Redeeming the Rogue [NOOK Book]

Overview


Her Ally…or Her Enemy?

With a chip on her shoulder and a pistol in her pocket, Mattie Fraser comes to London determined to find answers. What fate befell her brother after he was forced to join the British navy? Military official Kit DeChambelle knows something, she's sure. But can she trust him—or anyone— as a conspiracy of silence surrounds her?

Kit knows altogether too much—about the guilt that drives Mattie, and the peril she faces. The ...

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Redeeming the Rogue

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Overview


Her Ally…or Her Enemy?

With a chip on her shoulder and a pistol in her pocket, Mattie Fraser comes to London determined to find answers. What fate befell her brother after he was forced to join the British navy? Military official Kit DeChambelle knows something, she's sure. But can she trust him—or anyone— as a conspiracy of silence surrounds her?

Kit knows altogether too much—about the guilt that drives Mattie, and the peril she faces. The battle against Napoleon is over, but for Kit, peace is elusive. In helping this brave, stubborn woman, he may be endangering her further. Especially if she learns about the orders he's received, placing them on opposite sides…

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781459209923
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 8/1/2011
  • Series: Love Inspired Historical Series
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 618,614
  • File size: 735 KB

Meet the Author


After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide an excuse to ignore the dust bunnies accumulating under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at cjchasebooks.com
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Read an Excerpt


Wiltshire, England September 1815

The Honorable Christopher James Michael DeChambelle staggered to the ancient sideboard and plunked down his empty glass. Perhaps with enough whiskey in his belly, he would at last achieve blissful oblivion—and hold the nightmares at bay for a few hours.

He'd started the evening with a single shot, just a little altitude to suppress the memories—the shrieks of terror, the tang of gunpowder, the rivers of blood.

When the first had proved insufficient to the task, Kit had added a second. And then a third and perhaps a fourth…he couldn't quite remember anymore. And yet the scene still haunted him, and guilt and remorse—his two ever–present companions these past months—remained lodged in his consciousness, their attendance overwhelming even the whiskey's power to let him forget.

He wrapped his fist around the neck of the bottle and commenced to refill his glass.

Familiar footsteps tapped against the hallway's wooden–plank floor. "What are you doing here, Harrison?"

"How did you know?" Lawrence Harrison slipped around the doorway and into the dim study. "I could tell by your walk."

"A shame your sense of location isn't as proficient as your hearing. You might get more of that whiskey into your goblet."

Kit glanced at the puddle forming on the sideboard's dusty top. "I thought my choice of location rather inspired for one who wishes to be left alone. I didn't realize you would pursue me here. Now answer my question—why did you come?"

"Not because I desire to share your comforts." Harrison gestured to the hunting lodge's peeling paint and threadbare curtains. The heads of long–dead stags stared down from the walls, their moth–eaten fur since replaced by layers of soot. "Alderston has men scouring the country to find you."

"Alderston?" Kit tilted his head back and downed what whiskey had reached the glass. He hadn't seen the director of clandestine services in several months—Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo had suspended the government's need for Kit's special…talents. Or so he had thought. "The war's over. What does Alderston want?"

"You, obviously. What are you doing here?"

"Escaping my mother's lectures."

Harrison stared at him, reading him with an uncomfortable familiarity borne of their years of friendship. "I think you hide not so much from your family as from the world, from life. From God."

Kit ignored the too–astute observation and searched the sideboard for another glass. "Drink?"

"None for me." Harrison leaned closer and nudged the bottle just beyond Kit's reach. "And I think you've had your fill for the night."

Kit hurled the goblet at the cold hearth. The glass shattered and littered the floor, the pieces sparkling like stars against a dusty sky. "I came to escape my family, and it's as if my mother followed me."

"Perhaps like her, I care enough to end your unseemly indulgence in guilt."

"Spare me. Few speeches are more tedious than the sermons of a sanctimonious friend."

"And nothing so tiresome as self–pity."

"If my behavior bothers you, leave. I didn't invite you."

Harrison threaded his arm through Kit's and led him to a nearby chair. "Aren't you the least bit curious?"

"I want no more of Alderston's dangerous secrets."

