Title: Fortune’s Folly
Author: Cat Dubie
Genre: Historical Fiction
When Eden Fitzgerald’s father and brother are arrested and sent to prison, she promptly gets married! Not for love or money, but to persuade her influential in-laws to help free the men.
While she cleverly evades Crown agents who believe she, like her father, is a smuggler and Fenian collaborator, she does what she can to achieve her goal. But when all legal methods are exhausted, she dons a mask, carries a pistol and, using her wiles, wits, even her seductive beauty, robs wealthy citizens to pay for her father’s escape.
Her life grows ever more complicated by the lustful attentions of several men who profess to love her, and the one man she loves but dares not trust. Meanwhile, her crimes worsen, culminating in murder and what may be treason. As Montréal police, British agents, and men she betrayed grow more dangerous and determined to apprehend her, she must stay one step ahead of her pursuers or risk losing all.
Jack Carver’s bearded face appeared when he brought the flame to the stub of his cigar. Eden clenched her teeth. Was this her moment of truth? His gaze shifted and he stiffened, tossed the match, stomped it out. “Anyone following you?”
Click Muffled footfalls now sounded an irregular pace:three steps, pause, three steps, pause. She whispered, “Yes.”
“Meet me tomorrow at this address.” He gave her a scrap of paper. She crumpled it into her reticule, and when she looked up, he was gone.
Moment of truth averted. She released her breath and moved to the right as Flynn had instructed. With skirts bunched over one arm, she advanced until faint lights materialized at the end of the lane. She stepped into a puddle. Hopefully rain.
The footsteps began again, the stealthy gait of a hunter. Had she dodged one bad fate for another? She darted across the lane and flattened herself against the wall of a building, slid along its rough length and edged into a recessed doorway.
A hand covered her mouth, an arm pulled her backward through a door that had opened without sound and closed the same way. A key turned in the lock. Unable to see anything, her heart thundering, she dug her nails into her assailant’s hand and bit at his fingers.
“Behave yourself,” Alex Banning breathed in her ear. “Don’t make a sound or Cavendish will hear you.”
Her instant relief she wasn’t about to be attacked by a ghoulish murderer was tempered with dread. Alex was the last person she had expected—or wanted—to see. He released her and she took a shivery breath. Someone thumped on the door, shook the handle. Low mutters, then footsteps faded.
Alex moved to the door and listened. “He’s gone. Let’s go.”
He unlocked the door. Eden held back. “Wait. Why are you here? Why is he here?”
“No time to chat. Keep behind me, close to the shadows. Your gown is a damn beacon.”
She crossed her arms. “I’ll not go anywhere with you.”
“You have no choice. You’re my prisoner.”
He opened the door, seized her wrist and charged toward the lighted street. She lifted her skirts again to keep from dragging them through filth. Without pause he hustled across the thoroughfare into another stinking alley. She was hot and out of breath when he stopped by a rickety wagon hitched to an ancient nag.
Their dash across the street revealed a man who looked nothing like the fastidious Captain she remembered. Unkempt hair, ragged beard, shapeless and threadbare clothes—a disguise? He tugged a cap over his head and lifted the wagon seat. “Get in there.”
Astonished and unnerved, she stared at the narrow box. “No. No, I won’t.”
Without a word, he hoisted her into the space. She banged elbows and shoulders, and scrambled to sweep up her voluminous skirts. He tucked in loose flounces and lowered the seat, leaving her in darkness. A tight confined darkness.
The wagon creaked and groaned when Alex settled on the seat. He rapped it with his fist. “Everything all right in there?”
“Of course not.” The words fell back at her from the wood, perhaps four inches from her face. Little cracks admitted glimmers of light, and the feeling of being in a coffin faded. But where was he taking her? Was she truly his prisoner? If so, what did he want?
Would she be locked away, imprisoned like Da? What would happen to her boys? Her innocent babies…
No. No panic. They were Fontaines and would be taken care of. And she meant to get free, no matter how many new lies she had to tell Alex.
The wagon jerked forward. “Keep still. This won’t be long.”
Keep still? Oh, he was funny. He whistled a series of discordant notes, and the wagon lurched along. She felt each stone the wheels bounced over. Now he sang a bawdy French song, his voice slurring as if he were drunk. She would have covered her ears if her hands weren’t jammed by her sides.
He halted mid-lyric to mutter, "Road’s blocked ahead. Appears Cavendish threw up a net." The wagon came to an abrupt stop. Eden banged her head.
"Step down." Lieutenant Cavendish’s officious voice.
"As you wish." The wagon rocked.
"Good God, man, you're drunk!"
"Drunk—oui!" Alex began to sing.
"Silence, man." The singing stopped. "Stand still."
"You wish to drink?"
"Ugh. Get that cheap swill out of my face. Listen. Where are you going?"
"Eh?" Alex stumbled against the side of the wagon. Eden wormed her hand to her mouth and bit into her thumb to keep from laughing. "I go to heaven, M’sieur. To the loving arms of my beautiful Marie. She waits for her Monté, waits to smother him with her love. And smother him she will if he is late. You are sure you want no drink? It is good. Makes you sing."
"You Canadians! A song and a drink is all you ever want or need. Good God, you reek. Move on now. Get out of here."
After they moved forth again, Eden relaxed. She had no desire to see Lieutenant Cavendish and was mystified by his presence. And why was Alex carrying on such an elaborate charade? He and the Lieutenant were on the same side, weren't they?
He knocked on the wagon seat. "You still there?"
"I have nothing to say to you."
“Fine." He resumed whistling. She stewed in silence.
She expected to see daylight when at last they stopped. But stars shone bright and the moon still rode high. She struggled out of the box and, ignoring his extended hand, jumped down. And nearly fell to her knees as painful feeling returned to her legs. He still held out his hand. She pushed it away and brushed loose strands of hair off her face and neck. Stalling, she smoothed the crushed silver netting of her skirt and adjusted her stole.
They stood in a paved yard before a substantial house. Amber lamps hung on each side of a carved wooden door. Flowery fragrance hung in the still air. "Where are we?"
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Cat was born in Austria, immigrated to Canada when she was four, grew up on the prairies, and now lives with her family in the scenic province of British Columbia.
She has written creatively since she could hold a pencil. Poems, short stories, novels, reviews, essays, even the odd letter to the editor. Her day job as a technical writer for various levels of government was the labor she did for a living so that in her free time she could indulge in her labor of love, writing romantic fiction.
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