Author: Erin M. Grillot
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: November 23, 2020
Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, undercover/secret agent, childhood poverty, HFN
The responsibilities Nathan has taken on are sometimes daunting, even as he loves his job. Always ready to rise to the occasion, he is both respected and feared in the office and in the field. His rise to quiet power has shaped his very being, and he knows each and every move as he plots his days and watches over his agents. His life has shaped him into a loner, however, and that is never more noticeable than when Eli begins work in Department 5.
Eli is not the typical Department 5 recruit, and his cheerful and polite nature is both intriguing and off-putting to Nathan. But as Eli weakens and breaks through Nathan’s walls, they gradually embark on a path of discovery and a relationship that defies both of their assumptions. It is by times quirky and odd, sometimes a little rough around the edges, always a bit fragile. But secrecy, lies, plots, and executions are Nathan’s job, and life—and some habits are hard to break. Finally, the tension their work holds can no longer be contained or ignored, and it threatens to destroy either themselves or all that they’ve found together.
Turn is a story about power, tough choices, and strategic moves—of knowing when to sacrifice a piece in this ongoing game of chess, sticking by your actions, and knowing what the endgame is—no matter what the personal cost. Most importantly, it’s about life’s hardest lesson. Sometimes love isn’t all that you need, and the wants of our hearts aren’t always enough to overcome who we are and the realities of life.
Erin M. Grillot © 2020
All Rights Reserved
They often say you have to let something go, and if it comes back to you, it’s yours. For the longest time I believed that was bullshit—the worst damn advice ever given. That those words, like so many others, were just one of the many lies we would tell ourselves to convince us it’ll all be okay. Patronizing and empty.
Or, so I had thought.
But, sometimes, you give up your queen to protect your king even if it isn’t what you want to do. You may not get that piece back, you may be stuck with a pawn the rest of the game, but you saved your king. And in a game of chess, that can be the difference between a win and a loss; and in life, the difference between survival and death, happiness and apathy, success and failure.
A headache builds near the edge of my temple tonight—just an inkling so far, spurred on by the limits I seem to keep pressing and expanding. History has proven that it will blossom into a full-blown one by tomorrow. It means I haven’t been sleeping enough, and I’ve been squinting at papers and screens for too many days in a row. I should go home, eat a real dinner, and sleep, if even for a few hours, in my own bed. I also know, as I know many things, it is unlikely to happen, not at already half eight and after an unexpected phone call with an undisclosed, yet disgruntled French government employee destroyed my productivity earlier this afternoon. A small sigh escapes me as I rub the bridge of my nose and turn my eyes back to the file in my hand.
I jest about my job sometimes to myself, oversimplifying it to the hero-and-villainesque themes of a childhood comic book. A therapist might say it is a coping mechanism, which may be true, but if I think of it that way, then the real-life complexity doesn’t matter to me. I am aware my day-to-day decisions are more gray than black-and-white. The business of secretly making sure the free world stays that way isn’t a quiet desk job for the faint of heart. It is an unending mess of data and decisions juggled and balanced with ruthlessness, subterfuge, PR, and ridiculous amounts of coffee. A veritable nightmare some days, but utterly fulfilling in its endgame.
These last few years, I am rarely active in the field anymore, generally spending my time in either the planning or cleanup stages of the operations, hidden in some windowless office that justifies my lack of knowledge about the weather. But the past weeks, I have ended up involved in multiple side tasks that take me back to my beginning days here at Department 5. Side tasks that come with their own laundry list of issues. And while I thrive on it all, relish each time I tick something off a to-do list, close out a deal, solve an international incident, save a life, take a life—there is still a limit. I need a break, probably more than I realize.
Some days, I am not even sure what it is I do all day, what this job has made of me. There are papers and meetings, decisions and actions. I oversee budgets and tactile missions in the same sentence somedays, make war and peace on two different continents in the span of hours, make a decision about copier paper and which guns to supply with the same signature. I’m still damn good at my job, even when I don’t always quite know how to define it.