"What do you want?"

Kit plopped onto the chair. A cloud of dust poofed from the upholstery as he rubbed his fingertips against his throbbing temples. "Peace."

"The war is over."

"Peace from…my past. So many times, I thought my life was over. I couldn't wait for the war to end. And now that it has, I feel lost. Purposeless."

"You can't change what lies before." Harrison pointed to the shards littering the hearth. "And whiskey will only make you a slave to its power—it won't bring the atonement you seek."

"But it does allow me to forget."

"At what cost? Your family? Your life? Your soul? Perhaps it is not forgetting you desire, but forgiveness."

Mattie Fraser wouldn't have suspected the headquarters of the formidable British Navy to hide such a tiny, briglike office. Not when the Admiralty's exterior—so grand in design and dimension—towered haughtily above the streets. The other rooms she'd visited had offered at least token obeisance to the occupants' status, but this musty cubbyhole boasted not so much as a window to let her view drenched, dreary London.

Though her damp stockings still squished inside her shoes, the frayed hem of her skirt no longer clung to her ankles. She drummed her foot against the floor as she twirled her umbrella on its point. The large puddle beneath it had almost dried, but for one stubborn spot that refused to disappear.

Like Mattie.

For two weeks, she had bounced from room to room looking for the elusive official who could answer her questions. Through the maze of government agencies, she had inquired, cajoled and pleaded—thus far, to no avail. Each stop had produced only the suggestion of another person, another location. Still, she persevered, refusing to let bureaucratic indifference halt her search.

A search that had led her…here.

After an hour or more in the cramped quarters, she recognized every crack in the plaster, every watermark on the ceiling. A clerk hunched over his desk and scrawled furiously. Unlike the others who had been only too pleased to send her posthaste to the next department, this one was strangely reluctant to dismiss her. On more than one occasion she caught the shrewd, speculative glances he cast her way, yet he guarded Mr. DeChambelle's door as if it were the portal leading to the crown jewels.

The oil lamp slumping on the clerk's desk belched more smoke than light—smoke that stung her eyes and choked her throat like the fires that had burned Washington the previous year. At least tucked away in this nook she no longer encountered the unnervingly familiar sight of English officers as they marched through the building's hallways, so like the way they stalked through her nightmares.

She hugged her coat, unaccustomed to such cold, damp days in September. Back home, the heat would have moderated to late summer warmth. Balmy breezes would stir the air and ruffle the sails of the ships on the Potomac, with only cooler nights to suggest the approaching autumn.

Her stomach growled, reminding her she hadn't eaten since her last foray outdoors at noon. The remaining half of her meat pie tempted her from the depths of her pocket. Impatiently, she tapped the umbrella point against the floor. The tip found a drop of water and skittered across the tile. She tightened her grip—too late. The umbrella slid out of her hands and fell with a clatter that startled an expletive out of the clerk.

Face flaming, Mattie slid from the chair and reached down to retrieve her fallen umbrella. She charged to her feet—

And ricocheted off something solid. Something that grunted.

Two strong hands clinched her upper arms, one on either side, and arrested her backward flight. Something male.

Soap and leather tickled her senses, a pleasant but disturbing combination after a fortnight of London's foul air. She frowned and focused on the dark wool coat only inches from her nose. The fabric swept across broad shoulders and puckered slightly where the arms stretched to clasp her own.

"Laura?"

Laura? All that time waiting, and the miserable excuse of a clerk had her name incorrect. "I am not Laura."

Silence hung in the air like the smoke, then, "No, of course not. Are you injured?" The rich tones of the baritone voice drew her attention back to the man before her.

Her gaze wandered upward to a snowy cravat, then to his strong jaw with its shadow of afternoon stubble. Full lips thinned below an aquiline nose with a scar on the side that relieved his face of perfect symmetry—transforming it from mere prettiness to rugged masculinity.

Then she looked straight into eyes of the deepest blue, like the eastern sky at sunset. Their fringe of dark lashes contrasted with tawny hair that gleamed in the lantern's glow and fell in disarray across his brow.

"Madam, are you injured?" he repeated, concern darkening those mesmerizing eyes.

