From New York Times bestselling author Iris Johansen comes a timeless tale about the immutable power of attraction, as two lovers forge a bond so undeniable that nothing can break it...
Samantha Barton survived imprisonment on the war-torn island of St. Pierre. Her family wasn't so lucky. Now, in her new identity as the tough-as-nails revolutionary code-named Topaz, she enlists the aid of an enigmatic industrialist, Fletcher Bronson, on a risky mission to rescue some stranded refugees. Trapped behind enemy lines with a man she both fears and desires, Samantha finds herself irresistibly drawn by his promise of a new life away from the hail of gunfire. For Fletcher, Samantha is more than just an intriguing new lover. She's an object he must possess and protect at all costs. Opening his heart to her was never part of the bargain. But when new developments from Samantha's past life threaten to disturb his careful plans for their future, Fletcher must come to terms with the changes she's wrought in him--and reconcile himself to the truth of the warning she once delivered: "I'm Samantha, but I'm also Topaz."
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August 25, 2009
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Excerpt from One Touch of Topaz by Iris Johansen
"The contact's code name is Topaz." Skip Brennen made a face. "Sounds like something from a spy novel, doesn't it? I feel like I should be wearing a trench coat and carrying a diplomat's attach� case."
"It's too damn hot to wear a trench coat." Fletcher Bronson slapped at a mosquito on his arm. "Hell, it's too hot to breathe on this forsaken island. I don't know what I'm doing here, anyway. Those thieving bastards will nationalize my refinery within the next six months no matter what they say now. I should have accepted my losses and not wasted my time coming to St. Pierre."
"Fat chance," Skip said with a drawl. "You don't like giving up anything that's yours. We both know you'd still have stormed down here if the junta had only threatened to confiscate one of the company trucks, much less a multimillion-dollar refinery."
"Maybe." Fletch gazed moodily at the emerald-green hills in the distance. The beautiful view from the balcony of this hotel suite that those megalomaniacs in the palace had given him was no doubt meant to soothe and calm. At the moment it did neither. "But I don't like Marxist juntas. I don't like thieves." He slapped at another mosquito. "And I don't like bugs."
Skip gave a soundless whistle as he leaned back in the rattan chair. Fletch's temper was evidently flaring at an all-time high. Not that it came as any surprise. Even on a good day Fletcher Bronson was a diamond in the rough who possessed an intimidating ruthlessness. On a particularly bad day he had seen that famous scowl cause corporate sharks and heads of state to quail and take a step back. And this was clearly a very bad day. It was no wonder the blustering and threats of the members of the junta had turned to deferential assurances when Fletch had confronted them that afternoon at the palacio. Fletcher Bronson was one of the foremost economic powers in this hemisphere, and he was known to let his displeasure be felt in no uncertain terms. This small refinery on St. Pierre may have represented only a minuscule percentage of Fletch's financial assets, but it belonged to him, and he never let anything that was his be taken from him without a fight.
"So what's the decision?" Skip asked quietly. "Do I fly you straight back to Damon's Reef, or do we make the trip into the hills and meet with Topaz."
"Topaz . . ." Fletch murmured, still looking at the hills in the distance. "I haven't decided. Could this be some kind of trap? Where did they contact you?"
"In the bar downstairs." Skip took a long pull on his whiskey and soda. "By a very luscious B-girl by the name of Maria Cruz, who seems to be exceptionally well informed regarding your business here. Ricardo Lazaro still appears to have a very strong network in the city in spite of his recent defeat by the junta."
"Is there any chance that this Lazaro will be able to launch another offensive?"
Skip shook his head regretfully. "The junta is firmly in power. Lazaro's men are scattered in the hills, running for their lives, and there's a rumor that Lazaro himself is wounded. It's a miracle they had the men and the weapons for this last raid on the Abbey."
"The Abbey used to be a monastery. For the past six years it's been a prison for political prisoners"--Skip's lips tightened--"one they kept carefully hidden from the human-rights committee."
"The works," Skip said succinctly. "You name it, they did it."
Skip nodded. "You've already discovered for yourself how charming this government can be."
Fletch's gaze returned to Skip's face. "And they want us to get these political prisoners they rescued off the island before the army rounds them up?"
Skip nodded again. "They have supporters in Barbados, and they've asked us to fly the prisoners there."
"How many are there?"
"Can the helicopter carry that many passengers?"
"Possibly. If we jettison everything except the bare essentials. It will be pretty close."
Fletch muttered a curse. "Dammit, this is none of our business. I don't want to become involved in these penny-ante Caribbean politics. Most of the time one side turns out to be as corrupt as the other."
"Then don't become involved. I only thought I should relay the message." Skip paused. "There's something else you should know. There are three children among those escaped prisoners."
"Children? What the hell were children doing in a prison?"
"Sometimes it's easier to make a prisoner talk if the torture is inflicted on members of the family."
The flesh tightened over the broad planes of Fletch's cheeks as his teeth clenched. He was silent for a moment, his green eyes growing more icy with every passing second. "I don't like that," he said softly. "No, I don't like that one little bit."
"I didn't think you would."
Fletch's hands tightened on the lacy black iron of the balustrade. "When is this pickup supposed to take place?"
"Tonight at ten o'clock. They gave me the coordinates." He shrugged. "They must be pretty desperate to run that risk. We could turn the information over to the junta in exchange for certain concessions."
Fletch looked at his wristwatch. "Three hours. We'd better get moving."
Skip straightened in his chair. "You're going to do it?"