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Friday, February 3, 2012
My Favorite Romance: Rachel Rager
Rachel is a fellow Wyomingnite and PM Writer. I haven't known her for long, but she's a great romantical. :)
Rachel: I'm sorry to say this is really long. This is an exerpt from Sweet Ivy which is in the submission process. I love this scene because Sterling is so gallant and yummy. Ivy is so far below his station that she constantly sees the social gap between them and he ignores it at every turn. As much as I love a really good kissing scene (and I have pleanty of those too) there is just something magical about this scene to me!
“Would you care to dance?” the young man asked with a gallant bow, his hand extended.
She pointed to herself. “Me?”
He laughed. “Of course.”
She took his hand and allowed him to lead her to the dance floor. For a brief moment, the floor disappeared, and she was walking on the clouds, feeling lighter than a feather. His contagious smile caused giggles to erupt in her throat as they both took their places on the dance floor. No one outside of her father and brothers had ever asked her to dance. Overwhelmed by the circumstances, she almost forgot the steps her father had taught her as a young girl. Smiling and laughing in delight at her mistakes, she went twirling with glee as her partner spun her in an elaborate turn. When she turned back to him, however, he was gone.
She searched the crowd with her eyes, desperately trying to locate the man she’d been dancing with. People were looking at her, some snickering, some pointing. Her heart raced from the exertion of the dance and began to throb with embarrassment. She frantically explored the sea of faces, trying to locate one she knew, the emotion building in her throat and flooding her eyes. Finally, she found him, dancing with another woman and smiling as though the sun rose and fell by her. Ivy’s face burned hot with humiliation.
Burning tears threatened to spill onto her cheeks, and her throat began to choke her as it swelled. She pushed through the dancing people, anxious to get some fresh air and allow her tears to flow freely. Running blindly, she ran right into someone. All she saw was a wide chest in front of her. “Forgive me. Please, excuse me.” Not daring to look up, she desperately attempted to push past the man who blocked her way.
The man grabbed her arm. “Wait a minute.”
She wrenched free of his grasp and ran out of the room. Not knowing where she was, she found a quiet little nook behind a large houseplant and squatted down and sobbed. To her mortification, she heard footsteps echoing on the floor, coming closer and finally stopping in front of her.
“If you don’t mind,” she sobbed, turning from him, “I’d like to be alone right now.”
“Are you just going to sit there and let him get away with that?”
She covered her face with her hand. Her ears pounding in her ears, making his voice sound far away. “I don’t know that he has left me any choice.”
“Then, why don’t you dance with me.”
“You are very kind, sir, but I…I….”
“Miss Lewis.” She looked up through bleary eyes to see Lord Bennett standing before her. “Dance with me, and show him there is nothing he can do to beat down your spirit. Don’t let him win.”
He knelt at her feet, and she stared at him. Could he be sincere in his inquiry? He certainly seemed to be. Or would he laugh at her too?
He wiped a tear from her face. “I would never do to you what he did. You can trust me. Dry your eyes, and let me champion you.”
Slowly, she wiped the rest of her tears with the back of her hand and awkwardly pushed herself up off the floor. She longed to dance with him, but something inside her caused her to hesitate.
He stood and held out his hand. “I don’t bite.”
Warmth flooded her body as she tentatively rested her fingers on his and allowed him to lead her back into the great hall.
They stood arm in arm waiting for the song to finish. Head bent low, Ivy tried to disappear, memorizing the feel of her arm in his. She could feel the probing eyes upon her and thought she could almost hear the whisperings of the others. Though the earl had tried to champion her, she now felt as though he had driven the dagger of humiliation deeper into her heart.
“Keep your chin up,” his whisper commanded in her ear. His warm breath on her skin caused a shiver to course through her body and gather in her stomach. “Don’t let them see you crumble.”
Looking into his handsome face, she whispered, “I know what they’re thinking, my lord. They think I have made you feel sorry for me. That is the only reason you would dance with someone like me.”
“Then we’ll prove them wrong.” He gently brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes. “If the truth be told, I would have found a reason to dance with you tonight anyway.”
She gaped at him in astonishment. His eyes locked with hers causing her heart to flutter with delight. As the orchestra played the first chords of a waltz, he led her onto the dance floor. She did her best to hold her head up high and look as though she were worthy to be on the arm of such a man. She found confidence in knowing she had captured his eye this night. She allowed herself to reflect on that and enjoy the dance they shared.
And Sterling Bennett was a fine dancer. He led her with ease across the dance floor. Though she felt clumsy and more than once tripped or stepped on his toe, he smiled and continued to be the perfect gentleman. His touch caused her to be more awkward than normal. She blushed when she tripped over his foot, and he caught her from nearly landing them both in a heap on the floor.
“Are you all right?”
“I just have heavy feet, my lord.”
“Dancing was never my forte either. I prefer horses to people most days.”
Her mouth dropped open at his bluntness, and she hastened to close it. “You seem so confident when dealing with people.”
He laughed. “My horse will never laugh at me or look at me as anyone other than his friend. We each have a duty to our relationship. He carries me when I need him to, and I keep him fed, exercised, and well cared for. It’s simple.”
