Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Excerpt from AN IMPROPER LOVER

When the tea arrived, Harriett left her parents to their
attempts at a civil conversation and wandered out into the
grounds. She had played here as a child when Aunt Elizabeth
was alive. It had been a very lively place then. She wandered
along a path through the trees dressed in their summer green,
recalling how she’d made up stories and narrated them to an
audience of birds. A stately old oak tree she used to climb as a
child caught her attention. She paused, remembering that
Pendleton lay on a rise above a wide, green valley, and the tree
offered a wonderful view all the way to the Channel from its
topmost branches. She might see the French coast on such a fine
day. She looked around. Finding no one in sight, she untied her
bonnet and pulled off her taupe kid half-boots. She removed her
stockings and tucked them into her shoes, then gathered her
cream percale gown up around her knees. Placing a foot on a
low branch, she began to climb. She had climbed a good way up
and stopped to consider her way forward when a figure rose
from the shrubbery below her. He stood examining something in
his hand. He looked up and caught sight of her, then shoved it
into his pocket. Whipping off his hat he stared up at her in surprise.
“Can that be you, Harry? It must be. Taller, but as skinny as
ever.”
From her lofty perch, Harriett took a deep breath. “Gerard.”
“‘Tis I.” He came to stand below her. “So, you can still climb
that tree.”
“Why ever not?” She put a foot on a lower branch in an
attempt to climb down without affording him a scandalous view
up her dress but soon found it impossible. “Turn your back, will
you?”
He gave a sly look at her bare legs before he turned away.
“Are you sure you don’t require my assistance?”
“I’ll ask if I do,” she said waspishly. She reached the bottom
branch and stood considering whether to jump and possibly fall
in a heap at his feet. In the end she swallowed her pride. “You
might help me,” she suggested.
Gerard turned around and put up his arms. She leaned over
and rested her hands on his broad shoulders. He gripped her
waist and lifted her down. For a moment, he held her close
against his chest. “Not so scrawny after all,” he said with a grin.
“But you are just as outrageous.” Harriett blushed as his hard
male body pressed against hers, his mouth close enough to kiss.
He set her on her feet and stood with legs spread and arms
folded, studying her. “You always were tall for a girl.”
In her bare feet, Harriett’s head reached his shoulder and
Gerard stood well over six feet. “Too tall for beauty, or so I’m
told,” she said pragmatically.
His dark brows rose. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Beholding Gerard, Harriett quite agreed. With his wellshaped
mouth and the cleft in his chin, he was quite the
handsomest man she had ever set eyes on. She bent to pick up
one of her boots.
“Allow me.”
Her cheeks burned. “No. I have to put on my stockings.
Would you turn your back again, please?”
“What gentleman would refuse?” He turned his back.
Harriett was securing her garter around her stocking when
he turned. She hastily pulled down her dress. “You agreed not to
look.”

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