Sidekicks, Henchmen, and BFF on WIP Wednesday

jiltedI’m writing romances, so my stories need two main characters. And most of them have an antagonist or two to throw barriers in the way of my protagonists’ happy ending. But few indeed are the stories—mine or other people’s—without other people important to the plot because of their supporting role. Today’s work-in-progress Wednesday is dedicated to those others: to the confidants, the best friends, the offsiders, the sisters, even the rivals.

Usual rules. I show you mine, and you show me yours in the comments. This is Jonno Price, the teenage valet of my injured Major Alexander Redepenning (retired). The piece is from the first chapter of A Raging Madness.

Out in front of the house, Alex’s chaise waited, with his man Jonno—stripling boy, rather, barely out of his seventeenth year—leaning against a tree at the head of the horses. Alex was nearly up to him before he jerked fully upright.

“Major!” Jonno’s brain woke a second after his tongue, and he corrected himself. “Mr Redepenning, sir. Are we off, then?”

Alex ignored the slip and the stab of regret it caused. “Back to the inn, Jonno. I’d like to make an early start of it. There’s heavy weather coming, they were telling me, and if we have to hole up until it is over, I’d rather do it in a decent sized town than in an inn at the rear end of nowhere.”

“Right you are, sir. Close lot they have here, sir.” Jonno kept up a comfortable patter as he put down the modified step that allowed Alex to drag his bad leg up into the chaise with the minimum of help from his man. Jonno’s conversational overtures had been rebuffed, no refreshments had been offered to man or beast, and Jonno had been directed to water for the horses only reluctantly, after a direct request.

Alex let the boy’s words wash over him as he settled into his seat stifling a groan. Eight hours on the road followed by all this standing around had inflamed the constant ache he lived with into active knives of pain. Jonno, having folded away the step, led the horses around to face the carriage way, then leapt up beside Alex, released the brake, and chirruped the pair into movement. His unconscious ease of movement made Alex’s command sharper than Jonno deserved.

“Give me the reins. I’m not dead yet.”

Jonno handed them over, wisely saying nothing, though his face spoke for him.

“I don’t drive with my legs, Jonno,” Alex said, trying to sound more conciliatory. With Jonno on the brake, and a tired pair of not particularly fine post horses, he was putting less strain on the damned limbs than he would sitting tense beside Jonno fretting about his incapacity. He had a flash of memory: a carriage race in Syria, every bone and muscle in his body called into glorious service as he and his colonel’s four blood horses swept to victory against the competitors from three other brigades, his own screaming support from every hillock along the track.

Never again. Those days were behind him.

Jonno whistled. “What a beauty!”

The colt paced them in the half light of dusk, whickering at the stranger horses on the other side of the stone wall that closed him in, then tired at the lack of response and kicked up his heels, racing off into the gloom.

Jonno and Alex shared a smile. “A fine yearling,” Alex observed, “and bidding fair to be a racer, I would say. Are we still on Melville lands? He has the look of Captain Melville’s old horse.”

“It’s a Melville field, right enough,” Jonno agreed. “That old oak we’re passing? Marks the boundary, they told me in the village. We’ll be back at the inn in a few minutes, sir.”

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2 thoughts on “Sidekicks, Henchmen, and BFF on WIP Wednesday

  1. Night Owl Reviews said, “There is nothing so entertaining as watching a man who is always in control, lose that control.” Even better if the one who is always managing other people’s lives has to beg for help. Here’s a scene from Dangerous Weakness:

    “Understand me,” Will went on. “Your blood money is aboard ship. When we have the marquess and his lady safe, you will have it.”
    “They stay until we have the gold,” Hamidou spat back. “And know this. Your lord promised safety to the people of this island. If he does not deliver that, I cannot promise the safety of his wife.” Hamidou looked slowly up to the top of the rise, slow enough for Will to follow, and fixed on Lily who stood pale and shaking in the clutches of a Berber pirate.
    Will’s eyes widened at the word “wife,” but he looked where Hamidou pointed. He paled slightly at the sight of her and looked at Richard in surprise. “Nothing happens until my colleague and I speak with His Lordship. Privately.”
    Hamidou waved a hand, and Lily’s captor led her downhill. “Very well,” he said. Another gesture and Scarface raised his pistol to place it against Lily’s head, hatred in his eyes “You may talk,” Hamidou concluded.
    Richard’s captors dropped his arms. His first instinct consisted of a murderous need to push Scarface into the sand. Only one thought held him back. If I jump him, the gun may go off. The man’s knowing smirk almost broke his resolve, but he forced his feet forward toward two of the men he respected most in the world.
    “You’re a pair of fools,” he murmured. “But I’ve never been more glad to see anyone than the two of you.” He took them both into a two-armed embrace. The three stood facing one another in a tight circle, heads in.
    “Where is our friend the major?” he asked.
    “Jamie disappeared before you left London. He never turned up.”
    No time, Richard thought. No time to worry about Jamie Heyworth now.
    “Ransom?” he asked. He pitched his voice low.
    Andrew’s eyes flickered behind his gold-rimmed glasses. “Of course.” Richard started to ask them how they did it so fast, but he had no time for explanations. “Most of it,” Andrew went on in a whisper. “They’ll have to count fast or look carefully to find the lack.”
    “On the Boreas,” Will added. “Did you really promise them safety?”
    Richard nodded. “Most of these people are just going about their miserable lives. Hamidou and his crew—”
    “Hamidou is dead!” Andrew snapped.
    “This man begs to differ. He commands in that name, have no doubt of that. Leave the islanders alone. Let him and his crew leave this place. What happens on the high sea in a fair fight is up to His Majesty’s Navy.”
    “Good luck convincing the captain of that ship.” Will indicated the Boreas with a shrug of his shoulder.
    “Tell him the Marquess of Glenaire commands it,” Richard said. Damn but it feels good to command something!
    “That should work,” Will said with a grin.
    “What next, Richard? How do you want us to play this?” Andrew asked.
    “You two go back to fetch the gold. Demand to take Lily with you. He won’t let us both go without payment, but he might send her.”
    A slight smile played on his brother-in-law’s mouth. “Your wife, Richard? And from appearances, in an interesting condition.”
    “As good as, Andrew, and don’t say differently. She’s about to birth that baby any day now. I need to get her out of here.”
    Will looked over Richard’s shoulder. “Our host looks impatient. Let’s get this over with.” The three men turned back to Hamidou. “Nice suit, by the way,” Will put in, looking at Richard’s tattered robe.
    “Get us out of here and you may tease me the rest of your days.”
    “I plan to.” Will’s grin passed quickly. He approached Hamidou.

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