You all are in for an amazing treat today. I asked Chris Almeida and Cecilia Aubrey if I could interview Trevor and Cassandra from their Countermeasure Series. And, well, not only did they say yes, but Trevor and Cassandra made the trip to my house for it. Hope you enjoy their visit as much as I did!
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The flight from New York to Chicago had been smooth considering the inclement winter weather ravaging the US East Coast. Massive snowflakes zoomed onto the windshield creating a warp speed feeling as they drove the rental SUV down I-57 S toward their final destination. Trevor thumped his thumbs on the wheel to the tunes of their favorite playlist while Cassandra read one of her novels. Trevor glanced at Cassandra and her relaxed expression put him at ease once again. It felt good to travel for pleasure instead of the crazy jobs they had thrown their way.
Almost three hours later, they drove through the small town in Central Illinois. The sun peeked through the clouds and sunshine glistened over the thick layer of snow that blanketed the surrounding fields. Everything looked white and pristine as they turned into what appeared to be a fairly new subdivision. A minute later, Trevor stopped in front of a lovely bungalow style house. The driveway and path to the front porch had been carefully shoveled; a sign the residents had been home although no vehicle stood on the driveway.
Trevor scanned the house for movement and seeing none turned to Cassandra who had her e-reader open and eyes glued to the screen. “Are you sure we have the right address?”
She was unfazed by his doubt. “Yes, I am. I checked, double checked, and triple checked the coordinates.”
Knowing his wife’s attention to detail and love for spreadsheets, he shouldn’t even have asked. He sighed. “So what do we do now?”
“Since we got here a little earlier than my itinerary had specified—” Cassandra looked at his foot resting on the accelerator, ostensibly pointing out her opinion on his Speed Racer skills “—we’ll have to sit here and wait until the specified time.”
“No can do. I gotta go.”
“You’re joking, right?” Cassandra turned on her seat to look, really look at him. “We haven’t met her yet and the first thing you’re going to do is knock on the door and ask to use her bathroom?”
“It’s either that or writing my name on the snow.” He shrugged.
“Damn.” She huffed, already grabbing her purse from the back seat.
Trevor rounded the car and helped her out before locking it and taking her hand in his. “This should be fun.” Her smile mirrored his as they approached the porch.
Cassandra rang the bell and they didn’t have to wait long before they heard movement inside. The door opened to reveal their host for the short interview for which they had come all the way from Dublin that day. Amy Remus’ eyes grew wide and she stared at them, speechless for a moment.
“Sorry to impose, Amy. I can call you Amy, right?” Cassandra broke the ice with one of her brightest smile. He knew the power of that smile. Nobody could resist it and neither could Amy. “I’m Cassandra and this is Trevor. Ceci and Chris said you’d be expecting us? We are a little early. Trev drove a little faster than I expected.”
Amy jumped into host mode and opened the door wider. “Yes! Nice to finally put a face to the names. Being early is not a problem. I’m ready. Come on in. ..” Amy moved back welcoming them into her home and directing them to the living room.
The open concept space was bright and cozy, the living room couch was plump and inviting after the long drive but he had to take care of business. “Can I use your restroom?”
“Sure. The bathroom is down the hall to the right. First door on the left.” She pointed the way and Trevor followed leaving Cassandra and Amy to the first intros. He knew by the time he returned they would have broken the ice.
“You have a beautiful house. Love your kitchen by the way.” Cassandra turned and studied the rest of the area. It held a cozy, lived in feeling. A mouth-watering aroma filled the air and tickled her nose. “Something smells yummy.”
Panic flooded Amy’s eyes. “I completely forgot. I have brownies in the oven. Have a seat. I just need to check them.” She called over her shoulder as she rushed around the counter to the oven.
Cassandra shrugged out of her coat and set it on the chair with her purse before she followed Amy into the kitchen. “Only a few more minutes.” Amy reported out loud while spot checking the brownies.
“I hope you didn’t go to any trouble for us.” Cassandra peeped from her perch at the counter. Amy almost jumped out of her skin and turned to Cassandra with surprised eyes at seeing her there. Cassandra grinned. “Sorry, old habits. Bob used to say that I could sneak up on a bird.”
Amy’s eyes sparkled. “Bob is your dad, right? That has to be a handy skill. I would love to sneak up on Rob.”
