Here’s an excerpt, near the beginning of the story. Gil Manning crashes his balloon and after a brief first meeting with local schoolmistress Emma Westfield, he passes out due to a concussion. He is brought to her cottage where she watches him through the night, having been warned by the surgeon that he might never revive.
He was a flirt and a daredevil, there was no doubt of that. A gambler. A gentleman, perhaps an officer sold out since Waterloo. She wondered if he’d known . . . but how likely was that? Yet how could she not think about it? She’d seen the scars, the result of bullets and swords piercing his flesh. Scars that could not obscure the beauty of a healthy male body.
She blinked away a tear. Lud! She hadn’t cried in ages. What was the matter with her now?
She knew what was the matter.
It was the look of childlike innocence Manning wore in sleep, as he might in death. Had Charles looked so when he died? Had he thought of her? Perhaps, regretted . . .?
Charles . . . my love . . .
She caught herself whispering the words aloud. Now she was going mad.
But Manning did not wake. Perhaps his spirit was already beyond reach. Did he have a wife or a sweetheart who would mourn him?
Tears blurred her vision as she leaned over him. His mouth was surely made for smiling. For laughing. For kissing. Grief welled up along with the feeling that he might never do any of those things again.
She closed her eyes and pressed her lips to his. They were cool and unresponsive.
Then they parted.
She jerked back, saw his eyes flutter open.
“Don’t stop now,” he whispered.
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