To the the Archers’ stunned disbelief they have been invited to a soiree at the governor’s mansion as Phillip’s guest. From Duke in Name Only, currently at with the editor.
Nan, resplendent in crème and gold, descended on Luke’s arm. At Nate’s exclamation, they paused on the stairs.
Candles from the crystal chandelier glittered off the tiny gold flowers affixed to the net overlaying her crème satin gown and the gold lace at her neck and around the fashionably puffed sleeves. The neckline scooped just low enough to tantalize. A gold band complemented her honey brown hair arranged in a fall of curls around the crown of her head. His throat went dry. Goddess indeed.
“You look like a princess,” Nate exclaimed.
“For once I agree with my little brother,” Jamie said staring up at her.
Phillip, who was beyond speech, stepped up and offered his arm as she continued down, all but nudging Luke aside.
“Will I do, your majesty?” Luke’s laughing words penetrated Phillip’s daze, and he peered over at the man.
His brows lifted. “You clean up splendidly,” he said.
Nan’s oldest brother dressed in the French manner with loose trousers, long tunic, wide sash, and high laced moccasins. His shirt was brilliantly white, and his buckskin trousers appeared new. His hair was brushed back, hanging in waves past his shoulders. The final detail, a long hunting knife in its sheath, was tucked in the red sash. Phillip grinned. “Clark will love it.”
Nan said nothing at all, but let him lead them to Governor Clark’s house. The night being warm, they walked under the stars over board walks. “You are a wonder, Nan. Beyond beautiful,” he whispered as they approached the house.
The house, a broad, rustic place with a wide porch and heavy beamed lintel, stood two stories high. As they discovered, it was deeper than it was wide.
Nan’s hand trembled on Phillip’s arm as the butler received them and led them down a central hallway. He put his gloved hand over hers to reassure her even though he was a bit breathless himself. It felt very much as it might being presented at court, or at the Duchess of Haverford’s annual ball. He glanced down at the vision of perfection at his side, and felt his raging nerves calm.
They were led to a room he hadn’t seen before, a long sort of reception room to the back of the house, and their names were announced. At least a hundred people filled the space, most well dressed, some that wouldn’t be out of place in a London soiree, though perhaps not a court ball. A few were more casual. Phillip spied Baptiste Charbonneau dressed not unlike Luke, surrounded by people peering into what looked like a display case.
The room, Phillip realized, strolling to the side, was almost a museum, one dedicated to hunting, exploration, and native cultures, not dissimilar to ones he’d seen in the houses of aristocrats who thought themselves scholars or explorers. Nate gawked at buffalo heads, bead work, and tomahawks hanging on the wall. In this case a museum dedicated to William Clark.
Clark, who was in conversation with two well-dressed gentlemen, looked up, spied them, and broke into a smile. With a comment to his companions, he approached.
“Your Grace, thank you for joining us. Miss Archer, may I say you look splendid tonight,” he beamed.
So much for her fear that he wanted her as ‘some uncivilized countrywoman,’ Phillip thought with a grin. She still clung to his arm tightly.
Phillip made the introductions, and as expected, Clark was keen to speak to Luke. After a few words of small talk, he gathered Luke off to meet people. “There’s a map that may interest you. I was showing it to Senator Harrison,” he said.
“There. You’ve met the governor and lived,” Phillip teased.
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!