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A Step too Far

(Too Far #2)

by H.L Day

A Step Too Far - H.L. Day
Editions:Kindle - 3.99: $ 3.99 USD
Pages: 275

Two men. Three identities. An unstoppable attraction.

Desperate for his luck to change, Jake Spencer manages to land a dance contract with Dmitry Gruzdev. The job has plenty of perks including a simmering lust between him and Dmitry's hulking brute of a bodyguard, Mikhail. Life is finally looking up. Except as the shine wears off, it becomes clear that Jake's stepped into a world of darkness and depravity where Bratva answers to no one and allies are not what they seem.

Mikhail's hiding a secret: there is no Mikhail. He's simply a front for undercover operative, Ryan Harris. A means to gain access to Dmitry. Ryan's not stupid. There's no way he's going to get distracted by a pretty face, no matter how attractive Jake might be. That would be far too dangerous for all concerned. Only it's not that simple and before Ryan knows it, the line between personal and professional begins to blur spectacularly.

Lust develops into more. Secrets start to unravel. Ryan's got an impossible choice to make: keep Jake safe or maintain his cover. But how much does Dmitry know? The hunted may be about to become the hunter, blowing both men's worlds to pieces and leaving them with nothing.

Can a relationship built on lies ever lead to love?

Warning: This book contains a seductive dancer prone to getting into trouble, a gruff man who's anything but, and a villain that just won't go away.

This book is on:
  • 3 To Be Read lists
  • 2 Read lists
Published:
Editors:
Genres:
Tags:
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Tropes: Age Difference, Forbidden Love, Hurt / Comfort, May/December
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Excerpt:

Chapter One

 

Mikhail

 

I sighed loudly, glancing at Igor to see if he shared my irritation at being made to wait. As usual though, my compatriot gave very little away, his face remaining expressionless. "Ublyudok delayet eto narochno." Translated, it meant "the bastard's doing this on purpose." I received nothing more than a slight eyebrow raise and a nod in response to my statement.

Standing, I looked around for a moment before walking over to the window, and staring out at the lack of view—nothing but concrete paving stones with a few weeds poking between the cracks. I understood the reason for meeting in the middle of nowhere, but that didn't change the fact the area left a lot to be desired. As did the block of offices where I found myself standing, the paint peeling from the walls and the rooms smelling as if they hadn't experienced a breath of fresh air for years.

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I tugged at the window catch, figuring that was at least something I could rectify—for this room anyway. I doubted the meagre breeze would do a lot for the rest of the building. It didn't budge, the window welded shut. I pulled harder, putting my considerable bulk into the action. Still no movement. It couldn't have been opened for at least a decade. Whoever had worked in these offices—before they had been abandoned—seemed to have liked it to be warm and stuffy.

Giving up, I turned around just as the door opened and a suited man appeared, holding a phone to his ear. He waved us into the office while he ended the phone call. I couldn't help expressing my displeasure aloud. "V kontse kontsov. Finally." Igor stood, and I followed him into the office, which was no more attractive than the waiting space outside had been. The man took the seat behind the desk, while Igor and I faced the challenge of folding our tall, muscle-bound frames into the tiny plastic chairs on the opposite side of it.During the long silence which followed, I regarded the man we'd come here to meet. He seemed tired. His short brown hair was disheveled, as if he'd spent the last few hours running his fingers through it. His skin—which usually appeared youthful for a man in his late forties—was looking sallower than I'd ever seen it. In short, he seemed like a man who hadn't slept for the last thirty-six hours. Given the topic I suspected he was about to broach, he probably hadn't.

He took his glasses off, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his hand before placing them back on his face and squinting in our direction. His gaze shifted between the two of us. "Well?"I answered in heavily-accented English. "I do not know… what you want me…  say."He slammed his hand down on the table, his face turning red. "Can we drop the fucking Russian act?" He gestured at the walls and the ceiling. "The building has been swept for bugs and cameras and—" His hand moved toward the window where the blinds were all drawn. “—nobody's seeing inside, even if they do happen to have a telescopic lens on the building. We're perfectly safe to talk here."

