That Summer in Berlin464
That Summer in Berlin464
German power is rising again, threatening a war that will be even worse than the last one. The English aristocracy turns to an age-old institution to stave off war and strengthen political bonds—marriage. Debutantes flock to Germany, including Viviane Alden. On holiday with her sister during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Viviane’s true purpose is more clandestine. While many in England want to appease Hitler, others seek to prove Germany is rearming. But they need evidence, photographs to tell the tale, and Viviane is a genius with her trusty Leica. And who would suspect a pretty, young tourist taking holiday snaps of being a spy?
Viviane expects to find hatred and injustice, but during the Olympics, with the world watching, Germany is on its best behavior, graciously welcoming tourists to a festival of peace and goodwill. But first impressions can be deceiving, and it’s up to Viviane and the journalist she’s paired with—a daring man with a guarded heart—to reveal the truth.
But others have their own reasons for befriending Viviane, and her adventure takes a darker turn. Suddenly Viviane finds herself caught in a web of far more deadly games—and closer than she ever imagined to the brink of war.
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)|
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South Coast of England
There was a storm coming.
Viviane Alden stood on the shore, the round pebbles shifting under her feet. For a moment she clutched the thick robe close to her throat as she stared out across the English Channel. The air was already yellow and heavy, but the dark clouds remained distant, mounded on the horizon over France. The waves were starting to kick up, but for now they were still merely fretful rather than angry.
She could still go back, climb the cliff, and slip into the house before anyone knew she was missing. All was in chaos anyway, with everyone busy preparing for tonight's party at Halliwell Hall. Now there was a storm she'd gladly miss. Her stepsisters would barely notice her absence, though her mother would certainly fly into a rage if she knew where Viviane was at this moment.
She stayed put, staring out across the water. This day was a sacred annual ritual for her, and her mother was probably still in bed, sipping tea and complaining about having so many things to manage. There was Margaret's betrothal party tonight, to be followed by her wedding. Julia, her second stepdaughter, was due to make her London debut in the spring, and the fifteen-year-old twins, Felicity and Grace, were unruly, inquisitive creatures who thrived on mischief. Fortunately, Miles, her stepson and Lord Rutherford's heir, was away at Eton, and out from underfoot. There was also Viviane's own wedding to the Marquess of Medway to plan for.
Except there wasn't. Not anymore.
Viviane had called Phillip last night and broken it off, though she hadn't told her mother yet. There'd be time later, of course. Or possibly not, with all that was going on today. The conversation would have to happen eventually-another storm that would need to be weathered-but today was not a day for the kind of news that would lead only to disappointment, arguments, and questions she didn't want to answer, first from her mother, then her stepsisters. They'd join forces as a unified flock to peck Viviane to pieces over letting a prime catch like Phillip Medway go. Then she'd have to face her stepfather. She raised her chin against the wind. She had her reasons, and it was between her and Phillip alone.
Today she had other things to think about. Seven years ago, on this very day, at this very hour, Viviane's entire world had collapsed.
She didn't cry or turn to look west toward Cornwall and home-her old home, since Kellyn, where her father had died, was lost to her now. She'd been the one to find him that morning, in the lake, and this was how she chose to remember him. What better way to dispel the horror of a drowning than by defying the waters? She was the Lady of the Lake-or of the English Channel, now-and she was an excellent swimmer.
Her mother had forbidden her to go near the water after her father's death, fearing Viviane would drown, too.
Viviane took a breath, ran down the shingle, and plunged into the icy waves.
The cold water closed around her. It wasn't like the warm green waters of the Lady's Lake at Kellyn. The Channel was fast and dangerous, black and salty, like tears. She waited for the water to become benevolent around her body, buoy her up in a loose, cool grip. It was memory and torment and pleasure all in one.
She hadn't cried on the day of her father's funeral, or even when her mother had told her that Kellyn, the estate that had been home to the Alden family for hundreds of years, was to be sold because there was no money to pay the exorbitant death duties.
At fourteen, she'd been too young and too shattered to ask questions, and her mother was consumed by her own anguished grief, torn between anger and loss. Did she remember the anniversary? Would she have agreed to this date for Margaret's betrothal party if she did? In seven years, she'd never mentioned the events of that day, the way she'd found Viviane, white-faced and silent by the lake, next to the lifeless body of her father, his face turned to the sky, his eyes filled with water and nothing else. Her mother's anguished screams had scared the birds from the trees.
