Hidden attraction on WIP Wednesday

Most of my stories have a romance in them. Even those that don’t are likely to have some sexual tension. I make no apology for that. For one thing, the kind of love I celebrate in my books is as real as it gets. It’s not for nothing that the Bible uses the language of romantic and physical love to describe the way God loves creation. When two people fall in love and become intimate, they expose deeper layers of themselves more quickly than in any other situation that doesn’t involve near and present risk of death.

And then they have deal with what the most frightening or embarrassing things they’ve exposed, by accepting, by changing or by drawing back. I find it fascinating.

Of course, other relationships can be intense and intimate too. The love between a parent and child, between siblings or long associates, between friends who are kindred spirits: these are all worth exploring. But add the element of physical intimacy, and you both complicate things and provide a mechanism (all those hormones) for becoming close really quickly.

Today, on WIP Wednesday, I want to see excerpts from your work-in-progress where one of your protagonists does something, says something, or thinks something to show that they are physically attracted to the other but doesn’t feel they can act on it. Please keep it clean. This blog doesn’t have an adults-only filter.

My excerpt is from The Lost Treasure of Lorne, which will appear in Lost in the Tale. (Due for release 6 September)

His Grace the Duke of Kendal was digging in the moat again. The unusually dry summer had presented an opportunity he could not resist. With the moat almost empty, even the deepest pools came barely to the hem of his kilt, which, apart from the boots that were out of sight under the murky water, was all he wore.

At not quite forty years of age, the duke was still a fine figure of a man, broad of shoulder, slim of waist, and well-muscled. Even Caitlin Morgan, that stern moralist his housekeeper, paused at the windows of the long gallery to admire the view before she scolded the maids who were doing the same and sent them scurrying back to their tasks. Caitlin stopped for one more glance before resolutely turning away and closing herself in the housekeeper’s pantry with her accounts.

The columns of figures were unlikely to drive the sight of a half-naked duke from her mind, but one could try.

Normally, she would do her accounts at night, after the servants—the other servants—had departed for the village. No one but the duke and Caitlin herself would remain in Castle Lorne after dusk. And His Grace’s son, John Normington, when he was home from university. Even the duke’s valet and butler retreated at nightfall, though only as far as a cottage in the grounds.

The ghosts were a bother, with their moaning and their chatter, but Caitlin paid them no mind. She had, after all, spent more than a decade in charge of a rambunctious boy in a nursery, and knew that a little noise never hurt anyone. Besides, for some reason, the ghosts listened to her, and would be quiet if she insisted.

And if she were as much a coward as the rest of them, who would fetch John his supper or keep His Grace company when the male ghosts drove him out of his bedchamber with their carousing?

Not that the duke knew she kept him company. She sat on the secret staircase on one side of the panel that opened into the library while on the other he read a book next to the fire. She frowned down any ghost that thought to disturb him, and in time he would drift off to sleep.

After that one glorious night seven years ago, she did not dare be alone with him. She trusted Kendal, of course. It was herself she did not trust.


12 thoughts on “Hidden attraction on WIP Wednesday

  1. Nice excerpt – revealing Caitlin’s inner thoughts and then that cliff-hanger ?: what did happen that night!

    A little piece of mine where two people, attracted each to the other, never thinking they dare let their guard down, and the heroine with a groom in attendance has delivered an item the groom could have on his own,,,

    If nothing else she would leave undetected by Farnley if that was possible, and duly said: “Beg sir,” as a servant might have, much to Roberts’ consternation and bewildered expression, “we’ve brought along the Lady Peters gown.”
    ….Again not a muscle moved as Farnley responded: “The settee; to the settee with it, and convey my compliments to the lady on the announcement of her betrothal to Count Mancini, as writ within the London Gazette.”
    ….Roberts dutifully did as bid whilst her mind whirled for not a word of official announcement of betrothal had the duke mentioned a day past, and had indeed considered the match ill advised. Lud, for she knew Aubretia would be incensed. And if it was in the gazette then it was in black and white and there was no hope of Aubretia thwarting the engagement; not now.
    ….The prostrate Farnley once again erupted, curt in tone. “If you’re done, shut the door on the way out and inform the good man below I will not tolerate another visitation this day.”
    ….On seeing a copy of the gazette open and on his knees, she waved Roberts from the room, and tiptoed closer to see if Farnley had just read the announcement, if so she too could read it without his notice. Such was the risk and utter folly at that; for the very moment her eyes fell upon his fob watch atop the paper he lowered his arm and grabbed her wrist.
    ….“Thieving wretch,”declared he, hauling her about to face him. “One would expect honest servants from within the duke’s household.”
    ….“I do beg pardon, but the formal announcement of the engagement set me to bad manners in wishing to see for myself the words in print.”
    ….Astounded by what he was seeing, he blinked and let slip his tight hold upon her. “You come here veiled in the first instance, and now you are here in well; how do I describe it—”
    ….“Modest attire,” declared she, his displeasure at her overall appearance quite out of order. Thus in vexed manner she noted his creased brow and pained expression, perhaps due to overt imbibing of favoured liquor.
    ….“Must you hide your beauty forever, and beneath a ridiculously puritan bonnet at that?”
    ….“It served my purpose to return here in the manner of a servant. Besides, you have no right to condemn my wish to travel around in— in disguise, for want of a better word; which escapes me in the present circumstance of finding ourselves at odds, one to the other.”
    ….“Incognito, ma’am; is the word you seek no doubt,” said he, in snatching up his fob watch and thence folding the gazette. “And you are correct, for how you dress is no concern of mine, barring the fact I see a beautiful woman shying away from who she is, and the reality she no more caused Clarence Peters death than she would cause mine in the same joyous circumstance begotten from a marital bed.”
    ….“If your prostrate form is a mark of personal vigour, perhaps you would be wise to reconsider the juxtaposition of that argument.”
    ….He laughed and cursed in one breath whilst swinging his legs from the chaise longue and the placing of stocking-clad feet to the floor. Leaning forward he clutched his head, as though in utter agony. “Damnable head is giving me severe gip today, my tongue unnecessarily cutting. Sincere apologies ma’am, you caught me at a bad moment.”
    ….Quite sure he was far from feigning pain to excuse his brusque manner; on the other hand her thoughtless words truly were inexcusable. “Is a pained head a common occurrence for you?”
    ….“When I collide with low beams or lintels, yes,” replied he, in raising his face to bestow a smile. “Dear God, one would think I am well accustomed to ducking beneath beams.”
    ….“How so, if such occurs by accident on account of your height?”
    ….“Aboard ship, ma’am, low beams are a constant hazard.”
    ….“You served aboard ship?”

