Mid Week Tease: Behind the Iron Cross #MidWeekTease #MWTease
Happy Hump Day for the soggy clavicle of Texas! Courtesy of the lovely and talented Sandra Bunino, today I’m sharing a teaser from Behind the Iron Cross, my historical MMF romance set in 1923 Berlin. This teaser sets up an important scene for my hero Friedrich von Bader, who has to make a difficult decision about loyalty. The sexy stuff will be back next week, promise!
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.
Just before Friedrich reached the bus stop at Alexanderplatz, he noticed a well-appointed car trailing him on the street. For a moment, he wondered if it was someone trawling for a prostitute, then bristled at the thought of someone trying to pick him up on one of Berlin’s central streets. Christ in heaven, they can’t smell it on me, can they?
The car pulled up alongside him. “Excuse me? Colonel von Bader, isn’t it?” a gravelly voice said.
Friedrich stumbled in shock. He turned to the man leaning out the car window, just stopping the automatic salute. “General Hauptmann?”
General Reinhart Hauptmann had been one of his father’s colleagues and, briefly, his own commanding officer just before the end of the war. He had a reputation for being clever, both on the field and in the political arena that was the upper echelons of the German military. “Ha. Yes, I thought that was you,” Hauptmann said, giving Friedrich an approving smile. “What are you doing wandering around Unter den Linden at this time of night?”
Trying to deal with the fact that a strange man fucked me and I enjoyed it. “I’m heading home,” Friedrich said instead, stepping to the curb. He noticed the other man wore his army uniform, replete with medals pinned along the breast front. “I take it you’re still in the army, sir?”
“For my sins,” Hauptmann said easily. “Apparently they needed an old war horse around to march out in front of the damned French every now and then. I almost didn’t recognize you out of uniform.” He sniffed the air, grimacing a bit. “Rather chilly out, isn’t it? If you’re heading home, my driver would be happy to take you there.”
Friedrich felt a flush of shame at the thought of Hauptmann seeing where he lived now. “I’m sure it’s out of your way, sir. I don’t mind taking the bus—”
“Nonsense, man,” Hauptmann said briskly. “Christ knows I’m in no hurry to get home. Get in, please.”
He opened the door, moving to the far side of the seat. Friedrich forced a smile and climbed into the car, trying not to wince as he sat down. “Thank you, sir,” he muttered.
“Where do you live?”
“Friedrichschain. Tilsiterstrasse 5, across from the St. Georgen cemetery.”
“Ah, I know the area.” Hauptmann leaned forward to give the address to his driver, and the car rolled forward. “For God’s sake, von Bader, sit back,” he added, chuckling. “You’re not on review here, I assure you.”
Friedrich made himself relax. “Thank you, sir. Force of habit.”
“Old habits die hard, eh?” Hauptman said. “I heard through the grapevine that you were discharged. Damned shame, that. You were a fine officer—I was proud to have you in my command.” He sighed, shaking his head. “That blasted treaty was a complete and utter farce. Too many of our best men were cashiered, and now the rest of us are left trying to run an army on a shoestring, with the French peering over our shoulders if we so much as twitch.”
Friedrich tried to ignore the tiny spark of hope in his breast. Perhaps all this meant that Hauptmann had some sort of work for him. “It was an honor to serve the Fatherland, sir,” he said carefully.
“Such as it is, these days,” Hauptmann growled, watching the buildings roll by. “Once, we were an empire, feared and respected by everyone. Now, we’re a republic.” He spat the last word, as if it tasted foul. “Run by men who wouldn’t know what to do with a bayonet if it was stuck in their guts. And meanwhile the British and French look on our poor Fatherland like it’s their own private playground and treat our people like whores. It’s a disgrace.”
“Yes, sir,” Friedrich said, his stomach knotting at the general’s comment. “As you said, a disgrace.”
“Hmmph.” The general waved a weary hand. “Well, what’s done is done. All we can do now is help Germany through these difficult times. Which brings me to you, von Bader. I was at Heaven and Hell last night. I noticed you over on Heaven’s side.” Hauptmann gave him a shrewd look. “I didn’t know you could afford that kind of entertainment.”
Friedrich worked to keep his expression neutral. “I can’t. I’m working as a guide and translator for an American couple,” he lied.
“Ah, of course. And this couple, would they be named Tracy by any chance?”
The second shock of the night made his skin prickle. “You know them?”
The general snorted. “Not personally, but I know who they are. But it’s a happy coincidence that you’re working for them, von Bader. That could turn out to be very useful.”
“I don’t understand, sir.”
“I’m sure you’re aware that Fräulein Tracy and her fiancé are here on business, ja? She’s representing her uncle’s company, which wants to buy out certain German manufacturing companies. Perhaps you overheard them discussing this at dinner, or during drinks?”
Friedrich’s cheeks flamed. He wasn’t about to tell a former commanding officer what they’d actually been discussing. “Yes, sir,” he muttered.
