Lord Ethan lived on the streets of London with other homeless veterans for a year, too ashamed and weary to go home, before Lady Flora Landrum found him in an alley behind a tavern. Healing, slow though it may be, can happen.
His heart stuttered at the sight of Lady Flora Landrum turning her head from side to side, searching the garden until she jarred her coiffure loose and one chestnut lock tumbled over her ear. A spark of warmth curled itself around his heart. The foolish chit. She’ll catch her death without a cloak. The irony of the kettle calling the pot black brought silent laughter up from his depths until it almost reached his mouth. He longed to spar words with her.
“Next to the shed,” a voice said. When she marched in his direction, he pushed himself painfully to his feet.
“Ethan!” A man ran past her calling his name just as his knees buckled. He fell forward into his brother’s arms.
I can’t stay. I have to go. I’m not fit. No words came out of his mouth. The instinct to run drained from him, and he collapsed against Edmund’s shoulder. His brother brushed Chadbourn’s help aside. Ethan felt himself lifted and gave in to the feeling of safety.
“Ethan, you bloody idiot. We’ve been terrified for you; I can’t tell you how happy I am to have you home,” his brother said, carrying him inside.
For now. Until you know everything.
The warmth of the drawing room overwhelmed his senses, sudden change as painful as it was welcome. Edmund laid him on a settee, tenderly placed the arm missing a hand across his chest, and stood back. He studied the ruin of Ethan’s arm for a moment, jerked away, and ran about shouting orders. Ethan only vaguely heard him.
Someone, Chadbourn he thought, stood behind the settee and began to rub his back in an attempt to make his blood flow. One thing came to him clearly through the haze: Lady Flora kneeing beside him, her eyes on his, holding his hand.
“Whatever it is, Ethan, you can’t fix it by destroying yourself,” she murmured, and the sound of her voice saying his name filled him with another sort of warmth.
What was it I need to fix? The thought flitted in and out as blankets arrived to wrap him, and someone began stripping off his frozen wet clothing.
“Out with you, Flo,” Chadbourn called. “Let us get him dressed in warm clothes and covered.”
“No!” he tried to hold onto her hand as if it was his lifeline and failed.
“Moments only; I won’t let them keep me out,” she whispered, pulling away.
Note: Works in Progress are not final. Text may change.
About the Book
Three warriors return from the Napoleonic wars with damaged bodies, ugly memories, and regrets to futures they are ill prepared to face. But love can heal the most damaged heart bringing with it hope for better days
Lord Ethan’s Honor—Lord Ethan Alcott left his right hand and his soul in Spain. He lives on the streets during the worst winter in decades, wishing for death, ashamed to go home. But a stubborn lady and her equally determined brother won’t give up on him.
Candles in the Dark—Douglas Marsh came home to an unexpected inheritance, a factory he has no idea how to run. With many dependent on him, he does his best in spite of pain from his battered legs. He has no time for self-pity especially after he meets a woman on the streets with far bigger problems.
The Tender Flood—Zach Newell manages well enough with a prosthetic leg. He even drives a carriage for his uncle, but he’s desperately lonely, missing the comradery of the army. In the midst of the storm of the century he meets the woman who makes his heart sing, one too far above his touch. If he won’t approach, she will have to.
Each of these three stories originally appeared in a different collection from The Bluestocking Belles.