This third installment in the series had my curiosity aroused the most. The characters involved were the reason. Vasily and Naomi were both intriguing characters from previous books and I couldn’t wait to see what happened when the cold-hearted killer and the genius hacker girl who felt few emotions got together. This story is brutal, raw, exciting and passionate and exceeded my expectations for this unusual romance.
The story is part of a series with ties to both the first and second books when the characters were introduced. It would be best if the reader got them in order, but I think in a pinch, there is enough explanation that this one could be read out of order.
The story starts with Vasily on the cusp of taking over the Russian crime organization that has been his life. The older members grasp to the old ways and are uneasy that he is not a true member of the leading family so they set him a task to see if he has what it takes to run the Bratva. He must recover the Madonna and Volk triptych that was sold away. Vasily was expecting this request just as he’s sure that this may be a trap because some don’t want him to bring their organization out of drugs and slavery into dealing in more legitimate business, but he has his own plans in motion, too. He will have the talented Emperor, the computer hacker extraordinaire, locate the painting and it won’t keep him away long enough for anyone to thwart him.
Much to his surprise the Emperor is a young, beautiful woman and the sister of one of his closest acquaintances, Daniel Hays. Naomi Hays is special and he means that in a positive way even though she flinches at the word because she is used to being put down for being Aspie as she calls herself. She has Asberger’s, but that doesn’t make her less. Her needs are demanding and unique, but Vasily shrugs because he doesn’t see his own oddities as better. He’s a cold-hearted killer, he doesn’t like to be touched, and he doesn’t trust a soul. So what, if Naomi freaks over germs, only eats foods of a certain color, counts everything, and can’t handle crowds. As long as she gets him what he wants, he doesn’t mind.
Along the way, Naomi decides that Vasily is her friend and she will help him. Vasily doesn’t mind helping her control her environment the way she needs to and he is the only one that she willingly wants to be with just as she seems to be the only one he will allow to touch him too. He doesn’t lie to her about who and what he is, but Naomi doesn’t mind. Vasily keeps her safe and he is a good companion. He worries how she feels about his killings and dangerous life and she worries that once he gets what he wants that he will have no room for an Aspie in his life. But first they must find the art work and avoid getting killed by those sent to stop them.
The story is told alternating first person points of view. I had the chance to follow along both of their thoughts and that was a good thing. I loved how the authors really distinguished these two in their thinking, dialogue and actions. I really believed that I was along with a couple of sociopaths and likeable ones at that. There were dangerous moments, but there was lots of humor, affection, and sizzling heat too.
Vasily was brought up abused and brutalized and his only soft spot is protecting his sister. Naomi’s disorder makes it hard for her to read and respond and experience ordinary emotions making her brother and parents the only people she cares two sticks for.
Vasily and Naomi also share the issue of no sex life or attraction to others until they encounter each other. Vasily is suspicious of the feelings and sensations that Naomi arouses and she sees these things as a biological reaction and wants to analyze it all. It takes them some time to work out that for the right person, they are passionate, sensual people.
Vasily trusts nobody and Naomi pretty much takes people at face value. She is literal and Vasily doesn’t know what to do with that level of honesty, but he soon comes to appreciate it. They both have their protective and nurturing instincts aroused when neither thought they had any.
The whole hunt for the painting is more than that for these two. The road along the way is not just a literal one and I loved journeying with them as they found much more than they expected- namely, each other. Acceptance and love for each other was an incredible, heady feeling. Raw sensuality is a big part of their story and they set fire in a hotel bedroom, bathroom, etc, but for me it was the acceptance and partnership that was the biggest draw.
In the end, I felt this was a strong edition to the series and it more than met my anticipation when I knew that Vasily and Naomi were the couple. I’m not normally such a huge fan of anti-hero types, but these authors have won me over. I would recommend this book/series to those who love gritty, dark, spicy hot contemporary romance or romantic suspense.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.