This week, I’m inviting your excerpts about moments when danger brings your couple closer or drives them apart. I tend to write romantic suspense, at least in my novels, so my heroes and heroines often face physical danger. But I’d be delighted to see excerpts about other types of risk: scandal, embarrassment, parental disapproval, misunderstanding.
Mine is from The Realm of Silence, and was written yesterday. I hope to have the first draft finished by mid-December, but am not yet predicting a release date in case my plans turn to custard.
Susan startled awake at the sound of a crash, followed by more crashes and bangs. The sound of a fight? She would swear it was within the house, and not far away. She lit a candle, steadying her hand so it didn’t shake in her hurry, and dragged a robe over her night dress. The sound of a shot had her racing to the door. Another crash, definitely just the other side of the wall she faced, the one between the rooms of the house and Hamish’s apartment.
Candles approached her from the servants’ stairs, McMurdo with the housekeeper, Mrs Anderson, behind him, and further up the stair two of the footmen.
“Mrs Anderson, fetch me the key to Mr Cunningham’s apartment. The shot came from there,” Susan commanded, and the housekeeper hurried back up the stairs to her room.
The locked door was a little further down the hall. Before Mrs Anderson could return, it opened, and Hamish put his head out into the hall, blinking a little at the sight of Susan and the three men hurrying towards him.
“Send someone to fetch a doctor, Cousin. Lord Rutledge has been shot.”
For a moment, Susan felt a rushing in her head and the world swam, but she took a deep breath. No time for nonsense. “He is not…?”
Hamish looked surprised at the half-question. “A glancing shot. He is not badly hurt, he says.” He disappeared back into the apartment, leaving the door open behind him.
He says. So he is not dead. She gave the order for the doctor and hurried after Hamish.
Gil was sitting on the edge of his bed, being helped into a pair of trousers. Susan hastily averted her eyes and turned her back, but not before seeing a pair of long muscular legs marred on the left by a ropy scar. The man had clearly been naked when he was shot. Did he sleep that way? The brief glimpse she’d had of his masculine equipment was etched into her brain.
“Susan, you should not be here,” Hamish fussed.
Susan ignored him. “Where are you hurt, Gil?”
“You can look if you wish, now that I have my trousers on.” She would also ignore the infernal man’s amusement at her embarrassment, especially when he went on to assure her, “It’s just a scrape. It knocked me backwards for a moment, or I would have had him.”
“Let me look.” The wound was clear, even in the candle light and from across the room. The bullet had struck the fleshy part of his upper arm, which seeped a trail of blood down towards Gil’s elbow.
Gil stood as she approached, and Hamish stepped in her way.
“We should wait for the doctor, cousin Susan,” he insisted. “And it is most inappropriate for you to be in a gentleman’s bed chamber.”
Susan had no time for such nonsense. “Gil, sit down before you fall down. This is no time to fuss about propriety, Hamish.”
She moved her cousin to one side, and examined the arm Gil presented for her inspection. “Hmm. Yes. It seems to have missed anything vital, but the bullet is still in the wound and will need to be removed. What happened?”
“I could do with a brandy. And some more clothes,” Gil prevaricated.
Hamish clearly sympathised, since he gave the order to the manservant. “Pass Lord Rutledge his robe, Mendles, and then fetch him some brandy.” The manservant obeyed, fetching a brightly coloured banyan from where it lay on a chair.
Susan capitulated, reflecting that Gil’s naked chest a few inches from her face was not conducive to focus.
“Oh very well.” She stopped Mendles before he could hurry out of the room. “I’ll need a clean cloth to cover the wound before that robe goes over his shoulder.” She turned back to Gil. “My sister-in-law Ella swears keeping wounds clean reduces the risk of infection. It is fortunate you were unclothed when he shot you, Rutledge. No dirty pieces of cloth in the wound.”
Gil managed a facsimile of a smile. “My manservant would be offended to hear you imply my clothing is unclean, Susan.”
Mendles passed her a pad made from clean handkerchiefs and then several strips of linen to bind it in place, and Susan bent to the work.
“There,” she said, after several moments. “That should be comfortable enough until the doctor arrives. Do you feel well enough to tell us what happened?”
Gill shrugged. “Not much to tell. I woke to find someone searching through my satchel. I called out, and he turned a gun on me. He wanted the note from the girls; the one they left at Newcastle. I told him I had thrown it away, but he didn’t believe me. He said he’d shoot me if I didn’t hand it over.”
Susan made her displeasure heard on a huff of air, which Gil correctly interpreted.
“I didn’t tell him you had it, Susan, and I’m glad he was the sort of idiot that thinks men can’t trust women, because if he’d tried your room first…”
Susan was having none of such typical wrong-headed male gallantry. “I would have given him the note and would be perfectly well. I suppose you tried to assail him, you foolish man. And him with a gun.”
“A weedy idiot with a big voice, so frightened that his hand shook.” Gil’s voice was laden with scorn. “Of course, I lunged for him. I was as like to get shot by mistake, the way he was trembling. But he pulled the trigger and had better aim than I’d calculated.”
Susan blinked back tears, and could not resist taking Gil’s hand. “Foolishness,” she told him, her voice soft.