Niko is a driven man, working his way up the organization. So he's not too pleased with the babysitting detail he's been assigned. Until my upight, shy heroine Alyson--or Aly, as he calls her, just to make her angry--can get paperwork processed to gain a replacement for her stolen passport, he must protect this American. His first order of business is to get her out of the casual clothes American's prefer to wear and into skirts and heels preferred by Parisian women. He wants her to blend.
I wanted Niko to get on Alyson's nerves. To make her angry at every turn. So I had him spoiled. He's the youngest of five children and the only boy in the family. He's been doted on by his mother and four older sisters. He knew how to get his own way. The problem was he knew how to get his way with me, too. If I wrote a scene, he didn't agree with, he'd wake me up that night with repeatative dreams. I'd dream the scene over and over until he'd turn to look at me and say, "NOW, do you see why it won't work that way?"
He was THE most irratating hero I'd ever written.
Niko’s eyes scanned their surroundings, and he tensed.
“What is it?” Alyson peered up and down the street.
“Don’t look. Smile at me. Talk and act normal.” He wrapped his arm around her waist and nudged her up the street.
“But…” Did he see someone? Did he see Dembri?
“I’m going to kiss you so I have an excuse to look behind us.”
“Oh no. No, I don’t think so. Look, I’ve put up with your constant touching, but I’ll not be kissed on a public street.”
“Don’t be self-conscious. In Paris, we kiss in public. It’s the Parisian way.”
“For heaven’s sake! Make it quick then.” She shook her arms to relax them because she was anything but relaxed. She was about to be kissed for the first time in years. Did she remember how? Stop being silly. Kissing is simple. Two pair of lips touch. Kiss done. With her head tilted back, she whispered, “Okay, I’m ready.”
A smile tugged at the corners of Niko’s lips. He encircled her in his arms and stepped in so their thighs touched. Her stomach fluttered. Her breathing hitched. He lowered his head. “Hang on, Aly.” With his dark brown eyes open, he placed his lips on hers and pulled her body against his. She kept her eyes open, too, figuring it would lessen the kiss’ effects.
Niko kissed her, gentle sips at first, soft and sensual. Someone made a moaning noise, and she feared it might have been her. My God what a pair of lips! Her toes curled in her new Pradas. She coiled her fingers around the lapels of his jacket. Then his lips locked on hers and with his tongue invading her mouth, he turned her to look over her shoulder, all the while wreaking havoc on her system.
This was the first time she’d been in a man’s arms in years. The first time she had tongue from a guy since college and said guy was more interested in looking behind her for some hoodlum than in the kiss. Just her damn luck.
When Niko ended the mind-blowing kiss, he pulled her closer, if that were possible, and whispered in her ear. “We’re being followed. Hold my hand and run.”
Run? Melting came to mind, but running? How could she run when he kissed her until the bones in her legs turned to jelly? Plus, she was wearing new high heels, for heaven’s sake. His arms squeezed her for an instant. “Now.”
He grabbed her hand, and they took off. They dodged throngs of pedestrians and at one point, Niko hurtled over a poodle, its protective owner shouting in French outrage, calling him a fool. “Fou! Fou! Mon chien, mon chien!”
Alyson had done her fair share of running, especially after her break up with Chaz, the stranger she was married to all those years. Running was a stress reliever; so were the StairMaster and martial arts. Still, those activities were done in sneakers or barefooted, not high heels. Stilettos, no less. Oh, and the thong. Let’s not forget the damn thong chafing her in places she didn’t want to think about. She’d kill Gwen when she got home.
“You put me in three-inch heels and expect me to run fast? You bossy Frenchman with a foot fetish.” She stumbled, and he caught her.
“Typical woman. Kiss her once and she figures she has the right to bitch at you.” Niko’s head turned, evidently scanning the area as they ran.
She tried jerking her arm free of his ironclad grasp. “So help me, God, if that terrorist doesn’t kill you, I will.”
He pulled her around two uniformed nannies pushing toddlers in strollers. “Promises. Promises.”
“Yeah, well look how nice my hips sway now, nutso, running in these damned heels.”
Niko quickly glanced up and down the wide tree-lined street and evidently seeing a slight break in traffic, ordered, “To the other side. Now.” They bolted across the four-lane boulevard and its well-manicured median. Two motorbikes rumbled past, nearly hitting them. Horns blared as several Renaults and Smart Cars barreled down the street. Niko shoved her out of the way and she fell, her hands and knees scraping on the asphalt. Brakes screeched and there was a dull thud behind her. She glanced back over her shoulder just as Niko rolled across the hood of a silver car. He never broke stride. “Run, dammit!”
She struggled to get up, her heel caught in the hem of her skirt. Niko set her on her feet again. A delivery truck swerved toward them as if to run them down. In a blur of movement, Niko drew his weapon. He dove and rolled clear of the truck’s path, shooting the driver between the eyes. Glass shattered. Passersby screamed. The truck jumped the curb, striking a tree. Sounds of metal crunching and a tree branch cracking obliterated, for a few horrible seconds, the pedestrians’ reactions.
Still on the move, Niko barked orders at the observers. A man nodded and reached for his cell phone. “Quick. In here. While we’re hidden by the truck.” Niko wrapped his hand around her arm and tugged.
Alyson trembled, the back of her hand covering her mouth and her eyes glued to the man slumped over the steering wheel of the truck not five feet away. Blood flowed from his forehead. Her stomach twisted. She was going to be sick. Niko’s grip on her arm tightened. “Move it, Aly. We’re still being followed.”
MONA LISA'S ROOM is officially released on November 9h, the same day as the new James Bond flick, "Skyfall-007". In my book, Alyson refers to Niko as "James-Momma's-Boy-Bond" since he still lives at home with his mother. I like to think it was Niko who whispered in the ear of the person doing the scheduling at The Wild Rose Press. Afterall, the man has a way of getting what he wants.