Title: Darker Than Love
Authors: Anna Zaires & Charmaine Pauls
Genre: Dark Romance
Cover Design: Najla Qamber Designs
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Once upon a
cold, dark night, a Russian killer stole me from an alley.
dangerous, but he is lethal.
let me do it twice.
betrayal is mine.
But so are
the lies to protect the ones I love.
from the same twisted cloth. Both merciless. Both damaged.
embrace, I find hell and heaven, his cruelly tender touch destroying and
uplifting me at once.
They say a
cat has nine lives, but an assassin has just one.
Ivanov now owns mine.
long have you worked at the bar?” the guy with the skull tattoos—the seemingly
kinder one—asks when I remove my winter jacket and we sit down in the living
room. With its Soviet-style orange wallpaper and brown drapes, this place looks
like it hasn’t been renovated since the eighties, but the ratty couch we’re
sitting on is surprisingly comfortable. Maybe I will take him up on his offer to sleep here. That is, if they don’t
kill me and dump my body in the river before sunrise.
I think my
captor was just testing my language skills with that proposal, but I can’t be
man prompts, and I realize I zoned out instead of answering his question. Now
that some of the adrenaline is fading, the extreme exhaustion is back, muddling
my thoughts and slowing my reactions. I want nothing more than to stretch out
on this couch and fall asleep, but I might not wake up if I do.
Russians might decide that what I heard merits killing me rather than just
keeping me captive overnight.
worked there for a couple of years,” I answer, my voice shaking. It’s easy to
sound terrified… because I am.
two men who may want to kill me, and I’m in no state to defend myself.
thing that gives me hope is that they haven’t already done so. They could’ve
easily murdered me in the alley; they didn’t need to bring me here for that. Of
course, there’s another possibility, one that every woman must consider.
be planning to rape me before killing me, in which case bringing me here makes
makes my stomach churn, the old memories threatening to crowd in, but
underneath the fear and disgust is something darker, infinitely more fucked up.
The brief sizzle of arousal I’d experienced at the bar was nothing compared to
how it had felt when the dangerous stranger caged me against the wall,
caressing my face with that cruel gentleness. My body—the weak, ruined body
I’ve spent the past year hating—had come to life with such force, it was as if
fireworks had ignited under my skin, liquifying my core and burning away my
Was he able
to sense it?
Did he know
how badly I wanted him to keep touching me?
I think he
did. And more than that, I think he wanted to. His eyes—a hard, gem-like
green—had watched me with the dark intensity of a predator, taking in every
twitch of my lashes, every hitch of my breath. If we’d been alone, he might’ve
kissed me… or killed me on the spot.
to tell with him.
like it? Working at the bar, I mean?” the tattooed man asks, bringing my
attention back to him. Now he is easy
to read. There’s unmistakable male interest in the way he looks at me, an
obvious gleam in his green eyes.
Wait a sec.
two brothers?” I blurt out, then silently curse myself. I’m so tired I’m not
thinking straight. The last thing I need is for these two to imagine I’m
gathering information on them, or—
“We are.” A
smile lights up his broad face, softening his harsh features. “Twins, in fact.”
Shit. I did
not need to know that. The next thing
I know, he’ll be telling me his—
by the way,” he says, extending one big paw toward me. “And my brother’s name
I’m so screwed. They are going to
kill me. “Nice to meet you,” I say weakly, shaking his hand on autopilot. My
grip is as limp as my voice, but that’s okay. I’m playing a damsel in distress,
and the more convincing I am, the better.
Too bad the
act is mostly real these days.
my hand gingerly, as if afraid of inadvertently crushing my bones, and hope
nibbles at me. He wouldn’t be so careful with me if they were planning to
brutally rape and kill me, would he?
reading my thoughts, he gives me another smile, an even kinder one this time,
and says gruffly, “I’m sorry about my brother. He’s used to seeing enemies
around every corner. You will walk
away from this unharmed, I promise you, malyshka. We need to keep you overnight
as a precaution, that’s all.”
