Series: Gravediggers #2
Published by Pocket Books on July 25th 2017
Genres: Action, Military
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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Return to New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Liliana Hart's romantic suspense series, the Gravediggers, with this thrilling game of cat and mouse between a member of the Gravediggers and the brilliant woman hot on his heels. Sometimes the dead do rise... Dante Malcolm is a man of refined tastes. He was once a part of Britain's Elite Intelligence Force, but there was a reason he'd never been able to capture Simon Locke, the notorious thief who always seemed to be one step ahead. That's because Dante and Simon were one and the same, until Dante's double life eventually caught up with him and now he belongs to the Gravediggers. Eva Rothschild is a Detective Inspector with Interpol and is the one responsible for catching MI-6's most notorious agent in his final heist--except the heist killed him. But something has never felt right about his death, and it's haunted her for months. It was too easy, and Dante Malcolm was too smart to go down that way. Dante might belong to the Gravediggers in body, but his heart and soul will always belong to the next job. The rest of the team doesn't know about his alter ego because he made sure the information went missing from his file. So when the job he's always waited for seems like a possibility, he sneaks out of the country like a thief in the night, only to run into the only woman who's ever been able to match him in wit--and passion--for the job. Except they're standing on opposite sides of the law--and only one of them can walk away with the prize.
I put a trigger warning because this book deals with the trafficking of little girls for sex slavery. While the violence is not graphically detailed, you can’t help but be aware of the consequences if the mission fails without it being spelled out.
I was offered a review copy of The Darkest Corner (Book 1) a few months ago. I looked at it a few times but didn’t take a copy simply to avoid overloading my review list. I am kicking myself right now since I enjoyed the dynamic of this group of Gravediggers. The name comes from the fact that those hand-picked individuals who come from different military groups around the world must die in their former lives. They are injected with a serum which imitates death and after they are buried, they resuscitate and are eventually dug up to join the group. Now while the men in this group are all picked for their skills, they are not the most upstanding of men and that it one of the reasons they are picked to “die off” and join. The only problem I had is that they are all supposed to be dead but they were all using their real names. Shouldn’t they have been given a new identity once they made the team?
In this story, Lord Dante Malcolm is an agent with MI6 and he also leads a secret life as an art thief under the name Simon Locke. Now the idea for Simon Locke seems to have been taken from the Princess Bride and like the Dread Pirate Roberts, it is a name passed down from thief to thief after the current Simon decides he wants to retire, he then finds an apprentice. Dante liked the excitement of not only stealing valuable art but to be doing it while working MI6.
Sleeping with the woman at Interpol tasked with taking down Simon Locke, Inspector Olivia Rothschild, was supposed to just be for a bonus thrill, but they both fall in love. Dante is arrogant enough to think he can continue to have it all: Agent, thief and lover but it all falls down around his ears when Eve Winters, head of the Gravediggers, confronts him. She knows about Simon Locke and unless Dante dies and joins the Gravediggers, she will make sure he spends the remainder of his days behind bars.
With no other options, Dante fakes his death and joins, but he is still living a double life as his brothers-in-arms are not aware of Dante’s Simon persona but Eve makes sure to use him and his skills on special assignments. One which includes retrieving nuclear launch codes before they go on auction to the highest bidder.
Meanwhile, Liv has grieved for and hated Dante for his deception and her almost disgrace at Interpol for sleeping with the man she was supposed to be tracking down. Nowadays, Liv is working with a task force trying to take down a ring of human traffickers who abduct and sell little girls. Liv has strong feelings about this assignment because her twin sister was abducted when they were six and she has never been able to find any trace of her.
Liv and Dante’s assignments lead them to the same man and as Liv comes face to face with the man who broke her heart, accusations–and punches–are thrown about but they are forced to work together for the safety of those missing girls and the world in general. I did find it confusing that while Dante came to the bad guy’s house prepared to get through the several layers of guards and sophisticated security, Liv managed to get to the door but didn’t have any tech toys to get her past the front door or any plan to get the little girls out — so what was she planning to do if she hadn’t run into Dante right there and then? Did she think she would shadow someone inside and leave holding hands like they were on a school field trip? It was kind of stupid for a trained agent to be standing there empty handed. Dante said to himself that she must have watched the same 20/20 Special tour of the house that he did, but obviously she didn’t pay attention that the heavily guarded bad guy lair had high-tech security. Duh!
Lilliana Hart writes a very captivating group of characters and I really will have to make time to go back and read the first two stories. Even the sophisticated AI computer that they use has a fun personality as she tries to fit in with the group, showing what she has decided she will look like once a body can be created for her, and trying to flirt with Dante. I also want to find out why Axel would give her the voice of his wife (who he left behind). Is this a reminder of his lost love or punishment for having to give her up? Hmmm…I definitely want more of this series. Even their Queen Bitch leader must have an interesting story behind how she can be so cold and focused.
