To Save a Lady~Book One
French Quarter Brides,
A DARING MASQUERADE
A move from Paris to New Orleans brings disaster to Elise’s predictable life as a lady’s maid. The son of her grief-stricken mistress disappears, and Elise is swept up in a whirlwind of intrigue as she turns to a devious gentleman for help finding the lost boy.
A CAPTAIN BEWITCHED
In a city on the verge of war, Captain Jesse Cross, a dauntless American officer, finds himself spellbound by a beautiful French spy. Their forbidden romance is born in the darkness of a moonlit courtyard, and he soon realizes that his biggest battle will be one of the heart.
A FUTURE IMPERILED
As the battle for New Orleans approaches, the lines between loyalty and duty blur, and the perilous search for the missing boy leads Elise and Jesse into treacherous situations where their love and their lives are threatened.
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Chapter One Excerpt
CAPTAIN JESSE CROSS strode through the blanket of misty fog that filled the dark streets of the French Quarter. A discarded playbill from an opera house lay in a mud puddle, and the muffled sound of piano music came from a closed theater where a musician practiced after the show.
New Orleans was on the brink of war. Nevertheless, on any given night, a man could attend an opera, a play, or a concert in this muggy city filled with wealthy residents who loved to be entertained.
Also, a man could be robbed, shot, or stabbed to death on any given night. Crime thrived in the cultural city, which had its share of cutthroats and thieves who prowled the streets at night, looking for unwitting victims.
Jesse had no plans to become one of those victims.
The navy greatcoat he wore over his uniform brushed the tops of his riding boots and concealed the flintlock pistol he cradled against his thigh. As the moon ducked behind a cluster of heavy clouds, he listened carefully to the quiet footsteps that echoed his own. He had been followed since leaving a tavern on Rue Dauphine.
He continued at a steady pace, walking south on Rue Toulouse. Townhouses and shops jammed against sidewalks called banquettes in this city where French was the primary language.
The midnight hour approached. The houses were shuttered, and the streets deserted. There was no good reason to think the man trailing behind him was just out for a jaunt, not in the middle of a winter night.
Jesse picked up his pace as the damp, cold air breezed about him.
He longed to be elsewhere. Perhaps, warming himself by a glowing fireplace, with a glass of good wine and a woman eager to ride him. That would be such a joy right now. When had he last known such pleasure? He would have to dig deep into his memory to answer that question. Sometimes, memories were a comfort. Sometimes, a curse.
He tightened his grip on his pistol. The sound of footsteps grew closer. Faster now in the darkness. Coming up behind him while he walked along the banquette as if he didn’t have a concern in the world. He drew in a steadying breath.
There was nothing like the element of surprise.
He came to an abrupt halt, wheeled around and seized the cloaked figure. He forced his adversary against a pair of wooden gates and shoved the barrel of his flintlock against his opponent’s gut.
“You chose the wrong man to rob.” He cocked the pistol.
A silent moment passed. There was no struggle, and he caught the heady scent of garden flowers and musk. Where the hell was that coming from?
“Capitaine Cross,” a breathless feminine voice addressed him. She spoke with a French accent, as was common in the city. “I do not mean to rob you.”
Jesse blinked. “You’re a woman?” He let out a ragged breath as shock settled over him. He lowered the pistol. “A woman?”
“Oui,” she responded quickly. “I am.”
“My God.” His adrenaline ebbed, but his outrage remained. “Have you lost your fool mind?”
“I am sorry if I have, um,” she paused as if she were searching for the right word in English, “distressed you.”
“Distressed me?” He shoved away from her. “You slipped up behind me. What were you thinking? It’s a complete wonder I didn’t kill you.”
“I was trying to catch up, but you walk so fast.” She shrugged. “Like a man rushing to put out a fire.”
Affronted, he stiffened. He always walked quickly. “I’m not one to shuffle along and waste time. I have no tolerance for idleness.”
She straightened her cloak and caught her breath. “Shall we take a stroll, Capitaine?”
How did she know him?
He tugged her onto the banquette, where a lamp hung from a rope suspended across the street. A haze of light shimmered through the fog. He stepped back to get a better look at his quarry.
A black hooded cloak with beaded trim shrouded her from head to toe. An excellent garment for pursuing a man in the dark. The deep hood obscured her face, except for the half mask she wore. The sparkling gemstones scattered across her silver mask winked at him.
He couldn’t believe a woman was following him on the street, especially at such a late hour.
You could expect anything to happen in this bizarre city.
He shoved his pistol into his waist belt. He figured he knew who was behind this caper. “Bonnard hatched this little plot, didn’t he?”
His cousin, Lieutenant Bonnard Reid, had been enthralled by the whorehouses in the city. Bonnard acted like a kid running from one candy shop to another. Despite numerous eye rolls from Jesse, he had begged Jesse to join him on his escapades.
Jesse had declined. He had been too busy setting up the general’s headquarters. Now, he assumed his Lothario cousin had taken the matter into his own hands.
“Bonnard has gone too far this time. I promise he won’t pull a stunt like this again.”
“I do not know the man you call Bonnard,” she repeated the name awkwardly.
He frowned. “But you are here intentionally?”
“Oui.” She stepped forward, closer to him.
The seductive scent of flowers and musk intoxicated him. Like her face, her body was hidden. It was all shadows and secrets beneath the black cloak except for the flirty mask with its twinkling gems. Still, his imagination pictured her as a beautiful woman. Nude, of course.
“I am your liaison.” Her sensual voice was a mere whisper carried in the wind.
“Liaison?” The implication was so intimate that it aroused him. He reminded himself she could look like a toad for all he knew. She could have a husband and ten kids waiting at home for her.
“Certain individuals share your general’s desire to defeat the British.” Lifting the hem of her cloak, she started walking down the banquette. He followed beside her, struggling to drag along at her pace. Could she possibly move any slower? She even paused to glance in a dark store window where shoes were displayed.
Did she think he had all night?
Content Advisory for To Save a Lady: Contains sensual open-door love scenes, heat level: warm. A flashback of a sexual assault. No graphic details. A few instances of on-screen violence/fights and cursing between male characters. fo