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Melissa Koslin | Exclusive Excerpt: DANGEROUS BEAUTY


Dangerous Beauty
Melissa Koslin

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September 2022
On Sale: September 6, 2022
ISBN: 0800742265
EAN: 9780800742263
Kindle: B09V6XPLBR
Hardcover / e-Book
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Also by Melissa Koslin:
Dangerous Beauty, September 2022
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Never Miss, May 2021

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Liliana lay in bed wide awake. She’d been laying there for hours, unable to sleep for some reason. The problem wasn’t memories this time. Something felt . . . wrong. At midnight, she’d checked with the doorman to make sure everything was okay downstairs. He’d politely told her everything was fine but had seemed confused. Or maybe he’d thought she was crazy.

Finally, she got out of bed, went over to the windows, and looked out over the darkened city.

Her thoughts turned toward God, asking him to make sure everything worked out all right. What that “everything” was she had no idea.

The elevator dinged. That has to be Meric coming home. She walked out of her bedroom as he was walking off the elevator. The shadows were too thick to be able to see details, but she recognized the way he moved.

He glanced at her and hesitated, just for a second. Then he turned and headed toward his room.

Relieved to see him home, she shifted to step back into her room. Then she noticed something was off about the way he walked.

Meric closed his door with a quiet click.

She walked past the living and dining rooms to the entryway and paused. His scent lingered in the air, but it wasn’t right. Instead of his usual slight musky scent, almost unnoticeable, it was sweat mixed with . . . blood.

She went quickly to his door and knocked.

Nothing.

She tried the knob. Unlocked. She cracked the door. “Meric?”

Still no answer.

She opened the door wider. He wasn’t in his bedroom. Then she heard water running in a sink. She walked in and crossed to the door on the left, following the sound. The door was open.

She stopped at the sight of Meric standing in front of the sink. His white dress shirt was tossed on the floor, covered in blood. His arms and back were covered in cuts.

“Meric! What happened?”

He stepped back, away from her.

She moved toward him, and he took another step back.

“What happened?” she asked again.

His expression was hard, and he kept his gaze over her shoulder, not actually on her.

There was a bandage on his side, and on his shoulder was a nasty gash. Blood slowly oozed from it and dried down his arm.

“Meric.”

“Please go.”

She paused at his cold tone. Then she said, “No.”

He finally met her gaze.

She grabbed a washcloth from the counter and ran it under the hot water. Then she turned to Meric.

“I’ve already been to a doctor.”

“Someone bandaged your side, but nothing else has been addressed. Nothing’s even been cleaned.”

“What do you think I’m doing?”

“There’s no way you can reach everything. Now sit down.” She didn’t let herself keep asking what’d happened. Right now, she needed to focus on getting him cleaned up, making sure nothing got infected, reducing the discomfort. He had to be in horrible pain.

He stared at her with his cold gaze.

She moved closer, looking up at him. Then she rested her hand on his cheek. “Please.”

He lifted his head away from her hand. But then he sat on the edge of the tub.

“Tell me if I hurt you.”

He looked up at her, and she thought he was going to say something. But then he looked away, past her to the opposite wall.

As gently as she could, she cleaned the wound on his shoulder with soap and water, all while trying to figure out what could have possibly happened. She didn’t want to push him for information for fear he would make her leave. All the other wounds looked cleaner, probably from blades, but this one was more of a gash, maybe a burn. And then she realized what it was, what made the most sense. A gunshot wound. The bullet had grazed his shoulder.

Her hands shook, but she didn’t let him see.

What was Meric involved in? How in the world could he possibly be in a position to be shot at, let alone sustain all the knife wounds? And why wasn’t he in the hospital? Why wasn’t he talking to the police? Maybe he’d already been? But the police would’ve made sure his wounds were properly treated, wouldn’t they?

What was going on?

After she got the wound on his shoulder as clean as she could, she started on his back. He angled himself on the edge of the tub so she could reach. She’d chosen his back next, not his arms, because these cuts had more dried blood around them and because she didn’t want him to see her face and guess at how upset she was.

“Do you have any kind of antiseptic?” she asked. “Or bandages?”

“There might be some Neosporin in the drawer.” His tone sounded so distant.

She opened the drawer. Behind his razor and can of shave cream, she found a tube of Neosporin and some medical tape. But no bandages. She looked around the room.

“What are you looking for?”

“Bandages.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“You’ll get blood all over everything. Do you really want Teresa wondering why your bed sheets are covered in blood?”

He stood, walked into his bedroom, opened a dresser drawer, and removed a white undershirt. Then he took a small pair of scissors from a different bathroom drawer and handed them both to Liliana. He resumed his seat. His movement was stiff. Though he would probably never admit to it, she could see how much pain he was in.

She started cutting up the shirt.

She carefully applied Neosporin to the now-clean cuts and used the medical tape and cut-up shirt to cover the wounds.

“I think some of these need stitches,” she said.

“It’ll be fine.”

She didn’t push any more, thankful he was allowing even this much.

Once she’d done as much as she could with his back, she started on his left arm. Most of the cuts were on his forearm. She guessed they were defensive wounds. He’d obviously been in a knife fight.

