You can’t choose your relatives on WIP Wednesday

au_bistro_at_the_bistroI’m deep in edit mode for Revealed in Mist, and I think I’m improving it. Sibling relationships are a big part of the story—Prue’s with her sisters, and David’s with his half-brothers. As the saying goes, you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your relatives.

I’ve just edited chapter two, where David meets the Marquis of Aldridge for the first time in years, so I figured I’d make relatives the focus of this week’s post. Here’s a short excerpt. Feel free to post one of your own in the comments.

He frowned at the fire in the small hearth. The private parlour he had hired was small and shabby, but at least its size made it easy to heat. And it was neutral ground, which mattered. David hadn’t had a prolonged conversation with his expected guest in a decade and a half.

He must have been seventeen or eighteen on the last occasion, staying at Haverford Castle in Kent between the end of the school term and his first term at university. The Duke of Haverford’s son and heir, the Marquis of Aldridge, would have been 12. The day had begun happily enough with the boy tagging along while David went out after small game with a gun. It had ended with David beaten and driven from the property.

Aldridge had tripped and knocked himself out, and Haverford, finding David leaning over his unconscious heir, had not waited for explanations.

Once the young marquis left school and entered Society, they met from time to time, usually when the Duchess of Haverford insisted on David coming to one of her entertainments. Her husband, the duke, was almost always engaged elsewhere, but her sons often attended. They paid their mother the courtesy of not being rude to her protégé, and he responded with the same polite reserve.

He was expecting Aldridge now. Older brother to one of the courtesan’s lovers. David’s despised father’s oldest legitimate son. His half-brother.

A knock on the door heralded Aldridge’s arrival. A maid showed him into the private parlour. He’d clearly been treating her to a display of his facile charm; she was dimpling, blushing, and preening.

David examined him as he gave the girl a coin “and a kiss for your trouble, my darling.” The beautiful child had grown into a handsome man. David had heard him described as ‘well-put together, and all over, if you know what I mean.’ The white-blonde hair of childhood had darkened to a guinea gold, and he had his mother’s hazel eyes under a thick arch of brow he and David had both inherited from their father.

Aldridge navigated the shoals of the marriage market with practiced ease, holding the mothers and their daughters off, but still not offending them, and carrying out a gentleman’s role in the ballroom with every evidence of enjoyment.

But his real success, by all accounts, was with bored widows and wives, where he performed in the bedroom with equal charm, and perhaps more pleasure. Society was littered with former lovers of the Merry Marquis, though he had the enviable ability to end an affair and retain the friendship.

Aldridge ushered the laughing maid out of the room and closed the door behind her, acknowledging David’s appraisal with a wry nod.

“Wakefield. You summoned me. I am here.”

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7 thoughts on “You can’t choose your relatives on WIP Wednesday

  1. How about the beginning chapter of Nothing But Time. Lady Gwendolyn Worthington is not at all pleased with her brother’s directive that her marriage will indeed go through…

    Lady Gwendolyn Marie Worthington strode across the floor and threw her bonnet onto the high backed leather chair in her brother’s study. All thoughts of a trip to the milliner had been all but forgotten, considering the missive she held in her hand. With arms crossed, her shoe tapped a rapid staccato on the wooden floorboards beneath her feet. Her brother remained indifferent to her demand for his attention whilst he continued writing. The insufferable lout did not even have the decency to bother to acknowledge her presence. She cleared her throat hoping to gain his notice.

    He continued with whatever business he was attending to with barely a pause in his pursuit to finish his correspondence. “You did not knock,” he replied in a barely civil and flat monotone. His disinterest to her presence was as though he were reminding her of his place within his household, like she could ever forget she was subject to his directives.

    Her brother had had the audacity to send a servant to deliver his note to her bedroom. He should have come there himself to speak with her, given the news he wished to impart. She tossed the crumbled parchment onto his desk. He, in turn, brushed it aside like it was nothing but a pesky insect to be swatted away.

    “You have been given your instructions, Gwendolyn. We have nothing further to discuss.”

    “Do not take that tone with me, Edmund. You may hold our father’s title, but that in no way gives you leave to treat me as if I must comply with demands such as these,” she fumed, wondering, not for the first time, where her carefree older brother of years past had gone. Surely there was some measure of the young man she had adored in their youth lurking behind the expressionless mask of this unfeeling cad before her.

    Edmond Gerard Worthington, 9th Duke of Hartford, set his quill down. The blue eyes that met her brown ones were just as cold as his voice. Since he had inherited his rightful title of duke after their father’s passing, along with all the responsibilities that such a position held, Gwendolyn hardly recognized her brother of years past. She swallowed hard, knowing her fate would not be easily swayed by this uncaring man. Still, she had to try.

