Can two women who live very different lives meet due to unforeseeable circumstances, only to discover they were brought together because it was their destiny?
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Yalen Martinez is ex-CIA and a bestselling author of lesbian fiction with fans all over the globe, yet she is alone. Since the breakup of her ten-year relationship two years ago, no one special has been in her life.
After countless attempts by her two best friends to set her up on blind dates, she decides to use the internet to meet women because she thinks it’s safe and she can do it anonymously.
She joins a lesbian dating site where she meets Emily only to learn that Emily has sent her a fake photo of herself and she’s running an online dating scam and Yalen is the latest victim.
Yalen, though disappointed, becomes obsessed with exposing the con-artist as well as finding out who the woman in the picture really is and she’s willing to go to any length to get the information.
Armed with the woman’s name and address, Yalen boards a flight to Tennessee with no thought on how she plans to approach the woman in the photo: Briana Latham, a former Victoria’s Secret model. Yalen decides to just wing it and hope like hell that the woman doesn’t think she’s a psycho head-case.
Determined to get to the bottom of the online dating mystery and against their better judgment, the two women set out on a suspenseful, tension-filled adventure that will take them to London, England where they risk their lives confronting the leaders of a multimillion-dollar, underworld Russian Mafia syndicate that specializes in human sex trafficking, computer viruses, and on-line dating scams—it’s a world where murder isn’t that big of a deal and true love really knows no boundaries.
Listen To Her Heart
READER ALERT: This novel is a work of Lesbian fiction; featuring Lesbian characters, therefore, as with all of my novels, contains NO heterosexual sex!
Copyright © 2012 Trin Denise
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system without the prior written permission of the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real, except where noted. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or deceased, is entirely coincidental, except where noted.
Cover Art by Trin Denise
Editor: M A Farrell
Structural Editor: Trin Denise
Contact the Author
Other Novels by Trin Denise
Worth Dying For
She Left Me Breathless
For Now, Forever: a Novella
A Christmas Day to Remember: a Novella – to be released winter 2012
The Death Zone: Murder on Mount Everest – to be released spring 2013
Also by Trin Denise
Lesbian Nevaeh Poetry Anthology
Hallowed Be Thy Name (Psychological Horror) – winter 2012
“I hate to tell you this, hon, but I think you’re right. She’s definitely a scammer,” Regina Warsaw said and then tossed the paper onto the desk in front of Yalen Martinez.
Yalen shook her head. “I know, Reg, and I’ve known it for a while now. I can’t believe how damn stupid I was and that it took me so long to figure it out.”
Regina laughed. “Long? Are you kidding? You figured it out pretty quick. So the million dollar question is, what’cha gonna do about it?”
Yalen rubbed her temples with her index fingers. “You’re being too kind. It was anything but quick, more like two months and I haven’t decided yet but I’m going to do something. I hate being conned and feeling like I’ve been used.” Yalen shook her head again. “Hell, I’m not even sure she’s a she now. With my luck, she or it, is probably some hairy-ass man named Bruno who escaped from a mental ward and high-jacked a laptop from an internet café in Libya.”
“Or it could be some big hairy chick named Bertha who’s serving time in Leavenworth for killing her husband. Probably beat the poor bastard in the head with a frying pan,” Regina chuckled, slapping herself on the legs with her hands. “I swear I crack myself up sometimes.”
Yalen laughed. “I do believe you are your biggest fan.”
Regina frowned. “Hey, it’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it. Might as well be me.”
Yalen leaned back in her chair and laced her fingers behind her head. She stared at a spot on the wall just above Regina’s shoulder.
“Oh no, Yalen,” Regina said, shaking her head.
“Oh no, what?”
Regina shook her finger at Yalen. “I know that expression too well and when you get that far off look in your eyes, I know you have crazy thoughts swirling around in your brain. You have something already cooking, don’t you?” she asked although it was more of a statement than a question.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Yalen grinned slyly.
Regina got up from her chair. “I don’t think I want to know.”
Yalen leaned forward and smiled. “You probably don’t.”
Regina narrowed her eyes, pretending to glare at Yalen. “You aren’t going to do anything crazy are you?”
Yalen laughed. “Define crazy.”
“You know, tracking her or it down, busting through doors, guns blazing. Throwing her out a window, dangling her by her feet for several minutes in order to extract information,” Regina said, only half-joking.
Yalen frowned. “Now why would you think I would do something like that?”
Regina shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe ‘cause you’re ex-CIA and just ‘cause you became a bestselling author, you never stopped being CIA at heart … and … you still love the rush that comes from the hunt.”