Meric continued to stare past her. He never flinched or made a sound, but she noticed his muscles seemed especially tight, his posture rigid.

When she started on his right arm, she asked, “What happened to your side?” If that one was bandaged, it must have been a lot worse than any of the other wounds.

“It’s fine.”

She continued treating the cuts.

“Does it feel any better?” she asked. “Do you have any aspirin?”

“I’m fine.”

Finally, the words that’d been crawling up her throat burst out. “Have I done something wrong?”

He looked up at her, brows drawn.

“You don’t talk to me anymore,” she said. “You’re never home. You don’t even look at me.”

He hesitated, and his voice was finally thawed. “I’m sorry. It’s nothing to do with you.”

“Then what is it to do with? What’s wrong, Meric?”

“Nothing’s wrong.”

“You were in a knife fight, and someone shot at you.”

He said nothing, didn’t deny it.

“I know I’m not really your wife. But you are important to me. I care about you.”

He nodded, and his gaze shifted away from her. “You’re not really my wife.”

“Why won’t you talk to me? What have I done to make you pull away from me so much?”

He looked up at her. “You haven’t done anything.”

“Something happened. Something’s changed.”

“Nothing changed.”

She shifted closer and rested her hand on his cheek. “Please, Meric. I’m scared for you.”

He pulled away. “There’s no reason for you to worry about me.”

“How can you say that? You were in a knife fight.”

“Like you said, you’re not really my wife.”

Her voice was soft. “But you are my friend. You saved my life.” She rested her hand on his cheek again. “You’re important to me.”

He didn’t pull away but also didn’t look at her. Finally, he said, “I can’t.”

“Why?”

“I’m sorry I put you in this position. I shouldn’t have married you.”

She felt like he’d stabbed her in the chest.

But she pushed that overwhelming pain away, shoved it all to the side, so she could focus on him, on whatever was wrong. The pain she saw in his eyes looked like how she felt. She had no idea what he was involved in, but whatever it was, it was killing him. Not just the physical pain, but something else, something worse.

She moved even closer, and carefully she pulled his head to her chest. He tensed at first. She thought he would pull away, shove her back. But then he wrapped his arms around her, hands splayed across her back, and let her cradle his head against her. He closed his eyes and took deep, slow breaths.

She held him tightly, a little surprised she didn’t mind having him against her chest, even in her nightgown, or having his arms around her. Maybe because she knew he wouldn’t take advantage.

Because she trusted him. He was involved in something dangerous, something he wouldn’t talk about. But he’d earned her trust anyway—it was in all the little things, his kind gestures, the respect he’d always shown her, how he always protected her.

And she knew, right now, he was protecting her. She had no idea from what, or if it was even needed, but he was protecting her by not telling her what was going on. It was frustrating to be kept in the dark, but she would not push him right now, nor was she sure she had the right to. He was letting her take care of him; that was all she’d ask. For now.

They stayed there for a long time. She ran her fingers slowly through his hair.

Then he nuzzled into her more and tightened his grip. She leaned over him and kissed his hair.

The feeling between them changed, and she wasn’t sure what it meant, what to think. She stepped back. He didn’t try to hold onto her.

He looked at her like a dog that’d been beaten and was resigned to being beaten again. Not upset, just resigned. “I’m sorry.”

She was so confused.

She walked out of his room. Part of her hoped he would follow, and another part hoped he didn’t. And why was he sorry? Had she hurt him?

She ran the rest of the way to her room and closed the door.

 

Excerpt from DANGEROUS BEAUTY used by permission from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright © 2022 by Melissa Koslin

http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com

DANGEROUS BEAUTY by Melissa Koslin

Dangerous Beauty

Liliana Vela hates the term victim. She's not a victim, she's a fighter. Stubborn and strong with a quiet elegance, she's determined to take back her life after escaping the clutches of human traffickers in her poor Mexican village. But she can't stay safely over the border in America--unless the man who aided in her rescue is serious about his unconventional proposal to marry her.

Meric Toledan was just stopping at a service station for a bottle of water. Assessing the situation, he steps in to rescue Liliana from traffickers. If he can keep his secrets at bay, his wealth and position afford him many resources to help her. But the mysterious buyer who funded her capture will not sit idly by while his prize is stolen from him.

Melissa Koslin throws you right into the middle of the action in this high-stakes thriller that poses the question: What is the price of freedom?

Romance Suspense [Revell, On Sale: September 6, 2022, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9780800742263 / ]

Buy DANGEROUS BEAUTY: Amazon.com | Kindle | BN.com | Powell's Books | Books-A-Million | Indie BookShops | Ripped Bodice | Love's Sweet Arrow | Walmart.com | Book Depository | Target.com | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon FR

About Melissa Koslin

Melissa Koslin

Melissa Koslin is a fourth-degree black belt in and certified instructor of Songahm Taekwondo. In her day job as a commercial property manager, she secretly notes personal quirks and funny situations, ready to tweak them into colorful additions for her books. She and Corey, her husband of twenty years, live in Florida, where they do their best not to melt in the sun.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS | AMAZON

 

 

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