BY: NANA PRAH
The last thing she expects is to fall in love with a prison guard…
Hotshot Secret Service Agent, Sarita Cerez is thrown into a medium security prison—for work. Her job is to protect the daughter of the president of South Korea. She never envisioned making friends with illegal immigrants or falling head over heels for one of the guards. Now the clandestine activity, which is integral to protecting her charge, may destroy her only chance at love.
He’s never fraternized with the inmates—until he met her…
Matthew Carter always plays by the rules, which includes maintaining a strictly professional relationship with the inmates in his charge. But when Sarita saunters onto the unit, all bets are off. Her status as a deportee with a permanent ticket to Columbia means they can never be together, but try as he might, this doesn’t stop him from risking his career for her.
He’s a man who values honesty above all else, and she lies for a living. Can two people from such different worlds find any common ground?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Love Undercover by Nana Prah, Sarita Cerez is a secret service agent who goes undercover in an ICE prison facility to protect the daughter of the President of South Korea who stays in the US after her visa expires. The girl’s father wants her taught a lesson, but of course they can’t just stick in prison without protection. While in the slammer, Sarita falls hard for one of the guards, Matt, who values honesty above all else. So their relationship is doomed from the beginning, since Sarita has lied to him from the moment they met. Of course, the fact that he thinks she’s being deported doesn’t help matters any.
Unlike Prah’s first book, Love Through Time, Love Undercover isn’t a paranormal romance or even a romantic suspense. What it is, however, is a charming, heartwarming, and fun romance, full of complications, delightful characters, and lighthearted entertainment. It’s a refreshing change of pace from all the dark paranormal romances that have been coming out recently.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Love Undercover by Nana Prah is a worthy addition to this new author’s credit. The story is sweet—there’s no sex scenes, but hey, you can’t have everything—and features a young Latino woman, Sarita, who is a secret service agent. While she normally doesn’t work undercover, the service needs someone to pose as a Colombian immigrant being deported so that she can act as protection for a young dignitary while the girl spends a few days in detention to “teach her the error of her ways.” They don’t think it will take more than a few days. But Sarita isn’t chosen for her skills, although she obviously has them. No, she’s chosen because she speaks with an accent, which will be essential for her cover. Sarita reluctantly agrees to the mission, but she didn’t expect to find love while she’s there.
I thought the book was well written, intriguing, and fun. It also gives you a glimpse into the life of an illegal immigrant, waiting to be deported. They’re treated just like criminals when their only crime was to let their visas expire. The story is charming and poignant, a sweet romance that is both fun and educational.
“It’s amazing how many nice people you meet in jail.” Sarita Cerez leaned against the cool cement wall, making sure to keep a close eye on her surroundings. She could never be too careful in this environment.
“Only you would say something like that.”
Her boss’s voice, filled with amusement, made her smile.
As her gaze darted over to the guard’s desk the corners of her lips turned downward. Annoyed that the sight of Carter always made her heart race, she pulled her attention back to the conversation.
“Well it’s true. I wish you could meet some of them, they’ve had very interesting experiences.”
“I’m sure they have. Is there anything you need?”
“No, I’m good for the next two weeks. Thanks for the setup. By the time I’m released I’ll be ten pounds heavier from eating all the chocolate in my canteen.”
“You’d better be hitting the gym. I don’t need you getting fat on me.”
Sarita chuckled. “No worries. I used to be a chubby teenager. There’s no way I’m heading back down that road anytime soon.”
“Are you sure you don’t need anything? There’s no telling how long you’ll be in there.”
Sarita’s head drooped. She hated having to endure this unfortunate incarceration. “Thanks for the words of encouragement.”
“Don’t get huffy. You know what I mean. Do you know how long you’ll be in there?”
“Well no, but I’m praying for sooner rather than later.”
“Pray away, my friend, but it’s still an unknown. That’s the nature of the business. Don’t forget to share your goodies with some of your nice new comrades. I’ll be coming to see you next week. Can I bring you anything? A book on the life of Plato perhaps?”
