Are you familiar with her work, Mr. Jones…

“Are you familiar with her work, Mr. Jones?” Jules asked, and he forced his attention back to the woman trying to sell him the art.

“I am.”

“This piece is a favorite of mine. It’s meant to be enjoyed in the round, a position of power in any room. And yet the artist has titled it Surrender.”

“A provocative title,” he agreed.

“We see a man in his prime, proud, strong—but to whom does he surrender? An enemy? A woman?” She paused, watching him over the rim of her champagne glass. “What do you see when you look at it?”

His voice was rich, low. “I prefer hearing what you see.”

“I see an isolated man.” She walked while she spun her story, drifting around the pedestal until she stood on the opposite side where she could study his face.

“He is bared to the skin, on his knees but upright. The muscle definition in his back and across his shoulders, his thighs—it’s so alive I have to clench my hand against touching it. I want to touch it. Need to. His legs are slightly parted, hips flexed as if he’s ready to take a woman—or be taken by her. But he is alone. One hand is clenched to his heart. She gives us clues, does Jaz, so we surmise he is a warrior. The weapon near his hand appears to be a—”

“A takuba,” he interrupted. “The sword of the Tuareg, often worn at the shoulder but in this case, at the hip—the detail here is accurate.”

“Jaz will tell you truth lives in the details, Mr. Jones.”

“Will she?”

“Truth is behind the Faceless Man. That’s the reason why she hides his face. We must work for it, this truth. Try to understand what she has to say. A piece like this could be studied endlessly while you sit, relaxed in a deep leather chair with a good—whiskey, was it? Yes, a crystal tumbler near your hand. And music. You seem like a man who enjoys solitude and music.”

What she saw caught him by surprise. Professionally, Baz revealed little emotion other than what he used to intimidate. This other side of him should have been buried. Deep. Then again, he hadn’t expected to see beyond the art. Beyond the details.

And still, the woman kept talking with the softness of seduction.

“This is our Faceless Man, Mr. Jones. His head is bowed and he wears a veil made of rope, tied around his forehead. Those strands, the knots and beads—the sense of movement is compelling. We realize he has, in this moment, fallen to his knees. In exhaustion? Defeat? I have always wondered.”

“He is Tuareg.” The hard answer came from recognition. Memory. “He wears a symbolic veil, closing off the outer world. He surrenders his fear to his inner warrior before battle, and it speaks of great strength. Heart.”

“This piece should be yours, then,” she said without missing a beat.

His focus remained on one intricate knot. He stared for a moment too long before he reasserted control, pulled away.

DONE MISS OUT!!

PREBOOK THE MEMORIES IN MOONLIGHT NOW… RELEASE DATE JULY 19.

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Sue Wilder lives in the Pacific Northwest. She first discovered the power of story as a child living in California, when she was caught starting a grapefruit war in a neighboring orchard. Through an imaginative explanation, she managed to absolve all her cohorts from guilt, and has since moderated her behavior. She now writes for a more mature adult audience.

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