XOXO has a sneak peek excerpt of Kresley Cole’s THE PROFESSIONAL, Part 3 that’s sure to have you simultaneously downloading the book and reaching for a fan to cool down! Part 1 of this erotica e-serial was released Monday, 12/16, and has been heating up the virtual world with its sexy Russian hero and American-grad-student-turned-mafiya-princess. Part 2 came out on 1/6, and had us all wishing our guys were gorgeously sexy, mysterious bad boys. And Part 3 is available today! This is just a little something to tide you over while the full serial downloads to your e-reader…

 

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“You’re quiet,” Sevastyan remarked.

“Just thinking.”  I stared out the limo window as we navigated the streets of Paris, passing lines of flickering gas lamps and chestnut trees. He’d said he had a surprise for me tonight, some unspecified destination.

It’d been four days since the club, and while Sevastyan and I had continued to make progress in bed, we’d been stymied in other areas. Namely: every single one.

We’d crested that night, and now seemed to be bottoming out.

“You’re pensive.” He drummed his tattooed fingers on the armrest. “I’ve never seen you so.”

“Guess I have a lot on my mind.” Misgivings. They were flooding in.

There was no denying it any longer—Sevastyan was avoiding me during the days.

Which was so different from the nights, when he would spoil me with pleasure, commanding me, guiding each interlude. Again and again, he’d demonstrated that our kinks were breathlessly well matched.

As promised, he’d had a collection of tools and gear delivered. It came stored in a sizable wardrobe—basically a BDSM closet. Though he hadn’t broken out any hard-core gear yet—true to his word to take things more slowly—he had used different toys on me.

He seemed fascinated by my orgasms: how quickly he could force one from me, how long he could deny me, until I was pleading for permission.

At night, he was perfection. But during the day, if he was around, he was quiet and closed off. Which sucked in more than one way. Sevastyan was pressing for more sexual vulnerability from me, an ever deeper surrender, which left me raw the next day—just in time for him to be an ass.

Like catching a fly ball—with my face.

He drummed his fingers again. That drum drum drum was grating on my nerves. The night of the club, we’d meshed seamlessly. Now friction chafed between us.

“Tell me what you’re thinking about,” he said.

Oh, that was rich. “No hint of where we’re going?” I asked, deflecting, letting him know how it felt.

“I meant this as a surprise.”

Another sex club? Not really in the mood, Sevastyan. Yet I had to admit he’d put my curiosity on a slow boil. “For someone who hates surprises, you like delivering them well enough.”

“Would you rather have stayed in? It is getting late.”

My emotions were in such tumult that I might’ve balked at going with him, except for two things: I was desperate to get out of the house. And earlier, he’d acted differently with me.

When he’d returned from his meeting, he’d taken me in his arms without a word and held me like I was the only thing keeping him afloat. Like he was crossing a finish line to reach me.

It was so confusing!

He exhaled a long breath. “Sometimes you’re an utter mystery to me.” If he kept drumming his fingers, I was going to snap them like dry kindling.

“You’re one to talk. Besides, I tell you everything that’s on my mind.”

“Not tonight.”

“Maybe not,” I conceded.

“I asked you to tell me what you needed. You agreed to.”

Where to start? “You really want to do this?”

“Yes.” 

Here goes . . . “When you bailed the day after the club, I would’ve expected you to leave a note or a text. To reassure me.”

“Of what? There can be no doubt of how I felt after that night.”

“It would’ve been nice to receive any acknowledgment.” 

Drum drum drum. “Very well. And . . . ?”

“I want to know where you go every day.”

“I have business concerns that I’m able to address from here.”

“Syndicate business with that Maksim guy?” I asked. When he nodded, I said, “I know he gave you information about Berezka. I know you talk to him as much as I do Jess. Who is he to you?”

“Nothing more than a temporary ally. He’s assisting me with work obstacles I’ve run into.”

Again, I got the impression that Sevastyan was shielding me. Plausible deniability?

“What else is bothering you?” Drum drum. 

“I can’t stay cooped up and alone in the town house anymore.”

“Which is one of the reasons I’m taking you out tonight.”

I glared. “How much longer will we stay here? I’m used to being around people, talking and laughing. I’m used to having goals and working toward them. I need an end date; this indefinite shit doesn’t work for me.”

“We’ll return to Russia at the beginning of next week. Things will be different there, Natalie.”

Why did I have the sinking suspicion that I’d be hearing that line a lot? “How?”

“You’ll meet new friends. Your days will be full, and I’ll feel more confident in your safety. For now, I need you to be patient.”

I inwardly grumbled. I supposed I could make it another couple of days. . . .

When the limo slowed, I asked, “Are we there?” My voice sounded ridiculously expectant; curiosity killed the Nat.

Sevastyan drew a silk cloth from his jacket pocket. “As I said, it’s a surprise.”

“Fine.” I let him blindfold me. Once we’d parked, he helped me outside into the blustery night.

As he guided me up a flight of concrete stairs, I asked, “Oh, so we’re going above ground this time?” Snark.

