Exclusive Excerpt from SAY IT AGAIN by Catherine Bybee

Say It Again by Catherine Bybee

SAY IT AGAIN by Catherine Bybee–Exclusive Excerpt!

Protector-for-hire Sasha Budanov is accustomed to life as a loner. Always on the move, she’s now reached a crossroad. Looking for answers about her shadowy youth, she’s returned to the strict boarding school in Germany where she was raised. It’s also where she was trained in the stealthy, militarized art of survival. But behind its gleaming gates, Richter is a fortress of secrets, including those buried in Sasha’s mysterious past. To uncover them, she’s clinging to her first rule of defense: stay guarded.


Say It Again by Catherine Bybee

Title: Say it Again

Author: Catherine Bybee

Release Date: September 24, 2019

Publisher: Montlake

Protector-for-hire Sasha Budanov is accustomed to life as a loner. Always on the move, she’s now reached a crossroad. Looking for answers about her shadowy youth, she’s returned to the strict boarding school in Germany where she was raised. It’s also where she was trained in the stealthy, militarized art of survival. But behind its gleaming gates, Richter is a fortress of secrets, including those buried in Sasha’s mysterious past. To uncover them, she’s clinging to her first rule of defense: stay guarded.

If anyone can challenge Sasha’s rules, it’s devilishly sexy stranger AJ Hofmann. He wants answers, too. And he needs Sasha’s help. The recent deaths of several of Richter’s former students—including AJ’s own sister—have aroused his suspicions. He’s arousing something more in Sasha. Never one to surrender to her emotions, she senses something tempting in AJ. She trusts him. He’s fearless. And he kisses like a demon. Sasha’s found her match.

But treading Richter’s dark halls—and following their hearts—has its risks. As the decades-old secrets of the past are mined, Sasha and AJ are falling deeper in love . . . and into danger.

Exclusive Excerpt:

The chair on his right scraped against the floor, drawing him out of his thoughts, and Sex on a Stick turned it around and straddled it like a man. 

His mouth went dry. 

Her hair was pulled back in a single ponytail. Eyes framed with eyeliner she didn’t need and full lips painted red. 

He ignored the stirring in his jeans and cleared his throat. “Where did you come from?” 

“There’s more than one entrance.” 

He glanced behind the bar. “You came in through the kitchen?” 

“You must be new.” 

AJ scooted his chair closer and tried to keep their conversation to just the two of them. “What’s your name?” 

She lifted her chin, waited a beat. “You can call me Sasha.” 

“Is that your name?” 

“Sometimes.” 

Damn, she was a piece of work. “I wasn’t sure you’d call.” 

She looked at his glass, took her time moving those dark eyes to him. “What are you drinking?”

He pushed the warm beer aside. “Whatever you want.” 

Sasha flagged down a waitress and ordered in German. AJ had no idea what. 

Much as he liked to watch her, AJ wasn’t there on a social visit. “Did you find out—” 

Sasha leaned forward and stopped his question by placing one long finger on his lips. Her eyes followed her fingertip as it slid off his lips and rested under his chin. She drew him close until their lips were a breath apart. 

His entire frame tightened. 

“First things first.” Her eyes looked at his lips. The tip of her tongue licked a tiny portion of her upper lip. 

All the energy inside his brain traveled south. He’d seen this before. Smoky woman in a bar enticing a man . . . right before she slips his car keys or wallet into her purse. AJ was pretty sure he’d taught that move to a couple of his friends in Florida. 

Only his car keys were in his front pocket, and his wallet was outside of Sasha’s reach. 

She leaned back when the waitress set a bottle of vodka on the table with two glasses. 

“You’re serious?” AJ asked, looking at the liquor and then her. 

“I told you I was thirsty.” She opened the bottle and poured a generous portion into each glass. “Cheers.” 

“I didn’t come here to get drunk.”

Sasha picked up the glass. “Then don’t.” She finished her drink with one swallow. 

He picked up the drink and followed her lead. The liquid burned the back of his throat like a trail of fire. 

For the first time, she smiled. “What I need to know, Alex, is if you simply got better at breaking the rules or if you stopped breaking them altogether.” 

AJ cleared his throat. “You looked me up.” 

“A stranger goes out of his way to follow me home under the guise of concern for his family and I’m supposed to take his word as gospel? Of course I looked you up.” 

He supposed when she put it like that . . . “Both. I got better, and then stopped.” 

She poured another shot for each of them, took her time sipping her second round. “Why don’t I believe you?” 

“Which part . . . better or stopped?” 

She kept silent. 

“I got caught. And since my goal had been to gain the attention of my father, and that was never going to happen unless I followed his political path, I decided to follow the rules.” 

“Your dedication to your version of the truth is admirable.” Her accent hit every r a little harder. She was calling him a liar in the best possible way. 

AJ sat back in his chair, lifted the vodka to his lips. He knew damn well his day job hadn’t followed him to Europe, or anywhere, for that matter.

Sasha was speculating. 

“Your father, Alex Senior. US ambassador to Germany back when Amelia was at Richter.” 

“You did look into her.” 

“I looked into you. I knew Amelia. Remembered why she was at Richter to begin with.” 

Now they were getting somewhere. “She was killed as an adult. There shouldn’t have been any threat for her safety, especially after my father left Germany and took a position on the Democratic campaign trail.” 

“Political affiliations are always targets.” 

“For my father, maybe, but not his adult daughter working with the UN . . .” 

