Here is my #teasertuesday entry. I have been fussing over this scene so much I can’t look at it straight anymore. I could really use some fresh perspective! Though I’ve edited and reworked it a million times, its still not quite how I want it. Have I got the right vibe between them? (Mr. Elliot: flirtatious, Mrs. Honeychurch: standoffish yet pleased/amused/intrigued). Any and all feedback appreciated!
Just to give you some orientation: my book is a Regency rom-com mystery. This scene takes place during the day trip to the Elliot’s country estate, the purpose of which is to ‘match make’ Mr. Elliot and Miss Rutherford (one of my subplots). Everyone decides to go for a walk but due to various circumstance Mrs. Honeychurch and Mr. Elliot (and the twins) are the only one’s continuing onward to the hill top meadow…
This is the second half of that scene, once they’ve reached the meadow.
Mr. Elliot stood beside me under the oak tree, looking outward as I was—and glancing at me out of the corner of his eye, as I was to him. A breeze ruffled the red leaves above us, causing the green ribbons on my hat to dance. I pressed my straw hat firmly in place then, resolutely, turned to him.
“Are you happy to be home?” I asked, hoping to deflect whatever was going on between us with jaunty and pleasant conversation. I had enough complexities in my life.
“Yes,” he replied, taking a step towards me. As he did so, my pulse leaped. “Though I must confess, I do miss Istanbul. And Camlica. And Malkara. That’s the trouble with traveling. You come to adopt each local as your new home. Everywhere you go you leave a little bit of your heart.”
“At least no more bandits are chasing you,” I told him, in a rush.
“No,” he laughed. “I’ve only to face the Ladies of Almack’s! Frankly, I don’t know which is more terrifying! I might find I prefer rattling sabers to the Marriage Mart.”
I squinted up at him from beneath the brim of my hat.
“So you are indeed looking for a wife next season?”
“Yes,” he replied, gazing at me speculatively. “If I find someone suitable.”
“And Miss Rutherford?” I asked, pointedly, lifting my chin. “Is she suitable?”
He looked out at the view for a moment, his lively green eyes dancing all over Glorious Old England. His lips twisted slightly, as though savoring a secret he was about to tell—and my stomach sank—while my heart rose to my throat—
Oh no, I thought, how had this happened so fast?
“I’ve a confession to make, Mrs. Honeychurch. I only agreed to meet Miss Rutherford because I knew you would be one of her traveling party. You’re the one I wanted to meet today and I must tell you, Fate has been very kind to me. I was hoping for a chance to speak with you alone and now that it’s been granted, I’ve decided I can’t let it pass, whatever the consequences.”
I stared at him.
He went on: “You intrigue me, especially now that I’ve met you and seen you as your own person. I should like to get to know you better, if you’ll allow it.”
“But—” I frowned. Though I’d half expected him to say something like this, my wits hadn’t quite caught up with reality.“But—what about Miss Rutherford?”
He shook his head.
“She’s fine enough, but not for me, I’m afraid.”
“You seemed interested in her on the patio!” I pointed out.
He shrugged, unabashed.
“I was playing the part drafted for me today.”
“That was dangerous!” I thought of her blush, her undivided attention.“You may have inspired interest on her behalf.”
He waved away my reproof.
“Oh, I doubt it. She’s here under sufferance, is she not? Her heart all ready belongs to another.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Of course I do. I listen to gossip. I know she still cares for Mr. Henessey. She as much as told me so as we were walking.”
“She did?” My God, that girl was insufferable, sabotaging our match making efforts the first chance she got! But then I recalled her blush in response to Mr. Elliot again—something that just couldn’t be faked. Maybe her lack of interest wasn’t so certain? “I know she thinks that’s how it is for her,” I went on, heatedly. “But it could change, if she met the right person and fell in love again.”
“Perhaps,” he allowed. “But a man would have to be both patient and besotted. I may be patient, but I’m not besotted. Not with her, at any rate.”
“You could be, given time.”
His eyes twinkled. He seemed to be finding my arguing for his affections on behalf of another woman very amusing.
“Let me make this plain: I don’t want to be besotted with her. That is not where my interests lie.”
“Well, I do hope you intend to inform everyone!” I huffed.“They’re ready to pack your bags and send you both to Gretna Green with their blessing!”
He laughed. “Oh, we will let them down gentle, never fear. But later. No sense ruining everyone’s afternoon.”
I shook my head at him. This was audacious.
“You are playing a dangerous game,” I warned. “Trifling with another’s feelings.”
“It’s not a game to me. And the only feelings I’m trifling with are my own. I’ve put my own sentiments out there for you to see—and I’ve yet to receive a response, you know.”
“I’m not interested in remarriage,” I told him, stiffly. Then I realized with a start: even if I were interested, I couldn’t anyway…because if Charles was still alive, then I wasn’t a widow anymore, was I? No, I was still his wife. His wife. He could come by any time now and claim me like an old pocket watch, if he were so inclined.
I hadn’t quite thought of it that way before. I felt suddenly quite distressed.
“At least grant me the opportunity to change your mind,” said Mr. Elliot, ever persistent. Apparently, a man who could walk from Istanbul to Corlu with only a guide and a small pack of supplies rarely took no for an answer.
I shook my head. This was madness, I told myself. I shouldn’t even be having this conversation, let alone considering—
The twins ran up to us then, bounding out of the tall grass.
“Uncle, Look!” Samuel cried, holding up his undone cravat. At the bottom of that long strip of linen, he’d tied a large rock, which dangled and swung, to and fro, like a pendulum. “We’ve got Napoleon’s head!”
“And for you, Mrs. Honeychurch,” said Jacob, bowing forward with a bouquet of white asters. “We’d like to crown you the new Empress of France!”
I accepted it, touched by their ridiculous whimsy. Oh, I thought, to be a child again. It seemed less complicated. But then I remembered my own childhood and checked that wish. It was the wrong wish.
Too bad I didn’t know what the right wish should be.
There was no time to consider it further: we heard a voice cry out behind us ‘hey, there!’. We turned to find Mr. Rutherford and Miss Rutherford coming up over the crest of the hill.
She had changed her mind again.