Love Bleeds Deep

Fatal Fidelity #2

by Rien Gray

The books in the Fatal Fidelity series are best read in order. This summary contains spoilers for Love Kills Twice (Fatal Fidelity #1).

With her husband dead, Justine finds herself balancing newfound freedom and a blossoming relationship with Campbell. They steal her away to a slice of paradise in France, but it’s a working holiday, and their new contract is a heavy hitter.

A local diplomat wants her ex-boyfriend—also her ex-bodyguard—dead. He’s been stalking her for weeks, and his years of experience as a Special Forces interrogator make him a hard target to catch. He’ll kill anyone who gets too close: Campbell included.

Campbell is used to giving up everything for the job, but old memories and old friends leave a weakness to exploit. Justine takes Campbell back from the brink of a violent collapse, but it comes at a dire price.

What survives afterwards will change them both forever.

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE 

Justine 

The first time I flew to Paris, I was twenty. 

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I didn’t have a first-class seat, but back then, it didn’t matter. Knowing I was going to paint surrounded by masterpieces I’d only seen in books and slideshows overwhelmed everything else. It was my capstone year in college, and even now, the memories feel more like a dream. Happiness seemed inevitable, with the brightest future in front of me I could possibly imagine. After I came home and graduated, I met the man who would one day be my husband. In a few short years, we were married. 

It was all a façade. I lost my art, my friends, my dignity, and half my sanity to Richard’s abuse. By the time he’d devoured a decade of my life, I was convinced there could be no way out. Then I met the person who made everything right. 

Campbell sits next to me in a cushy blue seat, gray eyes locked on the murder mystery they bought from the terminal on our way in. They’ve already made it halfway through the book, only taking breaks between chapters to nurse the cool glass of water by their elbow. The same hands holding their drink with care, turning pages without leaving a single crease in the spine, are responsible for killing Richard without a hint of remorse. 

There are a lot of ways and reasons to love someone. I don’t love Campbell because they’re a killer, but it’s not despite that either. They’re utterly confident, competent, and quick-witted, which makes them very good at their job, but what’s under the mask is what I care about. When they’re protective of me, when they’re grieving, when we’re in bed and it’s as if the world has shrunk down to fit the two of us and no one else. 

Somehow in the scheme of things, murder barely makes the list. 

“You’re smiling,” Campbell says, eyes still focused on the book. 

I startle a little bit. After how we met, I should be used to their ability to read everyone around them, but repeated exposure doesn’t make it any less uncanny. “How can you tell when you’re not even looking at me?” 

“Emotion doesn’t only show on the face. Whether we’re smiling or bracing for impact, it goes through the whole body in a hundred subtle ways.” Campbell’s gaze meets mine, dark with amusement. “But I did look at you. You were too busy staring at my hands.” 

Heat rushes up the back of my neck. Guilty as charged. “You have very nice hands.” 

They accept the compliment with a quick flash of teeth. “Yet I don’t think that’s what was on your mind.” 

If we were elsewhere, I might have kissed Campbell or drawn them close, whispered all the thank-yous and apologies brimming on my tongue. Except we’re on a plane with a hundred other people, and even the privacy curtain can’t make me so bold. 

I settle for shifting in my seat to lean my head against their shoulder. Campbell adjusts slightly, making the angle more gentle for my neck. They make no comment on my silence, turning to the next page, but their attention on me lingers. Drawing Campbell’s eye is its own sort of satisfaction. 

“I have a silly question,” I say. 

Campbell gestures with the book. “The mystery part of this murder is a four out of ten at best, if that’s what you’re wondering.” 

A soft laugh leaves my lips. “No. I…” 

Are they going to take offense to me asking? I know it’s possible, but I’ll take full responsibility either way. 

“Is Campbell your first or your last name?” 

They raise a brow, but it’s followed by silence. I’m about to apologize when a smile slowly pulls across their lips. 

