One Last Farewell

by Isabelle Kane

One Last Farewell by Isabelle Kane

Krystyna Sielska, a bold Polish beauty, hopes to escape scandal by fleeing her homeland for the imperial city of Vienna. There she encounters two men: a charming and handsome rogue and a brash and unpolished scoundrel. Both men seek to woo the lovely Krystyna, but another, a monster who goes only by the name of “Janus,” also pursues her. Can true love survive the flames of war?

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Release Date: November 23, 2021
Genre: Historical Romance

A Pink Satin Romance


Chapter One

The scrambling sound of shod hooves striking cobblestones, of a panicking horse, quickened Krystyna’s footsteps as she ran into the unlit stable. Her eyes were already accustomed to the darkness, so she could make out the great, muscled mass of her father’s red bay breeding stallion, Thor, as he spun in his stall seeking to escape the intruder. There was a loud smack of a leather strap striking flesh. Thor kicked out, striking the wall. His eyes were white-rimmed with fear, and his nostrils flared with panic.

“Who’s in there? Get out now! You’re going to be hurt!” She hesitated to open the stall door, which, by some miracle, had remained closed despite the chaos within, because she knew a maddened horse would strike at anything and everything indiscriminately.

“I’ve got you!” The triumphant growl in Russian revealed the identity of the intruder.

“Ivan! Have you gone mad? Get out of there!”

“Yes! I have you now!”

Krystyna watched the darkened figures struggling for mastery over each other in the stall. Thor frantically swung his haunches about, trying to pull away, but Ivan’s grip held firm at the rope looped around the horse’s neck. He used his weight on the rope to anchor the frantic animal.

“Let go of him, Ivan! You’ve no right to be here!” Now that Thor was immobilized, Krystyna opened the stall door. Ivan slid the bridle over the trembling horse’s head, and the bit into his mouth. “My father told you never to return here!” How she wished her father was here now, but she didn’t dare run back to the house for him. Ivan and Thor would assuredly be gone by the time she returned.

Suddenly, perhaps in reaction to her words, Ivan began to jerk mercilessly on the reins, shooting white-hot agony through the bit into Thor’s jaws.

“Get back, wench!”

Despite her escalating alarm, Krystyna stood her ground at the front of the stall. What she could see of Ivan was disturbing; his eyes were reddened and his clothing, soiled and rumpled.

“You have no business here! Leave now, and there’s no harm done. If you hurt this horse, my father will see to it that you’re punished.”

“I’m not leaving this place empty-handed!” He tugged on the reins and made to push past her, but Thor lunged back, dragging him back into the stall. Ivan whipped at the stallion’s sensitive flanks and belly with the leather reins in his hands. Thor reared up again and struck out with his front hooves. Krystyna raced to where a pitchfork hung on the wall just down from the stall. She grabbed it and hurried back. She held the smooth wooden staff with the sharp prongs aimed at the stall door. “You won’t take him. I won’t let you!”

“All of this should be mine; this estate, this horse, you. You robbed me! Cast me off, like a worthless serf. I am Ivan Bestuzhev, and I will not be disposed of lightly.”

“So you come here drunk to steal my father’s horse?” She was incredulous at the inanity of the situation. And she had once believed herself in love with this fool. Obviously bitter about being cast off by the Sielskis, he had taken to liquid consolation and was much the worse for it. “There’s no sense in what you’re doing, Ivan. You will be caught. Just leave here now. You’ll be glad of it in the morning.”

If only someone would come, but it was already well past the dinner hour, and the grooms were sleeping in their cottage.

He dragged on the reins to pull the horse back out. “You are threatening me? You would hurt me? I think not!” With his forearm, he made to push the pitchfork aside.

She feinted at him. “Don’t underestimate me.”

He grinned, and she marveled that she could ever have found his dark eyes beautiful, those cruelly sensual lips appealing. It sickened her that she’d ever allowed him to touch her.

“Everyone knows this horse! You can’t hide him.”

“Your father! He should have forced you to marry me when I told him what we’d done together. He didn’t believe me. He laughed at me. He threw me out like a dog! Your whole family will pay! All of this should have been mine!” He repeated this last bit with a fanatical edge to his voice, as if it was a lesson he’d learned.

Thor charged out of the stall. His great chest knocked the pitchfork from Krystyna’s hands. She fell to the ground and sought to roll away amid the sparks shot out by the deadly shod hooves. She scrambled up and then flattened herself against the wall while man and horse fought to dominate each other.

Screaming, Thor threw his head high, lifting Ivan from his feet. Then, the stallion slipped on the cobblestones and went crashing down, the man disappearing under his bulk.

Suddenly, the barn was eerily silent. Snorting and shaking his head, Thor rose to his feet. Ivan lay like a discarded doll on the ground.

For a moment, Krystyna couldn’t move, then she took one hesitant step forward, and then another. Ivan remained limp. To her horror, she saw his eyes were staring blankly up. The prongs of the pitchfork jutted out through his blouse and jacket, and a dark pool of seeping blood was already forming around his body.

There was no doubt. Ivan Bestuzhev was dead.

* * *

As the carriage jerked to a halt, Krystyna Sielska awoke abruptly. Out of sorts, she glanced about in a panic. Her breathing was harsh as she took in the darkened interior. She took a slow, deep breath, assessing her situation. It had been only a dream, a haunting memory of that horrible night when her former fiancé had met his tragic end. To diffuse any hint of scandal following the tragedy, her parents had sent her from her family’s estate in the Polish countryside to her great-aunt Jadwiga who lived in the glittering capital of the Austrian Empire.

And now, after several weeks of travel, she had finally arrived at her destination, Jadwiga von Gebler’s house in Vienna. A servant opened the carriage door wide, and she stepped out. She stared up at the darkened façade of her new home. Despite the recent trials and difficulties of her life, excitement stirred in her. It was time to begin a new period in her life.


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