Wishing everyone warm and magical midwinter holidays. It’s been a busy ten days. My daughter Mélanie Cordelia arrived at 11:34 pm on 13 December 2011. There we are above at her first restaurant dinner (more pictures on Facebook). We’ve been having a lot of fun settling in together, and the holiday season is the perfect time to introduce her to lots of friends and family. It still seems miraculous that she’s hear, and yet it’s already hard to imagine there was ever a time she wasn’t part of my life.

Just after Mélanie was born, another of my historical romantic suspense novels, Rightfully His, was released as an ebook on Nook, Kindle, and All Romance Books. Good timing, as Rightfully His begins during the holiday season in 1822.

As my holiday post, here’s another teaser from Imperial Scandal. In honor of Mélanie’s birth, it’s a scene in which Mélanie/Suzanne, Cordelia Davenport, and Aline talk about motherhood. It occurs the day after the Duchess of Richmond’s ball, when the Allied Army has marched off to meet the French. I’ll draw the name of a commenter to receive another ARC at the start of the new year. And I’ll try to post a holiday Fraser Correspondence letter next week.

Warmest wishes for 2012!

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When the children were settled in the nursery with Livia’s and Robbie’s nurses, examining Colin’s toys, Mélanie took Cordelia down to the salon where she’d had coffee sent in.
“It’s good to see them playing.” Cordelia rubbed her arms. “I keep waiting for it to hit Robbie that Julia’s gone. Then I’m afraid it has, and he didn’t see her enough for it to matter as it should.”
“Your sister was–“
“Restless. She thought she knew what she wanted when we were girls. But once she had it, it didn’t make her happy. Then she wasn’t sure what to do with herself. Sometimes I’m afraid having Robbie was like ticking off one more item on a list of things she was supposed to do. Whereas for me–” Cordelia shook her head. “Motherhood was a distinct surprise.”
“It was for me as well,” Mélanie said and then bit her tongue, her instinct to confide warring with every dictate of a trained agent.
Cordelia looked at her for a moment, the supposedly perfect wife who presumably would have been eager to give her husband children. Mélanie couldn’t be sure what Cordelia saw, but she had a dismaying fear that her carefully constructed defenses had slipped.
But instead of asking questions, Cordelia glanced out the window into the garden. “Livia’s been talking about Harry ever since yesterday.”
“That’s good surely.”
“Yes, but I can’t help worrying she’s met him only to–“
“Cordelia.” Mélanie went to the other woman’s side, biting back the obvious platitudes. “Even if she never sees him again, it’s better for her to have the one good memory.”
Cordelia nodded. The gaze she lifted to Mélanie held unimagined horrors. “I can’t bear the thought that last night was the last time I’ll see him. So commonplace. I’m sure women all over the city are saying that this morning.”
“Which doesn’t make it any less real.”
“Lowering to realize I’m just like everyone else. I’ve always prided myself on being an original.”
“War provides a sad amount of commonality.”
The door opened to admit Aline who came into the room with a determined step. “Valentin took my bags up. I told him there was no need to bother you. The streets were so quiet on the way here. Now the bugles and fifes and marching have stopped I could almost imagine it was a hideous nightmare. If Brussels weren’t so eerily empty.” She dropped down on the sofa and reached for the coffee pot. “I don’t think I slept a wink.”
“Nor did I.” Cordelia moved to the sofa. “Do pour me out a cup as well.”
Aline filled three cups letting loose the rich aroma of the coffee. “The Comtesse de Ribaucourt is organizing ladies to prepare lint this afternoon. I thought it might be good to feel one was doing something useful.”
“I never saw myself as the lint-scraping sort,” Cordelia said, “but I quite agree.”
Aline gulped down a sip of coffee. “People keep saying one can’t admit the possibility of defeat. But whichever way the battle goes, there are going to be wounded.”
Mélanie reached for her own coffee and took a fortifying sip. That was what she had told herself for years. People died in war. Different people might die because of her actions, but people would die regardless.
“Mélanie?” Aline said. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, love. Just a bit-“
“Overwhelmed,” Cordelia concluded for her. “Commonplace or not it’s overwhelming.”
“I wish I’d paid more attention when Geoff was patching people up. At the moment those skills seem infinitely useful than solving quadratic equations.” Aline pushed herself to her feet. “Damn. I did so want to avoid this.”
“War?” Cordelia asked.
“Caring about people.” Aline strode to the window and stood staring out at the garden. “Oh, I’ve always cared about my family in the detached way our family does. But for years I thought I was above personal relationships. Or not worthy of them. Or something. Numbers always seemed so much safer. It wasn’t until last night I realized how very right I was.”
“Would you go back?” Cordelia asked. “Would you change any of it if you could?”
Aline turned round and shook her head at once. “Of course not.” Her hand went to her stomach. “I can’t imagine my life without Geoff. Or the baby, even though the baby still scarcely seems real half the time.”
Cordelia nodded and took a sip of coffee. “If you wouldn’t change anything, then you’re more fortunate than most. How soon can we start scraping lint?”

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