Could sworn enemies become more?






She'll risk everything to save him...


Agnes, a blacksmith, runs the forge while her father fights in the Continental Army. The morning after the Battle of Monmouth, she discovers a wounded British soldier in her barn. Despite the risk, she vows to heal him as she believes a good Samaritan should. Edwin, third son of the Duke of Dalfour, was supposed to become a barrister. He opted to run away and join the army. Shot on a mission to deliver the general’s message, he wakes in Agnes’s barn unaware of how he got there and missing his horse. If he is caught, he could be hung, but Loyalists are also searching for British deserters. If anyone discovers he is the son of the Duke, he is doomed. Agnes tells everyone Edwin is her mother’s cousin, but she soon finds herself falling in love with him. When Loyalists kidnap her sister, Edwin vows to bring the child back from the British held camp. Can Agnes trust him? Or is he using her sister as an excuse to return to his company? Will Agnes ever see her sister again? And will Edwin break her heart?







EXCERPT

Copyright 2013 © Penelope Marzec



Done with the milking, she led the cow and the calf outside to the fenced pasture. She returned for the milk and heard the groan again. Louder and more distinct, it emanated from the last stall.


She grabbed the rake hanging on the wall. Danger lay in moving an injured animal and she needed to protect herself from sharp teeth and claws. With her heart pounding and perspiration dripping from her brow, she tiptoed to the back of the barn.


She did not find a wild, suffering animal. Stunned, she blinked her eyes several times to be sure she had not fallen into a dream or a nightmare. On the hay lay a British soldier, her enemy, with a musket at his side. Blood and mud stained his red wool coat and white breeches.


Her pulse raced, and her initial reaction was to turn and run. She swallowed instead as she studied him. His eyes were closed and he had not shaven in days. He had fine features and a headful of coal black hair tied neatly at the nape of his neck with a strip of leather.


Though one of the king’s minions, she thought him a handsome young man. She used the rake to drag the musket away from him. Muscular and tall, he would have no trouble overpowering her if he woke from his stupor.
She picked up the weapon, aimed the muzzle at him, and shouted. “Who are you?”


He whispered through cracked lips as he clutched his blood-soaked britches. “Water.”


“How did you get in here?”


“W…water.” His fever-glazed eyes rolled back in a distressing manner. She judged him to be little older than her own eighteen years.


“Did you fight in the battle yesterday?”


“Water…wa…”


“Where is the rest of your company?” Uncertainty crept through her. In his current condition, he did not present a threat. She lowered the musket.


Though not a single breeze stirred in the morning air, he shivered violently in his thick red wool jacket.
She glanced toward the open door and listened. Hearing no one else approach, she turned to set the weapon against the wall in the adjoining empty stall. Behind her, the soldier’s groaning increased. She whirled to find him clawing at the ground, dragging himself toward her.


Fear knotted in her chest as he reached out to grab her foot. She stepped back. The width of his shoulders bore testament to his strength. If he caught her, he might not let go.


“My…horse.” His demand came out as a tortured whisper.


Agnes fought to keep herself from trembling. She would not allow this enemy to see her alarm. “You have no horse.”


He made a strangled sound in his throat, closed his eyes, and went still. Panic curled up her spine. Though he remained a foe, she did not want him to pass away in her barn.


Swallowing her dread, she knelt beside him and found the pulse in his neck. The slow but steady beat reassured her. She studied his chiseled features while smoothing the errant tendrils of his midnight hair from his face. His ragged beard tickled her fingertips.


He radiated vitality despite his infirm state. She found soft pleasure in simply gazing upon him, an odd reaction for her since she had little time for any such indulgence.


Agnes forced herself to tear her attention from his handsome face. She noticed the elbow of his red wool jacket had torn and the cuff had fallen away. A few ragged threads marked the places where fine brass buttons had been.


Until now, she believed herself immune to a man’s appearance, but when she pressed her hand against her breast, the pounding of her heart surprised her. It must be because he had caused such a fright for her at first.


“’Tis a pity you fight on the side of the British.” She gave a mighty shove and rolled him over onto his back. A small, folded sheet of paper slipped out of his jacket. Frowning, she picked it up and opened it, but she did not understand the message. Was it written in a foreign language? She tucked the note into her pocket.


Aware of her duty to call for the local militia to remove the soldier, she hesitated. He would be taken prisoner in a rough manner, be tortured for information, and receive little or no care for his injuries. If he lived, he would be traded for one of the Patriot prisoners held by the British.


If he lived…