I took a deep breath, rolled my shoulders, and shed the guise of Mikhail Belyakov, reverting to my true self, Detective Constable Ryan Harris. On my left, Igor went through the same metamorphosis, transforming from my Russian colleague to my British partner in the space of a few seconds. I sat forward, dropping the upright body language of Mikhail. "Sorry. Force of habit. We weren't scheduled for a meeting until next month, and I have to say"—I let my gaze roam around the office—"your meeting place leaves an awful lot to be desired."

Colin Humphries leaned back in his chair, his eyes shrewd in spite of the apparent lack of sleep. "Well, I don't think you'll be surprised to hear that I was asked to pull this meeting together at short notice. I assumed you wouldn't want to stroll in the gates of New Scotland Yard, and finding somewhere secure—quickly— wasn't easy."He was referring to the Metropolitan Police headquarters. I demonstrated my agreement with a slight inclination of my head. "You assume right. Nothing blows your cover quite like hanging out with a load of policemen."Colin sighed, grooves appearing on his forehead. "Oh, so you're still bothered about your cover then? Because I've got to tell you, the powers that be are starting to wonder, given the stunt you pulled."

My gaze traveled to George, waiting for him to interject and lay the fault firmly at my feet, which I wouldn't have blamed him for. But he remained silent. So silent, he may as well have still been inhabiting the guise of the far-more-taciturn Igor. Perhaps it was starting to rub off on him. "We did what we thought was best at the time."Colin's eyebrows rose so high they almost disappeared into his fringe. "Best? You not only let a useful contact escape from Dmitry's clutches, you helped him to escape… Sharing confidential information in order to make it happen. How was that the best course of action?"

I bit back a sigh. It wasn't as if I'd expected my actions to come without repercussions, but at the end of the day, I was the person who had to be able to sleep at night. "The situation with Valentin was complicated." Colin waved impatiently, which I took to mean I should continue. My gaze flitted toward the small plastic device on the desk recording every word we said for when Colin reported back. He was just our handler—one member of the support team who'd handled the undercover operation for the last two years. So the fact he was pissed meant he'd been getting a lot of stick from our superior officers. I was grateful that it was too risky for them to talk to me directly. No doubt it would all get rehashed at a later date during an extensive debrief, but at least then I would have enough evidence of a good result to justify my actions. "Not helping Valentin would have condemned an innocent man to death."

Colin's only response was a shrug. I wasn't surprised by his lack of empathy; it was all too easy to be blasé when you sat behind a desk all day. I wasn't prepared to let it drop, though. "You know how Dmitry operates…" I was unable to keep the loathing out of my voice as I said his name. I'd known by reputation what sort of man he was before agreeing to the joint undercover operation with MI5. But being up close to the man, seeing the way he did things, and the beatings he doled out as if they were nothing, had grown a hatred for him that words couldn't convey. Except, Mikhail wasn't allowed to hate. Mikhail had to be all brawn and no brains, willing to follow any order, no matter how vicious and uncalled for it might be. "…the poor kid had been stuck with that monster for a decade."

It was an understatement to say that I hadn't always viewed him as a poor kid. Valentin's less-than-sparkling personality had led me to believe, for a long time, that he fully deserved everything he got. Then I'd gradually begun to see past the hardened mask to the wounded soul beneath. So I couldn't bring myself to regret my role in saving Max's life and helping Valentin to extricate himself from Dmitry's control, despite how anyone else might view it. The jury was still out on whether it would be successful long-term, but signs were good so far—Valentin and Max were still breathing, and the foul mood Dmitry had been in for the last couple of weeks was evidence enough that he couldn't find a way to snap his fingers and wrest control back. Dmitry wasn't used to losing. I had no doubt he was still trying to work out a way to regain his power though, without Valentin exposing the truth of Dmitry's sexuality to people he'd rather keep in the dark.

Mikhail might’ve spent his days making it clear he didn't give a damn about anything, but Ryan hoped they'd be happy together for a long time to come. Most of the time, there was very little joy to be gleaned from undercover work, only the promise of succeeding in meeting the operation's objective, so any opportunity to find it elsewhere was welcome. And if it meant freeing a talented dancer from the shackles he'd been blackmailed into wearing since he was fifteen, then I was all for it. It was apt, therefore, that blackmail had gotten him out of the situation. No, I refused to feel guilty, no matter how pissed my superiors might’ve been. I just needed to convince them that the situation was still salvageable.

