Madeleine's Christmas Wish


They were at the back of the house overlooking the formal gardens. He took her through a large parlor. Showed her the dressing room and bathing chamber, then led her to the bedroom and pointed. “My chamber is through that door.”

“Thank you for telling me. I shall ring for my maid.”

“There is no need. I shall do myself the honor of undressing you.”

“You promised we would not sleep together.”

Georges stroked her shoulders and arms. “I always keep my vows. However, I did not pledge nor did you ask me not to sleep with you. You stipulated that I would not press you to consummate the marriage, and I will not.” His voice dropped to a low purr. “However, there are many things we may do short of marital congress, and I fully intend that you enjoy all of them.”

Georges pressed his lips to her forehead, skating down her cheeks to her throat, before gently nibbling her bottom lip. Madeleine tried to remain unaffected, but she sighed as he pressed his mouth to hers. He trailed his tongue along the seam of her lips. Her bodice sagged, and her intention of protesting was lost. Instead she gave in to the fire in her blood, caressing his tongue with hers.

Tiny flames shot through her. Hairpins fell to the floor and his fingers speared through her curls spreading them out over her shoulders. Instead of trying to resist him, she wound her arms around his neck, pressing her body to his....

Books by Ella Quinn















Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation

Madeleine's Christmas Wish


All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.


November 1814, Beaune, France


adeleine, Comtesse du Beaune, set her pen down on the old cherry desk in the château's study. Thank the Lord she had a head for numbers. Each vineyard, even the ones that held as few as one or two rows, was accounted for. If only the central government had allowed her to completely take her father's position as
for the local growers after he died, her life would be easier. Instead, Monsieur Coupe had been assigned to oversee her work. It might not have been so bad if he knew anything about the business of wine, but he did not.

She gazed out the window at the now bare vines. The signs of the first frost were fading as the sun rose higher. In another few weeks, the Christmas season would be upon them. The first one without her father. She would do her best to make it a happy Christmas for her mother and sister. Perhaps they could make new ornaments for the tree, and plan a large fête. Not to mention the market that would take over the central square in Beaune. For some reason, the hot, spiced wine always tasted better from the vendor from Alsace.

A knock sounded on the door before it opened. “Mademoiselle, Monsieur Coupe”—the lip of her butler, Durant, lifted in a sneer—“is here to see you.”

Monsieur Coupe would not be invited for the Christmas celebration. She completely agreed with her butler's assessment of the man. She'd like to cut his male parts off and feed them to the pigs herself. “Show him to the front parlor, and do not let him catch you looking at him like that. He is enough of a problem as it is.”

“He is already there.” Her butler sniffed. “He should not be here at all. He should have waited until you were back at the
in town.”

Durant was right. Coupe should have waited, but he probably thought to catch her alone. The château was much more isolated than her house in Beaune. She twisted her lips into a wry smile. “Yet we have a way to thwart him. Leave the door open, and remain next to it.”


Madeleine rose. When she reached the corridor, she glanced over her shoulder. “And do not call me ‘milady.' It will only set the man off.”

“There is no reason he should be. The nobility was reinstated years ago.”

Arguing with old retainers was pointless. She suppressed a sigh. “Yes well, apparently no one thought to consult Monsieur Coupe. It is bad enough having to deal with him. I don't wish to annoy him.”

Durant frowned. “Surely he will be removed soon.”

“One hopes. I have written the minister.”

She had heard nothing as yet. Their lives were so unsettled now, as was all of France. It was as if no one was in charge. Papa had been loyal to France, but would King Louis know the difference between that and loyalty to the monarchy? He'd been harsh with many who had remained. What would happen to her family if they lost their holdings?

A few moments later, she entered the bright, cheery parlor not far from the front door. A tall, slender man with black hair stood at the window looking onto the drive, his hands clasped behind his back. No doubt already contemplating the estate being his own.

He was not bad-looking. In fact, some women might consider him handsome, but there was something not right about Monsieur Coupe. He had a look in his eyes that concerned her. Maman had once told Madeleine the eyes were the windows to one's soul. If that was correct, Monsieur Coupe's soul was black. “Citizen Coupe. I thought we agreed we would meet tomorrow in town.”

He turned. “Ah, Madame du Beaune.”

That was a surprise. Before he'd always insisted on the revolution's form of address.

