Archive | February, 2012

Another Pretty Nothing — Chapter 4

23 Feb

Well, I planned for this to happen a little later in the story but apparently they were ready for it RIGHT NOW so here it is. Our heroes will finally talk to each other. FFS, you two. Neither one of you is venomous.

When Edwin had decided to give up on getting to sleep and go for a dawn ride to try to clear his head, he had still been agitated by the entire scenario he found himself in. When his blushing valet entered his chamber, Edwin had been confused. When he finally got the man to admit that the lady of the house had fallen asleep apparently leaning against the wall just outside his door and, in fact, had to be stepped over to enter the chamber, well, after that he didn’t quite know how he felt. And all the riding in the world wasn’t calming him at all.

He’d felt obligated to get her into bed, certainly, but he could have ordered a footman to carry her or hell, he could have woken her up and sent her to bed. But some protective impulse had caused him to lift her himself and carry her to bed. She had smiled softly from some dream or another and cuddled into him. For once, he found himself not questioning her motives or wondering if she really meant it. She was really choosing to cling to him in her sleep. He was almost disappointed to put her down until she had reached out and grabbed his wrist, and he indulged in that stupid kiss. It had been a whim and now his head was swimming in thoughts and feelings he thought he had long outgrown.

Damn him, he was in love with his wife. Of all the potential outcomes of their marriage, this was the one he had the least hope of and the realization chilled him to the bone. He didn’t even know how long this had been going on for, but he suspected he had started to love her from the beginning. He loved his wife, but as far as he could tell she felt nothing for him but an obligation. Edwin wasn’t the kind of man who could seduce a woman. He wasn’t particularly versed in the art of making them fall in love with him. He’d never even cared before. But now, with his wife, he was at a complete loss for what to do.

He was torn between two warring feelings. Part of him wanted to forget about her betrayal, forgive everything, beg her to love him, and take her to bed and hope for the best. But there was a substantial portion of his psyche that refused and rebelled at the very idea. He had been the one betrayed, after all. He was just so afraid of being hurt again. Why did this have to be so complicated with feelings? It was just supposed to be a simple marriage of convenience, since when were those so very difficult?

Well, forgiveness or not, there was one thing he supposed he could do for her as her husband. He spurred his horse homeward as he prepared for the most horrifying conversation of his adult life.

“Mother. Do come in.” even though they shared a house, Edwin had never invite his mother into his office before – as far as he knew, she hadn’t been in it since his father’s death seven years past.

The dowager countess as a remarkably well preserved woman. He was inclined to blame it on sheer force of will. She was just too stubborn to age like everyone else.

“Edwin.” She said by way of greeting, sitting demurely in a chair in front of his desk. It had always been like this between them, stiff formality taking the place of maternal affection. Edwin didn’t sit, he couldn’t say what he had to say from across a desk. Instead, he stood, leaning against the mantlepiece and praying he had some bearing of authority in the process.

“Mother, I understand you’ve had a few…discussions with my wife – ” he took a breath to steel his nerves, “about grandchildren, particularly.”

If his mother was surprised at his bluntness and vague allusion to the marital act, she was far too well-bred to show it. She was silent for a few long moments, her eyes never leaving his.

“Well, of course the subject will come up whenever two women share a house,” she said airily, as though this were the most natural conversation in the world to have with one’s mother, “I’m sure I’ve never said something inappropriate however. And certainly nothing that would merit her complaining to you.”

“It doesn’t matter, Mother.” Edwin found himself growing frustrated, “What goes on between Rue and myself is our business.”

“I’m shocked you would think so low of me as to insinuate that I would overstep my bounds as your mother and the dowager countess.” She was on a tear now. He silently cursed his conceivably misplaced sense of responsibility.

“Mother – ” he began, but she interrupted.

“No, don’t explain. Truly, I understand.” she stood and stalked to the door, a motion that on a less graceful woman would have either been awkward or far less angry, “I don’t even know why I bother trying to help you, Edwin. You’re just like your father.”

And with that final parting shot, she opened the door and stormed out in a cloud of self-righteous indignation. Edwin was honestly just glad to have that over with. He checked the time before moving quickly to the sideboard and pouring himself a drink. He didn’t care that it was before midday, he was going to get no end to the sniping for at least a week. He had earned that brandy.

Rue was prone to snooping. It was a horrible, nasty habit that had gotten her in more than her fair share of trouble as a child. However, as the nominal lady of the house, it usually only caused a few second glances and the occasional snide remark from her mother-in-law. She felt that it was well worth the little bit of trouble for the joy it gave her.

She was not, however, snooping when the door to her husband’s office swung open and his mother stormed out looking like a Valkyrie. She had simply been walking past the door for the sixth or seventh time. However, the bare truth of the matter was never enough for Amalthea who, who shot her daughter-in-law a blood chilling glance before storming off towards God only knows where. Rue had absolutely no inclination to follow or ask.

She did, however, have an inclination toward asking her husband, who was far more likely to give in to her gentle probings and also far more likely to give her an accurate account of events.

Fortunately, Amalthea had left the door open, so it wasn’t even really intruding to poke her head in and take stock of what was going on. She scanned the room and saw no bodies, which meant Edwin had likely survived the encounter. She finally spotted him by the sideboard pouring himself a few fingers of brandy.

