It all starts badly.
Riding on a vital mission through the Pyrenees, Louise is pursued by Napoleon's agents. A mighty thunderstorm makes matters worse. Then, when she seeks shelter in a cavern, it seems that is the worst choice she could make.
She was shivering more violently than ever as he reached them and held his lantern aloft, training it first on Joseph and then on her. She forced herself to sit straight, and stared into a dark, angry face with gleaming eyes that seemed to see through her disguise.
Joseph said something in the local dialect. Louise made out only a few words, just enough to know that Joseph had not revealed she was a woman. He had merely asked for shelter. The man held the lantern closer. His almond eyes were suspicious.
‘How am I to know you're not a spy?’ he growled. At least he spoke French, not this dialect she could scarcely follow.
A surge of dislike rushed through her at his hostility. ‘I am on an urgent mission,’ she croaked, through chattering teeth. ‘I must get to my rendezvous quickly. But someone is pursuing me and I need to escape them. If you are unwilling to give us shelter from this storm, we'll leave now before night falls.’ She tugged at her horse’s bridle but to her dismay, she swayed and nearly toppled from the saddle. The man looked more closely.
‘You’re just a boy,’ he exclaimed, putting a hand on her horse’s nose. The beast immediately stilled. ‘Very well. Get down. You can strip off and dry.’
Oh heavens! He would discover her secret; and as she thought again of that woman’s moans, she feared he was not to be trusted. But Joseph had already dismounted and was holding her bridle. The flash of rage had faded, leaving her head spinning with fatigue. She slid off the horse and her knees buckled. The stranger caught hold of her.‘Not a seasoned adventurer, are you?’ He laughed and slid an arm round her ribs to steady her. She felt his hand jerk as it encountered her breast. Awareness snaked through her as he brought his head close, examining her face keenly.
‘No, leave me,’ she protested, ‘I can manage.’ Panicked, she pulled away but staggered and sank to her knees with a little sob. Immediately his strong arms were hauling her up. Then everything blurred.
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Louise's cavern in the Pyrenees. She was so glad to get out of it !!