It’s here! ALL FOR ONE is now available for sale on Amazon.
For some reason the paperback isn’t showing up on my author page yet, but it is still available on my etsy page. I’ve also updated the shipping options for paperbacks, so there are some cheaper shipping methods available now.
I will try to get the paperback issue sorted out today, but in the mean time, here’s a bit from one of my favorite scenes in the book:
Mounted once more, I urged Bijou into a gallop, cutting across the public garden and hurrying south through the meandering side streets until I came to the stream that hemmed in the bulk of the city. On the other side was mostly trees, but peeking through their tops I could just see the spire that I hoped belonged to the ruins.
I nudged my heels into the horse’s flanks, flying over the narrow track through the forest. Just as the many bells in the city began to chime the hour, we came upon the clearing, where three horses were hobbled in the shade of a collapsed church.
Pulling Bijou up to a quick stop, I dismounted, throwing off my coat and rolling up my sleeves as I reached for the belt holding both my sword and pistol. My heart hammered from the race across town. It would be nice to work out my frustrations from the morning with a little exercise—provided I didn’t get killed or maimed in the process.
The tall woman from the market square was first to appear. She had exchanged her pink and yellow dress for the uniform of the queen’s guard. My jaw fell open when I saw her.
Her shorter friend followed close behind, also in the blue and silver uniform.
Magnificent, I thought, as my stomach plummeted into my boots. Not even in the city a full day, and I’d already offended three of the most celebrated soldiers in the country!
The woman from the Châlet joined them, making my misery complete. She’d shed her coat and sling and was gingerly flexing her injured right arm, sword in hand. Of course, the friend they were meeting, the one with the birthday—it would have to be her.
I gulped, not wanting to offend but also not wanting to injure her further. “Are you sure you don’t want to reschedule? I’m going to be in town for a while.” Provided your friends don’t kill me.
“Why? Are you afraid?”
“No. But there’s no honor in defeating someone who’s already injured.”
“Oh! Look at this one. Confident, isn’t she?” laughed the tall one. To me she added, “Don’t worry about Athena. Injured or not, she can handle herself. She’s got one or two tricks up her sleeve, at least.”
On cue, Athena tossed the rapier into her left hand, swinging it in a complex figure eight to show she was no less skilled with that hand than her right.
“Very well. I see we are using swords then, and not pistols?”
The smaller one spoke up. She’d exchanged her gaudy rosary for something more subdued. The dark grey beads hung down her chest, glinting in the sunlight filtering through the trees. “It’s your choice, of course, since we challenged you. But pistols will draw unwanted attention, as we’re still very close to the palace. Gunfire is prohibited within city limits. The city guard doesn’t even use them, as they can put bystanders at risk.”
“Swords it is, then.” I drew my revolver from the holster and put it back in the saddle bag. The others had already left theirs behind.
“I’m surprised you even carry a sword,” the tall one said. Though she’d been quick to be offended at our earlier meeting, she was jovial and almost friendly now. “You don’t look like one of those upper-class types.”
I wasn’t sure if I should be offended by this comment, but chose to take it as a simple observation. “I came to Montréal to apply to the guard. My mother taught me how to fight. She was part of Queen Marie Thérèse’s guard.”
“Ah, a little fledgling Musketeer!” she replied.
“A Musketeer. That’s what the common folk are calling us these days. The King’s guard back in France were known as Musketeers. They started calling us that because we have the best sharpshooters.”
“Enough, Portia. Let’s get on with this,” Athena said. “You two, go first, since you have the first claim. I’ll wait.”
“Ah, my friend is correct. Shall we?”
“We should at least observe the rules of etiquette and introduce ourselves,” her companion said.
Athena sighed. “Must you make a production of everything, Arabella?”
Arabella sniffed, then, turning to me, made a slight bow. “I’m Arabella Beauchamp. Please allow me to introduce my companions, Portia Canatonquin and Athena Cabana.”
I offered a smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, though I do wish it could have been under different circumstances. I’m Louise Drapeau.”
“Charmed,” Arabella said with a tiny bow. Portia and Athena merely nodded.
“May we begin now?” Athena asked.
“Yes, let’s.” Arabella gestured to Portia, who walked a few paces away and drew her sword. I followed her lead, moving away from the horses and our observers and out into an open, grassy area. To our right, the low, crumbling stone wall of the old church hemmed us in. Behind Portia were rows of cracked headstones. The only thing at my back was the trees.
My hand-me-down rapier, an inch too long, snagged as I drew it. Jerking back my arm, I pulled it free. My face colored. Athena rolled her eyes. Arabella looked like she was smothering a laugh.
Portia lowered her sword. “I can’t fight a child who hasn’t even grown into her sword yet.”
Face aflame, I sank into a ready position. “It’s fine. I promise, I know how to use it.”
She sighed, glancing at her friends.
“Teach her a lesson, Portia,” Athena said dryly, one hand on her hip.
She sighed again, bending her knees and holding out the sword until our blades touched. Arabella stood off to the side, ready to signal us.
A sound echoing through the trees made me lower my blade. “Did you hear that?”
