The Nobleman and the Spy
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by Bonnie Dee, Summer Devon
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Historical Fiction
Description: 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.
Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Male/male sexual practices.
eBook Publisher: Loose Id, LLC, 2010
eBookwise Release Date: December 2010
26 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [274 KB]
Reading time: 173-242 min.
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.
Now he understood Binder's game. The man was trying to confuse Reese and throw him off guard. "I might ask the same of you, sir. You turn up every place I go."
"Oh, I am not following you. But never mind. Let us begin again. What is your name?"
On impulse, he gave his real first name. "Why don't you call me Jonathan?" No one alive called him that.
Binder tilted his head. "I am to call you that, eh? At least you're honest. You don't say it is your name."
Reese almost smiled. Ironic that when he told his true name to someone at last, he wasn't believed.
Binder rose to his feet, and with shoulders back and stiff, executed a perfect bow, clicking his heels together. The man certainly had Germanic blood and the proper formal training of an erb-pfalzgraf, the son of a reigning count, in him. "Herr Jonathan. I am Herr von Binder. But since it appears we are exchanging Christian names, you may call me Karl."
Reese stood and held out his hand. Karl examined it as though puzzled, then gave a peal of that deep, rolling laughter. "Yes, of course." He reached and pressed his warm, hard palm to Reese's hand. For such a long moment they touched. Neither wore gloves, and Reese should not have played this game. He flinched, surprised at the jolt of desire that passed through him.
A speculative gleam entered Karl's eyes. Nonsense, Reese chided himself. It was foolish to believe the other man had felt his reaction to their touch or interpreted it correctly.
Karl von Binder was broader and bigger than he, although he wasn't a huge man physically. Reese estimated he was a couple of inches taller than his own five-eleven, but the count's presence had a vigor that took up even more space.
He might be a polyglot, able to speak languages without a trace of accent, and he certainly could shift from the formal to the casual with ease, but Karl was too alive to be stealthy, while Reese could disappear into a crowd without problem. He supposed that with his average brown hair, nondescript brown eyes, and quiet manner, people simply weren't aware of him--a fact that made Binder's memory of him that day in battle even more unbelievable.
He pulled his hand away and reminded himself he wasn't here for his own entertainment. Time to scan the room for threats. Yet even as he looked for the man he'd spotted following the count, most of his attention was centered on Karl.
A man like Binder would be noticed anywhere he went. He radiated life; his face was too expressive. Although now Reese remembered hearing that von Binder was a fine diplomat, so that must mean that handsome, lively face could lie.
"Who pays you to follow me?" Karl asked. He sat again, and after another quick look around, Reese did too.
"I am a British citizen." He gave a vague reply that didn't answer the question at all.
"Of course. A soldier for his country still."
Reese didn't bother to correct him.
"And your attempt at stealth has been careless."
"I'm not required to remain hidden, merely to keep an eye on you." Christ, why was he telling the man anything about his assignment? He'd always been able to keep his thoughts clear, even when he felt lust. His cock never affected his thinking. But now he found himself blurting out all sorts of truths. What was the matter with him?
But then..."Shall we go to my room?" Binder asked very quietly. "You could keep an eye on me there."
Reese gave an involuntary huff of surprise. "Hey? What?"
The smile. "My room. To...talk...in private." His slight yet obvious hesitation made the message clear. Reese suspected the man had noticed his arousal and was taking advantage of it, toying with him.
"What makes you think I wish to talk to you?"
"As you wish. We needn't talk at all." Binder stressed the word talk, and that teasing smile lingered on his lips.
Reese rarely lost his temper. He knew better than to demand to know why his former enemy was torturing him. Perhaps the man merely probed to discover if he had any abnormal desires, but Reese couldn't stay quiet and calm. "Are you in the habit of taking strangers you believe are dangerous to your suite? You say you've a good instinct for survival, but I can't see it myself. I have your gun, you fool."
The laughter. "But you see, I feel as if I've known you for years. And really, if you wish to kill me, you would have done so by now. You've been following me for more than twenty-four hours."
Reese had already regained his composure. "No. I will not go to your room with you. I don't like the odds. You have at least eight men in your pay during this visit."
"Ten," Binder said, amused. "Perhaps you are not so good at your job after all."
