Any Time. Any Place. Any Day. Getaway.

Three French Inns
by Patricia Kiyono

Product Information

Genre: Regency Romance

Length: 383 pages

Heat Level: 1

eBook Price: $.99

Print Book: $5.99

Print Book: $9.99


 

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Peter Brown joined His Majesty’s Army in the fight against Napoleon, but when he was wounded, a lovely French woman tended him. She was a recent widow, and they were on opposing sides of the war, so they went their separate ways. But he never forgot his “bel ange” — his beautiful angel.

Caroline Bouchard Duval marched with her husband in Napoleon’s army, eager to leave her sleepy village and see the world. But after being widowed, she returned to her childhood home in the French Alps. When a bloody traveler enters her father’s inn, she recognizes him immediately. Could this man give her another chance to fulfill her dreams?

Chapter One

Peter Brown adjusted his hat against the midday sun. He’d left Lyon the day before, and the city of Geneva was another two days’ ride ahead of him. But his horse seemed sluggish today. The animal had seemed healthy enough at the stable in Lyon. Perhaps he simply needed to rest. Finding a shady spot, Peter dismounted and tied the horse to a tree, letting him graze. They would soon reach the French Alps, and then the way would be even more difficult.
He sat in the shade and took a sip from his canteen. To continue his trip on an unsteady mount would be dangerous. About halfway up the first mountain, there appeared to be a tiny village. Perhaps he’d be able to get a fresh mount.
He hadn’t been keen to return to France so soon after the war. Only a few years ago he’d been here with His Majesty’s Army, fighting against Napoleon. Though England and France were no longer enemies, there were those whose animosity hadn’t faded. But this trip was imperative to his family’s financial well-being. After Peter and his sister had received a generous inheritance from their grandfather, a previously unknown uncle had contested the will. Peter’s mission was to confront that uncle and secure the inheritance, and going through France was the most direct way to reach Geneva. He didn’t want to spend more time than necessary in a land where he might still be considered the enemy. But it was nice there in the shade. Perhaps a short nap…
An hour later, he climbed back on his horse and headed east. The sun had begun its descent, so if he was going to reach the village before dark, he’d better get going. They made their way up the winding road going around the mountain. With each step, the horse went slower and slower. Finally, at a wider spot in the road, Peter prepared to dismount. He’d taken his feet out of the stirrups when the animal convulsed and stumbled. Peter landed hard on his left shoulder and cried out in pain before everything went black.

~~~~

Caroline Bouchard Duval hung the last sheet on the clothesline then placed her hands on her aching back. Sometimes she felt so much older than her twenty-eight years. As an innkeeper’s only daughter, the work was endless. The linens were all washed and hung out to dry, and it was time to start the evening meal. Only a few guests occupied rooms at the inn tonight, but someone could stop in unexpectedly.
“Caroline, where are you?”
She groaned. Hopefully, whatever her father needed wouldn’t delay her too long. Gaspard Bouchard was known as a genial host, making his inn an increasingly popular stop for travelers on the road between Lyon and Geneva. Now that Napoleon had been defeated and the fighting had stopped, business had increased. People were more willing to travel, especially since roadways had been improved. Perhaps if the business continued to grow, Papa could afford to hire some help…
But that was a wish to be granted another day. Just as she reached the common room, Antoine and Gilles, family friends, entered the inn supporting a stranger between them. The man’s hair hung over his eyes, and his mouth was set in a grimace. His shirt was stained with blood on his left side, and his left arm hung at an awkward angle.
“We found this man on the side of the road. His horse must have tripped and fallen. We could hear its cries in the valley below. Do you have an extra room?”
“Of course. The first room at the top of the stairs.”
Gaspard led the men up the stairs, but before he left, he turned to her. “Caroline, please bring your bandages. He needs your help.”
“Yes, Papa.” She hurried to comply.
By the time she reached the guest room, the men had laid him on the narrow bed. Her father dipped a towel in the washbasin and started to clean off the man’s face. She moved a stool to the man’s other side and began to unbutton his shirt. Dried blood made the cloth stick to his skin, and she took the towel from her father so that she could tend to his wounds.
Papa took that as his signal to back away. Caroline was no trained doctor, but she’d spent three years traveling with the French Army as a cantiniere. Though her official duties were to bring food and supplies to the troops, she’d helped the field physicians countless times. She’d been inside the medical tent when they’d brought her husband in…
There was no time for memories. She needed to concentrate on helping the stranger. Gently, she peeled back his shirt. What she found confirmed her suspicion: he’d fallen hard on his side. His breathing was labored — perhaps he’d bruised a rib. Thankfully, he’d managed to keep his head from hitting the rocks, or else he’d be in much worse shape. She cleaned the wound then turned to Gilles and Antoine.
