They once faced each other on a battlefield. Now soldier-turned-spy Jonathan Reese must keep watch over the man he’s never forgotten. A close encounter reveals Karl von Binder, the count’s son, also recalls the day he spared Jonathan’s life.
Sparks fly between the former enemies and Jonathan begins to lose perspective on his mission. He knows he must maintain distance because the heat he encounters in Karl’s touch stirs him far too deeply for his own good. He can’t keep away -- especially when he suspects someone is trying to kill the nobleman.
The spy becomes a protector as Jonathan guards the man he’s begun to care for. Together the men try to puzzle out who would benefit from Karl’s death -- and how much they’re willing to trust each other when a torrid sexual fling threatens to become an affair of the heart.
Reese and Binder are quite the pair. During battle, years before, their eyes locked and to put it simply, they shared a moment and Karl spared Jonathon's life. Now, during a visit to his mother's homeland, Karl finds himself in danger and it falls to Jonathon to protect him. Their connection might be instantaneous but Jonathon Reese isn't exactly eager for it to be so. Personally, I was pretty sure about where the threat to Karl was coming from early on. It's my opinion that the adrenaline rush when reading a story isn't always about the end result but the journey getting there. Once again, this is a perfect example of that, that certainty in the who was after Karl did not lessen my need to reach the last page. I will definitely be checking out further collaborations of these two amazing authors.
Toole had told Reese to use whatever methods worked. It hadn’t occurred to Reese to simply state a portion of the truth, but why not?
He’d have to pick an answer that didn’t reveal too much, of course. After almost a week of following Binder, he could tell the man all sorts of truths. He might tell him that he’d spotted someone -- a foreigner from Binder’s own country, perhaps -- following the count’s son.
Or Reese could spill even deeper secrets. That his dried-up twig of a soul felt an unfamiliar flicker of life every time he saw Binder laugh. That he’d listened in on the conversations Binder held with his underlings and had grown to admire the way he treated his servants and staff. That he lay awake at night and thought of what it would feel like to put his mouth on Binder’s lips and other parts of his body. He might admit that, in a crowd, he’d drawn too close to Binder more than once just to see if he could smell the man.
Except Reese had excellent self-discipline. He’d released the guard on his impulses only once in his life and had lived to regret it. He sure as hell didn’t welcome this attraction to an enemy from the past, this very dangerous man.
Still, one truth would do no harm, and perhaps he’d be able to learn the answer to the question that had nagged him for years. “You’re right. I was at Sevastopol. Why do you think you remember me?” He didn’t add for I recall you too.
Binder’s blue eyes glowed, and he smiled as if Reese had admitted something wonderful. “I don’t understand it myself. That day of the battle. God.” He shuddered, and Reese felt a ghost of that same response in his own body. “There were hundreds -- thousands of us -- and it was a blur of bodies and pain and fear. My horse was slain under me. I was injured.”
Reese shook his head. He hadn’t known.
“Much of it comes back when I close my eyes. I expect it does for you too,” Karl went on. “But one of the most vivid images of that day, of that whole bloody, pointless war, is of you. You’d lost your cap, and you were covered in blood. I was looking for more…” He cleared his throat. “For the next to kill. I was filled with that lust. You know the feeling.”
Reese couldn’t answer. He knew and loathed the primal killing instinct that overtook him whenever he’d had to dispatch another man. He shrugged.
“And then I saw you watching me.”
Reese leaned forward, his entire being at attention. At long last it seemed he was going to receive an answer to the intolerable question -- why me? Of all the men in the field that day, why had this stranger passed him over like the angel of death in Egypt?
“Yes, I admit I recall seeing you. What of that?” he asked with feigned casualness. Amazing he could sound so nonchalant when his heart was racing. “Tell me this. Why did you spare me?”
Binder inclined slightly toward him too and lowered his voice as he answered, his throaty rumble sending lust spearing through Reese. “Because I saw your eyes. I saw…” He shrugged broad shoulders.