Yalen’s eyebrows shot upward in surprise.
“Don’t give me that look,” Regina said as she leaned her five-foot-five, stocky frame back against the wall. She crossed her arms over her chest. “From the minute I read your first manuscript, I knew you were going to have one helluva career as a writer.” Regina shrugged. “Why do you think I signed on to be your agent?”
“For my good looks,” Yalen laughed.
“Oh, you definitely rank high in that department, honey,” Regina teased and she was right. Yalen was insanely attractive with dark brown eyes and long black hair that stopped just above the middle of her back. At five-foot-eight, she could be quite intimidating if you didn’t know her. “I knew the passion and dedication for your job would always come out in your writing and I was right,” Regina said with a wink.
“Aww, peeshaw,” Yalen said, waving Regina off with her hand.
Regina frowned. “I never did understand the use of that word.”
“It means yeah, right, okay, whatever you say,” Yalen said for clarification.
“Duh, I know what it means. I just think it’s goofy.”
Yalen shrugged. “Yeah, well, I tend to be a little on the goofy side, so I guess it fits.”
“I hate to cut this little chat short but I got things to do, books to pimp, alcohol to drink, women to chase, you know, the regular kinda stuff that my day revolves around,” Regina said as she pushed away from the wall.
“Catch one for me would’ya? I seem to be quite lacking in the women department and my track record is really starting to suck,” Yalen laughed.
“How many times have I told you, you can’t get a woman when all you do is hang out in your house and hide behind your laptop,” Regina said, in exaggerated exasperation as she ran her fingers through her close-cropped, spiky blonde hair.
“Hey, that laptop pays my bills and then some,” Yalen laughed.
“Oh yeah, it pays for mine, too,” Regina grinned, nodding her head. “Seriously though, babe, you need to find yourself a gorgeous woman with a body that just won’t quit and tie her to the bed post.”
Yalen busted out laughing. “Trust me, when I find her, I’m not letting her go. Don’t think I will need to tie her to my bed or anything that drastic.”
Regina let out a loud cat-whistle. “Honey, when she sees you, she’s gonna beg you to tie her to your bedpost.”
Yalen felt her cheeks flush with embarrassment. Sometimes, Regina was just too much.
Regina tapped her index finger against her chin. “Or just maybe when you see her, you’ll be the one doing the begging.”
“Not gonna happen and you need to stop right now,” Yalen said, shaking her head. She glanced at her wristwatch. “Don’t you have a plane to catch or something?”
“Oh yeah, looking forward to that hour’s drive, plus I wanted to stop at the woman’s bookstore I saw in Belle-fon-taine,” she said, enunciating each syllable of the word.
Yalen laughed. “It’s not pronounced like Belle-fon-taine,” she said, enunciating the syllables just like Regina had. “It’s pronounced like Belle-fountain.”
“That’s just crazy. Why not spell the damn word as it’s pronounced then? Our language is so screwed up, no wonder it’s hard to learn. Nothing is spelled as it sounds. Take that little town of Xenia, Ohio, the one where all those tornadoes ripped through back in ‘74. When I first saw that word, I thought it was pronounced like Ex-a-na. Sounds like a damn enema. I swear it makes no sense whatsoever. They make the X sound like a Z and if it sounds like a Z, then damn it, use a Z.”
Yalen laughed. Her eyebrows rose slightly upward as she got up from her chair and came around the desk. “You know, you actually make sense to me right now and that’s a little bit scary.”
“Oh shut-up and give me a hug. I really have to get going,” Regina said, wrapping her arms around Yalen’s shoulder.
Yalen kissed her on the cheek. “Please call me or text just as soon as your plane lands, so I know you made it safely.”
“Yes, mother, and I’ll be sure to brush my teeth and wash behind my ears before I go to bed tonight, too,” Regina laughed as she went out the door.
Yalen stood on her deck watching a pair of gulls that had landed on top of the covered dock that housed her pontoon boat and Jet Ski. She raised her face toward the sky, soaking in the warm rays from the sun as white billowy clouds drifted by.
She loved the view here, loved every part about being on the lake. As a little girl, she had made trips to Indian Lake with her parents and sister at least three times every summer until she went away to college. She had decided that when she was older, she wanted a house here and that’s exactly what she got.
She didn’t have the largest house on Seminole Shore Drive; hers wasn’t even the third largest, and she was perfectly okay with that. Contrary to popular belief, size didn’t matter, at least not to Yalen. She picked up the empty beer bottle sitting on the patio table, slid the back door open, and stepped into the brightly lit kitchen.
