Series: Threads Book 4
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Creative Edge Publishing LLC
Publication Date: November 20, 2017
The only thing sweeter than a secret is revenge
A family becomes an assassin’s target after a crime lord’s sister is brutally murdered in Kaylin McFarren’s latest erotic, psychological thriller, Twisted Threads.
Akira Hamada, a beautiful Japanese geisha, failed at killing Kaito Mitsui two years ago – the same yakuza gang leader who destroyed her lover and forced her to become an assassin. Now, with his sister’s murderer traveling to the Caribbean on a cruise ship, Akira has ten days at sea to identify her target and complete her assignment as her penance, or face her own death.
Devon Lyons, unaware that his aunt and uncle could be singled out and murdered, brings Akira into their lives. In searching for evidence to justify Mitsui’s revenge, she soon discovers that no one is who they seem to be. All the while, Devon is drawn into the mystery of mounting deaths on board the ship, putting his own life at risk.
With killers on the loose and no avenue for escape, tension is ratcheted to a breaking point, forcing everyone to choose between love and loyalty – or deeply held honor – in order to survive.
Chapter Two – New Assignment
Gravel crunched under the tires of a rapidly approaching car, sending Akira scurrying to the house. She secured the door behind her and pulled on her clothes. Then she peered through the glass panel in the entry. With her sheathed sword at her side, she waited for an intruder to take shape. Seconds ticked by as the dust settled. Then the car door opened. Black boots appeared below a pair of faded black jeans. They were topped with a red T-shirt, half covered with wavy black hair. A huge wave of relief washed over Akira when she spied a face. It was Yuki Ota—Mitsui-san’s daughter-in-law—coming here to assist with the aftermath of her mission. However, as usual, her timing was way off.
Anger smoldered in Akira’s heart. She opened the door and called out, “What took you so long?”
Yuki shrugged a shoulder. “I had some important matters to take care of tonight.”
Akira tossed her head haughtily. “More important than helping me?”
Yuki curled her full lips in disdain. “Have you already forgotten? I protected you from Mitsui-san when no one else would.”
Of course, Yuki was right. If not for her intervention, the gang lord’s men would have made short work of Akira after discovering the threat she had made on Mitsui’s life. But reaffirming that knowledge didn’t wipe away the extreme measures she’d taken to hide her murders.
“Maybe you should have left me to die.”
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” Yuki snapped. “At least you don’t have to kiss up to Mitsui-san.”
Akira handed her a baggie containing “tokens” from her last job—personal items to confirm the deaths of the men in the burn pile. Yuki turned it over, studying the silver lapel pin and gold chain necklace Akira had lifted from Kurosaki’s men before dragging them outside. “Oh, almost forgot this.” She gave her the silver dollar Kurosaki had been rolling with his knuckles. “It’s interesting what people place value in.”
Yuki studied it for a few seconds before tucking it into the back pocket of her jeans. Then she slid into the driver’s seat of her black Lexus and waited. Akira climbed in the passenger side and slammed the car door behind her, anxious to disappear.
“I have great news for you,” Yuki told her as she turned over the engine.
Anger trickled away and left her head throbbing. She touched her scalp again. It was tender, and she noticed a trace of blood on her fingertips. “Let me guess. Mitsui-san’s leaving Japan for good, and I never have to see him again.”
Yuki laughed. “Sometimes I wish that too.” She tied her unruly hair in a knot and secured it with a red lacquered chop- stick. Then she grabbed the steering wheel and stepped on the gas, sending gravel flying.
“So what kind of news do you have?” Akira watched Yuki’s profile, testing her patience.
“He wants you to take down another murderer. A British gallery owner cruising in the Caribbean.”
Akira huffed. “And you consider that great news?”
Yuki glanced at her. “Take care of this job, and your obligation to Mitsui-san ends. He’s given permission for you to start your life over anywhere you choose. Just as long as it’s not in Japan.”