“Your other relationships aren’t simple?”
“Are any of yours?”
They were silent for a moment before they both began to laugh.
“I imagine your father taught you to dance?” he asked when he caught his breath.
She surprised herself by speaking openly with him. “We used to dance often when Charlie and Martina and I were young. Father loved to dance, and he and my mother always danced on Saturday evenings. Of course, I badgered my father until he taught me. We’d dance in the evenings by the light of the fire.”
“He must have been quite skilled. He taught you well.”
She winced, thinking his feet would be sore tomorrow due to her ‘skill.’ “I’ve never had any formal instruction, my lord.”
“Neither have I.” She looked at him in shock. He chuckled. “Mother hired several instructors. Bruce and I chased them all off. Mabel was the only one who could get anything past our thick skulls.”
“I never would have guessed.”
“Well don’t tell anyone. I’d be the laughing stock of the kingdom.”
She giggled. She had never dreamed dancing could be so enjoyable. He helped her forget that she was simply a girl with a sick mother and seven younger siblings to raise. In his arms, she was a woman with passions and desires.
She gazed into his eyes, forgetting to be shy. His hand felt warm in hers as he led her around the room. The velvet of his coat felt soft beneath her hand as she allowed her thumb to lightly caress it. His grip tightened around her waist, ever so slightly, sending a shiver of delight over her body. Her eyes locked with his, and for a moment, she thought he might kiss her.
He cleared his throat. “May I ask a personal question? Not as your landlord, but as a friend.”
Ivy blinked out of her trance and tripped over his foot. He caught her around her waist without missing a step.
“What secret background do you possess that causes people to avoid you?”
Her eyes widened in surprise. She had never been asked such a directly personal question before. Images flashed into her mind, and she decided Lord Bennett deserved an honest answer. If for no other reason than he had championed her tonight.
“My father possessed great fortune when he moved our family to Silver Valley. Charlie was barely old enough to walk. We were among the elite in society back then.”
“Lord Madson and Father were good friends. Together, they decided to invest in a silver mining expedition. Father invested everything. I guess Lord Madson did not.”
“He lost it?”
Ivy nodded. “He lost everything, but he and Mother never complained. They sold their home and moved us to our farm. They were happy as long as they were together.” She smiled, lost in memories of her childhood.
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you, but I’ve never wanted for what was most important.”
The charming smile he unleashed on her in that moment dazzled her. His body moved so easily and smoothly. It was as though he were carrying her away into a dream. She allowed herself to be swept up in his spell of enchantment as they moved with the music. He pulled her close, his cheek nearly resting against her own. Her heart thudded so loudly in her ears she almost didn’t hear him softly singing the words of the song.
“Oh hie me away to the mountains, sweet lover,
Where grasses and meadows run wild and forever.
I’ll pick you an armful of pink and white clover
Just promise to love me right now and forever.”
When the dance finally ended, she expected him to escort her off the dance floor, but to her surprise and sheer delight, he engaged her in the next two reels and another waltz, never stripping his eyes from hers. He built another world for them as they danced, and she drowned in the feel of his arms and the depths of his rich brown eyes.
It wasn’t until the musicians took a break that she remembered they weren’t the only ones in the room. Lord Sterling Bennett had truly championed her – though his method was scandalous in nature, no one would dare to question an earl who worked so closely with the king – and what a fabulous result. She felt as though she could conquer the world as he finally laced her arm through his and led her off the dance floor to where Kate and Emily stood waiting. Sterling bowed to them each in turn. To Ivy, he kissed the back of her hand and took his leave.
“Oh, my goodness!” Emily exclaimed. “What did you do to capture his attention?”
Ivy stared after him. “I don’t know.”
“I cannot believe that you have danced nearly the last hour with Lord Bennett!” Kate squealed. “Think of the bragging rights you will hold over Julia and Chloe now!”
“I know!” Ivy couldn’t help but say, though she knew she would do no such thing. While Sterling Bennett was every girl’s dream come true, he was not a man she would be able to capture for more than an hour. Still, she decided to enjoy the thrill of being held in his arms for that heavenly length of time. She sighed. “He is so handsome.”
Kate fanned her face with her hand as she watched him walk across the room. “I cannot believe you were dancing with him!”
Ivy and her friends continued to giggle about Lord Sterling Bennett until the musicians began to play again.
“Do you think he will ask you to dance again?” Kate asked.
Ivy shook her head. “He’d be a fool if he did.”
“Oh, don’t go saying such things. You have just as much right to dance with him as anyone else,” Emily said.
“In case it interests you,” Kate said, “I haven’t seen him dance with anyone else, besides Eleanora Key, all night.”
“The night is still young,” Ivy said. “He will have plenty of time to dance with other girls.”
“Highly unlikely.” Kate nodded over to where Eleanora stood, glowering. “By the way, did you see the way Eleanora was looking at the two of you?”
“I’m surprised she didn’t cut in and rip him away,” Emily said.
“I bet she was livid.” Ivy smiled. It was a wonderful feeling to out-do Eleanora in something, though she knew she would probably pay for it in some way or another. Still, at the moment, it seemed worth it.
I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.