She grabbed another bottle of beer from the fridge, twisted off the cap, and tossed it in the wastebasket. She took a drink and then headed back to her office.
She sat down at the desk, flipped open her laptop and waited for it to boot up. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted the document that Regina had tossed onto her desk. “I have to be the biggest idiot on the planet,” she said out loud, picking up the paper that had a copy of the email printed on it.
The email was the catalyst that made her suspicious of the woman she had been conversing online with for over two months. She now understood firsthand why people who were scammed by online dating were reluctant to report it. It was embarrassing as hell and the feelings of stupidity were almost overwhelming.
She was an ex-CIA officer who had been conned by a criminal. All of their conversations, all the things that Emily had shared with Yalen had been a lie. That part was unbearable and unacceptable. Emily had gained Yalen’s trust and she had also shared things with Emily, things she never shared with anyone—she felt violated in the worst way.
She laid the paper down and pulled out her lap drawer. She took out the manila folder that was lying on top. She flipped open the cover and removed a photo that was paper clipped to the inside flap. She looked at the gorgeous blonde staring back at her. “Whoever you are, you’re going to wish you had never met me.” She tossed the photo onto her desk and picked up the email letter. She felt sick to her stomach as she remembered how she had felt when she had first read the words.
“Hello Baby, how are you? I guess you’re enjoying your day! I miss you and i want you know ever since you walked into my life, I have been smiling. There hasn’t been a day when I have gone to sleep with a frown on my face, and it’s all because of you. Honey, I am glad that i found you. I have always wanted the love of my life to be understanding, loving, caring, faithful and most of all someone who would accept me for who I am. Now I have found the person I was looking for. I knew that you were Perfect woman. I don’t think that there is, or there could be, anyone better than you out there for me....I love you with my whole heart. I have never trusted anyone the way I trust you. Sometime I even doubt myself, but I know I will never doubt you because you are my true love. I know deep down inside that you will never break my heart or never let me down in anyway. I love you more now than I ever thought possible....And that love grows each and every day. Every time you make me feel special.” It was signed, love Emily.
Yalen shook her head as she read the email again. She felt a tear run down her cheek. She was so angry with herself for letting her guard down. “How could I have been that goddamned stupid?” she yelled, flinging the paper across the room.
The typos and bad sentence structure had made her suspicious from the very first email Emily had sent but her doubts had been easily wiped away when Emily had confessed that she was hearing-impaired.
Yalen had known in the back of her mind that online dating scams were usually committed by non-English speaking people and one of the biggest red flags that everyone was warned about was the chopped English and bad grammar usage. It made perfect sense to Yalen that someone who was hearing-impaired may not have the best grammar.
“That was brilliant, Emily! Absolutely mind-blowing, fucking brilliant,” Yalen mumbled as she logged onto her email account. “Let’s see what you got for me guys.”
She scanned through her emails, found the two she had been waiting for, and clicked on the first one. It was from Bradley Chilton, a private investigator she had hired in London, England to track down Emily after she discovered that the IP address in the emails that Emily had been sending showed they had all originated in the U.K. This would have made no difference if Emily hadn’t claimed to be an American who supposedly lived in Douglas, Massachusetts.
She shook her head as she read the email.
“Hi, Yalen, I just wanted to touch base. I did some investigating and had my mate who specialises in internet crime take a look. He was able to trace the IP, and just as you suspected, it belongs to an address in London. We don’t have a name for you yet but we do know that all of the emails were sent from a Blackberry. We have an inside contact who informed us that all Blackberry’s are registered to a unique owner through the company here in London, so it’s just a matter of time before we have what you need, and I will ring you just as soon as I have the answers.” It was signed: Cheers, Brad
She clicked on the next email. It was from the other investigator she had hired in Japan.
“Ms. Martinez, using the information you provided, I was able to ascertain that the culinary school is not an international chef school that awards certificates or graduate degrees. The school offers two and four day classes to those who wish to learn about Japanese cuisine. They have no record of Emily Michaels. Using the postal address you provided, I was also able to ascertain that no one by the name of Emily Michaels lives at the address nor has she been in the country. The flight manifest for Delta flight 1542 originating in Boston, Massachusetts, ending in Akita, Japan, contained no passenger by the name of Emily Michaels. If I can be of further assistance, please let me know.” It was signed: Daisuke Miyazaki
She shut the laptop lid. “Why am I not surprised?” She now knew beyond a doubt that Emily Michaels was a fraud and she felt her temper flare.
