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Loyal operative Dez Luttino has graduated from being one the recruits of the Network, top of his classes and single-mindedly driven to succeed in his duty to his country. What he hadn’t counted on was mentoring his first operative—Nova Granger, once a head-strong, albeit gorgeous, hunting machine who didn’t seem to want to follow any rules except her own. As her team leader years ago, Dez had helped Nova tame her reckless nature and develop a team player attitude. She’s become one of the organization's most valuable operatives.
Little does Nova know that sexy Dez has been instructed to prepare her for an undercover mission that involves felling a ruthless criminal. While Dez has been instructed by his superiors to get close to Nova and encourage her to trust him implicitly, he soon realizes that he’s gone beyond duty and done the unthinkable by falling in love.
I can’t do it. Nova Granger realized that fact on the wave of fury rising inside her like a tsunami. She’d sat quietly, trying not to make eye contact, as immaculate men dressed and smelling like a million bucks perused the virgin offerings in the brothel showroom. These particular girls, including Nova, were highly prized because they hadn’t yet been ‘spoiled’. As soon as they were, of course, they would be offered to the men who weren’t so choosy. She’d watched four of the pigs incline their heads toward the young girls of their choices, then the pimp’s thugs escorted them upstairs to the bedrooms. None of the girls fought—they’d learned their lessons the hard way during the torturous weeks since being taken from the streets of Chicago, where they’d lived, hand-to-mouth, after running away from somewhere months or years before. Most of them were barely twelve years old. Mere children. Used like a product of pleasure with no thought whatsoever of their rights, their dignity, their choices. Dear God—their souls.
The mission profile had been drilled into her, and she reminded herself forcefully what she was doing here and why she couldn’t act on her own, apart from the primary operation. She was one of team of undercover agents with specific orders. Their intention was to infiltrate the inner sanctum of an interstate human trafficking ring operating seven houses of prostitution around the United States—from Chicago, to Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, and Boston. A mid-level recruiter employed pimps to handle the houses in each city. Runaways and prostitutes between the ages of twelve and sixteen were “charmed” into trusting pimps who controlled the day-to-day business of handling the girls. Charm quickly turned to threats and horrific violence—of which Nova had taken her share. The girls were rotated, blindfolded, every two weeks, between the prison-like brothels in a city so they couldn’t make connections and never knew exactly where they were at any given time. At this particular chicken shack, clients were willing to pay a fortune for sex with extremely young, virgin girls.
Nova made herself receive the mission objective: Get to the top of the chain, so the ring could be collapsed from the inside out and shut down permanently. She’d been brought in as a teenage runaway on the rumored possibility that the top dog in the ring was also a client. So far, she hadn’t been forced to endure the attentions of any of the men in order to find out who he was. Her fellow operative and the mission leader, Victor Leventhal, who was posing as a pimp, had warned her that her hands-off attitude was the reason for their disinterest in her. That certainly wouldn’t last long.
One customer wore an unstained, soft gray business suit and horned-rimmed glasses. Behind the spectacles, his eyes bulged with excitement as he slowly looked from one girl to the next on the sofas and chairs in the room. Hesitantly, he reached out and touched Nova’s arm. She watched that hand as if it moved in slow motion while a fragile, black piece inside her came unhinged.
No, Daddy. No. Not there. Not where it hurts. Not where it bleeds...
The pig’s hand was soft—too soft, as if he’d soaked in churned butter. Nova gagged on the sickeningly sweet scent of the cologne he wore, mingled with the sweat of his barely-contained anticipation. Everything inside her advised her to rip his arm out—right from the socket. She could make him bleed, the depraved bastard. Don’t you realize how easily I could kill you? With my bare hands?
Nova squeezed her eyes shut. I’ll never let you or your friends touch me again. I’ll never believe you did it because you love me, Daddy.
“Karen Wiesner had me at the edge of my seat the entire time. My romantic side was anticipating when Dez and Nova would realize that they were made for each other and when the time would come when they just couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. My action pact side couldn’t wait to find out why it was that Nova was so drawn to this young girl who hasn’t spoken to anyone in over a year, until Nova came along. I was not disappointed in either of those instances. This book can be read alone, or in order that the series go. However you decide to read it, this is one that will not disappoint!” Reviewed by Ashley Merrill, Front Street Reviews
5 Books! "HARD TO HANDLE has the harshest topic and the most emotionally charged storyline yet of the Incognito Series to date. Ms. Wiesner is known for her dexterity, respectful yet hard-hitting storytelling, and it's alive and well in this installment. At first I didn't realize that the main female character is one that I'd met before. Nova is a woman who has many demons in her past which she has to deal with. Memories are the hardest to slay because sometimes they makes us who and what we are, for good or bad. It's what we do with them as we go forward in life that makes life worth living and fighting for. Or for some, to give up and turn away because it's just too hard, too painful. Nova was given a chance to do more than survive years ago. If you've read NO ORDINARY LOVE, the first of the series, you'll remember Nova. But she was different in that story, younger, a little wild and a survivor even then. HARD TO HANDLE kicks it up a notch, to an adult level with an adult theme. This story is not for the faint of heart. Dez is a character who's appeared as a secondary in UNDER THE SPELL, Book 5 [and BOUNTY ON THE REBEL'S HEART, Book 3, as the heroine's team leader]. He's got his own issues with his past and now, as lead character, he will have to face and reveal them to Nova and us. Dez is tough, thorough and ambitious; and that pretty much sums him up. That is, to everyone in the Network because he's kept to himself; his own heart is walled up and protected from everything and everyone. Dez has a reputation as a love 'em and leave 'em kind of guy but, as a romance reader, I knew it was a cover for something that went much deeper. Ms. Wiesner once again presents a character, a man, whose past touches feelings within a reader, so much so that you want to hold him--comfort that boy in the past and the man in the present. But that will be Nova's job, and the romance between the two heals in ways very unique to the talents that Ms. Wiesner brings to each and every book she writes. The conflict, personal ones notwithstanding, is ripped from reality. The disturbing focus of HARD TO HANDLE is hard to read. How the author dealt with the villain and the final comeuppance should leave you as it left me--fully justified and satisfied. Nova has guts and grit, and I marveled at her restraint. Oh, she lets loose and I felt like I was watching a female 007. She rocks! Her restraint comes from knowing just where to stop and get the most vengeance and vindication. What a clever solution, too. As you expect from the Incognito Series, this book continues the tradition of fast-paced writing, logical plot development, strong characters with vulnerable hearts that fall in love despite a forbidding environment, dialogue that puts you right in the thick of things and bad guys that make you want to toss your cookies. HARD TO HANDLE will grip you, make you think, make you feel and, in the final touching scenes, make you believe that love really can conquer all." ~reviewed by Xeranthemum for The Long And The Short Of It Reviews
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 271
Paper Weight (lb): 11.4
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