Karina Halle is one of my favorite authors for sexy, angsty books, and she has a new series coming out soon. While this is a spin off of her Artists Series (which totally rocked my socks off), you don’t need to read that trilogy first to read this book.
For Luisa Chavez, a twenty-three year old former beauty queen, a better life has always been just out of her reach. Sure, she’s had men at her feet since she was a young teenager but she’s never had the one thing she’s craved – security. Having grown up in near poverty, her waitressing job in Cabo San Lucas can barely let her take care of herself, let alone her ailing parents. Every day is another unwanted advance, every day is a struggle to survive.
When Salvador Reyes, the depraved leader of a major Mexican cartel, takes an interest in her, Luisa is presented with an opportunity she can’t afford to pass up. She’ll become Salvador’s wife and exchange her freedom and body for a life of riches – riches she can bestow upon her deserving parents. But Luisa quickly finds out that even the finest wines and jewels can’t undo the ugliness in her marriage, nor the never-ending violence that threatens her every move.
Soon, Luisa is looking for an escape, a way out of the carefully controlled life she’s leading. She finally gets her wish in the worst way possible.
As it is, being the wife of Salvador makes her an ideal target for rival cartels and there’s one particular man who needs Luisa as part of his cartel’s expansion. One particular man whose quest for power has destroyed lives, slit throats and gotten him out of an American prison. One particular man who will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants.
That man is Javier Bernal. And he wants Luisa. He wants to take her, keep her, ruin her.
Unless she ruins him first.
***WARNING*** This book deals with drug cartels and as such it contains a lot of sex and violence and some violent sex. It can get pretty ugly, pretty dark and pretty crazy. There is drug use, abuse, a bit of torture and dubious consent. The hero is not a hero and the villains…well, they’re even worse. If this sort of thing bothers you, please do not read. This ain’t no cupcake farting unicorn kind of book***
I just knew that Javier couldn’t be contained by any prison. I simply cannot wait for this book!!! But to tide us over, here’s an excerpt…
There was a strange moment of silence and I concentrated hard, trying to hear more than the obvious. They were all waiting. Waiting for the order. Waiting for the man in charge to speak.
It came from the left of me. His voice was cool, calm and collected. I didn’t have to see to know who had taken me. The man I’d heard so much about. The man I’d been taught to fear.
“Gentleman,” he said and I could almost feel his infamous eyes on my body, “remove the bag.”
There was a rustle and my face was immediately met with cool air that seized my lungs and bright lights that blinded me. I scrunched up my face, afraid to look, to see. Now it was all so real and I wanted to stay in the dark.
“Who did this?”
Suddenly cool hands were at my swollen cheek and I flinched.
“Who did this?” my captor repeated, an edge to his level voice, his cigar-laced breath on my face.
“Sorry,” Franco mumbled. “It was the only way to quiet her.”
A heavy pause filled the room like dead weight. Finally the fingers came away from my skin and my body relaxed momentarily. I felt the man stand in front of me, bending over so he was in my face, the spicy scent of tea and tobacco emanating off of him.
“Look at me Luisa Reyes.”
Chavez, I thought to myself, I will always be Luisa Chavez.
“Darling, aren’t you curious to where you are?”
“My name is Luisa Chavez,” I said. I opened my eyes to see golden ones staring right back at me. It was like looking at an eagle. “And I know where I am. I know who you are. You are Javier Bernal.”
He raised his brow in amusement and nodded. I’d seen his picture before, on the news. There was only one and that was his mugshot but even in that photo, his eyes made an impression on you. They saw right into your depths and made you question yourself. He was one of the men whom Salvador feared, even though Salvador had more power. He was the one I had been told to watch out for, the supposed reason why I’d always been locked in the compound or escorted by the local police to go shopping.
And yet here I was, tied to a chair in a cold, leaking basement with nothing in it except five cartel members, a video camera and a knife that lay on top of a stool in front of me.
All of that for nothing. I could escape Salvador but I could never escape the cartels.
I had asked for this fate.
“You know why you’re here,” Javier said with deliberation, straightening up in his sharp black suit. He walked over to the stool, swiping up the knife, and glancing at me over his shoulder. “Don’t you?”
I could only breathe. I wanted to look at the others, at Este, at Franco, at the two other mystery men, but I was frozen in his gaze like a cow in headlights.
“What is the knife for?” I asked, my throat painfully dry.
“You’ll find out after,” he said. “It is for your husband. For your Salvador.” He stepped to the side and waved his arm at the camera. “And this is also for him.”
He eyed someone over my shoulder and gave a sharp nod. I heard a rip from behind and a piece of duct tape was placed over my mouth. I squirmed helplessly and the lights in the basement dimmed. The men stepped to the side while Javier went behind the video camera. A white light came off the front of it and bathed me in an eerie glow.
Javier cleared his throat, his face covered in shadow and said loudly, projecting to the camera, “This is Luiza Reyes, former beauty queen of the Baja State and property of Salvador Reyes. Salvador, we have your wife and we have a long list of demands, demands which I know you can meet. I expect full cooperation in this matter, or she dies in the next seven days. If she’s lucky. I’ll give you some time to think about what you’re willing to give up for her. Then we’ll be contacting you. Good bye.”
The light on the camera switched off but the rest of the room remained dim.
“I hope your husband checks his emails often. It would be a shame to have to put this on YouTube.”
There was a smirk on his face at that as he slowly walked toward me, the knife glinting in his hand. His eyes burned through the shadows, then grew somber.
He held up the knife. “I think it’s only going to hurt the first time.”
My eyes focused on the silver of the blade but the terror inside me grew too strong and my urge to breathe through the duct tape became too difficult. My lungs seized in panic, pulsing dots appeared in my vision. I felt a hand on my collarbone, gripping the edge of my blouse and then everything went black.
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