By Tori St. Claire (Guest Blogger)
[Lisabet asked: How do you do research for a thriller about human trafficking and Russia? Do you have any experience with this?]
*Laugh!* I’ve been asked and asked about research on Stripped. I love how you presented this to me!
Well, you dig and dig and dig on the Internet. Not just the sites that crop up on an initial search, but digging deeper, looking at old CIA news / reports, looking at similar crimes that have taken place. There’s a lot of information available on human trafficking in general, and that’s an easy starting point. Russia is a bit more inherent for me. My mentor is a Russian immigrant, and I heard stories in general, that fed an early fascination with the country. Another very close friend of mine had a passion for anything Russian and I learned by osmosis – when every other sentence relates somehow to the country, stuff sticks in weird places in the head. Third, one of my college best friends was from a Russian village in Alaska, and that just kept the love of the country alive, plus gave me some stuff to work with for Stripped ;)
One of the things though that’s important to understand, I’m from Kansas City, and just before I was born, Kansas City was a mafia playground. In fact, my earliest years came at the culmination of the power here. Chicago saw its days and is fabled for Capone, et all, but those influences stayed strong in Kansas City. It is nothing like it was now, not in any shape or form, but there’s still “families”. Not so much crime as it was, but those who remember. Moscow, in many ways, still shares that influence. Well… let me back up. Moscow exceeds that influence by leaps and bounds. If you need protection, you go to one of the mafias in Moscow. If you need a “solution” you go to one of the mafias. This just made it an easy link… it then became a task of researching the different Moscow and Russian organizations until I found one that had the capability to fit my fictitious needs.
I don’t have any personal experience with human trafficking, but I pay attention to the media. I know that the USA is more commonly a “destination” country, not necessarily a “source” country, which I had to play with a little to make it fit the premise of my story. That’s frankly why I went with the stripper aspect, but… and I certainly don’t want to delve into stereotypes, but bear with me…
Where I live currently, strippers are not the attractive beauties that you might see in a high-end club in Las Vegas. In fact, and I have no idea if this is still true, but the club that is closest to my home was known for, about 10 years ago, the addiction to cocaine many of the women had, and the physical result of this addition was not particularly pleasing to the eye. I don’t frequent strip clubs, and have recently learned that in some portions of the country strip clubs are a “club” that both men and women go to as I might go to a dance club. (Part of this may be related to the fact that Missouri is still part of the Bible Belt.)
Given my foundation in what a strip club was, I wanted a little more class that what surrounds me. So I ported the setting to the place of fantasies – Vegas – where I could pretty much do what I wanted within reason, in my club. I chose strip clubs, as opposed to prostitution, because I wanted to touch on the stereotype that “If someone’s going to go missing and not be missed” it might happen in the world of stripping. Chances are far higher it would happen with prostitution… but that was too stereotypical for me.
To tie it all together, I needed a place where women taken from the US might hold appeal. The vast majority of places that work with human trafficking use the US as a destination therefore they aren’t going to port women in to the country they operate out of. For instance, the Bratva isn’t going to transport an American to Russia, they’ll transport a Russian to America. Other countries where it’s far more prevalent wouldn’t find an American attractive enough to engage in the habit. But Dubai… now that’s a world of riches and readily embraces Western influences. American slaves fit well with a broad perception.
I did have a few resources I polled about possibilities, theoreticals, and concepts. And like Natalya… if I shared those secrets, I’m afraid I’d have to eliminate you ;)
[Lisabet asked: Do you use your own fantasies in your books? Is there something of you in Natalya?]
(I want to answer this question, because I find it entertaining, but it’s not worth a full blog discussion.)
The short answer is no. But it amuses me how often I’m asked this. I’m a single woman, writing erotic romance. I can’t count the number of men who’ve heard that in an introduction, and within the first ten minutes of conversation find a way to work in this question. The vast majority of them also manage to follow up my “No” with a remark along the lines of “If you need inspiration.” I joined a dating service once, and included in my bio that I was a published romance author. (I write under pen names, no harm no foul). One man even introduced himself with “If you need some help, I’m happy to provide inspiration.”
Granted, it took my boss two months to ask, but even he couldn’t resist. Laugh. (To clarify, so he doesn’t sound like a creep, he’s more a friend than employer, and he’s extremely supportive of my writing career.) Interestingly enough, my guy reads everything I write and has never once asked.
