Cover Design: Amy Queau, Q Design
I have no idea what Maxence was doing in Monaco that night. Yeah, he loves the Monte Carlo casino—the stage of British spy movies, billionaires, Russian mafia, and roulette.
But too many people in Monaco think he might be a danger to them.
He never should have been there.
But he was.
And so was Simone. She’s trouble from our past at boarding school. Her husband is a good friend of some of the people who would be happier if Maxence wasn’t around anymore.
They tell me Maxence was here in the casino, and then a few minutes later, he was gone.
Like he dropped off the face of the Earth.
Or like he was dropped off one of Monaco’s cliffs and into the blue Mediterranean Sea, which was just a few feet from where he was standing when he disappeared.
Arthur and I are in Monaco to find Maxence, no matter what it takes.
But we might end up finding his body.
The doorway between two rooms where Maxence was standing was half-blocked by Christmas trees that towered over his head and the doorway. He’d been careful not to jiggle the tiny gold-and-glass ornaments that encrusted the tree. The balls and icicles tinkled alarmingly every time his arm brushed the branches.
Maxence had just decided to inch closer to the televisions airing the soccer match when his old high school friend Simone Maina rushed across the opulent casino room and through the crowd toward him.
Her lithe figure was a harmonic vibration on a violin string, blurred at the edges of her slim curves by the lights sparkling on the glass beadwork of her white dress. As she neared him, the smooth skin between her eyebrows and under her eyes creased, indicating strain. Her arms reaching for him were slim, dark lines in the room of round, solid bodies held tightly together to avoid contact.
Maxence set his whiskey glass on a small table behind himself and drew a breath to ask her what was wrong.
Simone’s natural Afro hair was a sleek halo around her thin face. She was reaching out to Maxence, her fingers nearing the lapels of his tuxedo, and she glanced behind herself in fear. Black eyeliner and eyeshadow in soft sage and glittering gold accentuated her sloe-eyed beauty, and she almost looked like an Egyptian hieroglyphic of a queen.
Rough abrasions and the darkening plum of bruises covered her slim throat.
Maxence’s heart fell as rage rose in his body. Her husband, Estebe Fournier, must have thought people wouldn’t notice the damage to Simone’s dark-bronze skin. Estebe had always been a bully when they had been at school together, and he’d been excellent at creating incidents where he could deny his guilt.
About twenty feet behind her, two men in dark suits pushed through the crowd, their eyes intent on her form.
Other men in dark suits—all with the nearly shaved heads and odd bulk of the paramilitary security profession—converged toward them from another side of the crowd.
Maxence could have sworn he recognized one of the men. Maybe all private mercenaries and bodyguards were beginning to look alike to him. Many of his friends employed dozens of them.
Maxence opened his hands as Simone rushed into his curtained alcove and whispered near his shoulder, “Help me.”
Blair Babylon is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author who used to publish literary fiction. Because professional reviews of her other fiction usually included the caveat that there was too much deviant sex and too much interesting plot, she decided to abandon all literary pretensions, let her freak flag fly, and write hot, sexy, suspenseful romance.