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Aurore was delighted when a marriage was arranged with the boy she loved, her older brother’s friend Dominique, Comte de Bures. But in a few years the first rush of joy has worn off, and their promising life seems ruined by loss, betrayal, and misunderstanding.
One terrifying morning mercenaries overrun their château and usurpers take Aurore hostage. Miles away at Versailles, where he is required to dance attendance on Louis XIV, Dominique is nearly killed by a crossbow bolt.
Escaping, Aurore travels with a troupe of itinerant musicians, hiding in the open while discovering hidden resources within herself.
Dom sets out to find his wife. He needs his old life back. He needs revenge. But his lands, his title, and his honor mean nothing unless he can win back the love of his indispensable wife.
On that hot summer day, Aurore, Comtesse de Bures, wore patched skirts and a faded red linen stomacher over a rough linen chemise while she sang with her musicians in a village somewhere outside Paris. To be truthful, they weren’t her musicians so much as she was their singer.
She was in the middle of a wistful love song when she spotted her husband, Dominique, at the back of the little crowd. She stopped short, bringing her hand up to her chest, suddenly unable to catch her breath. Even after five years of marriage, none of them terribly happy, he was the most handsome man she had ever seen. Although in drab knee breeches and a smudged leather coat with plain dark buttons, he stood straight and proud, every inch an aristocrat.
She had longed for him so intensely she thought for a moment she had imagined him, as she had so many times over the last several weeks.
He stared as if unsure it was her, due, certainly, to the mask hiding the top half of her face. She’d trimmed a riding mask and added ties to it to leave her mouth and nostrils uncovered for singing. She had to be heard, even if she might sunburn her chin. Who would care if she were sunburned?
The couple with the lyre and the wooden flute played on for a few notes and then paused before looping back to the part of the song between verses. She couldn’t remember the words and coughed suddenly to cover her hesitation. “It is dustier than I had noticed, my good people. Would someone bring me a drink of water, please?”
Two young men who had been shouting crude comments grabbed a bucket and ladle and pushed their way forward, laughing. She pointed, however, at her husband. “Good sir? I see that you have a lovely, large water skin, and I wish with all my heart to drink from it.”
This brought hoots of laughter from the crowd, and she was glad that no one could see her blush behind the mask. The crowd paid better when she pretended to be a seductress. The comte moved forward at a slow, steady pace, his eyes shaded by a battered hat but never wavering from her face. His skin was browner than it had been since he and her brothers played outside all day as children. His expectation that everyone would move away from his path was further proof that it was truly him, just as her demand for water, however jokingly couched, marked her as someone who was used to giving orders. His jaw clenched, the firm contours she had traced her fingers down hundreds of times accentuated by dark stubble. Her chest burned with desire.
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