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- Enemies to Lovers
- Secret Identity
Cecilia Cosgrove’s beauty opens doors and hearts everywhere she goes. With a marquess courting her, the status and wealth her family is counting on her to obtain is finally within her reach—until she meets Jacques Levesque, the French nobleman who immediately pegs her as affected and superficial. While piqued and offended, Cecilia secretly begins to wonder whether he might not have a point.
Poor French émigré Jacques Levesque has been disguised as a French nobleman for almost as long as he can remember, trying his hardest to keep his head down in a society obsessed with rank and high birth. But when Cecilia Cosgrove comes into his life, he finds it hard to maintain his façade—or to want to.
While Cecilia struggles between the desire to please others and the wish to pursue her own course, Jacques's interest in her provokes a powerful enemy intent on taking him down. With love, acceptance, and the future on the line for them both, Cecilia and Jacques must decide whether a life lived behind a mask is any life at all.
Intro Into Chapter 1
Intro Into Chapter 1
Jacques Levesque hoisted a small, wooden chest from the Comte de Montreuil's ship cabin, hearing a slight tinkering inside as he settled it into his arms and began walking it to the wagon.
The chest was heavy for its size, challenging the nine-year old's strength to its capacity. He knew what was inside—or he could guess, at least. Monsieur le Comte had fit every valuable he could inside the privately-chartered ship they had taken from Calais. And now it was Jacques’s job to ensure it was all transported to the nearby inn where they would spend the night.
Jacques's eyes shifted around the port, curious and wary of this new land.
England. He had heard of it time and again, but it was nothing like he had imagined—nothing like the glittering descriptions he had gleaned from Monsieur le Comte's friends in the snippets of conversation he had been able to catch around the Comte’s estate.
All Jacques could see was distant green hills on one side and, on the other, flat blue ocean as far as the eye could see.
The chaos of departing from the Comte's home in Montreuil had been acute, a culmination of the growing fear inside the household since the storming of the Tuileries and the anticipated collapse of the monarchy.
Jacques was not sad to leave behind life in France, but he was very anxious and unsure of what to expect with Monsieur le Comte in England. Would he drink less heavily? Would he be less cruel? Or would he become even more cruel and demanding?
"Jacques," said his father in an urgent voice. The Comte’s arm was draped over the shoulder of Jacques’s father, his face pale and lethargic. There was unmistakable worry in his father’s eyes.
The journey across the Channel had been a rough one—and the Comte had been not only drunk but violently ill. Jacques’s own legs still felt wobbly on the sturdy ground of the port.
"Continue loading Monsieur's things into the wagon," his father continued. "He is unwell, and I am going to accompany him to the inn. This man"— he used his head to indicate a French shipman who nodded and slipped a coin into his pocket —"will assist you and drive you to the inn once you have everything."
Jacques nodded and set the chest down in the wagon with a grunt.
His arms ached by the time everything was loaded and the wagon moving across the cobbled street. But aching or not, he would be obliged to help move everything from the wagon to the inn next.
He sighed, but he knew better than to complain. His father had told him sternly that he was to do whatever was asked of him without a word and to keep perfect track of Monsieur's possessions, for it was only under such a condition that the Comte had agreed for Jacques to join them on the voyage.
Jacques hoisted yet another chest into his arms, pressing forward to the carriage with an extra grunt of determination. He was eager to prove that it had not been a mistake to bring him along. He would ensure the safety of Monsieur’s belongings.
The Comte would not trust his valuables anywhere but his own room—he had been clear that everything was to stay with him, and his paranoia would surely continue until they arrived in Dorset where he would be among family and could place it all under lock and key. Though they were relatives, apparently the Comte had never met the Broussards, and yet he seemed to trust them. The ways of the aristocracy were strange to Jacques.
The yard of the inn was loud with animals and voices when the carriage bobbed in, and their arrival seemed hardly to be noticed. Jacques searched for the hired coach his father had accompanied Monsieur in and saw it across the yard.
He peeked into the small, wooden chest he had just transported and quickly snapped it shut, the glinting of a ruby ring lingering in his vision. He lifted the chest into his arms and told the French shipman to remain in place until Jacques could receive instruction from his father and the Comte.
