Prime Target (Target #1)

By: Marquita Valentine

The Target Series Book 1



Acknowledgements




Special Thanks to Autumn, Andrea and Amanda—The Triple A-Team. I don’t know if they know I think of them like that, but I do. You guys are awesome and amazing and out of sight (wait, that didn’t start with an a, but you have to know what I’m talking about, right?!)

Big Breakout the Handcuffs Thanks to Andris Bear and her husband for schooling me on police procedures. Also, Andris is the best crit partner a girl could ever have in life.

Like Whoa Thanks to Carly Phillips for her uncanny ability to nail characterization every flipppin’ time. You are inspiring!

Grateful Thanks to Liliana Hart and Scott Silverii as well as the entire SilverHart team. Thanks for taking a chance on this series and brining it back to life.

Thanks to my readers for being the best readers in the history of readers. I couldn’t do this without you.

Last, but never least, I have to thank my family for putting up with me and supporting me. I love you guys! xo





Chapter One





Every Wednesday, at precisely four o’clock, Everly Andrews enters my bookstore to pick up her latest package of romance novels. We’ve been doing this for over a month now. She gives me a list of five books—sometimes ten if she wants to gift a few to her friends—and then I give her a future date. Sure, the books come in quite a bit faster than a week, but it’s the shortest amount of time between her visits I can allow.

Any shorter, and I’d put her in danger. And that is not acceptable.

You see, I don’t actually sell romance novels. I don’t sell books at all. My store is a front. I’m a death dealer—an avenging angel to some…while others would pay millions to see me die. I can’t blame them really. An eye for an eye, and all that.

Everly is the only one in this city I talk to on a regular basis, even if she’s the one doing most of the talking while I answer as vaguely as possible without sounding like an arse. In any case, it’s nearly four and I’m bound to start pacing if she doesn’t show up soon. Habitual people like Everly are a comfort to me, and yet that comfort is their greatest weakness.

A weak spot in their armor, if you will.

The bells on the front door ring, and I let out a breath. I don’t particularly like the jingle, but in my line of work, a bloke needs the extra time it affords.

Automatically, my hand goes to the gun strapped under the counter, only relaxing when I catch a glimpse of mahogany waves gleaming in the rays of light that seem to follow her inside.

Here comes my weak spot. My solnyshko. My sunshine.

“Hi, Roman,” she calls out as she walks to the counter, as if her appearance might spook me. Though she wouldn’t be far off, since I almost shot her the first time she entered my shop.

No one comes to my bookstore, and I make sure it looks as dark and dank as possible to turn away the tourists. But none of that, including my scowl, deters Everly. For that, I’m curious, thankful, and terrified, because I only bring death to those who are seen in my company.

“Ms. Andrews,” I say, placing her package on the counter.

She gives me a sunny smile. “You know, I’m pretty sure we’re the same age, so I think you can call me Everly.”

Ah, solnyshko, that will never happen. “As you wish,” I say with a shrug, and her beautiful eyes go all soft, like I’ve just spoken the most romantic words in existence.

Her emerald gaze searches my face. “You still didn’t say it.”

Clever girl. “Shall we open your package?”

Dainty hands, with soft, blue-polished nails trimmed short, tap the box twice before settling on top. She gives me a crooked smile. “You’re allowed to open it before I get here.”

“Duly noted.” But then how would I prolong her visit? I grab a box cutter and motion for her to move her hands. Hands that I want to touch, hands that I want to feel run down my body, or do something as simple as hold. Quickly, I split open the box and check it before permitting Everly to dig inside.

Always, I’m concerned my enemies will target her, no matter how innocent our contact and how damn reserved I am in her presence.

“Oooh, the latest Zoe Ambrose, or should I say, Romanov?” Everly sighs, her expression turning dreamy. “Can you imagine marrying a Hollywood movie star who’s rumored to be the son of the head of a Russian mafia family?”

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