“I wouldn’t get used to it,” he snarked back.

We crossed a threshold into a warm interior. Aside from the echo of my heels, it was quiet inside.

When he removed my blindfold, I blinked my eyes, adjusting to the soaring area. Recognition hit, and I twirled in place.

We were in the Musée d’Orsay! I’d read all about this museum in my tourist guide, had seen pictures. It was a renovated train station housing galleries of famous French impressionists and other artists of the period.

Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone, my favorite of them all, was . . . here. It blew my mind that I’d soon be viewing it in person.

I glanced around, saw not another soul. The lights were dimmed.

This was just for us? My irritation from before dissipated to a whisper, and I felt guilty for my impulse to snap his fingers.

In a dry tone, Sevastyan asked, “Is this the tits?”

A laugh burst from me. “It is! You’re redeeming yourself, Siberian. How did you get us in after hours?”

“Called in a favor. This museum’s smaller and more personal than the Louvre, better suited for one night’s exploring. Come.”

One of the first sculptures was of lovely Sappho with her lyre, her expression contemplative. “She composed her poems to be accompanied by the lyre,” I said. “You could say she’s the first lady of lyrics.”

The autodidact looked impressed. “You know ancient Greek poetry?”

“You don’t study the history of sexuality without getting to know Sappho.” Natalie Porter, history student. Did that designation even fit any longer?

Maybe I should take Paxán’s advice and travel the world, living out my dreams. With the man beside me…?

As Sevastyan and I strolled on, passing one wondrous statue after another, I sneaked glances up at him. Though he’d pulled off this museum coup, he seemed a little less confident than his usual proud self.

I recalled his attentive expression when he’d washed my hair, how badly he’d wanted to get it right. He looked the same tonight, as if it was critical to impress me.

In fact, he was gauging my reactions more than he was admiring the exhibits. Just as he’d watched my face—instead of an orgy.

“You’re not interested in art?” I asked.

“I’m more fascinated by how you respond to it.”

Irresistible Siberian. When he made comments like this, how could I stay mad at him?

One of the last exhibits on the ground floor was Woman Bitten by a Snake, a life-size sculpture of a female writhing naked across a bed of flowers. Her body was voluptuous, her curves on display for eternity.

Even in the midst of such a sensual sight, I could feel Sevastyan’s burning gaze on me. When I peered up at him, his eyes darkened, letting me know whose curves he wanted to see for eternity.

I’d gotten accustomed to that sensual look of his—in bed, in the shower, in a sex club. But in a museum, I grew kind of flustered. Like I’d been when I’d first tried to pick him up.

I girlishly tucked my hair behind my ear—uh, can I buy you a drink?—and moved on. We climbed the stairs in silence, each lost in thought.

But on the second floor, I hastened past other masterpieces without due reverence to get to Starry Night. And then…

There it was. Right in front of me. “I can’t believe I’m looking at it.”

He remained silent by my side, allowing me take it in.

The copies I’d seen had never conveyed the elaborate texture of the piece, the exaggerated brush strokes. Those gaslight reflections over the water were bold daubs. Each star was a cluster of deftly layered paint, creating height from the canvas.

I blinked up at him, having no idea how much time had passed. With a blush, I explained, “It’s my favorite of the era.”

“Why this one?”

“The boats, the lights over water . . . this scene is a world away from the fields of home, from all I’d ever known. I’d never seen these kinds of blues in the Corn Belt. For a girl like me, the colors were exotic, calling to me.” Not to mention that I’d secretly sighed over the two lovers in the foreground, sharing such a night.

Sevastyan eased even closer to me. “When you get excited, your cheeks flush pink, and your eyes become even brighter against that flame-red hair.” He reached forward to twine a lock around his finger. “Your colors call to me.”

A breath escaped me. Seeing him like this, I told myself that life-altering sex, admiring looks, and earnest compliments could tide me over.

Until what?

Until he saw me as a partner, a confidante.

He drew back. “Again, I speak too freely with you.” Now color shaded his cheekbones. “Whenever I’m around you, I say more than I mean to.”

“Then we should spend more time together.” I let him lead me by the hand to another gallery room.

“Or less,” he said, even as he appeared displeased by that prospect.

“Would it be so bad for me to know more about you?”

“I don’t think you would like what I revealed.”

Was that the reason for all his secrecy? He didn’t want to scare me off? That didn’t bode well.

As I perused another exhibit, I remembered my first semester at UNL. Jess and I were just becoming friends, and she’d been dating a “promising” new guy. Yet one night he’d told her with a mysterious air, “I don’t think you’d like me if you really got to know me.”

Much to his dismay, she’d kicked his ass to the curb. To me, she’d explained, “When a man tells you something like that, honey, you better take him at his word.”

Jess and I had made each other a promise: when men talked about themselves negatively—“I’m no good for you,” “I have trouble committing,” “I’m not going to settle down anytime soon”—we would listen to them.

Sevastyan had told me he wasn’t a good guy. I’d thought he meant because he was a hit man. So what was he hiding from me?

