Nine Lights Over Edinburgh

Detective Inspector James McBride is riding high on the belief that he's about to bust a human-trafficking ring. But just five days before Christmas, his unorthodox methods catch up with him and his world comes crashing down.

McBride tries to concentrate on his new day job as security for the visiting Israeli ambassador. He even starts to feel a renewed sense of self-worth when the leader of the Israeli team, the aristocratic Tobias Leitner, takes a bullet for him in the line of duty. But he can't forget the trafficking case, especially when his investigations result in the kidnapping of his own daughter! McBride has no one to turn to for help—no one, except Toby.


They did their survey efficiently, but it took longer than McBride had expected. He wound up at their start point sooner than Andrew, aware that at every stage where he had expected to see him—across the hall on the same gallery level, checking out the mirroring pattern of staircases—he had not been there. It wasn’t Andrew’s fault. Not McBride’s either, for being always a few steps ahead or behind. They just couldn’t read each other anymore.


It didn’t take a lot, McBride knew, to destroy a partnership’s rapport. Andrew didn’t meet his eyes, coming to join him by the balustrade again, and the silence between them was heavy. “It doesn’t look too bad,” McBride offered. “I don’t have enough men really, but with you here too, and Zvi’s people…”


The outer doors of the hallway rattled and flew open. Instinctively McBride spun in the direction of the noise. Here came the ambassador’s security cortege, as if summoned by his words, in full parade order: six of them, sweeping in pairs into the hall. McBride watched, partly in admiration, partly amusement, as they took up positions around the room, so precisely you could have measured equal distance between them from the tip of one polished leather toe to the next. They were quietly and immaculately suited. All toned, neat, dark, they looked like a band of brother princes. He wondered what they’d make of his team, his motley Celts and Vikings.


A seventh man entered. Unlike the rest, his head was down. He crossed the floor slowly, as if lost in thought. Roughly in the centre of the hall, where the stained glass turned the light sapphire, he stopped and looked up.


His gaze locked to McBride’s. There was no drama in the moment. In fact it felt quite ordinary. As if he had got up that morning, come to the Freemason’s Hall and carried out his duties, purely for the purpose of ending up in this gallery in time to meet a pair of brown eyes.


They were warm and full of questions. McBride felt his lips part as if he would answer—his heart, which despite his abuses normally thudded along stolidly about its business, lurch to a faster tempo. His palms dampened on the gallery rail. And still it didn’t feel awkward to be staring at a stranger. He said softly to Andrew, “Who the hell’s that?”


It took Andrew a moment to answer, as if somehow he could be unsure who McBride meant or had somehow failed to notice him. “Who, the guy on his own there? That’s Zvi’s security chief. Leitner, I think he’s called. He’s Mossad.”


“Mossad?” McBride echoed. The man in the hall had pushed his hands into his pockets, tipped his head to one side. The blue light falling on his aristocratic face brought out his skin’s warm olive tone. His hair and his eyelashes caught and split the weird radiance, black as raven’s feathers blowing in the wind on Holyrood’s hills. McBride drew a deep breath. He had no idea what was making his head spin. Carefully he smoothed a tremor from his voice. “What’s a Mossad agent doing on a milk run like this?”


Andrew had come to lean close beside him. McBride felt him shrug and suppressed a flinch. He didn’t want to be touched or distracted. “Maybe the same thing we are,” Andrew said. “I heard he was involved in some god-awful fuckup in the West Bank. Some kind of hostage rescue that backfired. His partner was killed.”


“What—so he got busted down to a gig like this, as you’d put it?”


“Aye, maybe. I heard they wanted him out of the way for a bit while the investigation went on.”


McBride stopped listening. The Mossad agent—Leitner, McBride said to himself, his mind trying out the delicate, exotic name—had begun to smile. It was very faint, but undeniable. McBride’s pulse geared up another notch. A strange heat sprang up in him, beginning in his gut, an inch or so under his navel, spreading to his solar plexus and a point behind his breastbone. His throat. Oh God, a sweet spot just up and back from his balls, halfway to his…


“James? Are you all right?”


“What? Yeah.” McBride drew a deep breath and glanced at Andrew. When he looked down again, Leitner had turned away. Just as well. He would have to stay here, pressed safely against the balustrade, until he was sure this stranger’s bizarre effect on him hadn’t culminated in a noticeable erection. “I’m fine.”


Can these two very different men work together to bring about a holiday miracle—and heal one another's heart in the  process?