For three years, Cap Kaufman has been trying to make amends to his war buddy’s orphaned daughter. Building her a safe home. Finding her the best nanny. Now, he’s kidnapped the man her doctor says is her best bet for fixing her blindness.
When Hector Gabourel wakes up on a boat in the middle of nowhere, he’s confronted by a man determined to get his own way. He has no choice but to play along and wait for his chance to escape. What he doesn’t count on is learning to respect the man who uprooted him from everything he knew, all for the love of a child.
For Hector, it’s a challenge. For Cap, it’s penance. For both of them, a chance for love. All it takes is opening their eyes to see what’s right in front of them.
Climbing the stairs was awkward. He was too self-conscious about making noise and getting caught out. If he was, he’d blame the lack of rules, but truth be told, he didn’t relish the notion. He wanted to find Kaufman without fanfare, no one the wiser to their conversation.
At the end of the hall, he stopped and listened. He wasn’t accustomed to so much quiet. LA was a loud city, only falling silent at night, but then, he was home and he had neighbors to make up for the lack. Here, the roar of the furnaces was a vibration beneath his feet. He couldn’t even hear Diana and Miss Forster any longer.
A pipe squeaked as water was shut off. Hector’s gaze locked in on a closed door halfway down the corridor.
His suspicions were confirmed when he stood in front of it and heard movement inside. He rapped once, quick and hard, then stepped back to wait. In spite of his discouraging introduction to it, politeness was the norm in the Kaufman house. He’d been granted courtesy with his private quarters. He would extend the same.
“Yes?” Kaufman said when he opened the door. His eyes narrowed at the sight of Hector, and he glanced down the empty hall. “I thought you were meeting with Doc.”
Hector was slow to respond. This version of Kaufman wasn’t what he’d expected.
The pipes must’ve been from a shower. Kaufman’s hair was wet, water beading at the ends but somehow defying all laws of physics and not falling. Through the open flaps of the robe he must’ve hastily pulled on for propriety’s sake, more moisture glistened on his sculptured muscles, dripping into the rolled edge of the towel he wore around his waist. His flesh was tanned and every bit as hard as Hector would’ve thought, but it was the sight of his legs that truly took Hector by surprise.
While the calves were as firmly muscled as the rest of him, his left leg ended in an artificial foot. A leather strap bound the metal limb to his leg just below the knee, another securing it closer to the ankle. Through the iron framework, tiny gears and springs were barely visible, but it seemed to bear his weight without falter.
Hector ripped his gaze upward, embarrassed he’d stared even for a moment. He’d come up here for a reason, and no amount of shock was going to distract him from it. “That’s over. Now I want a meeting with you.”
Kaufman mulled his words, glancing again past his shoulder. “All right.” He edged aside to give Hector room to enter. Even without a shoe, there wasn’t a hitch in his step.
The bedroom was exactly what Hector would’ve envisioned for a man like the one he’d first met on the boat. The bed was crisply made, the walls devoid of ornamentation. A fireplace on the outside wall sparked with golden flames, and a lone chair sat in front of it, allowing someone to sit and enjoy it at close range. On the nightstand, a tarnished gold pocket watch rested with its cover flipped open. Steam billowed from an open door leading to a connected bathroom, leaving the air sultry and thick as Hector hovered inside the threshold.
“Is this going to be quick?” Kaufman asked.
“Then, have a seat.” Kaufman gestured toward the chair. “And excuse me for a moment while I finish drying off.”
He disappeared into the bathroom, leaving Hector no choice but to do as he was told. Though the leather was soft and startlingly luxurious, he sat on the edge, too aware that he now occupied the only one in the room. The heat wafting from the fire was relaxing, though, revenants of life as he knew it. It unknotted his anxiety in inches and degrees, hypnotizing him into forgetting this place was as foreign to him as Kaufman.
At least until Kaufman returned.
His hair was only slightly damp now, the towel replaced by baggy sleep pants. He hadn’t bothered with a shirt. Hector almost wished he had. His chest was as distracting as the artificial foot.
“Are you here to tell me to go to hell?” Kaufman asked without fanfare.
“I should,” Hector replied. “Except we both know it would be pretty pointless, wouldn’t it?”
With a snort, Kaufman went to the tallboy and opened the top drawer. “In that case, I’m having that drink I planned.” He pulled out a flask and held it up. “Want one?”
Making the offer was a sign of trust. Accepting was the only thing he could do.