In the wreckage of a friend's death, Countess Katria Markova finds her perfectly ordered life irrevocably altered. Russian politics proves more dangerous than the front lines of war, and when her fiancé's future is threatened by rumors of treason, their cat-and-mouse game ends. In its place, a political game, one that puts their very lives at stake, begins.***
Count Nikolai Orlov will do anything to clear his brother's name. Anything but put Katria in harm's way. Attracted to her from the moment they met, he's spent their time together breaking the wall that surrounds her heart. He wants the passionate woman beneath, wants to shatter her cool exterior.
With her life in danger, Nikolai's only course of action is to exact revenge. From the snowy streets of St. Petersburg to the River Neva's icy depths, they search for the answers to clear Nikolai. But in their search, will they lose each other?
His nearly black eyes seemed to look through her and discover her secrets. Beyond that, his confidence was arrogant, but not, she sensed, unwarranted. Katria knew many arrogant nobles, men and women. In Nikolai, she knew it wasn't misplaced. But she'd never tell him so.
Recognition passed between them at their first meeting. It had been a connection she couldn't explain even now. She'd known his brother, Peter, for years, but hadn't met Nikolai until a few months ago when he returned from Austria.
That meeting changed everything she'd ever thought about herself and her life, awakened apart of her she hadn't known slept. Sharpened her senses. Even made her reckless in her desire for Nikolai.
"I'll see you soon, Uncle," she said, squeezing his arm. Katria moved into the crowd with her well-practiced smile. She nodded in greeting to those she passed and stopped to receive a compliment on her attire or a bit of gossip. Her mind, however, still mused over Nikolai.
It had taken her years and many near misses to assert a semblance of control over her own life. Her father used her ruthlessly. Viktor had promised her at age fifteen to one of the tsar's favorite ministers. The minister had been a diseased old man of sixty-eight, and she'd been saved only when he died mere weeks later. Since then, she'd maneuvered around her father's machinations, skillfully avoiding unwelcome marriages.
Control was what she wanted, and Nikolai was uncontrollable. Her feelings toward him represented a seismic shift in the way she considered her future. Her carefully constructed façade cracked just enough to peer out at him.
Somehow Anatoli knew it, too, when he'd introduced them. One day, she'd ask her uncle about that introduction.