    “Mother will hear of this,” she warned. “She will not allow her only daughter to be wed to a man in order to fulfill some business deal made years ago.”

    “Mother is fully aware of the obligations that must be met. I should not have to explain how things of this nature are done, sister. Arranged marriages happen every day within the ton. Yours will be no exception.”

    “Brandon, then. Surely my younger brother cares what happens to his sister since you have made it painfully obvious that you do not,” Gwendolyn retorted sharply.

    Edmond sighed heavily and put down the quill. “Both mother and Brandon have been summoned to return to London post haste. The marriage contract was signed and agreed upon years ago by all parties, including your own signature. You would have already been wed, had it not been for father’s death,” Edmond answered. He leaned his elbows upon his desk, fingers forming a steeple as if contemplating his next words or whatever argument she could come up with.

  2. Ooh, nice! I can’t imagine what it must be like to be Aldridge’s sibling. He’s incorrigible, isn’t he?

    You realise this one’s a gift to me, yes? The Long Shadow is all about how one cannot choose one’s relatives. 😉 But I’ve chosen to do something else this week: here’s a scene from an arc I cut very, very early on, because it would just have made TLS into War and Peace. You probably know John and Mary had a fairly drawn-out courtship, and I tried to add some of that in to the story, but (while cute) it was too much. I was a bit annoyed to take it out, though, because it involved John’s sister Harriot, who is one of my Favourite Characters Ever. (She’s pretty much reduced to a bit part now, alas.)

    ___

    The next day John came downstairs shortly after twelve, shrugging on his fine red woollen coat with its blue facings edged in gold lace, but gently to avoid disturbing the fresh powder in his curled hair. He found Harriot in the drawing-room, wrapped in a dressing gown and her hair still in papers. His sister had drawn up a small writing table by the window and was writing letters with the sash open a few inches. She did not react to his entrance but reached out to catch back a paper that blew off the table as he breezed past.

    `Good morning,’ John said.

    `I believe it’s afternoon now,’ Harriot said without looking up.

    `Well, it’s a fine one. Any chance you might fetch me some breakfast?’

    `None whatsoever.’

    `Suit yourself.’ John grabbed a pear from the dish on the sideboard, took a healthy bite and looked out of the window at the cloudless blue sky. `It looks set to be hot for the field day.’

    `Be sure not to break a sweat,’ his sister said, and John laid his pear down on the sideboard again.

    `Very well, Harriot, I give up. What is it I’ve done now?’

    Harriot threw down her pen and pushed the table away so abruptly she upset the inkstand. `Nothing, John. You’ve done nothing. As usual.’ She stared in annoyance at the black stain spreading across her half-finished letter, then started gathering up her etui, wafer box and pen-knife, throwing them into her writing box with more than usual force.

    `In that case,’ John said when nothing more was forthcoming, `I shall go and find myself some breakfast. Where’s William?’

    `Plotting more parliamentary reform upstairs with Lord Mahon and Mr Wyvill. He said not to expect him for dinner.’

    `I haven’t seen much of him since he moved into Berkeley Square,’ John said. `I must say our arrangement is not inconveniencing me very much at all!’

    Harriot shut the lid of her writing box with a loud snap and stared at John with raised eyebrows. `I cannot believe it. Do you ever think of anyone besides yourself?’ John held his hands up, backed away and turned towards the door. Harriot moved quickly and placed herself between John and the exit, blocking his path with outstretched arms. `No! You are staying. I have something to say to you.’

    `You mean you have something to shout about,’ John corrected her, and winced and ducked when Harriot struck at him repeatedly on the shoulder.

    `I was at Ranelagh last night. Mary Townshend was there.’ At the mention of Mary’s name John’s eyes widened. Harriot saw the sober look on his face and crossed her arms. `Are you not going to ask me what she said?’

    `I imagine you spoke of gowns and balls and the latest plays.’ John tried to dodge past his sister but she grasped him by both shoulders and forced him to meet her gaze.

    `You, John. We spoke of you.’

    It was going to happen, and there was nothing he could do to stop it, not when Harriot was in one of her determined moods. His shoulders sagged and he leaned against the doorknob. He said weakly, `Well, there’s no law against it.’

    • By the way, Revealed in Mist features both of Aldridge’s siblings: his illegitimate half-brother (the hero of the book), and Lord Jonathan, Aldridge’s scamp of a younger brother.

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