Moonlight Mistress is out December 2009 from Harlequin Spice. This scene takes place as Crispin’s regiment is heading to France, in the early days of World War One.
Crispin mentally shook himself and joined a group of the men lounging on the deck, some of them smoking in tense silence, some talking with nervous energy, some alternating both activities. … Crispin was surprised when Hailey sat beside him, pulling out a sock to darn; they sat together in silence, listening to the men talk.
Evans said, “My girl and I are getting married as soon as I get home.” He unbuttoned his tunic collar to display an impossibly delicate gold ring on a chain. “If I get killed, someone send this back to her, will you?”
“Do we inherit the girl?” Lincoln chaffed. “Cover your tender ears, Hailey.”
Hailey looked up. “You got a girl, Lincoln?”
Lincoln leered. “Any time I want.”
“What about what they want?”
General laughter erupted.
Mason said, “I’ve got my eye on a nice plump French girl.”
“Any one that’ll have me!” More laughter.
“Make sure she can cook, lad,” said Lyton, scrubbing at his gray mustache. “My wife can make roast turnips taste like the food of heaven.”
Cawley countered, “My sister’s bread is so light it could float away, but she couldn’t keep a husband.”
“He’s the fool, then,” said Lyton. “Hearth and home, lad, hearth and home.”
“Who wants a home when your wife’s screeching at you all the day long?”
“I like screeching,” Lincoln said, raising a significant eyebrow.
Southey sneered. “For Christ’s sake, man, give it a rest. Your mum wouldn’t like to hear that spilling out of her baby boy’s mouth.”
“Not here, is she? War’s no place for a woman.”
“We’ll be sure and get a nice husky fellow to mop your manly brow in hospital, then. Me, I’ll settle for a pretty young thing with soft hands.”
Woods said, “You’d let a lady nurse you? She’d see–you know–“
More laughter. Hailey turned to Crispin. “You got a sister, you said?” he asked, quietly.
Surprised, Crispin answered, “Yes. Always set me right when I needed it. You?”
“Yes,” Hailey admitted. “Doesn’t like me much.”
Crispin said, “Lucilla’s so much older, it’s like…she’s my friend.”
“Not Agnes. She’s stuck home caring for Mum while I–” Hailey didn’t finish.
c. Victoria Janssen 2009
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