An excerpt from Courted by the Captain/Anne Herries
coming from Mills and Boon in December!
‘By God, we did it!’ The four cousins looked at each other in triumph. The news had just arrived that Napoleon was in retreat. After days of bitter fighting, when it had seemed that Wellington’s troops must suffer defeat, even a rout, their astute general had turned the tide. ‘We’ve suffered terrible losses, but we’ve done it.’
Each of the four men had been wounded. Mark Ravenscar, the eldest, had but a scratch on his cheek and some slight damage to his sword-hand. Since he was generally considered to be a lucky so-and-so, handsome, rich and favoured by the gods, that was, in the opinion of his friends, hardly to be wondered at. His younger brother Paul had wounds to his head, right arm and left thigh, but was still amongst the walking wounded. Hallam Ravenscar, their eldest cousin also had a head wound and another to his left arm, and Adam Miller, their cousin through the female line, was severely wounded in his right shoulder. However, they had all been patched up by the surgeon and were none of them considered in danger of their lives. Indeed, their wounds had merely made them first in line for transport home to England.
‘Boney is done for,’ Hallam said. ‘Old Hookey won’t let him off so easily this time. He escaped from Elba to cause chaos once more but he wasn’t the same man. Even so, he can’t be allowed to run riot again. They will have to make sure he’s confined securely.’
‘Well, we’ve survived, and that’s what matters,’ Mark said and smiled at his cousins. ‘At last I can marry Lucy.’
‘You lucky dog,’ Adam grinned as he clapped him on the shoulder. ‘Lucy Dawlish is the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. You have it all, my friend – a wonderful life waiting for you in England.’
Mark’s eyes reflected concern as he nodded. ‘Almost too perfect,’ he said. ‘You’ll come about, Adam. Your grandfather has the title of earl and a large estate…’
‘Most of which is mortgaged,’ Adam said gloomily. ‘The earl feels it to be my duty to marry an heiress. This little sortie was my escape from being thrust into a marriage I could not stomach.’
‘He can’t force you to marry to save his skin,’ Hallam said. ‘You have your father’s small estate – don’t let the earl bring pressure to bear.’
‘Says it’s my duty to the Benedict name,’ Adam sighed. ‘Trouble is, I know he’s right. I ought to do my duty by the family – but I’m not ready to marry just yet.’
‘You stick to your guns,’ Mark told him. ‘You were not the one who wasted the Benedict fortune. Your grandfather gambled recklessly. He should have known better at his age.’
‘Claims he was cheated,’ Adam said. ‘If he would give me the name of the rogue who fleeced him I would call the devil out.’
‘That’s why the earl won’t tell you,’ Paul added his mite. ‘He would rather have his only grandson alive than recover his losses. I dare say you’ll find a way to pull through. Besides, you may find an heiress you can like.’ He smiled fondly at Adam. ‘We’ll all look round and find you one – a girl who is neither ugly nor stupid but as rich as Croseus.’
‘An impossible task,’ Adam said but laughed. ‘I am lucky to have such good friends. I trust you will remain my friends if I’m reduced to marrying the daughter of a wealthy Cit?’
‘Through thick and thin,’ Hallam said. ‘We’ll all stand by each other. Having come through this war by watching each other’s backs, we should remain friends for life.’
‘Here, here,’ the others echoed.
‘If any one of us is in trouble the others will back him up.’
‘In life and in death.’
Each of the men made the solemn promise they had made a few days previously when they’d been facing death together. Now they had only to face the future and for four gentlemen of varying degrees of fortune the future could only look brighter than it had only days ago.
‘In life and death…’
They clasped hands, one upon the other and grinned at each other. Adam might be struggling with a problem but it was nothing that good fortune and a determined mind could not overcome.
Hope you enjoyed the excerpt and will enjoy the coming series.
Love to my readers from Anne Herries