Paid to Pretend, the fifth and last book in the Delphic Agency Series, is published 2nd October 2020. Here is a little sneak peek from the opening.
Beneath his feet the ground was icy and slick and Christian kept a close eye on the path ahead in the wavering light of his head torch.
Pathfinder, watch your step.
The wind from the lake was cold tonight and the icy rain found ways under his compression shirt and chilled the back of his neck.
He glanced at his wristwatch and picked up the pace a bit, he was behind his schedule.
In the distance the lights of the agency were a bright white beacon on the rise above the lake while the boathouse windows were pinpricks of more welcoming gold. Sara must be home Christian thought, because Tay and Cash’s cottages would be dark for a long time to come.
For a moment he felt a flash of jealousy. They got their happy ending. They found each other. Christian gritted his teeth and fiercely pushed down the feeling.
Feel nothing, fear nothing, desire nothing.
He pushed the unwelcome emotion to his muscles and took the bend in the track faster, digging his mud caked feet into the curve, pumping his arms to keep his balance. Icy water splashed up his bare calves. He was on the home straight now. Half a mile ahead the bur oaks that surrounded the boathouse were a bare branch silhouette against the sky, and Christian put his head down and went for it.
The burn in his muscles was a fierce joy. One of the few he allowed himself. If he made it to the boathouse by his scheduled time he might allow himself a warm shower. It would probably be wise given the run around the perimeter of the lake in November would have dropped his core temperature despite the exertion.
Can’t get ill. Not allowed to be ill. Not allowed to be weak.
Suck it up boy.
The runner’s euphoria powered him the last half a mile in a blur of hot endorphins and needle pricks of cold against his skin.
He sprinted the last 100 yards and pulled up under the bur oaks, panting. Bent over, hands on his knees, he glanced at his watch. On schedule. Good. Not early, not late. On track. Perfectly acceptable.
He breathed in and out deeply, and then straightened slowly.
The lights of the end cottage of the boathouse shone in front of him. Those lights had never been lit in the five years he had worked at Delphic. Through the rain beating down they glowed and burst in prisms of light. Christian gasped and his heart leapt. His mouth went dry.
The lights were golden spills of welcoming warm colour, the little square in the front door, the portholes on both sides, and the floor to ceiling multi-pane arched window above the entrance.
“Not now,” Christian didn’t know if he spoke aloud or if the words were in his head, “I can’t, I’m not ready,”
He felt his legs give way and the next thing he knew he was kneeling in the shallow mud beside his long-time home, his hands curled into fists on his thighs.
He raised his head, and through the long wet strands of his hair he saw the tall man who leaned against the side of the window, arms folded, one ankle crossed over the other. “Michael,”
Christian stared up at him, just like always, and Michael looked down on him. Christian swallowed the surging emotions, rage, guilt, sorrow, and blinked the water and mud out of his eyes, trying to see Michael’s expression.
When Michael turned away from the window Christian felt his heart break all over again.