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The Captain and Miss Winter Ebook

The Captain and Miss Winter Ebook

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Caspar Graysmark is an English lord that has a duty to the people of France. A treasure lies hidden in the heart of the forest, stolen French gold. In his quest to return the treasure, Caspar stumbles across a hidden cottage in the woods. The Englishman who arrives at Scarlett’s door, looking more like a bear than a captain of the British army, reminds her of all she lost to the war. 

The Captain and Miss Winter is based on the story of Snow White and Rose Red, as recorded by the Brothers Grimm. It is a sweet/clean romance novella, was Book 2 in a series of Regency retellings, and is not stand-alone.

Main Tropes

  • Fairy-Tale Retelling
  • Duty vs. Desire
  • Snowed In

Synopsis

The end of the Napoleonic wars comes as a relief to Caspar Graysmark, but before he can settle into the comfortable life of an English lord he has a duty to the people of France. A treasure lies hidden in the heart of the forest, stolen gold that would save the lives of many who lost everything during the war. In his quest, Caspar stumbles across a hidden cottage in the woods, and a different sort of treasure altogether.

Scarlett, living with her sister and grandmother, belongs nowhere. Her father’s mistakes led to their exile from England and their banishment into the forest. The cold winter months have taken their toll on Scarlett’s spirits and her grandmother’s health. The Englishman who arrives at Scarlett’s door, looking more like a bear than a captain of the British army, reminds her of all she lost to the war.

With winter drawing to a close, Caspar must find the missing gold, but his quest to right the wrongs of war has changed. Can Scarlett let him rescue her, too?

Intro to Chapter One

Once upon a time, Caspar Graysmark had thought a career in the military would be precisely everything he wanted. That was before he actually joined the British army, before he’d marched through the war-torn countries of Europe, living in the dirt and subsisting on rations of moldy bread and wilted cabbages. 

Freezing rain came down in sheets, and he could see nothing before or behind him in the bare-branched forest. The night remained black and cold. He was lost, somewhere near the Franco-Spanish border, in the mountains east of Larrau, a village small enough it shouldn’t even be on the map. A village he only knew to look for because he had been through it once before, leading a small company of men on a secret assignment.

And I’m just as lost now as I was then.

He’d supposed that going to battle would be something he’d take to naturally, after all his years of playing soldier about his father’s estate. But marching up and down the garden walk with his brothers was nothing like firing into a line of living, breathing men.

After Napoleon’s surrender, Caspar had intended to go home to England and never leave its shores again. Except, as he explained in a letter to his mother, he had to perform one last task. One last deed that weighed upon him. His honor demanded he see it through.

Caspar shuddered and pulled his heavy fur coat closer about himself, then dismounted to lead his horse, Fortinbras. Perhaps on foot he would do a better job of navigating.

Ice crystals crunched beneath his feet, and the sleet turned to snow. If he didn’t find shelter in short order, Caspar had little hope of him and his horse surviving until the next morning.

A flicker in the distance, between the dark trees, caught his weary gaze.

“Light,” he whispered aloud. His horse snorted. “There’s a light.” He almost chuckled. Talking to his horse the past few days had become his only opportunity to hear his own voice in the wilds of hill and forest. He led the animal forward, his progress as slow as before but now more hopeful.

Down the other side of a hill he went, narrowly avoiding tree branches, his eyes fixed ahead on a small square of glowing orange.

He stepped out of the trees into a flat, clear space of land, yards away from the welcoming light. It had to be a window. It had to be a window. His mind wouldn’t play such tricks on him. 

His eyes took in more as he drew closer. It was a small stone house, a cottage. He kept moving, all the way to the window, his teeth chattering and bits of ice frozen to his beard and eyebrows.

He didn’t look through the window, only made for the door. 

He knocked with the hand not holding his horse, then waited. Good breeding alone kept him from simply rushing inside to the source of warmth and brightness.

* * *

Scarlett’s head jerked up from where it had rested on her sister’s shoulder. Blanche sat upright, sucking in a sharp breath.

“Someone knocked,” Blanche whispered, her wide eyes on the door. The orange tabby in her lap jumped down to hide beneath the bench.

“Who would be out in weather like this?” their grandmother asked, lowering her knitting needles. Her white eyebrows drew together. She met Scarlett’s eyes. “Answer it, child.”

Blanche remained where she sat, cautious and unwilling to act hastily, as always, and grandmother’s old bones would ache too much if she moved far from the fire. It fell to Scarlett as the elder sister, as it usually did, to undertake a difficult task.

She stood, dropping her half of the blanket back onto the old bench. Adjusting her tattered shawl about her shoulders, she went across the room to the door.

She ought to ask who stood on the other side, given that the only thing protecting her from the elements, beasts, and less-than-savory men was the very door knocked upon. But truly, it wasn’t the sturdiest of doors. If it was pushed hard enough, the bolt wouldn’t even hold.

Scarlett tilted her chin upward and slid the bolt open, then swung the door open with all the confidence she could muster. Cold night air rushed inside, slipping around her feet to find the corners of their tiny cottage, like cats coming in from the weather. Scarlett hardly noticed, once she saw his eyes.

A giant of a man stood at their threshold, his striking blue eyes the only light thing about him. He was robed in dark furs, his face covered in a short beard, a hat low upon his brow. He was a head taller than she and at least twice as wide in his shoulders. She should’ve been frightened of him, and would’ve been, if not for those eyes.

He spoke in broken French, his voice deep and rumbling. “S’il vous plaît. J’ai besoin d’un abri.”

