Her Russian Hero (International Romance Series)

 

Her Russian Hero

(To
Love A Hero)

 

Contemporary
Romance

by

Mona Risk

 

Praise for
To Love A Hero
...

 

Two Lips
Review: “Mona Risk tells a poignant yet beautiful and sweet story of two people
falling in love, who must fight their attraction… This is a story readers will
enjoy.”
Review Your Book: “Mona Risk is a talented author. She knows how to weave
intrigue and romance into her story. Fans of romance and suspense will enjoy
To
Love A Hero
.”

Simply Romance Review:
Outstanding
Read
. “Mona Risk's
To Love A Hero
is a wonderful love story complete
with deception, conceit, stubbornness and the love of a lifetime for two people
who couldn't be more different. Ms. Risk hits a homerun with this story.”

 

Publishers Weekly, Saturday Blurb
Special, Beyond her Book Blog. “The sense of the unfamiliar makes the story
exotic, and a subtle tension was maintained with the trace of fear for an
unknown culture and its politics…  I enjoyed the story a lot.”

 
 
 
 

 

 

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Her Russian Hero

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Kindle
Edition

To Love A
Hero, Copyright June 2013 - Mona Risk

Kindle
Edition, License Notes

All rights reserved. No part of
this publication may be used, reproduced, or transmitted, in any form, or by
any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise)
without the written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher
of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the
author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 
 

 

 

 

Her Russian Hero

 

October 1994

Chapter One

“Welcome to Minsk International
Airport,” the loudspeaker announced as the aircraft bounced on the runway
before coming to a halt.

Cecile Lornier rubbed her
ringless finger, her spirit buoyant with triumph. After a twelve-hour flight,
she’d made it to Belarus. In spite of her ex-fiancé’s dirty dealing. For the
millionth time, she cursed Rob Spenser, the worthless creep who’d snatched her
promotion, almost thwarted her recent international assignment, and gifted her
with a bleeding ulcer.

 Her nose pressed against
the plane window for a first look at the remote little country, located south
of Russia. Not much to see. But the gloomy sight of gray sky, barren trees and
drizzling rain couldn’t dim the joy that exploded in her heart.

With a sigh of relief, she hung
her purse on her arm and collected her hand luggage to exit the plane. Dragging
her carry-on suitcases, she proceeded up the bumpy ramp of the jetway boarding
bridge.

A group of people clustered in
front of a sign affixed on the sidewall. Russian? Belarusian? Not that it made
a difference. Unable to decipher the foreign script, Cecile shrugged and
followed the line of passengers through the arrival gate, toward an escalator.

As if this rickety machine could
be called a mechanical escalator. Uneven steps jolted with a grinding noise,
jerked and shuddered downward. Cecile scanned the area for an elevator or
stairway. There were none in sight. Was she expected to negotiate this crooked
roller coaster with her luggage in hand?

Apparently, yes. The passengers
were carefully holding the railing, men helping their female companions and
children as they went down. She eyed the rattletrap contraption—her first taste
of Belarusian obsolete technology. This was exactly why her company had been
chosen to help modernize the local environmental laboratory.

An officer dressed in khaki
uniform and black visor cap passed her. Fascinated by his authoritative stance,
Cecile contemplated his large back and decorated epaulets. He was tall and
solid. The wobbly escalator didn’t seem to bother him but then he didn’t have
two suitcases hindering his movements.

Cecile bit her lip, imagining the
sneer on Rob’s face if he could see her now, hesitating so long in front of the
first step of her mission. Literally the very first step. She shifted her two
carry-ons to her left hand and followed the officer onto the wobbly stairway,
hoping for the best.

Wishful thinking. Her short heel
caught between the steps of the damned escalator and a panicked hiss escaped
her locked jaws.

“Welcome to Minsk…” the airport
speaker roared in broken English.

Gripping the railing for dear
life, she let her luggage slip out of her hand as she pitched forward.

