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Elusive Promise

Elusive Promise

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"Wonderfully intense, breath-catching action, Barbara Freethy keeps getting better and better." R.J. – Goodreads on ELUSIVE PROMISE


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"Elusive Promise is a thrilling tale of dangerous love, heart-stopping action and haunting mind games" Isha C. - Goodreads

When tragedy strikes an engagement party, Special Agent Parisa Maxwell becomes the sole survivor and the only witness to a kidnapping and the theft of a legendary diamond. With her friend now missing, Parisa makes a promise to save the other woman, no matter the cost.

Jared MacIntyre's entire life is a carefully cultivated set of lies. He wasn't looking for the beautiful brunette when he ventured into the private rooms at the consulate, but he couldn't ignore the woman fighting for her life. Now their lives are inexplicably intertwined. The kidnapping and theft may be part of a bigger, deadlier plot—one that he's on a mission to stop before someone else he loves ends up dead.

Two strangers, each with their own secrets. Two strangers who never expected to find love amidst the danger. Two strangers who will have to take the ultimate risk: trust each other—or lose everything.

Secrets, espionage, and foreign terrorism make unexpected allies in this action-packed romantic suspense from #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Barbara Freethy. For fans of Catherine Coulter, Melinda Leigh, Sandra Brown, Toni Anderson, and Nora Roberts!

What the readers are saying…

a fast paced read which has so many twists to it you don't want to put the book down until you know who took Jasmine, who wants to kill Parisa, and who Jared really is. Once again Barbara Freethy does not disappoint her readers and leaves you counting the days to the next FBI Off the Grid 5th book." Patricia – Goodreads

"Ms Freethy is a genius when it comes to character development, and these two were perfectly imperfect and as a reader you just fall in love with them. Can’t wait for the next book!" Claire – Goodreads on ELUSIVE PROMISE

"Grab a drink, find a comfortable reading nook, and 
get immersed in this fast paced, realistic, romantic thriller! 5 STARS!" Perrin – Goodreads on ELUSIVE PROMISE

Chapter One

The last time Parisa Maxwell had been at a consulate party she'd been sixteen, and she'd spent the evening peeking around a heavy, thick curtain, looking at all the beautiful, powerful people sipping champagne and speaking in a half-dozen different languages. That party had been on the other side of the world, at the US embassy in Bezikstan, a small country tucked between Nepal and Bangladesh on India's northeastern border. 

Her stepfather, Harry Drummond, had served as the ambassador to Bezikstan for almost three years, and she'd loved living in the mountainous and mostly peaceful country. While she'd been a teenager, listening to the music and imagining a time where she'd be one of the guests at the party, she'd had no idea of the chaos and terror that would soon follow. 

Her body tightened at the memory. It had been fifteen years, but that night was forever imprinted on her brain. 

However, there was no reason to be nervous now. This evening was not about world political events, but rather personal ones. The consul general of Bezikstan, Raj Kumar, was hosting an engagement party for his daughter Jasmine at the consulate in New York City, which was located in a three-story building just a block away from Central Park. 

She'd been a little surprised to get an invitation to the party. Her relationship with the Kumars had ended years ago. She assumed she'd been invited now because of her stepfather's relationship with Raj Kumar, which had continued after they'd left Bezikstan, and the fact that a very long time ago Jasmine and her sister Anika had been her classmates and her best friends.

She wished her mother and stepfather could have attended the party with her, but they were at a yoga retreat. It was up to her to represent the family, and it wasn't a terrible chore; she was actually looking forward to seeing the Kumars again. Since her assignment in San Francisco had recently ended, she had time for a short vacation, and one that was very much needed. 

She'd been moving at breakneck speed for years, and she didn't know how to shift into a lower gear, but she might need to find that gear soon, because with each engagement party she attended, she was reminded that her whole life was work, and that might not be the healthiest way to live. 

She accepted a glass of champagne from a nearby waiter and looked around the crowded foyer. She didn't immediately recognize anyone, but she was only in the outer reception area. The family was probably in the living room. 

Despite the happy occasion, she still couldn't quite shake the feeling that she needed to be on her toes. She'd spent the last four years working as an FBI agent, and she never went anywhere without subconsciously noting every detail: the security at the entrances and exits, anyone who looked out of place, a subtle movement, someone watching instead of participating. Being acutely aware of her surroundings was a hard habit to break, but she needed to take a breath and just relax, enjoy the party. 

She'd only taken a few steps forward when she heard her name called. 