“My lord?” she inquired gently and he spun around, relaxing visibly when he saw her.

“Oh it’s just you. For God’s sake, close the door Rue, before she returns to finish me off.” there was no mistaking the gentle teasing in his voice for actual malice, so Rue took the chance of entering before she shut the door.

“May I ask what all that was about, my lord?”

“Oh for the love of – Rue, please, I may have just signed my own death warrant for you so please, do me a favor and call me Edwin.”

“Alright.” She eyed him cautiously, he didn’t appear to be in his cups yet, but there was something slightly off about him. “Edwin. May I ask what just happened in here? First your mother fits me with a glance that could make Medusa blush and then I come in here and you’re…I don’t even know what you are.”

“I’ll tell you what I am, Rue, is in a good mood.”

“A good mood?”

“Yes. Is that so hard to believe?”

She pondered this for a second. She wasn’t sure she’d ever seen him in this good of a mood, which may account for some of the flaws in their marriage when she thought of it.

“I’m just not sure I understand what you’re in such a good mood over.”

“You wouldn’t understand. You like your mother.”

“Well, that’s true. But if it helps, I’m not particularly fond of yours.” That was a risky statement, she knew. He didn’t like his mother but she honestly wasn’t sure how well he would take her blunt declaration that she didn’t like her. Luckily, she had gauged the situation correctly and elicited a loud crack of laughter from her husband.

“Alright, Rue. I suppose you’ve made your point. Here.” he poured her a drink in a second glass, “I suppose you’ve earned your right to liquor as well as I have.”

She paused momentarily, unsure what to do. In theory, it wasn’t proper for a lady to take spirits. But this was an order from her husband. She was fortunately saved further deliberation by him.

“Oh drink it, Rue. Do you think me so oblivious that I don’t know you’ve had brandy before?”

Fair enough. She took a long drink, enjoying the spicy burn in her chest.

“So, now that we’re drinking friends, may I ask what just happened with your mother?”

“Oh a little of this, a little of that.” he made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “The important thing is, she is going to really hate us for a little while but I’m fairly sure she will leave you alone about grandchildren.” She almost choked on her drink and was forced to set the glass down.

“You mean you just got into a fight with your mother over me?”

“Yes.”

“You actually stood up to her entirely for me?” Nobody had ever stood up for her before, so Rue was having a difficult time quite comprehending the gesture.

“Of course I did. You’re my wife. It’s my job to protect you, damn it.”

He was surly all of a sudden, so she decided to remain quiet even though she was fairly sure she could have kissed him right then and there. They sat in silence for what felt like days, but for the first time in their married life it wasn’t because of a lack of things to say. She had so many thoughts she couldn’t figure out which one to let out first.

“Why did you marry me?” she finally got out, draining the rest of her glass. Might as well go for broke as long as she could blame it on the brandy later. Now it was his turn to be shocked. He dropped into his chair dramatically, setting his glass down.

“You don’t go halfway on anything, do you?” to her surprise, he didn’t sound disapproving, he actually sounded impressed.

“I try not to. And you’re avoiding the question, anyway.” she perched on his desk, facing him. “Why did you marry me?”

“Why did you marry me?”

“I asked you first.”

“Yes but I’ve already made my grand romantic gesture for the day. It’s your turn.”

He had a point, but Rue was loathe to answer anyway. This was dangerous new territory for them. Previously, discussions on feelings had been limited to discussions of art and the occasional bout of weather. Such frivolities had never entered their marriage. But maybe it was time for them to do so.

“I liked your eyes,” she finally blurted out.

“My eyes?” he narrowed the same eyes at her suspiciously.

“Yes, your eyes. They’re quite nice when they’re not glaring at me, you know. They’re a very nice shade of brown. Warm, cozy. Those sorts of things.”

“Oh come off it, Rue. Even you wouldn’t marry a man because of the color of his eyes.”

“Okay,” she sighed, “this sounds so silly when I say it out loud, you know.”

“Try me.”

“I remember the first time I saw you. It was at some function or another from my season, I’ve lost track by now. But you were standing off to one side of the room watching everybody else have a good time and I was off on the other side of the room wishing anybody would be really interested in me. And I thought, maybe if we were both going to be lonely all the time then maybe things weren’t so bad if we could be lonely together.”

“Rue. I remember your season. You had men crawling all around you.”

“I had men who would show up, talk for a few moments, maybe ask me to dance. None of them were actually interested in anything I had to say or in anything I did. It was a game to them, that season was life or death to me.”

“Why?”

“If I’d not been able to get married, I was going to have to marry my cousin. And I love my cousin, but we were raised as siblings. I just couldn’t bring myself to marry him.”

“Well, it’s always nice to be a pretty lady’s last chance.” he raised his glass in a toast before draining the last drops.

“So what’s your answer?”

“What do you mean?”

“I told you why I married you. Why did you marry me?”

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Another Pretty Nothing — Chapter 3

21 Feb

So this story is getting fun. I really like these two, surprisingly. They’re cute together but just don’t know how well suited they are yet.