Stripped by Tori St. Claire
As a member of the CIA’s elite, Black Opals, Natalya Trubachev must live a lie, working undercover as the lover of Dmitri, a Russian mob boss. His business is trafficking vulnerable Las Vegas strippers overseas for twisted sex games. Natalya’s business is to blow the ring wide open and bring down Dmitri and his American contacts. But the stakes are raised when she learns that the next target is her own sister Kate, a dancer in the famed club Fantasia. Only now does Natalya realize how personal her mission has become, and how far she’s willing to go to complete it.
Body of lies…
The manager of Fantasia is Brandon Moretti, an undercover detective who keeps a close eye on his girls, and an even closer one on his sinfully sensual hire. For Natalya, working the club could be the break she’s been waiting for. But for Moretti, Natalya is a possible link to a killer. Only he never counted on her being so lethally seductive or so dangerous to get close to. As every forbidden pleasure between them is stripped away, his own secrets threaten their security, but it’s Natalya’s that could destroy them both.
“Tell me what you want, beautiful.” His breath rasped over her cheek. Featherlight kisses accompanied the whisper, trailing across her skin in a taunting path toward her mouth.
Kiss me. She turned her head in search of lips she instinctively knew would be warm, the words on the tip of her tongue. Kiss me until I don’t care whether I live or die.
Honesty. Just once.
He caught her lower lip with his teeth, the nip nowhere near gentle. But the lazy stroke of his tongue soothed the stinging bite. She parted her lips, dipped her tongue out to touch his.
Brandon’s body tightened like a whip. The pressure in her lower back increased as his fingers curled into her skin. Their breaths mingled. The tips of their tongues met in a slow, sensual dance. As another spasm of ecstasy threatened to send her tumbling into his solid chest, she braced her hands on his shoulders.
And then Brandon was gone, the magic of his fingers disappearing as he stepped back and set both hands on her waist. His gaze scorched in to flood her body with tingles. He waited, his question unspoken, but hanging between them.
Tell me what you want.
Clearly he intended to make her admit she wanted to feel him deep inside her. Wanted to experience the slide of his bare skin against hers. And God, how she wanted to kiss him. To taste the desire that burned in his gaze and the indescribable flavor of hot, aroused man.
Confessing might lead her to an early grave, but for once, her conscious would be clear. She swallowed hard and dug deep for the courage that had kept her alive these last three years. His gaze followed the sweep of her tongue as she moistened her lips.
“Kiss me.” Her senses honed in on her whisper, amplifying it and the ragged fall of their mutual breathing. She became aware of every minuscule sound as she waited for Brandon to either dip his head and honor her request, or shove her aside with a wicked sneer.
He took a step closer, bringing their bodies in contact from chest to toes. One arm wrapped around her waist, then slid up her back to offer support between her shoulder blades. The other tangled in her hair, tipping her head back. Putting her where he wanted her—subtle dominance that thrilled her in places she hadn’t known existed.
Her womb clamped hard, sending another rush of moisture through her pussy.
His mouth descended. Warm lips played against hers, drawing her into the spell his body wove. Pulling her in so deep she struggled for air.
The sudden, brassy ring of her cell phone jolted her out of hazy desire. She froze. With Kate and Sergei due to arrive at Fantasia any minute, there could only be one other person calling at this time of day—Dmitri. It would be almost one in the morning in Moscow. The time Dmitri put aside his work and crawled into bed. He’d want to talk before he slept.
“Don’t answer that,” Brandon whispered against her mouth.
Damn if those lips weren’t compelling. She’d had his mouth on her breast, knew the incredible magic his tongue could create there, but had yet to experience the tantalizing slide of his tongue against hers. The need to feel his mouth on hers, to get lost in his potent masculinity pressed her to ignore the ringing tones.
Duty, however, rose up screaming. If she didn’t answer, Dmitri would get suspicious. “I have to.”
Bio: Tori St. Claire grew up writing. Hobby quickly turned into passion, and when she discovered the world of romance as a teen, poems and short stories gave way to full length novels with sexy heroes and heroines waiting to be swept off their feet. She wrote her first romance novel at seventeen.
While that manuscript gathered dust-bunnies beneath the bed, she went on to establish herself as a contemporary, historical, and paranormal author under the pen name, Claire Ashgrove. Her writing, however, skirted a fine line between hot and steamy, and motivated by authors she admired, she pushed her boundaries and made the leap into erotica, using the darker side of human nature and on-the-edge suspense to drive grittier, sexier, stories.
Her erotic romantic suspense novels are searingly sensual experiences that unite passion with true emotion, and the all-consuming tie that binds -- love.
Tori can be found at: