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Here’s the promised snippet:
EXCERPT FROM HEART STRIKE
COPYRIGHT © TRACY COOPER-POSEY 2020
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
“You should be arriving in Kiev in a couple of hours,” he told her.
“Already?” She resisted the temptation to pull out her phone and check the time. “I can’t believe we’ve been sitting here so long.”
He was working hard on dunking the teabag, concentrating on it. He didn’t smile or respond to her observation.
“Well, I knew it was a trite comment, but it is true,” she added. “I guess I’ve worn out my welcome with one too many clichés.”
He looked up at her. His head moved from side to side in a microscopic movement. “No, that is not it.” His voice was low, with a note of tension in it. Then he added, “I mean, yes, I can’t believe the time has gone that fast either. Which baffles me and is mildly disturbing. I thought I was immune to such things.” His gaze dropped to the tea once more. There was a funnel between his brows, now.
Wariness trickled through her. “Why do I feel like I’m missing something?”
He didn’t look up this time. “That is because you are missing something,” he said quietly.
She held herself still. She waited. Dread grew in her chest. She was not a professional like her father. Cloak and dagger did not come easily to her. All she could think was that in some mysterious way in the last few seconds, he had figured out that she was not who he thought she was. She had no idea what to do next.
Finally, he lifted his chin. His gaze was steady. But it was bleak. “I told you I was Russian,” he said. “What I didn’t tell you was that I worked with the Russian Embassy.” He paused, his gaze not moving. “One more cliché, that isn’t a cliché at all.” He said softly.
Fabian jumped. “Why are you telling me this?”
His gaze did not let her go. “I like you.” He paused. “I like you a lot,” he added, his voice harsh. “I wanted to tell you that and get it out of the way. Most Americans are wary around Russians. Especially this particular Russian.”
Her heart thudded. “You like me?” She felt inane repeating it, but it was so unexpected that she had to confirm it.
His mouth quirked. “You are a beautiful woman. You must have heard this many times before. You are flattering me by sounding shocked.”
“Believe me, I am truly shocked,” she said. “Prettiness is not a factor when one is wearing environmental suits they have been sweating inside all for eight hours at a time.”
“I suspect you would be just as beautiful even then. It is in your bones.”
“The last man who invited me to dinner said he wanted to find out how smart I was.” She grimaced. “He was very proud of his two doctorates,” she added.
“Then he was a fool,” Mischa replied. “And he should have his doctorates stripped from him.” He pushed the teacup away with a compulsive movements and sat back. “Perhaps I should not have said anything.” He said it in a low voice, almost to himself.
“No, I’m glad you said it.” She hesitated. “The reason I lost my balance when the train swayed…”
His attention sharpened.
“I’m not clumsy,” she said. “It is my knee, you see.” Embarrassed, she turned on the seat and lifted her leg up, her hand under the knee to help raise it. She put her boot on the edge of the other seat, so that her knee was cocked above the table, where he could see it. The flowing, loose fabric of her trousers molded around the brace beneath, now she had bent her knee. She wrapped her knuckles against the metal hinge, so it gave dull knocking sounds.
“A brace,” he said softly. He sat back. “You are self-conscious about it.”
“I suppose I am. That’s why I didn’t want to grip the handles on the sides of the seats the way everyone else was. So when this train shook, I lost my balance.” She rested her hand on her knee. “It only happened recently, you see.”
For a moment that seemed to stretch for a very long time, he just stared at her. “So, not a cliché, after all.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I feel like I have let you down in some way.”
He leaned forward, his hand sliding across the table, to splay across the surface so that his fingertips were within an inch of her forearm. He did not touch her, but she had the sensation that he wanted to. He didn’t smile, yet there was warmth in his eyes. “I am a very good at reading people. I knew you were holding back on something. I am honored that you revealed this to me.”
“It’s just a gammy leg,” she said, her cheeks heating.
“It is more than that to you,” he said, his tone certain.
She swallowed. “Yes. In a way that I cannot explain, it is the reason why I came to find out about my uncle now, and not years ago.” It was as close to the truth as she dare to come.
He considered that. “How did it happen?”
“A terrorist bomb,” she said.
He nodded, as if it was the answer he had expected. “Which made you reconsider how life can be snatched away without warning. Better to squeeze in what you can, in the time you have.”
Invisible fingers walked up her spine. There were not cold, but they sent a shudder through her. “Since it happened, I cannot stand having time wasted. The idea of spending a week sunning myself on some Caribbean beach, which is what I used to do, is repulsive to me now.”
“Grasping at life…” His voice was strained.
The horse note in his voice caught her attention. “You know something about not wasting time, don’t you?”
“Something, yes.” He cleared his throat.
“So, can you see why I don’t give a damn where you’re from, or who you work for? To me, that is irrelevant.”
His gaze met hers. “Right at this moment, staring into your eyes, I agree. It is all completely irrelevant.”
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