Mid Week Tease: Behind the Iron Cross #MidWeekTease #MWTease
Happy Hump Day! Let’s celebrate it with another wonderful Mid Week Tease, courtesy of the lovely and talented Sandra Bunino. This week, I’ll be sharing a teaser from Behind the Iron Cross, my historical MMF romance set in 1923 Berlin. No sex in this one, sorry, but let’s explore Sam and Kat’s relationship a bit more, shall we?
Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
In the aftermath of World War I, Berlin has become a hotspot of decadent pleasures, and American millionairess Kat Tracy is determined to enjoy each and every one of them with Sam Hellman, her late brother’s lover and her convenient “fiancé.” But when the two of them meet Friedrich von Bader, a former German Army officer turned reluctant prostitute, their wicked games take on a new meaning.
Kat wandered out of her room, humming to herself. The various negotiations were going well, even better than she’d hoped. Schoengraff was still being stiff-necked about meeting with them, but Arthur was looking for ways to convince the board to come to the table. The telegram she received from the headquarters of Tracy Electrics that morning was brief and to the point: BUY ANYTHING NEW FOR WEDDING?
Uncle William had no trust in modern technology, or the people who kept it running, and had already sent her a series of coded telegrams that would make little sense to the telegram operators who sent the messages. She smiled when she told the operator to send a reply telegram with BOUGHT SOME LOVELY THINGS. STILL LOOKING FOR PERFECT GOLD RING. He would understand the precious metal was a reference to Schoengraff.
To her surprise, she saw Sam seated by the fireplace, chin propped up on one hand as he stared into the flames. She stretched out on the sofa, warming her feet. “I would have thought you’d be in bed by now,” she said.
He shrugged. “I’m not tired.”
“Mm.” She stretched her arms over her head languorously. “Tonight was fun. Those dancers were delicious, weren’t they?”
Another twitch of his shoulders. “I suppose.”
She made a moue. “Well, that doesn’t sound very enthusiastic. You certainly seemed to be enjoying yourself at the time.”
He turned from the fire, his expression drawn. “Yes, the dancer was great. I came like gangbusters. Are you happy?”
Kat blinked at the unexpected tongue-lashing. “I — I’m sorry. Is something wrong?”
“I don’t want to talk about it. I’m going to bed.”
“Sam.” He stopped in mid-rise, and she hesitated over her next words. “Please, darling, talk to me. Perhaps I can help.”
He sank back onto the chair. “You’re good, kitten, but you can’t help with this. Nobody can.”
The expression on his face was painfully familiar. She got up and crossed to him, sinking down to the floor so that she could rest her arms on his knee. “You haven’t called me kitten in years,” she pointed out.
“That’s because you bit me the last time I did.”
“I was ten. I thought it was a baby name.”
He reached out and stroked her hair. “You always were the fierce one, weren’t you? Bart and I never stood a chance with you around.”
She took a deep breath, aware that she was treading on tender ground. “I know you miss him. So do I.”
“I know.” He turned back to the fireplace. The flickering light played across his face, revealing the slight glassiness of his eyes. “I was wondering what he’d think of us. What we’re doing.”
“You mean getting married? I think he’d understand.”
“No, not that. What we’re doing here in Berlin.”
“Oh.” She rested her chin on her crossed arms. “I don’t think he would mind. He’d want you to be happy.”
“That’s the thing. I’m not.”
She paused, unsure of how to proceed. “Is it … are you unhappy with me? I thought you didn’t mind my little games.”
He shook his head again, taking her hand and holding it. “It’s not that, kitten. I enjoy playing with you. It’s just…”
And then the pieces came together. “It’s the colonel, isn’t it?”
Sam gave her a weary smile. “I know I’m being ridiculous. He’s just as normal as he can be, after all. And he’s only doing this for the money. It’s all just fun and games. Stupid fun and games, nothing more.”
The misery on his face was tangible. She wanted to throw her arms around him and protect that huge, gentle heart from getting hurt yet again. “Oh, Sam. I’m so sorry.”
“So am I.” He shook his head. “I keep telling myself this is temporary, that he doesn’t feel the way I do. That he doesn’t want me. So I should just enjoy what I can get, right?” The glassiness in his eyes increased. “It’s not helping, though. I keep wondering what Bart—”
He cut off a sob. Kat jumped to her feet, gathering him in a hug as her own tears started. His arms unexpectedly wound around her waist, pulling her into his lap. She realized why when he buried his head in her shoulder to muffle his tears. “Oh, my sweetest boy,” she whispered, stroking his hair. “I’m so sorry.”
She remembered when the two Army officers had showed up on Uncle William’s doorstep with the telegraph from the War Department. Uncle William had taken her into his study an hour later, his eyes bloodshot from unshed tears, and informed her that he’d given the Army permission to busy Bart at Flanders Field. Sam came home soon afterwards, his right leg amputated, a lost and broken shell of the man she’d remembered and her brother had loved.
For Bart, she’d gone to the Hellmans’ home on her own every day without fail, climbing the grand staircase to the second floor where Sam lay like a corpse in his narrow boyhood bed. All the hours reading to him, talking to him, trying anything she could think of to bring him out of his shell. When the doctor finally gave him permission to try walking on his wooden leg, she was the one who had cajoled him to stand up, take the first few steps. Slowly, his body healed, although he would never again look like the happy boy he’d been with Bart. His mind eventually followed, finding its way out of the fog left by the war.
His heart, though, was still bleeding over Bart’s loss. Sometime during his recovery he carefully built a briar fence around it, thick brush and dagger-like thorns shielding himself from anyone but her. He’d had dalliances here and there since the end of the war, often with her complicit assistance, but all the men were nobodies, working class types or low-ranking soldiers passing through Bridgeport on their way home. He wouldn’t let himself love anyone, not the way he’d loved her brother, and when she proposed marriage she’d seen the flash of bitterness in his eyes. She knew she was the closest he would ever come to being back in Bart’s arms, a consolation prize that was no prize at all.
They sat there for a time, united in their love for a dead man, with the soft crackling of the fire the only sound in the room. Finally Sam gave a shuddering sigh. “I don’t know why you put up with me, I really don’t,” he said.
She smiled against the soft brown strands. “I could say the same about you,” she murmured. “It’s probably why we’re such good friends.”
“I think you’re right.” He leaned back, rubbing at his eyes. “Sorry about blubbing all over you.”
“Don’t fret. I’ll dry.” She touched his face, wiping the traces of moisture away from his eyes with a careful thumb. “Do you want to go to bed?”
“Eventually.” A corner of his mouth quirked. “Oh. Were you inviting me to sleep with you, kitten?”
She forced a fierce look. “It’s Kat now, darling. Don’t make me bite you. Again.”
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Posted on October 22, 2014, in Behind the Iron Cross, Mid Week Tease and tagged Behind the Iron Cross, historical romance, m/m/f romance, Mid Week Tease, nicola cameron. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.