Sarita’s ears perked up at the changed tone in Corinth’s voice. “A visit would be great to break the monotony. Philosophy is not my usual taste in books but I’ll give it a try. You’re always trying to broaden my horizons, aren’t you?”
“Someone’s got to get you out of all that happy ending fiction you’re always reading.”
“I like the happy stuff. We both know the world is a harsh place. Books take me out of it. It helps to keep me balanced.”
“Whatever floats your boat, kid. I hope you’ll like the one on Plato.”
“I’ll be sure to give it a thorough read.” As if Sarita had a choice in the matter.
“If I could do more, you know I would.”
What Sarita wouldn’t give for the whole nightmare to be over tomorrow. “Is it any closer?”
“You’ll find out more soon. In the meantime enjoy your vacation.”
“I never knew you had a sense of humor. This is hell. Okay sometimes it can be fun, but not someplace I’d ever choose to be.”
“Hang in there. I’m sure it won’t be too long.”
“Says the woman on the outside of the barbed wire.”
Corinth’s rare laughter surprised her. “Stay safe.”
Sarita’s hand moved in slow motion to place the earpiece on the receiver after hearing the click on the other end of the line. With a sigh, she pushed herself away from the wall so someone else could escape the realities of imprisonment by listening to a familiar voice.
She glanced around the room, at a loss for what to do next. The monotony of jail life sucked the energy out of her.
Her new home provided shelter, food, and an overabundance of protection, but happiness eluded her. Prison shouldn’t have been her destination. She’d lived her life on the straight and narrow so she’d never end up here.
“Sarita, what’s wrong?” Ursula’s rough Polish accent pushed through her hopeless thoughts.
As with most of the conversations she had in this place, a partial truth escaped her lips. “I just got off the phone with a close friend. I miss her.”
“I know how you feel. If I don’t get out of here soon I think I’ll go nuts.”
That statement could be considered the mantra of the joint, repeated on a daily basis by everyone locked into this medium facility prison.
“Me too, but we’re at the mercy of the government, whether it’s paying taxes or being in jail.”
“Don’t I know it? Rec time’s almost over. I’m headed back to my room. I’ll see you later.”
“Later.” Shuffling back to her cell Sarita stood frozen at the entrance. No wonder people got depressed in jail, the place had been designed for it.
The glossy cream paint over raw concrete blocks didn’t evoke a sense of warmth. An open toilet behind a wall which reached mid-thigh stood to the right a few feet after she walked in.
The solid metal framed bunk bed to the left had been built for durability not style.
She encountered the most uplifting part of the room when she looked straight ahead. Before her lay an incredible view of the Washington D.C. skyline. While gazing out of the huge bay window, she found it ironic that freedom sat a pane of glass away, but she couldn’t experience it. Partly because of the seven-story drop, which would mean instant death if she attempted to break the glass to escape.
In the unlikely event of surviving the fall, she’d have to deal with the ten-foot barbed wire fence, but before then, a group of determined guards would tackle her to the ground.
Oh, but a girl could dream.
She glanced at her cellmate lying on the bottom bunk with her face buried in a book. “How come you didn’t go out for rec, Monica?”
“I didn’t feel like it. Same ole shit, different day, ya know?”
“Everyone back in their cell.” Carter’s deep rich voice infiltrated the room, making Sarita’s skin tingle. “Rec time is over.” He enunciated each word.
She closed the door, hearing the finality of the click, knowing that if she tried to open it she’d be disappointed. She looked out the small window in the door. Women scurried to get to their rooms before punishment got doled out.
She watched Carter do his job, going from door to door, making sure all of the inmates were locked in. When he reached her room, she smushed her face against the glass. He hit it with his knuckles, pausing for a few seconds before moving forward without a change in expression. Pretty sure he had a smile plastered to his face as he checked the room next door, she sighed.
