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Fires of Kiev

The sudden arrival of a man from her past draws a senator’s daughter into a race to stop the launch of a Soviet missile.

 

Five years ago Meredith St. Claire fell in love. Her romance with Kostya Dychenko ended after three whirlwind days in Kiev when she quietly slipped out of his arms at dawn. Returning to her life in the United States, Meredith tried to forget Kostya. Now a call from Immigration sends her to face the man who still haunts her dreams.

 

Kostya, who stumbled on surreptitious information about resurrected Soviet-era missiles in Cherkasy, has fled to America seeking asylum—and the help of the woman who disappeared from his bed five years ago.

 

Together Kostya and Meredith return to the Ukraine and face the terrorist group, Fire of Dawn, to stop the imminent missile launch. But will the fates that brought them together again unleash circumstances that endanger them both?

 

Excerpt:

In front of them was a narrow pedestrian bridge that spanned the busy road between the parks. Fashioned out of black iron, the stairs on each side of the road rose to a narrow walkway demarcated with ornate railings. As he started toward it he explained, “In Kiev, there is a legend that lovers who pledge their love by placing a lock on the railing and sharing a kiss while crossing this bridge will have a love that lasts forever.”

Meredith regarded thousands of locks and ribbons placed on the railings of the bridge as they approached. “How romantic. How many couples have made promises to each other here, do you think?” She studied a few of the individual locks. “Many have initials or sayings written on them.” Taking her hand, Kostya led her slowly across the bridge, stopping halfway across. The streetlamps glowed, lights illuminated the golden roofs of the nearby cathedral, and the first stars appeared.

 

“Make a wish,” Meredith said, spinning to face Kostya.

 

He looked puzzled, so she explained. “When I was a child, whenever you were present as the first stars emerged, you had to make a wish.” She leaned onto the railing, breathing in the night air and the view. “It can be anything you want.”

 

“A wish on a star.” Kostya stood beside her, and raising his eyes, put on a thoughtful face and gazed toward the heavens. Within seconds, Meredith felt the weight of that gaze on her.

 

He stepped in closer until he was standing behind her, a shadow that skimmed her body but didn’t touch. She perceived his breath first, leaning in, tickling her ear with his lips. “If I tell you the wish, will it still come true?”

 

“No. You never tell your wish.” Meredith said the words she’d known since childhood. “It’s the rule.” All at once frightened and thrilled, she forced herself to look at the sky as he put his hands on her hips and his presence filled in where the shadow had fallen.

 

“What if I just show you?” Kostya pulled Meredith around and swept her into his arms. Dazed, her eyes searched his but fell closed as he drew her in to him. His breath bloomed on her cheek, an accidental touch skimmed her chin, and then his kiss softly found her lips, its restrained intensity rising as quickly as her heart rate. At first, she braced herself against his chest, but he took her hands and held them by their sides, fingers intertwined. “Meri,” he breathed. And he slipped something heavy into her hand.

 

Opening her eyes to look, she saw a golden padlock and two keys attached with a small chain.

 

“Tomorrow is the end of this time together, but I believe in the possibilities of fate. Who can say what may happen if we place a love lock here and invite destiny to write the ending of our story?” He ran his hand along her cheek, stopping to lift her chin. “Let’s share this moment of endless possibilities.”

 

Meredith nodded, her eyes believing at last. “Wait,” she said, and pulled a Sharpie out of her purse. “We may not be able to have it engraved, but we can write our initials.”

Kostya smiled and held the lock as Meredith scribed their initials inside a heart. Then, she turned the lock over and wrote, A wish on a star that came true.

 

Kostya read the inscription and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. Every cell in her body vibrated as she leaned in toward her. “I’m done waiting, dushen’ka,” he growled, causing a jolt of energy to shoot from her heart to her knees. He kissed her with a deep intensity beyond her experience, immediately awakening desires she didn’t know existed. Every fiber of her became committed to this man at this moment. She cheered the fates that threw them together and booed the pragmatists who picked out impossibilities. How could something so intensely right not be meant to be? She suddenly believed in stars granting wishes, the hands of fate, and the Tooth Fairy. When she kissed Kostya, anything was possible. So why did she feel tears pricking her eyes?

Kostya noticed the tears and used his thumbs to dry them. “Meri?”

 

Meredith shook her head, fighting off doubts. “I want to believe, but…”

He kissed her gently on the forehead and cupped her jaw with his hands to look at her intensely. “Then believe.” Kostya took her hand to hold the padlock together with her. They both knelt on the bridge and clasped the lock together. Kostya removed the keys and placed one in her hand and put one in his pocket. He helped her stand and kissed her again.

 

“It is done. We are bound.”

 

She laughed. “Bound for the weekend at least.”

 

“No, more. It is already Monday. Who knows what else we may see together.”