There was never an interview, at least not an official one. My title and job description don’t actually exist. I’ve been here edging toward twenty years now, and after years of missions and working my way through the ranks, it seemed to simply happen. There was suddenly an open office and a second bodyguard; respect and fear; John, my mentor, quietly slipping out of the picture. And it was never said out loud, possibly never even thought—all my door says on it is my name—but it was as if it didn’t need saying or to be written. It simply was. Someone always needs to be at the top.
Sometimes, though, sitting in my office late at night, I wish I could see a self-portrait of myself. Do I look as old and tired as I feel, despite still being in my midthirties? Is this suit the powerhouse I imagined when putting it on this morning? Are the worry lines showing on my forehead; how disheveled does my hair look today? The physical attributes I feel define me…are they noticeable, or is it my own inherent belief that these things matter that makes them so? My elbows crooked at a crisp ninety-degree angle, resting along the desk with my sleeves rolled, tie and vest still in perfect condition…is it the picture that I think it is?
Image—being seen, or not seen, as I want to be—has been an armor for me since I was little, since I first discovered what it could do for me. The first time I learned how to hide in the library, how to camouflage myself as belonging somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be, looking the part to get handouts, not looking the part to avoid the critical eye of the police or school counselor. Clothes, demeanor, actions, stance, pronunciation…all a part of the package perfected in many ways over the years. It is an everyday thing for me now and as intrinsic as breathing.
My mind runs through it all in the background, juggling to keep a million things straight and on their course as I scan through the proposal—an eighty-plus page document that should have been twenty. Flowery and overdetailed, the analyst has potential, but he’s too fresh, too eager. I’m forcing myself through the pages, jotting notes and underlining the key pieces that were relatively well done. It’s tiring, more so than it should be, but there’s something important about knowing your employees and colleagues and what their thoughts and potential are. I expect a lot of my employees, and they rarely fail to deliver, but I also teach them well. I’m a hard boss, but I am also a fair one. I work more hours than anyone under me, something I make sure of each week. I can’t expect it of them if I can’t do it myself.
A sharp rap on the door startles me, and I blink slowly. The clock reads eleven thirty, and another slow blink reveals the same. Hours have passed without my knowledge. Peering down at the papers still in my grip, I find myself on page seventy-two, same as when I’d glanced at the clock striking nine. I roll my neck gently. My headache won’t be the only thing bothering me tomorrow.
I stand as Robert turns the knob and eases the door open. He stands up fully as soon as he spots me, and the slight frown already on his face deepens.
“Ready?” he asks.
My eyes cast wistfully toward the stack of papers for only a second before I grab them, nod, and follow him out of the room and down the hall. He holds open the car door as I climb in the back, and as he pulls away from the curb, a small yawn escapes my lips. His eyes track to mine in the rearview mirror, but anything he thinks of saying is silenced by whatever he sees on my face. If it is enough to leave him off his mothering, it probably isn’t good.
Five minutes later, he pulls in front of my building, and the car crawls to a stop. The small light in the entryway is on, which means Robert has made sure someone is on duty tonight. Despite my tiredness and headache, the smile tugs at the corners of my lips, and it doesn’t leave until I hear the car pull away after I shut the door behind me. I climb the stairs and unlock my own front door out of muscle memory.
I loosen my tie and, for just a moment, lean back against the door, letting the faint feeling of home wash over me. It is a small moment, over almost as it begins, but it gives me the strength to change into sweats and not lie down on the bed, and to make notes on the remaining twelve pages of the proposal brief I’d been working through before officially calling it a night.
Meet the Author
Erin is a native Midwesterner who has spent her life loving words in all their forms. Turn is her first novel. She lives in Iowa with her three children. An avid wine lover, introvert, coffee addict, and nerd; most of her free time is spent with her children, reading, or writing. Find Erin on Twitter.