(Cara Walden Mystery, #2)
Publication date: September 12th 2017
Genres: Adult, Historical, Mystery
Budapest: 1956. Newlywed Cara Walden’s brother Zoltán has disappeared in the middle of the Hungarian revolution, harboring a deadly wartime secret. Will Cara or the Soviets find him first?
Cutting short her honeymoon in Paris to rescue a sibling she’s never met was not Cara’s idea, but her husband Jakub has a reckless streak, and she is too much in love to question his judgment. Together with her older brother Gray, they venture behind the Iron Curtain, seeking clues to Zoltán’s whereabouts among his circle of fellow dissidents, all victims of the recently overthrown Communist regime. One of them betrayed him, and Cara realizes that the investigation has put every person they’ve met at risk. Inadvertently, they’ve also unmasked a Russian spy, who is now tailing them in the hope that they will lead him to Zoltán.
The noir film of Graham Greene’s The Third Man inspires Lisa Lieberman’s historical thriller. Burning Cold features a compelling female protagonist who comes to know her own strength in the course of her adventures.
Jakub had a reckless streak. During the war he’d been a courier in the French underground, passing messages practically under the nose of the Gestapo. One night he was apprehended near the Sorbonne while disguised as a priest. Some priest! With his dark eyes and that sensuous mouth of his, I can imagine his female parishioners swooning at the communion rail, women lining up ten deep outside the confessional, awaiting their turn to whisper fantasies in the darkness, fabricating sins and revealing their secret desires, all of them vying to be the one who enticed the young cleric to break his vows.
At least I didn’t have to invent steamy scenes out of thin air. If I closed my eyes, we were back in our atelier in Paris, undressing one another when we’d scarcely gotten inside the door. Jakub played jazz violin in a trio that also featured a bass player and a pianist. I’d joined them as their vocalist right after our marriage at the end of September, and my renditions of American standards went over pretty well in the touristy Saint-Germain-des-Prés nightclubs that were the trio’s bread-and-butter. I wore black, of course, and rimmed my eyes with kohl, fully inhabiting the role, and something of the sultry chanteuse I impersonated onstage carried over into our lovemaking.
We couldn’t get enough of one another. After our last set, the trio and I would head off to a café in Montparnasse, Chez Lázár, to jam with the house musicians. The sessions were purely instrumental, but I was content to sit off at a side table by myself, smoking and nursing a cognac while I watched Jakub play. The room might be crowded, but I felt as if he were performing just for me, seducing me with the sounds he coaxed from his violin. The soulful vibrato, the virtuosic riffs, bow sliding along the strings, tension mounting steadily, inexorably, to resolve at last in a sensuous purr. He seemed utterly absorbed in the music, but I found ways of distracting him; it was part of the game.
When he finished a solo, I’d toast him with my glass, holding his eyes as I brought the snifter to my lips and drank. The first sip was harsh, but its sweetness would soon spread across my palate, warming and emboldening me. I imagined kissing him, the peppery taste of his tongue in my mouth, the heat of his body as we drew close. Just the thought made me yearn for him, a longing I conveyed through my gaze alone, appraising him from head to toe as I drew languorously on my cigarette. Flustered, Jakub would somehow manage to tear his eyes away from mine and return to his playing, but the awareness that we would soon be in bed together lent his performance an exquisite edge. Soon I’d catch him sneaking glances at me, missing cues, pausing to tune his instrument with trembling fingers. Then we’d be hurrying upstairs to our studio, Jakub’s mouth on mine, his hand sliding up beneath my dress before we’d reached the attic landing. This was also part of the game, the risqué part, because our landlord, Lázár himself, lived on the floor below.
“Let’s not make it too easy for him,” I’d say, attempting to pull away. Or half-attempting. Half of me wanted to be a proper young lady, but the other half didn’t care if we made an exhibition of ourselves in the hallway, Lázár be damned.
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