Her grandmother called to her in English. “Who is it, my flower?”

“A man,” Scarlett answered, her voice only a whisper. She cleared her throat and raised her voice, though her eyes never left his face. “A man, asking for shelter.”

“If he means us no harm, you had better let him inside.”

Scarlett looked from his piercing gaze down to his stout boots and back up.

The man shook his head, his expression turning confused. “You speak English?” When was the last time she’d heard a man’s voice speak her native tongue? Not since her father’s death.

“We do.” She stood on her toes to peer over his shoulder, seeing only a horse behind him. “If you wish for shelter here, you must give me your word you mean us no harm.”

He nodded quickly. “On my honor, I wish no one in this house ill will, and more, I will do whatever is in my power to repay your kindness.”

His manner of speech was cultured, and his tone low enough to make her feel its charm all the way through her bones. She shivered, and not from the cool air filling the space between them. “Very well. There is a shed against the cottage, just there.” She pointed to the left of the door. “It’s big enough for your horse. Put him there and then come back. We will give you shelter.”

The man, despite his shivering, actually bowed to her. She could not remember the last time she’d been shown such courtesy. She closed the door, then rushed back the seven steps to the hearth, a blush warming her cheeks.

Their cottage only held two rooms; their sleeping chamber and the room they sat in made up the whole of the cottage. They had carpets that were not more than woven rags, a table with broken and mismatched chairs, and the bench she and her sister had covered with an old quilt and stuffed straw cushions. It was clean and tidy, but the floor was hard-packed earth, and all cooking was done over the same fire that kept them warm.

“He’s coming in after he takes care of his horse,” she announced to her sister and grandmother, as though they hadn’t heard every word of the exchange between herself and the stranger. “What can we give him?”

Blanche rose and went to their hutch near the table, which acted as their pantry and larder both. She opened the cabinet and took out a wrapped loaf of bread and a jar of boiled chicken. “He can begin with bread, and we will add the chicken to our stew.”

“A wise idea,” their grandmother said. The stew pot hung on a hook they could swing in and out of the fire. “We’ll warm his insides as best we can. What a night to be out wandering in the woods!”

Scarlett went back to the door, listening for the stranger’s return and watching her sister hurry to add chicken to the cooling pot, which had only contained carrots, cabbage, and a smattering of spices before.

She didn’t question helping the stranger. Not on a night like this. Not after looking into his eyes.

Even if he was a thief, they had little enough to steal. Their clothes were worn thin, their precious things had long since been sold or bartered away; all they truly had left was each other.

She heard the crunch of footsteps outside the door and opened it, standing aside to allow the large man entry. Though she knew their cottage to be small, it had never felt as tiny as it did when he stepped inside. The man filled the very air they breathed.

Scarlett closed and bolted the door behind him.

“Thank you,” he said, the words clipped from between his chattering teeth. “You have saved me.”

Scarlett bit her bottom lip, looking to her grandmother for guidance.

“Come in, sir. Come and share our fire. Scarlett, take his coat,” Grandmother instructed, not moving from her place by the hearth. Blanche stood behind Grandmother, her fingers gripping the back of their grandmother’s chair.

The man bowed to them, then started to slip his arms free of the great fur coat on his back. Scarlett hurried to help him, taking the shoulders of the garment in her hands, catching it before it hit the floor. The fur was soaked through, nearly frozen, and weighed more than Scarlett expected. Barely keeping hold of it, she went to the table and laid the coat flat upon it. The frost glittered as it melted.

Her eyes went to the man, his back to her. He knelt in front of the fire, holding his hands out to the flame. His whole body still trembled from the cold.

Scarlett looked to Blanche, who met her eyes.

“Quilts,” Scarlett said. Her sister nodded and disappeared into their bedroom.

“Sir,” Scarlett said, coming near him. “Please, sit, let us take off your boots.”

He didn’t move to the bench, but sat down on the rug, not moving from the fire even an inch. He stretched his legs out before him, but before he could reach for his boots, Scarlett gripped the heel of one in her hands. She pulled, tugged, and got the large footwear off. She set it by the hearth and began work on the other.

His breeches were long and appeared to be well made. Not the apparel of a trapper or peasant. The man stripped off his gloves, not protesting her help.

Blanche returned, two quilts in her arms.

“Take off the rest of your wet things, young man,” Grandmother said, her voice authoritative. “Then we can get you warm.”

Young man? Scarlett’s eyes raised from the boot in her hands up to his face. His bright blue eyes met hers. How could Grandmother tell? The dark brown beard he wore concealed most of his features. 

“Yes, madam,” he said, his deep voice rumbling through the small room. It was a pleasant voice, a soothing one.

He took off his hat, then the second coat he wore, and even his socks, all while sitting on their rug before the fire. While it should’ve been the most inelegant thing Scarlett had ever seen a man do, she found herself examining his broad shoulders, his strong fingers. He met her eyes after he draped his socks across the stones near the fire, and she realized she had been staring, holding his boot, kneeling not a foot away from him the whole time.

Scarlett’s cheeks warmed. She moved backward, dropping the boot on the floor, and stood.

Blanche came forward with the quilts, her steps slow and eyes wary, bending to hand them both to the stranger.

The man thanked her, his voice quieter. He wrapped one quilt around his shoulders and laid the other over his lap, bundling himself up. His body had stopped quaking, his teeth no longer clacked together, and he looked about with some curiosity.

“Tell me,” he said, looking from Scarlett to Grandmother. “How did three Englishwomen come to live in the middle of a French forest?”

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