"Two directly report to Herr Cohen. I didn't count them as part of your retinue." There was also the obviously Russian gentleman he'd seen speaking to Cohen the previous day, but he hadn't managed to discover that man's name or if he even belonged with the entourage.
Binder's face glowed with delight. "I withdraw my criticism."
"You should have your bodyguards on duty even when you are in the hotel."
"Bah. They are on duty. They watch the doors. I don't want anyone stalking down the halls after me. Except you, perhaps."
Reese was about to protest that Binder shouldn't tell him, a spying stranger, the details of his protection, when he realized the erbgraf could well be lying. The man could play sincerity better than any spy or liar Reese had ever met.
With that glowing smile, Binder added, "If you're in my suite, you can relax your guard. You won't need to lurk in corridors or lobbies. I'll make myself easy to locate."
When Reese looked into those amused eyes, he knew Binder wasn't simply sounding him out but was quite certain of Reese's sexual inclinations. God above, how sick he was of games. Even more than that, he loathed having his desires used against him as the captain had once done. He rose to his feet.
"Come on." He turned and left, not looking to see if Binder followed, but a moment later he felt the man's presence behind him.
They walked side by side in silence from the foyer down a side corridor away from the busy front entrance. Reese knew the hotel, of course. Had examined the halls and closets. And there was a small room used for storage not far away. That would do.
As they approached the storeroom, he seized Binder's hand in a hard grip and forced his arm up behind his back. He propelled the man into the dusty room.
"Here, now," Binder protested, although he didn't sound alarmed. "You might just tell me where we're going."
Reese pushed him all the way into the room cluttered with a jumble of extra wooden chairs and tables from the dining room. A small, smeary window was the only source of light.
Binder stumbled as Reese shoved the door closed with his foot. He pushed the larger man up against the door, face pressed to the wood. There was a satisfying thud and oof as Binder's solid body met the more solid door. Reese leaned close and breathed in the exotic scent of cloves and smoke. He wanted to know how the other man had guessed his secret, but knew better than to ask.
"You bastard," he whispered. His breath stirred the other's blond hair.
"Jonathan." His name uttered in that quiet, deep voice melted his bones. With most of his body pressed to Binder's back, Reese felt the vibration of the word. Binder wiggled as if to make himself comfortable, not to get away. At once Reese shifted his hips so his erection wouldn't press against the other man's backside.
"I suppose I must apologize." Binder turned his face to the side and eyed Reese over his shoulder. He sounded calm though muffled with his cheek pressed against the door. "I'm an arrogant chap because I consider myself a good judge of these matters. Evidently I was wrong, and your inclinations aren't as I thought. Please forgive me. I assure you I meant no insult." He closed his eyes. "Look at it this way. You have something interesting to add to your report about me." His voice shook a little. What emotion--or feigned emotion--was this? Not fear.
Reese made a guess at what he heard in the other's tone. "What right do you have to be angry?"
"I told you, I misjudged your proclivities. I am annoyed with myself and with you too. Are you satisfied now that you've trapped me?"
Satisfied? He'd only be satisfied if he could give in to the temptation he pressed against, if he could strip off Binder's clothes and see for himself if that fine golden hair covered the strong body under his.
Binder pushed back from the door with a grunt, not escaping Reese's hold but coming up against the obvious evidence of arousal. He slid his free arm between their bodies and ran his palm over Reese's erection.
Twisting away, Reese was mortified by the fact he actually wanted to press into that hand. Hoping the other man hadn't noticed what he'd touched, Reese said, "You say I've trapped you. What do you mean? This?" He squeezed the man's wrist.
"It's no physical threat I'm referring to, as you well know. But tell me, are you always aroused by violence, or did I guess your inclinations correctly?" There was a smirk in Binder's tone.
Reese yanked up his arm slightly just to remind him who was in charge.
Binder grunted. "No need to break my arm. I am not struggling, am I? Under other circumstances, I assure you I'd be entirely cooperative. I might add that it would help if I knew what you wanted from me."
"You do like to talk." Reese's breath was coming fast. He had self-discipline and could still think, even when aroused. Though he couldn't recall being this aroused in years.
"So I've been told. But truly, why are you so furious? I would think you'd be glad to have the rumors about me confirmed."