For my offering to Mid Week Tease I thought I’d give you a glimpse of the past. The Captain’s Promise is a historical romance with a dash of suspense. Here’s a quote from my most recent 5 star review: The author, Susanne Matthews, has created a plot-twisting, fast-paced story that keeps you on edge wondering when Danielle and Etienne will find their own happy ending. The rich portrayal of 17th Century life in France gives the reader fresh insight into the cultural mindset. The reader is pulled deeper into this engrossing story’s reality by Ms. Matthew’s fascinating interweaving of authentic details about ships, sailing, and thrilling sea battles.
The Captain’s Promise left me marveling at all the pioneering spirits, who set sails across the oceans’ great unknowns seeking fresh beginnings in the colonies. And it left me happy that true love can endure across time and obstacles.
This scene takes place on the night of the heroine’s sixteenth birthday, when she expects a marriage proposal from the hero, Etienne.
The air was cooler outside, but Etienne continued to perspire. His months of training to become one of the King’s soldiers had sculpted his body and removed every inch of unnecessary fat. He had been so eager to boast to Danielle about his new commission, and how he would travel the world, and make something of himself. Suddenly, he felt as if his dreams were coming to an end. How proud he had been of his new uniform, his gold lieutenant’s epaulettes decorating his deep blue coat.
He had taken great pains with his appearance tonight, wanting to impress Elle with his new responsibilities; he wanted her to be proud of him. Like the other young officers in his regiment, he had left his hair unpowdered, pulled into a queue, secured with a white, silk ribbon, and had grown a beard that followed the edge of his face, but exposed his mouth. The regiment required that he keep his neck shaved, and the mustache on his upper lip neatly trimmed. He raised his finger to the tiny crescent scar below his left eye, the result of a swordsmanship training accident, which he felt gave him a dash of mystery. Now, instead of feeling proud of his appearance, he felt as if the white lace jabot at his neck were a noose, threatening to choke him.
Where had his sweet Danielle gone? When he had last seen her, she had been awkward, her arms and legs too long for her young body. They had been almost constant companions for eight years; how could his tomboy friend have changed this much in so short a time?
Instead of staying on the veranda, he led her down the steps and along the path to the rose arbor, where they could have some privacy. They sat on the small stone bench, a place where they had sat many times, discussing his plans for the future—all the wonderful places he would go, things he would do—plans that the child Elle had probably thought included her. He shook his head sadly; how foolish he had been.
Danielle opened the gift, and inhaled sharply in surprise.
“Oh, Etienne; it is beautiful,” she whispered holding up the gold chain from which hung a lapis lazuli cross. “I will wear it always.” She leaned towards him and kissed his cheek. She turned her back to him, so that he could fasten the chain at her neck. The beautiful deep blue cross hung low on her bosom, skirting the top of her cleavage.
“Elle, I need to tell you something. Look at me,” he said, and turned her to face him. In the moonlight, she took on an otherworldly beauty, and he suddenly hardened with the heat of desire unlike anything he had ever felt. He longed to place his lips where the cross lay on her bosom. How had he not realized how he truly felt about her? The deep affection he had harbored for the young girl had blossomed into something much more intense for the young woman with him now, but nothing could ever come of it. A relationship between them was impossible.
He steeled himself against the pain such thoughts caused him and began.
“My father has purchased a commission for me, and I leave for Marseilles in the morning to join my regiment. There has been some trouble in the East, and we are being dispatched to take care of it. I do not know when we will be back—perhaps a year, maybe more.”
She looked at him as if he had struck her, all color seeping from her cheeks. Her titian hair framed the alabaster oval of her face, engraving it on his memory.
“No, Etienne, no,” she cried jumping up, wringing her hands in agitation. “You cannot do this! Tell me you are playing a prank on me as you used to do. Why do you have to join the army? Why go fight the Turks? What about all the plans we made?” she wailed through her sobs. “You will be killed. How will I go on without you? You are everything to me.”
He stood and reached for her, taking her into his arms, holding her as the sobs racked her body. The words were the sweetest he had ever heard, and yet, they opened a gaping wound in his heart that might never heal.
“Mon amie, you are speaking nonsense, and you know it,” he whispered into her hair. He held her close, at first tenderly, and then with the desperation of a man holding the woman he wants and needs, but knows he can never have.
