Title: Dirty Angels (Dirty Angels Trilogy #1)
Author: Karina Halle
Genre: Dark Romantic Suspense
Release Date: June 15, 2014
For Luisa Chavez, a twenty-three year old former beauty queen, a better life has always been just out of her reach. Sure, she’s had men at her feet since she was a young teenager but she’s never had the one thing she’s craved – security. Having grown up in near poverty, her waitressing job in Cabo San Lucas can barely let her take care of herself, let alone her ailing parents. Every day is another unwanted advance, every day is a struggle to survive.
When Salvador Reyes, the depraved leader of a major Mexican cartel, takes an interest in her, Luisa is presented with an opportunity she can’t afford to pass up. She’ll become Salvador’s wife and exchange her freedom and body for a life of riches – riches she can bestow upon her deserving parents. But Luisa quickly finds out that even the finest wines and jewels can’t undo the ugliness in her marriage, nor the never-ending violence that threatens her every move.
Soon, Luisa is looking for an escape, a way out of the carefully controlled life she’s leading. She finally gets her wish in the worst way possible.
As it is, being the wife of Salvador makes her an ideal target for rival cartels and there’s one particular man who needs Luisa as part of his cartel’s expansion. One particular man whose quest for power has destroyed lives, slit throats and gotten him out of an American prison. One particular man who will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants.
That man is Javier Bernal. And he wants Luisa. He wants to take her, keep her, ruin her.
Unless she ruins him first.
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(unedited, subject to change before publication)
“Mama, papa,” I said. I cleared my throat and straightened up in my chair. Even though my mother couldn’t see me, I felt her looking. Only my dad remained lost in lost thoughts, and for once I was okay that he would have no reaction. “I met a man.”
“Oh?” my mother asked, her interest piqued by the foreign subject. “Who is he? Where did you meet him? Do you like him?”
“I met him at work,” I said, skirting the other questions and shoving a piece of stewed tomato in my mouth. I chewed slowly, planning my words. “He took an interest in me. He is very wealthy and has promised me the world.”
Her face fell slightly. “I see.” She paused, pushing her plate away from her. “I am not surprised, Luisa. You are a beautiful, intelligent woman. I am only surprised that this is the first man you have talked about to us.”
Here it came. “That is because it is serious. He has asked to marry me.”
The room stilled, choking on silence and the oppressive heat. My heart throbbed with fear from just hearing those words out loud.
It was the cold, hard truth; Salvador Reyes had asked me to marry him.
I couldn’t read my mother’s expression at all. She was in shock, that was for sure, but whether she was happy, sad, angry or suspicious, I didn’t know. Finally she said, “When did this happen?”
“A few days ago,” I told her. He had come into the bar every day, sometimes with David, that creepy crony of his who always wore his shades inside. A few times, though, it was just Salvador. I never had any doubt that there was an army of people stationed all around, so we were never really alone, but it was during those times that he would ask me to have dinner with him, even if I was in the middle of the shift. At this point, Bruno knew who he was and what was going on, and he had to allow me as many breaks as I wanted. Salvador controlled the entire bar from the moment he stepped into it until the moment he left.
And he controlled me.
The curious thing, however, was that each day I grew more comfortable with his presence. It wasn’t that I was less scared or intimidated by him. It was just that I got used to the fear. The fear of Salvador, of what he wanted from me, of what he would do next, became as soft and easy as my favorite blanket. And because he was the scariest of them all, I no longer feared anyone else but him. Bruno, he was nothing in comparison. My terrors had become consolidated into one greasy, mustached man with a beer gut and bad hair. A man who ruled such a violent part of the world and who would now rule mine.
Because, when he asked me the other day, when I had finished my shift early and he insisted I walk down to the marina with him, I knew I had to say yes.
If I was being honest with myself, there was a part of me that could have swooned at the proposal. When Salvador got down on one knee and took my hand in his, his palms sweaty, his fingers large and fat, I tricked my mind and heart into momentarily believing that Salvador knew me, cared for me, loved me. Of course, he only wanted me to look good at his side and that was it. Well, that and be in his bed. What else could there be after just a few weeks?
So I said yes and tried to believe I meant it. If I said no, I would be killed. There was no doubt about that. No woman turned down Salvador Reyes, not for a date, not for marriage.
“I will treat you like a princess,” he had said to me, a stupid, lopsided grin on his pockmarked face. “And you will have everything you ever wanted. You’ll be richer than the President.”
And that’s when I found the tiny shred of hope to cling to. By marrying the country’s most notorious drug lord, a man who had politicians and police under his thumb, a man with more money than he probably knew what to do with, I would be buying myself safety from everyone but him, and I would be buying me and my parents a life we would never get to experience otherwise. I would no longer have to work for Bruno. I could have my mother and father taken care of and their every whim catered to.
It was at that thought that I was finally able to give Salvador a genuine smile. He responded by kissing me for the first time, his mustache tickling my upper lip. I wished it could have meant something to me, but all I could do was concentrate on the two competing feelings in my chest: relief.
