Sir Robert Benson came to Ashmead at the request of his sister—his half sister—planning to leave as soon as he could. In this bit for WIP Wednesday from The Wayward Son he has been dragged into a family party to celebrate the birthday of the man he thought was his father before he learned the truth. He’s been hiding in the musicians’ balcony for most of it. Lucy Whitaker has her own reasons for hiding.
A disturbance below interrupted their concentration; a newcomer stood at the door, and the dancing stopped. The Earl of Clarion’s unexpected arrival riveted the entire assembly’s attention. He peered around the room, spied the guest of honor, and made his way toward him. Dancers reformed their sets as he passed.
The earl’s resemblance to the man at her side jolted Lucy. David has the same deep auburn hair, the same intelligent green eyes, the same height… She dared a glance at Sir Robert. None of the muscled strength and broad—
“Startling isn’t it?” Sir Robert asked with an ironic curl of his lip. “Astounding that I could have grown to age fourteen without seeing it.” Lucy had to close her gaping jaw.
They watched the earl shake old Robert’s hand and smile at him. “Condescending to the masses…” the man next to her muttered.
She wanted to defend the earl, but something in Sir Robert’s eyes cut Lucy to the quick. Bitterness, confusion—longing? Both Caulfield and Benson, and yet neither. Something in her shifted; he still planned to sell her home from under her, but she wouldn’t be able to look at him the same way.
Sir Robert offered Lucy his arm. “Shall we go down and greet the Lord of the Shire?”
Lucy’s fingers trembled on Rob’s arm. Afraid of me? Or the folks below? he wondered as he led her to the stairs. He covered her hand with his free one and smiled at her, bringing a blush to her cheeks. He had to remind himself that this fragile-looking bit of femininity was the same woman who greeted intruders with a gun and stood up to anyone who threatened her domain at Willowbrook. Miss Whitaker, you are anything but fragile!
She was, however, a menace. Rob longed to drag her out of the stifling assembly of family expectations, ogling neighbors, and overwhelming refreshments and kiss her senseless on the riverbank. If he gave in to the urge, he would bind himself to Ashmead on Afon forever, the one thing he vowed to avoid at all cost.
Note: excerpts from works in progress may have not yet been edited, will likely undergo change, and may not even make it into the final work!