To Tame the Wind
The Donet Trilogy Book 1
by Regan Walker
Genre: Historical Romance
Paris 1782…AN INNOCENT IS TAKEN
All Claire Donet knew was the world inside the convent walls in Saint-Denis. She had no idea her beloved papa was a pirate. But when he seized Simon Powell's schooner, the English privateer decided to take the thing his enemy held most dear...her.
A BATTLE IS JOINED
The waters between France and England roil with the clashes of Claire's father and her captor as the last year of the American Revolution rages on the sea, spies lurk in Paris and Claire’s passion for the English captain rises.
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Claire’s jaw went slack while her heart kicked into a gallop as if responding of its own accord to the first man to stir it from slumber.
“Bonjour, Mademoiselle Donet,” he said in French. “Captain Simon Powell.” He bowed in grand gesture. “Your humble servant with something for you to wear.”
The golden one. It had been nearly two years since she had seen him, but she had never forgotten the night of the masquerade. She had never forgotten him. Though the linen shirt stretched tight across his broad chest and the leather breeches and boots he wore now were a far cry from the shimmering costume he’d worn then, his amber eyes were the same. Impossibly, he was even more handsome that in her faded memory. In the last two years, he had never been far from her thoughts, for the night she’d first seen him—and imagined a man’s pleasure—was the night Claire’s girlish dreams had ended forever.
And now he’d returned to France and abducted her.
He leaned into the carriage and untied her feet, then her wrists. The touch of his rough man’s hands on her skin sent odd chills rippling through her. She bit her lip, shamed by her body’s reaction to this stranger. Her living temptation turned away for a moment, then faced her, a cup in his outstretched hand. “’Tis only water,” he said when she was reluctant to take it.
Too grateful to complain, she hastily brought the fresh water to her dry lips and drank her fill.
“I’ll give you some time to dress,” he said not unkindly. His eyes shifted to her blanket-covered nightclothes. “I wouldn’t want my men to see you as you are.”
Claire felt her cheeks burn at the thought.
“The gown is modest enough to please even your nuns,” he said. “Call me if you need… ah, assistance. I will be just outside.”
She fumed at his insolence, at his actions that had placed her at his mercy. Though she knew he was English and a privateer, she had no idea why he had taken her, and she would wait no longer to learn the truth of it. “Why did you bring me here? Why did you take me from the convent?”
Leaning one arm against the frame of the carriage, he regarded her intently, his eyes like chips of amber.
“You have your father to thank for that, mademoiselle. As soon as he returns what is mine you will have your freedom.”
Claire blinked. “My father?” Her voice sounded to her like the pleading of a feeble schoolgirl. She would not be cowed! She lifted her chin, confident in his error. “What has he to do with this… this perfidy? Papa is a man of business and letters, a man of some wealth. He has no need to steal!”
His mouth twitched up in a grin, drawing Claire’s gaze to his sensual lips, reminding her of a night when she had seen him use those lips to good effect. She scowled, angry with the rogue and with herself for finding him so attractive.
He shut the door of the carriage and peered in through the open window. “Your father, mademoiselle, is a pirate.”
Echo in the Wind
The Donet Trilogy Book 2
England and France 1784
Cast out by his noble father for marrying the woman he loved, Jean Donet took to the sea, becoming a smuggler, delivering French brandy and tea to the south coast of England. When his young wife died, he nearly lost his sanity. In time, he became a pirate and then a privateer, vowing to never again risk his heart.
As Donet’s wealth grew, so grew his fame as a daring ship’s captain, the terror of the English Channel in the American War. When his father and older brother die in a carriage accident in France, Jean becomes the comte de Saintonge, a title he never wanted.
Lady Joanna West cares little for London Society, which considers her its darling. Marriage in the ton is either dull or disastrous. She wants no part of it. To help the poor in Sussex, she joins in their smuggling. Now she is the master of the beach, risking her reputation and her life. One night off the coast of Bognor, Joanna encounters the menacing captain of a smuggling ship, never realizing he is the mysterious comte de Saintonge.