Edwin had no idea what he was going to do. He had been thinking about Rue when she had first entered, but having her there with him set him on edge. He hated himself for feeling so conflicted still, but dammit, didn’t he deserve a few more days to lick his wounds before he had to start the business of being married again? Could she really be here right now and expecting him to perform? After what he’d witnessed?
No, Edwin had more pride than that, and he intended to exercise some of it now. As soon as he could stop being mesmerized by the way the light played in her dark brown hair. He’d always liked his wife’s hair – it was thick and wavy and soft. It made him think of coffee with milk in it. Quite unbidden, his mind wandered as he watched the firelight playing delicately across her hair to their wedding night. He had been in awe of her quite from the beginning. Rue had always been a little different than all the other debutantes – a little bit more carefree, a little bit more cheerful, a little bit more daring. She had these fabulous eyes, not quite blue and not quite gray. They were nearly translucent and showed every whim and desire as plainly as if she were to have handed him a note filled with all her deepest thoughts and feelings. She wasn’t beautiful, but she was lovely.
On their wedding night, he had been so excited he almost couldn’t contain himself. She had been a fairy queen in the church and he had looked forward to seeing if she were as adventurous in all areas of her life as she had been in the ones he had seen so far. He had been sadly disappointed, for the moment they had begun the act she had closed her eyes and braced herself. He grimaced uncomfortably just remembering the expression of her face. No passion, no joy, just fear and maybe a little boredom. It had been a chore just to consummate the marriage and when it was over he’d scarcely been able to look at her. He merely cursed whichever family member had given her that piece of advice and tried to pretend it had never happened as he drifted off to sleep.
That, he thought, was probably what had hurt the most in this entire awful farcical situation. She could muster enough passion for Benjamin Crawley to be weak kneed against a bookshelf, but the best her husband had ever been able to hope for was that she might open her eyes before he climbed off of her. Edwin had always been aware that his physical appearance could best be described as “average” but it had never bothered him before. Something about catching Rue in a tryst, though, made him feel so ugly and unwanted that sometimes he never wanted to be sober again. He didn’t even know what he could do to recover his lost sense of himself, but he did wonder if maybe taking her up on her implicit offer to make love might not help. But he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted it to help, he wasn’t sure he wanted to forgive her yet.
“Well,” he stood up slowly and she flinched slightly, startled. He may have been quiet a bit longer than he thought. “I’ll be sure to take your feelings into consideration, but for now I think it best you return to your chambers and we both get some sleep.” He tried to ignore the hurt in her face as he dismissed her summarily and instead offered his hand to help her to her feet.
“Of course, my lord.” she wasn’t even trying to hide her disappointment and he found he liked this side of her far more than the passive docility she’d adopted sometime after their wedding. He, more out of habit than anything else, walked with her to the door and held it open for her to pass through.
She paused midway through the door and turned around.
“Edwin?” She said. She rarely used his Christian name. He noticed a glint in her silvery eyes and realized she wasn’t giving up at all. He knew he should move away and shut the door, but it had been so long since he’d seen that wickedness in her face and he was as drawn to it now as he had been at 23 when she poured champagne over his sleeve and asked him to dance.
“Yes?” His voice sounded husky with conflicted feelings. He wasn’t sure what he wanted her to be planning, he just knew he was powerless to stop her.
“I’m not ready to sleep yet.” She said so simply, but as he opened his mouth to try to respond she through her arms around his neck and before he knew it she was kissing him – not the tender pecks he’d become accustomed to, but really honestly kissing him like she wanted him. She’d never wanted him before – really, if he was being honest with himself, no one had – and for a moment his hurt and his pride all evaporated. His hands moved of their own accord to her hips, pulling her against him. One hand moved up through the back of his hair, teasing it gently. Her mouth opened and her tongue danced against his playfully, begging him for something. In that one moment he would have given her anything she asked for. For those few seconds, he was completely enchanted.
It was her moan, really, that brought him back down to reality. She moaned and it brought him back to that first horrible moment of realization. He pushed her away before he could become too sick. He saw the look of shame and horror on her face as she stood in the next room and knew it mirrored his own as he shut and locked the door. He felt like a coward, locking the door to keep his wife out, but he couldn’t face her again. Instead, he grabbed the nearest vase and threw it against the wall. He was coming apart at the seams. This wasn’t the marriage he had wanted.

Rue heard the smashing come from inside his room with something akin to horror. She leaned back against his door and dropped slowly to the ground. She had thought for sure he was going to forgive her. When she had kissed him, he had kissed her back for the briefest of glorious moments. It had surprised her the effect her husband could have on her after all these years, but she’d never kissed him that way before. She’d never known she wanted him that w ay, and more importantly, she’d never imagined he wanted her that way.
She knew he wouldn’t have married her if she hadn’t made a scene and if his mother hadn’t insisted he marry immediately. She owed the old bat that much at least for ensuring Rue’s plans came to fruition. But she had always felt a little guilty for the part she had played in arranging the whole farcical courtship. This had always been a marriage of convenience, but maybe that wasn’t good enough for either of them anymore.
She knew the maids would talk, but she decided to stay outside his door all night. What difference did it make if there was whispering about why the lady of the house spent the night on the floor? She was a favorite below stairs, and even if she wasn’t they were too well treated in general to make much of a fuss. She was going to make this right, she resolved. And if she had to spend every night for a week outside his door, then so be it. Eventually he had to let her in. Eventually.
At some point, Rue drifted off to sleep. In her dream, strong arms had lifted her up and laid her gently in her own bed. In her dream, she had been surrounded with the smell of clean laundry and a hint of spice when she had been carried. And in her dream, she had reached out and grabbed his wrist before he could leave her in bed and he had lingered just a few moments – long enough to kiss her on the forehead – before leaving her. But when she woke up, she was in her bed and she was alone.