Suddenly aware of the hands wrapped around her arms, she drew back. He released her—nevertheless, his grip left an invisible imprint where the warmth of his palms had seeped through her sleeves. She gathered her composure and snapped her shoulders back. "Only stiff from my long wait."

"My apologies." He scooped a pair of spectacles from the floor—a casualty of their collision?—and settled them on his face, like a veil screening his eyes. The scar along his nose likewise disappeared from her view. "May I help you?"

"I am here to see Mr. Christopher DeChambelle."

"I am DeChambelle." He sketched her an elegant bow, then gestured to the gloomy room behind him. What with the dreary skies and approaching twilight, little light penetrated the soot–clouded panes of its single window. "Won't you come in?"

Kit waited as his visitor marched past him, then he glared at Baxter, his clerk. "Why didn't you inform me I had a caller?"

"Sir, it is Mr. Alderston's wish that he speak to you as soon as possible."

Kit gestured to the five empty chairs. "And yet, he is not here."

"We did not expect you to arrive so precipitously."

"Harrison said Alderston needed to see me about an urgent matter, so I came at once."

"The director has searched London these many days for you. This morning he left for Somerset."

Somerset. The DeChambelle estate. No doubt Alderston's questions into Kit's whereabouts would generate a new succession of worries for his parents.

"I sent a messenger after the director, informing him of your return. If the messenger intercepted Mr. Alderston before he'd traveled far, the director will be here forthwith."

"And if your messenger hasn't yet reached Alderston? Did you expect the lady to wait all night? "

Baxter's gaze slid toward Kit's office. "Sir, you should delay this meeting with the woman until you have met with the director. Mr. Alderston may return while—"

"Then let him take his turn waiting." Kit snapped the door shut on Baxter's protests and strode the three steps across the office where, so far as his family knew, he'd spent the better part of the war procuring supplies for Britain's mighty navy. "May I take your coat?"

His visitor ripped her gaze from its perusal of his desk and folded her arms over her chest. "No. Thank you."

"Well, then, please be seated." He grabbed a chair opposite his desk and held it for her.

Definitely not Laura, despite her sun–and–spice–scented hair of the same cinnamon red. This woman was too short, with a nose too pert and lips too generous—and a disconcerting way of staring into a man's thoughts. He swallowed, aware that any who looked too closely found…nothing. Only the empty hole left from guilt eating away his soul. She gracefully settled to the seat, the back of her unfashionable coat brushing his hand and drawing him back to the present.

He slid around the desk and dropped onto the chair. "Now then, Miss."

"Fraser." Her voice held a hint of a drawl. "Martha Fraser."

"Welcome to England, Miss Fraser. You are from…Virginia?"

"Washington."

"Not so far from Virginia then." Or perhaps not far enough, given the recent hostilities between their countries. "Were you in Washington last summer?"

"Yes." She raised her chin and probed him with a challenging brown stare.

"That must have been a frightful experience. I am sorry about the destruction of your city. Was your home spared?"

"General Ross designated an officer to guard my house from any too eager members of your army."

"Ross was a good man. I was sorry to hear of his death. Now how may I be of help to you, Miss Fraser from Washington?"

"I'm inquiring into the fate of my brother." The knuckles of her fingers whitened as she twisted her hands into intricate knots that suggested some other, less assured side to Miss Fraser. "The officer I met last year—a Major Andrew Harley–Smith—offered to see what he could learn from a friend who worked at the Admiralty. However, it has been a year and I haven't heard from him."

Kit pushed up his drooping spectacles, their frame now loose and possibly bent from the impact with Miss Fraser. "I am probably the man you seek. Drew and I attended Oxford together, though it had been an age since I last saw him."

Hope lightened her gaze to a charming shade of amber and eased the determination in her mouth. "So then you know."

"No, I fear not. Major Harley–Smith was killed in September of last year—in the fighting near your city of Baltimore."

Her back snapped straight until it no longer rested against the chair. Her eyes smoldered to umber again, the golden flecks glowing like sparks in their depths. "I'm surprised and dismayed that in two weeks of tramping from one office to another, no one has informed me of this until now."

