Dec 09

Echoes series by Anne Barwell

Thanks, Tempe, for hosting me 🙂

Echoes is a series set in occupied Europe during WW2.  Doktor Kristopher Lehrer is a scientist working on a top secret project in Germany. When his illusions are shattered and he discovers what the Nazis plan to do with his work, it isn’t long before he is on the run with both the Gestapo and the Allies after the plans he carries.

Echoes follows Kristopher and Michel (the undercover Resistance agent sent to watch him), and the Allied team as they attempt to stay one step ahead of their enemies and reach safety.

Book 1: Shadowboxing

Buy link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2732&cPath=55_426

Blurb:

Berlin, 1943. An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr. Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.

When Michel contacts the Allies, hoping they can work together, it isn’t long before the so-called “simple” mission becomes anything but. With both men realizing they can no longer ignore their growing feelings for each other, Kristopher and Michel must fight—not just for a chance of a future together, but for their very survival.

Kristopher laughed then stopped, surprised at his reaction. After all, wasn’t being provided for, as the price for at least attempting to live up to his father’s expectations, the very thing about his life that he’d resented? In a twisted way fate had provided him with the opportunity to move on from that and maybe become the very person he’d always yearned to be.

“First things first,” he muttered under his breath, reminding himself of the reason he was here. On the run for murder, theft, and God knew what else, and he was planning his future. He was definitely losing his mind.

His hands twisted the towel over and over while he attempted to calm himself. He took a few deep breaths. There was no point alarming Michel. He had enough to worry about. After returning the now-damp towel to its original hanging place, Kristopher drew himself up straight and walked back out into the main room.

Michel looked up from where he was sitting at the table; he seemed thoughtful. “Feeling better?” Was that concern in Michel’s eyes?

“As much as I’m going to be,” he answered, giving a small smile with his reply. Maybe Michel did really care? After all, everything that Kristopher had seen so far seemed to suggest that scenario. Or perhaps it was just wishful thinking? “Is my being here going to be a problem?”

“You’ve taken a great deal of risks to get this far.”A determined expression crossed Michel’s face, and he shook his head. “I am certain that the priorities of this mission will be changed to include your safe passage out of Germany.” He slid the case back under the bed and looked Kristopher up and down. “You need to change your clothing into something less conspicuous. The cut of your suit draws attention to you, and you want to be able to blend in rather than stand out.” He opened the wardrobe, pondering its contents for a moment. Finally he pulled out a pair of gray flannel trousers and a nondescript cotton shirt, holding them out in front of him as he obviously attempted to gauge the sizing. “These might fit you. Try them on, and let’s take a look.” Turning back to the wardrobe, Michel chose a dark-colored, woolen zip-up sweater to complete the ensemble. “It’s cold. You’ll need to keep warm.”

“Thank you.” Kristopher took the clothing from Michel and headed back into the bathroom, wanting some privacy in which to change. “See you in a minute.” He almost regretted that decision when it brought home just how small the bathroom was, but he managed to only hit his elbow on the side of the sink once. Re-entering the room, feeling quite pleased by his accomplishment and how well the clothes fit he… stopped.

Michel was standing by the bed, clad only in a pair of very form-fitting undershorts. The earlier assumption about his uniform hiding a well-developed physique was quite an understatement on Kristopher’s part. Michel was… extremely good-looking. In fact Kristopher would even go as far as to use the word gorgeous to describe him.

Oh God.

Blushing, Kristopher stammered his apologies and ran from the room, seeking refuge in the small bathroom he’d just vacated. He splashed himself with cold water. What the hell? One look at Michel…. Glancing down, Kristopher willed the bulge in his trousers to disappear. What was wrong with him? This was not the reaction he should be having in response to seeing another man in a state of undress.

His heart was thumping, his skin flushed.

Kristopher groaned.

