The ever so proper Earl of Clarion somehow let himself be dragooned by his children in returning a tub full of frogs, froglets, and tadpoles in various stages of development back to the stream in which they were spawned. Alas his ever so proper wardrobe is about to suffer the consequences.
“Let’s begin with the buckets,” Lady Fitzwallace, declared.
“Good idea.” Marj grabbed for one of the buckets before the boys could get a jump on her and flung off the lid. It teetered in her hand alarmingly, and David rushed forward to assist. Marj gave a yank away and the bucket overflowed, all over his buff inexpressibles. Water soaked his front and half developed tadpoles clung to him all the way down.
David vaguely heard Alfred gave a shout and frantic words from both girls while they began picking up flopping bodies and tossing them in the creek. His attention was entirely absorbed by the wet to his trousers and Lady Fitzwallace’s hands trying to undo the damage. Her vary warm hands. Dabbing places they should not.
Hogswallop! Slimy amphibians clung to Clarions pristine breeches. Previously pristine. Now soaking wet. Delia had already been fretting over the mud on his perfectly polished boots. She acted without thinking, driven to sweep the froglets off, to dab at the wet, to dry his front with her shawl, to make amends for yet another disaster, to, to…
Oh, dear me. A jolt of awareness stayed her unruly actions. Her behavior was beyond inappropriate. His very masculine reaction to her ministrations, obvious and getting more so, set her face and neck in flames. Other more hidden parts as well.
She stood back unable to meet his eyes and babbled. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I just— It— the bucket—”
“Yes, the bucket.” His deep voice rumbled through her.
She glanced up and his green eyes, pupils wide, gazed back at her and held. Her heart paused in its run and her breath stopped entirely.
“Got the last of them Mama,” Penny shouted.
“No thanks to Marj,” Alfred pronounced.
The earl shook off the powerful force that held their eyes together. “Not at all, Mr. Fitzwallace. It was my fault entirely,” he said.
Delia wafted a swift prayer that the children were too busy to notice the byplay between them—and too young to observe the reaction in his breeches. “We need to get you home to dry quickly, my lord,” she said.
“Not until we free this mass of amphibian life into Clarion’s streams,” he said. “Help me Alfred. Ashmead, use your good hand to lift that corner, there’s a good lad.”
Delia drew the girls away and watched, thunderstruck, while the Earl of Clarion upended her battered laundry tub and dumped the rest of the frog mass into the stream. Splashing yet more water, laced with green bits from the stream, onto his boots and his son’s trousers.
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!