Madeleine’s Christmas Wish by Ella Quinn
The bachelors in Ella Quinn’s Marriage Game series make a habit of resisting the irresistible. But during the season for giving, surrendering to temptation may be the greatest gift of all…
A French spy, Georges, Marquis Cruzy-le-Châtel, has lived in England for years, sacrificing his life for his country—but not his heart. For he’s never been able to forget his childhood friend, Madeleine. And now, in her hour of need, he is there to rescue her…
The victim of a ruthless statesman, Madeleine, Comtesse du Beaune, has been abducted and sent to England to work in a brothel. Her greatest wish is to return home for Christmas, and her only hope of it is to marry Georges—though she will be his wife in name alone. Yet as they steal across the snowy countryside, Georges decides to woo her—with kisses that melt the winter’s frost and leave her longing for a holiday miracle…
Madeleine was tense and all the color in her face had fled. Small lines bracketing her mouth showed the strain she was under. Despite what she’d asked Georges earlier, he was sure she’d answered all Jamison’s questions truthfully.
She was a curious mixture of naïveté and cynicism. Despite her certainty that she would have been able to find help in Paris, Georges doubted she would’ve been allowed the opportunity.
Except for the inclusion of Madeleine, the French plan to plant female spies in brothels catering to gentlemen in high levels of the government was brilliant. He dismissed the idea her sister would have been the target. The nunnery the women had been destined for did not use child whores. What he needed to learn was who gained by her removal from Beaune.
“If you’d like to change for dinner,” Georges said, rising and holding his hand out to Madeleine, “there are a few other matters I must discuss with his lordship.”
“Thank you.” She placed her small hand in his. “Lady Palmerton said we would dine at seven o’clock.”
“It is after six now.”
She gazed up at him. “Where do I meet you?”
“Have your maid send for me. I’ll do myself the honor of escorting you.”
Once Madeleine left, Georges poured brandy for himself and Jamison. “Do you wonder if the Coupe in Beaune could be the same one or related to the Coupe we have been trying to locate?”
The corners of Jamison’s mouth turned down. “I had the same thoughts.”
Georges took a sip, then told Jamison the details about the deaths of Madeleine’s father and brother. Georges had to find out if all of this was related. If it was Le Coupe, Georges must not waste time. Her family could be in grave danger. “I shall go to France as soon as possible.”
“You’re going to have a problem with the lady.” The older man rubbed his jaw. “You may not have noticed the way her lips set, when you announced you’d leave her here, but I did.”
“Leave the countess to me.” The last thing Georges would allow was for Madeleine to endanger herself. “I plan to marry the lady as soon as possible. Many families are still here waiting for Louis to give them their property back. One of them must have a priest in attendance. As my wife, she will have to listen to me.”
Jamison began to cough so hard, Georges slapped the other man’s back. When Jamison finally stopped, his eyes were watery.
When he spoke, his voice trembled suspiciously like he was attempting to hold back a laugh. “I wish you good luck with your plans.”
“Thank you, but I will not need luck.” The English always thought everyone was like them. Madeleine had been raised to be dutiful. In this regard, she was merely exchanging a father’s authority for a husband’s. She would not expect a love match. They were not common in France, and she would welcome Georges taking on her burdens. An eminently practical arrangement. “May we depart tomorrow? I do not wish to cause my mother any further worry.”
“Yes, of course. Sorry to have detained you, but I wanted to hear what the countess had to say. It looks like the rumors of trouble brewing are right. Damn. I almost forgot.” Jamison reached into his jacket, bringing out a document with the French royal seal on it. “I brought this for you. It took some doing, but we were finally able to get King Louis to sign it.”
Georges carried the packet over to the desk, carefully popping the royal seal off and spreading the papers out.
Thank God. He officially had his lands back. His throat tightened. Finally he could go home without any interference. And now he’d have something to offer Madeleine besides money and an empty title. She would be his marchioness as their fathers had intended.
Ella Quinn lived all over the United States, the Pacific, Canada, England and Europe before finally discovering the Caribbean. She lives on a sailboat St. Thomas, Virgin Islands with her wonderful husband of over thirty years, two bossy cats and a loveable Portuguese Water Dog. Ella loves when friends connect with her.
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