To my surprise, it was George who spoke first. "Valentin's presence was holding us back."Colin turned toward George, focusing his full attention on my partner. "How so?" I took the opportunity to regroup while the scrutiny was elsewhere.George paused, as if he was picking his words carefully. Igor said so little that it always took some getting used to when he switched back to his real persona and words flowed much more readily. "We were stuck babysitting the dancer. Look at the fact that we were sent to London while Dmitry stayed in Russia to conduct business. Dmitry is our target, yet we weren't able to get close to him, because that wasn’t the role we'd been hired for. I know that was our in, and we'd waited years for the opportunity, but it wasn't ideal. This way…"I took over, wanting to show my support for him being prepared to dig us both out of a hole. "This way, there's no distractions. We can get closer to Dmitry."

Colin sat back in his chair, a small sigh escaping his lips. "So he’s going to keep you around, then? Because there was speculation that with no dancer to babysit, he'd have no more need for you. Which, I don't need to tell you, would be the end of everything we've worked so hard for."I nodded, acknowledging the valid point. "He says he has other uses for us."Colin's look turned speculative. "And are you any closer to getting a better handle on his connections? Remember, he's just a means to an end. A small fish in Bratva. We need names and details of the bigger fish. One fish in particular."

I hated that question. It was so easy for them to sit there and talk about making necessary connections and discovering crucial information, as if it were possible to wave a magic wand and deliver it from thin air. They didn't appreciate how carefully we needed to tread with Dmitry. The man may have only been a small fish, but even a small fish didn't get where he was without being clever. A small fish still had multiple men at his disposal, ready to follow his orders to the letter. He'd proved it with the speed with which he'd been able to take a hit out on Max. It had been organized almost from the very second Valentin had been back in his clutches. Dmitry was a small fish by Bratva standards, but he had teeth. Very sharp teeth, ready to rip flesh from bone if the fancy took him. "You don't need to tell us what our role is. We're fully aware. But it takes time. It's not something we can rush. Hopefully, now that we're closer to Dmitry, we might make more headway, get an opportunity to earn his trust even more. As soon as we discover something useful, we'll call."

Colin nodded, seemingly placated. Without speaking, I gestured at the recorder. He rolled his eyes but reached over and pressed the button to stop the recording anyway. I waited a few extra seconds, to make sure it was really off. "So, off-the-record, how bad is it?"He grimaced. "Major meetings involving everyone in the operation. Lots of raised voices. They're concerned you didn't run it by them first. The words ‘stupid, reckless idiot’ may have been mentioned. Just between you and me.""They would have said no."

Colin massaged the bridge of his nose. "You know all of this comes back on me though, don't you? As your primary handler, they thought I knew what you were going to do, even though I told them I hadn't heard from you for a couple of weeks. There was talk of pulling you from the operation entirely."

I shook my head. "That's bullshit! They're just throwing their toys out of the pram because I dared to make a decision on my own. There's no way they're going to throw all the work away that they did to build our background stories and find a way for us to infiltrate. They've spent too long on it."When Colin only shrugged, George stood, either deciding the meeting had come to an end or that he'd suffered the indignity of the plastic chair for long enough. Whatever his reason, I followed his lead, already beginning to psyche myself up to don the role of Mikhail again.

Colin stood as well, tapping the wooden surface of the desk. "Just… don't make any more mistakes, okay. You're there to do a job. Remember that, and don't let emotion get in the way."I resisted the temptation to aim a mocking salute in his direction. "No more emotion. Got it. Just a dumb Russian brute who—when Dmitry says jump—says, how high? Or should I say, kak vysoko."  

 

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Becca on Love Bytes wrote:

fter reading book one, I wanted so much for someone to just beat the tar out of Dmitry. If you haven’t read book one, you need to or you will be lost. Also, there are some triggers. Controlling mafia boss, who has people beaten, killed, threatened, you name it. It’s a bad situation, but it’s the mafia, so hello.

