Etienne Blouin left Danielle de Cherbourg in tears, promising to return; he didn’t. Ten years later, Etienne learns she’s been widowed and left almost penniless. Now a wealthy ship’s captain, he offers to help her, but the only reply he gets is from her aunt telling him to leave Danielle alone. Convinced she’s in trouble, he determines to rescue her whether she likes it or not, even if it means losing her love.
Danielle is shocked to learn that her companion is going to the colonies, while she is to marry a cruel and powerful man as repayment of her husband’s gambling debts. Despondent, she sees no way out of the horrendous situation. When her carriage is waylaid and she’s kidnapped, she fears the worse.
Etienne has enemies who don’t want La Belle Rose to make port. Can he outfox them to save his ship and the woman he loves?
The Captain’s Promise is available in Kindle format through Amazon.
Cherbourg, August 1, 1664
Danielle glanced around the area to make sure those working in the pasture were far enough away not to overhear their conversation. Ashamed of herself for putting her own needs above those of her best friend, she tried to pull a resisting Marie away from the pond. How could she have been so thoughtless? Papa had insisted Marie not use her gift of second sight to see into the future, and yet Danielle had begged her to do just that. Rumors of renewed interest in punishing witchery were rife. Superstitious people, especially those who were hungry and frightened, goaded by priests who liked to blame everything on sin, could turn quickly on friend and foe alike. A plague had struck Europe again killing thousands in Amsterdam, the spring had been a cold, wet one, and the crops were not doing as well as they should. Someone had to take the blame for these “unnatural” occurrences.
Asking Marie to scry, especially out here in the meadow where anyone could see them, was both foolish and dangerous. Like every powerful man in France, Papa had enemies who’d like nothing better than to bring disaster down on him. Wouldn’t it enhance a man’s position if he were to accuse the ward of the Count de Cherbourg of witchcraft? Why stop there? Why not accuse the whole family? At the very least, they might be excommunicated for giving aid and comfort to the devil’s minion. She shook her head. When would she learn to think before she acted?
Tears flowed down Marie’s pale cheeks as she continued to stare into the still waters of the pond, drawn by the images only she could see. Danielle pulled harder on the girl’s arm, finally dislodging her and pulling her upright. Marie backed away from the water, but her gaze was ensnared by the vision still holding her. Danielle shook Marie and took her into her arms.
“Enough! Look away, dearest. Please look away. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have asked you to do this. I never expected you’d have such a distressing vision. I’m anxious to see Etienne. I only wanted to know what his surprise would be. I’m hoping he’ll ask for my hand in marriage. You’ve seen the way some of those lecherous old men look at me. If I were affianced, it would stop.” She shook her head, the long, red tresses shining in the sunlight. “This has to be a false vision—a punishment for my willfulness.”
Marie pushed away from her, annoyance and frustration evident in the set of her thin, trembling shoulders. She glared at Danielle and raised her hand to swipe angrily at her tears. She shook her head, and Danielle could sense the sorrow there. What on earth did she see to upset her so much? She shivered.
“I’ve told you before, Elle. The visions never lie, but they don’t always answer the questions I’ve asked. Sometimes, they’re cryptic, only providing glimpses of what’s to come. At other times, they’re far clearer than I’d like them to be. They aren’t mine to command. Normally, they show me a few weeks or days, but this time they’ve shown me years, years of sorrow and pain.”
Strangled sobs punctuated her words, driving guilt and fear deep into Danielle’s heart. She stared at her companion as an eerie frisson coursed through her body. As young girls, Danielle, Marie, and their playmates had often looked into the mirror or into the fire to see what would happen in the future, a harmless parlor game played by girls across France. Danielle had never seen anything during their foolishness, but when Marie claimed she’d seen her father, the count’s captain of the guard, fall from his horse, the game had ended. The fact Marie’s father had died only a few weeks later from a fall, similar to the one she’d described, had led to months of speculation about the child. The rumors had ended when Papa had made her his ward, offering her the protection of Cherbourg, and adopting her into the family. Not all the relatives had been pleased with that decision.
“Don’t look at me like that.” Danielle turned away from her to avoid the pity she read clearly in Marie’s chocolate brown eyes, eyes which seemed far older than their fourteen years. No matter what Marie had seen, the daughter of a count wasn’t to be pitied. Her life was one of ease and privilege—even Marie had to work for her keep, although her duties as Danielle’s companion, were light.
Marie reached out to her and took her hands. “The spirits showed me many things in the still waters today, including the answer to your question.” She hung her head.
Terror gripped Danielle. Her breathing quickened, her heart pounded, and her palms grew wet. Sweat trickled down her back, making her linen chemise stick to her. She didn’t want to know what Marie had seen, but her insatiable curiosity forced her to look at her friend and ask.
“What did you see?”
“I’m so sorry, Elle. I saw you broken-hearted, crying in the arms of a soldier. Alas, while you’ll be a bride, Etienne won’t be your groom.”
Danielle covered her ears, refusing to believe the words wounding her, crushing her girlish dreams. “No! I won’t listen to any more of this. It’s not true—it can’t be true. Etienne loves me. I know he does.” Tears brimmed her eyes. “You’re wrong. This terrible vision is God’s judgment on us for defying the Church and Papa.”
She swallowed the panic and bitterness in her throat. There was no way she’d ever marry anyone but Etienne.
Marie hung her head. “Ah, Elle, how I wish it were as simple as that. This gift is a curse. As I get older, I see more and more things that cause me pain and grief. I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault.” Guilt forced Danielle to put her arm around her friend, despite her anxiety. “Come. Let’s go back to the house and see what cook has prepared for tonight’s feast.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Susanne Matthews was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. She’s always been an avid reader of all types of books, but always with a penchant for happily ever after romances. In her imagination, she travelled to foreign lands, past and present, and soared into the future. Today, gets to spend her time writing, so she can share her adventures with her readers. She loves the ins and outs of romance, and the complex journey it takes to get from the first word to the last period of a novel. As she writes, her characters take on a life of their own, and she shares their fears and agonies on the road to self-discovery and love.