Tender moments on WIP Wednesday

After several weeks of focusing on mayhem, I’m taking a gentler theme this week. Give me your tender moments. Perhaps between your hero and heroine, perhaps not. Two friends? A mother and child? Show me what you’ve got, and I’ll show you mine — this is from A Suitable Husband, one of my stories in Holly and Hopeful Hearts, and features my heroine in a vulnerable moment, being comforted by two friends. None of them know that my hero is listening at the door.

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“Do not cry, Cedrica. You are doing wonderfully well, and the duchess knows it. Lady Stanton will receive no support there.”

Cedrica? That cold-hearted bitch had upset his Mademoiselle?

“I agree with Grace, Cedrica. Aunt Eleanor shall give one of her deadly little set downs, and I should dearly like to see it. Here. Dry your eyes, darling. It shall all be well, you will see.”

consolationThen Mademoiselle’s voice, trembling with unshed tears. “You are right. I know you are. I do not know why I allowed her to upset me so. Only… I am just so tired of stupid conflict. This gentleman does not want to share a room with his wife. That one has kept every guest in his wing awake with his snoring. This lady cannot have the same breakfast as that one, and another must be served the identical tray, right down to the colour of the inlay. And as for the war between the kitchens! I swear, if I have to referee one more battle over who has first use of the lemon zester, I shall scream.”

Really? She was not enjoying their little dramas as much as the two combatants? Marcel frowned, and shot a glance both ways down the hallway to make sure he was not observed as he leant closer.

The two other ladies were making soothing noises, and offering to take up Mademoiselle’s duties while she rested.

“No, no. Aunt Eleanor would be so disappointed in me. Besides, you have your own tangles to straighten. Making sure that Lady Stanton and her cronies are not in a position to bully Miss Baumann, that Lord Trevor is dissuaded from taking out a gun, since he cannot see beyond the end of his arm and refuses to wear glasses, and that Lady Marchand can only cheat at cards with those who know her little ways.”

The three ladies laughed together, Mademoiselle’s chuckle still a little watery.

Her voice was forlorn when she said, “It was the other that hurt most, you know. Because it is true.”

More soothing noises, which she rejected.

“No. I am not a fool. I know that I have dwindled into an old maid. Well, look at me. Plain ordinary Cedrica Grenford. A useful person to have on a committee, but not one man has ever looked at me twice nor is likely to. I know Aunt Eleanor thinks dressing me up like a fashion doll and sending me in to talk to all these lords will turn me into a… a swan. But I am just a plain barnyard hen when you come down to it.”

Lady de Courtenay disagreed. “Oh but surely Lord Hythe—”

Another heart-wrenching chuckle. “See, his sister is shaking her head. And you are right, Sophia. Hythe is polite to everyone, and kind to me because I was at school with Felicity. He treats me as a lady, which is nice of him when I am, as Lady Stanton so kindly pointed out, merely hanging onto gentility by the charity of Her Grace.”

“Oh Cedrica…” That was both ladies. Marcel’s response to Lady Stanton’s cruel words would have been much more forceful.

“He does not look at me and see a woman. No one does.”

Lady Sophia spoke decisively. “You are blue-devilled, my dear. Who knows whether any of us will meet a man who can see past our elderly exteriors to the treasures we all are? And if we do not, you and I shall be old maids together.”

“Yes,” Lady de Courtenay agreed. “Perhaps we should set up house together? Certainly Sophia and I have no more wish to live forever on the sufferance of our brothers than you do on the Haverfords. Who needs men, after all? Selfish, conceited creatures, always jumping to conclusions.”

This time, Mademoiselle’s laugh was more genuine.

Lady Sophia said, “Rest for an hour. Read a book. I will order a pot of tea and some cakes, and Grace and I shall deal with anything that arises.”

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12 thoughts on “Tender moments on WIP Wednesday

  1. Love your piece, Jude! The characters are wonderfully drawn 🙂

    For mine, a piece from The Long Shadow (as ever): John has had a nasty accident that nearly killed him and is recuperating. His brother William shows up with some news. I apologise hugely for the length, but I’m not sure I could cut it down!