Noise from a nearby party grew louder. 

“Executions of political families receive plenty of police attention. What do you think you can do or find out that they can’t?” 

“They aren’t looking here. One death in Europe six weeks ago and Amelia’s one month ago. They said they aren’t related.” 

Sasha put back another shot of vodka, looked at his glass. 

He wasn’t sure of the test she was giving, but holding his liquor came easy. They finished their second round and poured a third. 

She leaned forward, wiped her bottom lip with her thumb. “You were caught stealing your neighbor’s car. Maybe someone was angry at you for taking something that didn’t belong to you.”

So they were back to him. “I was a minor.” 

“You’re not a minor now.” 

He expected the same questions from the police, only they never happened. That was how good he was at what he did. 

The fact Sasha knew about his record proved she was good at what she did. 

“This isn’t about me.” He’d run through that idea so many times his nose bled. 

Sasha skirted her eyes toward the group of people, sat taller, and then looked back to him. “I’m hot.” Without another word, Sasha stood and dropped several euros on the table. 

AJ jumped to his feet and grabbed her hand to keep her from running as they headed for the door. Surprisingly, she didn’t pull away. 

The cold night air snapped against him as they walked away from the light of the bar. AJ stopped in front of his rental car and Sasha positioned herself against the door, her gaze flickering to the bar behind him. With a move he wasn’t expecting, she pulled him close enough to feel the heat of her body against his. Sasha reached up and placed a hand on the side of his face. 

“Who else have you spoken to here about Amelia?” she asked in a voice just above a whisper. 

What the hell was she doing? The warmth of her hand on his cheek distracted him. “Just Lodovica. I’ve hung out in the bar, waiting until I recognized someone from the school.” 

“How did you know to talk to me?” 

One of her hands reached for his hip. 

“The woman you were with. I’ve seen her leave the school, noticed her in the bar, but didn’t think she’d let me buy her a drink.” AJ stopped her hand with his as her palm started to move over him. 

“What are you doing?” 

“You’ve caught the attention of several people in the pub, AJ. And either you’re an exceptional liar, or you’re being followed.” 

“No one knows I’m here.” 

“So you have a fake passport?” 

He blinked a few times. “Why would I need . . . ?” 

“You really are an amateur.” She placed her body flush with his from knees to chest and lifted her lips. “You’re going to kiss me and look at the man by the door.” 

Without any time for thought, Sasha pulled his lips to hers and moved her hands up his back. 

Her breasts pressed against his chest. Pliant, soft lips blew warm air against his. His brain fried. 

“Kiss me back,” she demanded, her lips flat against his. 

AJ looked into the depths of her gaze and grasped the sides of her face. He might not have realized someone was watching them, but he knew how to kiss. He tilted her head and opened his lips against hers. Her tongue darted in and he followed. 

Her kiss was both fire and ice.

Dangerous. 

AJ turned her around and kissed her harder while his eyes searched for a man at the door. 

No one was there. 

He closed his eyes, shifted positions, and kissed her again. Her hands moved over him like smoke, barely there but would leave a scent when she was gone. She lifted her leg alongside his. 

She was good. 

“I don’t see anyone,” he said between kisses. Purposely lingering over her frame and taking full advantage of the position she’d offered him. “Wait.” He captured her head in his hand, bit at her lip, and pretended to scope out the bar a second time. 

He drew away slightly. 

Her lips opened enough for him to know she wanted more. Even if this was nothing but a game to her. He ran a free hand down the length of her. 

Her eyes darkened and it took all he had not to smile. No, he tasted her again, looked behind her shoulder. “No one,” he finally said. 

Sasha looked over his shoulder, and broke their kiss. “He was there a minute ago.” 

Right, sure he was. 

AJ kept his body pinned to hers, her back resting against the car. He ran his thumb over her swollen lips. 

She watched him.

“Anything you want to know about me, you can just ask. You don’t have to steal my wallet to find out.” 

Slowly, she started to smile. Sasha stepped out of his arms, reached inside her boot, and handed him back his possession. “Not as clueless as you first appear.” 

“There was no one in the bar, was there?” 

Her grin faded. “And you’re not wearing a wire.” 

“You’re testing me?” He gritted out the question. 

“Trust no one. Richter taught me and your sister that.” 

He closed the distance between them, flattened his body against hers once again. Any amusement he may have had on his face a moment ago was now gone. He felt the anger pulling at his gut. “My sister obviously forgot that lesson and now she’s dead. I don’t have time for games, Sasha. Every day that passes makes the trail to her killer colder. I don’t have to be a cop or a graduate of whatever kind of military school Richter is to figure that out.” 

“Get. Off. Me.” 

He narrowed his eyes. “Quite a change of tune from a moment ago.” 

She shifted her weight, clueing him in at the last second to what was coming. Her knee came up, and AJ doubled over and grabbed his junk. 

Sasha pushed away. “Good luck in your search, Mr. Hofmann.”

AJ leaned against his car, caught his breath as her footsteps faded. 

He yanked open his car door and slid behind the wheel. Halfway back to his hotel, he removed Sasha’s cell phone from his back pocket. 

He knew he’d see her again.

 

Catherine BybeeNew York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee has written thirty books that collectively have sold more than five million copies and been translated into more than eighteen languages. Raised in Washington State, Bybee moved to Southern California in the hope of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Not Quite Series, the Weekday Brides Series, the Most Likely To Series, and the First Wives Series. For more information, visit www.catherinebybee.com.

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