The waves were kicking up in earnest now, a tantrum against the bully wind. Seabirds swooped, fighting the gathering power of the gale to screech a warning to her.
She ignored them. She wasn't afraid of the waves or tricky currents, was sure of the strength in her body, the power of her whole, healthy lungs. She'd fallen and broken her left leg as a child, and was left with scars and a permanent limp. She was awkward and clumsy on land, so her father had taught her to rule the water. They swam together like fish, like diving birds, like swans, and then lay on the grassy bank beside the lake to dry in the sun. When he'd caught his breath, and the wheeze and crackle in his damaged lungs eased, he told her tales of King Arthur, the sword Excalibur, the first Sir Alden of Kellyn, and Viviane, the Lady of the Lake. "The Aldens are the true guardians of the great sword, lass. Don't ever forget that. It is our duty to be worthy of that honor, to right what wrongs we can and do our best for those who need us most." He'd rise from the grass, knowing he must get dry and warm and return to the house to take the medicine that helped his lungs, ruined by a gas attack during the war. "A vile and cowardly weapon," he said. He rarely said more, but she knew when he was in pain by the strain on his face, by the harsh sound of his breathing, the rasps and whistles and hacking coughs. She'd also known that it had been getting worse, and he had more bad days than good.
The whole village-the whole country-had mourned the death of Major Sir Arthur Alden of Kellyn. Soldiers who'd served with him came from all over the country for his funeral. Winston Churchill had been there, and Lloyd George, and the Earl of Rutherford, who would become Mama's second husband.
Viviane took another deep breath and kicked hard, fought the fierce shove of the waves, pushing back with every stroke. She would never drown. She felt the cold numb her, willing her to let go, to release the air in her straining lungs. Was this what her father had felt in his last moments? She held her breath until her chest ached and dark spots spun before her eyes. Only then did she kick for the surface, using her weaker leg, forcing it to take her upward. She drew a long breath just as a wave crashed over her, and she swallowed half of it, coughing, choking on the burning salt water as it filled her throat.
The storm tide spun her around, stronger now. The distant shore was all but obscured by the rising waves. She was being carried away from the beach, and safety.
She gasped for breath, began to swim, but she was tiring, pushed to her limit, her heart pounding, her scarred leg aching. She willed herself not to give in to panic, to endure, conquer, and be strong the way her father had taught her, but she felt the knife edge of fear.
"Ahoy!" The call was garbled by the water, and she couldn't tell if it was just the wind or a gull playing tricks on her.
"Ahoy, I say-is that a mermaid?"
Then she saw it, a small sailboat coming toward her, bounding across the waves. The Kipper, Reggie Farraday's boat. The sail was bowed outward, glutted to bursting with wild wind, and the wee craft bucked like a rodeo horse. It seemed a miracle that he'd come, good old Reggie, her friend, the boy-and the heir to the earldom-next door.
"Perhaps it's a selkie," another voice said, also male, Scots tinged, and unfamiliar. They came alongside and looked over the gunwale at her. She peered up into a pair of eyes as gray as the sea.
"Oho! I know this mermaid!" Reggie grinned, his teeth flashing as white as a gull's wing as he trimmed the sails to hold the boat still. "Vee! Is that really you? I thought you were forbidden to swim in the sea."
She sent him a sharp look that belied her predicament and her relief at seeing him. "I'm surprised to see you out here, too, Reggie, what with so much to do before the party tonight," she replied tartly. "How's the sailing?"
"There's a storm coming. We were just heading back, actually. There'll be thunder and lightning before the hour's out."
"Do you not see those clouds?" Reggie's companion asked her. She was surprised by the admonition in the stranger's tone. "Did no one ever tell you it's dangerous to swim in a tempest?"
Before Viviane could reply, Reggie did. "We'd best take charge. Pull her in, will you, Tom? I'll hold the boat steady."
"No need. I can swim back," Viviane said, stung by the scolding, but a hand reached over the side, the sleeve rolled up and the palm extended. She saw calluses and the smear of something dark on the tip of one finger. She could see his face now, the features even, his expression flat, even as his eyes snapped with irritation.