Whirling around, she saw the beautiful and exotically pretty Anika Kumar, who at thirty-one, was the same age as herself, but much more sophisticated. While they both wore black dresses, Anika's cocktail dress was much shorter and glittered under the lights. Her dark-brown hair was cut short and angled, framing her oval face, which was expertly made up, highlighting her red lips and dark eyes. 

"Parisa, it is so good to see you," Anika said.

"You, too. You look amazing, Anika." The thin girl with the long, gangly legs and arms had grown up to be a spectacularly pretty woman.

Anika smiled in a way that told Parisa she was very much aware of her beauty. And then they exchanged a brief, airy hug.

"How long has it been?" Anika asked. 

"Fifteen years."

"I can't believe it. How are you? What are you doing now? I think I heard you were working for the state department." 

That was the cover she'd been using since she'd left Quantico. It fit her background and was vague enough not to generate many questions. It also afforded her an easy opportunity to move in international circles with little scrutiny. 

"Yes," she said. "I work as a translator." 

"You were always good at languages." 

"What about you?"

"I'm working at WNN as an associate producer for the show: Around the World with Bill Haskins."

"Really? That sounds amazing." The renowned and intrepid foreign correspondent Bill Haskins hosted an hour-long segment on cable news, featuring important world events, and he often went to remote and sometimes dangerous locations to get the story. "Do you travel with him?"

"I wish. Hopefully, some day. But it's actually fine that I'm stuck here in the city for now, since there will be a lot of planning required for Jasmine's wedding. With her marrying Westley Larimer, heir to the Larimer fortune, the wedding will be an event."

"How long have they been together?"

"Only three months, but Jasmine is head over heels in love, and Westley feels the same way."

"I'm happy for her, but that is fast."

"Jasmine says when you know, you know," Anika said, with a touch of sarcasm in her voice. 

"Well, I wouldn't know," she said with a laugh. 

"Neither would I," Anika agreed. "And I'm enjoying my single life. I'm sure you are as well."


"Have you seen my parents yet? They were really happy that you reached out to them."

"Reached out?" she echoed in surprise. 

Before Anika could reply, she was distracted by a young woman wearing a conservative gray skirt and blazer, probably a staffer of some sort. 

"Excuse me," Anika said, giving Parisa an apologetic smile. "I have to attend to something. Please enjoy yourself. Who knows? You might find yourself a handsome billionaire here. Westley invited many of his friends."

"That would be something," she murmured.

After Anika left, she made her way into the living room. The Kumars were standing in front of a massive stone fireplace, with a fire blazing behind them. It was early January, and the temperature outside was in the forties, with slushy, dirty snow lingering from a midweek snowstorm, but this room was warm and cozy.

Raj Kumar was a tall, lean man, whose once black hair was now pepper gray. His wife Kenisha was almost a foot shorter than her husband with brown hair, dark eyes and generous curves that were quite visible in her coral-colored silk dress. Both of them looked extremely happy as they chatted with their friends.

Since the Kumars were surrounded by people, she decided to wait a bit before approaching them. As she glanced around the room in search of the bride-to-be, her gaze caught on a man who was watching her in a way that set off an internal alarm. 

He was quite attractive in a black suit with a white dress shirt and dark-maroon tie. His hair was dark brown and wavy, a little longer than a businessman might wear. His face was square, his features rugged, but clean shaven. She couldn't tell the color of his eyes, but they were light—maybe blue or green. His mouth had a cocky set to it that matched his confident stance, and while she could find nothing at all wrong with his appearance—in fact, there was quite a lot she liked about it—his gaze bothered her. 

Then he smiled, and a shiver ran down her spine. She felt suddenly nervous, excited, with a knot in her throat. Why? Because a handsome man had smiled at her? She really needed to think about working on her social life. 

She was just so often not herself when she was at a party like this. She'd forgotten what it was like just to flirt, without working some hidden agenda.  

The man lifted his champagne glass in her direction, and she found herself doing the same. But despite their connection, he made no move in her direction.

She wondered who he was. He could be a friend of the groom-to-be, Westley Larimer. He appeared to be in the same age range—early thirties—and he had a look of wealth and sophistication about him. 


She turned quickly at the sound of a familiar male voice and saw a tall, gray-haired man in his early sixties. It was Vincent Rowland, former FBI agent and father of Jamie Rowland, a fellow trainee at Quantico, who had tragically died during a training exercise. "Mr. Rowland, what are you doing here?" she asked in surprise. 

