After Keisha Page, The Word Mistress, agreed to be a host on the A Baron for Becky blog tour, we talked about the type of post I might write. As many of you know, I’ve done quite a bit of co-writing with my Bluestocking Belles colleagues, on one another’s blogs and at Facebook parties such as our Bluestocking Belles Crock and Bull inn, and the Bluestocking Bookshop.
But I’ve never before put one of my Regency heroes or heroines with someone else’s contemporary dude.
Keisha’s Alex is a quite a guy. In fact, he’s a rock star. The hero of Keisha’s Rhythm of Love, he is astounded to find himself having dinner with a man from 200 years ago. My Marquis of Aldridge, one of the two male protagonists of A Baron for Becky, is pretty surprised, too.
Keisha posted the first part of our joint story, written from Alex’s point of view, and I’m following in her wake posting the same part again, but from the point of view of my Aldridge. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to our blogs, to catch the rest, which we’ll post every few days over the next fortnight.
Aldridge checked his horse at the top of the rise. Surely that was an inn in the hollow? And one that hadn’t been there three weeks ago when he rode north?
He was wet, cold, and tired. If they had a warm room and good brandy, he’d take it. Mystery or no mystery.
An ostler took his horse in the stable yard, and the front door opened to warmth and the welcoming smells of stew and fresh bread. This was exactly what he needed!
The public room was nearly empty, apart from the old codgers in the corner that seem to live in every pub. Aldridge took a seat at a table near the fire and grinned invitingly at the girl at the bar, who was fetchingly, if surprisingly, dressed in skin tight pantaloons of some dark material.
The serving girl handed Aldridge a beautifully written menu – printed, it looked like. Aldridge raised an eyebrow at the expense of such a print job, but the appetising odours had already made up his mind.
“A dish of your stew, my sweet, and some of that bread I can smell. And soon, dearest, if you love me? I’ve been riding since dawn, and my belly thinks my throat’s been cut. And brandy, if you have a good French brandy. Otherwise, your best ale.”
The barmaid did not appear impressed at his endearments, but she pressed a device in her hand, and said, “Be right wiv ya,” before turning to the man who had just taken a seat at the next table, a strangely dressed fellow in tight leather pants and a bulky leather jacket. And was that a helmet under his arm?
“When did this place open?” the man asked. Aldridge could not place his accent.
“Oh, we’ve been around for ages, sweets. We’re just not always in the same place twice.” She sauntered away, her swaying rump delightfully outlined by the tight cloth of her outrageous garment.
At the next table, the stranger swiped his hand down the front of the jacket he war, and it split into two pieces. How was that possible? Aldridge couldn’t see the fastening, just a series of tiny metal bars down both front seams.
It didn’t take the servant long to return with his brandy. Aldridge held the beautifully formed glass in his hands to warm the drink, and inhaled its fragrance. Yes. This would do nicely. The man at the next table was watching him. He raised the glass slightly and tipped his head in a polite salute. “If the taste is up to the bouquet, I can recommend it,” he said.
“Fantastic, thanks,” the man said; then, after a long pull from his beer. “This is going to sound strange, but why are you dressed like that?”
The man was right. It did sound strange. How else should he be dressed? Riding jacket now open to show the richly embroidered waistcoat underneath; check. Cravat, neatly tied in a knot a hundred dandies would sell their eyeteeth to duplicate; check. Pantaloons, formerly almost white but showing the impact of a day’s hard riding; check. Hessian boots, with tassels of his own design; check. His beaver and the many caped greatcoat that had kept of the worst of the rain were hanging in the foyer.
Perhaps the man thought he should be in breeches for dinner?
“One does not normally dress in formal dinner wear for a country inn,” he explained. “Would you care to join me at my table?” Aldridge would appreciate a closer look at the man’s own clothes. Especially the clever fastening for the jacket.
A strange expression crossed the other man’s face, then he picked up his mug, and moved to Aldridge’s table. “Sir, you’re sitting in a restaurant in the middle of New York City.”
Aldridge blinked. That made no sense at all. “New York City? In the colonies? I beg your pardon, I should say the United States, of course. Sir, I rode up to this inn not fifteen minutes ago in the countryside between Margate and Canterbury. In England.”
The servant placed a fragrant plate of stew in front of each of them, and a whole loaf of fresh hot bread on its own cutting block in the centre of the table. “Told you,” she said. “Sometimes we’re not even in the same place once.”
Aldridge raised both eyebrows. Surely she couldn’t mean that as it sounded. Had he stepped into a gothic romance? He took a deep breath of the stew to ground himself in something real.
Then his dinner companion said, “I’m Alex, current denizen of twenty-first century New York City. Pleased to meet you.”
“Twenty-first….?” Aldridge shook his head. Two centuries in his future? Impossible. Nonetheless, he put out his hand. “Pleased to meet you, Alex. I’m Aldridge. And when I rode out this morning from Margate, it was 1810.”