Reese tilted his head to show he listened, and Binder went on. “I saw so many things. I saw myself when I watched you. So self-centered, eh? Angry, passionate, and ready to die. But I also saw a man who’d suffered too much. And, well…” He rubbed a blunt finger over the lace tablecloth. Reese watched those hands, large with golden hair on the back of his wrist, and he was almost too distracted by the sight of them to hear Binder’s next words. “I saw what a bloody monster I’d become.”
He stopped speaking, and for once, Reese wasn’t patient enough to let silence linger. “We were all bloody monsters in war.”
He should not allow his thoughts to venture in that direction. Curse the man for rousing the emotion of unwelcome memories. With one long, deep breath, Reese suppressed the ripples of disquiet disturbing his calm. He looked straight into Binder’s face, but the other man didn’t appear to notice. His blue eyes seemed sightless as he gazed at something else, those days in Sevastopol, probably.
Reese could examine him at leisure, a pleasant task. Even with Binder’s large, Germanic features, there were touches of grace -- the way his throat rose from the high collar, the line of his jaw, and the well-brushed, gleaming, wheat blond hair.
His enemy’s low voice woke Reese from a fantasy of touching that hair, stroking it, seizing it, and gripping it while he drove into the heat of the man’s mouth. His carnal fantasies about this man were getting out of hand.
“Ah. But your face, your eyes.” Binder at last met Reese’s stare. “Do you know the word tzadik?”
Reese knew German, but this word was unfamiliar. He shook his head.
“It’s Yiddish. It means ‘one who acts righteously.’ Back then I didn’t know the word. I’m not Jewish.”
Reese knew that. He’d read the details of the man who’d been born to an English mother and a German Catholic father and who had been brought up in the Church of England.
“After the war, I heard a bit of the definition -- just a little -- and at once I imagined you. That day on the battlefield, your eyes sent a burning arrow into me. If a man’s eyes could do such a thing, you would have killed me -- a part of me -- with that look. I saw the righteous judge who’d witnessed my failure as a human. I couldn’t face you, and I certainly couldn’t kill you.”
His explanation was weighty and far more truthful than Reese would have expected.
“All that from a look,” Reese said sardonically, though he felt slightly dizzy. Through all these years, he’d also vividly recalled Binder, as if that scene were a fresh memory.
A moment later, Binder grinned suddenly, and his laugh lines showed Reese the man’s natural face -- lighthearted, almost mischievous. Reese had already seen evidence of his mercurial nature, but this jump from grim to delighted was sudden, even for Binder.
“You are amused?” Reese asked.
“Now that I consider the matter, I wonder if I simply liked your appearance, blood-smeared and all. It was an impulsive decision to spare you. Shall we call it that?”
Jesus God, was this man admitting to physical attraction? Reese suppressed the urge to look around and see who might be listening. He was no green lad who would blush at bawdy suggestions -- even those of forbidden practices -- but this was no place to mention them. He smiled blandly but didn’t answer, as if he’d heard no suggestive meaning -- and perhaps one had not been intended.
“So, tell me why you are following me,” Binder demanded, abruptly changing the subject.
I began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, I was the designated ghost tale teller. I still have a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat.
Writing childish stories for my own pleasure led to majoring in English at college. Like most English majors, I dreamed of writing a novel, but at that time in my life didn't have the necessary focus and follow through. Then life happened. A husband and children occupied the next twenty years and it was only in 2000 that I began writing again.
I enjoy dabbling in many genres. Each gives me a different way to express myself. I've developed a habit of writing every day that's almost an addiction. I don't think I could stop now if I tried.
Summer Devon is the pen name writer Kate Rothwell often uses. Whether the characters are male or female, human or dragon, her books are always romance.
You can visit her facebook page, where there's a sign up form for a newsletter (she'll only send out newsletters when there's a new Summer Devon or Kate Rothwell release and she will never ever sell your name to anyone).