I believe him. Or at least I believe that he
intends me no harm. The jury is still out on his brother—who chooses that exact
moment to walk in, carrying a cup of tea in one hand and two beers in the
catches in my throat as he—Yan—sets the drinks on the coffee table in front of
us and sits down between me and Ilya, unapologetically wedging himself into the
too-small space. Instinctively, I scoot to the side, as far as the couch
allows, but that’s only about six centimeters, and my leg ends up pressed
against his, the heat of his body burning me even through the layers of our
the suede winter jacket he was wearing earlier, and is now dressed like he was
in the bar, in the stylish dress pants and button-up shirt. Except his sleeves
are rolled up, exposing muscular forearms lightly dusted with dark hair.
strong, this ruthless captor of mine. Strong and superbly fit, his body a
deadly weapon under those perfectly tailored clothes.
says in that smooth, deep voice of his, so different from his brother’s rougher
tones. “As per the princess’s request.”
you,” I mumble, reaching for the cup. My hands are visibly shaking, my
breathing is shallow, and I’m sweating—and none of it is an act. I can smell
the clean, masculine scent of his cologne—something sensual and airy, like
pepper and sandalwood—and his nearness unsettles me, making my insides riot
with a confusing mixture of fear and desire. Even if he wasn’t danger
personified, I’d be drawn to his magnetic good looks, but knowing what I know
about him—about what he does and what he might do to me—I can’t control my
helpless response to him.
tiredness recedes, leaving me jittery and high, as if I’d downed two liters of
aware of his gaze on me as I bring the cup to my lips and take a sip,
suppressing a hiss at the scalding temperature of the water. I’m trying not to
look at him, to just focus on my tea, but I can’t help staring at his hands as
he reaches over and grabs a beer, then twists off the cap with a practiced
motion. His fingers are long and masculine, and though his nails are neatly
groomed, the calluses on the edges of his thumbs belie the elegance of his
This is a
man used to doing things with his hands.
woman would be repulsed by the thought, but my heart hammers faster, and an
aching pulse starts between my legs, my underwear dampening with liquid heat.
The darkness in him calls to me, making me feel alive in a way I’ve never
It’s as if
like recognizes like, the wrongness in me craving the same in him.
up the remaining bottle, his hands thick and rough, with a few tattoos on the
back. There’s no pretense in him, no attempt to hide what he is behind an
elegant mask. “To new friends,” he says, clinking his bottle against his
brother’s and then, more gently, against my cup of tea. I risk a glance at him,
but catch Yan’s hard green gaze instead.
look away, but not before a betraying flush crawls up my neck and covers my
face. “To new friends,” I repeat, staring into my cup as if I might see my fate
written in the tea leaves. I’m not sure I want Yan to know about the effect he
has on me—though he probably already does.
exactly at the top of my game tonight.
new friends,” Yan murmurs, his large hand landing on my knee and squeezing it
look over at him and see him tipping back the beer, his strong throat working
as he swallows. It’s a strangely sensual sight, and my insides clench as he
lowers the bottle and meets my gaze, his eyes darkly intent as the hand on my
knee moves a couple of inches up my thigh, closer to where I’m wet and aching.
says quietly, still holding my gaze. “Make us a couple of sandwiches, will you?
I think Mina here is hungry.”
Ilya sounds confused as he stands up, and I look up to find him frowning at
us—specifically, at my thigh, where Yan’s hand is resting so possessively.
Slowly, tension permeates his big body, his hands flexing at his sides as his
gaze swings to his brother’s face.
think she’s hungry,” he bites out, his voice low and hard. His eyes cut to me.
“Are you, Mina?”
thickly, unsure of what the right answer is. If I’m reading this right, Yan has
just staked some sort of an exclusive claim on me, one that I would reinforce
if I admitted to this made-up hunger.
what I want?
away the brother who’s been nice to me, so I could be alone with the man who
proposed dumping my body in the river?
sandwich would be nice.” The words don’t seem to belong to me, yet it’s my
voice saying them, even as my brain scrambles to figure out the implications.
“That is, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble.”
mouth thins. “Fine. I’ll see what we have in the fridge.”
around, he stalks off, leaving me on the couch with his brother.