A sturdy back blocked her fall.
The officer turned and circled her waist with brawny arms, welding her to his
rock-hard frame. She stopped moving, stopped thinking, stopped breathing, until
they reached the end of the escalator and he lowered her to stable ground.

Her head still pillowed against
the muscular chest, Cecile inhaled the scent of soap and spicy cologne. She was
alive all right and oddly secure in this stranger’s arms.

He said something in his native
language. She tilted her head back. Her gaze collided with deep blue eyes
fringed by long, black lashes. Still floating in a peculiar haze, Cecile
squirmed to free herself. A gasp for air cleared her head. “I’m sorry,” she
squeaked.

The striking officer stared at
her, a glint of interest under the scowling eyebrows. “
Americanka
?” His
baritone voice echoed against the metallic escalator’s crunch. “Here, let me
help you.” He cupped her elbow. “Can you walk? Are you hurt?” he asked in
fluent but accented English.

Leaning on his arm, she took two
steps and exhaled with relief. “I’m fine. Thank you.”

Her ankles felt sore, her right
shoulder hurt and her breasts ached from the impact, but she was still in one
piece. Breathing in uneven gulps, she eased from the officer’s supportive arm.

He waved to the escalator.
“People have to be careful. It needs repair. There was a sign.”

“The sign? Oh, is that what it
said?” Cecile patted her purse with regret. The little Russian-English
dictionary was right there.

“Unfortunately, fixing the
airport escalator is not on our government’s priority list and there is no lift
at the gate.” A curious smile replaced his scowl. “Is it your first visit to
Belarus?”

“Yes. A business trip.” She
wasn’t ready to stay here and converse with someone she’d never met before.
Disoriented, she scanned the walls in the confined area for an arrow or an
indication leading to baggage claim.

People kept coming down the
escalator and pushing past her but there was no sign of John Gordon. The
Contract Director from the Chemical Division of the Department of Defense
(CDDD) had traveled in business class and disembarked before her. Obviously,
the selfish oaf hadn’t bothered to wait for her.

The officer’s eyebrows shot up in
an incredulous arch as he appraised her. “Are you traveling alone?”

Scanning the six-foot plus, movie
star-type figure, she rubbed a sweaty palm against her raincoat. “No. My
companion has already exited the plane.”

Damn it, where was the welcoming
committee John had promised? And where had he gone? “I appreciate your help,
sir. I can manage now.” She extended a hand to grab the two carry-ons he’d
collected for her.

A knowing smile curved his mouth
as he shook his head. “Let me help you to the passport control. This way,” he
instructed as he offered her his left arm for support.

Should she accept the unspoken
invitation?

Glancing at the officer’s sharp
profile, she hesitated for a fraction of a second. John had raved about the
quaint charm of Belarus and the affability of its residents. Cecile couldn’t
reject the courteous gesture without being rude. Ignoring the pinch of angst in
her stomach, she curled her fingers on the sleeve at his elbow. His hard biceps
contracted under her hand. Uncomfortable warmth spread through her. She
stiffened but suppressed the urge to pull back.

He led her into an adjacent room
where a musty smell mingled with the odor of strong tobacco. She pinched her
lips and wrinkled her nose in distaste. The room bustled with passengers in
long coats and round fur hats. Slowly her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting and
she saw John emerge from a dark corner. He swayed his portly frame toward her.

Cecile pulled her hand from the
officer’s arm and waved. “For heaven’s sake, where did you rush to? Couldn’t
you have waited for me?”

“Why?” He shrugged. “You always
manage well enough on your own.”

“Not this time.” She rolled her
eyes and rubbed her aching hip. “The broken escalator at the arrival gate threw
me down and this gentleman—”

“General Fedorin,” John exclaimed
with a bright smile and pumped the officer’s hand. “I didn’t realize we were
all on the same plane. It looks like you’ve already met Dr. Cecile Lornier.”

