Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Young Man's Fancy. . .

Posted by: Shawna Reppert


 Alfred, Lord Tennyson said “In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” But there was nothing light about Richard Bandon’s early courtship of his ladylove. Below is a teaser from my short story “The Beast Within”, a prequel of sorts to my best-selling novel AHunt by Moonlight.


His aunt had meant well. He could almost forgive her for the untenable position she’d put him in.

Miss Fairchild’s maid opened the impressive tall doors of the Fairchild ancestral home. The maid led Richard across the marble threshold and into the presence of oil portraits of Miss Fairchild’s parents, now deceased. Richard swept off his top hat and explained his business.

The maid curtseyed. “This way, if you would, sir. My mistress is in the garden.”

In the well-ordered garden, groomed white gravel paths wound between well-tended beds of roses and lavender. The floral scents crowded in his sensitive nose. He fought a sneeze.

A large tower of gears and levers stood incongruously in the center of the garden. Miss Fairchild sat in the sunshine at an easel, painting roses, her walking dress the same pale pink as the flowers.

He bowed. “Miss Fairchild, good morning. Thank you for allowing me the grace of your presence.”

The lady in question looked up briefly and went back to her oils. “Mr. Brandon. Come to make your excuses?”

Her voice was as sharp as her nose. A witch’s nose, his friend Pemberton had called it when they had discussed the lady over cards and good port. Rather unfair; the admittedly sharp feature complimented her delicate cheekbones and her chin, which was rather like the lower half of a valentine heart. If he could fault anything, it would be her eyes—a pretty shade of gray, but cold and passionless.

“Well?” she prompted.

He had been staring in silence. Most rude, and he had no excuse for lacking in gentleman’s manners. Not now that the moon had set.

He brushed a non-existent bit of lint from his gray frock coat. “I was... indisposed.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Indisposed.”

Maybe it was for the best that his aunt had unwittingly made an engagement on his behalf for a night on which he couldn’t possibly keep it. Catherine Fairchild was beautiful, yes, and from an appropriate family, but was that enough to spend his life bound to a woman so harsh and unforgiving? He could imagine it now. