The Pelican Bride (Gulf Coast Chronicles Book #1): A Novel: Volume 1

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Together Sydney and Tim will discover the importance of family and what it means to be a man—and a woman—of God. A rusty chuckle erupted against her knees. When you truly understand that you were born to win, you can change the world! You can cancel anytime. I usually try to put them as Loanable on my shelf but sometimes I forget or mark them wrong.

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A faint smile curved her lips and found her eyes, turning her from a pinched-face harridan into a starkly lovely young woman. Her hair was drying in dark waves that gleamed in the strong sun with umber and bronze lights, and there was a charming sprinkle of freckles across her straight nose. She grabbed the blowing tresses with a self-conscious yank and twisted them into an impromptu knot at the back of her head. She dipped a curtsey whose grace was marred only in the slightest by an unsteady step backward into the sea grass.

Tristan grabbed her wrist before she could go rolling down the hill. She peeked up at him as if gauging his sincerity, but allowed him to help her up and over the dunes. She was quiet as they trudged the remaining distance between the beach and the warehouse at the top of the rise. He could not fathom what had brought such a pretty, engaging young woman to the wilds of Louisiane to find a husband.

Were the men in Rochefort blind, deaf, and dumb? This largest of the structures erected during the French occupation of Massacre Island stood between two open-air sheds and contained, at any given time, varying quantities of consumable products such as flour, sugar, barley, molasses, wine, lard, and meat. Also stuffed under its twelve-foot-high roof one could find piles of wooden shingles, miscellaneous cooking pots, axes, guns, and butcher knives; available as gifts for the Indians were red stockings—the preferred color—as well as handbells and glass beads.

Her oval face was thin from illness, but the ivory skin gleamed with the purity of a cameo.

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The two women embraced for a scant second before the beauty squealed. Ooh, Ginette! She pursed her sweet lips and flicked a glance at the male audience observing the exchange with slack-jawed interest. And at the moment he had more pressing concerns to discuss with his brother. Come, you promised to help me transport supplies to my boat. Marc-Antoine blinked. He bowed to the two young women, a jerky, little-used courtesy. Tristan grabbed his reluctant brother by the sleeve and towed him toward the open doorway of the warehouse. Marc-Antoine looked over his shoulder.

But what if some other fellow takes up with her before I go off-duty again? Yours was the first face she saw, is that not correct? Tristan chuckled. Then let us hope she will return to your proximity at a more convenient time. I have news from the upper river. Stepping outside the warehouse, Marc-Antoine switched to the tongue of the people among whom he had spent a year as a teenager. The Alabama? Has something happened to them? Tristan lowered his voice. The British have sent agents to the Koroa—maybe the Kaskaskians as well. But neither will King Louis and Pontchartrain.

You know your own safety depends on the fortunes of Louisiane. Besides, how can you abandon us to this British thievery? In the meantime, how do you plan to get twenty-five women and all their fripperies transported to the fort in two little barques and a fishing boat? We had to send the pinnace to Veracruz for gunpowder. He waved a hand in irritation.

Tristan nodded, grateful that he no longer had to deal with colonial politics. He sent you down here because you can be trusted to do your job. So quit whining and do it. And who knows, little brother—you may end up with a wife! It could happen. Marc-Antoine gave him a sideways look. Yes, and for good reason. Tristan laughed. Tristan stopped him with a cuff on the arm.

The Pelican Bride A Novel Gulf Coast Chronicles Volume 1

Leave be, he said lightly. I come and go as I please, and have to answer to no one but myself. As he reminded himself ten times a day.

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Marc-Antoine shook his head. The least you can do is lend your barque to help us transport the young ladies up to the settlement. Marc-Antoine laughed. You know what I mean. Tristan looked away, picturing the Gaillain sisters, one damp and flushed with righteous indignation, the other pale and delicate as a butterfly. Neither should be left to the doubtful care of a handful of bored and randy young soldiers.

Conscience defeating pragmatism, he chanced a look at Marc-Antoine and found him grinning. Reluctantly Tristan laughed. All right. Her skirts crackled with dried salt, the nape of her neck itched as if ants had crawled under her collar, and her underarms were chafed raw. In short, she desperately craved a bath. On the way to dinner, however, Father Mathieu had informed his dazed charges that there would be no time or opportunity for niceties until they reached Fort Louis.

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And maybe not then. Probably never walk through fresh snow or pick poppies or eat wild chestnut honey. Resolutely she opened her eyes and focused on the sunburnt face of the young soldier seated opposite her at the table. He gave her a shy grin and went back to gobbling his stew. Neither, she reminded herself as she lifted her own spoon, would she face the horror of watching her home burn to the ground in the aftermath of civil war.

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All she had to do was keep her personal beliefs private. She leaned close to whisper, They have tried to make us welcome, so we must eat what we can. Besides, you need food for strength. A young officer notable for a mop of ginger-colored curls, apparently feeling her gaze, nodded without embarrassment and returned to conversation with the man next to him.