Another Pretty Nothing — Chapter 2

19 Feb

Author’s Note: I have changed Thomas’ name to “Edwin.” Thomas was originally just put in as a placeholder name as it is the name of one of my favorite cats I ever owned (yes I was very creative, shut up). I’ll be going back and changing it in the previous chapters later. Anyway, I’m not entirely sure why this chapter is the way it is. It’s sort of a filler between what happened at the party and what will happen at their house.

Their carriage left early the next morning. Edwin had claimed urgent business called him home early. If anyone had heard a whisper of Rue’s behavior, they had all been polite enough to keep the intelligence to themselves in his presence, although the farewells this morning had been a touch more emotional than Edwin would have preferred. The duchess Elise Weathers, their hostess and Rue’s cousin by marriage, had begged Rue to remain to the end of the party, as she had so hoped to have spent more time together. For her part, he had to admire Rue’s complete composure as she begged off, claiming she simply couldn’t bear to be separated from her dear husband for so long. If he hadn’t been inside their marriage these last five years he’d almost have believed her himself.
Edwin wasn’t sure keeping Rue in her room over dinner last night hadn’t been a mistake – he probably should have been the one to feign illness. He wasn’t a social person by nature, but sitting in a dining room full of people hours after catching his wife in the embrace of another man who just happened to be seated nearby and flirting loudly with any woman within earshot had seemed to him to be a special sort of hell. He almost wished he hadn’t ordered Rue to stay in her room – she had always tried to smooth things over for him in these sorts of situations. It was one of the three reasons he had asked to marry her in the first place.
Thinking of Rue, however, just triggered his imagination into more of the same dark places it had been in earlier – images of his wife pressed against a wall, moaning and writhing. The thought simultaneously enraged and aroused him. He glared across the carriage at her, sitting quietly and looking out a window. She looked sad, but it occurred to him that Rue always looked sad, as long as he’d known her. No, he amended, she hadn’t always looked sad. There had been a time in the early days of their marriage when she seemed honestly happy. That had been a different time, though. They had both been different people.
“Are you alright, my lord?” it was only her voice snapping him back to reality that made him realize he had been lost in a daydream. He nodded, and made a study of his walking stick as he spun it between his hands but she didn’t look away.
“Did you need something?” he snapped, travel had never agreed with him at the best of times and under the circumstances he found his patience tried. She looked startled for a moment before settling her face back into her usual mask of sadness.
“No, I’m just…” she looked around as though she could pull her words from the air of the carriage before sighing and resuming her staring out the window. Edwin decided to take advantage of Rue’s distraction to study her. She was a lovely woman, really. She’d always been pretty if not head turningly so, but she’d always had a spark in her eyes that men found attractive. She had been barely 18 when they married, and in the intervening years, she’d filled out some. He wondered why she had married so young – she was still a child in many ways at the time, and headstrong as hell.
She just didn’t seem the type to have wanted to be tied down so early and, more to the point, didn’t seem the type to want to be tied down to him specifically – in fact, the entire rest of society found the very idea that anyone would marry him shocking. That part of the equation still boggled him slightly. At the time, he had found it wisest not to look a gift horse in the mouth and the longer things went on, the more awkward he thought the question would seem.
He thought about asking now, he was unlikely to have a better opportunity, but the words wouldn’t form in his throat. So instead he sighed and went back to examining his walking stick. It occurred to him as he spun it in his hands and watched the light play off the top that he hadn’t seen that spark in her eyes in a long time. He imagined it probably went away at the same time she became so sad, but he honestly couldn’t remember. He had the sudden urge to kiss her, but thought the better of it. His brain was still prone to inserting images from yesterday at random intervals and then elaborating on them, generally in the vein of what would have happened had he not walked in when he did, and he didn’t want to confuse the issue when they reasserted themselves. He didn’t want to lose hold of his righteous anger and she’d always had a way of making him forget those types of things. He wished he could forget now.
He heard her sniffle and looked up in time to see her brush a tear off her face. Her red rimmed eyes informed that she’d been crying silently for awhile now.
“Oh, don’t cry, Rue.” he admonished, he almost added ‘what in Heaven’s name could be wrong?’ but thought the better of it. Emotional displays always made him uncomfortable.
She didn’t speak, instead she dabbed her eyes softly and he could see her working the tears back down. At the sight of it, he almost lost his resolve to be angry at her, but recalled himself at the last minute. He imagined they must make quite a spectacle to an outside observer – her barely containing her tears and him staying aloof. Of course he looked like the villain in this little melodrama of hers, he somehow always had in the past, why should her being the one at fault change matters?

