I typed “The End” on the bottom of Duke in All But Name last weekend. I’m taking a break from it while some eagle eyed beta readers take a look. I should know by next weekend if the plot holds together as well as I hope. Then I’ll get down to the serious work of self editing. Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt. The county is buzzing about the missing duke and the arrival of some distant cousin who claims to be the heir presumptive. Euphemia Forbearance Selwyn—Mia—the neighboring viscount’s poor relation, stumbles onto yet another mysterious man. This is, of course, the hero and heroine’s first meet.
Walking, as was her habit, across one of the lower Mountglen fields, Mia reached the place where she could pick up the lane just before it forked, the left side leading to the massive edifice of Mountglen and the right side to Selwyn Court two miles on.
She stepped through a gap in the hedgerow ahead of Hector. The sound of pounding hooves sent her heart to her throat, and she leapt against the hedges as a massive horse thundered up. Hector wiggled his head between the hedge and Mia’s side to bark at the rider who had pulled the horse under control just short of where Mia had been standing.
The great black beast danced nervously, and its rider glared down at her. She stared back at eyes dark and lit with anger. His hair, long and as black as the horse he rode and the clothes he wore, flew wildly around his short brimmed beaver hat. “You damned fool. Don’t you check before you dart into the road?” he shouted.
I didn’t dart. So taken with the strange sight in front of her, Mia couldn’t get the words out. The beast was magnificent, its rider… Mia wasn’t sure what to make of the rider. She found animals easier to comprehend than their owners even in the best of times and certainly in this case.
The man’s face shifted, and, for a moment, she thought he would apologize. He didn’t. “You could have been killed—you and that great lump of a dog—be careful in future.” The stranger stared at her a moment longer, urged his horse on without another word, and disappeared down the lane, taking the turn to the left. To Mountglen.
Mia put a hand to her pounding heart. Who was that? The cousin perhaps? Then she remembered Mercy’s description.
…a weak-chinned fop, the sort Agnes said was more apt to wait for someone to hand power to him than to grab it. The mysterious rider could not be the cousin. The man she just saw would have no trouble whatsoever taking what he wanted. None at all.
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!