Can Donet resist the English vixen who entices him as no other woman? Will Lady Joanna risk all for an uncertain chance at love in the arms of the dashing Jean Donet?
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Except for the small waves rushing to shore, hissing as they raced over the shingles, Bognor’s coast was eerily bereft of sound. Lady Joanna West hated the disquiet she always experienced before a smuggling run. Tonight, the blood throbbed in her veins with the anxious pounding of her heart, for this time, she would be dealing with a total stranger.
Would he be fair, this new partner in free trade? Or might he be a feared revenue agent in disguise, ready to cinch a hangman’s noose around her slender neck?
The answer lay just offshore, silhouetted against a cobalt blue sky streaked with gold from the setting sun: a black-sided ship, her sails lifted like a lady gathering up her skirts, poised to flee, waited for a signal.
Crouched behind a rock with her younger brother, Joanna hesitated, studying the ship. Eight gun ports marched across the side of the brig, making her wonder at the battles the captain anticipated that he should carry sixteen guns.
She and her men were unarmed. They would be helpless should he decide to cheat them, his barrels full of water instead of brandy, his tea no more than dried weeds.
It had been tried before.
“You are certain Zack speaks for this captain?” she asked Freddie whose dark auburn curls beneath his slouched hat made his boyish face appear younger than his seventeen years. But to one who knew him well, the set of his jaw hinted at the man he would one day become.
“I’ll fetch him,” Freddie said in a hushed tone, “and you can ask him yourself.” He disappeared into the shadows where her men waited among the trees.
Zack appeared, squatting beside her, a giant of a man with a scar on the left side of his face from the war. Like the mastiffs that guarded the grounds of her family’s estate, he was big and ugly, fierce with enemies, but gentle with those he was charged to protect.
“Young Frederick here says ye want to know about this ship, m’lady.” At her nod, Zack gazed toward the brig. “He used to come here regular with nary a con nor a cheat. He’s been gone awhile now. I heard he might have worked up some other business—royal business.” He rolled his massive shoulders in a shrug. “In my experience, a tiger doesn’t change his stripes. He’s a Frog, aye, but I trust the Frenchie’s one of us, a free trader still.”
She took in a deep breath of the salted air blowing onshore and let it out. “Good.” Zack’s assurance had been some comfort but not enough to end her concerns. What royal business? For tonight, she need not know. “Give the signal,” she directed her brother, “but I intend to see for myself if the cargo is what we ordered.”
Without seeking the position, Joanna had become the smugglers’ master of the beach, responsible for getting the cargo ashore and away to inland routes and London markets with no revenue man the wiser. She took seriously her role to assure the villagers got what they paid for. Their survival depended upon it.
“Zack, will you row me to the ship?”
“O’ course, if ’tis what ye want.” The frown over his hazel eyes revealed his displeasure, but Zack knew an order when he heard one, no matter how politely it had been phrased. He would never question her authority in front of the men.
Freddie lifted the lantern from the pebbled beach and slid open the metal cover on one side. A small flame flickered into the Channel, alerting the ship the coast was clear of the Riding Officer. The dying rays of the sun still danced on the rippling water, but the lantern’s light would tell the ship’s captain all was well.
Joanna got to her feet, tugging her felt hat over her ears and tucking strands of her long red hair beneath the brim. The hat and Freddie’s borrowed shirt and breeches rendered her one of the men. Even though his jacket was a bit short, she dare not borrow clothes belonging to her older brother, Richard. He knew nothing of her nightly pursuits and would not approve.
“I’m going with you,” said Freddie.
“All right, but stay in the boat.” When she’d decided to help the villagers in smuggling goods that kept brandy and tea flowing to England’s wealthy and food on the tables of Chichester’s poor, her younger brother had insisted on becoming her partner. Still, she tried to keep him from danger.