Cassandra chuckled. “I take it Rob is your husband?” She nodded at Amy’s wedding bands.
“Yes. He’s my geek.” Amy replied with a wide grin.
“Everyone should have their own. They’re the best kept secret.” Cassandra smiled in camaraderie. “It is a handy skill by the way. Sneaking up on people is actually kinda fun. I used to practice on Nathan back in the day, but I never seem to be able to sneak up on Trevor without him catching me. Don’t tell Bob through.”
Trevor walked back in the room at that moment catching the end of their conversation. “Tell Bob what?” He approached them, curiosity shining in his blue eyes.
Cassandra’s grin widened as she reached for the hand Trevor rested on her shoulder. She winked at Amy before glancing up at Trevor’s frowning face. “Nothing.”
“Right.” Trevor hooked a finger under Cassandra’s chin and her heart kicked into high gear, need roared through her as it always did when his lips touched hers. Remembering where they were, she pulled back with a soft sigh and turned her attention back to Amy. “Amy’s making brownies.”
By the perceptive look Trevor flashed her, Cassandra knew he was very aware of how he’d affected her. He moved away and walked around the counter. “Let’s get moving with the introductions. Hi, Amy.” He kissed Amy’s cheek and Cassandra smiled inwardly at the stunned expression on Amy’s face. Yeah. She knew the feeling.
“Uhm. Hi, Trevor.” Amy’s cheeks filled with a warm flush. “The brownies will be finished shortly. Why don’t you guys go sit in the family room while I get you something to drink.”
Cassandra waved her hand. “We’re cool here. We like it causal. More fun in the kitchen, don’t you think? Anything I can do to help?” Cassandra stood waiting expectantly.
Amy stared at her a moment. She seemed at a loss for words. The scrape of the stool when Trevor took a seat next to Cassandra seemed to jumpstart her into action. “No. Please. I have it handled. According to Ceci, you like coffee and you, Trevor, like a nice tea.” She stammered.
“That’s right.” Cassandra gave her an asserting smile while claiming her seat again.
“How would you like it?”
“Cassie takes hers with just a dab of cream to brown it and enough sugar to sweeten it. I’ll take my tea strong enough to stand a spoon in it. Milk and sugar for me please.” Trevor answered for them and his words brought fond memories to her mind of a time when he was just beginning to learn how she ticked. Now, he was an expert, framed certificate in All Things Cassandra to prove.
Once they all had their cups, Amy pulled a notepad from the corner of the counter and cleared her throat. “Are you two comfortable enough to start? I can pull out the brownies while we talk.”
“Sure. Fire away.” Cassandra answered for them both.
Amy glanced at her notes. “Let’s jump in why don’t we. If you had to describe yourself in three words what would they be and why?”
Cassandra rested her chin on her hand. “Well, Jessica calls me an uptight, coffeeholic, spreadsheet maniac. I think that says it all.”
Trevor bursts out laughing, wrapped an arm around her neck and kissed her temple lovingly. “But an adorable one.” He locked eyes with her and for a split second the room seemed to disappear. “I’d describe her as loyal, determined and fierce.”
Cassandra’s heart stuttered a beat. She never ceased to be surprised at how Trevor saw her. He turned his stunning blue gaze to Amy.
“My turn, I take it.” At Amy’s nod, he cocked his head thoughtfully. “Well…”
Cassandra pitched in, “Reckless.”
“Yes, there is that.” Trevor’s eyes shone with unrepentant glimmer. “But all for good causes.”
Cassandra shook her head and was joined in laughter by Amy.
Trevor took a deep breath before interrupting their amusement. “Where was I? Oh, yeah. Stubborn and—” he allowed his eyes to linger purposefully on Cassandra “—dedicated.” They were so in tune with each other, he almost felt her reaction to the nuance in his words.
Amy, not noticing the exchange, moved on with the interview. “I have to say, I am very in awe of you, Cassie. I am feeling a little fangirlish because, hello? Ex-CIA! You totally kick butt. So, I understand your ex-Navy SEAL father has taught you how to take care of yourself. While you may not have appreciated it at the time, do like being able to totally hold your own in physical combat now?
A rosy flush of color spread along Cassandra’s cheeks and, by the way she fidgeted in her seat, Trevor could tell she’s embarrassed by the attention. “I won’t deny that Bob’s training got me through the Farm and it totally rocks that I can hold my own with the boys.”
