The Soldier's Secrets

By: Naomi Rawlings

To my parents, Marvin and Carolyn Montpetit.

Thank you for your love, guidance, and wisdom.

And thank you for the sacrifices you made to raise me in a manner that honored God.





Acknowledgements

No book could ever make its way from my head to the story in front of you without help from some amazing people.

First and foremost, I’d like to thank my husband, Brian. What would I do without someone to cook dinner, watch the kids, and love and encourage me through each and every book I write? Second, I’d like to thank my critique partner, Melissa Jagears. The longer I work with you, the more I come to value your support for my stories as well as for everyday life. My writing would suffer greatly without your brilliant mind, and my heart would suffer greatly without your friendship. Thank you for all the hours of critiquing you poured into this story.

I’d also want to thank my agent, Natasha Kern, for teaching me about writing and supporting me both professionally and personally. Your love for writers and good stories shines through all the hours you pour into Natasha Kern Literary Agency. I deeply value your guidance and advice, as well as your friendship. Thank you to my editor, Elizabeth Mazer, for your helpful suggestions and enthusiasm about my stories—and especially for your love of all things French.

Special thanks to Scott and Andrea Corpolongo Smith, owners of Ontonagon, Michigan’s Wintergreen Farms. Andrea read over the farming portions of my novel to make sure I had all the nettlesome details about blights, pests, and vegetables correct. For more information about Wintergreen Farms, community supported agriculture, organic vegetables, and yummy recipes, visit their fabulous blog, wintergreen-farm.blogspot.com.

Beyond these people, numerous others have given me support in one way or another—Sally Chambers, Glenn Haggerty, Roseanna White, and Laurie Alice Eakes, to name a few. Thank you all for your time and effort and helping me to write the best books I possibly can.









Prologue

Calais, France, June 1795

Brigitte Dubois wrapped her arms about herself and trudged down the deserted street, darkness swallowing her every step. Night air toyed with the strands of hair hanging from beneath her mobcap, while mist from the sea nipped relentlessly at her ankles and a chill slithered up her spine.

It mattered not that it was summer, warm enough to sleep without a fire in the hearth, warm enough to draw beads of perspiration on her forehead, warm enough to attend her rendezvous with a shawl rather than a cloak. The cold came from inside, deep and frigid, a fear so terrifying she could hardly stay ahead of it. So her feet stumbled forward, over the cracked and chipping cobblestones, past the rows of houses shuttered tight against the darkness.

One night. One meeting. Then she could go home, gather her children and leave this wretched city.

Or so she hoped.

The breeze from the Channel swirled around her, ripe with the salty tang of sea and fish, while the clack of her wooden shoes against the street created the only sound in the deserted city besides the rhythmic lap of waves against the shore. The warehouse loomed before her at the end of the road, dark and menacing and ominously larger with each step she took toward its rusty iron doors.

Another shudder raced through her. Would this place become her tomb on this muggy summer night?

No, she’d not think such things. She had a house to return to, children to feed and a babe to tend. Alphonse wasn’t going to kill her, not tonight. Her children were too important.

Which was why she had to get them away.

She slowed as she neared the warehouse, raising her hand to knock upon the small side door. But just as her knuckles would have met the cold iron, it swung inward.

“You’re here.” A guard hulked in the doorway, his voice loud against the empty street and tall stone houses.

“As I was told to be.” She straightened her back, but not because she wanted to. No. Her shoulders ached to slump and her feet longed to slink into the shadows hovering beside the building, to creep back to her children and her house and the safety those four square walls offered.

But safety was a mere illusion. No one was ever truly safe from Alphonse Dubois.

“Come in.” The planes and edges of the guard’s face glinted hard in the dim light radiating from inside. He was huge, taller than her by nearly half a mètre and powerful enough to fell her with the club hanging at his side. Her eyes drifted down to the massive hand gripping the door, and she took a step back.

“That’s the wrong direction, wench. And Alphonse doesn’t like to wait.” The guard’s knuckles bulged around his club.

“Of course.” She spoke easily, as though her body wasn’t trembling. As though her lungs didn’t refuse to draw breath at the idea of stepping over the threshold.

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