She picked up the photo and looked at the beautiful woman staring back at her. Whoever she was, she had a smile that was so enchanting, it could derail a train and the eyes, the eyes were the sexiest shade of grey she had ever seen. She could only imagine how they would look if filled with passion and desire—dark and smoky were the words that came to mind.
The woman was a knockout and Yalen had to know who she was. If for no other reason than to warn the woman that her picture was being used to scam lonely lesbians like Yalen out of their money. She laughed at her use of the word, lonely. Is that what she had come to be? She didn’t like the direction her thoughts were heading.
“Okay, so how do you plan on doing that?” She took a long swig from her beer and leaned back in the chair. It was time to think about her next move. After a few minutes, a mischievous grin played at the corners of her mouth. “It’s crazy but it just might work.” She picked her cell phone up off the desk.
“Um … you want us to do what?” Lorna Risotti asked, thinking she had misunderstood.
“You heard me right,” Yalen said, confirming what Lorna thought she heard.
Lorna shook her head. “Are you out of your mind?”
Yalen laughed. “Possibly, but this is what I want you to do. I need to do this, Lorna, because I have to know,” she said and it was the truth. She couldn’t just let this go. She knew herself well enough to know that she would not be able to forget about everything that had happened. It wasn’t in her nature and in order to have some semblance of peace of mind, she needed answers.
Casey Andrews leaned forward and smiled at Lorna. “I think it’s a great idea.”
“You both have lost your cotton picking minds. That’s all there is to it,” Lorna said, shaking her head again.
“Aw come on, Lorna, where’s your sense of adventure? Besides, if it weren’t for you two matchmakers, I wouldn’t be in this position,” Yalen grinned. If laying on the guilt is what it took to get what she wanted, a guilt trip it would be. She leaned back in the recliner and crossed her jean-clad legs at the ankle.
Lorna shook her finger at Yalen. “You can’t blame this on us. It’s your fault we failed repeatedly and we failed because you’re just too damn picky.”
Yalen’s look was incredulous. “Picky? You call me not wanting to date, Mary Louise Razorbak from the traveling carnival, picky. Or how about Precious, ‘Oh, my god’ LaRue, the bubble gum popping bimbo you met at Red Lobster? Or how about—”
Lorna held her hand up to stop Yalen. “Okay, okay, I get the picture and in my defense, you have to admit that they were all hot looking chicks and for the record you’re still too damn picky.”
Yalen laughed. “And how many times do I have to tell you that looks aren’t everything. I care more about what’s in her mind, not what’s under her clothing.”
“You’re still too picky,” Lorna chuckled.
Yalen shrugged. “So, are you gonna do it for me?”
“Of course we are,” Casey said, sliding closer to Lorna. She picked up Lorna’s hand and kissed the palm.
Yalen looked at her two best friends. She loved them both dearly. They were more than just her friends; they were also her marketing and public relations reps and had been since the moment her first book had been released.
They were lovers and they jointly owned the L & C Advertising Agency in Columbus, Ohio. They specialized in company ads for brand-name products and Yalen had been the first author they had created a marketing campaign for, and a very successful one it had been.
Yalen wanted a love like they had. The two women were as opposite as opposites could be. Lorna was a little on the butch side, loud and stocky at five-foot-nine with short, sandy-colored hair. Casey was five-two and petite with long auburn hair and bright green eyes.
Their differences complemented each other and the chemistry between them was unbelievable. It obviously worked for them, since they had been together for thirteen years.
Lorna sighed. “I guess I’m out-voted then,” she said, looking first at Yalen and then Casey.
“Yes, you are honey,” Casey smiled and then kissed Lorna softly on the lips.
“Okay, so what’s the plan then?” Yalen asked.
Lorna leaned forward on the couch and laced her fingers together. “It will take us a few days but the first thing we will do is create the ad and submit it to the major newspapers. We should probably put one in a few of the papers in London as well just in case your girl is a local.”
“While she’s working on that, I will make arrangements to get placement on the billboards,” Casey said.
“What can I do?” Yalen asked. Now that she had their support, she was feeling much better about this scheme of hers.
Casey reached down and picked up the photo of Emily off of the coffee table. “She’s gorgeous. I can see how this pic turned your head,” she said, looking at Yalen.
“Yes, she is,” Yalen agreed.
“Do you have a few more?” Casey asked.
Yalen nodded. “I have several that she sent me. In one, she’s with an older man that she claimed was her father, and it looks like it was taken around Christmas because there are cards taped to the door behind them. I have another one where she’s standing, holding her dog.”
