He is the law. And she is the outlaw…Musketeer Arnaud de Sillègue d’Athos is ready to bid adieu to the King’s Guard and to lay down his sword. Yet he’s been charged with one final mission—to apprehend a dangerous enemy of the king, the Belle Dame Sans Merci. Despite his desire to apprehend a woman who causes such destruction, Athos refuses…until he sees a sketch of her. It’s the same villainess with whom he had been locked in a passionate, sensual moment.Emmanuelle Vazet never gives up control, even if briefly, in the arms of a blue-eyed stranger, she felt the need to give in and let desire take over. But now circumstances have placed her at the scene of a murder. Her reputation—and a ridiculous name— has preceded her, even if she is innocent. Now her nameless lover is the enemy. A royalist. A musketeer who could be her undoing…unless she becomes his undoing first.
All for one, and one for all! I’m excited for readers to discover my version of the indomitable musketeer, Athos, as his one final mission sees him facing his greatest weakness—a wicked woman. This scene takes place as Athos has paused on the quest to find just that woman. His horse has taken a stone, and he needs a replacement…
Athos leaned back and eyed the yard hugging the main house. The barn door hung open. The nicker of a horse echoed out to him. A woodpecker nesting high above in a ragged cypress tapped in the bark a welcome to the sun that melted the threat of cold.
Finally the door swung open. A young woman with copper hair pulled into a chignon did not smile. She looked tired, but open to his presence. Wiping her hands across a wrinkled white apron she waited silently for him to speak.
“I am come to see about using your stables, perhaps renting a horse. Mine has taken a stone and I’ll not make it to Ribécourt. Is the master home?”
He hadn’t time for evasion. “Mademoiselle, he either is, or he is not. Which is it?”
“She is,” a confident female voice announced from down the hall.
Athos squinted against the bright morning sunlight streaming through a distant window, which blinded him from immediately identifying the speaker. But like an arrow to the heart that strikes boldly, he knew at once it was she. She was possessed of a deep, assertive voice. A woman who knew exactly what she wanted.
“You?” He stepped inside.
The young woman closed the door behind him and offered to take his hat, but Athos clung to the beaver brim. The red plume dusted his tunic.
The vision in the hallway sashayed toward him, her hips swinging seductively. The very air about her teemed with a heady vibration of—of what? Want? Desire? Deception?
Yet even more, a foolish woman. Did she not suspect he would arrest her on the spot?
Athos forced himself to nod courteously. She was en dishabille, dressed only in a morning robe of balding rose velvet. Long black hair flowed over her shoulders and framed a fresh, smooth face.
“My luck blossoms,” he said, determined not to ogle the décolletage the robe exposed. Nor the bare feet peeking from below the hem. `Twas a very conscious effort on her part to reveal such, he assumed. “My suspicions were to take me to Ribécourt for clues to your hiding spot. Who would have thought it would be as easy as following a lame horse?”
“What nonsense do you sputter, monsieur? Is there something you did not ask me yesterday whilst you had me pinned to a dirty wall in Paris?”
The young woman behind him coughed in alarm and his quarry gestured impatiently that she leave them alone. With a reluctant curtsey, the redhead did so.
“Actually” —Athos returned his hand to his sword hilt— “it is not so much what remains unasked, as what remains unspoken.”
She did not so much as flinch. How bold to face him in such a manner.
“As you already know,” he continued, “I possess a letter de cachet, par le roi. Therefore, I arrest you in the name of King Louis XIII, Mademoiselle, er…I have not yet the pleasure of your name?”
“A pleasure? To learn the name of a woman you accuse of such heinous crimes? Really, Monsieur Athos, do you always tup a woman before learning her name?”
“Often. For it is the women whose names I know who generally cause me the most grief.”
“Perhaps, then, I should not gift you with further misery.”
“On the contrary, it will make things easier when filling out your arrest papers. Your name, mademoiselle?”
She drew a finger along her cheek, touched her lips, and sighed. He sensed her sigh was more manufactured than true worry. She had slipped into a role. He knew it as he had learned from previous encounters with her sort. The average woman would have already been in frantic tears. This woman was far from average.
Michele has been writing romance, action-adventure and fantasy stories for over twenty years. Her first published novel was DARK RAPTURE. In February 2015 she celebrates her 70th published story!
France, musketeers, vampires and faeries populate her stories. And if she followed the adage 'write what you know', all her stories would have snow in them. Fortunately, she steps beyond her comfort zone and writes about countries she has never visited and of creatures she has never seen.
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