As I have nothing brilliant to say today, I will post an excerpt. This is from my third book from the series "The Reluctant Grooms". No title yet. And please note this is a first draft.
Mrs. Wood seemed to be a sturdy woman whom he could describe as handsome yet homespun, and would never compare her to the ladies of the ton but she held a quiet beauty and a dignity that one could only achieve from taking care of those she loved.
“Mr. Gaines,” Amanda spoke in a low husky tone that immediately went to Richard’s belly. She came across the room with her hand outstretched.
Richard took it and brought it to his lips, “Mrs. Wood, a great pleasure I assure you. I hope you don’t mind my coming unannounced, I’m only in town for a few days and Lady Penny beseeched me to bring you her gifts and letters as soon as I arrived.”
Amanda looked at the handsome man standing before her. Impeccably dressed, she blushed like a school girl as it had been such a long time since she had seen such perfection in a man. She noticed the lines around his grey eyes crinkle as he watched her take notice of him.
“Of course Mr. Gaines, I’m sorry I’m not properly attired to receive callers, they are few here. John will bring us tea, would you care for it in the dining room?” Amanda rushed her sentences wondering who in heavens name Penny had sent her.
He allowed her to lead him into the room. He carried the small trunk and he placed it on the table then took the packet of letters out of his coat pocket.
John came in with a tea tray and a small plate of scones. He placed the tray in front of Amanda.
“Thank you John, you and Mam may visit with Henry until Mr. Gaines is ready to depart,” Amanda said lightly. As he walked away, she said as an afterthought, “And if you see Esme, please tell her I would like the rest of the wool sorted while she sits with you.” This last was said as a direct command but softly and Richard knew whoever Esme was, she would sort the rest of the wool.
Amanda poured for Richard and handed him his cup, then for herself. She passed him the sugar after putting a smidge in her cup. He placed a full teaspoon in his and cream when she passed him the pitcher.
“So, tell me Mr. Gaines, how is Penny? I haven’t heard from her in some time.” She looked over her teacup at him and smiled.
“She is newly married ma’am and I’m sure the story is in that packet of letters.” Richard said and pushed the packet across the table to her.
“Married at last,” she sighed dreamily. Amanda picked up the packet and ran her hand across Penny’s handwriting then held the letters to her breast. She couldn’t help but notice a faint aroma about the packet, put it to her nose and sniffed. It was a pleasant odor; leather, the ocean, and an underlying masculine scent that seemed to overpower the rest but was agreeable to her.
“I’m sorry about the smell Mrs. Wood, I’ve literally had them on my person since Lady Penny gave them to me. I was afraid if we encountered a storm on the trip they would get damaged.” Richard explained.
Amanda looked up at him with bright eyes. “No, Mr. Gaines, they don’t smell, it’s just…no, never mind.” Whatever she was going to say she thought better of it. “Pray, tell me the quick version of Penny’s marriage. I cannot believe she’s finally married. Is he handsome? Is he titled? Is he worthy of Lord Charles?” Her voice was low and throaty and sounded like a woman of the world however the way she asked her questions he could almost see the schoolgirl Penny had described.
“She is married to the newly appointed Duke of Caymore who is most assuredly rich, and I believe Lady Penny finds him the most handsome man on the face of the earth. Lord Charles is more than happy with him as his son-in-law as Lady Honoria and the Dowager Duchess of Caymore played match maker to the whole scheme.” Richard smiled warmly, seeing her eyes light up at the mention of the Duchess.
“How is Lady Olivia?” Amanda asked.
“She is as well as she can be for her age, she even danced at the wedding if you can believe it,” Richard said remembering the Duchess and Quiggins taking a slow turn at the waltz.
“Good gracious with whom?” Amanda set her tea cup down as if afraid of dropping it.
“Quiggins, Lady Penny’s new butler,” Richard watched her face give way from a fascinated smile to a loud uproarious laugh. He liked that sound and could not remember the last time he had made a woman laugh.
“A butler!” Amanda could not imagine Lady Olivia dancing with anyone, let alone a butler.
“A butler of the first water I assure you.” Richard smiled into his cup. Amanda Wood was doing strange things to his frame of mind. He glanced at her and saw a small blush creep up her cheeks.
“Richard Gaines,” she said quietly tapping her forefinger on her tea cup, “Surely not the Richard Gaines who captured Bonaparte.” She studiously watched his face and noticed his eyes widened slightly.
Richard said nothing, he didn’t know what to say.
“We are not so uncivilized here as to not read the news from London.” Amanda smiled warmly at him to ease his obvious discomfort.
“Captain Richard Gaines at your service madam,” Richard nodded slightly.
“Goodness, what are you doing here? I’m quite surprised you’re not the Admiral of the Fleet for your heroism.” She sipped her tea wondering how Penny could ever know such a man of honor and get him to take her letters across the Atlantic.
“No, I’m afraid that distinction belongs to my grandfather. I gave twenty years of service to the Royal Navy. I fought in all the glorious battles including Waterloo,” he said with a tinge of sarcasm. “I decided after old Boney gave it up to me the cause wasn’t worth fighting for anymore. I resigned my commission much to the disappointment of my father and grandfather, not to mention the Navy, my commodore, and the Prince Regent himself.” He looked down into the dregs of his cup. He didn’t know why he was telling her all this. He couldn’t help it, couldn’t seem to stop, there was something about her that made him want to tell her his secrets.
“Enough was enough,” he continued, “perhaps someday I may go back but for right now I just want to live my own life under my own rules. Truthfully, I just wanted to see if I could stand still on dry land for awhile.”
She laughed a low deep-throated chuckle. “Tell me Captain Gaines…” she began.
“Richard,” he interjected.
She nodded briefly, “Then you must call me Amanda, tell me Richard, how are you finding standing still on dry land in America?”
Richard could not seem to form a cohesive thought. Amanda was certainly not the most beautiful woman he had ever met but she had something. Something that nicked at a place deep inside him that he never even knew existed.
“I love America,” he said finally, “It’s busy and clean, perhaps a little unsettled but then again, when have I ever been settled?” He laughed at his own joke.
“Would you ever live here? Move here, I mean?” It was an innocent question but she held her breath waiting for his answer.
“I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it.” Which he hadn’t. “What about you, would you ever go back?” His eyes rested on hers. He found them unfathomable.
“If that I could,” she whispered. “But until I have enough money to pay passage for all of us I’m afraid we’re staying right where we are.” Her tight smile told him she had indeed, thought about the question many times, and unfortunately didn’t like the answer.
“You would take your household staff with you?” Surprised, Richard thought with Lady Penny’s help it wouldn’t prove too taxing.
“Oh my yes, they’re my family. And if I could, I’d take my sheep and cow, my little cat and the chickens too.” She smiled at the whimsy knowing no captain in his right mind would ever take so many animals on board a ship unless he was going on an extended voyage and would use them as food. As for her servants, she was sure she’d also have to pay double or even triple the price for passage for them. Their ‘free’ black status didn’t mean anything to some people and she would refuse to step foot on a boat in which her family were stuck in the hold of a ship.
Have a lovely weekend.