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Chapter 1: March 1943

The apples are not free, monsieur.’

Who did he think he was? Maybe he viewed himself as a conquering hero whose very presence here automatically entitled him to such bad manners?

Élodie had watched the two German soldiers make their way through the ever-dwindling weekly market at Sainte-Honorine-des-Anges, whose village square was dominated at one end by an ancient grey-stone church with massive oak doors. One of the men was medium height, silver-haired, distinguished; the other was taller, fair, younger. Both wore impeccable field-grey uniforms, and their highly polished boots and peaked caps marked them out as officers. The usual lively mid-morning chatter had died away as they progressed and, despite the thin spring sunshine dappling the leaves of the lime trees that lined the Place de la Mairie, the biting wind that whipped down the road was laced with mounting unease.

The men had stopped at a few stalls before reaching her own, where the older of the pair, ignoring her, had picked up an apple and taken a bite. His steel-grey eyes never wavered from her face as, seemingly mystified by her accent, he spoke to the younger man in accented French.

‘What does she say?’

Élodie was gratified to see that his subordinate looked embarrassed. He avoided her cool regard and converted her words into German.

‘Tell her she has a sharp tongue in that pretty head, and she’d do well to think before she speaks.’

Élodie pursed her lips at the return translation. Hateful man. Worse: arrogant pig. She glared back at him, wrinkling her nose at the strong waft of cologne that crossed the gap between them.

The officer spoke again, his anger barely controlled. ‘Name?’

‘Duchamp. Élodie.’


Élodie gave no answer, running a hand through her dark curls, which were full of knots as usual.


‘Les Coquelets blancs, rue d’Argentan. And you are?’

In the ensuing silence, Madame Leroy, who had been choosing fruit when the officers stopped at the stall, now stood as if turned to stone. Élodie sighed loudly.

‘I am Major Wolff. I suggest you remember that.’ His tone was icy. He flung the apple down and ground it under his heel.

Immediately, a dog shot out from under the next stall and began to devour the crushed, sweet-smelling fruit. Élodie tensed as the Major stepped forward. If he mistreated the dog, she would not hold back, but to her astonishment the German bent forward and extended a hand. She crossed her arms. This would be interesting. Blaireau, so named because his coat resembled that of a badger, didn’t take kindly to strangers. Totally against his legendary nature, the dog allowed the Major to stroke his head and then rewarded him by licking his hand. Miserable traitor. Without a backward glance the Major straightened up and strode off towards the top of the square. She stared after him in disbelief.

The Lieutenant moved into her line of vision, fished in his pocket and held out a handful of coins. Élodie took one. His hands were not those of a soldier or workman—the skin was soft and the nails well shaped. She managed a clipped ‘Thank you, monsieur’ and handed him an apple. ‘You’ve paid for two.’

When he responded with an amused smile, she looked at him properly for the first time. Her first thought was that he was typically Aryan. A cliché really, with his morning-blue eyes and mid-blond hair, but that smile lit his entire face. She struggled to resist the undeniable: he was remarkably good-looking. Au diable tout ça—she would not admit it.

Chapter 1
Book no.1
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