Akira took a deep breath and rubbed her palms on her skirt. Where would she go? What would she do? Like most girls in Japan, her dreams of being famous began at a young age. She studied harder and longer than all the maikos in her family home, excelling in music, dance, social graces, and international languages. As the seasons changed in Gion, she matured in her abilities and ultimately earned the respect of everyone around her. Yet she lived a sheltered life as a geiko—always being told where to go, what to do, what to say. After being forced by Mitsui-san to leave her profession, she never considered what freedom would mean—away from his control and the only home she had known.
Yuki turned to her. “I assume that’s what you were hoping for.”
Akira nodded. The scooped collar on Yuki’s red shirt revealed the three gold stars tattooed on her neck, matching the ones on Akira’s hip. They were a constant reminder of their commitment to the Zakura-kai, Japan’s notorious yakuza family. They were a ruthless, barbaric crew who considered compassion a weakness and failure the best reason to die. After spending six months in their company perfecting her techniques, Akira was no better than the rest of them—just a little less obvious.
As the landscape sped by, her delayed reaction took hold. She jiggled her leg up and down, chewed a ragged nail, and checked the time. The pills she had taken to dull her reality were wearing off quickly, leaving fragments of a surreal nightmare in her brain. “Damn it, relax,” Yuki told her. “You’ve got nothing to worry about.” She motioned her head toward the rear seat. “Everything you need is in the black binder: background information, photographs, travel documents, and an altered passport. You have ten days for this job—more than enough time. Do it right, and you’ll be rewarded for your loyalty. Mess up or kill yourself, and Oka-san will die.”
Akira stared at the dashboard, gnawing on her bottom lip. She hated the thought of killing another human being, but risking the life of the woman who had raised her was simply out of the question. And according to Mitsui-san, suicide wasn’t an option. “Are you going with me this time?” Akira asked. “Is that the plan?”
Yuki smirked. “What’s wrong, little geisha? Don’t think you can handle the job yourself?”
Akira frowned. “I think something may have escaped your attention. How am I supposed to deal with the crew and tourists on the ship? If someone should see me…”
“Like I told you, you’ve got nothing to worry about. There’s been more than five thousand deaths on passenger ships, and the majority of them are still unsolved. No one will suspect the involvement of a pretty, young tourist, especially with her father on board.”
Akira’s voice faltered. “My…my father? What do you mean? He died years ago.”
Although Yuki’s smile was sardonic, her eyes held a glint of humor. “Your new father: Takashi Hamada. Mitsui-san chose him because he has the right look. He studied in Los Angeles and speaks perfect English. He’s also a Zakura-kai cleaner and will make sure nothing goes wrong.”
Akira stared straight ahead, her mind swimming in doubt.
As they approached an intersection, Yuki slowed the car to a stop and took the opportunity to provide more information. “Two months ago, Mitsui-san’s sister was found dead at the bottom of a swimming pool. The Mexican authorities in Cabo San Lucas ruled it an accidental drowning, but her best friend and the men sent to retrieve her are convinced that an English couple was involved. Apparently, they got into a heated argument with Keiko over two reserved lounge chairs, of all things. The pool manager relocated their belongings and did his best to calm everyone down. But early the next morning, a gardener found Keiko facedown in the pool.”
Akira narrowed her eyes. “Why would anyone kill someone over deck furniture? I mean…isn’t it possible that Keiko accidentally fell into the pool and drowned? It’s not like it hasn’t happened before…”
“It doesn’t matter what you think, Akira. It’s Mitsui-san’s decision. But just so you know, a bartender was strangled in a neighboring town. It was the same place where Paul Lyons’s wife was refused service and asked to leave.” Yuki increased speed as she veered off toward the freeway. “I’ve been told that if you can’t figure out which member of the Lyons family was involved, then you need to take them both out.”