“Would you please raise his upper body so that I can bind his chest?”
The stranger had watched her hands as she’d ministered to him. Was he afraid she’d harm him? When she’d finished, he cleared his throat, and she leaned close to hear what he had to say.
“Mon bel ange.” The stranger’s voice was raspy but vaguely familiar. She looked into his eyes, finding him staring at her. His gaze held her with clarity and recognition. “You have saved me again.” Then his lids lowered and he rested peacefully.
“What does he mean by calling you his beautiful angel, Caroline?” her father asked. “Do you know this man?”
“No. Not exactly. He… he was in the war—”
“Ah. A comrade of Stephane’s, eh? That’s good. He is someone we can trust. Are you finished here?”
“Almost. I need to check his arm.”
Again, she cleaned the area, picking out small pieces of fabric and stone that had lodged in his skin. The arm didn’t seem broken, but his shoulder caused her some concern. There was no point in taking chances. She fashioned a splint and wrapped more cloths around the arm to keep it straight.
“Shall I summon the doctor?”
“I think it would be best. His shoulder seems to be dislocated.”
She noticed his breathing had calmed since she’d wrapped his chest. Good. Maybe he would be able to rest and heal. She packed her supplies back into the basket and rose. She had a meal to cook, and she made a mental note to bring a tray up after the doctor had examined him.
She hadn’t told Gilles and her father the complete story of how the man had recognized her. This man hadn’t been a comrade of Stephane’s. In fact, she wasn’t convinced he was actually French, even though he spoke the language without a trace of an accent.
Her mind went back to the day they’d met. It had been a dreary day, indicative of her mood. Stephane, her childhood friend and her first and only love, was dead. They’d had such plans — they would travel with Napoleon’s army to far off places they’d only heard about. They had escaped the confines of the village they’d grown up in and would see the world. Stephane had risen through the ranks, and she had become a cantiniere, part of the group of women who traveled with the soldiers, transporting food and supplies. They’d had such adventures together! It was hard work, but she’d loved it. The men in the unit were friendly, and she and her husband were living their dreams together. But Stephane had died in battle, and she’d been sent home. The army was strict — she couldn’t continue in her post unless she was married to one of the soldiers. Since she was a widow, she had to leave.
Two other soldiers had offered for her hand, but she’d declined, as gently as she was able. Hugo hadn’t been a bad sort, but he had been so young, just a child. And Bertrand had been sweet, but more like a father than a spouse. The other women in her unit had encouraged her to accept one of them. “It’s better than going home to a life of drudgery. At least here you can see a little bit of the world, and every day is different. The men look out for you, and we have each other. You’ve had a handsome husband. Now you just need a husband. Anyone will do.”
She’d been tempted, but in the end, she’d chosen to go home. She’d received a letter from her father saying that her mother was quite ill. He’d also told her not to worry, because Madame Favre had been helping out at the inn. But Madame had a way of taking over and antagonizing everyone. So Caroline decided to end her travels and return to Ambérieu.
On the long road out of Lyon, her wagon had broken a wheel, and she’d had to walk the rest of the way. Three years of traveling with the army had prepared her well, and she’d trudged along, eating berries and whatever she could find along the way.
She’d been traveling alone and was within a day’s journey to her home when she’d heard a weak cry for help. She’d found him in the bushes. The stranger had been wounded — not badly, but enough that he wasn’t able to walk. A musket ball had pierced his calf and had done a lot of damage, though it had missed the bone. She’d dragged him to a clearing so that she could see well enough to clean the wound, remove the musket ball, and wrap his leg.
She’d found a rusty wheelbarrow and taken him to an abandoned barn, where she’d stayed with him until she was sure he’d recover. For two days they’d talked, told stories, and learned a lot about each other. He’d sympathized about the loss of her husband. She’d expressed sadness that he had no family waiting for him at home.
They hadn’t exchanged family names or any other information. Both of them had known that their meeting was a special moment in time meant to be remembered fondly.
She’d continued on to Ambérieu, back to her life as an innkeeper’s daughter. When her mother died, she’d taken over as cook and maid. But she’d never forgotten the handsome stranger. The man who now lay in her father’s inn.

 

 

In a previous life, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary school students by day and changed diapers at night. Now she teaches college students part time and changes diapers only when she’s taking care of grandkids. She loves to do anything that doesn’t involve exercise. Right now her favorite activities, in addition to writing, include scrapbooking, sewing, and making music. She and her husband live in southwest Michigan, near their five children and nine grandchildren.

You can contact Patricia at her WEBSITE, BLOG, FACEBOOK, and TWITTER.