Trevor’s eyebrows rose. “Boys?”
Cassandra rolled her eyes bringing a smile to his lips. “Boyo, then. Better?”
He grinned widely. “Much.”
Amy chuckled as she flipped the page. “Continuing on the topic of training, the two of you spar to keep your hand to hand skills fresh. What are each of you best at?”
Wicked thoughts crossed his mind at the mention of their sparring. He couldn’t go into detail but the idea of teasing Amy was too hard to resist. He took the turn of answering, eyebrows raised and innocent look stamped on his face, “Pinning.”
From the corner of his eye, he saw Cassandra’s swift move and skillfully avoided the slap to his arm. “Trevor!”
“What?!” Holding his laughter was one of the hardest things he ever had to do.
“Men.” With a shake of her head and a grin, Amy supported Cassandra’s humorous outrage. “Okay, switching to the mushy stuff. What do you love about being married?”
“Everything.” Trevor was quick to respond because it was his honest opinion on it. He caught the hint of disbelief in Amy’s eyes. “I’m very serious about our commitment to being a part of the other’s life.” He took Cassandra’s hand in his and thumbed over her wedding band. “Being married means more than the physical part of it.” His eyes sought Cassandra’s and he met a reflection of his words in them. “Waking up with her beside me completes me in ways I can’t quite explain. Although we are very different and we do have our disagreements, being married means we get to work those disagreements into compromises we can both live with.” She squeezed his hand and he turned his gaze to Amy, who’d watched their interaction with understanding in her eyes.
Amy broke the silence with another question, “What is the most challenging part about marriage? Or maybe you aren’t there yet?”
Cassandra took a while to digest Trevor’s answer to Amy’s previous question before she snapped back to reality. She considered the question and her response carefully. “I guess balancing out work and personal interests within a brand new marriage carries our personal brand of challenge.” Trevor still reeled over the lack of closure and she didn’t want to make him overly conscious of its effect on their marriage.
She shifted on her stool and Amy, almost as if noticing her discomfort with the topic, flipped the page again. “What is your favorite thing to do when you have some down time?” A devious grin spread Trevor’s lips and Amy was quick to add, ‘and not that.” Cassandra bit her lip to keep from laughing out loud at the disappointment etched on his face. Amy prompted, “Watch movies? Play games?”
They answered in sync, “Both.”
Trevor took the lead again after taking a big sip of his tea. “We just like to hang out. We have friends over often but we also enjoy each other’s company. Reading side by side while music plays softly in the background or even in silence is enjoyable when you appreciate the person beside you. I guess we have fun even doing absolutely nothing together.”
“I still think we have more fun when we do something together.” Cassandra’s mischievousness shone crystal clear albeit the serious look on her face.
Trevor raised his eyebrows. “You do, do you? I think this is one of the areas we’ll have to explore and experiment further to see if we can find compromise.”
“I’ll put that on the spreadsheet.” Cassandra winked at him.
The sound of the oven beeper interrupted the fun exchange. Amy jumped into action and within minutes had the delicious looking squares arranged gracefully on a platter in front of them.
“I guess the formalities are long gone. Please dig in.” While they helped themselves, Amy scanned her notes. “Are you up to moving on or should we stop a bit?”
“I think we can continue.” Cassandra looked at Trevor who agreed with a nod while taking a big bite of the treat.
“I have a few trivial questions. If you play games, what do you play and who usually wins?”
Cassandra rolled her eyes. “That is always a dangerous proposition when you are married to the world’s most competitive geek.”
“Hey!” Trevor raised his eyebrows at the accusation.
“Come on. If anyone saw you and George in action during one of your tournaments, they would think the world was coming to an end.”
“I call that enthusiastic involvement.”
“Is that what you call all the shouting at the screen and each other?”
“Yep. I’m sticking to my definition. And you can be as enthusiastically involved. Let’s not forget that.” He teased Cassandra.
Cassandra leaned her elbows on the counter, a quirk of a grin curved the corners of her mouth. “Amy, seriously. I can hold my own in WOW or shooter games, but I tend to stay away from those two when they go at it. Controller wars are not pretty. Well, any game where you are up against Trev is not pretty except for maybe ‘hide and seek’. Wait. Did I say that out loud?” Her cheeks turned a rosy pink and she hung her head. “Geez.”