A married couple? Are you kidding? Akira had disposed of more men than she cared to remember, but she’d never considered the possibility of killing a woman—let alone a foreigner. She glanced at Yuki, knowing this was the same ambitious archaeologist who had been dismissed from a drilling project in Mexico after attempting to sell artifacts on the Internet. The same woman who had castrated a lover for failing to please her. The same schemer who had a long history of blackmailing businessmen with illicit photos and had been shipped off to Thailand by Mitsui-san after stealing diamonds from a hidden tomb in the Sea of Japan. And now she was sitting here insisting on the assassination of a British couple whose greatest mistake could turn out to be arguing with the wrong person at the wrong time. Yuki wasn’t just a sociopath; she was a murderous, conniving bitch who had no feelings or empathy for anyone.
Akira released a deep, resentful sigh. There was no possible way she could do this. Not without being absolutely sure of their guilt.
Praise for Twisted Threads
Twisted Threads is a titillating page-turner that captivates from start to finish, and never fails to stimulate the senses.
– Brittney Decker, Foreword Reviews/Clarion Review
A tantalizing glimpse into a secret world of desire. Dive deep into the layers of this intoxicating blend of twisted pleasure and intricate mystery. Edgy, fierce, and undeniably stimulating.
– Alicia Tomelloso, San Francisco Book Review
Twisted Threads delivers a story full of suspense, lively, complex characters, and a sexy, fun-filled adventure. Followers of McFarren’s Threads series will be thrilled, and readers of this divertingly different, first-class murder mystery will be too.
– Angela Fox, Publisher, Clackamas Review/Oregon City News
An intelligent crime thriller infused with thwarted love and desperate desires, Twisted Threads makes a worthy new companion to McFarren’s earlier creations – Severed Threads, Buried Thread, Banished Threads.
– Barbara Bamberger Scott, Editor, A Women’s Write
A sexy mystery that brings the timeless themes of murder, revenge and family loyalty to the high seas. A great series for fans of romantic suspense.
– Bella Wright, BestThrillers.com
Other Books by Kaylin McFarren
Be sure to check out the other books in the Threads series.
Severed Threads (Book One)
A deep-sea diving expedition turns deadly, leaving bodies in the wake of this page-turning treasure hunting adventure
“With plenty at stake, erotic chemistry, dastardly villains, a lost relic, an unusual setting, and a touch of the supernatural, this indie novel could stand on any romance publisher’s shelf. The full package of thrills and romance.”
– Kirkus Reviews
Buried Threads (Book Two)
Overcoming death threats by the Japanese mafia is only the beginning in this heart-racing, action-packed thriller
“If you’re a fan of murder mysteries but eschew the usual genre-formatted adventures that offer too-predictable protagonists and not enough depth, it’s time to take a look at Buried Threads: a horse of another color. More than a murder mystery, this mingles a treasure hunt, an international race against time, a dark prophecy, Japanese culture, erotic encounters and a clever killer’s modus operandi into a story that just won’t quit.”
– Diane Donovan, Senior Editor, Midwest Book Review
Banished Threads (Book Three)
A romantic escape to England is far from restful when the lives of family members hang in the balance
” Readers will get quite a thrill from McFarren’s latest Threads novel! Chase and Rachel are back in this fast-paced romantic suspense, based in an art gallery in England. It’s full of family drama, stolen art, kidnapping, and even more exciting sex between the globetrotting couple. The story moves along at a brisk pace with plenty of peripheral characters to keep things interesting.”
– Romantic Times
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About Kaylin McFarren
Kaylin McFarren has received more than forty national literary awards, in addition to a prestigious Golden Heart Award nomination for Flaherty’s Crossing – a book she and her oldest daughter, Kristina McMorris, co-authored in 2008. Prior to embarking on her writing journey and developing the popular Threads action/adventure romance series, she poured her passion for creativity into her work as the director of a fine art gallery in the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon; she also served as a governor-appointed member of the Oregon Arts Commission. When she’s not traveling or spoiling her pups and three grandsons, she enjoys giving back to her community through participation and support of various charitable and educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest, and is currently the president of the Soulful Giving Foundation – a non-profit focused on cancer research, care and treatment at hospitals throughout Oregon.
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