    ___

    ‘Still on your sofa?’ Everyone who came to visit seemed to enjoy affrontingly good health. William looked fresh and cheerful, his high cheeks flushed with colour. ‘You mustn’t take advantage of us, John. Your leg must be as sound as ever by now.’

    ‘If you ever have the misfortune to break your leg, I’ll remind you of that.’

    ‘Fear not! I’m not such a fool as to stand within kicking range of a rearing horse.’

    Lady Sydney and Georgiana left the brothers alone. John waited till the door closed behind them before saying, with absolute sincerity, ‘I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your appearance just now.’

    William’s lips twitched. ‘Townshends talking you to death?’

    ‘You could say that.’

    ‘Look upon it as penance for giving us such a fright.’
    Despite the flippancy of William’s remark his concern was plain to see. William caught John’s gaze and the humour dropped from his face. ‘I thought we’d lost you, Johnny,’ he said in a muffled voice, and John swallowed hard to ease the lump in his throat. William had not called him “Johnny” for years.

    ‘Has the Minister not got better things to do than visit his sick brother’s bedside?’ John asked, to break the tension.

    ‘This and that.’

    “‘This and that?”’ John repeated, with a raised eyebrow. William looked sheepish.

    ‘Let us just say I have nothing more pressing to do at present.’

    Until now William had only had time for fleeting visits to John’s sickbed; even those must have cost him, for John well knew how busy his brother was. John pushed himself up against the pillows. ‘I feel there is something you want to say to me.’

    ‘Is it too much to believe that I simply want to spend time with you?’ William protested, and laughed when John tilted his head back and turned his incredulous gaze to the ceiling. ‘Apparently I am far too transparent. I have news for you, John, which will hasten your convalescence.’

    John’s mind raced through the possible options. ‘You’re reducing taxes for gentlemen with fractured shins?’

    ‘Lord Howe has left the Admiralty,’ William said, ignoring John’s comment. ‘He and the Navy Board did not agree on the way the Admiralty is run. He has submitted his resignation and the King has accepted it.’ Not knowing what kind of answer William was looking for, John contented himself with a noncommittal grunt. William looked proud. ‘We shall therefore require a replacement for Lord Howe.’

    ‘I’m ecstatic,’ John said flatly. ‘Why are you telling me this?’

    ‘Because I hope very much you will take Lord Howe’s place.’

    John took a moment to arrange the words in his head so that they made sense. The room felt suddenly very hot. ‘First Lord…’ His voice cracked. ‘First Lord of the Admiralty?’

    ‘What do you say to it?’ William crossed his legs, for all the world as though he had just offered John a game of chess.

    ‘I’m a soldier,’ John managed at last. ‘You need a sailor.’

    ‘In my opinion sailors are the least fitted men to head the Admiralty. A man who is not bred to the sea will be more likely to think generally about the needs of the service. Lord Howe has shown me I need a man I can trust in charge of our naval forces.’

    ‘But I have no experience. No knowledge.’

    ‘The Navy Board will supply that. You’ll manage.’

    ‘I’m no orator.’

    William twitched an eyebrow. ‘Leave the oratory to me.’ He reached across and laid a hand over John’s. His eyes glistened with sincerity. ‘I nearly lost you in the past few weeks. All I could think of was that I never told you how much I value you. You are my brother, you are my friend, and I trust you with my life. I believe you have already saved it on one occasion.’

    The raw feeling in William’s voice robbed John of the ability to speak. Gratitude overwhelmed him, but at the same time the prospect of cabinet office—and such an office—terrified him. He knew nothing of ships or sailors, nothing. ‘There must be a better man.’

    ‘There is no man I would rather have than you,’ William replied.

