With: Anne Cleeland
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A member of the French émigré community in London, Epione is forced to hide her true identity, and instead works as a milliner’s assistant in a Bond Street shop. Cautiously optimistic, she believes she’s managed to avoid public scrutiny—until she notices that a handsome man is watching her movements from across the way.
As she is swept up in the plots and counter-plots surrounding the restoration of the French monarchy, Epione must call upon reserves of courage she wasn’t aware she possessed, and re-learn long-forgotten lessons about loyalty, and love.
Excerpt from Chapter One
“You avoid me.” The words were French, and said in a mock-accusatory tone.
With a startled gasp, she glanced up to see the watcher-from-across-the-street, only now falling into step beside her, as though they were old acquaintances. He was tall, with brown hair, and a dark stubble of beard which made a stark contract with the white, charming smile he bestowed upon her, his eyes alight with humor. Rather than make a denial, she stammered, “I—I don’t know why you watch me; it makes me uneasy.” She glanced around to see if there was anyone near enough to offer aid.
With an easy manner, he tilted his head in acknowledgment. “Have no fear—I am not the murderer.”
Fairly, she pointed out, “I imagine that is precisely what the murderer would say—and I would rather speak English.”
This surprised him, and he turned his face to hers. “Why is this?”
“My English is better,” she lied. He was indeed handsome—dark and handsome; it quite took one’s breath away.
After giving her a skeptical look, he continued in English, “It would be best if you do not return home, just yet.”
Startled, she paused, but he made a gesture with his hand. “Keep walking, s’il vous plait.” He slid her a mock-defiant glance, at his use of the French phrase.
She complied, mainly because he was a force unto himself, and she was having trouble putting two thoughts together. “I—I don’t understand; who are you? Am I in danger?”
For whatever reason, he had to think about his answer for a moment. “I think there has been a misunderstanding, and that yes, you may be in danger. Do you have a pistol?”
This seemed alarming, and she glanced up at him again. “No—should I?”
He indicated her pelisse. “What is it you hold in your pocket?”
“Oh—trimming shears.” She could feel her color rise.
“Eh bien.” He gave her a nod of careless approval. “But a pistol would be more to the point. Shall I give you one of mine?”
Aware that she should—perhaps—be screaming for help, instead she could not suppress a smile as she shook her head in exasperation. “Who are you? Please—I have half a mind to call the Watch.” It would be a shame, though—handsome and charming didn’t come her way very often, working in a milliner’s shop.
He ducked his chin in regret. “I would rather not say—not yet; but you should not call the Watch. The British authorities are searching your rooms, as we speak.”
She stopped dead in her tracks and stared at him. “What?”
He stood before her, his brown eyes searching hers thoughtfully. “I think there has been a misunderstanding, only; but I would not go home, if I were you—not as yet.”
With a knit brow, she regarded him for a long moment. “And why would I need a pistol, if it is the British authorities?”
With a sigh, put his hands on his hips, and contemplated his boots—apparently he had little patience with formalities. She noted that he had a sword at his side—unusual, because he did not appear to be a military man. The sword had a foreign-looking, hooked hilt, but she only glanced at it for a moment before he raised his gaze to hers. “If I tell you too much, then I may bring more trouble to your doorstep—assuming it is all a misunderstanding.”
She thought about this, and found that she very much wanted to continue this strange and alarming conversation, despite everything. “Can you give me a hint, do you think?”
“Josiah.” His gaze was suddenly sharp upon her face.
Epione shook her head, disclaiming. “I do not understand.”
He nodded, rather gravely. “Yes—it is probably why you are still alive.”
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