  2. These always seem to take place in the outdoors! Here, Catherine, Rebecca, and Elizabeth (the narrator) are returning from a walk when they hear shouts from behind the stable.

    Rounding the corner of the stable, we saw the gentlemen engaged in a bout of fisticuffs. Mr. Cowley and Jamie stood off to one side, evidently having had their rounds already, judging by their disheveled looks and Mr. Cowley’s holding a kerchief to his nose. They shouted encouragement and remarks at Anthony and Lt. Nichols, who stood facing each other, fists raised.

    It was a brisk day, but the sun was bright, and the men had become so heated from the exercise that they had stripped to their shirts—all save Lt. Nichols, who had stripped down to the skin. He was turned away from us, giving a view of his broad, well-muscled back, tanned from the tropical sun. His breeches were tight, leaving little of the lower half of his person to the imagination. He must have fought several rounds already, for his skin glistened with sweat, and steam rose from his body as if he were a prize race horse fresh off the track.

    By this time I was quite familiar with the sensation this sight produced in me, a jolt that traveled down my spine, sending heat lower down. I had only ever felt this way for one other man, and of course that gentleman had turned out to be no man at all. I was just able to maintain my composure and avoid any sort of exclamation.

    Catherine, however, could not, exclaiming, “Oh, my!” in a sort of breathy gasp. “So this is what the gentlemen get up to when we ladies are not present!” Only Rebecca stood impassively next to me, a slight smile playing across her lips.

    Hearing Catherine’s exclamation, Lt. Nichols turned toward us, revealing a rippled abdomen and powerful chest, the latter covered in downy blond hair. Darker hair began just above the line of his breeches and from there my eyes could not help descending lower, until I caught myself and looked away. I strove to remain impassive, despite the sensations coursing through me—sensations, I told myself, I should feel for only one person in the world. I looked up at her now, and saw that she had turned to regard me as well. I gave a little smile, as if to acknowledge the humour of the situation, but her mouth was now set in a stern line. I looked away.

  3. Oh! I have one. Here’s a small bit from a short story I’m working on.

    He had gone but a few steps when another sight stopped his breath.
    The woman from the tavern, still as the stone she sat on, gazed out to sea. She had pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around herself. Rob could see a three-quarter angle of the woman from where he stood, her left arm, the side of her face, and—saints be praised—the back of her neck. Her blouse slipped every so slightly in the back giving him a view of shoulder and the gentle curve upwards to her hairline. She had pulled her curls up into a knot, but two or three threatened to rebel.
    Colors ran through his head. He would need several to begin to capture that hair, golds as well as reds, a mahogany brown, and perhaps some sienna. His fingers itched to paint. The rest of his body twitched as well with less innocent intent.
    His pack made no sound when he dropped it to the ground, or, if it did, the sound was lost in the wind. The woman didn’t hear the movement any more than she heard him approach. A small voice in his head reminded him he should alert her to his presence. He took out his notebook and began to sketch instead, quickly setting down the curves and graceful lines of her. Not one sharp angle met his practiced inspection; not one appeared on paper.
    In moments he had a rough sketch. He began another and, in his haste, made an error. He moved sideways for a better angle, stumbled into the scraggly gorse to the right of the path, and yelped when it pricked his arm. His alarmed subject leapt to her feet and spun around. Her chest—under a disappointingly modest blouse and bodice—heaved.
    “What are you doing here?” she demanded.

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