For those who don’t remember Hailey, or didn’t read The Moonlight Mistress, I thought I’d post a little excerpt to remind you of who she is.
She’s currently the star of Under Her Uniform, a Spice Brief. Go here for the Harlequin e-book store to buy for $2.39. Nook edition and Kindle edition are $2.99. Mills and Boon e-book (UK).
This excerpt, however, is from The Moonlight Mistress. It does contain a spoiler for that book.
“Sister, I hate to bother you, but–”
Lucilla turned and stared. “You’re still here?” she asked. Her helper was the captain from earlier in the evening, whom she’d been too distracted to speak to. He must truly be desperate, to help her with some of her nastier tasks. She said, “One of the porters could probably have told you where to find the boy. Aren’t you due back at your battalion?” She peered more closely at his cap badge. He was from Crispin’s regiment. A momentary rush of cold fear took her breath, until she realized that if the captain had brought bad news, he would have said so immediately upon arrival.
“Sister, may I speak to you privately? Briefly,” he added. “Very briefly.”
He’d helped her when he didn’t have to do so. Most wouldn’t have bothered; they would have gone to Matron and demanded. Lucilla sighed. She ought to reinforce good behavior. “Outside,” she said. “Only for a moment. But I have to wash first. You’d better wash, too.”
Chill had descended with the night. The air outside smelled clean, though, which improved her mood immeasurably. She pressed her hands in the small of her back and stretched, looking up at the stars. If not for the shelling, and her importunate visitor, it might have been a lovely night.
“I wasn’t able to find Hailey in any of the wards,” the captain said. “It’s important that I locate him.”
He’d washed his face as well as his hands; his cropped coppery hair looked as if he’d run wet fingers through it. Outside in the clean air, she was more aware of the scents that clung to him: dirt and sweat and gunpowder, all layered beneath the strong soap they used in the hospital. She noticed sharply angled eyebrows, freckles, a long nose, a lush mouth that looked as if it belonged on a woman but wasn’t the least bit feminine. His stance and facial expression made her imagine he didn’t have much trouble obtaining the loyalty of his men. Perhaps that loyalty went both ways.
“You’re sure he was sent here?” she asked.
“Absolutely. He was wounded this morning, in the arm, and my sergeant saw him on a truck heading here. Sister–I didn’t catch your name–”
“Daglish,” she said. “And you?”
He looked at her strangely for a moment, his nostrils flaring, then said, “Ashby, Noel Ashby.” He stuck out his hand. She shook it; he didn’t let go as he continued to speak. “You’re Lieutenant Crispin Daglish’s sister, aren’t you? That must be why I chose you. Your brother’s fine, just a twisted ankle today.”
Lucilla reclaimed her hand. Captain Ashby had heavily calloused palms, which she rarely encountered in an officer; they’d sent a warm shock up her arm.
He said, “I’m afraid Hailey might not have entered the hospital. I was hoping someone could help me look for him. Discreetly.”
A thought occurred to her. She asked, “You think he’s deserted?” That offense earned a penalty of death. She could understand him wanting to prevent a young man’s death.
Ashby shook his head vigorously. “I think he’s hiding from the doctors. But he can’t do that, even if he’s not much wounded. He could die of gangrene.”
“I think you have a little time before you need fear that,” Lucilla noted. “Still, it’s not good to wander about bleeding.”
“Can you keep a secret, Miss Daglish?”
She blinked, trying to keep up with Ashby’s lightning shift of topic. “What sort of secret?”
“Hailey is, well…he’s a reason to hide. Hailey’s not a man. He’s a young woman.”
Lucilla blinked again. “Don’t tell me no one noticed. Not least the recruiting office.”
“I noticed,” Ashby said. “He’s good, though. I only noticed because, because we’re in such close quarters. He doesn’t know I know.”
Lucilla stared. It was hard to make out Ashby’s features in the darkness, even with the lantern strung up by the ward’s door, but so far as she could tell he appeared perfectly serious. “And you did nothing? Is this some sort of a joke?”
“He’s an excellent batman,” Ashby said.