NEW RELEASE: LOVE AFTER WATERLOO
Regency Erotic Romance By Suzi Love
When Lady Melton and her son, Daniel, are forced to join antagonistic Captain Belling and the last group of wounded British soldiers evacuating Waterloo and traveling back to London, she expects clashes with army deserters, both French and British.
What she doesn’t anticipate is how much she and her son will need the belligerent Captain after they reach London. Can they build a life together despite his wounds and her dead husband’s family?
“I remember who you are, Lady Melton,” Captain Belling said in a cold voice, barely glancing over his shoulder at them. “The only thing I don’t know is why the hell you and that child are still anywhere near Waterloo, when all women were ordered to evacuate a week ago.”
“That child has a name, Captain. His name is Daniel, or if you are a stickler for formality, Viscount Melton.”
The Captain turned and frowned down at her son, who stared back at him with blatant curiosity and a small amount of animosity, as forthright as any young and intelligent child. Even at his young age, Daniel was a shrewd judge of character, and had been instructed by his uncles to be careful about trusting strangers. When the Captain turned back to the tattered maps spread over his makeshift desk, Anne ignored his unspoken dismissal and used the time to observe the infuriating man without having his condemning gaze fixed on her, as it had been a week earlier at the Duke and Duchess of Richmond’s extravagant Brussels ball. If she and Daniel were to travel with his group of wounded soldiers, Anne wanted to learn as much as possible about their leader. Her son’s survival depended on her being well informed and prepared for any eventuality.
Dust filtered down through a gaping hole in the high roof and settled in the Captain’s hair, turning it a darker brown than his normal golden yellow, though a bucketful of dust wouldn’t make any difference to the state of his stained uniform. His left pants’ leg had been sliced open to the knee, the two sides pinned clear of the large bandage winding down most of his leg, while a spindly wooden crutch was propped against the table.
His large physique had attracted her even before their dance at the ball, though his striking physical attributes didn’t compensate for his belligerent attitude, or for his obvious displeasure at encountering her both in Brussels and near the battlefield. Still, the Captain had undoubtedly scowled in a similar fashion at many women he’d met either in Brussels or at Waterloo, as she’d heard him spout his narrow-minded view at the ball to his fellow officers. The Captain believed that in the vicinity of battles only men should be allowed. Not women, and especially not ladies.
Anne had conversed with several gentlemen in Brussels who’d held similar views, and who had looked down their aristocratic noses at any lady who defied tradition and ventured beyond the city and its carefully guarded social circles. A lady who busied herself with a meaningful occupation, rather than take tea and gossip with other women attached to British commissions or army headquarters, was regarded as troublesome. Explaining her long-term interest in medicine to men who assumed that ladies lived to sip, shop, and embroider had been futile and exhausting, and one of many reasons that she’d gladly left London and traveled to the Continent to live with her brothers. Ironic that she and her unborn child had been safer in battle-torn Europe than in the country of her birth, and sad that she and Daniel were now forced to return to family members that she disliked and a claustrophobic lifestyle that she barely tolerated.
She glanced around the Captain’s combined headquarters and lodgings. Most of the walls remained intact, so at least she and her son would be partially protected from the elements tonight and might get decent night’s sleep. Her brothers’ house hadn’t fared so well. British infantrymen had commandeered a French cannon and had been dragging it down the road towards Brussels when it had misfired. The shell had gone high over the trees and exploded near the farmhouse Brendon had turned into his camp-side hospital. The rustic dwelling had shuddered for several minutes before the majority of the roof had collapsed, dragging down large sections of the walls, and forcing them to sleep in army tents the past few nights.
Despite Wellington’s victory over Napoleon four days earlier, soldiers, to use the term loosely, still lingered around Waterloo. They and deserters from both sides had joined local farmers in picking through the remains of bodies, uniforms, and armory to pilfer anything of value. There’d been nowhere safe to hide a lady and her son, so her brothers had packed what remained of their equipment and taken them, along with a few wounded British soldiers, to the Captain’s quarters, knowing that his orders were to protect whoever remained of French stragglers and deserters.
