The Honorable Officer
by Philippa Lodge
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GENRE: Historical Romance
Hélène de Bonnefoi’s spirit has been squashed by the ever-critical aunt and uncle who raised her. Serving as nanny and stand-in mother to her cousin’s child has saved her from the convent, especially after her cousin’s death. When suspicious accidents threaten the toddler, Hélène overcomes her near-blindness to seek the help of the child’s father, a colonel in Louis XIV’s army.
Jean-Louis, Colonel de Cantière, has spent his life proving his worth, integrity, and honor, first to his family and now in the army. When his daughter’s caretaker appears in his camp during a siege, claiming someone is trying to kill the girl, his loyalties are sorely tested.
Hélène must convince Jean-Louis the threat is real. But the true danger is to the heart of a shy young woman who has always loved her cousin’s husband from afar and to the colonel’s desire to resist complicated emotions.
Her hair was loose around her shoulders and still gloriously red. He wished suddenly it were blonde again and spread across his pillow.
He found himself stepping close to her, his hand on her cheek. His lips touched hers. She sighed. He pulled back to see her face in the flickering candlelight in the hall. She was surprised, but not frightened, so he kissed her gently—tiny kisses from one corner of the mouth to the other, then up her cheek to the corner of one eye.
His chest was tight. He couldn’t breathe or feel his heart beat.
She dropped her lorgnette on its string and wrapped one arm around his neck.
He kissed each of her eyelids, then pulled her tight against him and leaned his face against her hair. It smelled of dirt and smoke and henna.
She pushed away from him, her eyes still closed. She fluttered them open and stared at his face from two inches away, squinting against the darkness.
“I can’t…” she said.
But what she couldn’t, he didn’t wait to hear as he took her mouth again, pressing a hard kiss and licking at her lips.
There was a clatter at the bottom of the stairs and he jumped back, releasing her and straightening his clothing, smoothing out wrinkles in his long coat.
Hélène smoothed out her dress, her hands shaking. The maid appeared at the top of the stairs to find them standing several feet apart in the hall. They must have looked respectable enough. Hélène directed the maid to leave the hot water in her dressing room.
Jean-Louis cleared the roughness from his throat. “I have had a letter from your uncle. He wishes Ondine home. Obviously he did not believe your story. He says he sent someone to Franche-Comté.”
She looked surprised. “Do you think it’s how we were found so quickly?”
Jean-Louis considered this for a moment, his stomach clenching with guilt. “Yes, I suppose so. I’m more worried about his other points, which were that you are possibly insane and he wants you in a convent.”
Hélène’s pale eyes filled with tears.
Jean-Louis put his hand on her arm, wanting so much to hold her again, but conscious of the maid nearby. “You cannot go back there. I’ll never send Ondine back there, either.”
“Oh, thank you, Monsieur.” She smiled up at him worshipfully.
He winced. He hated to be worshiped.
Her face fell. The maid came out of Mademoiselle Hélène’s room and curtsied before going downstairs.
He took a deep breath, trying to decide what he could say. “My…my brother Cédric wrote. My brothers Henri and Emmanuel are coming by Friday. The Comtesse and Comte de Bures are already in Poitou. Dom has an estate near here, only ten miles away. I will send a messenger in the morning.”
Hélène smiled, though not as broadly as before.
Philippa Lodge is author of the Châteaux and Shadows series of historical romance set in Seventeenth Century France.
Philippa Lodge has been an avid reader since she asked her mother to point out where it said “Ma” in Little House in the Big Woods. She read everything she could get her hands on until grad school in French Studies, at which time she lost her reading mojo.
Only through the twin discoveries of Harry Potter and romance has she gotten her groove back and gone back to the stuff she loved about seventeenth century France: kings, swords, opulence, and love.
She lives in the suburbs of Sacramento, CA with her husband, three children, two cats, and a head full of courtesans (Oo la la!). She edits the newsletter for her local chapter of the Romance Writers of America.
Philippa Lodge will be awarding a $20 Amazon/B&N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.