Jennifer a. davids
Lily Curtis would miss her deadline. That’s all there was to it.
She’d lost her wrap, her evening dress was torn, and all she wanted now was a hot bath. Her newspaper in New York could wait for their fluff article about the latest fashions in Berlin.
She stepped inside the elevator of her apartment building and rubbed her bare arms as the doors whooshed shut. Granted, slipping away from the dinner party to sneak into Gruppenführer von Huber’s study had been risky. Shepherd, her contact with British intelligence, would call it foolish.
Sudden warmth chased away the chill. His concern would be thrilling if he saw her as a woman instead of the right person for the job. Ironically, that’s what made him so very attractive. Well, he wouldn’t have a chance to scold her. She’d only tell him she’d gotten what his government needed to know.
The elevator doors slid open, and the tear in her neckline gave a little as she stepped out. You did what you had to do to get away. It was worth it. The information she’d taken would help reveal Hitler’s plans. Hopefully. But if von Huber had gotten his way…
She forced herself to think of the bath Greta, her housekeeper, would draw for her as she dug in her bag for her key. No giving in to fear. Not when there was a job to do. The door swung open, and inky blackness greeted her.
No answer. Greta always waited up for her, no matter how late. Lily stepped back. The doorman downstairs was still on duty. Before she could turn away, someone pulled her inside, and the door slammed shut.
A hand smothered her mouth. She stepped back and pounded her heel into her captor’s foot. The grip on her loosened, and she yanked away.
The fireplace poker. She fumbled in the darkness. Why weren’t things in the right place?
The curtains opened, and moonlight bathed the room. Her apartment was in shambles. She lunged for the mantle and snatched up the poker.
A deep British voice spoke from the shadows beside the window. “Wait! It’s me.”
She lowered her arm as Shepherd stepped into the light. Icy cold settled in her chest. “They know?”
“Not exactly. They think it was Greta.”
“Where is she?”
“The kitchen. She’s dead. I wouldn’t go in there if I were you.”
She worked her jaw and throttled the handle of the poker. “What are we going to do about it?”
“Nothing,” he replied. “You need to leave Berlin. Tonight.”
“No!” She slammed the poker back into its stand.
He strode over and grasped her by the forearms. “Lily, listen. If your cover isn’t blown, it will be soon.”
Arguments ran rampant in her brain, but everything in that moment kept them from escaping her mouth. Not since her first embassy party in Berlin, where he’d recruited her, had he stood so close. And he never used her first name.
He’s just getting your attention. He’s a professional, remember? Cool, detached, the consummate spy. Having feelings for him is ten times riskier than sneaking into von Huber’s study—wait!
She snaked a finger into her décolleté and retrieved a piece of paper.
“What’s this?” He took it.
“The information you needed.”
Shepherd’s eyes narrowed. “From von Huber?”
“Yes, there was a dinner party at his house. I managed to slip into his study.”
But his focus was on her, not the paper.
“What?” she asked.
“There’s something wrong with your dress.”
Champagne-laced bile rose in her throat. Before she could think of what to say he tugged her over to the window.
“You were wearing your fur stole when you left, and your dress is torn. What else did that lecher do?”
How could he have known she’d worn her fur? Unless— “You’re watching me? Why?”
He shook her. “What did he do?”
Lily pushed free. “Nothing! I heard him coming so I flipped on the light and said I’d gotten lost. Since I had to flirt with him just to get an invitation, he thought…anyway his wife came looking for him.”
“I should have known better than to recruit you.” He turned away and ran a hand through his dark hair.
A slap would have hurt less. What she had read as professionalism and fair-mindedness had been distrust and male chauvinism all along. He was no different from her editor who assumed she had no brain because she wore a skirt.
“Don’t kick yourself.” She started for her room to get changed. “I’ll be out of your hair in a jiffy.”
But the next second he’d spun her into his arms, his blue eyes searching her face. “I should never have recruited you because I knew one day you’d have to make that choice. It’s been driving me mad from the start.”
Her breath caught as his lips met hers. And there was nothing cool or professional about them. But seconds later he pulled away.
“You have to get out of here.”
She nodded, partially in agreement but mostly to clear her head. He was right. No telling what the Gestapo had gotten out of poor Greta. She went to her room and changed as quickly as she could.
“What happens now?” she asked as he helped her into her coat.
“Get to the station. You’ll have to walk but you should make it in time to catch the last train to Paris. You won’t see me, but I’ll be on the same train.”
She didn’t doubt it. “That’s not exactly what I meant.” She faced him.
He avoided her eye and escorted her to the door. “Stick to the shadows.” Shepherd paused as he studied the floor. “And Lily, I’m sorry. For the kiss. It won’t happen again.”
With a single finger beneath his chin, Lily raised his head and smiled as she brushed her lips against his. “Oh, but it better. See you in Paris.”
She and her husband have two young adult children, two quirky, yet loveable, cats and reside in central Ohio. As well as being a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), she is a proud graduate of The Ohio State University.
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