I am definitely in for more.
“Lies by omission are still lies,” Liv said hotly. “Especially with someone you supposedly care about. But I guess that was a lie too.”
“No, that was never a lie,” he said. “But in my arrogance I thought I could continue with the life I was living, and keep you separated so you never found out. My work with MI6, my work as Simon Locke, and…you. The three things I enjoyed most in this world, but that could never collide.”
“It must have been terrible,” she said sarcastically.
But Dante just smiled. “It wasn’t at all. It was powerful. And I thought I could keep it all going until I was too old to take the next mission or the next commission, and you and I could retire to an island somewhere and live the rest of our lives in paradise.”
“It must be nice to be that self-absorbed. To never consider anyone else’s feelings. Or to use them however you see fit to get exactly what you want.”
Liv’s heart was raging wildly inside her chest, and tears of anger pricked at her eyes.
“Believe me,” he said, “I’ve spent almost two years realizing just that. Nothing is ever as sure bet, especially when you’re playing against the house. Dying was the only option I had. My time was up. I’d been compromised, and I took the only option that was given to me.”
“So you changed your lifestyle not because of a change of conscience or heart, but because you got caught.”
“Yes,” he admitted. “There are very few things in this life I’ve done that have bothered me. I’ve been sent on questionable missions, where I wasn’t sure if what I was doing was the right thing. But I did my duty to my country. And I became Simon Locke because I enjoyed it. But you were always the twinge in my conscience. I wanted you like I’ve never wanted anyone, and I would’ve done anything to have you.”
“And if you hadn’t gotten caught, you’d still have me. Just another possession, like one of your paintings. Someone to fuck in the middle of the night when your adrenaline was running high from another job. And I would’ve fallen more and more in love with you.”
“You were never just someone to fuck,” Dante said harshly.
“You’re going to stand there and tell me I wasn’t convenient? You knew my every move in tracking Simon Locke–and I shared other cases with you as well. You think I didn’t recognize when you’d come to me in the middle of the night, that wild look in your eyes? I was so stupid,” she spat. “I though I was so important to you that you couldn’t wait to be with me. It didn’t take me long after you death to realize the truth. Slipping into bed beside me in the dead of night, making me come before I was even fully awake. Or the night Donner and I went to the movies and you pulled me into the janitor’s closet on my way back from the bathroom. What job were you coming off of then? Must have been been a successful one.”
“As a matter of act, it was,” he bit out. He took a step toward her, the lines of his face angular in the shadowy light. “Don’t step too high on your pedestal. You were always wet and willing. And I believe it was you who stripped down to nothing while we ere on the London Eye, and it was you who initiated things in the Bailong elevator in China.”
Her face flushed with embarrassment and anger. Things had always burned so hot between them. As soon as they entered the same room, it was as if a fuse had been lit, and there was no stopping the imminent explosion.
“I know you better than you know yourself. You think I didn’t recognize the excitement in your eyes every time I came to you like that? You loved ever second of it. Not knowing where or when I’d fuck you. You might think there’s a vast difference between the two of us, but in some ways we’re cut form the same cloth. We both crave the adrenaline rush. We seek out adventure. We’re passionate about what we do, and that translated well in the bedroom. And outside the bedroom. There was no illusion when it came to that. It was as real as I could get.”
“The sex was real,” she agreed. “But the heart wasn’t. If you had one yourself you’d understand what you did to me.”
“Believe me,” he said somberly. “I have one. And I wish to God I didn’t. But sometimes life sucks and you don’t get to make the choices for your future.”
“And sometimes the choices we make have consequences,” she countered. “You turned me on because you were you. I didn’t have an ulterior motive. I didn’t use you.”
“We turned each other on,” he said. “You fascinated me like no woman ever had. Even in death, you fascinated me. I couldn’t get you out of my head. I know every expression on your face and every nuance of body language. You think I don’t know that your nipples are hard right now? That if I moved my hand between your thighs I’d find you ready and swollen for me?”
He took another step toward her, and she froze. Blood rushed in her ears and her skin sizzled with anger and lust. No other man had touched her since Dante, and her body’s needs betrayed her mind’s wants.
“Do you think I could forget you so easily?” Dante continued. “That I can’t remember the taste of you? The feel of your skin, or the heat of you as you wrap your legs around me?”
Her breath hitched, her breasts heaving, and her fist bunched behind her back so tight her nails bit into the palms of her hands.
“Do you think my death would make me not want you? It’s been almost two years, and I can still bring back the scent of your hair and the taste of your lips.”