Carriage wheels bounced against the cobbled streets outside, echoing through the room. Kit glanced out the window at the darkening sky that reflected his mood, so black since… "Miss Fraser," he said at last, "our country has been at war a long time. The names of our dead are many."

"But you knew Major Harley–Smith."

He turned away from the gloomy view of London and met the challenge in her eyes again. Freckles sprinkled her nose, adding to the sense of girlish innocence. "Drew began a letter to me—one he unfortunately never finished, leaving me with no means of contacting you—before his last campaign. It was among his personal effects when they were returned to his brother and didn't reach me until months later. By then, our war with America had ended." And Napoleon had escaped, and Kit was reassigned to France for one final mission.

"But my brother?"

"I fear I have more bad news, Miss Fraser. All the American prisoners were sent home some months ago. If your brother was not among them, you must assume the worst."

"But my brother wasn't a prisoner. At least, not that I am aware of. He was a sailor on a merchant ship when a British frigate stopped them and took several of the men, including my brother, for service in your navy."

"Ah. I fear Drew did not include that information in his note. When was your brother pressed?"

"A little over three years ago."

"Our officers were only supposed to enlist sailors originally from our country. Was your brother born in the United States?"

"Yes. Major Harley–Smith thought there would be no problem getting him released because his citizenship is undisputed."

Kit snatched a sheet of paper from the corner of his desk. "What is your address here in London?"

"I'm staying at the Captain's Quarters."

"The Captain's Quarters?" He jerked his gaze from the paper and met her eyes. A face like that, in a place like that, could only effect trouble.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Intrigue & Romance Across the Ocean

    Redeeming the Rogue by C.J. Chase ISBN-978-0-373-82882-1

    This book takes place a year after the war of 1812. It is full of interesting characters like Nicky the young street urchin and Lady Caroline, crabby and staid butters and housekeepers. C.J. Chase has plenty of twists and turns to keep you wondering what lies around the next corner. Murder and mistrust, even among brothers who were once close.

    Mattie Fraser failed. She promised to take care of her brother when her mother died. She was eight and George was six. Their father turned to drinking and George turned to thieving. Three years ago George had been impressed onto a British ship and now that the war was over Mattie went to England to find out what happened to George. And with a pistol in her pocket she plans on bringing justice if her brother is dead.

    Kit De Chambelle was trying to hush his demons with drink. It was not working. He had worked ten years in espionage and now with the war over he had to live with all the bloody images of his past. When a young woman comes seeking help to find closure about her brother it opens up secrets, deadly ones. And then he is told to use her to find answers, just like a year ago and that had ended badly.

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  • Posted August 7, 2011

    A Balancing Act of Epic Proportions

    In Redeeming the Rogue, C.J. Chase perfects a balancing act of epic portions, keeping all the plates spinning throughout a story that will leave you breathless. This novel is an inspirational historical romantic suspense, so here's a quick peek at each element.

    Inspirational - The story provides a wonderful faith journey for both hero and heroine who similarly struggle with forgiveness, the heroine with forgiving others and the hero with forgiving himself. The hero faces an added struggle with alcohol as he attempts to drown the memories of his failures. How can the heroine ever trust him when her own childhood was destroyed by an alcoholic father?

    Historical - The novel plays out against a wonderful background of the British Navy shortly after the war of 1812. It offers a sweeping view through the grand Regency parlor life that romance fans love, to middle class existence, and the harsh realities of poverty in London. An adorable Oliver Twist sort of character tops off the story just right.

    Romantic - Of course the story supplies a heaping helping of romance in a wonderful rich boy/poor girl sort of motif with plenty of tension and seemingly insurmountable conflicts.

    Suspense - Murder, political intrigue, and spies provide the glue that holds the whole story together. The heroine's American brother has disappeared while impressed aboard a British naval ship. She is determined to get to the bottom of the situation and seek revenge if needed. Meanwhile, the hero hides from the consequences of his own life of espionage.

    Needless to say, there is never a dull moment in Redeeming the Rogue. And yet the story never feels rushed or confusing. Bravo C.J.! You've done a fabulous job. I look forward to many more books by you in the future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2011

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