By the time they finally arrived home, Rue was just about at her wit’s end. The last few hours in the carriage had strained her almost to the breaking point. Aside from scolding her for crying, Edwin hadn’t spoken a single word to her the entire trip. He’d never been a particularly warm husband, but he’d never been cruel before. She wasn’t sure she could live like this, frankly.
She excused herself to her chambers before his mother, the dowager countess, could accost them over their early return. She wasn’t quite sure she had it in her to face his mother – the woman was a trial on the best of days and Rue was nothing but a frayed nerve. By the time she finally got into her chambers and dismissed her lady’s maid, she was far too on edge to relax and instead took to pacing the floor in front of her bed.
For one thing, she knew Amalthea wanted grandchildren. And oh, if Rue wasn’t sick to death of hearing about grandchildren. There were days when she wanted to throttle the old woman. If she had the most fertile woman in Christendom as a daughter-in-law, it wouldn’t have made any difference. Her husband rarely claimed his marital rights, and when he did the matter was usually over fairly quickly. She couldn’t remember the last time they’d shared a bed, in fact.
Suddenly the righteous indignation drained out of her and she felt exhaustion creeping in as she sat on the edge of her bed. Maybe that was the problem? She had, on occasion, gone to Edwin’ bed rather than waiting for him to come to her – usually only when his mother’s nagging too overwhelming, but it occurred to her that when she attended him he had never once refused her. Perhaps that would be the key to getting back into his good graces. Well, she realized, she couldn’t really lower herself any further in his estimation.

Later that night, when Rue found herself standing before the door to her husband’s chambers, she surprised herself by being excited. She felt like the girl who he had married again – the one who engineered a collision to force an introduction. She felt like she had her fate in her own hands for the first time in a long time as she took a deep breath and pushed the door open.
He was sitting quietly, staring at the fire. He didn’t notice her as she stepped into the room. She wondered idly what he was thinking about, but from the tight line of his lips she feared she knew the answer. As the door clicked into place behind her, he jumped to his feet in shock, his eyes meeting hers.
“Rue! What are you doing in here?” he exclaimed, his eyes darting around as though looking for an escape. Finding none, his voice softened, “I thought you were already in bed.”
“Is this a bad time, my lord?” she feigned confusion and took a step further into the room. “I was hoping we could talk.”
“I suppose so.” he gestured towards the other chair, waiting for her to take a seat before sitting himself, probably more out of habit than anything else at this point.
They sat quietly for a moment, both pretending not to look at each other while examining the other one intensely.
“Well?” he finally said.
“My lord?”
“What was it you wanted to talk about?”
She had nothing she wanted to talk about, she just had not wanted him to kick her out immediately. Her mind raced for a safe topic – the weather wouldn’t justify a visit in the middle of the night, her infidelities were definitely off limits, and nothing in between came to her.
“I think we should have a child.” she finally blurted out, regretting the words as soon as she said them. The blood seemed to have drained completely from his face as he sat in a state of dull shock. “I mean…what I mean to say is – not that I’m placing blame on anyone, it’s just – ” and here, for the first time in her life, Rue’s many charms abandoned her.
“Been talking to my mother, have you?” he finally said grimly.
“I wouldn’t say I have been talking, no.” the words slipped out before she could stop herself, but he actually smiled at that.
“I should have known.” he finally sighed, “I suppose you’re right, my dear. I’ve been remiss about begetting heirs.”
They sat in silence again, only broken by the crackling of the fire and their own breathing. It was then Rue realized, deep in some part of her, that she was about to have an abominably long night.

Oh God! What if they hate it?!

18 Feb

I’m subtitling this post “Why Beta Reading is Scary Business” because, dude, it totally is.

So I’ve sent Promise Me Paradise off to a few people for beta reading. Until this point, the only people who have read it are me, my best friend, and my fiance. Only one of those people regularly reads romance novels, and my fiance didn’t even particularly like it. So the beta stage is the scariest damn stage for me. Sure, I’ve posted excerpts on a few sites but they were always examples of scenes where I felt I really nailed it. But now suddenly I have people who know the genre reading the parts that I didn’t think were so good? Holy crap, what was I thinking?

I’m not a fiction writer. I’m an essay writer. If you need a persuasive essay or opinion paper on a topic, let me know and I will bang you out something that will turn heads. That’s just what I do. It’s what I’ve always done since as long as I can remember. This isn’t bragging, this is stone cold fact. Once in 8th grade I had a teacher photocopy my rough draft and hand it out to the class as an example of how they should be writing. In college, we had the option to turn in a “revised” copy of all our essays for a better grade — I only took advantage of that on the first one, after which I was able to consistently get As on every single one. I once wrote a 12 page research paper overnight, turned it in the next morning and got an A. This is just what I do. Fiction isn’t.

