Captain Nathaniel Storm fell in love with Miss Isabella Valentine during the time of war. She followed the drum, he knew his duty. If not for the fear of making her a widow, Nate would have claimed her as his long ago. Isabella knew Nate could never been hers, but that didn’t stop her from dreaming of what could have been if her life was as she claimed. She thought never to see him again after he was reassigned to a different regiment, which was for the best. Until he returned... His kisses spark lightening. Her smile is as bright as the sun. His eyes as green as new grass. Hers as grey as a stormy sea. His presence and touch, are tumultuous to her soul, tossing and turning her about, wondering when it would end. Will she weather her love for Captain Storm, or will it destroy her in the end? On the eve of Waterloo, she is nearly within his grasp, but will Isabella’s secrets make her as elusive as a rainbow after a summer rain.
Brussels, May 1815
“Lieutenant Storm, get back in that bed right now.”
Nate jerked his head toward the voice, convinced he was only hearing what he wanted, but there she was, Isabella Valentine, striding down the aisle of cots, those lovely red lips fixed in a frown.
He’d happily get back in his bed if she’d join him.
Those were his thoughts today, just as they had been the first time she’d said those very same words to him. The first time they’d ever spoken. Nate had stayed away from Isabella. Not that he hadn’t noticed her moving among the injured and sick, but he’d assumed she was married to Dr. Orlando Valentine and had followed the drum. A married woman was always off limits, no matter how beautiful or desirable, and he’d envied the good doctor. It was only after he took a bayonet to the side that left him laid up, waiting for the blasted thing to heal, that he learned that Isabella was the good doctor’s sister, and an unmarried miss.
She’d chastised him them for moving too much and ripping a few of his stitches, and it was Isabella who repaired them because the doctors and surgeons were busy with the more seriously wounded men.
Nate could still remember her soft fingers pressed against his side as she cleaned his wound then tried to gently stitch the ones that’d been torn. Nate had felt none of the pain as the needle pricked his inflamed and irritated skin. How could he when her kind grey eyes were so full of compassion and she smelled like heaven, as if she’d bathed in moonlight?
Perhaps it was because Isabella was one of the few women who were respectable. Or, maybe it was because she was the only miss who wasn’t a camp follower, or maybe it was because she was simply Isabella, but Nate began to fall in love with her that very day.
However, as much as he’d tried to occupy all of her time then, she gave him no more attention than she did the others, much to his irritation.
Once he was free from the sickbed, he’d visited and talked with her in the evenings, but many soldiers also wished for her companionship, and he was constantly fighting to be noticed. It was no different from being one of many bachelors at a ball, vying for a dance with the prettiest and sweetest debutante.
After the Battle of Toulouse, Nate had even less time to spend with her because he began to divide his free time between Isabella Valentine and Mary Soares.
Dear Mary Soares, who had been injured and then rejected by her husband. Of course, her husband had already been unfaithful more times than Nate could count, but at least Soares tried to be discreet about it in the beginning. It became much worse after his wife was struck down, leaving a scar on the side of her cheek and neck.
Nate had carried Mary from the battlefield, sat by her when she was ignored by her husband, and then took her walking in the evenings so she wasn’t near her tent when the major brought a light skirt back for personal entertainment. Isabella occasionally joined them on these walks, but not nearly as often as Nate would’ve liked. He was always torn between trying to protect Mary from the shame her husband brought, and wanting to be with Isabella, hoping she’d see him more favorably than the others under Major Soares’ command.
Nate hadn’t laid eyes on Isabella for nearly a year, and he had missed her; but he hadn’t realized how very much until she leaned over a patient and checked the man for a fever. It shouldn’t be a surprise, many of his nights were filled with dreams of Isabella in his arms and in his bed, her soft voice in his ear, the tenderness of her touch against his skin.
He should have courted her back then and expressed his feelings, but he held himself back. War was not the place to begin a courtship, and he was never certain where her emotions lay in regard to him. She was kind and caring to every soldier, never once indicating she saw him any differently than the dozens of others who conversed with her daily.