She'd met Vincent on several occasions and had attended a memorial for Jamie the previous year. Vincent had always been friendly and charming, but there was also something about the man that bothered her. She just couldn't put her finger on it. 

"Westley Larimer is my godson," he explained. 

"Really? I had no idea."

"I was in his parents' wedding. Phillip and I have been friends for a very long time, and I've known Westley since he was born. What about you? What brings you to this engagement party? I didn't realize you were working out of New York."

"I'm not. I just came for the party." 

"Do you know Westley?"

"No, I know his fiancée, Jasmine. I was actually just looking for her. Have you seen her?" She looked around the room, hoping to catch sight of Jasmine, but her gaze fell once again on the mysterious stranger. He didn't smile at her this time. Instead, he turned and walked toward the line for the bar. 

"There is the happy couple now," Vincent said.

Following his gaze, she saw Jasmine and her fiancé walk into the room, holding hands. Jasmine wore a light-blue silk dress and had long brown hair that almost reached her waist, a petite frame, big brown eyes, and a rather fair complexion compared to the rest of her family. 

Westley Larimer was a big guy, at least a few inches over six feet, with a long, lean build. He had dark-blond, short hair and rather plain features that were made more attractive by the smile on his face and the beaming pride in the woman at his side. 

As Parisa's gaze dropped to their locked hands, she was almost blinded by the enormous diamond on Jasmine's finger. It had to be fifteen carats—at least. It was then she noticed the two men in dark suits flanking the couple, looking very much like well-dressed security guards.

"That ring is spectacular," she murmured, glancing at Vincent.

"A very rare and perfect blue diamond, 16.6 carats, worth around fifty million dollars. It has been hidden away for many years, however, because of the curse."

"The curse?" she asked doubtfully.

A gleam entered his eyes. "You're not a believer in curses?"

"No, I'm not."

"Well, apparently neither is Westley. He has been quite eager to give the diamond to his bride-to-be."

"What is the alleged curse?"

"I don't know the details, but the diamond is passed to the bride of the first son of each generation, and some of those brides did not live happy lives."

"Westley's mother seems to be fine."

"Ah, but she never wore the diamond. She was too afraid of the curse."

Vincent paused as Jasmine and Westley stopped in the center of the room. The crowd grew quiet. Westley accepted a hand-held microphone from one of the consulate staff members. 

"I want to thank everyone for coming," he said, with a welcoming smile. "Jasmine and I are eager to celebrate the official beginning of our lives together at this lovely engagement party thrown by her generous and wonderful parents, Raj and Kenisha Kumar, and her sister Anika."

The Kumars nodded as the guests gave them an appreciative round of applause.

"I'd also like to thank my parents—Phillip and Grace Larimer—and my siblings: Jonathan and Holly," Westley added, tipping his head toward his family, who were standing quite close to the Kumars. Then he turned his gaze on Jasmine. "I am the luckiest man in the world. The day Jasmine agreed to be my wife will always be the best day of my life. We come from very different worlds, across several continents, but miraculously we found our way to each other. I'd like to make a toast. To my future wife—Jasmine." He raised his glass.

"To Jasmine," the crowd echoed. 

Parisa clinked her glass against Vincent's and then with a few other people in the immediate vicinity.

"Now, please," Westley continued, drawing the attention of the crowd back to him. "Enjoy yourselves. Eat, drink, talk. We hope to speak with each and every one of you before the night is over." 

Westley finished his statement by giving Jasmine a loving kiss, and then the couple walked over to her parents. 

Parisa was a little disappointed that Jasmine hadn't said a word, but Westley clearly had a strong personality, and Jasmine had grown up in a culture that kept women in the background. 

"I'm going to speak to the Larimers," Vincent said. "If you'll excuse me."

"Of course." As Vincent left, she smiled in delight at another face from her past. "Mr. Langdon?" The blond-haired British man with the sharply intelligent brown eyes had taught at the school she'd gone to in Bezikstan. 

"Parisa Maxwell? I thought that was you," he replied. 

"I can't believe you remember me."

"One of my best language students, as I recall, and one who liked to speak her mind."

"Too much sometimes. How are you? Are you still teaching?"

"Yes. I moved to the university in Bezikstan about six years ago. But this year I'm actually a guest professor at Everly College, where my son Ben is a student."

"Ben is old enough to be in college?"

