Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy

BOOK: Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy
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Bonjour,
Gabriel.”

Emmaline.

She looked even more beautiful than the image of her that inhabited his dreams at night. Her lace-lined bonnet of natural straw perfectly framed her flawless face. The dark blue of her walking dress made her eyes even more vibrant.

Good God. After two years, she still had the power to affect him.


Why
did you come to see me?”

Her lips trembled before she spoke. “Oh, Gabriel. I need you.”

The hard earth he’d packed around his emotions began to crack.

She swallowed and went on. “I need your help.”

He came to his senses. “Help with what?”

She met his eyes. “I need you to find Claude.”

“Claude.” The son who’d driven a wedge between them.

Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy

Harlequin® Historical #1057—September 2011

Author Note

Here is the final book in my Three Soldiers miniseries— Gabriel’s story. Unlike the heroes of
Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady
and
Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress,
Gabriel Deane was a career soldier, a man who believed the army was where he belonged. Like so many other men and women, both in history and in today’s world, Gabriel gave up a normal, conventional life for service to his country. He went where his government sent him, and did what he was ordered to do—no matter how difficult or dangerous.

While the Three Soldiers series has focused on the effect of war on the soldier—specifically the effect of one horrific event—the theme of this book is how war affects everyone, soldier and civilian alike. In spite of war, though, love can still lead to happy endings.

Which is what I wish to soldiers and their families in today’s world: love and a happy ending.

Look for Claude’s story,
An Officer, Not a Gentleman?
Coming soon
from Harlequin
®
Historical Undone ebooks.

DIANE GASTON

VALIANT SOLDIER, BEAUTIFUL ENEMY

Available from Harlequin
®
Historical and
DIANE GASTON

The Mysterious Miss M
#777

The Wagering Widow
#788

A Reputable Rake
#800

Mistletoe Kisses
#823

“A Twelfth Night Tale”

Innocence and Impropriety
#840

The Vanishing Viscountess
#879

Scandalizing the Ton
#916

The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor
#943

“Justine and the Noble Viscount”

*
Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady
#972

*
Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress
#1009

*
Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy
#1057

And in ebook Harlequin Historical Undone!

The Unlacing of Miss Leigh

In memory of my cousin, James Getman,
an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, and all those
who lost their lives while serving their country.

We are grateful.

Contents

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Epilogue

Prologue

Badajoz, Spain—1812

A
woman’s scream pierced the night.

Countless screams had reached Captain Gabriel Deane’s ears this night, amidst shattering glass, roaring flames and shouts of soldiers run amok. The siege of Badajoz had ended and the pillaging had begun.

The marauding soldiers were not the French, not the enemy known to live off the bounty of the vanquished. These were British soldiers, Gabe’s compatriots, prowling through the city like savage beasts, plundering, killing, raping. A false rumour saying Wellington would permit the plundering had sparked the violence.

Gabe and his lieutenant, Allan Landon, had been ordered into this cauldron, but not to stop the rioting. Their task was to find one man.

Edwin Tranville.

Edwin’s father, General Tranville, had ordered them to find his son, who’d foolishly joined the marauders. Once inside the city Gabe and Landon had enough to do to save their own skins from drunken men in the throes of a bloodlust that refused to be slaked.

The scream sounded again, not distant like the other helpless cries of innocent women and children—this woman’s cry was near.

They ran in the direction of the sound. A shot rang out and two soldiers dashed from an alley, almost colliding with them. Gabe and Landon turned into the alley and emerged in a courtyard illuminated by flames shooting from a burning building nearby.

A woman stood over a cowering figure wearing the uniform of a British Officer. She raised a knife and prepared to plunge its blade into the British officer’s back.

Gabe seized her from behind and wrenched the knife from her grasp. “Oh, no, you don’t,
señora.
” She was not in need of rescue after all.

“She tried to kill me!” The British officer, covering his face with bloody hands, attempted to stand, but collapsed in a heap on the cobblestones.

At that moment another man stepped into the light. Lieutenant Landon swung around, pistol ready to fire.

“Wait.” The man raised his hands. “I am Ensign Vernon of the East Essex.” He gestured to the unconscious officer. “He was trying to kill the boy. And he attempted to rape the woman. I saw the whole thing. He and two others. The others ran.”

The two men who passed them? If so, it was too late to pursue them.

“The boy?” Gabe glanced around. What boy? He saw only the woman and the red-coated officer she was about to kill. And nearby the body of a French soldier, pooled in blood.

Gabe kept a grip on the woman and used his foot to roll over her intended victim. The man’s face was gashed from temple to chin, but Gabe immediately recognised him.

He glanced up. “Good God, Landon, do you see who this is?”

Ensign Vernon answered instead. “Edwin Tranville.” His voice filled with disgust. “General Tranville’s son.”

“Edwin Tranville,” Gabriel agreed. They’d found him after all.

“The bloody bastard,” Landon spat.

Vernon nodded in agreement. “He is drunk.”

When was Edwin not drunk? Gabe thought.

Another figure suddenly sprang from the shadows and Landon almost fired his pistol at him.