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I assure you, mademoiselle, we can understand every word you say. We Canadians are Frenchmen, not barbarians. Oh dear. With a flood of relief she recognized Tristan Lanier, the man who had carried her ashore this afternoon. Her face flushed with hectic color. But Lanier smiled and executed a rusty bow. You must forgive our collective admiration. I am Tristan Lanier. I accept your apology, monsieur. We met earlier today. A twinkle lingered in his eyes as he released her fingers and straightened, but the continued silence in the long, narrow room brought his gaze to the ginger-haired officer.

Dufresne, are you going to allow these men to sit here all night gawking at our guests? Surely Bienville has made provision for their lodging. Of course he has, though it is no concern of yours, Lanier. He rose and snapped his fingers. Come, men. We are to clear out of the barracks and turn it over to the ladies. Bowing to her, he quitted the room, followed by a straggling rank of reluctant soldiers.

Lanier folded himself onto the bench, his amusement dissolving into lines of weariness. Mademoiselle Gaillain, if you are going to ignore this fine meal, please pass it across the table so that I may deal with it. His worn, reddish shirt had dried against the contours of his shoulders, his dark hair falling in thick waves against its open collar.

Transferring her gaze to his face, she found him watching her. She probably appeared to be sizing up his potential as a mate, despite his claim of disinterest. Hurriedly she glanced away, but not before his lips curved. You two have made quite an impression on the men from Fort Louis—including my little brother. Lanier turned to confiscate a tankard left on the table behind him. He could not stop talking about the blue-eyed angel he carried into the warehouse this afternoon. Will you and your brother travel with us to the settlement? She tried again.

Dark hair curled to his shoulders and blew back from a broad, intelligent brow. It had been a long time since Tristan had held a woman in his arms. This one was thin, bedraggled, and exceedingly wet. But she held her arms clasped across a nicely shaped bosom and stared up at him with black-fringed eyes the color of the ocean sloshing around his legs. Stiff as a wet cat, she fairly hissed. And then he saw the tears. Pity curbed his initial impulse to dump her onto her curvy derriere in the sand.

He released her legs but kept a steady arm across her back. You'll be fine. But she had already pushed away, staggering onto dry sand, where she stood peering up and down the beach. She had to squint against the sun, which had abruptly come out from behind the clouds. Each of the men who had flocked to the aid of the women in the longboat had collected a prize and headed for shade.

The longboat was already on its way back to the ship for another load. Tristan and this woman were alone on the beach. She nodded and picked up her soggy skirts to follow him. As they rounded one of the large dunes lumped along the beach, he glanced at her. She looked like a woman who had just awakened from sleep to find herself face-to-face with her nightmare. The fine sea-green eyes darted right and left at the seagulls wheeling in search of food, and she visibly struggled to maintain her balance. Her small leather boots, cracked and thin, must be little protection against the hot sand.

Halfway up the beach, a tall stand of sea grass blocked the way. Tristan went ahead to hold it back so that she could pass without getting slapped in the face. On the other side of it, she stopped, putting a hand briefly on his forearm. I have been unkind in the face of your assistance. A faint smile curved her lips and found her eyes, turning her from a pinched-face harridan into a starkly lovely young woman. Her hair was drying in dark waves that gleamed in the strong sun with umber and bronze lights, and there was a charming sprinkle of freckles across her straight nose.

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She couldn't be more than seventeen or eighteen years old. She grabbed the blowing tresses with a self-conscious yank and twisted them into an impromptu knot at the back of her head.

Tristan grabbed her wrist before she could go rolling down the hill. She peeked up at him as if gauging his sincerity, but allowed him to help her up and over the dunes. She was quiet as they trudged the remaining distance between the beach and the warehouse at the top of the rise. He could not fathom what had brought such a pretty, engaging young woman to the wilds of Louisiane to find a husband. Were the men in Rochefort blind, deaf, and dumb? This largest of the structures erected during the French occupation of Massacre Island stood between two open-air sheds and contained, at any given time, varying quantities of consumable products such as flour, sugar, barley, molasses, wine, lard, and meat.

Also stuffed under its twelve-foot-high roof one could find piles of wooden shingles, miscellaneous cooking pots, axes, guns, and butcher knives; available as gifts for the Indians were red stockings—the preferred color—as well as handbells and glass beads. Holding court on a rough three-legged stool just inside the door, hands clasped demurely in her lap, was the most beautiful young woman he'd ever seen. She blinked up at Tristan's brother Marc-Antoine with eyes the color of gentian violets, her flaxen curls spilling onto her dainty shoulders from under a white ruffled cap.

Her oval face was thin from illness, but the ivory skin gleamed with the purity of a cameo. The two women embraced for a scant second before the beauty squealed.