By Linda McLaughlin
4 ½ stars and a Top Pick from Romantic Times!
Romantic Times Nominee—Best Small Press Romance of 2003!
2nd Place - Lorie Awards - Best Historical Romance!
In 1758 the Pennsylvania frontier is wild, primitive and dangerous, where safety often lies at the end of a gun. Mara Dupré's life crumbles when a French and Indian war party attacks her cabin, kills her husband, and takes her captive. Marching through the wilderness strengthens her resolve to flee, but she doesn't count on her captor teaching her the meaning of courage and the tempting call of desire.
French lieutenant Jacques Corbeau's desire for his captive threatens what little honor he has left. But when Mara desperately offers herself to him in exchange for her freedom, he finds the strength to refuse and reclaims his lost self-respect. As the shadows of his past catch up to him, Jacques realizes that Mara, despite the odds, is the one true key to reclaiming his soul and banishing his past misdeeds forever.
(Previously published by Amber Quill Press)
Holding the towel to his shoulder, he walked over and stood by the bed to check on the woman, who was still in a faint. Despite her pallor, he noted that her skin was fine, her nose straight and thin. She had a lower lip just full enough to entice a man to taste it, and a stubborn chin that dared him to try. Under different circumstances…
She was perhaps not as lovely as he’d thought when he first saw her standing in the clearing—her hair, the color of corn silk, shining in the sunlight. Still, she was tall and fair, with slender curves and shapely ankles visible beneath the short skirts of a farm wife.
And now she was a widow. He stared down at the woman and silently vowed to see that no more innocents died today.
The woman gave a soft moan and opened her eyes. When she spotted him, she shrank back against the wall, arms folded defensively across her breast. His gut tightened. He didn’t enjoy terrifying women, but fear should make her easier to control. She had already proven unpredictable.
Terror, stark and vivid, glittered in her eyes. "Who are you?"
"My name is Jacques Corbeau, lieutenant in the army of France. And you are my captive."
* * *Mara inhaled sharply, panic building inside her. This couldn’t be real. It was all a bad dream. She would wake up soon and tell Emile about it, and they would laugh. And laugh and laugh and…. She swallowed the hysteria engulfing her.
"Madame, are you listening to me?"
The Frenchman’s voice, sharp and insistent, demanded her attention. "There is not much time. My companions are not patient men. We must leave soon, but first I want you to bind my shoulder. Where do you keep bandages?"
Her mouth and throat were dry when she swallowed, but she choked out an answer. "The trunk. Under the bed."
He squatted beside the bed, pulled out the trunk and rummaged through it. She watched his every move, unable to take her eyes off him, alarmed by the physical threat he represented.
He was a tall man who dominated the cabin as Emile never had, and his state of undress revealed nearly every inch of his lean and powerful form. Not only was he bare to the waist, but his breechclout and leggings failed to completely cover his thighs and buttocks. He had a wide-shouldered, rangy body and long, sinewy legs. He looked strong, virile, and infinitely dangerous.
A cold knot formed in Mara’s stomach. The French had killed her father and now her husband. What would they do to her?
She wrapped her arms around her waist. Her grandfather would say whatever happened was God’s will, but she rejected that idea. What kind of God allowed such awful things to happen?
Fearfully, she watched as the Frenchman shoved the trunk back under the bed and stood. He held out the bandages, and she froze. She couldn’t touch him, she just couldn’t.
The man’s heavy black brows drew together in a fierce frown, but his voice was without emotion. "Madame, I am all that stands between you and the men who killed your husband. I can be persuaded to act as your protector. It is to your advantage to do what I command."
He dropped the bandages beside her on the bed, then reached out to touch her hair. "Must I remind you, in my companion’s eyes, scalps are more valuable than live captives?"
Horror sliced through her fear. "Emile!" She shot off the bed and bolted for the door. The Frenchman caught her around the waist before she could reach it.
"It is too late, madame," he said in a hushed voice. "It is done."
"No," she moaned, as she fought to banish the image of a bloody scalp, raw flesh.
The Frenchman turned her toward him, holding her by the shoulders, and spoke in an insistent voice. "Listen to me and be sensible. You must be strong now. We have a long journey ahead of us."
Dazed, she stared at him. "A journey? To where?"
Mara gasped. The dreaded enemy stronghold deep in the wilderness. She struggled to get free, clawing at his powerful arms.
He gripped her tighter, grimacing as he did. "Stop it! What chance do you think you have against three men? Do as I say and you will live. Refuse and…" He let the implication hang in the air between them.
Live. Yes, that was what she must do. She must bide her time and stay alive. Her brother would find her and exact revenge. But for now, she was on her own.
She straightened her spine and stared into the Frenchman’s eyes. "How do I know I can trust you, monsieur?"
He met her gaze, but a shadow darkened his eyes. "You have my word of honor."
Bitterness filled her. "The word of a Frenchman? What is that worth?"
"For the moment, madame, your life."
My thanks to Lizzie for hosting me today. Hope you are enjoying the Egg-cerpt Exchange.
Linda McLaughlin grew up with a love of history fostered by her paternal grandmother and an incurable case of wanderlust inherited from her father. She has traveled extensively within the United States and has visited Mexico, Canada, & Australia. A lifelong dream came true with a trip to England where she was able to combine sightseeing and theater with research for her novels. A native of Pittsburgh, she now lives in Southern California with her husband.
Her first book was Worth The Risk by Lyn O'Farrell. Now Linda writes historical and Regency romance. She loves transporting her readers into the past where her characters learn that, in the journey of life, love is the sweetest reward.
She also writes sexy to erotic romance under the name Lyndi Lamont.