  2. This is from my WIP tentatively titled-No Horsing Around. Jean was found on a path beaten to near death and has finally, after several days awoken-

    Stu clasped her hand again, getting the same response.
    “It’s time to open your eye, Jean,” he whispered.
    He looked down at her face as she blinked. Then again. After what seemed a lifetime but could have only been a few heartbeats she opened them. Stu was awestruck by their color. Blue. Not only that but sky blue as one would see on a sunny summer day. The sound of rushing feet in the hall brought his head up just as his master and mistress walked into the suite.
    “Is it true?” the viscountess said.
    “Yes, m’ lady, and she’s even opened her eyes.”
    What he found interesting, Jean didn’t look to his mistress but kept her focus on him. Then she spoke again.
    “You’ve been here holding my hand and talking to me frequently, haven’t you?”
    “I have but the viscount and viscountess might have some questions to ask you. Do you feel you’re strong enough?”
    “I’ll try as long as you stay with me, holding my hand for I can feel your strength.”
    “First off, can you tell me your name? And where you are from?” the viscount said.
    “He called me Jean so that must be my name. I have no idea where I’m from so I guess here,” Jean answered.
    Stu lifted his head to see the viscount shrug his shoulders. How could he, not that he wished to, return this young lady to her family if she didn’t even know her name or where she was from. He decided to try another way to get to the truth.
    “Miss, do you know what happened to you and why you’re here and not your home?”
    “I’m sorry I don’t and isn’t this my home? Maybe someplace simpler and surely not as grand.”

  3. From The Reluctant Wife

    She arrived at the Hall in short order. The flowers she found, thrived. Lord Jonathon had not.
    “He’s that poorly, Mrs. Landry,” the nursemaid told her wringing her hands. His Grace sat with him all night. Went off to bed after dawn, he did.”
    “You’ve been here ever since?”
    “Yes, Ma’am. I’m to call if there’s any change.”
    “You’ll be wanting nuncheon then. I’ll sit with him for an hour while you go see what Mrs. Josey has in the kitchen.”
    The young viscount opened his eyes when she sat next to the bed, and the shadow of a smile crossed his lips. Those grey-blue eyes drifted shut as soon as the opened, and she thought he would sleep, but he spoke in a rasping voice over labored breathing. “Good. Please read, I’m that bored.”
    She gave his hand a squeeze, opened the Iliad to their stopping place, and began to read without preamble.
    Then Athena put valor into the heart of Diomed that he might excel all other Argives, and cover himself with glory…
    Watching the shallow rise and fall of the boys chest, she thought, Valor indeed. What a courageous warrior you are. She closed the book a half hour later, certain that he slept, but he opened his eyes.
    “Don’t stop,” he begged.
    “No, don’t,” said a voice from the doorway.
    Fred Wheatly carried a mug covered in a scrap of linen. A foxglove infusion, she surmised.
    “Not more,” Jonny complained when the captain pulled up a chair to his bedside.
    “Your Papa insists, and Mrs. Landry agrees, don’t you, Mrs. Landry?”
    His question forced her to meet his eyes; she thought she saw a plea in them. “Of course, Lord Jonathon. You must take your medicine. You know how important His Grace believes it to be,” she said, her eyes on the captain.
    “I thought he went to bed,” Jonny grumbled, punctuating his words with indrawn breath.
    “He sent me in his place.” Fred slipped an arm beneath the boy’s shoulders to raise him to drink. It took some time for him to choke it down, but he managed with minimal gagging. Only a little fell on the towel in Fred’s hand.
    Clare watched the two heads so close together and marveled at the similarity of the auburn hair. Her eyes narrowed when she noticed identical grey-blue eyes and similar lines to their mouths and noses.
    “You Wheatlys have a strong family resemblance,” she blurted without thinking.
    Fred looked directly at her then, making no effort to hide his distress at the boy’s condition. “When I met Jonny three days ago my first thought was how much he looks like my brother Randy.” He lay the boy down gently, propping pillows behind him so that he might sit higher.
    “But Papa said no, I look more like Uncle Fred,” Jonny said, choking on the last word and gasping for breath. He sank against the pillows.

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