"Yes, he's twenty-one now. He goes to school at Everly, where Jasmine teaches economics. They've become very close. She's like his big sister." Neil tipped his head toward a line by the bar. "That's Ben in the blue suit."

Seeing the skinny male with the dark hair and short beard, she didn't even recognize the child she'd babysat a very long time ago. "He's all grown up." 

"Time flies." He gave his son a wave, catching Ben's attention. 

Ben got out of line and came over to join them. 

"Ben, this is Parisa Maxwell. She used to watch you a long time ago when she lived at the embassy with her parents."

Ben gave her a guarded smile, but it was clear he didn't remember her. "Nice to see you again."

"Don't worry if you can't remember me. You were barely five when I saw you last," she said with a laugh. 

He tipped his head. "Then I won't feel bad. Would either of you like a drink? I was just going to get one."

"I'm fine," she said.

"Nothing for me," Neil replied.

As Ben left, she said, "Your son is very handsome. He looks like Elizabeth. Is your wife here?"

"Somewhere, and, yes, Ben does look like her, which is fine with me. She's the pretty one." 

She smiled at his affectionate words. She'd always thought the Langdons had a great marriage. "I hope to have a chance to speak to her tonight."

"I'm sure you will. Are your parents here as well?" 

"Unfortunately, no. I am the sole representative of the family tonight."

"Well, I'm glad you could make it."

"As am I," a woman cut in. 

She smiled as the bride-to-be joined them. "Jasmine. You look beautiful."

Jasmine opened her arms, and they exchanged a hug that was much warmer than the one she'd shared with Anika.

"I can't believe it's you, Parisa." Jasmine shook her head in amazement. "You're stunning."

"So are you. I'm very happy for you. You must be incredibly excited."

"It's hard to put into words." 

"I'll let you girls chat," Neil said. "I know you and Parisa haven't seen each other in a very long time."

"Maybe we'll speak again later," Parisa told him.

"I'd like that. I'd love to hear about your life now."

"Of course."

"I would like to know about your life, too," Jasmine added, as Neil walked away. 

"Believe me, your life is far more interesting than mine. When is the wedding?" 

"June. It's a wonderful thing that has happened—love finally found me." 

Jasmine's words took Parisa back in time, to a question they'd asked each other as teenage girls—when will love ever find us? "Yes, it did. You're lucky."

"We used to wonder all the time when it would happen, how it would happen. Remember?" Jasmine asked. "All the times we talked about boys and our futures?"

"I do." But she'd never really expected love to find her. She wasn't a passive person by nature. She didn’t like to wait for things to come to her; she preferred to go out and get them. Unfortunately, so far, love—real, everlasting love—had eluded her.

Jasmine glanced toward the two very obtrusive security guards, who were standing nearby. "I feel like everyone is watching us. I heard you wanted to speak to me, and I really want to hear what you have to say. It's been so long since we've spoken. Shall we go upstairs?"

"I'd love a few minutes, but are you sure you can leave the party?"

"It will be going on for hours. And you are my dear friend from so long ago." Jasmine glanced over her shoulder and spoke to the older of the two men. "My friend and I will be going upstairs for a few minutes." 

The man nodded, and they were escorted through the crowded room, into the hallway, and past a guard posted at the bottom of the grand staircase. 

They made their way up to the third floor and into a luxurious bedroom. At first impression, everything seemed white or pink, from the king-sized bed with a dozen soft pink and lavender pillows, to a white love seat by the window with more pillows, an ornate dresser with matching silver mirror, and thick plush carpeting. 

As the door closed behind them, with the guards on the other side, Jasmine blew out a breath of relief and sat down on the couch, then moved an overnight duffel bag from the sofa to the coffee table so Parisa could sit next to her. 

"This is actually a nice break," Jasmine said. 

She suddenly realized that there was more stress in Jasmine's eyes than joy. "Are you all right, Jasmine?"

"All of this is—it's a lot. When I saw how many people were here, I almost couldn't breathe. And this ring…" Jasmine held up her hand. "Ever since Westley put this on my finger, I've felt like my world is spinning."

She leaned in to take a closer look. The blue diamond was sheer perfection: the rectangular cut, the clarity, the sparkle. "I've never seen a diamond this big or this blue."

"It's one of a kind. It has been in the Larimer family for two hundred years."

"That's a long time."

Jasmine licked her lips. "Westley's mother Grace told me I should refuse to take it. She said it's cursed, and that Westley's grandmother, who wore the ring at her wedding, died in childbirth a year later. Apparently, there were other tragedies before that. Grace told Phillip she'd never wear it, so it's been sitting in a vault for a very long time."

