Once a Soldier
Rogues Redeemed Book #1
Once a Soldier: Rogues Redeemed #1 spins a new series off of Mary Jo Putney's beloved and New York Times bestselling Lost Lords series.
As heir to a title and great wealth, Will Masterson should have stayed home and tended his responsibilities. Instead he went to war. Now, after perilous years fighting the French, he intends his current mission to be his last. But all his plans are forgotten when he arrives in the small mountain stronghold of San Gabriel and meets her.
Knowing herself to be too tall, strong, and unconventional to appeal to a man, Athena Markham has always gloried in her independence. But for the first time in her life, she finds a man who might be her match.
Two of a kind, too brave for their own good, Athena and Will vow to do whatever it takes to vanquish San Gabriel's enemies. For neither will back down from death, and only together can they find happiness and a love deeper than any they'd dared imagine. . .
There's also a bonus scene,a special preview of the story that does not appear in the book!
1814: Napoleon has abdicated, the Peninsular wars are over, and Major Will Masterson is heading back to England along with a group of Allied soldiers from the tiny kingdom of San Gabriel.
Gilberto strode across the room to fling open the door in the left hand wall, revealing a large, well lit kitchen. He called, "Mamá, I'm home!" as if he'd been gone for the day rather than years.
His announcement triggered a response that made the earlier reunions Will had witnessed pale in comparison. A mob of Olivieras poured into the kitchen and boiled around him in noisy waves. There were ancient aunts and grandparents and a couple of knee-hugging toddlers. A woman who must be his mother gave an ear-splitting, wordless scream of joy when she embraced her son as if she'd never let him go.
Others echoed his mother's scream. If Will hadn't known better, he'd have thought a massacre was in progress. A large gray muzzled dog joined in, barking frantically as he stropped Gilberto's legs, almost knocking him over. The Olivieras were a handsome lot. One young woman who was probably a sister was so beautiful that Murphy just stared at her, his jaw slack.
The delirious happiness in the room was as exhausting as it was exhilarating. Murphy followed Gilberto into the apartment, his gaze still on the girl, but Will stayed back in the hall. He'd wait until the tumult subsided before introducing himself.
He strolled across the room to stretch his legs, admiring the beautiful patterns of the tile floor. He had not known how beautiful tile could be until he came to the Peninsula. But the furnishings were Spartan. Apart from the refectory table, there was only a pair of creaky looking chairs that might collapse if he tried to sit down.
The tile medallion in the center of the hall floor had a coat of arms, likely that of the country or the ruling family. He was admiring the artistry when he heard swift footsteps sound from the stairs. When the steps ended, he looked up--and saw that the candlelight illuminated the barrel of a rifle pointed at his chest from the shadows. "Drop the gun!" a voice snapped in the Gabrileño dialect. "Very, very carefully." The command was repeated in French.
Will said peaceably in Gabrileño, "I mean no harm. Sergeant Oliviera has returned to his family, and I'm a British officer who accompanied him." He let his saddle bags fall to the stone floor and slowly leaned over to set the carbine on top.
"You're certainly not local," the voice growled. "Say something in English."
"As you wish," he said in English. "If you allow me to remove my greatcoat, I can show you my uniform."
The rifle barrel didn't waver. "Take the coat off slowly," the voice said in crisp English. "If you move your hand toward a weapon, I'll shoot you."
Not making any sudden moves, Will peeled off the greatcoat. His uniform was shabby and mended in places, but unmistakably British red. "My name is William Masterson and I'm from Oxfordshire."
After a taut silence, the rifle was lowered and a magnificent Amazon stepped from the shadows. Now that Will didn't have a weapon pointing at him, he realized that the rich, low voice belonged to a female.
Tiny sparks of energy tingled through him and long dormant parts of his body began sparking to life. He stared, entranced. The Amazon was close to six feet tall and she had the fair complexion of a northerner. Even swaddled in a dark, ankle length robe, she was strikingly attractive, with strong, regular features and a braid of warm brown hair falling down her back.
And she handled the rifle with the ease of an expert. Not just an Amazon warrior, but the Amazon queen in person. He drew a slow, deep breath before saying, "I gather you're English also?"
"Athena Markham of no particular place, but yes, English." Her low voice had a well educated accent. "Sorry I was so threatening, but it's been a difficult year, and the screaming sounded like an attack."
"I thought the same thing." He glanced to the door that led into the Olivieras' apartment. The noise has abated some. "I'm grateful you held your fire."
"Learning how to shoot is easier than learning when not to." She studied his uniform. "A major in the 52nd Foot, I see. As part of the Light Battalion, you've probably seen just about every battle in the Peninsular wars"
"Yes, and more skirmishes than I can remember," he agreed. "With Napoleon defeated, I'm heading for home and San Gabriel is on my route. You live here?"
"For the last five years." Her eyes glinted. "And you're the largest man I've seen in all those years."
Will laughed. "The Gabrieleños I've met tend to be wiry and compact. I feel like Gulliver in Lilliput."
"I've felt like that since I arrived. I'm sure I'm the tallest woman in San Gabriel." "Are you a palace guard?" he asked half seriously.
"No, Lady Athena is my companion," a light female voice said in English with only a faint trace of accent. "Or my governess. Or the acting regent of San Gabriel."