As far as guards went, Carter had to be one of the coolest. She wasn’t alone in her assessment considering how much gossip floated around about him. When he came into view again her gaze settled on his tight, perfectly rounded ass. Would her hand sting if she hit it? Her fingers flexed, dreaming of an experimental tap. With an effort she shifted her gaze up his body. His skin reminded her of the caramel in a Twix chocolate bar. The girls had come to a consensus about his African American heritage, but no one could figure out if his light complexion came from being Asian, Latino, or Caucasian. His exotic features made it impossible to tell. Even Natasha, who had no interest in men, voted him to be one of the most gorgeous guards in the prison, at least amongst the ones who rotated to their unit.
He happened to be the sort of guy Sarita would consider dating if they’d met on the outside. What had gone wrong in her life that she’d found an intelligent, interesting, attractive man, while in jail? Was it retribution for persecuting her younger brother when they were little? Whatever the cause of her misfortune, Carter had been stamped by the powers above as off limits.
The flutter in her stomach when she’d first seen him at the guard’s station three days ago should’ve been her first clue that she’d entered into a land of torture. She’d attributed it to nervousness from being led onto the unit that would house her.
The odd sensation went away but returned when he smiled at her later that same day.
She couldn’t be one hundred percent sure because of the impersonal nature of his job, but she’d stake money, a good chunk of cash, that the attraction ran both ways.
She and Carter were never going to happen. The fact didn’t stop her from imagining being held in his muscular embrace, kissing him as if her life depended on it, and progressing to–
Still envisioning Carter’s touch, the thoughts screeched to a halt as she squinted at her nemesis. Whoever created the damn bunk bed should be shot. Well, not fatally, but at least nipped in the ass.
At night she hugged it like a lover so she wouldn’t fall off.
They’d be enemies to the bitter end. She moved towards the warped plastic jail mirror and examined herself.
“I wish I had your eyes.” Monica’s lilting African accent floated through the air.
Sarita’s large, light-brown eyes, complimented skin which one of her exes had once described as mocha with a generous splash of heavy cream.
Her nose sat a little wider than she’d have created for herself, but at least she didn’t snore like her older sister, who’d gotten their mother’s perfect button nose. She smiled at her cellmate.
“If we’re making honest wishes, then I’d have your breasts in an instant.”
Monica winked. “You can have them, for ten thousand dollars and a whole lot of recovery pain.”
“You had a boob job?”
Monica put her hands on her breasts and shook them. “About four years ago. The doctor did a great job didn’t he?”
“I’ll say. They’re amazing. Now I’m really jealous. It didn’t hit me so hard when I thought they were yours.”
“They feel natural, too. You want to touch them?”
Sarita backed away, raising both hands in front of her.
“Are you kidding? It would be just my luck that Carter walks by at that exact moment. I can’t take the risk of being separated from you for inappropriate behavior.”
Monica’s shoulders shook with her laughter.
“And besides, I had a friend who had them done. It was disturbing the way she kept lifting up her shirt for us to take a peek and insisting we feel them. So I’m good.”
Monica shimmied her shoulders jiggling her enhanced globes. “You don’t know what you’re missing. You’ve never touched these bad boys.”
Sarita gazed down at her own breasts, happy with her modest B-cup size. At least they never got in the way when she performed a physical activity. “I’ll risk it. What’s for lunch?”
“Today is Wednesday, right?” Monica reached for the meal calendar. “We’re having chicken. Yum.”
The woman’s enthusiasm for food amused Sarita. In jail, the small events created a sense of joy. She made a mental note to apply this to her life when she got out. Get excited and celebrate the small things. “Today will be the first time I’m having it. So far my favorite is their fresh, soft, white bread.”
“The bread is good. But you go too far to say it’s fresh.”
Sarita’s shoulder’s lifted in a shrug. “Not from the oven, but it’s fresh from the bag. In here, it’s the same difference. If they wanted to punish us some more they could serve us old, stale bread.”
