Uncover Me

By: Linda Barlow

Synopsis:



ELLIE



All I did was take a few pictures. I didn't realize I was witnessing a crime.



I was hoping for a kick-ass adventure when I set off on my dream vacation. Instead, I've fallen in with a ruthless band of thieves.



Kidnapped, bound, and ordered to submit, I'm stuck on a sailboat with the sun-bronzed pirate who caught me photographing his antiquities-smuggling operation. He doesn't want me tagging along any more than I want to be here. But that hasn't stopped him from finding a use for me.



NICK



She thinks I'm hard-assed. Dominating. Cruel. But I've got a dirty job to do. It has required months of scheming, a billionaire's yacht, and a shitload of priceless stolen artifacts.



I'm not about to be distracted by one inconvenient redhead. Even if she is supremely fuckable and oh-so-sweet when I have her on her knees.



I can't allow her to mess up my plans. She might not like the way I'm treating her, but she'd better get used to it. There's no place in my life for softer emotions, and no space in my body for a heart.





Chapter 1





ELLIE



With his wind-tangled yellow hair and his tall, golden body, he looked like an ancient hero or a mythological god. But his weapon was that of a 21st century thug. Staring down the muzzle of his gun, my first thought was that my mother was bound to say, "I told you so." My second was more somber—by the time Mom had anything to say about the matter, I'd probably be dead.

She had been against the idea from the beginning. "Single women don't ride off on motorcycle tours of Turkey," she'd told me. And she ought to know; she'd spent much of her professional life in the Middle East, working on various archaeological digs.

"It's reckless," she'd lectured me as we'd dined two nights before in the rooftop dining room of her Istanbul hotel. Through the windows sprawled the lively city where East truly meets West, the only city in the world built upon two continents. In the half-light of dusk, I could see the mosques and villas that dotted the green hills of Asia across the Bosporus. "The Turks still look askance at young women traveling alone."

"I'll be fine, Mom. Don't forget that this is my adopted country."

"Even so, it's not wise. Lately I've been hearing reports of smugglers operating on the western coast, lawless ruffians running everything from guns and drugs to art objects. It's not the most sensible way for my daughter to be spending her vacation."

I swallowed a delicious stuffed grape leaf, and then poked my fork into my Circassian chicken. I love Turkish food. I'd missed it. "It's not precisely a vacation. I have an assignment to shoot some pictures for a travel website. And I've been wanting to return to the ruins I remember visiting with you—Perge, Ephesus, and especially Troy."

"Really?" Mom leveled her all-too-shrewd blue eyes at me. "You're sure you're not running away?"

Jeez! I attacked a stuffed eggplant. Was I running away? I preferred to believe I was finally living out my dream of being a free spirit. An adventuress. For that, I needed an adventure.

"Is it forbidden to inquire what happened to Mark? I thought you two were pretty serious."

"We broke up." I didn't want to discuss Mark—or think about him, either.

"What went wrong? You'd been together for quite a while. I thought things were settled."

"Turned out I wasn't ready to settle down. Why the big fuss? You're single. You travel the world, going wherever your work takes you. You're independent and accountable to no one. Why should you object if I do the same?"

Mom leaned over and stroked my hand. Her face was vulnerable in a manner that I had rarely witnessed. "Because it's a lonely life. I want something better for you."

Whoa, that was a surprise. I squeezed Mom's hand as hard as I could. I noticed with some alarm that her skin was older and drier than I remembered. She was pushing 50, and, as far as I knew, there was no significant other in her life. I'd always thought that she liked it that way.

"I've got time, Mom," I told her. "Please don't worry about me."

She patted my hand briskly, and changed the subject.

"I hope you've brushed up on your Turkish," Mom said the following morning as we said our farewells on the edge of a noisy Istanbul street. I was off to rent a motorcycle and Mom was heading to the airport to fly back to Ankara, where she was doing some research on the Hittite collection. "I know you used to speak it fluently, but it's been a while since you've had any practice."

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