Mystique Rogue by Diane Taylor
Scarred and cynical, Carmen Marshall and her security team are hired to protect master Illusionist The Rogue, and his white tiger. What should be a simple case of protecting a client is made even harder by the mysteries surrounding him, and the very real danger of someone wanting him dead.
With both The Rogue and his tiger proving to be more then they seem, an unknown enemy, and a powerful desire haunting her, Carmen’s job is proving more of a challenge than she’d ever imagined. Will the flames of passion burn to ashes, or will they consume all involved.
Carmen grunted. “Divvy up the bonus equally between the four and put my usual fee in the bank. I don’t need the bonus and these guys do. Now, what else have you got on your list of clients that you’re planning to foist on me, in my innocence?”
“Innocent, my ass. Miss Marshall you’re the least innocent woman I know.” Daria shuffled her papers on the desk, then looked up at the video camera. “What do you know of The Rogue?”
Carmen shrugged. “He’s a master of illusion. No one knows what he looks like underneath his mask, which makes him somewhat of a forbidden fruit to the female persuasion. Those who have tried to come on to him have gone away either pissed off or in tears. Those who have claimed to have slept with him aren’t believed. The ones which are rebuffed proceed to slander and smear his name, which is really useless because he never responds to bullshit like that unless it really gets messy, then the person responsible gets a talking to.” She made quotation marks in the air with her fingers. “Rumors run thick and fast about what’s underneath the mask. They run the entire range of being horribly disfigured to just an affectation so he can go out into public with it off and not be recognized.” She smiled slightly at Daria, “The rest of the rumors are just too outrageous to think about.”
“Anything else, Oh Great Abundance of Wisdom?” Her boss grinned.
She smiled and took another drink of her coffee before responding. “Flattery will get you everywhere, Daria Randall. As a matter of fact, the tabloids and the internet have commented that his crew and stage hands are very tight lipped. Even his manager won’t spill the beans about the props or how his illusions are done, no matter how much money is offered. More than a few people have attempted some of his more dangerous stunts, trying to duplicate and or improve on them.”
Carmen arched an eyebrow and looked meaningfully at her boss. “With very fatal results. At the beginning of each performance, everyone is warned not to try these stunts. They make the statement which basically says anyone attempting them is doing so under the full knowledge they were warned ahead of time.”
Daria nodded, “Well, according to his manager, someone’s trying to sabotage his performances and possibly turn him into an illusion, permanently. From what I’ve read in the report I have on my desk, all the mistakes have been caught before the actual stunt was performed. But the manager wants to find out what in hell is going on and put a stop to these incidents before something really does go wrong. He’s paid double the usual fee, wanting to ensure you and your team will personally handle the assignment. He said The Rogue has specifically asked for you, saying he wishes a face to face meeting before he signs any agreement.”
Carmen’s eyes widened. “You know my rule on that, Daria. It’s held true and every client has agreed to it. If he wants a video conference, we can arrange a time and place. But I do not meet face to face.”
“Oh come on, you can do it just this once.” Daria’s eyes widened and became pleading on the video screen. “If he doesn’t meet you in person, he won’t sign the contract. When I mentioned your rule, he said, and I quote, ‘If this woman is afraid of me, then perhaps you should fire her and hire more men. At least they aren’t afraid to meet face to face.'”