My friend Jade Kerrion has a new book coming soon. Zara who is one of the characters from the Double Helix series and is also one of my favourites. Jade has given you the First Chapter to give you a taste. You can pre-order this book that will be out in October and in the meantime start with Perfection Unleashed.
Sneak Preview – ZARA
Coming to you on October 27th
ZARA’s always been one of my favorite characters from the world of the Double Helix, and she finally gets her own story. Located between Perfect Betrayal and Perfect Weapon, her story traces the evolution of her feelings for Danyael even as she creates her own brand of mayhem (hey, it’s Zara, after all.)
No one ever expected to die in the happiest place on Earth, which, to Zara Itani, made Disneyland, California, the perfect place for a kill.
Her seat near the window gave her a clear view of the street. At the first hint of dusk, ornate street lamps flickered on. Storefront windows bathed their wares with light to lure in the crowd bustling through New Orleans Square. Parents pushed strollers occupied by sleeping toddlers and dragged along their tired children. Couples, sometimes hand-in-hand, though more often not, paused in front of the French Quarter-style buildings to stare at their maps, often oblivious to potted bougainvillea sitting on the ornate ironwork balconies above their heads.
At the end of a long day, even the magic of Disneyland could fade, but within Club 33, all was still well with the world.
The complex tangle of music from the saxophone rose over the syncopated bass drum patter. Both blended with the quiet clink of silverware against china dishes and muted conversations punctuated with polite laughter. Wait staff wearing white shirts accentuated by teal and gold brocade vests moved among the tables, providing impeccable yet unpretentious service.
“You haven’t tasted your wine, Zara. Is it not to your liking?”
With a smile, Zara turned back to her dining partner. Alastair Boyd-Smith wore a faint frown, but the anxious set of his eyes betrayed a desperate desire to please. He was a lesser son of greater men, the fifth in line to an earldom in England. With blond hair and pale eyes, he was too fair for her liking. She was too dark for his, yet she knew precisely why he had invited her to dinner at the ultra-exclusive Club 33.
When he looked at her, Boyd-Smith did not just see a young Lebanese-Venezuelan woman, more exotic than beautiful. He saw instead the glamorous socialite who had graced the arms of Lucien Winter, heir to the multibillion-dollar Winter fortune, and Galahad, the perfect human being, created by Pioneer Labs.
Zara’s stock in trade, already high as Lucien’s ex-girlfriend, had risen yet higher with Galahad. Women envied her. Men craved her.
She was sparing, however, with her affection. Alastair she had selected for a specific purpose—a purpose that would soon play out. Her smile deepened as she traced her finger around the rim of her wineglass. Her blood-red fingernails gleamed beneath the glow of the candlelight.
“I’m sure the wine is wonderful, Alastair, but it wouldn’t do to drink on an empty stomach when my head’s already spinning.” Her voice, sultry and faintly accented, resonated like a siren’s song.
Alastair grinned, obviously responding as much to her tone as to her words. Oh, how he reminded her of an overeager puppy. Willpower kept her from laughing. “I expect the appetizers will be here soon,” she said. “Please excuse me; I need to go to the ladies room.”
She stood and made her way through the restaurant. As she passed a table, a Japanese man stopped her by placing his hand in her way. She tilted her head and studied him. The cold, narrow eyes and thin smile belonged on a much older man. His face, however, was unlined. If he smiled, he could be handsome.
“You are stunning.” His voice resonated with a confidence and authority that Alastair lacked. He pulled a white rose from the vase on the table and handed it to her.
“Thank you.” She accepted the rose, inhaled its fragrance, and brushed her lips against it. Her crimson lipstick stained its white petals. With a teasing smile, she reached down and brushed the rose against his lips. The back of her fingers grazed his cheek.
The voracious need in his eyes devoured her as he licked the faint smear of lipstick that transferred from the petals to his lips. His cocky expression promised her a world of pleasure and a life of privilege that would exceed anything her pasty English date could offer her.
He was, no doubt, right, but Zara offered him a rueful parting glance before continuing on her way to the restroom. She locked herself in a stall and set the rose on the floor, its lipstick-smeared petal facing up. She pulled a pair of biodegradable silicon-carbon polymer gloves from her handbag and slid them over her hands. Next, she took out a perfume atomizer and spritzed it over the rose. Carefully, she peeled the thin layers of polymer off her upper and lower lips and sprayed the contents of the atomizer over them as well as the fingertips of the gloves.
Zara counted down ten seconds for the chemicals in the atomizer to counteract the toxins before dropping the lip peels and gloves into the toilet bowl. The rose petals followed. A flush disposed of all evidence.
Simple. Too simple.
Something fluttered in the pit of her stomach.
Not nerves surely, although wearing the poison on her lips was foolhardy to the point of insanity, as was gambling on Kaito Masura’s habit of spontaneously offering flowers to attractive women.
Then again, Zara was nothing if not a risk-taker.
The atomizer went back into her handbag. She stepped out of the stall, reapplied her lipstick, smoothed her navy blue dress, and returned to her seat, weaving a different route through the tables.
Alastair was pouting. He had obviously witnessed her flirtatious exchange with Kaito. To make it up to him—after all, she would have had trouble entering Club 33 and gaining access to Kaito if not for him—Zara paid Alastair special attention through dinner. By the time their Kobe Carpaccio appetizers were eaten, he had forgotten the slight to his ego. Midway through his Moroccan spiced lamb entree, Alastair, blushing shyly, invited Zara to his ancestral home to meet his parents. She promised to consider his invitation; she was not scheduled to break his heart until the next day.
