An Unlikely Alliance . . .
Betrayed and stranded in France at the height of war, Lord Gregory Halston has few options. After rescuing his ailing brother from prison, he and his brother struggle to survive in hostile territory without outing themselves as Englishmen. Gregory hopes the feisty French peasant woman he meets is willing to guide them to safety.
Danielle Belanger doesn’t wish to protect any man from the same country responsible for her brother’s demise. But there’s something about the determined Englishman that makes her willing to try. Though a match between Danielle and Gregory is impossible, their attraction can’t be denied. The only thing more dangerous than aiding the enemy…is falling in love with him.
“Serge, you have to be quieter,” Danielle hissed into the darkness.
The admonishment did little good. Her brother still clomped behind her, his boots rustling old leaves and snapping twigs.
`Twas hardly astonishing the boy had trouble killing a squirrel. The entire forest would hear him coming a full kilometer away. “You’re going to awaken the English and lead them straight to us.”
The noise of mud sucking at his feet drowned out her words.
She rolled her eyes and moved soundlessly behind an ancient maple tree. They’d best just focus on getting away fast—since “quiet” wasn’t working for them. She surveyed the darkened trees. The clouds that had brought rain and gray skies earlier now blanketed the moon and stars, making the forest so black it obscured trees a meter in front of her. But the darkness would also make following them nigh impossible.
If not for Serge and his incessant noise.
He came up beside her, panting. “How do you move so fast in the dark? I can hardly follow you.”
“There’s a thick stand of firs several meters ahead.” She reached back to take hold of his wrist, keeping her eyes pinned on the goal ahead. “If we can get there, the English will have no hope of—”
“Finding you?” A hand reached out to clasp her upper arm.
She squealed at the sound of the familiar English voice.
“Serge, run !” She shoved her brother away before Halston could grab him, as well. At least one of them would be free to find a gendarmerie post.
Serge’s heavy footfalls crashed into the darkness while a narrow beam of lantern light found her face.
“Where, exactly, did you intend to go this late?” Halston asked.
The oaf. He deserved to have his other cheek scratched as badly as the first. She curled her fingers into fists at her side.
He chuckled, clearly guessing the direction of her thoughts. “I wouldn’t attempt it again if I were you.”
She jerked her chin up. “Where I go is none of your concern.”
“Is that so?”
“You’ll have to forgive me for not believing you, seeing how when you feigned sleep two hours ago, I left both you and your brother bound.”
The word cracked through the woods with such force she couldn’t help but cringe. “Mayhap we didn’t like being bound.”
His hand dug harder into her arm. “Wretched woman.”
She couldn’t make out more than his shadow with the way he held the light to shine on her alone, but she could well imagine him gritting his teeth as he called her wretched, just like Papa always did when he said she was insufferable.
Not that she was either wretched or insufferable.
“My brother has spent the past year and a half trapped in your horrid country for the heinous crime of traveling here when our two countries were at peace and not managing to leave before we were once again at war.” Frustration ground across the edges of his words. “When I came to rescue him, the French guide I paid quite handsomely betrayed us. Now Westerfield might well be dying, and he needs help. I’ve offered you two thousand pounds to take us to the Channel, a sum that should be of great use to you and your family, and you look down as me as though I’m no more than dung on the heel of your boot. What must I do to convince you to help us? Offer you another thousand pounds?”
“That man is your brother? The sick one with the wretched cough?”
He probably raised that arrogant eyebrow at her, except she couldn’t see it in the black. “Does it make a difference?”
It didn’t. Or rather, it shouldn’t. But his brother? Could she blame him for wanting to protect his family? And what if his claim about not being spies was true? “When you learned he fell ill, you came over from England solely to get him out of Verdun?”
“Again, why does it matter?” His voice was hard, as though he hadn’t a drop of mercy anywhere inside his tall, lanky form.
“Because…because…” Because I had an older brother once, and if he’d been trapped in your country, I would have done anything to save him.
But Laurent wasn’t trapped in England. He was dead.
Because of England.