Portia looked ready to object, but then closed her mouth. Athena straightened, her hand going to her own sword. “Horses. Damn them! It must be the Knights. They must have heard about the duel.”
“The Knights?” The mounted Knights of Rome, with their distinctive red coats, enforced law throughout Québec, usually attaching themselves to whatever church was in the region—because no matter how small the town, there was always a church. Unfortunately, my experience was that they cared a bit less about upholding the law or even morality, and more about maintaining comfortable living arrangements.
“We’re on church property.” Athena swore, reaching into the nearest saddle bags for the abandoned guns. The others backed toward her, creating a defensive position. “And only three of us. It sounds like a lot more than that are coming.”
“Four. There are four of us,” I said, trying to elbow my way into their circle.
They ignored me.
Sure enough, a dozen horsemen appeared, surrounding our little clearing.
“Drop your weapons!” shouted the one in the lead, drawing his pistol. I cursed myself for once again leaving a weapon in my bag. When this was over, I was going to sleep with my sword and revolver next to me.
Hands up, sword dangling from two fingers, I backed away from the men closest to me.
“Is there a problem?” Athena asked, stepping forward.
“You know the laws regarding dueling. In the name of the cardinal, you are under arrest.”
“We weren’t dueling,” I said. Technically, it was true. Arabella hadn’t given the signal to begin yet.
The man in the middle grinned. “Do you hear that, boys? The queen’s Musketeers are resisting arrest. Maybe we should teach these girls their place.” Smiles spread across their faces as they drew their pistols. My jaw clenched, remembering the bullies from the night before. These men were just like them, and someone had given them the power of rank and uniform. It didn’t matter how we’d been found; they would have picked a fight no matter the circumstances.
“What do we do?” Arabella whispered, her own hands up.
“Well, obviously we aren’t surrendering.” That was Portia.
“The numbers aren’t in our favor. Twelve to three? Those aren’t very good odds.”
“Four. I told you, it’s four.” Why weren’t they listening?
Portia raised an eyebrow. “You, fledgling? You think you can stand with us? You’ve caused enough trouble already.”
“Well, if I don’t, I’ll be arrested, and then I’ll never make it into the guard. I’m not bad with a sword. And I’m a good shot, too.”
“You don’t have a gun.”
“I bet you five crowns I can get one.”
Her lip quirked. “I like you. Don’t die, fledgling.”
“This is your last warning! Put down your weapons!”
The four of us exchanged looks. Portia and I still had only our rapiers; Athena held Portia’s gun as well as her own. Arabella had her sword, and the revolver Athena had brought her just before the guards showed up.
Athena looked from Portia to me and gave a short nod.
As one, the four of us each dove in a different direction. Overhead the air exploded with gunfire. Crouching against the waist-high wall of the ruin, I waited until the nearest guard was on the other side before springing up, driving my sword into his side. With a grunt, he raised his pistol, but began to slide sideways in his saddle. Reaching up, I grabbed the gun and fired two shots to the right, into the men Athena was holding at bay. One of her pistols clicked empty as one man dropped, injured but not dead. Both men were covered in blood; I couldn’t tell which of us had done more damage, but she used the last shot in the other gun to finish him off.
I turned just in time to see another red-coated Knight take aim at me. Ducking around the corner of the church, I popped up again to return fire, expending the last two shots. One hit his shoulder, the other his chest. He fell, gasping.
Tossing the empty revolver aside, I went to help Portia and Arabella, who were surrounded by the remaining guards. They’d already taken out four, which meant only four were left.
When Athena and I arrived, they were forced to split off. Firearms exhausted, they drew their swords. Athena grabbed one lying next to one of the dead men, holding it loosely in her left hand.
I turned my attention back to my opponent, just in time to block his lunge. He came at me again, hard and fast, quick blows with more strength behind them than I was used to, having only ever sparred with my mother and sister.
The tip of my blade caught the upper part of his sleeve, and we both pulled back to regroup.
Sweat made the back of my shirt cling, and I was panting a little, but once again I was smiling. I couldn’t help it. To use my hard-won skill in an all-out fight? To defeat those who would injure those they perceived to be weaker, for no reason other than to stoke their own bravado?
It was exactly where I was meant to be.
“Are you that eager for me to take your head?” the Knight growled.
“Oh, of course not. I rather like it where it is. But this is the most fun I’ve had in weeks!”
I took advantage of his flabbergasted expression to lunge for his chest. He stumbled back, blocking it at the last moment, though my rapier plucked one of the brass buttons from his coat.
Dimly, I heard Portia cheer. She caught the button as it went flying. From the corner of my eye, I saw the other three had already dispatched their opponents and were now watching me deal with mine.
No time to think about it now. I pressed my advantage, sacrificing my guard to drive further into the Knight’s defenses. He couldn’t keep up with my blade and I pushed him back half a dozen steps before he managed to do more than a haphazard block.
I saw the moment when he realized my guard was down. A heartbeat later he thrust the point of his sword toward my left flank, but I was already moving out of the way. Two quick steps to the right and a flick of my wrist, and the knight was pinned in place with my sword at his throat.
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