gathering that should have cemented her husband's glorious career in finance, the unimaginable happens...and Nell's life is shattered by a spray of bullets and the razor edge of a blade.
Though badly hurt, Nell emerges from the nightmare a woman transformed. Delicate surgery gives her an exquisitely beautiful face, and rehabilitation gives her a strong, lithe body. Nicholas Tanek, a mysterious stranger who compels both fear and fascination, gives her a reason to go on living: revenge - at any price.
With his shadowy past and more secrets than Nell could ever imagine, Tanek knows far more about the attack than he's willing to confess. Yet when he divulges the identity of her assailant, he makes the biggest mistake of his life. For as Nicholas gets closer to his quarry, he'll find his carefully laid plans jeopardized at every turn by a bold woman daring to strike out on her own. And Nell will find her mission imperiled by Tanek - a temptation to which she cannot afford to surrender.
He had come for nothing, Nicholas thought in disgust as he gazed
down at the surf crashing on the rocks below. No one would want to
kill Nell Calder. She was no more likely to be connected with
Gardeaux than that big-eyed elf she was now lavishing with french
pastry and adoration.
If there was a target here, it was probably Kavinski. As head of an
emerging Russian state, he had the power to be either a cash cow or
extremely troublesome to Gardeaux. Nell Calder couldn't be
considered troublesome to anyone. He had known the answers to all
the questions he had asked her, but he had wanted to see her
reactions. He had been watching her all evening, and it was clear
she was a nice, shy woman, totally out of her depth even with those
fairly innocuous sharks downstairs. He couldn't imagine her having
enough influence to warrant bribery, and she would never have been
able to deal one on one with Gardeaux.
Unless she was more than she appeared. Possibly. She seemed as meek
as a lamb, but she'd had the guts to toss him out of her daughter's
Everyone fought back if the battle was important enough. And it was
important for Nell Calder not to share her daughter with him. No,
the list must mean something else. When he went back downstairs, he
would stay close to Kavinski.
"Here we go up, up, up
High in the sky so blue.
Here we go down, down, down
Touching the rose so red."
She was singing to the kid. He had always liked lullabies. There was
a reassuring continuity about them that had been missing in his own
life. Since the dawn of time, mothers had sung to their children,
and they would probably still be singing to them a thousand years
The song ended with a low chuckle and a murmur he couldn't hear.
She came out of the bedroom and closed the door a few minutes later.
She was flushed and glowing with an expression as soft as melted
"I've never heard that lullaby before," he said.
She looked startled, as if she'd forgotten he was still there. "It's
very old. My grandmother used to sing it to me."
"Is your daughter asleep?"
"No, but she will be soon. I started the music box for her again. By
the time it finishes, she usually nods off."
"She's a beautiful child."
"Yes." A luminous smile turned her plain face radiant once more.
"Yes, she is."
He stared at her, intrigued. He found he wanted to keep that smile
on her face. "And bright?"
"Sometimes too bright. Her imagination can be troublesome. But she's
always reasonable and you can talk to-" She broke off and her
eagerness faded. "But this can't interest you. I forgot the tray.
I'll go back for it."
"Don't bother. You'll disturb Jill. The maid can pick it up in the
She gave him a level glance. "That's what I told you."
He smiled. "But then I didn't want to listen. Now it makes perfect
sense to me."
"Because it's what you want to do."
"I have to go back too. I haven't met Kavinski yet." She moved
toward the door.
"Wait. I think you'll want to remove that chocolate from your gown
"Damn." She frowned as she looked down at the stain on the skirt. "I
forgot." She turned toward the bathroom and said dryly, "Go on. I
assure you I don't need your help with this problem."
She glanced at him pointedly over her shoulder.
He had no excuse for staying, not that that small fact would have
But he also had no reason. He had lived by his wits too long not to
trust his instincts, and this woman wasn't a target of any sort. He
should be watching Kavinski.
He turned toward the door. "I'll tell the maid you're ready for her
to come back."
"Thank you, that's very kind of you," she said automatically as she
disappeared into the bathroom.
Good manners obviously instilled from childhood. Loyalty.
Gentleness. A nice woman whose world was centered on that sweet kid.
He had definitely drawn a blank.
The maid wasn't waiting in the hallway. He'd have to send up one of
the servants from downstairs.
He moved quickly through the corridors and started down the
Coming from the ballroom.
He tore down the stairs.
Excerpted from "The Ugly Duckling" by Iris Johansen. Copyright © 1997 by Iris Johansen. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
IRIS JOHANSEN is the New York Times bestselling author of the trilogy including Eve, Quinn, and Bonnie, Chasing the Night, Eight Days to Live, Shadow Zone (with Roy Johansen), Blood Game, Deadlock, Dark Summer, Silent Thunder (with Roy Johansen), Pandora’s Daughter, Quicksand, Killer Dreams, On the Run, Countdown, Firestorm, Fatal Tide, Dead Aim, No One to Trust, and more.
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