Out on the water, the ship’s crew lowered three longboats into the water, then scurried down manropes slung over the side. Dropping into the boats, they began to accept barrels and chests lowered from the deck.
With a word to her men, Joanna climbed into the small rowing boat at the water’s edge. Her two companions followed, and Zack pressed his strength to the oars.
With the first of the longboats loaded, the French crew pulled away from the ship, rowing hard toward the beach. Their boat passed her smaller vessel and she gave them a studying perusal.
Their bright neck scarfs and knitted jerseys, coupled with the set of their caps, rendered them decidedly French.
To a man, their hair was long and loose rather than plaited in pigtails as an English sailor might wear. The knives at their belts, their narrowed eyes and sneers made them appear cutthroats. Of course, to them, she and her brother were no more than young English “rosbifs” who had no understanding of a ship like the one on which the Frenchmen served. In that, they would be right.
She shivered and turned away from their harsh glares to fix her eyes on the ship and her mind on the task ahead.
The French brig loomed large as they drew close. A frisson of fear snaked down her spine when she looked up to see an ominous figure standing at the rail.
Like an apparition, he was dressed all in black, his features lost in the shadows beneath his tricorne. Even his hair, tied back at his nape, was black. One side of his coat was pulled back to reveal his hand resting on a pistol. From his waist hung a sword with a golden hilt.
She could not see his eyes, but she felt his penetrating gaze and shuddered. He appeared more pirate than merchant.
A Fierce Wind
The Donet Trilogy Book 3
Zoé Ariane Donet was in love with love until she met the young commander of the royalist army fighting the revolutionaries tearing apart France. When the dashing young general is killed, she joins the royalist cause, rescuing émigrés fleeing Robespierre’s Reign of Terror.
One man watches over her: Frederick West, the brother of an English earl, who has known Zoé since she was a precocious ten-year-old child. At sixteen, she promised great beauty, the flower of French womanhood about to bloom. Now, four years later, as the Terror seizes France by the throat, Zoé has become a beautiful temptress Freddie vows to protect with his life.
But English spies don’t live long in Revolutionary France.
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“’Tis Freddie!” she said, her spirits lifting at the sight of her friend.
“Get in!” he implored.
“Be quick,” said her uncle, directing her to the wooden steps built into the side of the wharf that ran down to the water.
She climbed down to the rowing boat and her uncle followed. He was nearly to the end of the steps when shouts from the wharf drew their attention.
“Vous, là! Halt in the name of the Republic!” The musket-bearing soldier strode toward them, his boots loud on the wooden planks. A short distance away, a half-dozen soldiers hurried to join him.
Her uncle ascended the stairs, pulling a pistol from his coat, and fired. The soldier stumbled and fell to the wharf.
Racing down the stairs, her uncle leapt into the boat. “Vite, away!”
The two crewmen pulled hard at the oars.
Freddie drew his pistol.
The cluster of republican soldiers knelt at the edge of the wharf, took aim and commenced spewing shot toward their small boat. Zoé crouched low as the balls whizzed over her head and the loud crack of pistols and musket fire exploded around her.
Freddie and her uncle returned fire.
The crew pressed into the oars and the boat slipped into the fog. Her uncle subsided onto the bench in the bow, stuffing his pistols into his coat pockets.
Zoé cast a long look toward the lights on the receding quay. The sound of muskets still firing echoed in the mist.
One of the soldiers shouted, “I told you he was the one! That was le porc who cut Pierre.”
Her uncle shook his head. “I should have killed him when I had the chance.”
Zoé turned her gaze away from the shore. Finally, the shots died, leaving only the rhythmic sound of the oars pulling through the water. “Dieu merci, at least ’tis over.”
“Oui, for now,” said her uncle. “We have West to thank for our lives.”
One of the crew pulling at the oars glanced over his shoulder. “The Englishman has been shot, I think.”
Zoé looked behind the seamen. In the darkness, it was difficult to see but she could just make out Freddie’s form slumped in the stern. “Freddie!”
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