Frankly, he was afraid he’d profess the truth of his heart, and she’d tell him that she thought of him only as a dear friend. As it was nearly impossible to avoid one another, Nate had kept his feelings to himself so as not to cause an uncomfortable and awkward situation between the two of them.
However, they were both here now, and he was going to make the best of it. This war would end, eventually, and he’d return home. If he learned nothing in the year away from Isabella, he did know that he wanted her with him, and this time he wouldn’t hold back. He would claim her as he should have before.
The only drawback to being in Brussels and this close to Isabella meant that he’d be near Major Soares, the ass. If Nate hadn’t punched the man, he wouldn’t have been transferred to a different regiment, and then he wouldn’t have been separated from Isabella in the first place.
Isabella stopped beside his bed and placed the back of her hand against his forehead. “You are feverish.”
He hadn’t been until he heard her voice, though he wouldn’t explain the sudden rise in his body temperature.
“I feel well.”
“You’re a soldier with a fever. Not to be taken lightly.” She glanced around the small medical tent. There wasn’t an empty cot and each patient suffered from either dysentery, typhoid, typhus or pneumonia. Luckily it was only a small percentage of the men who had arrived in Brussels after following Wellington. “It’s better to keep the ill from the others. We’ve both seen the devastation disease can cause to an army.”
An unchecked illness could bring an entire regiment to their knees, unable to fight and dead soon after. Begrudgingly, Nate had to admit Isabella was correct. “But, I’m not ill,” he pointed out. “My head ached a few days ago and I did have a fever. If I remain here, I will become ill.”
“You will remain as long as you are flushed and warm.” Isabella pushed on his shoulder. “Now lie back and rest.”
“Perhaps illness isn’t the cause of my condition.” Nate grinned and winked at her, and the soldier beside him chuckled.
“I’m not letting you leave this bed until I’m convinced you’re better, and then I will inform the doctor.”
“Isabella,” Nate began to plead.
“Nathaniel!” She lifted an auburn eyebrow and her grey eyes bore into his. Her tone was no different than he’d heard too often from his nursery maid, housekeeper, and even his sister’s governess.
“Do you know our lovely nurse, Captain?” the man beside him asked in surprise.
“Captain?” Isabella questioned with a smile. “Congratulations on your promotion.”
“All the more reason why I should not be wasting time in this sickbed when I’m not sick at all.”
“You will rest, and you will get well. You can’t lead your men if you’re dead.”
With that, she turned and marched away, having delivered her orders, and all Nate could do was watch the gentle sway of her backside beneath her dark skirts.
He would get well and quick. Then, he would pursue her as he should have done a year ago. For now, he had time. During the day, he and his men would continue to train and prepare for the eventual confrontation with Napoleon. At night, she would be his.
Isabella exited the hospital tent and went directly to her brother’s tent. She was not allotted one for herself, but Orlando made room for her in his, both giving each other privacy when needed.
It was all she could do not to run from the hospital, and she ignored everyone who called out to her, not stopping until she sank down onto her cot.
Nate Storm had returned!
She never thought she’d see him again. He was the man she dreamed about. The only man she’d ever loved. They were friends, and she cherished the memories of the short time they were in the same regiment, before he was transferred. Of course, she knew he’d never be hers. While she might love him, Nate loved Mary, a woman he could never have because she was married to Major Soares. Not that Nate had ever behaved inappropriately toward Mary, but a man does not spend so much time with a woman without caring deeply for her.
It used to pain Isabella to see them together. Their heads close in conversation. And even though Nate always asked Isabella to join him and Mary when they walked in the evening, she declined when it was too painful to have to witness the closeness they shared. Other times, she went along because it was her chance to have a bit of Nate, even if only for a short time.
Now, he was here. Her heart sang for joy, her stomach twisted in knots, her hand shook when she pressed it against his brow, and her blood heated when he winked at her. Thankfully he didn’t seem to notice. As much as she wanted to remain by his side, Isabella knew she could not. If she lingered but a moment longer, she might not have ever left, and that would never do.
Besides, Mary was in camp. As soon as Nate realized his love was near, his attention would be for her friend, and Isabella wasn’t sure she could stand to watch the man she loved, pine after another. Both of them wanting what neither could have.