An excerpt from Italian Ice by E.M.Lynley (a 4.5 star read at Jessewave's and also 4.5 marble review here. Thanks, EM!
Reed Acton took one last swing through the room before auction house staff ushered browsers out so they could prepare items for the auction. He went over to the bar set up in the lobby and ordered a sparkling water as he continued to watch people arrive for the auction. As soon as the room was opened, he took a seat in the last row and watched bidders file in.
As was typical at society events, many men wore well-tailored suits. But this was Italy, after all, and everyone appeared to dress an order of magnitude better than in LA, even when going for the casual look. He suspected some of the “less structured” jackets cost more than all of the clothing he owned put together. And the women far outdid the men. They were stunning, and several tried to catch his eye as they filed past into the room. One in particular, a tall, dark-haired woman whose eyeliner technique bordered on that of Cleopatra, actually sat down next to him and tried to make small talk for a few moments, first in Italian and then in French and finally in English. Reed got rid of her by speaking Chinese. She flounced away, clearly offended that he hadn’t been interested, but he kept his eyes on everyone else.
He quickly spotted Marconi, and once the room started to fill up, Reed moved closer to the stage, better to both see the items and keep a closer watch on Marconi.
The room was about half full when the first lot went up for bid. Reed observed the rhythm of the auction, listening to the auctioneer’s voice and watching how the bidders behaved. It was no different from any other auction he’d been to, though the auctioneer said the prices in both English and Italian and bidding was in euros.
He was getting bored with it all as the first item he’d tagged came up for bidding. No one bid on it at first. Not a huge surprise, as several other items had had no takers at the first bid. The auctioneer lowered his price and a balding man in his late forties bid. On the third pass, Marconi also bid, then the first man bid again, with Marconi taking the piece at just under the first bid. The gavel went down.
The second marked item came up for bid about twenty minutes later. Bidding was consistent, and numbers flew as a variety of bidders got into a real competition. In the end, the item went for three times the estimated sale price. Not of interest to Reed, since it didn’t fit the pattern. Marconi had bid early on, been outbid, rebid, and then got out of the action.
The third item, the Cupid, got Reed’s Spidey sense tingling. The first offer wasn’t rewarded with a bid, so the auctioneer lowered the price. The first bid was slightly lower, again by that balding man. Marconi made a last-minute bid just as the auctioneer was ready to award the item, and the bid, rebid situation was played out again, almost identically to the first item.
Now Reed’s attention was on the first man. Who was he? He wasn’t in any of Peter’s reports. Reed hadn’t been paying much attention to him, but he didn’t think the man had bid on anything else. Damn, now he was going to have to figure out who he was. He leaned over to the woman sitting next to him and whispered. She’d seen him here before, but she didn’t know his name. She’d ask one of her friends if Reed wanted to know.
The next item Baldy bid on was the amphora recovered from the shipwreck.
Reed decided to get into the game. He bid on the second pass and noticed Baldy turned around to see who had bid. He shuffled in his seat and glanced around like a lost child. But Baldy didn’t look in Marconi’s direction. If there was anything between them, Baldy knew better than to give the connection away.
Marconi countered, and Baldy bid again. When Reed bid again, he noticed Marconi getting jumpy. He rebid, and Reed was going to let him have the item. He had the information he needed on the bidding patterns. But before the auctioneer finalized the bid and sale to Marconi, yet another bidder jumped into the action, paddle number 472.
Reed glanced over to see who had raised a paddle, and thought he’d have a heart attack.
Paddle 472 belonged to Trent.
In this exciting sequel to Rarer Than Rubies, gay romance author Trent Copeland and former FBI agent Reed Action head to Italy for a Roman holiday. What should be a relaxing and romantic vacation is interrupted when Reed’s not-so-former boss asks for his help with a case. Trent's shocked to discover in the six months they’ve been living together in LA, Reed hasn’t been completely honest about his "retirement."
Reed heads for Sicily on the trail of a suspected antiquities-smuggling ring and to find Peter Isett—a former FBI partner he also hasn’t been completely truthful about. Stung by Reed’s dishonesty, Trent questions what else Reed might be hiding. But when he overhears something that tells him Reed's life is in danger, Trent follows Reed to a remote chain of ancient volcanic islands off Sicily's northern coast. Soon Trent is caught up in the smugglers’ web, and Reed must decide between his heart and his mission—a decision complicated by his past with Peter. Reed’s position is perilous: unless he can learn to put the past behind him, he risks destroying everything he's built with Trent.