“Excellent. Needless to say, certain officials in the War Ministry are concerned about losing valuable resources and manufacturing centers to foreign companies. Especially as those resources have a certain military value and would be better used here at home, rebuilding what was lost during the war.” The general’s face was in shadow, but the passing streetlights lit his eyes with streaking glints. “Do you understand my meaning, von Bader?”
Friedrich did. The German military had taken the Treaty of Versailles and the forced reduction of their ranks as a deeply personal insult to their national pride. He could still remember the fierce arguments in the officers’ messes about continuing the fight despite the cease-fire, taking it to the victors and making them work for their so-called “peace.” “The War Ministry wants to rebuild the army?”
“Well, some of them do. Some of them are content to roll onto their backs and expose their bellies.” Hauptman made a disgusted noise. “Luckily those dogs tend to be in the minority. Those of us who are loyal to the Fatherland need to know everything we can about companies like Tracy Electrics. That way, we can make sure that any business arrangements made with German companies will be of benefit to Germany.” A nod towards Friedrich. “Which is where you come in, my boy. One of Tracy Electric’s targets is Schoengraff Metals. You may have heard of them?”
“Of course, sir.” Schoengraff had supplied the German weapons manufacturers with armor-grade steel and iron during the war.
“Unfortunately, Schoengraff suffered a heavy number of losses during the war,” Hauptmann said. “Bombed factories, loss of raw materials, lack of workers, et cetera. Now that the war is over and they have access to their mines in Africa again, they’re trying to rebuild their infrastructure and expand into rare minerals mining. To do this, they need the help of foreign manufacturing companies that can provide financing. One of these companies is Tracy Electrics. Fräulein Tracy has apparently been sent here as the personal representative of William Tracy to oversee negotiations.” He shook his head. “Which is ridiculous, of course. Tracy’s lapdog Arthur Carslyle is running the negotiations, just as he always has. I assume he’s grooming Fräulein Tracy’s fiancé to take over for him.”
Friedrich tried to picture the fun-loving Sam spending hours in a conference room. “I wouldn’t discount Fräulein Tracy so quickly, sir,” he said. “She’s very…unusual.”
Hauptman shrugged. “Unusual or not, she is still just a woman, and a woman’s place is in the home, not in the board room, nicht wahr? Even the Americans aren’t foolish enough to allow such things.” He dismissed the Fräulein with a shake of the head. “Now, the War Ministry wants to know Tracy Electrics’s plans for Schoengraff, and you are ideally placed to obtain this information. We need you to find out as much as you can about what they want to do with the company, if they’re trying to buy it outright or partner with it, and how much money they’re willing to spend.” He leaned over, fixing Friedrich with a gimlet gaze. “Will you assist the Fatherland in this, colonel?”
Friedrich stopped the automatic “yes,” his ingrained instinct to obey a superior officer slamming up against memories of his recent poverty. “If I help you, and they find out, they can fire me at any moment,” he said. “What do I get in return for my assistance?”
Hauptmann stared at him for a long, uncomfortable moment. “I’m to assume that the gratitude of the War Ministry and your country means nothing to you?”
Friedrich ignored the wintry tone and the even colder disapproval, although he knew it would eat at him later. “I have a sister-in-law and a nephew to support, sir,” he said. “I have to think of them. If I get you the information you need, what do I get in return?”
The general slowly nodded. “Yes, I suppose you have a point. I can’t get you back into the army, but I have connections with Schoengraff. I can get you a manager’s post at one of their refineries near Ingolstadt, and a salary commensurate to the one you received as an active colonel. You should be able to support your family quite handily on that.”
Friedrich ignored the mild contempt in Hauptmann’s voice, buoyed by a sudden, aching wave of hope. The offer was dizzying; a real job, a safe home out of Berlin for Lilli and Rudi, respect and security.
Hauptmann gave him a thin smile. “So, what do you say, colonel?”
He understood the vital need for intelligence during wartime, and how spies could provide information that turned the tide of a battle. But this was no longer wartime, and he felt uncomfortable with the idea of spying on the Fräulein. She had demanded honesty from him, and offered blessed respite in return. Taking business information from her and passing it on to Hauptmann and his cronies at the War Ministry made something in his soul ache with shame.
But there was Rudi and Lilli. They were more important than anything. And in the end, he thought with some bitterness, he was only a hired whore to the Fräulein and Sam. They would leave soon enough, taking their money with them. He was the one who had to stay in Berlin. And a real job outside of the city, where Rudi could grow healthy and turn into the sturdy little boy he was meant to be? How could he pass something like that up?
He ignored the twinging of his conscience. All he was doing was making sure that Schoengraff and Germany got information that would allow them to cut the best deal possible with Tracy Electrics. The Fräulein would still get what she came for, just at a somewhat higher price. Surely there was no dishonor in that.
He took a deep breath. “I’ll do it.”
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Posted on May 27, 2015, 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. 10 Comments.