The General? Oh, God. She had
literally started her assignment on the wrong foot. Her throat went dry with
embarrassment.

“Dr…Lornier?” Shock spread over
the general’s face.

“Yes, General.” John nodded. “Dr.
Cecile Lornier, the Program Manager of your environmental chemical contract. I
saw you coming in together and assumed you’d met.” John turned toward her. His
bushy brows shot up. “Cecile, you have met General Fedorin, haven’t you?”

Cecile winced. “Er…in a way. He’s
the gentleman who saved my neck when I stumbled down the escalator.” And he was
the same Major General Sergei Fedorin who had signed her contract—the man she’d
planned to impress with her professionalism.

The officer’s eyes mirrored her
amazement. He gave her an unsettling half-smile followed with a bow. “I am
honored, Dr. Lornier. Welcome to Belarus.”

She needed to recover fast and
respond to the polite greeting. Wetting her lips, she made an effort to control
her uneven breathing. “General, thank you for your help.” Not a brilliant
sentence but the exchange of platitudes was better than awkward silence.

“I am glad I was able to prevent
an accident. But someone from our Ministry of Defense should have met you at
the arrival gate.” The general scanned the hall and scowled.

“The last letter I received said
a Colonel Roussov would greet us at the customs control.” John rummaged through
his coat pocket and extracted an envelope he quickly perused.

“Colonel Roussov? I see.” The
general’s eyebrows rose. Annoyance flickered on his face, before he rapidly
concealed it under a smile. “In that case, follow me.”

He led them to a larger hall
where passengers were already lined up, their passports in hand. Around them,
people stepped aside and nodded with respect. Some women ogled their handsome
host and smiled. When Cecile moved toward the line, the general stopped her.
“No, please. You are an official guest in our country. Here is Colonel Roussov
to help you.” The general signaled to a middle-aged officer standing next to
the back wall, smoking a cigarette while surveying the passengers.

The newcomer was a stocky man
with a dark mustache. Silver hair crowned his balding head. He threw his
cigarette on the floor and ground it out with a heavy foot, then strode toward
them and exchanged a military salute with the general. Cecile couldn’t tell if
they spoke Russian or Belarusian but their dry tone and curt sentences didn’t
sound like an exchange of niceties.

She took a step back and glanced
at John. He winked and bent toward her, whispering, “There doesn’t seem to be
any love lost between these two.”

“Have you met the colonel
before?”

“Once. We hardly exchanged two
sentences.”

The general glanced up as if he’d
just remembered her presence. “Dr. Lornier, may I introduce Colonel Roussov?”

The colonel’s gaze roamed over
her face, his eyes widening with disbelief as if she’d come from another
planet. “
Dr. Cecil, Cecile-ee
, Lornier?”

She cast a quizzical glance at
John. He coughed and busied himself with his briefcase, his shoulders shaking
with laughter. Puzzled, Cecile extended her hand in greeting. “Nice to meet
you.”

The colonel clicked his heels, bowed
and squeezed her hand. “Colonel Oleg Roussov, Director of National Security, at
your service.” He turned toward John for a handshake. “Welcome to Belarus, Mr.
Gordon. Dr. Lornier, I am sorry about your accident on the escalator. From now
on, you should not worry about a thing. Let me take your suitcases and your
passports. I will help you clear customs.”

He was friendly, even
patronizing, with an affable smile revealing two gold-capped teeth.

“I appreciate your help,
Colonel.”

“Dr. Lornier, are you the only
Program Manager for our project?” Roussov raised an eyebrow and glanced at the
general. Fedorin stepped closer, darting a speculative look at her.

“Yes, of course. Why?” Cecile
shifted her gaze from one officer to the other.

“I haven’t seen the contract. I
was just wondering.” The colonel focused narrowed eyes on her and imperceptibly
shrugged. “Please, wait for me here. I will be back with the entry visa forms.”
He bypassed the lines and strode to the passport control windows.

Something was amiss here. Where
they expecting someone else?

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