Lorna glanced at the photo Casey was holding. “So, do you think this person may be American?”
Yalen shrugged. Right now, she wasn’t sure of anything but she intended to find out. “I honestly don’t know. Whoever she is, she’s very good at this and I can only imagine how many women she’s conned. Everything I thought I knew about online dating scams went out the window with her. I mean, she uses real photos, not the standard photoshopped perfect pics of models that most scammers use.”
“Well, with a ten-thousand dollar reward for the woman’s identity being offered, I fully expect to be swamped with phone calls,” Casey said.
“I sure hope so,” Yalen said as she stood up from her chair. “How long do you think it will take before we get some results?”
“Today’s Sunday, so I would say we can have everything in place by the end of the week. How soon we get a response will depend on how quickly someone out there recognizes your girl or the man in the photo,” Lorna answered.
“I know it’s a long shot but it’s all I have to go on right now,” Yalen said. If this didn’t work, she had no idea what her next course of action would be but identifying the woman in the pics Emily had sent was her number one priority.
“Okay boss, my stomach’s growling, so how about those grilled steaks you promised?” Casey asked with a grin.
Yalen shook her head as she looked at Casey. She might be small, but she had an appetite of someone three times her size. “Do you ever think about anything other than food?” she asked and then laughed as Casey pretended to be offended by pouting her lips and making a face.
“I can vouch that she most definitely thinks about other things besides food,” Lorna said with a wink, causing Casey’s cheeks to redden.
“Knock it off or I’ll cut you off,” Casey teased back.
“Yeah, right,” Lorna said and rolled her eyes.
“Time for me to exit,” Yalen laughed as she left the family room and headed for the kitchen.
“What am I going to do?” Emily asked as she paced back and forth in front of the couch. For someone born in the Ukraine, she spoke impeccable English.
“You got yourself into fucking mess. Your fucking problem, not mine,” Karzi Borovsky said in chopped English with a thick Russian accent.
Emily stopped pacing and turned to look at the man sitting on the couch. He looked like a miniature version of a bulldog with a thin, black moustache. “She’s not like the others. She’s going to come after me and I know it.”
“Stupid fucking bitches, how many times I told you not get attached to mark?” he yelled, his voicing rising in anger.
“I tried not to, Karzi, and I know I should have ended it before she figured it out.” Emily had told herself that many times since the day Yalen had confronted her. She had made too many mistakes where the author was concerned. She had gotten too close but she couldn’t help herself. She had begun to have feelings for Yalen and the second that happened she should have ended everything.
She normally didn’t get attached to her marks, she stayed indifferent. In her mind, she made them seem as if they were inhuman. It was the only way she could do what she does. These women were just objects that provided an end to a means and that means was money—it was always about money and how much she could get.
Yalen was different though. She was kind and caring and extremely beautiful, and very talented. Although she had never told Yalen, she had secretly ordered all five of the author’s books and loved them all. Yalen had a great sense of humor that made Emily laugh when she was having a bad day. She had made so many mistakes with Yalen and now she was scared. She knew from their many conversations that Yalen was an intelligent and confident woman who wouldn’t take kindly to being scammed.
Karzi stood up and brushed his hands down the front of the suit jacket he was wearing. “Vlad be very angry with mess. Pray mark of yours not follows through with threats.”
“Fuck Vlad,” Emily mumbled under her breath but Karzi heard it.
Karzi shook his finger at Emily. “Word like that get fucking ass killed,” he warned. He walked over to the door and jerked it open. He turned and looked at her. “I don’t care of details.” He pointed his finger at her. “Handle and do quietly. I don’t want be one who tell Vlad how bad you fucked this.” He then left, slamming the door shut behind him before Emily could respond.
“What am I going to do?” Emily said and begun pacing again. “First thing is to get the hell out of here.” She stopped pacing and went to her bedroom, opened the closet door, and took out her suitcase.
In Yalen’s last email, she had told Emily that she was coming after her and she knew it wasn’t a matter of if, but a matter of when. It was a confrontation she wanted no part of. She would go underground, leave the country until things cooled off and hopefully, Yalen Martinez would forget she had ever met her. At least she hoped so, for her sake as much as Yalen’s.
She really did care about Yalen and didn’t want to see her get hurt. If Yalen followed through with her threats, she would unknowingly be putting her life in danger. Vladimir Lebedev wasn’t someone to mess with and if his business interests came under fire, he wouldn’t hesitate to have Yalen killed—everyone was replaceable and dispensable.