"I'm sure that sad event didn't have anything to do with the ring." 

"That's what Westley told me. He said it's silly for this magnificent diamond to be hidden away, and that he wants it to be a symbol of how big our love is. How could I say no to such a romantic gesture?"  

She smiled. "You couldn't."

"I know. I'm acting crazy. I'll only be wearing it a few times a year. Westley is having a much smaller, but still beautiful, diamond ring made for me to wear every day. Anyway, enough about rings. How are you, Parisa?" 

"I'm great."

"I had no idea you were here in New York."

"I'm not actually here. I came for the party."

"Oh…I guess I didn't understand. You work for the state department, though, right? You followed in your stepfather's footsteps."

"Yes. I'm putting my language skills to good use. What about you?" She was more eager to learn about Jasmine than to talk about herself.

"I'm a professor of economics at Everly College, or at least, I was—I quit at the end of the fall semester. Once Westley asked me to marry him, I realized how many events he has to go to, and how much traveling he does for work. Westley is a vice president at Larimer Enterprises. He needs a wife who can travel with him and help him entertain and truly be his partner. I wouldn't be able to do that with a full-time job."  

"That makes sense." 

A shadow passed through Jasmine's eyes. "Does it? Sometimes I wonder if I'm giving up who I am to be a part of who Westley is. Am I surrendering my life for his? I guess that's what marriage is. My mother certainly became my father's most ardent supporter. He has changed jobs many times, and she has always been there to do whatever he needed her to do. And they're happy, at least, most of the time."

She didn't really know what to say. She was surprised to hear the doubts in Jasmine's voice. "I'm not an expert on relationships or marriage, so I'm not in a position to hand out advice, but I think you should talk to Westley about your concerns. I'm sure he wants to make you happy as much as you want to make him happy."

"He is very devoted. I never really thought anyone could love me as much as he does, but he tells me all the time how wonderful I am. He truly swept me off my feet." She paused. "Is there a man in your life, Parisa?"

"Not at the moment."

Jasmine gave her a disbelieving look. "I can't believe that. Look at you. Are you too picky?"

"Quite possibly," she said with a laugh. "I also work a lot. I travel. I'm busy. And I'm happy."

"That's good. I've thought of you often over the years. We never really got to say a formal good-bye—at least not in person. The letters were great, but they weren't the same. Anika and I both missed you terribly after you had to leave. We were so excited when we heard you wanted to reconnect tonight."

She blinked in confusion as Jasmine's words echoed those her sister had said earlier. "What do you mean?"

Before Jasmine could reply, a heavy scent blew into the room. 

She coughed as she looked toward the vent and saw thick, swirling air coming through the slats. Instinctively, she put a hand over her mouth. 

"What is that smell?" Jasmine asked, getting to her feet. Then she suddenly swayed and sank to the floor. 

She got up to help Jasmine but found herself tumbling to the ground, feeling light-headed and dizzy. She covered her mouth and nose with her fingers and tried not to breathe. Something was terribly wrong. 

The bedroom door opened, and she was relieved, thinking the guards were coming to rescue them. 

But as two pairs of men's shoes rushed by her, they seemed—wrong. One man was wearing black Nike's; the other had on brown boots. 

She tried to lift her head, to say something, but she couldn't move. She felt paralyzed. Someone kicked her leg. She didn't know why. She tried to see but realized her eyes were closed. She was sinking into oblivion, and she willed herself to keep fighting, because if she fell asleep, she didn't think she would ever wake up.

THE FBI SERIES takes readers on thrilling, romantic, and suspenseful adventures! While an overarching mystery plays out over the first five novels, every story stands completely on its own and there are no cliffhangers!

The books feature complex and exciting storylines ranging from kidnapping to organized crime, terrorism, and espionage. Personal stories often play out against a bigger, broader storyline, and surprising twists will keep you up all night. You'll love these intricately plotted romantic suspense novels! Start reading today!


  • Perilous Trust #1
  • Reckless Whisper #2
  • Desperate Play #3
  • Elusive Promise #4
  • Dangerous Choice #5
  • Ruthless Cross #6
  • Critical Doubt #7
  • Fearless Pursuit #8
  • Daring Deception #9
  • Risky Bargain #10
  • Perfect Target #11
  • Fatal Betrayal #12
  • Deadly Trap #13