I was so torn for Mikhail and Igor when I found out who they really were. They just wanted to get the job done and go home, but trying to get the info they needed was near impossible. And having to stomach what Dmitry wanted them to do or was having done around them was getting worse every day. It made them want to vomit. After helping Valentin get free in book one, one would hope that Dmitry wouldn’t pick another boy to take his place. But they were dead wrong. Jake runs in, disrupting a rehearsal to audition for Valentin’s spot. And Mikhail/Ryan was immediately smitten. But Dmitry was just as captivated. Just for different reasons. Mikhail/Ryan tried subtly to get Jake out of it, but Dmitry was too good at manipulation and Jake was now stuck in a world he wanted no part of. When he was thrown in to what was expected of him, he was shocked, disgusted and much more. But Mikhail/Ryan had to explain in any way he could, that Jake had to do this or could possibly die. But soon Jake overheard something he wasn’t supposed to and now things are getting dangerous. Dmitry has found out a lot of things and it has all went to shit. Ryan is doing everything he desperately can to save Jake, but he can’t find him and Ryan now fears the worst. But he refuses to give up. The bad part is, he may have no choice.

I don’t know how undercover cops can do their jobs when in situations like that. You know there are government people and cops undercover all over this world and I don’t know how they stomach what they have to see or do, just to stay hidden. Unfortunately, some go bad themselves. Thankfully, Ryan and George (Mikhail and Igor), but damn the stuff they had to do. And heaven forbid they make one little mistake. Their bosses were up their butts for it, when these two were the ones with their lives on the line. It’s scary stuff. Even more scary when you fall for the person you are supposed to be indifferent too. Ryan tried in so many ways to help Jake and to make it better for him, but he had to maintain his cover too. That’s the point where I’d be even more at a loss. Do you quit after so long undercover and try to make it or turn a blind eye to all that is happening, especially to the one you care for?

And Jake. Bless his heart. All he wanted to do was dance. And make it in the world of ballet. But was thrust into a world of lies and secrets and bad men. My heart broke for him, when the wool got dropped from his eyes and he really got a glimpse at what his world was now. Truly horrible. And no matter what he did, there seemed to be no way out. Trying to escape got him a beat down, so he went numb. Doing what he had to do to survive as long as he could. Completely devoid of himself. What was there to live for anyway? He couldn’t dance, was a prisoner, and the one man he cared for was told was dead. Another point in which I would wonder if life was worth it. And what decision I could make to stop it all. A harsh reality.

It’s a tough read. Life is not all sunshine and roses. It’s very far from that, in fact. But it’s a hell of a book. A hell of a series.

AL on Amazon wrote:

The second part of ballet dancers meet mafia story.
As with the first part, A Dance Too Far, H.L. Day once again created an awesome plot and a pair of extraordinary MCs.
They are not perfect, they are not without faults, but they are perfect for each other. And for us to meet and cherish 🙂
A must read for those who read A Dance Too Far... and those who didn’t better catch up, because these books are worth every second you spend with them 🙂

nrevvy on Amazon wrote:

Fantastic follow-up to Valentin’s story! Poor Mikhail/Ryan goes through the angst-wringer after meeting Jake, who pushes himself into Dmitry’s notice, ignorant of what he will be in for. The suspense and tension was phenomenal leading into an emotionally wrenching conclusion. It did make their time together and eventual happiness even more poignant. I got so many feels out of this story! I knew the worst would probably happen for Jake and Ryan before it got better but still was so unexpected and kept me on the edge of my seat. I do like a plot that engages me that strongly, it’s my idea of good writing. Mikhail/Ryan and Jake were well matched with decent chemistry, giving the story some real steam. Valentin and Max make an appearance from book one. I’d recommend reading A Dance too Far first for better understanding but I don’t think you’d be too lost reading as a stand-alone. A great choice for suspense aficionados.


About the Author

H.L Day grew up in the North of England. As a child she was an avid reader, spending lots of time at the local library or escaping into the imaginary worlds created by the books she read. Her grandmother first introduced her to the genre of romance novels, as a teenager, and all the steamy sex they entailed. Naughty Grandma!

One day, H.L Day stumbled upon the world of m/m romance. She remained content to read other people’s books for a while, before deciding to give it a go herself.

Now, she’s a teacher by day and a writer by night. Actually, that’s not quite true—she’s a teacher by day, procrastinates about writing at night and writes in the school holidays, when she’s not continuing to procrastinate. After all, there’s books to read, places to go, people to see, exercise at the gym to do, films to watch. So many things to do—so few hours to do it in. Every now and again, she musters enough self-discipline to actually get some words onto paper—sometimes they even make sense and are in the right order.


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