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In the gloom of the armory the blades flashed like lightning: again and again the Master moved to strike and parry, and found his every move blocked.
The metallic striking and screeching of the blades against each other, the hoarse gasps and sharply indrawn breaths as the two adversaries sparred were the only sounds in the huge empty space.
Astounded, Noelle, watched as a swordsman in a mesh-metal face-guard fought D’Artagnan; the great D’Artagnan III to a standstill. With a laugh and a lunge, the mysterious man struck the Master’s foil from his hand.
“Darling!” D’Artagnan affected tones belied the steel glint in his eyes and the tell-tale warrior’s spring in his step, “You RUINED my favorite lace cuffs!”
The swordsman laughed and tossed his mask aside gracefully. “You let me win, you bloody pansy.” Noelle gasped! It was Jean d’Orleans. The King’s brother!
At the sound both men turned and looked at her. Noelle stepped forward and curtseyed gravely.
“Why! It is the beauteous Noelle!” D’Artagnan smiled with genuine affection.
“My dear Noelle, alone?” Jean d’Orleans peeked around her hopefully, “Where is that pretty little nun?”
“Not well, Sire! Someone struck her unconscious in Francois the Jester’s rooms, which,” she turned to D’Artagnan, “is why I’m here! I need help, it is getting too dangerous, and now my little ward, Desireé, is involved.”
“Tres bien,” D’Artagnan twirled his thin elegant moustache and smirked, “From my friend Jean’s preoccupation, I surmise your ward is not so “little”…”
“…which is why I am asking for your help.”
“Cher! I’m so sorry! I leave today for Calais! But perhaps..?” He turned to Jean, “My friend here can help you?”
Jean grinned. Ha! The ripe peach would fall from the tree straight into his hand.
“It would be a pleasure to help such lovely Ladies.”
Horrified Noelle realized she could not refuse the King’s brother’s help.
She’d just offered up her lamb to the big bad wolf...
Will be Desireé's convent-bred purity be proof against the vaunted skill of France's best "swordsman"?
Will she insist on maintaining her eccentric virginal state in the most debauched Court in the entire world?
Or will she in fact convert the sensuous Rake into a serious man for her love's sake?
The plot thickens!