Romance Michele Albert Hide in Plain Sight

ISBN 13: 9780743485036

Hide in Plain Sight

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9780743485036: Hide in Plain Sight

APPEARANCES ARE DECEIVING

Fiona Kennedy can tell a forgery from the genuine article in a snap. Drop-dead-sexy Grif Laughton, however, is not so easy to read. He's clearly a masterpiece of the male variety -- and the attraction he sparks is definitely the real thing. But Grif is a man of secrets, and the potentially priceless manuscript he's asked her to appraise is just one of them.

PASSIONS ARE DEADLY

But someone is willing to kill for the manuscript, and Grif reveals that he's a mercenary, hired to protect Fiona. Is he really who he seems, or is he just using her as bait? On the run from an unknown enemy, Fiona gives in to her all-consuming need for the man who may be her one chance for survival -- or her final chapter.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Michele Albert is the author of One Way Out (available from Pocket Books), Off Limits, and Getting Her Man, which was nominated for Best Mainstream Novel by Romantic Times, who praised it as "sexy, sassy, and exciting" romantic suspense. She holds a degree in classical archaeology from the University of Michigan, and pursued the field until switching gears to become a full-time novelist. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and children.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

International smuggling made for strange bedfellows, and on this hot July night, in a tiny Hamburg restaurant, the promise of large sums of money changing hands had brought together a cultural melting pot of thieves, liars, and killers.

Gathered around a small table were two elegant Iraqi men with a large briefcase that never left their sight; a long-legged, big-busted, blond, blue-eyed Finn acting as a liaison for the German who should've shown up fifteen minutes ago; and himself.

Tonight, Griffith Laughton was playing the part of the arrogant American with all the money; his dark hair perfectly styled, his black suit immaculate, his little round glasses making him appear every inch the ambitious young businessman.

Griffith held back a small smile. He loved being in the thick of it again and operating on his own script. There'd be bitching about it at headquarters later, but as long as he got the job done and got his team out in one piece, Ben Sheridan would go easy on him.

Especially if he managed to reel in von Lahr.

Seated between the tense Finn and the equally tense Iraqi smugglers, Griffith didn't miss how their gazes kept straying to the leather briefcase tucked firmly between his ankles. Nor could he miss the fact that somebody was going to explode if von Lahr didn't make his appearance soon or his lover, Annamari Hakkinen, didn't get the show rolling.

The little restaurant was dark and mostly empty, except for a couple cooing at each other behind him; the cheerful, redheaded waitress folding napkins at the next table; and the bald-headed bartender polishing his bar. The bartender's massive shoulders eliminated his neck, which, along with his curling handlebar mustache, gave him the look of a turn-of-the-century circus strongman.

Catching Griffith's gaze, the bartender nodded politely -- but didn't look away. And he was sweating.

That wasn't good.

Holding back a frown, Griffith turned to the blonde and said, in German, "Your associate is late. How much longer do you expect me to wait? I have other appointments this evening."

Although Annamari gave him a dazzling smile, it didn't reach her cool blue eyes. "I fear Rainert must have been unavoidably delayed. Perhaps we should continue without him."

With no signal as yet from his lookouts, Griffith already anticipated von Lahr would be a no-show. He hadn't assumed it would be this simple to run to ground one of the most notorious art and antiquities thieves in all of Europe, but he wouldn't have minded catching a bit of blind luck for a change.

"But that was not part of our deal," he said, pretending not to notice the growing agitation of the two Iraqi men, al-Shadri Senior and al-Shadri Junior, as he thought of them. "Our deal was that von Lahr would be here to handle the final details."

Annamari's annoyance leaked through her encore smile, but Griffith had to admit von Lahr's excellent taste in arm candy. Then again, the man was an art thief; he had an eye for the exquisite.

"I believe we shall have to alter the plans, and I will act in Rainert's place." Annamari, her expression flat, looked directly at al-Shadri Senior. "I realize it is not your habit to do business with a woman, but unless you wish to leave this place tonight without what you came for, you have no choice."

The Iraqi men hadn't bothered hiding the fact that they disliked having to conduct their business in the presence of a woman -- even worse, a European woman. Yet despite the palpable disdain, the younger Iraqi had been eyeing Annamari with an insulting sexual interest.

Al-Shadri Senior, however, hadn't taken his attention off Griffith since he'd walked into the restaurant -- which he could play to his advantage, if necessary.

"You must give me an answer now or this meeting is terminated," Annamari said after a short silence.

Her ultimatum didn't sit well with al-Shadri Junior, who turned, thin-lipped, to his companion and spoke in a low voice.

Ibrahim al-Shadri and his nephew Yousef were members of the notorious al-Shadri clan. The tribe was in the thick of looting and smuggling ancient artifacts, which the current upheaval in Iraq made frustratingly easy. Griffith knew they were extremely dangerous, even before Yousef spelled it out in a few concise, quiet words.

