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About the author:
Heather Crouse: Express Café and Other Ramblings; Ramblings, Musings and Other Things; Soulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things
What inspired you to write your book?
The idea just came to me one day. I heard a section of the dialogue in my head, and became obsessed with the story at that point.
Here is a short sample from the book:
“Jean? Is that you?” She tried to slow her breathing, which came in rapid pants. “Jean?” She stiffened. “Jean Le Croíx, are you there? You’d better come out.” As she turned, her elbow brushed something and she recoiled, falling against a wall. No, not a wall. Terror ripped through her as she realized a pair of arms enclosed around her.
“Lovely lady. You’re looking for someone, I presume? Well, Monsieur Le Croíx thought you’d be better off in our hands.”
Our hands? She tried to jerk away from him, but he was too strong. “Let me go, I-I demand it.”
Laughter erupted nearby and a figure loomed before her. Another man appeared and licked his lips lasciviously. “Oui, Monsieur Le Croíx believed us quite capable once he dished out the finances required. We may have gotten a poor bargain, Bernard. She could be worth far more.”
The man grunted in agreement.
Mon Dieu, she thought. Jean had hired them! For what exactly? To kill her? Her stomach rolled as she imagined all the things they might do to her.
“Please, I’ll do anything. Not this…” She shook her head.
“The lady is smart, Bernard. We must watch her.”
“Please. My…m-my uncle,” she stammered.
“I’m terribly sorry, chère. Your uncle has nothing to do with our pleasure.”
“But…” She swallowed her fear. “Ransom…if you ask for a ransom, he’ll give it to you. I promise. Anything.”
“No doubt your uncle is a wealthy man and you might fetch a fair price. But, what we’re looking for you cannot buy.” He laughed. “In most circumstances.”
No, they couldn’t buy it. But, they could take it. Her virginity. She could not fight them if they tried. Anger heated her face and a red haze filled her vision. She struggled harder. “Damn you! You’ll pay for this!”
He laughed. “I suppose so. But, what else can you do? There is an alternative now, a position with dames de nuit…”
She clenched her fist. Now she was likened to a prostitute? No, it would not be done. She tried to play at her innocence. “Please…this can’t be happening.”
“Oh, but it is, my lovely lady. It won’t be so bad–”
“No!” She slammed the heel of her foot in her captor’s shin and spun away.
“Bernard!” called one of the men.
She heard footsteps behind her and she turned, lashing out with her fingernails. She gasped as she saw him howl in pain, lowering his head to reveal red claw marks over the bridge of his nose. Then the man she’d first wounded came at her, tackling her.
The impact jarred her and she went down. “No!” Her escape was not to be.
She rolled to the ground in a maze of skirts and a heavy thigh was thrown across her knees, leaving her immobile. She squeezed her eyes tight. His touch on her face and breasts was repulsive. Tears threatened to overcome her and they ran like tracks into her hair. “Please,” she whispered.
“Ah, gentlemen, what have we here?” An unfamiliar voice sounded and Fara lifted her head weakly to see a new face, a different man. She wondered if he was an ordinary spectator. He didn’t look ordinary. He was big, intimidating but not frighteningly so. There was something about him she wanted to trust. She thought it might be his eyes, thought she detected a hint of concern as he glanced at her briefly. But, of course, she might be wrong. She had been before.
The man who pinned her disengaged himself and got to his feet. He looked down at her uneasily. “To your feet, chère,” he ordered.
She dizzily stood in response and he clutched her to his side as if to claim her as his possession.
The stranger frowned. “She’s quite a catch, gentlemen. Are you sure she’s not off limits?”
The man at her side stiffened. “What do you mean?”
“She appears to be a lady.”
Hope sprang from inside her. The man was no innocent bystander. He was a man with a purpose, but deep down she knew he could not be with these rogues.
“And if she is, Monsieur?”
“Then I would be curious as to why a lady is here with the two of you.”
The one called Bernard replied derisively, “Perhaps we are just too irresistible.”
The man laughed. “Hardly.” He sighed as her captor chose to resume his place behind her and blocked all attempts of escape with an arm across her chest. “Release her, gentlemen. Let’s settle this in a civilized manner, shall we?”
The man who held her grunted. “Why don’t you go about your business, Monsieur? A simple matter like this shouldn’t interest you.”
“A woman’s reputation may be at stake. Of course I’m interested.”
“We could share her, Monsieur.”
His gaze swept over her body and she shivered. Why, surely he would not take them seriously…he couldn’t take the offer. For God’s sake, he was her only hope. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she cursed herself for her maiden’s sensibilities. Where had her strength gone?
“You think I would participate in something so lewd? You mistake my character, gentlemen.” He pulled a rapier from its sheath. “The question is, what risks will you take? Let me see…two men against one. Of course, if you still want to keep the lady, it will take one of you to hold her. She looks fairly strong despite her size…why look at that mark on your face. She has fought you. She could be deadly, if given the chance. That makes one against one. Do you intend to fight me for her obvious favors?”
“Take out the girl, Bernard.”
The command came too quickly and before she could struggle away, a fist slammed against her jaw and she fell into blackness.
She lifted her head sometime later, unsure of how long she’d been unconscious. Her vision gradually returned, and the damp of the ground seeped through her dress. She shuddered with the chill of air upon her body. She heard the scrape of a footstep and a grunting sound above her. Still disoriented, Fara raised her head to see the man who had come to her rescue fighting off the two rogues.
He fought them with expert wrist and arm technique. He seemed to be in top physical shape as compared to Jean Le Croíx, who was soft for his obvious youth. She grimaced. Her wound caused her to be silly. So, he was attractive and strong…strong enough to fight these men off and break her neck all in the same moment.
Then the man thrust his rapier forward swiftly. When the one called Bernard, who had a white scar down the side of his face pulled away, he revealed a small but bloody wound on his arm. With a ragged breath, he looked at her rescuer as if weighing the consequences of his decision. He then turned on his heel and his accomplice soon followed him away from the docks.
Fara watched their retreat with a deep sigh. Her rescuer pivoted on his heel and approached her. He looked much larger than before. Trembling, she levered herself up on one elbow and waited for him to speak.
He kneeled and looked her over. “I guess they gave up the chase…”
Fara nodded, swallowing hard. “Oui, Monsieur.” He touched her cheek and she felt the warmth emanate from his hand. She was afraid, but she did not pull away from his touch. She found it strangely protective, even affectionate. Though she barely knew him, she wanted to believe he cared for her welfare. Her vision clouded with tears as rich longing swept through her. To be cared for completely, to be loved. But, he was a stranger. She could not forget that.
Distantly, she knew that her physical state was far from normal at the moment.
“Are you all right?”
She shook her head, feeling herself grow weaker by the second. Nothing could keep her alert at that moment. “Monsieur…” she murmured, falling into the inviting darkness.