No, he wasn’t going to allow himself to react like this. He couldn’t, not after putting all this behind him that last time. A small voice whispered to him, reminding him the only other time he’d felt desire such as this was in response to accidently walking in on another man in a similar state of undress. It had to be a coincidence. He wasn’t attracted to other men. He couldn’t be. It wasn’t natural. At least according to what he’d been taught. It was his belief that those teachings had to be right that had prompted him to back away from David in the hope that some distance between them would make it easier to ignore the situation. If he was going to burn in hell it was better he do it alone rather than drag someone he cared about down with him. Hurting David by cooling their friendship was supposed to be better in the long term for both of them.

Yet, he’d still felt an echo of that physical attraction for David the last time they’d met, although the emotions that had once accompanied it were very much mellowed.

That attraction, in hindsight, had at least been easier to hide. He’d never had a physical reaction to David to this degree. David had been, and still was, a good-looking man. Michel…. Kristopher licked his lips, his mouth dry.

Michel looked amazing. He was muscular, yet not overly so; a fine smattering of light brown, almost red hair dusted his chest.

These thoughts were not helping.

“Kristopher, are you all right in there?” Michel sounded concerned.

“Fine. I’m fine. I just needed to um… adjust something.” Kristopher hated lying, but he wasn’t about to admit the truth. He didn’t want to see the disgust he knew would be reflected in Michel’s eyes. There was no need for anyone to know. It wouldn’t happen again.

This had to be a side effect of the stress he was under. Getting out of Germany would be very dangerous. No wonder his body was reacting in ways it shouldn’t. After all, it wasn’t every day that he discovered everything he’d believed in was a lie and the ideals he’d spent his life working toward weren’t worth the paper they were written on.

Seeing David again had also brought back memories and the emotions of the time they’d spent together as friends.

Kristopher walked out of the bathroom, hoping he appeared much more nonchalant than he felt. “Sorry about that,” he mumbled, hoping he hadn’t made a total idiot of himself.

Book 2: Winter Duet, sequel to Shadowboxing

Buy link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5508

Blurb:

Germany 1944

With Kristopher finally fit enough to travel, he and Michel leave the security of their safe house and continue their journey across Germany toward Switzerland. Caught in a series of Allied bombings, they stop to help civilians and narrowly escape capture by German forces.

While investigating a downed aircraft in the Black Forest, the two men discover an injured RAF pilot. After they are separated, Kristopher and the pilot are discovered by a German officer who claims he is not who he appears to be. Determined to find Michel again, Kristopher has to trust the stranger and hope he is not connected to those searching for him and the information he carries. Meanwhile Michel is intercepted by one of the Allied soldiers he met in Berlin. His help is needed to save one of their own.

Time quickly runs out. Loyalties are tested and betrayed as the Gestapo closes in. Michel can only hope that they can reach safety before information is revealed that could compromise not only his and Kristopher’s lives, but those of the remaining members of their team—if it is not already too late.

Kristopher dropped to his knees and examined the boy. His eyes were glazed over, and he flinched when Kristopher touched him. “He must have hit his head when he fell,” Kristopher said. He brought his hand away from the boy’s temple. It was covered in blood. “He needs help, but I can’t do much for him here, just try and stop the bleeding.” He quickly opened his satchel and pulled out a short length of bandage, bundled it into a wad, and held it against the wound. It probably wouldn’t be enough to stop it, but it was better than doing nothing. Head wounds tended to bleed, didn’t they? It didn’t mean it was something serious, but it could be.

He let out a quick breath. Damn it. He wished he’d paid more attention when he’d watched Clara at work. Why had he agreed to disguise himself a medic? In this situation when that was exactly what was needed, he was next to useless.

“We can’t stay here,” Michel said. “Can you tie something around the bandage so it keeps the pressure on it when we move him?”

“Keep pressure on the wound while I look.” Kristopher searched around in his bag, ripped some more of the bandaging material, and tied it quickly. His hands were shaking, but at least there didn’t seem to be any blood seeping through the original cloth he’d put over the wound. “I think that should hold it for now.”

Michel handed Kristopher the flashlight and then lifted the boy into his arms. “What’s your name?” he asked softly when the boy opened his eyes and looked up at him.

“Fritz,” the boy replied, his voice wavering. He put his arms around Michel’s neck and clung to him. Thankfully, he seemed more alert than he had a few moments before.