The ensign stopped him. “Do not shoot. It is the boy.”

A boy, not more than twelve years of age, flung himself atop the body of the French soldier.

“Papa!”
the boy cried.

“Non, non, non, Claude.”
The woman strained against Gabe’s grip. He released her and she ran to her son.

“Good God, they are French.” Not Spanish citizens of Badajoz. A French family trying to escape. What the devil had the Frenchman been thinking, putting his family in such danger? Gabe had no patience for men who took wives and children to war.

He knelt next to the body and placed his fingers on the man’s throat. “He’s dead.”

The woman looked up at him.
“Mon mari.”
Her husband.

Gabe drew in a sharp breath.

She was lovely. Even filled with great anguish, she was lovely. Hair as dark as a Spaniard’s, but with skin as fair as the very finest linen. Her eyes, their colour obscured in the dim light, were large and wide with emotion.

Gabe’s insides twisted in an anger that radiated clear to his fingertips. Had Edwin killed this man in front of his family? Had he tried to kill the boy and rape the woman, as the ensign said? What had the two other men done to her before it had been Edwin’s turn?

The boy cried,
“Papa! Papa! Réveillez!”

“Il est mort, Claude.”
Her tone, so low and soft, evoked a memory of Gabe’s own mother soothing one of his brothers or sisters.

Fists clenched, Gabe rose and strode back to Edwin, ready to kick him into a bloody pulp. He stopped himself.

Edwin rolled over again and curled into a ball, whimpering.

Gabe turned his gaze to Ensign Vernon and his voice trembled with anger. “Did Edwin kill him?” He pointed to the dead French soldier.

The ensign shook his head. “I did not see.”

“What will happen to her now?” Gabe spoke more to himself than to the others.

The woman pressed her son against her bosom, trying to comfort him, while shouts sounded nearby.

Gabe straightened. “We must get them out of here.” He gestured to his lieutenant. “Landon, take Tranville back to camp. Ensign, I’ll need your help.”

“You will not turn her in?” Landon looked aghast.

“Of course not,” he snapped. “I’m going to find her a safe place to stay. Maybe a church. Or somewhere.” He peered at Landon and at Ensign Vernon. “We say nothing of this. Agreed?”

Landon glared at him and pointed to Edwin. “He ought to hang for this.”

Gabe could not agree more, but over fifteen years in the army had taught him to be practical. He doubted any of the soldiers would face a hanging. Wellington needed them too much. General Tranville would certainly take no chances with his son’s life and reputation. Gabe and Landon needed to protect themselves lest Tranville retaliate.

More importantly, Gabe needed to protect this woman.

“He is the general’s son.” His tone brooked no argument. “If we report his crime, the general will have our necks, not Edwin’s.” He tilted his head towards the woman. “He may even come after her and the boy.” The captain looked down at the now-insensible man who had caused all this grief. “This bastard is so drunk he may not even know what he did. He won’t tell.”

“Drink is no excuse—” Landon began. He broke off and, after several seconds, nodded. “Very well. We say nothing.”

The captain turned to Vernon. “Do I have your word, Ensign?”

“You do, sir,” the ensign readily agreed.

Glass shattered nearby and the roof of the burning building collapsed, sending sparks high into the air.

“We must hurry.” Gabe paused only long enough to extend a handshake to the ensign. “I am Captain Deane. That is Lieutenant Landon.” He turned to the woman and her son. “Is there a church nearby?” His hand flew to his forehead. “Deuce. What is the French word for church?” He tapped his brow. “
Église?
Is that the word?
Église?


Non.
No church,
capitaine,
” the woman replied. “My…my
maison
—my house. Come.”

“You speak English,
madame?


Oui, un peu
—a little.”

Landon threw Edwin over his shoulder.

“Take care,” Gabe said to him.

Landon gave a curt nod before trudging off in the direction they had come.

Gabe turned to the ensign. “I want you to come with me.” He looked over at the Frenchman’s body. “We will have to leave him here.”

“Yes, sir.”

The woman gazed at her husband, her posture taut as if she felt pulled back to his side. Gabe’s heart bled for her. She put an arm around her son, who protested against leaving his father, and Gabe felt their struggle as if it were his own.

“Come,” she finally said, gesturing for them to follow her.

They made their way through the alley again and down a narrow street.

“Ma maison,”
she whispered, pointing to a wooden door that stood ajar.

Gabe signalled them to remain where they were. He entered the house.

Light from nearby fires illuminated the inside enough for him to see the contents of a home broken and strewn across the floor: legs from a chair, shards of crockery, scattered papers, items that had once formed the essence of everyday life. He searched the large room to be certain no one hid there. He continued into a small kitchen and a bedroom, both thoroughly ransacked.

He walked back to the front door. “No one is here.”

The ensign escorted the mother and son through the doorway. The woman’s hand flew to cover her mouth as her eyes darted over the shambles of what had once been her life. Her son buried his face into her side. She held him close as she picked her way through the rubble towards the kitchen.

BOOK: Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy
5.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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