He smiled at her for a moment. “I have something of a private nature to say to you.”

Drat the man.
Despite all her hints that she was not interested, he was going to offer for her, and naturally, he hoped to assume the role of Comte du Beaune.

“I know this may seem sudden.” He glanced at the door, and his dark brows drew sharply together. “Do you mind if we have some privacy?”

She lifted her chin. “I do not think it proper to be alone with you.”

He smiled again. “But I plan to propose.”

“It is much too early for me to marry. My father has been dead less than two months.”

This time Monsieur Coupe's jaw clenched, and his obsidian eyes hardened to flint. “When will you be free to accept a proposal?”

How long could she put him off without causing suspicion? Madeleine took a breath. “Not until after the New Year.”

“A decision you may come to regret,” he snapped, and strode from the room. Shortly afterward the front door slammed.

“He'll cause trouble, milady,” Durant said.

“I'm afraid so.” Dust rose in the drive as Monsieur Coupe rode off. “There must be someone I can contact, someone who can help.”

Yet, whom could she trust?


Two weeks later


Loud footsteps sounded from the front of the house. Maman screamed, and Madeleine picked up her skirts, jerked open the door of her study, and dashed to the hall. Four rough-looking men stood there, one grasping the arm of her younger sister, Genevieve, as she sobbed. Two more struggled to hold Maman back and the fourth pointed a pistol at Durant's head. All of them were laughing and making rude comments.

The one holding her sister barked an order at the others to be quiet. He must be in charge. Madeleine addressed him as calmly as she could. “What is going on here?”

He fished a piece of paper out of his pouch, handing it to her. She perused the document ordering the bearer to find women willing to work in a brothel in England in order to collect information for the glory of France. Whoever volunteered would receive payment from the French government. At the end, there was a signature.

Mon Dieu, no!
It could not be possible. Napoleon's former spymaster was a senator now. Yet what if that was not his only position? And why would the king wish to spy on the English?

She kept her voice as calm as possible. “It says here, the women must go voluntarily, and it mentions nothing about taking children. I insist you release my sister.”

“I need a virgin,” he said, not even trying to hide the malice in his face.

“She is only thirteen!
” Maman wailed as she struggled against the men.

The man in charge shrugged. “Plenty of girls have had to make their way. At least she'll be doing it for her country.”

Not likely.
Somehow she would find a way out of this, but for right now, there was only one thing to do. Madeleine straightened her shoulders. “I will go with you.”

A flicker of a smile passed so quickly over the leader's face, she might have imagined it. “Only if you're sure you're a virgin.”

. “I am positive. If you will wait here, I shall pack a few things. My maid will accompany me. Now, unhand my mother and sister.”

The man nodded, and released Genevieve, who ran to Maman. Madeleine grabbed her mother's hand. “Before I leave I need to speak with you both.”

Once in her chambers, Maman began crying. “You cannot go with them.”

“I must. If they don't take me, Genevieve will have to go. I will not allow that to happen. I have a much better chance of surviving.”

“I'll send a servant to the constable or the mayor.”

If only it were that simple. “Even they have no power to stop those men.” Madeleine's stomach roiled. She held her fingers to her lips, hoping to keep the bile down. She could not give in to the fear and despair attempting to swamp her. Hoping to keep her mother from seeing the tears threatening to fall, she turned toward the dressing room. “Only dark travel clothing, Jeanne.” Once Madeleine had herself under control, she hugged her mother tightly. “Maman, when we reach Paris, I will contact some of Papa's friends. They will know how to put an end to this travesty.” Madeleine's throat tightened, but she had to say something to give her mother hope. “Please, do not worry. I'll be home before you know it. We will celebrate Christmas together. I promise.
À bientôt

Somehow, she would honor her vow. Schooling her face into an unconcerned mask, she returned to the hall.

As she climbed into the coach, she glanced at the house. Her mother stood at the window weeping.

Whatever happened, Madeleine must return to protect what was left of her family.


Dover, England


Georges, Marquis Cruzy-le-Châtel, sat in the plain but clean chamber at an inn. His hand trembled as much as the candle's light as he read the list of names in the coded message. Rage coursed through his blood, and his stomach clenched as if a knife twisted in it. He moved his jaw to ease the ache. He'd see them all in hell, including Louis and Napoleon, before he allowed Fouché's plan to succeed. As long as Georges lived, Madeleine would never whore herself for anyone.