He headed toward the inn door, asking one of the innservants in broken English where he could find the French monsieur.
When Jacques arrived upstairs, it was to the sound of imperative voices speaking within the room he had been directed to. Opening the door slowly with his shoulder, he looked inside to see his father and an unfamiliar young gentleman, kneeling beside the prostrate form of the Comte.
The young man rose quickly and turned for the door, his expression urgent and grave.
"No," Jacques's father said in French, his shoulders slumping as he wiped his sweaty brow with a forearm. "It is too late."
The young man stilled and nodded, eyeing the Comte with a frown. "I am sorry," he said in mediocre French. “We did all that we could. My name is Retsford. I am just two rooms down if you need anything."
Jacques’s father offered no response, staring at the body in front of him with a stricken look in his eyes.
The man Retsford opened the door, glancing at Jacques with a grimace before pushing past him.
Jacques's father crossed himself and then let himself fall back into a sitting position, with his back against the wall as he ran his hands through his hair.
"Father?" Jacques said hesitantly, setting down the chest.
His father's head came up, and Jacques felt a flash of fear at the sight of his hopeless expression. His father motioned for him to come, and Jacques walked over, shooting a brief, sidelong glance at the motionless body on the floor. Why wasn't Monsieur on the bed where he could sleep comfortably? It would likely be hours before he awoke, if the amount he had drunk aboard the ship was any indication.
"He is dead," his father said, a catch in his voice.
Jacques's eyes widened, and he looked at the form of the Comte, swallowing. There was something different about the Comte; something missing.
But dead? Jacques had never seen death up close. Of course, his mother had died giving birth to him, but he didn’t remember that at all. His father was his only family.
He felt mesmerized by the sight of the Comte, and yet he was afraid. How did death look so similar to and yet so different from sleeping?
He looked to his father, fear taking an even greater hold at the sight of the dejection there. What would they do now? They didn't know a soul in all of England. Did this mean they would go back to France?
He shivered. What would they do there without Monsieur le Comte to serve? They would be homeless, penniless. They already were penniless. The Comte was not a particularly generous master.
Jacques thought of all the jewels and valuables sitting in the wagon, waiting to be brought upstairs to the Comte’s room. He thought of the ruby ring he had just seen. Surely the Comte wouldn't be upset if they had to use one small trinket to buy their passage back to Calais? Or a spot on the Diligence—or whatever it might be called in England—to London? One small trinket out of hundreds.
"I saw a ruby ring, Papa," he said in a miserable voice, looking up at his father, whose face was covered by his hands. "Would that be enough to buy passage on the packet?"
His father shook his head in his hands. "It is not ours, Jacques."
Jacques felt a small stirring of hope. "Shall we stay in England, then?"
His father shook his head again, and Jacques fell into a confused silence.
A knock sounded at the door, and Jacques jumped up, moving to open the door a crack. His father didn’t stir.
The French shipman stood outside, a question on his face.
"The Monsieur's things," the man said. "Shall I bring them up?"
Jacques looked at his father, who shook his head and then froze, an arrested expression in his eyes.
Jacques waited. "Papa?"
His father blinked twice and looked at Jacques. He nodded at him. “Have him bring them into the next room.”
"Yes, please," said Jacques to the servant. “Into the room next door.”
The man nodded and left.
Jacques’s father stood and began pacing up and down the room next to the body of the Comte. His hand pulled nervously at his lips.
"It could work," he said, stopping and staring at the papered wall. "No one would know." His gaze moved down to the body beside him, and he shook his head again, resuming his distracted pacing of the room.
"Know what?" Jacques said.
His father came over and kneeled in front of Jacques, putting a hand on each shoulder and looking him in the eye with a strange energy Jacques found disturbing.
"It will not be easy, my son," his father said. "But you know how things work in noble households. Can you imagine yourself to be the son of a Comte instead of the son of a valet? Can you act the part of a noble?"
Jacques swallowed and nodded.
His father put a hand on Jacques's cheek. "God has given us an opportunity for a better life, thanks be to Him." He looked toward the window, his jaw tight and hard. "I will not waste it."