by Marguerite Kaye
All she had to do was keep going down the stairs to find the Great Hall and Sebastian. There were buffalo horns over the doorway, Eve reminded herself, impossible to miss. No way was she opening another door. Six gorgeous men from six periods of history might be someone else’s idea of bliss, but all she wanted was a familiar pair of arms around her that belonged to a man very much alive in the Twenty-first century. Real, not fantasy.
The stairway narrowed. And steepened. It grew darker. It felt damp. There was a smell of earth and – actually, she wondered if maybe the drains needed seeing to. Perhaps there had been a moat here at one time? As she reached the foot of the stairs, her heel sank into the ground with a soft squelching sound. What was that smell? A sharp crack overhead, and a streak of light made her jump. A starburst, beautifully bright and painfully vivid against the midnight blue of the night sky. Fireworks? Wait a minute, night sky?
Oh no! Yanking her heel from what appeared to be a mud floor, Eve staggered and found that she could actually touch the walls of the corridor on both sides. Except they weren’t walls, unless the walls had been stripped of paper and plaster. She could feel wood strapping. And – more mud? Another firework exploded overhead, singing through the air and landing with a heavy crump which shook the corridor. Her stomach tightened into a knot of fear. Not a firework. And this was not a corridor. Panic stricken, she began to run, heading for the tiny flicker of light she could see at a turn in the trench, for she knew now, with sickening clarity, that that is what it was. Another shell burst, and another. They were no longer beautiful but terrifying.
The light seeped from under a ramshackle wooden door. Panting, clammy with fear, Eve burst into the tiny room beyond. A narrow wooden bunk. Candlelight. An old-fashioned gramophone with one of those big speakers shaped like a horn. The music was melancholy. Schubert. The man sitting at the makeshift desk was staring at her as if he had seen a ghost.
His hair was short-cropped, black, standing up in little spikes, as if he had been running his hands through it. His eyes were a very familiar shade of blue. He had the same aristocratic good looks as her Sebastian, but this man wore them wearily. Tiredness furrowed his brow. A small scar like a crescent moon was carved into his cheek. Sadness clung to him.
‘You came,’ he said softly, putting down his pen and pushing back the ladder back chair which had seen better days. His smile, crooked, tender and tragic, made Eve clutch her hands to her breast. ‘It’s alright, I’m not afraid,’ he said, ‘I’ve been expecting you. Major Tristan Daubenay at your service.’
Eve pushed herself away from the door and made her way carefully towards him. It was only a few steps, but the rhythmic thud of the bombardment made the trench floor vibrate. A tiny fire burned in what looked like an old tin drum. ‘How did you know to expect me?’ she asked wonderingly, holding her fingers out to the welcome warmth of the smouldering embers.
‘I lead the men over the top again tomorrow. They tell us that this will be the final push.’ He smiled his weary, crooked smile again. ‘They’ve been telling us that for two years now. Marne, Ypres twice, Loos, and now tomorrow the
It’s a well-kept secret, but we officers have a life-expectancy of about six
weeks these days. The odds are well and truly stacked against me. There are
many stories of soldiers seeing an angel just before a battle. Some say it
signifies death, others good luck. It never occurred to me that my angel would
take the form of the fabled Lady in Green. You are every bit as beautiful as
the family legend claims.’
His fingers traced the outline of the emeralds at her throat. His touch was gentle, his hands cool on her skin. He smelt of old-fashioned soap. There was a tiny droplet of blood on his chin where he had cut himself with his razor. Unthinking, she blotted it with her thumb. Her heart contracted, for she knew he was right. The
Somme had been a bloodbath. What kind of man made sure he
was clean-shaven to face almost certain death?
His fingers feathered along her shoulder, down the sweep of her spine, his hands coming to rest on the curve of her bottom, urging her closer. ‘The Lady in Green,’ he said wonderingly. ‘Three times, she visits her one true love, but I fear you will only visit me once.’
He was so close she could feel his breath on her cheek. He had a beautiful mouth. His smile was no longer crooked but sensual. His thumbs caressed her in shivering circles. ‘Stay with me, my angel’ he whispered, ‘just for tonight. If I can spend my last night on earth in your arms, I can face tomorrow without fear or regret.’
She opened her mouth to speak. She knew she should leave. Then his lips descended on hers, velvet-soft. She closed her eyes and surrendered to the sweetness of his kiss. Lost in his embrace, Eve didn’t hear the warning screech as the shell exploded in the bunker.
I write hot historical romances from cold and usually rainy Scotland featuring rakes, sheikhs and Highlanders. I also knit and like to drink martinis. I have a time travel short, Lost in Pleasure, out in March, and I'm currently working on a series of three linked short stories set in the First World War, due for release next year. You can find out more about me and my books on my website, www.margueritekaye.com, or join me for a chat on Facebook or Twitter.