“Hello, Fritz. I’m Michel, and this is Paul,” Michel said. “We’re going to keep you safe, I promise.”

“You promise?” Fritz’s earlier confidence was gone. “I didn’t think it was so dark. I know this place. I shouldn’t have tripped.” He glared at the ground. “Stupid thing. Stupid stupid. Everything looks different.” He sniffled loudly and wiped one dirty hand over his face.

“Do you remember the way to the shelter, Fritz?” Kristopher asked. Michel was watching Fritz carefully, holding the boy close to him. His grip had tightened at the first sign of Fritz’s distress.

“I don’t need to put you down,” Michel reassured Fritz. “You can still guide us while I’m holding you.”

“I don’t want to walk.” Fritz bit his lip. He looked around and then pointed to a street to their left. “If we go down there it’s only about ten minutes away.”

They’d never reach the shelter in time before it closed.

“There isn’t one closer?” Michel asked.

“It’s the one I know about,” Fritz said, somewhat defensively. “Mutter told me if something happened I should go to it.”

“Where’s your mother now?” Kristopher asked. The light from the flashlight was dying quickly. They had to hurry.

“I don’t know. She went to get my baby sister, but she never came downstairs.” Fritz stuck his chin out. “I waited like she said, even when I heard the loud noises and people crying.”

“You live around here?” Kristopher hoped Fritz’s family had survived this. They’d have to try and reunite them or at least find someone who could look after him before they left Stuttgart.

Fritz nodded. Whatever his wound, it seemed as though it was definitely superficial or he wouldn’t be talking as much as he was. “I went looking for her, and I couldn’t find her.”

“You sound much better, Fritz. Do you think you could walk?” Michel asked.

“I don’t want to lose you and Paul too,” Fritz said. He let Michel put him down and then put one small hand into Michel’s.

“You won’t lose us,” Michel promised. “Keep holding my hand, and Paul will look after the flashlight. We can work together.”

“Michel’s very good at working together,” Kristopher told Fritz. He shone the flashlight around. The farther out into the street they got, the more rubble there was. It wasn’t safe to move too quickly, and at this speed they’d never reach the shelter before daylight. He glanced up at the sky. Most of the flashes of light now seemed to be focused toward the city center. “I’m wondering if it’s safer to stay here but get as far away from the buildings as we can and wait for daylight.”

“We don’t know how long this raid is going to last,” Michel said, “but we need to make a decision.” Something creaked and groaned to the side of them. “Move!” Michel yelled. He picked up Fritz and ran back the way they’d come. Kristopher didn’t stop to see what was going on behind him. He followed.

Moments later, more rubble hit the street where they’d just been standing. If they’d stayed there they would have been buried in it.

Kristopher shone the flashlight on it and shivered. “I think finding the shelter is the least of our problems,” he said. “We need to get out into the open. It’s not just more bombings that could kill us, but the buildings that are already damaged.”

“I know a place,” Fritz said after Michel put him down. “I’ll show you.” He took hold of Michel’s hand again. “You and Paul are soldiers.” He pointed to the Red Cross on Kristopher’s arm. “You’ll stay and help look after all the hurt people, won’t you? Vater is a soldier too. He’s fighting at the front. Mutter says he’s very brave.”

“Yes, we’ll stay and help,” Michel said before Kristopher could say anything. He squeezed Fritz’s hand. “We’ll also help you find your mother, or at least someone who can look after you.” He looked over at Kristopher and gave him a questioning look.

“Of course we will,” Kristopher said, wondering why Michel felt he’d even had to ask.

Book 3: Comes a Horseman, sequel to Winter Duet

**Still to be written**

Blurb:

France, 1944

The team has reached France and connected with Michel’s French Resistance cell in Normandy. Allied troops are poised to liberate France, and rescue is supposedly at hand. However, Kristopher is no longer sure that the information he carries is safe in the hands of either side.

The Gestapo finally catch up with their prey, and the remaining members of the team are left with few options. Who can they trust? Kristopher realizes he must become something he is not in order to save the man he loves. Sacrifices will be made, and lives changed forever, in order for any of them to survive and secure the future they want.

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.
In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

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