“Elle, you know that all the grand plans we discussed were just impossible dreams and can never be. Look at you. You are the daughter of a count. I am the third son of a minor noble—I have no title, no fortune, and now I am a soldier. A lieutenant is not always in the midst of the battle. I will be safe enough, I assure you. I have no intention of finding myself in an infidel’s prison or an early grave.” He felt her tremble at his words.
“Promise me that you will come back to me, Etienne; you are a man of your word. If you say that you will come back, then I know I can hold you to your promise.” The tears flowed freely down her cheeks, and her body shuddered with her sobs.
“I promise I will come back,” he said, knowing that it could be many years before he could do so, and thinking of the promise he had given her father moments earlier. Was he doomed to betray his words to them both?
Someday she would forgive him, and in time, she would forget him, but he would never forget her. She would haunt him for the rest of his life, and this promise, one he might never be able to keep, would damn him to the fires of everlasting Hell.
He cradled her in his arms as she continued to weep. Gently, his hands rubbed small circles on her back, his chest painfully aware of her young, firm breasts pressing into it. She lifted her arms and looped them around his neck, resting her head on his shoulder. He tried to move away from her, but she refused to loosen her hold. His rigid erection pressing against the stomacher beneath her gown was bittersweet agony. He crooned words meant to soothe, bent to kiss the top of her head, but she raised hers, so that his lips met her brow. It was his undoing.
He could not fight his sudden need for her. He lavished delicate kisses on her face, tasting her tears, his lips trailing down the curve of her neck to her shoulders. Her skin was silky, sweeter than the sweetest honey, and smelled of the floral soap and scent she used. He raised his head and sought her lips, softly, delicately, and then with a purpose, like a starving man finally being fed.
He ran the tip of his tongue over her moist lips, and although untutored in the ways of the world, her mouth instinctively opened to him like a morning glory welcoming the sun. His tongue probed the sweet depths, tasting, wanting more, and devouring what was offered to him.
Danielle’s response to his kiss aroused him beyond the ability to think rationally. His hands left her back to travel along the side of her ribcage to cup the fullness of her breasts straining against her gown. He tore his lips from hers, and transferred them to the flesh above the lacy edge of her dress where he lovingly rained kisses on her mounds. She moaned and threw her head back giving him greater access.
With trembling fingers, he slid the dress lower, exposing her to his hungry gaze. Her mounds were swollen by her response; the dark pink nipples stood erect waiting for his touch. He tenderly kneaded her breasts, eliciting a series of soft moans from her. His mouth replaced his hands as he suckled, causing her to whimper with need. He moved his hand lower rucking her skirt as he sought the dress’ hem.
The sound of someone calling her name dragged him back to reality. Oh God! What had he done? He looked at her, and could not avoid seeing the evidence of his lust. Her lips, swollen by the assault of his kisses, were slightly parted, and her dress continued to expose her breasts. In her glazed eyes, he saw wonder and hunger, and he recognized that he had done this to her, that he had taken her innocence, treated her like a trollop, and damned himself. Was this how he honored his promise to her father? He had to protect her from the eyes of others.
Knowing she was too innocent to realize and understand what her eager response had done to him was cold comfort. With every scrap of decency he had left, he pulled her deeper into the shadows of the arbor, using his body to shield her from prying eyes, although the evidence of his hunger would not be hidden easily.
When he was sure the servant had moved on, he turned to help her, but she had already done what she could to put herself in order. He fought the urge to take her in his arms again; the look on her face was almost more than he could bear. Tears streamed down her cheeks—tears of shame, tears of need, tears of accusation—tears he had caused with his boorish and careless behaviour.
“You cannot leave me now, Etienne, not after this. You love me; I know you do, just as I love you,” she accused, the words stabbing him as she uttered them. “You cannot leave me now!”
He did not look at her; he hung his head. “I am sorry, Elle; I should never have touched you like that; I hope you can forgive me one day.” Without another word, he left her in the arbor, fleeing the manor as if the hounds of Hell were after him.
Just as he reached the stables, a servant stopped him.
“Lieutenant Blouin,” he called. “The Count de Cherbourg asked me to give you this before you left.” The man handed Etienne a note.
He opened it. Inside were the words Remember your promise. Etienne mounted his horse and rode away from the manor.
Don’t forget to check out the other posts in this week’s
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