Unfortunately for Junior, Griffith understood and spoke a number of Middle Eastern dialects. "Shooting us and taking the money just isn't a good idea," he said pleasantly, enjoying their startled expressions. "Bad for business. Seriously."

Senior recovered quickly, smiled, and said in heavily accented German, "Forgive my nephew. He is young and rash -- and justifiably angry. We have come here tonight at a great risk and were assured there would be no problems. Yet our contact is not here, and now you, Mr. Laughton, speak of leaving as well. I am not pleased with how the transaction is progressing. And I do not feel comfortable in this open place. We should return to my hotel room, where we will have more privacy."

Annamari frowned, and Griffith decided enough was enough.

"You don't trust me?" he asked al-Shadri Senior, his tone pitched low, friendly. "You think I'm armed? Wired?"

Senior shrugged elegantly. "It is a dangerous business we are in, this is true. Who can afford to trust blindly?"

"So how about you see for yourself that I'm clean?" Griffith stood, slipping off his suit coat and tossing it casually on his chair -- and over the briefcase that held no money at all.

Annamari muttered, "Goddamn American cowboy!" then snapped, "What are you doing? Sit down! I am the one in charge here!"

"Everyone wants the money, right?" Griffith tugged his tie loose, then tossed it on his coat. "And since I'm the one with the money, that makes me the one in charge."

As al-Shadri Junior made a hiss of annoyance, Griffith started unbuttoning his shirt -- and he saw the moment Annamari understood his intentions. Her beautiful, cold eyes widened.

"You cannot do this, not here," she said from between clenched teeth as the shirt joined the suit coat and tie.

He was unfastening his belt as she added more urgently, "Mr. Laughton, please stop this at once!"

"I don't think so." He gave her the act she expected, an arrogant wink and an equally arrogant smile. "We're just getting to the fun part. C'mon, honey, have a little fun. You people are way too serious."

Al-Shadri Senior gave a low and appreciative chuckle that echoed loudly in the silence of shock that had fallen over the small restaurant.

Got you, you miserable bastard.

His impromptu act garnered Griffith a rapt audience. The red-haired server was frozen in mid-napkin fold, staring. The couple at the next table, a boyish blond and a cute brunette, stopped their annoying giggles and love talk long enough to exchange startled glances, and the girl squeaked in stilted German, "What are you doing?"

"Isn't it obvious, sweetheart?" Griffith asked, his grin widening as the brunette's mouth dropped open.

Annamari had had enough. She stood, grabbing his arm, the talons of her nails sinking into the muscle of his bare biceps with a pain that was sharp and pleasant. "Idiot! You're going to ruin everything! You -- "

"Be quiet and sit down," Griffith said, keeping his tone friendly but with enough edge that her mouth opened, then shut, and she sat back down.

He hopped onto the table, and every gaze in the place was focused on him.

"See? No wires."

Turning around slowly, Griffith kept his teasing grin trained on al-Shadri Senior, who looked torn between lust and embarrassment. His dark eyes kept straying to where Griffith played his fingers along the zipper of his pants.

"Take it all off!" called the tiny brunette from the next table. "Don't be shy now -- Let it all hang out."

Annamari looked ready to have a meltdown, and there was a glint of fear in her eyes. Probably fear of him as much as fear of what von Lahr would do to her if she botched the transaction.

He almost felt sorry for her. Almost.

Griffith kept al-Shadri Senior's attention on him and slipped his hand down the front of his pants. The younger Iraqi stood, swearing in a rapid string of words, and beside him Annamari gasped and said weakly in English, "Oh, my God . . ."

Whether that was because of the gun she felt at the back of her head, held there by the redheaded waitress, or because of what he'd hauled out from inside his pants, Griffith didn't know or care.

"You look disappointed." He smiled as he aimed his Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum at Ibrahim al-Shadri's astonished face. "Expecting something else, were you? And here I thought I was being so clever. I'm hurt you don't appreciate my humor."

"Goddammit," snarled the tiny brunette, who had her gun pressed against Yousef's back. "That was not the fuckin' plan, you asshole!"

"I improvised," Griffith said, smiling at Diva's show of temper before turning to her "boyfriend." "Hey, you -- rookie. Tie up Senior here. And do it carefully. Both he and Junior are armed to the teeth."

"The name's Perry," the new kid grumbled, even as he efficiently disarmed al-Shadri, tied his wrists together, then pushed him onto the floor beside his bound nephew and Annamari Hakkinen.

Her eyes were still glazed with shock, but she was beginning to understand what had just happened.

"You don't look like cops," she said in English, and her full, pink mouth curled in disgust.

"Really?" Griffith reached for his belt.

"Cops have a look to them." Annamari leaned back, affecting an air of unconcern that Griffith didn't buy. "In the way they move, the way they watch people. You don't look like that."

Griffith smiled. "Nope, not a cop."

"You're Avalon, aren't you?" She was watching him carefully. "Rainert told me about you."

"Right. And speaking of von Lahr, where is he?" Griffith hopped off the table and crouched down beside her. Even in a situation like this, it did his masculine eg...

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