The last piece of fiction I ever made public was a fan fic for the late, lamented show Daria. I believe it was a short story where the challenge was to “redeem” a minor character — this was in 2006 or 2007. People liked it well enough, but I ended up losing the challenge anyway. That prologue for “Another Pretty Nothing” I posted? Yeah, that’s basically the first piece of fiction I’ve shared with the general public since I was old enough to drink. Yeah. So, basically, sending out this rough draft for beta editing? Good God, what was I thinking? I’ve been having a back and forth over this particular book. I hate it, I really do. Everything I see in it is a failure — the prose is sloppy, the characters are flat — and as I read I’m composing the smart ass review I’d write on Amazon had I stumbled across it in a published form. Now, I fully accept that I am ridiculously hard on myself, but the thing about that is as long as I never show it to anyone I never have any confirmation of whether or not it’s truly terrible or if I’m just being too hard on myself.

That’s not to say I want the betas to compliment me and lie, I’d rather hear 99 horrible things than 1 comforting lie. A bad thing I can fix I will fix and as much as it hurts, I want to get better and this is the best way to do that. But it’s still scary as hell. I used to feel the same way about showing my drawings when I took a class in chiaroscuro. One day I almost burst into tears because I’d been working and working and struggling and I just couldn’t make this picture come out right. I knew what was wrong with it, but I lacked the skill to fix it. Fortunately, that day the instructor noticed I was at my wits end and gave me a fairly nice evaluation, but that was not an experience I care to repeat if I can help it. But here I am with another piece of work that I find subpar and soliciting for opinions. I’m going to be on pins and needles until the betas start coming back, so in a nice bit of self-promotion, if you could see your way to critiquing any of the chapters of Another Pretty Nothing that I’ve been working on I’d be much obliged. Chapter 2 is in process — I originally planned to have it pick up at the dinner Rue has been asked to skip, but Thomas decided he’d rather start his narration the next morning and we had a bit of a struggle trying to get the second paragraph into something we could both be happy with (read: he won) which cost me most of the day.

Another Pretty Nothing — Chapter 1

15 Feb

This is a continuation of the story I posted yesterday. A conflict has appeared and oh isn’t it lovely? I really wanted to write this because I’ve been on both sides of infidelity and they both suck, but I wanted to examine some of the feelings associated with being in a relationship where an infidelity (no matter how minor) has happened and some of the feelings and thoughts associated with that. I also wanted to see a hero for once who isn’t a sex crazed sex machine and a heroine who actually does crave physical intimacy. So I don’t know. Do you think these two crazy kids can work things out? Because I do!

“We shouldn’t.” Lady Rue Montgomery breathed, pushing Lord Benjamin Crawley away gently. In the five years since her marriage, Rue had declined more than a few very generous offers from various rakes but none had been quite as insistent or as handsome as Ben – or as persuasive. In truth, as much as Rue tried to be a perfect wife, a part of her longed to be seduced. And so she had gone against all her better judgment and agreed to meet Ben in the library at Heronhollow Manor during the house party thrown by Lord and Lady Sumter. When she had agreed, she had been feeling the effects of just enough champagne to make her feel bold and a little bit stupid. She had no such excuses for why she had come.
“Oh but Rue,” Ben breathed huskily, drawing her towards him. This was really getting quite out of hand. “I’ve been dying since I first laid eyes on you. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. You can’t send me away now.”
“I thank you for your compliments, truly.” She extracted herself from his grasp and backed away from him, accidentally pinning herself between him and a shelf, “however, you know I’m married – happily.” That last was a lie. Her marriage was polite at best and she could go days at a time without speaking more than pleasantries to her husband. Even Ben probably knew that, she strongly suspected it was the reason she had been so laboriously pursued by so many different rakes. Unhappy wives made, she understood, undemanding lovers. It was a path she had considered multiple times to alleviate her own loneliness and some of the boredom, but she felt the least she could do would be wait until their first son was born before she began pursuing other interests and wait she had – 5 long, lonely years and counting.
“Oh my love.” Ben was pressed against her again, whispering into her ear and breathing against her neck. Rue was surprised at how she responded to his words and his touch and his breath. It had been so long since she had been touched. “Don’t send me away, Rue.” She knew she should. This was stupid. They could be caught at any minute and Thomas deserved her loyalty at least for the life he’d given her, but all her better judgment and higher thoughts dissolved under the heat of Ben’s body and the smell of him wafting around her and robbing her of her senses like warm brandy.
She shook her head, wishing she wanted to dissipate the spell she was under. She whispered his name, intending it to scold, to send him away. But instead he kissed her. She had never been kissed like this, with passion and desire and longing. She felt as though she had been drugged. Her eyelids drooped as she succumbed to his spell.
He pulled away and she lulled against the shelves for support, savoring the cool breeze against her face, cooling her and restoring her senses. That was when she realized there shouldn’t be a breeze in the library.
Her eyes shot open and her gaze followed Ben’s to the door – which was open – and her husband, who was standing there with his hand on the knob and his lips drawn into a tight line.
“Well.” That was all he said, that one syllable. And then he turned on his heel and began walking down the hallway towards their suite, his footsteps echoing through her like the sound of her own damnation.
“Oh bugger.” Ben’s face had gone white and she imagined her own wasn’t much better. “There could be a duel over this, you know.”
“There won’t be a duel.” She whispered quietly, more to herself than him. She knew Thomas didn’t care enough about her to offer up a challenge, and even if he had he wouldn’t have wanted the scandal. Still, she took off down the hall after him.

