The classic New York Times bestselling tale of romance and intrigue in Regency England . . .
Arielle Leslie is a sixteen-year-old girl forced to wed Paisley Cochrane, a sadistic old man who abuses her. When he dies, she believes herself free. But she's not.
Burke Drummond, Earl of Ravensworth--a young man she'd worshipped three years before--is home from the wars, and he wants her. When he catches her, he's in for an appalling surprise.
Burke and Arielle are two people who have touched me deeply. Together they faced problems and obstacles never spoken of in Regency time.
If you haven't yet read Night Fire, do give it a try. See if you agree with me that Arielle and Burke are two very special people.
It was the stench that brought him back.
He opened his eyes and gazed up at the starlit sky, unaware that the stench filling his nostrils and seeping into his lungs was of human suffering, human blood, and human death. He heard a low moan, but it didn't quite touch him. It was odd, that was all.
It took him longer to realize that he couldn't move. He didn't know why he couldn't move, but there it was. What was wrong with him? What had happened?
It occurred to him that he was dead. No, not dead, he thought, but perhaps near death. He began to remember the battle in all its detail, as was his habit. Just as he had never forgotten the screaming death of Sergeant Hallsifer at Massena in 1810, nor the memory of how Private Oliver from Sutton-on-Tyne, a young man of vast good humor and excellent marksmanship, had bled to death. He closed his mind to it. Later, he thought, if he were blessed with a later, he would remember.
He wondered vaguely if Wellington had won the battle. It was doubtful, for if Wellington hadn't managed to bring up the heavy guns, well, there would have been no surrender and the French would have escaped from the city and been halfway to Paris by now. What the devil had happened? He tried again to move his legs, then realized with a start that a dead horse was pinning him down.
He wondered if he had been wounded, but he could feel nothing. His body seemed separate from his conscious mind. Had he been left for dead? No, that wasn't likely. Where were his men? Please, God, not dead, please.
He knew a moment of panic, then forced himself to breathe deeply, to control his fear. It was then that he felt the whisper of pain in his side, He concentrated on that pain. Then he turned his mind inward. He would simply have to wait until Joshua came for him, and Joshua would come.
He focused his mind back in time, back to a beautiful spring day in Sussex. He dwelt on her. His memories were still vivid, not vague and blurred with time, which usually happened. No, he could see her smiling face clearly, see the rich gleam of her hair in the brilliant sunlight.
Arielle Leslie, a child really, only fifteen years old in 1811, and he had wanted her more than he'd ever wanted anything in his life.
He could still hear her laugh, high and pure, not some sort of romantic angel's laugh, but a young girl's healthy pleasure....
He was home that May in 1811 to recuperate from the wound in his shoulder, a deep bullet wound that had left him weak from the loss of too much blood and in steady pain for weeks. But he'd survived and made it home to Ravensworth Abbey. Made it home in time to attend his brother's funeral. Montrose Drummond, seventh Earl of Ravensworth, was laid to rest in the Drummond family vault next to their father, Charles Edward Drummond, and their mother, Alicia Mary Drummond. Not that he deserved to spend eternity next to the senior Drummonds, the stupid ass. Montrose had fought a duel over a married woman and had been shot through his heart by the husband. Bloody stupid fool. It had taken him a while to realize that he, Burke Carlyle Beresford Drummond, was now the eighth Earl of Ravensworth. He remembered the day of the funeral clearly, for it was also the day he had met Arielle. He was in the Ravensworth library, the long, thick draperies flung back to let in the bright sunlight. Lannie's voice was high and distraught, pitched just right to her captive audience.
"What will become of me? What will happen to my poor fatherless little angels? Oh, oh, I shall moan into my pillow, so all alone. Ah, the horror of it. We shall starve. I shall have to sell myself to save my babies."