“Did you say yes?” my mother asked quietly, snapping me back to reality, to the kitchen table with the one wobbly leg, to the overhead fan that did nothing to disperse the hot air, to my father’s kind but desolate eyes as he stared curiously at my mother, perhaps seeing her for the first time today.
I nodded and dabbed at my mouth with the napkin. “I did. It is for the best, Mama, you will see.”
She gave me a funny look. “You act as if marriage is a bargain you have to make.” When I didn’t say anything, she went on. “So what is the bargain here?”
“He has a lot of money, I told you. He will take care of me and I can take proper care of you.” I quickly reached across the table and put my hand on hers. “Mama, please, this is a good thing.”
“Then why can’t I hear it in your voice? You are anything but happy.”
“I am happy,” I said. “I will be happy. In time. It’s all so new and…”
“And so who is this man who you suddenly agreed to marry?”
“You don’t really know him,” I said carefully. “But he has a lot of power and a lot of influence.”
“And what does he do?” she asked, her voice taking on a strange steely quality. She knew that no wealth in our country came honestly.
There was nothing for me to do but tell the truth. The truth would hurt her, but it would also keep her safe.
“His name is Salvador,” I said. “And he is in charge of a cartel.”
My mother’s mouth dropped open while my father muttered the first words I’d heard from him all evening. “Salvador Reyes,” he said, musing over it. “He is a bad, bad man.” Of course he could forget his own wife and daughter sometimes, but a notorious drug lord lived in every memory.
“Luisa,” she said breathlessly. “You can’t be serious.”
I gave her a tight smile. “Unfortunately, I am.”
“Salvador Reyes. The Sal? The drug lord? The jackal?” She shook her head and folded her hands in her lap. “No. No, I refuse to believe this.”
“But it is the truth.”
“But why? Why here? Why you?”
“I wish I could say, Mama. I don’t know. He thinks I am beautiful and worthy of a better life.” He thinks I am worthy of his bed.
She snorted caustically. “A better life? Who does he think he is? Has he been here? We are not living in squalor, Luisa. We have everything that we need right here.”
“No, we don’t!” I yelled, surprised by the ferocity in my voice. “Every day I struggle to get by, for you, for Papa. And it’s still not enough.”
She rubbed her lips together, taken aback. I could see the wash of shame on her face and I immediately regretted losing my temper.
“I’m sorry,” I said quickly. “You know I’ve done everything to take care of the both of you and I’ll do whatever I can to keep doing so. This is an opportunity —“
“This is a death sentence,” she muttered.
Her words sent cold waves down my spine. I swallowed hard. “No,” I said, though I didn’t believe it myself. “He can protect me. I will go and live with him in a mansion in Culiacán. I will be safe, safer than anyone in the country. And you will be safe too. I will make sure that you and Papa are taken care of, you can live with us on the compound or stay here, in some place really nice. I will do whatever it takes. I am doing this for you.”
She just shook her head, a few strands of her greying hair coming loose around her face. “This is wrong. You deserve to marry a man for love, not money.”
“Maybe I can learn to love him. Maybe he can learn to love me.”
Her mouth twisted into a sad smile. “Oh, Luisa, I know you are not that naïve! He is a drug lord. They do not know how to love a fellow human being. They only love money and they only love death. He will never love you. He will have other women on the side. You will never be able to leave. You will become a prisoner of his life.”
Is it any different than being a prisoner to this life? I thought to myself. I sighed. “You know I have no choice. Whether I’ll love him or not, whether he’ll love me or not, you know I can’t say no.”
“There are always choices, my daughter. God gave you free will to make them.”
“Then I am choosing to die later instead of dying now.”
I thought my mother would admonish me for talking so fatalistically, but she understood. There was nothing easy or right about this situation, so there was nothing left for me to do but try and make the best of it.
“You deserve so much more,” she finally said, staring at nothing.
I looked pointedly at her and my father. “As do the both of you. And now, we shall have more. Let’s just ignore the cost for now.”
She nodded and went back to her food, picking aimlessly at the chicken that had grown cold. Now that she knew of the weight on my shoulders, she didn’t have an appetite either.
With her USA Today Bestselling The Artists Trilogy published by Grand Central Publishing, numerous foreign publication deals, and self-publishing success with her Experiment in Terror series, Vancouver-born Karina Halle is a true example of the term “Hybrid Author.” Though her books showcase her love of all things dark, sexy and edgy, she’s a closet romantic at heart and strives to give her characters a HEA…whenever possible.
Karina holds a screenwriting degree from Vancouver Film School and a Bachelor of Journalism from TRU. Her travel writing, music reviews/interviews and photography have appeared in publications such as Consequence of Sound, Mxdwn and GoNomad Travel Guides. She currently lives on an island on the coast of British Columbia where she’s preparing for the zombie apocalypse with her husband and rescue pup.