All for one, and one for all! You gotta love those words. And don’t they put you in the mood to read some swashbuckling adventure? I’ve taken Dumas’ character, Athos, and given him the romance he never got in The Three Musketeers. Of course, I couldn’t make it easy for him. This heroine has secrets, and they are deadly. And it’s those wicked women that have always been Athos’ greatest weakness.
Excerpt: THE UNFORGIVEN: ATHOS [the hero has pursued the heroine down a dark alleyway, and just when she thought she’d lost him…]
Emmanuelle gasped back the next word.
Turning on one boot, her pursuer placed himself in the passage entrance, crossed his arms, and tilted his head at an impudent angle. Wavy strands of black hair flickered over one shadowed blue eye. The curve of a smile briefly moved his mouth. Then he advanced on her.
Her heart in her throat, Emmanuelle stood her ground. She would stand and face the enemy, for to run would only prolong the inevitable. Besides, she excelled in close combat.
Wide, strong hands pressed her against the stone wall and secured her forearms up by her shoulders. She wore long gloves that covered her wrists from the cold. He pinned her legs with his thighs and pressed his hips against hers.
All this happened only because she allowed it.
“We have shared this dance before, musketeer.” She hated saying the word.
Had she known before he wore the king’s coat, she would have never allowed him to touch her. Her thoughts struggled between fleeing and surrendering. Because to taste his kiss one more time…
“And so now you are mine,” he said in slow, mocking tone. “La Belle Dame sans Merci.”
A single movement swept his breath across her chin, and his hard male body crushed against hers. Her senses heightened by the chase, she smelled rich, fruity wine on his tongue. Beneath that vibrant tang, he smelled of cypress powder—a man’s scent combed into the hair—though, he was the least foppish of men.
She lifted her chin. “You believe me that illusory woman of legend?”
Drifting from his every pore the unmistakable scent of desire teased at her better judgment.
“I have a portrait sketched by a witness to your crime. I am sure you are familiar with the Marquis de Marle. He is dead. Along with the widow de Beaux.”
The woman was dead? No. It was not possible!
“Where is this drawing? I know naught of what you speak. Do you always leap to accuse without first learning the facts?”
“I do not. But the portrait speaks loudly your guilt.” His gaze glinted with fire. A cold, yet lusting fire.
Emmanuelle closed her eyes. Easier to concentrate when not looking into her captor’s alluring eyes. But not much easier, for the hardness of his body was so apparent. And it was not mere muscle and bone she felt limning her curves. Though, the man was not at full alert. He did not give it concern. But she knew how to use his arousal. Futile male lust could be easily overtaken.
“I see. A condemning portrait. Hmm…” she offered. “So, you believe you have in your hands quite a catch. Tell me, do you always roust with your prey before arresting them?”
He raised a fist before her face, clasped as tight as his jaw. She did not flinch. Instead, she rejoiced in the ease it took to rile the musketeer.
“I’ve a lettre de cachet for your arrest.”
“Arrest me or not. But you’ll have a time proving a crime without evidence.”
“I have a witness.”
“And I have my innocence!”
She thrust a knee against his thigh and managed to push him away. Wisely, she remained a barnacle against the wall. If she fled now he would tail her closely. She could not return home knowing someone followed.
She needed either to convince him of her innocence—which, at the moment, even she was not sure of—or to take him out.
“Who the hell are you?” she asked.
He chuffed a brief, snorting laugh, so mocking it plundered her in the gut as if a quick fist.
“Not very observant, eh?” He stretched a hand up and down the tunic in an illustrative manner. The silver cross fleury boldly declared his alliance.
Curse her bloody insistent desires—she’d had sex with a musketeer!
“So you answer to the king.” She lifted a shoulder. “That means nothing without proof of this supposed crime.”
He reached inside his doublet and produced a piece of rolled velum. Snapping it open, he displayed it to her. She could easily discern the drawing, for moonlight gilded the shadows where they stood. Charcoal dashed in thick, curving lines to form a head and shoulders. Her face.
Of all the saints she had cursed in her lifetime, what was happening?
THE UNFORGIVEN: ATHOS
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.