Title: Fortune’s Folly
Author: Cat Dubie
Genre: Historical Fiction with Romantic Elements
[mid-1860s] Eden Fitzgerald is no swooning maiden waiting for the man of her dreams to come along. Alex Banning, a decorated naval officer, has vital duties to perform. Although he and Eden shared a strange adventure when young, he cannot get involved with her now. But irresistible forces draw them together again and again, their attraction culminating in a blazing night of passion.
For one shining moment Eden is in love! But her infatuation swiftly becomes contempt when she discovers Alex is part of the British organization that considers the men of her family criminals and traitors. When her father and brother are arrested and imprisoned, she vows to do whatever is necessary to have them set free. Pregnant with Alex's child but determined to keep him from finding out, she enters into a marriage of convenience with the scion of a wealthy Canadian family.
When all legal methods of setting her father free fail, Eden learns she can arrange an escape for him. Needing money, she turns to highway robbery and becomes the legendary Giselle, a beautiful thief who preys on the wealthy. Soon the hunt is on for the alluring criminal--agents of the Crown, Montreal police, a dangerous smuggler she cheated, a brother-in-law she betrayed--who will capture her?
The larger room basked in a golden glow cast by a hearth fire, lanterns, and candles. The men had settled Da near the fire. She dropped to her knees beside him and rubbed her eyes.
"Dear God," she whispered. "What have they done to you?" He had aged more than twenty years. His hair was dirty gray, his cheeks sagging and lined, his eyes sunk into black-rimmed hollows. He took a strained breath and blinked in confusion as if he couldn’t find her. She passed a hand in front of his eyes. No reaction.
"Eden." The hoarse voice cracked. "I know I've you to thank—and I—"
She swallowed. "Don't speak. You must conserve your strength so you can get well.” Damnation. No tears. Not now.
A gentle hand touched her shoulder. Above her stood a smiling woman with a plump face and soft, sad eyes. "He's sleeping, dear. You can talk later. Join the others at the table. We have hot coffee and a nice meal for you all."
Aware of pleasing aromas and the murmur of voices, Eden rose and followed the woman to a trestle table. The others sat on benches, delving into the repast. Soon a bowl of thick stew and a mug of coffee appeared before her.
"Le Pere soon gets better." Charbonneau showed Eden a gap-toothed smile.
She curved her hands around the steaming mug and nodded, not trusting herself to speak. Charbonneau asked for a second helping, Dupré held a quiet conversation with Percé, and the third man chewed a slab of bread. The fourth man raised his black head.
Astonished, Eden blurted, "I know you. You are—"
"Your Guardian Angel, my girl." His teeth flashed above beard stubble.
"Ho!" jibed the third man, reaching for more bread. "You ain't anyone's guardian angel, let alone this pretty girl's." He was Irish too, with hair and beard as bright as a boiled carrot and an impudent cast to his angular face. "Fitzhenry is my name. Me and Jimmy Eire, who fancies himself an angel, are the rogues who fetched your Da from his lonely cell. And we're the ones gonna be carrying him to safety."
She formed a smile. "And where is safety?"
Jimmy leaned forward. "We won't be bothering you with little details. Be assured Will Fitzgerald is gonna be as safe as a babe in his mam's loving arms."
"A safe place is what he needs to regain strength and health. And when he is cleared—"
Fitzhenry chuckled, Charbonneau tittered, and Percé smiled as if he had witnessed a small child's naiveté. Dupré cast an anxious gaze at Eden, but Jimmy gaped at her as if she’d lost all reason. Confused, she looked from one man to the other.
"Did you say cleared?" Jimmy set down his spoon with a clunk.
“That is what I said." She lifted the mug, breathing in warmth before putting it to her lips.
"'Tis a lost cause, girl. What could you do to have him pardoned?"
Why was he so hostile about this? "I have ideas."
Jimmy nudged Fitzhenry and rolled his eyes. "Giselle, ideas never won a war."
Coffee sloshed as she plunked the cup down. "What are you talking about?" She glared at him. "Da was sent to prison by mistake. I mean to have it rectified."
" 'Tis a war, to be won by fighting men, the warriors of Erin, us."
She strove to remain calm, to push down a surging wave of fear. "What do you so-called warriors mean to involve my Da in?" No one replied. "He must return to his home and family, not partake in a stupid war. 'Tis my intention to have him exonerated."
"You cannot do it." Fitzhenry scraped his bowl clean. "Only Her Royal Majesty has such power. No one else, specially a little girl like you."
"Do not be so quick to say this." Dupré spoke up. "Giselle has ideas. If one of them works nothing is lost. And no one is more clever than she is.”
Jimmy raised his hands. "Very well. Tell us your ideas."
She sniffed. "I'll not be bothering anyone with little details. And Da's name is now O'Rourke. As for you, Jimmy Eire, I disapprove of your talk of war."
With a contrite grin, he said, "Don't go upsetting your pretty head. 'Tis a man's business, after all. We don't plan for girls to take up arms. I don't want no harm coming to you."
"I don't need a guardian angel. And I don’t appreciate a stranger taking such an interest in my family or me."
"I ain't such a stranger." He wiped his mouth with his knuckles. "We won’t be going into it now." He took her hand, clasped it tight. "Someone will always watch over you. You are important to me, to Ireland, to the war."
She withdrew her hand and rubbed her brow. "All I want is for Da to be safe. If you can provide that, 'tis enough. Anything else can wait."
"We must start back," said Dupré. "Bid your father adieu."
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