Josephine has been an intriguing serial to continue. I wasn’t given an exact time period, but this multi-author historical fiction saga seems to be set sometime before the French Revolution. Josephine is on her way to marry Marquis Guy Leroy Hamelin de Auvergne when her coach plunges into the river. When I take up the story in Chapter 2, she’s just been rescued by passing soldiers.
“Capitaine général! We’ve found the coachman.”
With considerable effort, Josephine turned her face away from the handsome General Alexandre to the scrawny soldier who was struggling along the muddy river bank towards them, grasping at the reeds to stop himself sliding into the river. A pungent odour of horse dung was rising from the faded garments that hung loosely over his gaunt frame.
The soldier boldly met Josephine’s gaze, before allowing his eyes to travel over the entire length of her body, resting on her chest. Instinctively she cupped her hands over the damp silk folds of her dress to ensure it had not slipped during her ordeal. Although her modesty was still intact, the filigree brooch was not. Dismayed, she stared down into the swirling river before turning back to the soldier.
As he held her gaze for the second time she realised it wasn’t lust in his eyes, but something far worse: contempt. And yet he was a good foot shorter than she was. How had he had the strength to pull the burly coachman from the river? A sudden suspicion trickled into Josephine’s mind like the drops of water that were dribbling down her spine. A chill spread through her body. Glancing down at the soldier’s hand, she saw his fist was curled into a tight ball, almost as if he were concealing something.
“Well, Gerard?” Alexandre’s eyes were on a group of soldiers on the opposite bank who were attempting to rescue one of the thrashing stallions.
The soldier Gerard slipped his fist into his pocket. “He’s ready for the eternity box.”
Josephine’s stomach churned. She gripped Alexandre’s arm to steady herself. Gerard’s lips curled into a sneer at this, but Alexandre didn’t seem to notice. He stood up carefully, lifting Josephine in his arms. “Were there others?”
She shook her head.
“Bring my horse, Gerard,” Alexandre ordered. “Do not be afraid, Mademoiselle. We’re ten miles from the border of Auvergne. We will accompany you to the château of Marquis Guy Leroy Hamelin. He is an honourable man and will see to it that you are safely reunited with your family.”
Josephine spasmed at the mention of the Marquis.
Alexandre, misinterpreting her movement, called after Gerard. “And bring a blanket and some brandy for the lady!”
“Yes, sir,” said Gerard but he wasn’t looking at his superior. His eyes were on Josephine again and she knew that he at least had read the fear in her eyes.
He gave her a barely perceptible nod as if to confirm it before striding away.
“Now, Mademoiselle, may I ask who I have the pleasure of assisting?” Alexandre said.
She looked up into his deep, amber eyes, wide with concern. She didn’t want to lie to eyes like those, but as she watched the General’s men digging a grave for the poor coachman she knew that God had given her a second chance.
“I am Dame Annise Yves de Aquitaine,” she whispered, blinking, as the rain stung her eyes.
Read the other chapters here.