When Feldwebel Horst Stussel is murdered in Jake Plenty’s Moroccan brothel, local police chief Nicolas Renard suspects Jake’s involvement in the crime. Renard has loved Jake since their service in the Legion Etrangère during the Great War, but in this era of concentration camps, gas chambers, and the infamous pink triangle, his love for the American dare not speak its name.
When sadistic Nazi officer Major Danzig, a fanatic who excels at the arts of torture and interrogation, comes to Maarif, it isn’t because of the Feldwebel. He is in search of Christophe Picard, Resistance leader and Jake’s former lover. Danzig will stop at nothing to uncover Picard’s whereabouts, to find him and destroy him, and in so doing, strike a fatal blow against everything Picard stands for.
With an Allied invasion of North Africa mere days away, Jake and Renard must combine their wits, cunning, and courage to help Picard escape to America and freedom. In the midst of war and struggle, the two men are drawn into the fight of the century—and each other’s arms.
1st Edition published by ManLove Romance Press, 2009.
HE WAITED five minutes, then ten, then fifteen. At eighteen minutes past, Frederik Abaroa crushed his most recent cigarette and downed the rest of his drink. It would take him two minutes to get upstairs and into the room, provided he didn’t meet anyone along the way, but that was the trouble with a whorehouse: someone was always coming or going.
He took a quick survey of the room. The club was crowded tonight, and the band was making a fair hash of Glenn Miller’s “A String of Pearls” while several ersatz couples clung to each other in various approximations of connubial bliss. The drummer—a large, pale man with the florid complexion of a ready drinker—was bashing his cymbals with a wholly unnecessary vigor. The room was hot and close and smelled of sweat and too much cheap perfume. He saw Jake Plenty talking to the bartender while Maurice fussed with a tray of drinks. Jake’s back was to the room, but Abaroa wasn’t stupid. He firmly believed Jake could see out of the back of his head.
Abaroa left his table and crossed the main floor of the club by the most circuitous route possible, passing the central cluster of tables and threading his way through the crush of dancing couples. The sounds of the baccarat game filtered through the casino’s heavy double doors as Abaroa passed, and he felt his pockets reflexively. No, he had lost enough in Jake’s Paradise already this week. It wouldn’t do to compound one error with another.
The red-and-orange floor tiles seemed to throb and pulsate, and the potted palms slapped at him with spiny green fingers. He was sweating. The brothel was one huge, rococo landscape, and he but a tiny flyspeck in the midst of it—an insignificant thing most likely to be crushed by the juggernaut of unstoppable events, trampled underfoot and forgotten as if he had never existed.
He gained the stairs with half a minute to spare and stopped to look back at the room. No one noticed him, but no one ever did. The Basque might as well have been invisible. The couples were still dancing; the floor tiles still pulsed and throbbed; Jake Plenty was still talking to the bartender. No one in Maarif knew who Jake Plenty really was or where he’d come from. He was as much an enigma as the French préfet de police, Nicolas Renard. Rumor had it that Plenty and Renard had served alongside each other in the Légion etrangère—the French Foreign Legion—distinguishing themselves at Gallipoli, but rumor was Maarif’s second-biggest export and not always to be believed. Rumor also had it that Plenty had killed a man in San Francisco, in some dispute over a woman, but Abaroa didn’t believe it. He didn’t believe it because Plenty didn’t seem the type to kill someone over a woman—oh, Plenty could definitely kill somebody, but a woman would be the least part of the equation.
As Abaroa watched, Jake turned and gazed toward the staircase, a half-smoked cigarette dangling from his fingers—but his glance was a gesture only, a means to ease the posture, and Abaroa was confident Jake saw nothing. He continued up the stairs, moving slowly, like a man in a dream or someone wading through deep water. His instructions were explicit; he knew what he had to do, and a great deal had gone into tonight’s plan. Many more lives besides his own were at stake.
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J.S. Cook was born and raised on the island of Newfoundland. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in English Language and Literature and a B.Ed in post-secondary education. She makes her home in St. John’s, Newfoundland, with her husband Paul, and Lola, her spoiled rotten dogter. J.S. Cook also writes as JoAnne Soper-Cook.