“Hide and seek, eh? What’s going through your mind, a ghrá?” Trevor reached up and twirled a strand of Cassandra’s hair around his finger, giving it playful tug. His eyes focused on the little chocolate crumb at the corner of her mouth. Slowly he leaned down and licked the crumb taking deep pleasure in leaving her speechless for a moment. That was followed closely by painful awareness of his body’s reaction to hers. He took a deep breath and retreated slowly.
Images of Trevor using his talented tongue on her… Holy. Cassandra shook her head to clear it and tried to ignore him, turning her full attention on Amy. “Next question?” Her heart thrummed in her chest and she felt suddenly too hot.
“Now, I’m curious about what is going on in your mind too, Cassandra.” Amy chuckled. “But from the color on your cheeks, I think I should stick to something safe like what’s your favorite type of music?
At the mention of music, Trevor smiled and enthusiasm beamed in his eyes. Cassandra knew how big of a music maniac he was. “Now that is a guilty pleasure. We have a fairly eccentric library of music. Pretty much everything and anything goes depending on the beat and lyrics.” His smile turned into a big grin. “I think my favorite kind is when Cassie doesn’t think anyone’s around and the living room turns into a Karaoke hangout.”
Cassandra turned to look at Trevor. “Really? You had to mention that, right?”
Amy glanced between the two but her eyes settled on Trevor. “Is she any good?”
Cassandra’s laugh burst from her and swirled through the kitchen. “Oh god, no. I’m bad bad…really bad.”
Trevor lifted a hand to his lips. “I plead the fifth.”
“Smart choice, Bauer.”
“Do you have a song that is all yours as a couple? If so, will you share it with us?” Amy prompted.
“We have many but one is very special to us. Kings of Leon’s I Want You.” Trevor spoke softly and took Cassandra’s hand in his again, gently smoothing her palm with his thumb. He had a way to melt her insides with a simple touch.
Out of the corner of her eye, Cassandra caught Amy glancing down again at the pad in front of her. She cast Trevor a warning look, mouthing “Behave.” He winked and she had to hold back the laughter that bubbled up her throat at the humor simmering deep in his blue eyes.
“Nice choice, Trevor. That’s a great song. Okay almost done. What do you hope readers take away from reading your story?”
“We’d love it if readers simply enjoyed the ride with us and, once they finished, that they’d feel like they could give us a shout and stop by for a drink. We’re always up to entertaining and we take them to some of our favorite hangouts in Dublin.”
“Anything else you want to tell the readers about you personally or your story?”
“About us?” Cassandra flashed Trevor a cheeky grin. “We play hard and love well. Our story? It is still a work in progress and, knowing Chris and Cecilia, the best is yet to come.”
Cassandra glanced down at the watch gracing her wrist and back at Amy. Regret tugged at her chest. She really enjoyed the time spent with Amy. The little visit had been great fun, but George would pitch a fit if they didn’t make it to Cryptocity. “It’s getting late and we have to catch a flight to Fort Meade before heading back to Dublin.” Cassandra eased from the stool and rounded the counter to hug Amy. “I hope our little visit wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. Especially since we arrived sooner than you were expecting.”
“Not at all. It was a true pleasure having you two here. Let’s do it again when you are bound to the US for another visit.”
Trevor waited for his turn and then gave Amy a hug, too. “We should be back in the summer for a visit to Bob. We could arrange for a few stops along the way. Thank you for having us.” Trevor helped Cassie into her coat and followed her to the door.
They made a quick exit to the car to avoid the cold and waved goodbye as they drove off.
“I told you it was going to be fun, didn’t I?” Trevor grinned at Cassandra.
“It was, wasn’t it? We should ask Ceci and Chris for more of these types of missions.”
“Good idea.” Trevor pressed a speed dial key on his cell and ringing sounded through the hands free.
“Hello?” Chris’ voice came through loud and clear.
“Who and when can we go visit next?” He dove right in and Cassandra smiled at him in complicity.
“Great…we created monsters. Ceci!”
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Do you have a question for Trevor, Cassandra, Chris or Cecilia? If so, ask away in the comments section below!
In case you missed it, you can check out my review of TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE and enter the giveaway of a copy here.