Moonlight Mistress is out December 2009 from Harlequin Spice. This scene takes place during World War One while Gabriel Meyer, a British soldier, is searching an abandoned village for German soldiers.
Both of the house’s doors were shut tight, but not locked. Gabriel and Woods and Evans entered at the front door, Gabriel’s pulse pounding like a drum, his boot heels even louder on the polished wooden floors. The house was deserted, the red brocade curtains drawn; though it bore signs of being abandoned in haste, a scattered pile of papers here and a fallen knickknack there. The air felt stale and close, as if it had been vacant for decades. He startled when Evans said, “Sir? Are we allowed to provision here?”
The inhabitants had fled, so there was no asking them for permission. It was also true that there’d been quite a bit of freely given hospitality on the long march. And his men were not only hungry, but working far too hard to go without food. He nodded. “After we search, we’ll see what we can find.”
He mounted the stairs, leading the two boys, and investigated a workroom for sewing, a dusty parlor, and a messy bedroom. The large bed bore distinctive stains on its sheets, and the smell of sex and sweat lingered like a memory in the air. Woods lifted the bedskirts with his rifle barrel, then poked the coverlet that lay in a heap on the floor. Evans peered into the wardrobe and behind the curtains, Enfield at the ready. Nothing but dust.
Gabriel scooped up a discarded doll with impassive porcelain face and laid it gently on the unmade trundle bed. Its human hair brushed disconcertingly against his bare wrist, and he yanked his hand away, feeling as if he’d touched a corpse. If he’d married Jemima, he might have had a child with a doll; what would he have done, forced to flee his home, with his family in tow? He tried to think of the real family that lived here, but could only focus on the empty bed.
c. Victoria Janssen 2009
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