Sir Thomas hadn’t known quite what he had expected to find by following his wife. If he’d been thinking at the time, he would have acknowledged that an affair was a distinct possibility, but Rue was always wandering off for general mischief – he had the thought that he had expected to find her snooping, looking at the art and the titles of the books. Maybe looking for a novel. He’d not expected to find her kissing someone else, and certainly not pressed into one of the sturdy bookcases.
He heard her footsteps behind him as he approached the door to their suite, but had no real inclination to slow down and make this easier for her. He swung open the door and entered, letting it swing close behind him with a satisfying bang – he imagined the look on her face with some satisfaction, before his traitorous mind returned to the look on her face earlier when someone else was kissing her. His stomach clenched in revolt. Oh, God.
He wanted to throw something against the wall and watch it shatter, but this wasn’t his house. He settled for impotently gesturing at random objects before throwing himself into a chair and running his hands through his sandy hair.
He heard the door open and couldn’t help turning to look at her. At least she had the decency to look like she felt remorseful – he was torn between the warring desires to make her suffer by letting her see how utterly destroyed he was and the childish urge to not let her know she’d hurt him. He decided to err on the side of childishness and tried to set his face into an image of stone rather than living flesh.
She shut the door quietly and stood at it for a moment with her hands behind her, looking for all the world like a chastised child preparing for her punishment. Then her composure broke and he saw tears begin to form in her eyes.
“Thomas…” She breathed his name more than said it out loud and began to move toward him.
“We are quite obviously leaving tomorrow morning.” He kept his voice clipped and hard even to his own ears. She froze – the only thing moving in the entire room were the already shed tears still making their way down her cheeks. Even the wisps of hair that had fallen loose from her coiffure stayed perfectly still. He tried not to imagine how they had come to lay against her neck like that, but the image came to him anyway. He really might be sick.
She finally nodded slowly.
“If that’s what you think is best.” So they were back to this. This civil docility that had marked every day of their marriage. He could live with that.
“All things considered, I think tomorrow morning is more than enough time for you to make your goodbyes.” He couldn’t keep the bitterness out of his voice this time. “Well, most of your goodbyes anyway.”
She flinched and he, for some reason, felt like a heel for lashing out like this.
“Will you at least let me explain myself?”
“What is there to explain, Rue? I am familiar with…with the sort of thing I saw.” He couldn’t bring himself to elaborate on that point. It just brought to mind more images he didn’t want.
“It’s never happened before, I swear it.” She moved to kneel in front of him. “I don’t know what came over me – I went there to rebuff him, I swear to you. I just…” she seemed to be grasping for words. He had a few. He decided to indulge a few of them.
“You just thought you’d let him take you against a wall first, Rue? Like a dockside whore?” She flinched at his language and he didn’t blame her. Though her late father was a third son and untitled, she came from a very good family. He doubted seriously she’d ever heard the word ‘whore’ spoken out loud before. Something about that gave him a cheap thrill. He could hurt her this way, at least, by shocking her sensibilities. He could think of whole lists of words she’d never heard nor seen, words to shock and hurt her. He could destroy her the way she’d destroyed him. It would all be so easy and there was no one to stop him. She was entirely at his mercy, dependent on him for everything. He indulged these dark fantasies for perhaps a moment longer than he should have. He suddenly felt the anger drain out of him and exhaustion take its place. This wasn’t the kind of man he had always prided himself on being. This wasn’t the kind of man he’d always wanted to be.
“Get up, Rue.” he sighed. “As I said, we’re leaving tomorrow morning. And I think it best if tonight you come down with a headache before dinner. I don’t think I can watch this particular drama unfold all night.” She nodded and turned to enter her chamber, but stopped at the door and glanced back at him.
“So that’s to be it, then?” Her voice was small, smaller than he’d ever heard it, “one outburst and it’s done? Without you even looking at me?” He squirmed in his chair and stared into the fire in response. If she only knew what he saw when he looked at her, maybe she’d understand why he couldn’t bring himself to do more than glance at her. He felt rather than saw her shake her head sadly and move into her chamber, shutting the door.

Another Pretty Nothing — Prologue

15 Feb

Author’s Note: For your Valentine’s Day Present, I got you a new story! Not really. Anyway, I got this idea for a novella/short story/novel last week and couldn’t get it out of my head. It’s not very plot heavy, so instead of outlining it and researching it and doing all the boring things I usually do I decided to experiment with “pantsing” this. I don’t know where it’s going anymore than you do! Fun! Mostly I want it to be a palette cleanser, basically. It’s here to let me write with no pressure to make sense or be any good. The “theme” is basically that these are two people who got involved in a marriage of convenience and then realized they were completely mismatched and had to learn to live together and love each other afterward.

It goes without saying, don’t publish this anywhere and claim it as your own because it is mine.