How had she been caught up in this war deception? Her father had joined the revolution to keep his family safe.

Georges ran his palm over his face, then held the paper to the candle's flame before tossing it into the fireplace. When the paper had shriveled to black, he stirred the ashes until they blended with the rest of the cinders.

If only the betrothal between him and Madeleine had been finalized before his father had died, she'd be safely in England. Instead, Georges had kept track of her as best as he could. Though he never approached her, he'd seen her a few times when he'd been in France on missions.

She'd grown into the most beautiful woman he could have imagined. The almost silvery blond hair she had as a child hadn't changed. Her eyes were the blue of deeply frozen ice.

How had her father allowed this to happen? Was no one protecting her?

He had to get a message to Lord Jamison at the Home Office. Georges had information to exchange, and, this time, he wasn't going through Louis's people to do it. Christ, for all Georges knew, the king might decide to allow the plan to continue in hopes of collecting information for himself. No. It didn't matter what Georges had to do. His only recourse was to rescue Madeleine, marry her, and keep her safe. It was what Papa would have wanted.



One week later Georges stood hidden amongst a clump of pine trees on a cliff overlooking the beach. The night was clear and dark, the only light coming from the stars' reflection on the water. And it was cold; reminding him Advent was only a couple of weeks away. This year he would spend Christmas at his home in France. Where the season was celebrated for over a month, not the twelve days allotted in England.

His senses prickled as he waited for the smugglers' signal that the boat from France had arrived. Were they late? If only he could see his watch, but the trees blocked any light.

Several moments later, three lights flashed quickly, and he hurried down the steep rocky path to the beach below. By the time he'd half slid down, the boats were being unloaded. The smugglers seemed to melt into the night as gentlemen from the Home Office took charge of the women the Fouché had planned to use as spies in an exclusive brothel.

Georges recognized Madeleine immediately. The way she held her head high and her shoulders straight, walking gracefully even on sand. Concealing himself next to a small shed, he waited until she was abreast, before stepping out of the shadow. “Madeleine?”

She whirled around, her eyes wide with fear. For a pregnant moment neither of them said a word.

He held out his hand. “Come, Madeleine. I'm taking you away from here.”

How? Oh, no, you cannot see me like this.
I am ruined.

The other man saluted him and quickly moved after the others.

How had she even recognized him? It had been over ten years since they'd last met. “You are safe now.” He wrapped his arms around her, burying his nose in her hair.
Mon Dieu,
she smelled like heaven, but the thought of her being harmed shoved through his relief. “Did anyone touch you?”

“No, they are saving me for a highly placed—”

He placed a finger on her lips, wishing it was his mouth. “Then all is well.”

“Georges, you do not understand. If I do not do this, they will take my sister. She is only thirteen.”

She blinked in the manner women did to stop their tears. Normally a female's tears didn't bother him, but Madeleine's . . . hers were different. He stroked her back until she was calmer. “I'll save her. If I have to go to rescue her myself, I promise you she'll be free from harm.”

He kept his arm around her until they reached the small trail he'd come down. “Keep hold of my coat. It's precipitous.”

Madeleine nodded. When they reached the top of the cliff, her breathing was labored, and he let her rest.

After a few moments she glanced around. “Where do we go now?”

“My carriage is not far.” It was a damned good thing he'd thought to have it brought down, as well as money and a valise for Madeleine.

She hung back. “Where will you take me?”

“At present to the inn where I'm staying. In the morning we'll travel to my mother.”

“I cannot”—her jaw firmed—“remain with you in your room.”

“I do not expect it.” He never thought he'd be thankful for his mother's interference, but he was now. “You have a chamber of your own, and Maman sent a bag with some clothing and other items for you, as well as a maid.”

The woman sat with his coachman, Bernard. At first, Georges had not been happy when he'd seen the servant, Andrews. The fewer people who knew about Madeleine's mode of arrival, the better. Andrews had handed him a note from his mother explaining she'd hired the woman for Madeleine. He still didn't like it, but it was probably for the best. It was all he could do to keep his hands off her. Strange, women had always fallen into one of two camps—the ones in his family whom he would protect, and all the others he had used in one fashion or another. Yet Madeleine roused feelings he'd never experienced before: protection mixed with lust.

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