“Perhaps I would tell you more about myself,” he said, “if I were more certain of you.”

The finish line was still between us, a glaring line of chalk.

“Then we’re right back in the same catch-22. I find it difficult to throw all-in when I know so little about you. You give me a crumb of information only every few days. At the rate we’re going, by the time I’m ready to sign on, twenty years will have passed.”

Speaking of time . . . We’d drifted to stand in front of the great d’Orsay clock window. Between the roman numerals, I could gaze out and see the misty Seine below, the lights of the Louvre and the Tuileries Garden.

Faced with this view, my current friction with Sevastyan faded, giving way to memories of my father, the Clockmaker. When the minute hand ground forward, I had to stem my tears. “How are you doing, Sevastyan?” I didn’t have to be more specific.

His face was granite under pressure. “I grieve, as you do. I think about him a lot.”

I took Sevastyan’s hand in mine. “Thoughts of him come all the time, sparked by so many different things.” Tonight, I’d reflected on his letter, on his hopes for me. Earlier this week, I’d seen white tigers on a street-side billboard, and my mind had snapped right back to laughing with him. “Will you tell me a story about him?”

Sevastyan was opening his mouth—doubtless to decline.

“Just one,” I hastily said. “Pozhaluista.Please.

Looking like he was about to speak in front of thousands, he cleared his throat. “When I’d been with him for a few months, he took me to a summit meeting. Another vor’s son said something about Paxán that I took as an insult. I got into it with the olderboy—which meant the two of us were sentenced to fight in the middle of a packed warehouse. ‘You’re too smart to be taking blows to the head,’ Paxán told me as he walked me through the crowd.” Sevastyan frowned. “He was always telling me that I was smart. So I told him I would ‘fight smart.’ ”

I could imagine this exchange so vividly: Paxán shepherding him through a throng of mafiya, tough Sevastyan with his chin jutted—even as he soaked up the attention from Paxán. Because no one had given it to him before?

“As I headed toward the makeshift ring, men were yelling all around us, placing bets. I was just fourteen, and it was . . . a lot to handle.” Understatement. “Paxán looked so concerned that I’d get hurt. I told him he shouldn’t worry about me.”

“What did he say?”

“He sighed and told me, ‘Best get used to it, Son.’ The first time he’d called me Son. Something clicked in my head, and I finally accepted that I would have a home with him, that it was permanent.”

Had he been worried for months that he would have to return to the streets? To leave a place like Berezka? Oh, Sevastyan.

“After that, I was determined to make him proud, to win.”

“And you did?”

“It took three men to haul me off my unconscious opponent.”

At fourteen. “Paxán let you continue fighting after that?”

“I convinced him I’d do it for no reason at all—or for money and respect. He had no choice but to agree.”

“You didn’t go to school?”

“I was learning from him,” Sevastyan said matter-of-factly. He didn’t have a chip on his shoulder about schooling; no surprise, Filip had lied. It was clear Sevastyan was confident in his intelligence and learning. It was also clear Paxán had nurtured that confidence.

“Each week, he bought me books. Mathematics, economic theory, philosophy, great Russian literature. And history,” he said. “He never told me I had to read them, but the reward was discussing the books with him, usually while he tinkered with those damned clocks.”

Sevastyan’s unmistakable affection made my eyes water anew. “Thank you for telling me that story.” He’d opened up to me about something! Every time he showed me these glimpses of himself, I fell a little bit more in love with him.

He raised his brows. “I think that’s the most I’ve ever spoken.”

I couldn’t tell if he was kidding or not.

At that moment, the clouds parted for us, revealing the moon. Its light spilled down over the river and illuminated the numbers of this clock, making them glow.

The full moon. Had it been a month since Sevastyan had taken me to Russia? Since he’d first kissed me?

I wondered if he realized this. It seemed that everything he did was by design. Might Sevastyan be a closet romantic? In a casual tone, I said, “This is an anniversary of sorts for us.”

He didn’t look surprised at all. “Yes. It is.”

“Are we commemorating the first night we kissed?” Before I’d had any idea what this man would mean to me.

“I want to.” He drew me against him. “You can’t imagine how badly I’d wanted to claim that kiss.”

“You claimed far more than that on the plane.”

His lids grew heavy as he obviously thought back to what we’d done. “I was a very lucky man that night.”

“And now?”

“I’ll consider myself lucky, my elusive girl, once you consider yourself taken. Every man has a weakness; you are mine. I’ve accepted that. Now you must accept me.”

No, every person had a weakness. Aleksandr Sevastyan was my own.

“I need you all in, Natalie.”

He had opened up to me tonight, and we could build from that. I smiled up at him. “I haven’t ruled anything out, Siberian.”

“I suppose that’s good enough—for now.” He rubbed the pad of his thumb over my cheek. “Do you want to see your painting again? We can go back.”

Back? When the minute hand ground on once more, I didn’t feel sadness. This time I felt a tiny bloom of optimism.

Maybe we were at last moving forward.