“You fell for me without knowing the answer?” 

Now I’m flustered for an entirely different reason. “Yes. I mean, I know it’s your name; I just…feel like I’m missing context. Never mind. I said it was silly.” 

“It’s not,” Campbell counters, the mirth fading from their face. “I know everything about you, Justine. At least, a lot more than I should for someone who never asked those questions.” 

I hadn’t thought about it that way. 

They set the book down in their lap, holding the page with one knee before reaching into their jacket. It’s a nice one, made of black, butter-soft leather and tailored perfectly to Campbell’s frame. I’m not sure what they’re looking for until Campbell pulls out their passport, offering it to me between two fingers. 

“See for yourself. 

I can’t hide my surprise. When I reach for it, their hand subtly tightens, keeping the thin blue cover held between us. 

“But this is only for you,” Campbell adds quietly. “It’s not for anyone else to know.” 

The enormity for what they’re trusting me with sinks in, and suddenly I’m a little nervous about what I’ll see. Yet it’s not fair to back down now, especially when Campbell is trying to balance things out. 

They let go of the passport, and I bring it down in my lap, half hidden by my other hand on the off-chance someone walking down the aisle might see. On the outside, it’s identical to any other American passport, emblazoned with a golden eagle. 

Inside, the first page has Campbell’s picture. It’s pretty recent, although their hair is fresh from a cut. Even with the soul-killing light everyone has to stare into for their government shots, they pull off a quiet charisma, with the faintest smile on their lips. I know it’s forcedtheir real smile looks a lot different. 

I read their name two or three times. It’s not hard to remember or anything, but such a personal truth needs my full attention. They were born in December, a little less than six years after I was, somewhere in California I’ve never heard of. Rather than an M or F under Sex, there’s simply an X. 

“You got this under the new legislation?” I ask. 

Campbell nods. “It was up for renewal, so the timing couldn’t have been better. Some of the border agents don’t like it, but I have precheck for security and Global Entry, which cuts through a lot of red tape.” 

They’d waltzed through security at the terminal this morning. “Remind me to apply whenever we’re back in the States.” 

“It’s nice. Nothing but a metal detector, no body scans. I’ve never been a huge fan of those, considering.” 

No, they wouldn’t be. 

After a curious flip through the visa pages—the passport can’t be more than a year old, yet it’s a veritable scrapbook of stamps and stickers—I hand it over. Campbell buries the passport back into their pocket, then smooths out the line of their jacket again. “Satisfied?” 

Suddenly, I don’t care how many people are on the plane. I turn and kiss them, lingering close. No one here knows I’m supposed to be a widow, and I want Campbell to be sure nothing’s changed between us. 

“How did you pass so many background checks?” I murmur against their lips. 

“Don’t you know?” they whisper. “I’m a very successful consultant with clients all over the world.” 

consultant. It takes everything in me not to laugh. 

“Miss?” The voice behind me is gentle, carefully polite, and most certainly one of the flight attendants. I pull away from Campbell, clearing my throat and doing my best to meet her eyes. “We’re about to start our descent. Do you need anything to drink on the way down?” 

Not when there’s already a tall glass of water in the seat next to me. 

“I’m fine, thank you” is what I say aloud. 

Campbell offers their empty cup, presenting the perfect opportunity for her to leave us in peace. 

I should be embarrassed, but instead, there’s a giddy thrill, like a teenager stealing their first kiss. Then again, when the person who saved you from a decade of pain disappears, only to come back with fifty grand, an apology, and love on their lips—it deserves a little giddy. 

Campbell finishes their book on the slow climb down. We’re close enough to the front of the plane that it only takes a minute to disembark into Charles de Gaulle International, where dozens of people are waiting to take the same plane back across the ocean. 

COLLAPSE

About the Author

Rien is a queer, nonbinary author primarily focused on F/F and F/NB romance. They live in Ireland.

www.riengray.com


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