Excerpt from book:
Becket Hall, Romney Marsh
Dinner over, Ainsley Becket relaxed in his favorite chair in the drawing room, listening to his children as they discussed Bonaparte's adventures since escaping Elba several weeks earlier.
Breakfast, luncheon, dinner, the conversation never seemed to vary. What will Bonaparte do? Where will he strike first? Will the Allies cede all command to the Iron Duke? Will Wellington be able to defeat the man he had, remarkably, never before met in battle?
Ainsley let their individual voices fade into the background as he concentrated on his children.
Such a disparate group, all eight of his children; seven of them the children of his heart, and now all of them grown, some of them already gone their own way, with his blessing.
Morgan, a wife and mother now, lived on her husband's estate near London, her Ethan Tanner, Earl of Aylesford, undoubtedly laboring very long hours at the War Office.
Chance, Ainsley knew from the letter he'd received from his oldest son a week ago, was also back at work in the War Office, as all of England braced itself for the inevitable clash with the man they'd believed vanquished.
Ainsley sipped at his snifter of brandy, selfishly content that these two men had found a way to serve the Crown without exposing themselves to battle, and stole a look at his son Spencer, who was bouncing his young son, William, on his leg as Mariah Becket smiled at them both.
Would Spencer willingly leave his small family and go to war again? Ainsley planned a quiet talk with the boy, who had sacrificed enough in America, and needed to think first of his wife and son, and the second child Mariah now carried.
Eleanor and her husband, Jack, sat close together near the fireplace, a stack of Paris newspapers Ainsley had acquired in his usual secretive, inventive ways piled in Eleanor's lap. There still was no baby to be held in her arms, a sorrow she hid most times, but one that Ainsley knew ate at his oldest daughter's heart.
Callie, the youngest, and the only child born to Ainsley and his lost Isabella, continued her argument with her brother Courtland about the latter's assertion that he should buy a commission in the army Wellington was hastily forming to confront the French emperor, now that the majority of the Field Marshal's troops had been sent to fight the Americans. As it was, foreign troops would outnumber English troops two-to-one.
Courtland, always the solid one, the rock of the Beckets, firmly believed in duty.
Callie, with all the surety of a seventeen-yearold, firmly believed Courtland belonged to her.
"You and Jack have enough on your plates, Court," Ainsley said quietly now, making his point without overtly referring to the roles the two men played aiding the local smugglers, and Courtland nodded his reluctant agreement.
"I know, sir, but I believe you and Jacko are still reasonably capable and can run Becket Hall in our absence. Besides, we'll have Boney corralled and in a cage in a few months, if not weeks."
Callie, always sharp, sharper than most females were raised to be, spoke up. "In a cage, you say, Court? I believeyou'll correct me if I'm wrong, Papathat it was Marshal Ney who promised the now displaced King Louis that he would bring Bonaparte to him in an iron cage and place him before Louis's throne."
She grinned at Court. "Would that be the same iron cage, Courtland, hmm? Especially now that Ney is back to perching on a cushion at Bonaparte's feet, apologetically licking his boots?"
Mariah Becket laughed as she took young William from her husband and lifted him into her arms. "She's got you there, Court. You men. So much bluster, so many promises. Spencer? I'll see you upstairs, and meet you with a book tossed at your head if you dare to even hint that you'll attempt to follow the drum again."
Everyone waiFanny Becket has adored her adopted brother since the day they both lost their parents and became part of the Becket family. Where he goes, she has always followed. But pursuing him into battle, Fanny quickly finds herself in the line of fire and quite unexpectedlyin the embrace of a handsome stranger.
Valentine Clement, Earl of Brede, has seen enough of fighting to know there is no adventure to be found at Waterloo. Yet the moment he spies Fanny he is duty bound to save the reckless beauty, most especially from herself. Although with a woman such as Fanny, it may very well be his lordship who is in need of true protection.