Preparing for Battle

WIPWed-1024x427 WIP Wednesday

From Snowed by the Wallflower, in which our reluctant hero prepares to face his fate—

“I should never have let you spend so much time with my grandfather’s valet!” John Conlyn, Earl of Ridgemont scowled at the giant of a man who had once been his batman, with no more duties than to keep his uniform brushed and his gear packed for sudden moves. Since Wynnwood, he’d become a fashion tyrant.

Graves frowned back. “Hold still. Ye need a decently tied cravat for dinner with those peers.” He finished his efforts, stood back and viewed his handwork, nodding as he did. “Y’ll do for a dinner. The ladies will approve.”

john-240x300 WIP Wednesday The ladies. Graves never let an opportunity to remind him why they were here pass by. Grandfather’s marching orders: find a decent girl of good family and marry her. His emphasis was on decent, not bloodlines, thank the benevolent Providence. John smiled to himself.

The death of his cousin Alfred had pitched John into a year of mourning, and his grandfather had used every day of it to poke and prod John into what he said “will make you into a finer heir than Alfred ever was.” Given the pox ridden degenerate that was Alfred, John knew himself to be better the day the heirdom passed to him, but grandfather wasn’t taking chances. He’d pulled John from the fleshpots of London to the family pile for a full twelve months of badgering—affectionate, but badgering all the same.

“Lift y’er chin Jonny,” Graves growled. “The old boy and that man of his pulled y’out of the muck you’d sunk into in Lunnan, and my job’s to keep you up to snuff now we’re on our own again.”

“You must be irritated if I’m Jonny again.” John lifted his chin and Graves topped off his handywork with a diamond pin, one of many gifts from his grandfather.

Graves patted his coat and gave a jerky nod. “There. Now you look fine as can be, my lord.”

A man might envy all those gifts if he didn’t know every one of them came with strings tying John tighter and tighter to the Wynnwood estate. At least he felt that way at first, but, as the year went on, Grandfather’s pride and the obvious needs of the tenants seeped into his soul. It would be a worthwhile life. Eventually. If only he could get used to it.

He found his way down to the drawing room designated for pre-dinner gathering. He hesitated at the bottom of the stairs watching a group of young women—girls—giggling together as the entered the room followed by two stately matrons, obviously the proud mothers of at least two of them.

Babies the lot of them. John couldn’t imagine taking one to wife. Courage Conlyn! He stood straighter, but stayed fixed in place.

As he paused, a footman rushed out of the door to the dining room, leaving it open. He watched the staff scurry around the table preparing or the guests and groaned. The previous night’s dinner had been so atrocious he regretted coming. Surely it won’t be as bad tonight.

He was about to move on when the woman directing the work caught his attention and his breath held. He couldn’t have said why. She was no diamond, and yet she was too well dressed to be cook or housekeeper. Too well even to be a governess or other upper servant. Still, she wasn’t garbed finely enough for formal dinner either.

He couldn’t shake the feeling that he knew her.

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! 

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Caroline Warfield, Author

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