Moments after the waitress brought out their Strawberries Arnaud dessert, Kaito Masura, the kumicho of the Chinatsu-gumi yakuza and a platinum member of Club 33, collapsed from an apparent heart attack. The emergency medical technicians could not revive him. He was declared dead by the time the club manager began his rounds, assuring distressed diners that their evening meals would be complimentary to compensate for the inconvenience. The manager wrung his hands, his stricken gaze shuttling between Zara and Alastair. Was there anything else he could do for them?
Zara held on to the expression of wide-eyed shock and shook her head. He had done enough. Disney’s near-fanatical desire to avoid bad publicity would ensure that Masura’s “heart attack” would not make the morning news. She could not ask for more.
She bid Alastair goodnight in the parking lot and drove her rental car, a red Corvette, back to the Hotel Bel-Air. Her leisurely drive through Los Angeles’s familiar streets was ruined only by the occasional flutter in her stomach. It was ridiculous to be nervous. She had nothing to be concerned about. The kill was clean, untraceable.
She pulled into the curved driveway of the Hotel Bel-Air. A uniformed valet opened her car door and inclined his head as she stepped out. “Welcome back, Miss Itani.”
“Thank you, Jason.” She smiled at him. The subtly foreign inflections that had so charmed Alastair conceded to her natural American accent. Her hand trailed along the Corvette’s sleek lines. “Take good care of her.”
“Certainly, Miss Itani.”
Her smartphone rang as she had stepped into her suite and locked the door behind her. She glanced at the number before accepting the international call from Japan. “Good morning, Ayame-san.”
A well-modulated woman’s voice responded with a faint Japanese accent. “It is a beautiful morning, Zara-san. We have just received word of the misfortune that has befallen Chinatsu-gumi. On behalf of my father, I convey the deep gratitude of Isamu-gumi.”
“You are most welcome. I am honored to be a friend of Kazuo-san and the Isamu-gumi.”
“Your fee has been transferred to your account in Switzerland. Domo arigatou gozaimasu.”
“Dou itashi mashite.”
“The next time you are in Tokyo, we would be honored if you would visit us.”
Zara heard a smile in Ayame’s voice. She smiled too. “I would be pleased to do so. How is your son?”
“Oh.” Ayame’s voice softened. “He is six and a half weeks old, and perfect. So talkative. And Nikolai has been a wonderful father.”
“The yakuza are not giving you a hard time over marrying a gaijin and bearing his son?”
“Not when he can shoot faster and more accurately than they can.”
Zara laughed. She and Ayame spoke for several more minutes before exchanging goodbyes. She tossed the phone down on her bed, her thoughts still on her friend. Ayame had come a long way since their first meeting as freshmen at Princeton. In the ten years since, the quiet and unassuming Japanese girl had gone on to manage her father’s manufacturing business and his yakuza gang. She had married Nikolai Voronov, a former employee of Zara’s mercenary agency, Three Fates, and she was now the mother of a chubby and adorable child—a child who would likely grow up to become a key player in the world of Japanese organized crime.
Zara shook her head. Ayame’s son’s fate had been determined before he was born. As a non-believer in destiny, Zara found the thought mildly discouraging, at best, and hugely depressing, at worst. She kicked off her high heels and walked barefoot onto the patio. Darkness concealed the canyon views, but underwater spotlights lit the spa pool. The water sparkled, lapping gently against the sides of the pool. She dipped in a toe. The night air was cool but the water was still warm, sun-kissed from a long summer’s day.
She tugged off her dress, shed her black lace lingerie, and stepped into the pool. She sank into the water up to her neck, closed her eyes, and allowed her mind to drift. Her thoughts wandered, as they almost always did, to Danyael Sabre. Had he been released from solitary confinement? Was he all right?
She ground her teeth. What an absurd question. Of course, Danyael was not all right, although solitary confinement likely suited him perfectly. He did not want emotional ties. He wanted to be alone. Well, now he was. Bastard.
Perhaps it was time to make another visit to Colorado, to the super maximum-security prison, ADX Florence. She had visited twice before, but both times, the guards had turned her away. No one had seen Danyael since he had been arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
He had been locked away without trial for killing twelve men in self-defense.
No, it had not all been self-defense. Ten of the twelve men he had killed to defend her.
Guilt pricked her. She wanted to see him. Her inadequate apology for betraying him would catch on her lips, but she wanted to see him again.
She supposed she could change her flight and make a stop at ADX Florence.
Her stomach fluttered. Was it indigestion or nerves? Either way, it was getting annoying. When had it started? A week ago? A week and a half, perhaps.
Zara climbed out of the pool, wrapped a towel around her body, and returned to her suite. She picked up her smartphone and called her assistant.
“Hello?” Karen Alder sounded half-asleep. It was past midnight on the east coast.
“I need you to change my flight tomorrow. I’ll be making an overnight stop in Colorado Springs on the way back.”
“Got it.” Karen yawned. “Colorado Springs Airport. Hotel and rental car?”
“Which identity do you want to use?”
“Just mine. It’s fine.”
“No one’s scheduled to die, huh? Okay, on it. Oh, your annual medical report came back from Dr. Tyler.”
“His e-mail said that everything looks good. He said something odd, though. He asked if you wanted him to send your medical report to your ob-gyn.”
“I don’t know. He didn’t say. Did you want me to ask?”
The chill Zara felt had nothing to do with the air conditioning. “No, I’ll take care of it. Is the e-mail still in my inbox?”
She hung up. Damn it.
She found what she needed in the twenty-four-hour pharmacy around the corner. Her heart raced but her hands were steady. She followed the instructions but hardly needed to wait. Double lines appeared on the pregnancy test kit immediately.
Her breath caught. “Fuck.”
With love, Jade