If I’ve been quiet and off the blog lately, it is because I’ve been writing. Really. A house party is in full swing. A young lady just tried a blantant twisted ankle ploy behind the earl but his sister-in-law Lucy managed to intervene. He is escorting another lady, Lady Danbury’s recommended candidate to be his next countess, to a picnic near a waterfall.
After a few moments she tipped her head toward him, head back to see out from under her bonnet. “The gossip in London about this party was that it was to be strictly political. I know a number of wives and daughters that stayed away for that reason. And yet—”
“And yet we have had a few unexpected guests, all of them young women?” he said.
She dipped her head and he couldn’t see her face but he was certain he had put her to the blush.
“I meant no criticism of you, Lady Estelle.” Should I tell her I asked Henrietta to suggest a bride? No. It is too soon to raise expectations quite that high. It is already hanging in the air.
When she didn’t reply he spoke. She deserved more respect. “An unmarried earl in possession of a full head of hair and all his teeth is an irresistible temptation for matchmaking mothers and their eager daughters. I don’t consider you one of their ilk.”
“Thank you,” she murmured. “I’m not. My grandfather, however, and Lady Danbury, my godmother, have told me we might suit. They asked me to come and spend a bit of time with you. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize. An earl with political ambition, I’m told, ought to consider taking a wife. I have had such encouragement from similar sources. I would prefer to make my own choice of a wife, however.”
She nodded and looked away again. “We should all have a choice in our future,” she said, her voice wistful.
Women, he thought not for the first time, have few choices.
“I’m glad we are in accord. Perhaps we will suit very well—at least for the duration of this house party. We do so far. Shall we see what becomes of our acquaintance, Lady Estelle?”
“I would like that very much, my lord.”
Later by the waterfall, she removed her bonnet, and sat with perfect grace on one of the blankets set aside for the picnic. David who had moved off to greet a various guests spied her sitting there, cool and serene. Henrietta Danbury saw the direction of his gaze.
“She is lovely,” Lady Danbury said.
“She’s exquisitely beautiful,” he said, “and I am beginning to think she has a character to match.”
Henrietta raised one brow. “No flaws?”
None. Except— He glazed beyond Lady Estelle. In a shaft of sunlight, Delia stood with her head tipped back laughing in sheer joy while she caught spray from the cataract tumbling down over the rocks on her face. The picture of vibrant life. She took his breath away.
“Clarion?” Henrietta’s voice came as if from far away.
“I’m sorry Henrietta, I was wool gathering.”
“I asked if you found any flaws in Lady Estelle,” the marchioness said.
“None. None whatsoever.” More’s the pity.
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!