MI6 Officer Grayson Holmes carries on his shoulders the weight of a daunting legacy, and on his heart the weight of a devastating loss. His lineage has gifted him with a mind designed to see the gossamer threads others cannot; he is both blessed and cursed. His name has brought admiration, disbelief, even scorn… and now, a far deadlier threat.
Kipling Branson lives a perfectly normal, perfectly content existence filled with family, friends, work, and her doctorate studies. Never would she have contemplated a simple malfunction in her hearing aids would be the catalyst for not only saving her life, but set off a course of events that would change her life in ways she never imagined.
Grayson went to Boston at his director's request to open communication channels in the intelligence community, but before he can return home to London he barely escapes death in an explosion that kills a dozen university students. A chain of events leads him on a hunt to determine who wants him dead, and why, with perhaps the most intriguing question being how the beautiful Kipling Branson is involved.
Kip looked up at the sound of another voice, familiar but unknown. The tone was muffled, like he spoke from behind glass, the wail of sirens and vehicles overpowering everything else. Her aids had long since switched to dampening the high decibels, which in turn muffled everything except her own voice, which echoed in her ears like talking into a barrel. The man she'd spoken to in the hallway outside the lecture hall stood at the bumper of the truck to her right, wearing a long, black wool coat with a red tartan scarf wrapped around his throat and tucked into the collar.
"What?" she asked, trying to focus on his lips.
Her insides had been shaking since she shook off the black haze of hitting the ground, smothered in chaos and sound and panic. She hadn't been able to bring herself to look too far around the corner to the destruction, afraid of what she might see. She had heard the talk -- at least half a dozen dead, if not more. Her stomach clenched painfully and she had to swallow hard. Lightheaded, she slid her other arm beneath the blanket to hang on to the truck so she wouldn't tip sideways.
He came away from the bumper, the shift of light from the emergency vehicles to the glow of the interior of the truck, bringing his face into focus. In the hall she'd been too intent on finding somewhere to deal with her hearing aids that she hadn't taken in most of the details. His features were angled with dominating cheekbones. A late day's dusting of auburn stubble accentuated a sharp prominent jaw line and defined mouth. Auburn hair, almost light enough to be called dark ginger, fell in chunky, thick curls across his forehead like it had been set out of control by the damp air.
"Take a deep breath," he said, his eloquent accent a challenge -- British, but city or region she couldn't say other than it was a common accent -- until she focused on his lips for a few words. She'd noted the accent before, but the hall had been quiet and the only interference the damn clicking in her ears. His voice was a deep baritone, almost disproportionate to his tall, lean frame. Reading the words on his lips was different than anyone she'd encountered; he spoke with his lower lip, his defined upper lip not moving much to enunciate the words. "Count to four. Release it. Count to four," he instructed, stepping in front of her but back enough she didn't need to crane her neck to see him. "It will help with the adrenaline release."
She shifted her focus from his mouth to his eyes. Kip had spent most of her life forcing herself to pay close attention to the expressions of the people she spoke with, and with that required attention to detail came the side effect of often noticing the minute details of a person's features: their mouth and the way they moved it, their own tendency to make or avoid eye contact, and the details of their eyes where she often saw just as much communication as in the words they spoke. This man's were striking; a stormy mix of greens and blues so unusual they seemed unnatural, uneven, and they had the slightest upward tilt at the outer corners. What she saw beyond the color, and the shape, was the reserve.
Kip blinked to clear her thoughts and did as he said, watching him as he watched her to make sure she did as he instructed. Three or four breaths later, she did feel less lightheaded, though her insides still twisted with tremors. All the while, he watched her. One corner of his mouth quirked when she looked at him again.