Cole Manning, a Union lieutenant serving during the height of the American Civil War, expects a letter from his best girl Hannah, who promised to wait for him. But Hannah’s post contains an unwelcome surprise. She’s marrying someone else. Cole planned to propose to Hannah on his next furlough and wed her after the war ended.
Claire Hirsch is trying to forget the death of her fiancé, who died in battle in the first year of the war. She volunteered to work in the camps, because she could no longer sit at home mourning the man she’d planned to marry. But she’s scarred by Richard’s death and vows never to fall in love with a soldier.
Cole and Claire find solace in each other’s arms, but is it enough to overcome their fear of losing the one they love again?
Her breath caught at the sight of Lieutenant Manning standing over Private Upwood's cot. He leaned down and spoke softly to the lad. When he turned his head and straightened, his gaze caught hers.
"Miss Hirsch." He patted the boy's hand and stepped around the cot.
"Lieutenant, I hadn't expected to see you back here today."
He lifted his bandaged arm. "I'm supposed to see Doc tomorrow, but I had to see to the private. He said the boy's taken a bad turn."
Her heart burned at the raw pain in his eyes. "I'm sorry. I know you've been so worried about the lad. But it's not your fault."
He shook his head. "Everyone tells me that, but it's not how I feel. Could I speak to you in private for a moment?"
Claire's heart fluttered at the thought of being alone with him. But he obviously wanted to speak about the private out of his earshot. "Of course, Lieutenant."
He reached for her arm and escorted her from the tent. She followed his glance. Men milled around conversing and sipping coffee. The lieutenant bit his lip.
"How about back here?" He gestured toward the rear of the hospital tent where it abutted the forest line.
Claire hesitated. "I-I suppose so."
His gaze slid over her. "I promise to do you no harm, ma'am."
His boyish smile reassured her. Of course he wouldn't dare accost her in camp.
She allowed him to lead her to the rear. Great oak and hickory trees cooled the spot. A boulder sat just a few feet behind the rear of the tent. She turned toward him, thinking he'd meant for her to sit on the smooth top of the rock, but instead, he reached his good arm around her back and drew her close.
Her pulse raced. "Lieu—" Her question was cut short by his lips pressed against hers. His kiss was soft and sweet, not demanding. He pulled away, his gaze dancing over her, a small smile on his lips.
"I must apologize, Miss Hirsch, but after being in your company, I couldn’t resist tasting. I hope you don't think me a complete scoundrel."
Although Claire's first impulse was to protest such improper behavior, she couldn't resist grinning. "Not at all, unless you want me to think of you as a scoundrel," she teased.
"In that case…" He kissed her again, more thoroughly this time.
Little moans escaped her lips as she returned his kiss. Her eyes closed, and the thrill of his touch sent her toes curling. Her knees turned to jelly in his strong grasp.
He released her lips but held her fast. "I must apologize again, I'm afraid." His eyes smoldered, and Claire wondered what else he had in mind.
His mouth took her lips again, sending shivers down her spine.
"Call me Cole."
"But, Lieutenant, it's hardly proper…" Her protest died at his intense gaze.
"We've shared an intimate exchange, and I'd like to share much more with you. I suppose it puts us on a first name basis, at least in private."
She hesitated, but nodded.
"I'd like to see you later, in private."
"I-I, don't know…"
"Miss Hirsch?" The stern voice of an older woman broke the spell. Claire's face burned as she realized it was Mrs. Benson.
Cole's Promise, part of the 'Love Letters' series, available now from The Wild Rose Press.
Buy link: http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=195&products_id=4821