The twins hadn’t lingered, because Wellington and what was left of his British troops were marching back towards Brussels and Brendon’s skills as a physician were urgently needed. Benjamin, an aide to Wellington, had stayed to organize the repatriation of their soldiers and the departure of their sister and nephew. Neither twin had understood her reluctance to join Captain Belling and his group and had ignored her pleas to stay with them in Europe, stating firmly that it was time that she and Daniel returned to London.
They hoped that she could reopen their townhouse and prepare for when they were able to join her, optimistically within a few weeks. She wasn’t quite so optimistic. Napoleon was an egotist. He wasn’t the type to accept defeat easily, and she imagined he’d already be making plans for a triumphant return in the future, despite the carnage left behind at Waterloo when he and his remaining troops retreated. Her brothers had reported that the plains had been covered with the dead and the dying, both men and horses.
Lord Somerset’s brigade, the Royal Horse Guards, and the First Dragoon Guards, had all helped Britain triumph over the French, but those battalions had suffered a horrific number of casualties, which had meant that the stream of injured soldiers brought to the temporary hospital by wheeled ambulances, carts, or carried by other soldiers had resembled a flooding river. Not unlike a description she’d heard of the battlefield, a river of blood which flowed without ceasing for four days. One of the other surgeons had told her that the silent heroism on the part of the sufferers was something he’d never forget. She shuddered. Though she hadn’t witnessed the destruction first hand, she could picture the scene and couldn’t imagine how officers like Captain Belling went from dancing at balls to killing their enemies in battle after battle without losing their sanity.
The only reason Anne stood rooted to the spot and staring at the Captain’s rigid back was that her fear of the unscrupulous soldiers roaming the area was greater than her annoyance at having to travel with a man who disapproved of her presence, even though it was a close-run race. Despite seeming a lifetime ago since she’d danced with Gabriel at the Richmonds’ ball, it was only a week. And despite him outwardly behaving like a gentleman, albeit a little stiff and reserved, immediately after their dance she’d overheard his discussion with his fellow officers.
According to the Captain, women who followed the drum were a blasted nuisance and a major distraction for soldiers before, during, and after battles. The excuses of keeping families together, or easing the lives of serving men, weren’t good enough reasons to risk the lives of women, and their children, by allowing them to follow their male family members. He’d shared his chauvinistic opinions with her brothers, especially Brendon, whom he’d berated for allowing a lady to view and touch the bare skin of soldiers.
Anne had bristled with disbelief and indignation when she’d heard, but with the twins ordered to rejoin Wellington, and the area unsafe for Daniel, she’d relieved her brothers of the extra worry by amicably agreeing to travel with the Captain. The twins had viewed the Captain’s need for more intensive treatment on his unhealed wound as a godsend, whereas she’d viewed it as an unavoidable evil.
“Mama, why doesn’t that man like me?” Daniel asked, his singsong voice echoing loudly around the walled chamber.
Slowly, the Captain turned to face them. He took two steps closer to Daniel and squatted as low as he could manage on one leg, while keeping his bandaged leg straight and using it for balance. “I apologize, your lordship.” He spoke directly to Daniel. “My name is Gabe, and I don’t dislike you. In fact, you remind me of my three nephews and I like them. A lot.” He sighed. “I have several decisions to make, difficult decisions, but that isn’t an excuse for bad manners.” He glanced up at Anne. “As I’m certain your mother has told you.”
Daniel nodded. “Uncle Bren told me to be good for Mama, and you, ‘cause you’re the Captain and you’re taking me and Mama to En…En…” He tugged on her hand. “Where we going, Mama?”
Anne smiled at her son. “England, darling. We’re going to England.”
Daniel pulled his hand from hers and stepped up to the Captain, careful to avoid his bandaged leg. His tiny hand rested on Gabe’s shoulder and he patted him. “My mama will help. Mama knows ‘bout Englin, and she makes sores better.” He pointed at Gabe’s outstretched leg. “Kisses make it better.”
WHERE TO BUY LOVE AFTER WATERLOO??