"Come on, give me your hand," he said, edging the command with impatience. She had no choice, of course, and he knew it. She took his hand and let him haul her over the side. She landed in the bottom of the boat like a flounder and quickly righted herself. He regarded her with curiosity and male interest. Her swimsuit clung to every curve, and she felt naked under his sharp gaze.
"Hello, darling," Reggie drawled. "You're very wet, aren't you?" He kept hold of the tiller and let her help herself up onto the seat. "Tom Graham, allow me to introduce the Honorable Miss Viviane Alden, a dear old friend of the family, and the woman I hoped I would one day marry, but alas, she is betrothed to a much better man than I." She sent him a quelling look, but he simply grinned and went on with the introductions. "Tom and Geoffrey were at Cambridge together, which is how he came to be chosen as my brother's best man. Tom's also a reporter, working at the London Herald, so watch what you say." He winked at Viviane, navigating the waves.
"Alden?" Something changed in Tom Graham's face, a slight tightening of his mouth. He gave a sharpness to her surname, almost an accusation. Had they met? She scanned his face, but he was indeed a stranger. He stared back, his brows furrowing slightly, as if he knew something suspect about her. Or perhaps he did not approve of women swimming. She felt her cheeks flushing despite the cold wind, and she looked away, raised her chin with aristocratic insouciance as she tucked her scarred left leg under her perfect right one. She pulled off her bathing cap, her eyes on the horizon. The wind was icy on her wet skin, and she clamped her teeth together to keep from shivering and wrapped her arms across her chest.
"I say, that breeze is kicking up fierce, isn't it?" Reggie said, hauling on the tiller as the little skiff bounced on the rising sea. He looked at Viviane. "You're cold," he pronounced. "Tom, lend her your coat, would you?"
For a moment Tom Graham hesitated. "Well come on, old man. Consider it an act of chivalry. I'd give her my own if I was wearing one." Reggie was clad in a thick sweater. He might have given her that, but his friend was already removing his tweed jacket. He dropped it over her wet shoulders without a word, and without touching her.
"Thank you," Viviane said stiffly. The garment was warm from his body, and it smelled like shaving soap, and him, she supposed, different from Reggie's expensive cologne or the scent of tobacco and hair pomade that clung to her stepfather's clothes. She glanced at Tom Graham and wondered if he was cold without his jacket, but he was staring at the thick clouds barreling over the horizon, his eyes narrowed against the glare, dark hair blowing back from a wide, clear brow, his white shirt molding itself to his lean body. He looked like a pirate, especially when compared to Reggie's crisp appearance, his clipped hair, thin mustache, and tailored clothing, all of it bought at huge expense to ape the casual ease that Tom Graham had at what was likely a far lesser cost.
She scanned the shoreline, and realized she'd drifted quite a way from the small beach under Wrenwood House, her stepfather's estate. Goodness, she had been in danger, hadn't she? She cast a sidelong look at Tom Graham, who was staring at her again, a mix of puzzlement and censure in his sharp eyes. "Drop me back at the cove below Wrenwood," she said to Reggie. "You're probably as busy as I am-there's so much to do before the party tonight."
Reggie made a face. "Yes, shouldn't you be home making yourself beautiful? Not that you're not beautiful now, of course, but my sister has been trying to decide on which frock to wear all week. You'd think she was the bride. What time is Phillip arriving today?"
She lowered her gaze to her puckered fingertips. "He . . . can't make it."
She felt Reggie's eyes on her, knew his brows were rising and he was waiting for her to continue. If they were alone, she might have told him about her broken engagement, but she could hardly do that in front of a stranger, so she looked across the water and stayed silent. The square bulk of Wrenwood came into view, standing firm on the cliff top, its granite face unperturbed by this storm or any other. She realized Reggie was sailing straight past the cove. "Just set me down in Wrenwood Cove, Reggie," she said again.
He frowned. "If it's going to storm, I can hardly toss you back into the sea like an undersized flounder. Come back to Halliwell with us, and I'll drive you to Wrenwood."
Viviane considered the consequences if she arrived home in Reggie's car, clad only in her swimming costume and a strange man's coat.
"I can get back faster if I go the way I came," she said. She'd climb the cliff path, slip back into the house via the garden, and say that she'd been out doing laps in the swimming pool if anyone saw her.