The idea of lying down to read appealed to her. She looked at the top bunk and sighed.
Monica’s hearty laughter burst out. Sarita had noticed long ago that laughter came easily to her cellmate, leading Sarita to believe that on the outside Monica lived life to the fullest. Sarita fought down the giggle attempting to escape. “What’s so funny?”
“You are. You and that top bunk. I’ll always remember the first time I met you.”
Sarita smiled at the memory although she should’ve frowned at the trauma of it.
Monica sat up in the bed and folded her legs under her. “You came into the room smiling. I thought they’d given me someone I wouldn’t be able turn my back away from. Who smiles when they come to jail?”
“I wanted to make a good first impression. I’d heard horror stories about prison so I didn’t want to tick you off right from the get go.” Sarita shrugged off the misconception she’d formed from watching prison movies and hearing stories.
“Yes, this unit is known for their hardened inmates.” Monica didn’t even try to hide the sarcasm. “Thanks for giving me the laugh of my life by climbing onto the top bunk. I thought I was going to die because I couldn’t’ breath. You should’ve seen your ass hanging on for dear life. Too funny.”
Sarita didn’t find this aspect of the memory amusing. Her one-hundred-fifty-pound body didn’t enjoy climbing to get into the top bunk. The facility made the experience more arduous by not providing steps along the side of the bunk. A person needed to step onto the window seat and practically vault onto the bed.
When it came to aerobics, jogging, martial arts, and dancing, she excelled. Her athletic nature didn’t extend to climbing. She had no fear of heights but her trepidation about falling made her cautious. “You could’ve given me the bottom bunk.”
Monica’s mouth opened, spouting laughter. “No way, first come, first serve. I almost peed my pants when you got stuck.”
In hindsight, the scene sounded hilarious, but at the time Sarita had feared going splat onto the floor. “Thanks for showing me how to climb up. Eventually!”
“We’re trapped in here with very little entertainment. You have to take it when you can. You’ve gotten better at it, but you’re still hilarious to watch.”
Sarita reached up and grabbed her book. “I had planned to get into bed, but I’ll sit on the window seat and read instead. I don’t feel like being your comedian right now.”
“Too late. The memory alone has brought me so much joy.”
Sarita observed her cellmate. With her smooth walnut-brown skin, angled dark eyes fringed with short eyelashes, and high cheekbones all set in an oval face, the woman claimed beauty as a close friend.
Sharing a cell with Monica had turned out to be a blessing. Both of them accepted that the predicament they found themselves in had been a consequence of their own actions. Each night found them conversing and laughing as if they’d known each other all their lives.
Sarita opened her book and attempted to lose herself in the story. Unable to focus, she placed it beside her as she stared out at Washington D.C. “Tell me your story again.” Sarita couldn’t make herself shift her eyes from the beauty of the city.
“I’ve told you already.” The rustling of sheets indicated she’d changed positions. “How long have you been here again?”
Sarita turned to glance at Monica. “Today is day three.”
“I’m cursing my sixty-fifth day.” Monica held up the index and middle finger of her right hand. “More than two months of my life spent in this place!”
Sarita had come to like and respect her. “I’m not a psychic, but I’m sure they’ll be letting you out soon. I can feel it. But I’ll miss you when you go.”
“I’ll miss you, too. But not enough to want to stay.”
“I read you loud and clear.” Sarita rested her head against the wall behind her to study her friend. “Tell me your story again.”
Monica sighed. “Okay, but it’s not all that interesting.” She waved a hand towards the door. “At least not compared to some of the other girl’s experiences.”
“But I think yours is the heaviest one I’ve heard.”
Monica’s eyebrows shot up. “You do?”
“Yes. It makes me angry to think about it.” Sarita balled her hands into impotent fists as she thought about the experiences the women in this unit had endured. “How come you aren’t pissed off?”
In a mea culpa fashion, Monica laid a hand on her chest. “Because I’m the only one to blame.”
© 2014 by Nana Prah