Another Pretty Nothing by Charlotte St. Claire

Prudence Weathers was in a bind. No, she was positively drowning in humanity. She scanned the room again, but it didn’t matter. She was still alone. Well, not exactly “alone.” Alone doesn’t happen at a ball. But the fact remained she was not in the immediate proximity of anyone she knew, which was practically the same thing when you thought about it.
She cursed her luck and the circumstances that had led her to this point. She was the only daughter and oldest child of a dead man of modest means. Everything he had left was earmarked for sustaining the household of her younger brother, but enough had been set aside to fund this one lonely season before she would have to go home. She wasn’t sure what would happen if she didn’t manage to attract a husband in that time – she had a family name, but not a good enough one to make up for her poverty and definitely not enough to keep her from becoming a governess if she refused to live with her brother. She guessed one of her cousins might make an offer for her, but Rue would be damned if she was going to leave her fate in their hands.
Unfortunately for her, the London season was always full of heiresses of moderate beauty and wit, and most of them were in a far better financial situation than she was. And so, she found herself in a bind. She lacked even a meddling mama to push her at eligible gentlemen – she was, actually, chaperoned by a grandma whom she strongly suspected favored a match between her and the aforementioned cousin. Well, Rue decided, if the gentlemen were not going to come to her she would just have to go to them.
She had noticed during previous balls a certain young man who gave her a reason to hope. His name was Sir Thomas Montgomery. He had a modest fortune and an inconsequential title, and most importantly to Rue, he was completely awkward and uncomfortable around strange women. Even the meddling mamas didn’t bother throwing their daughters at him anymore. A man with no other prospects. In short, for Rue, he was perfect.
She had, through some stroke of luck, come into possession of glass of champagne from a man who found himself sadly unable to dance with her as he was previously engaged to dance with an heiress who was painfully shy but in possession of 5,000 a year which Rue found erased most flaws. She tried not to let that get her down. What she lacked in finances or beauty she more than made up for in resourcefulness and charm. She was a shrewd creature – she would be fine.
Rue locked her eyes on the object of her interest. Sir Thomas was the roll of the dice on which her future was to be gambled, he just didn’t know it yet. She wouldn’t even call it gambling, really. Rue had been raised around cousins and male relatives with no father and only a younger brother to look out for her interests – she knew men and she had no doubt she could bring this one around to her given time. Sadly, time was one of the few things she was very short on.
He had begun to move towards the refreshment room and she tracked his course like a springer spaniel. If she moved fast, she could be on a collision course with him by the entry. The rules of propriety prevented a young lady from making the acquaintance of a strange gentleman on her own – really, there was only one way for an unattached girl to introduce herself and keep her reputation in tact. It was a risk Rue was willing to take.
She gauged her approach carefully, too fast and he would see her and pause to let her pass him, too slow and she would miss him entirely. As he reached the doors to the next room, Rue moved into place behind him and tripped, splashing champagne onto his sleeve. No war is won without casualties.
“Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry!” she gasped, convincingly, she thought, as he turned to look at her for the first time. He regarded her quietly for a moment and she chanced what she hoped was an embarrassed smile.
“It’s perfectly alright, Miss…” He seemed taken off-guard by the fact she had retrieved a handkerchief from her reticule and had begun blotting his sleeve gently.
“Oh forgive me.” She stopped her work and gave a curtsey. “Miss Prudence Weathers, but please call me Rue.”
“Ah.” He gave a low bow, “Sir Thomas Montgomery.” He seemed, she noticed, far more comfortable now that she wasn’t touching him anymore. Well. That was no good at all.
“Sir Thomas.” She smiled as charmingly as possible, “you have my sincerest apologies for the damage to your coat. Is there any way I can make it up to you?”
He stiffened slightly, obviously uncomfortable, but Rue had come too far to give up now.
“That’s quite alright, Miss Weathers, I wouldn’t want to take up any more of your time. I’ll let you get back to your friends.” He moved to leave and she stopped him with a hand on his arm. It was terribly forward of her but it was a calculated risk.
“Oh I have no idea where they’ve gone off to. Honestly, you’d be doing me a favor more than anything – the only place you can see anyone in this crush is fro the dance floor and I’m sadly unclaimed for the next dance.” She smiled again, but softer this time, willing him to accept her. He stood warily for another second before seeming to resign to her gentle pressure.
“Very well. Miss Prudence Weathers, may I have the honor of this dance?” He said, stooping into a civil bow before taking her hand.
“That’s very kind of you, sir. The pleasure is all mine.” From the look on his face, she was fairly sure that would be entirely true. He looked more like a man on his way to the gallows than one who was actually happy to be dancing with his partner. But he had fallen in with her, which was the important thing. A man who would give in to a dance might be inclined to give in on larger things . God but she hated thinking like that – it made her feel unclean.
He didn’t speak, she didn’t care. She needed him to grow used to her, not fall in love with her. Love could wait. Once the dance was over, propriety dictated he escort her to the side of the room. After another bow and a few pleasantries he left her to locate her chaperone while he adjourned to his lonely corner where he watched everyone else have a good time.
Things progressed in that way each time their paths crossed – usually, not by accident. Rue would push just a little further and each time Sir Thomas would initially balk but quickly gave in to her gentle prodding. Soon, word spread that there was a lady he particularly favored. Having never been the subject of gossip before, Sir Thomas reacted most unexpectedly by fleeing London to visit his mother. Rue experienced a temporary moment of doubt, until he returned ring in hand, and professed his utmost admiration for her many virtues and begging the favor of her hand in marriage. He didn’t profess love – he didn’t even acknowledge like – but he had proposed. Everything Rue had hoped for had finally come to pass.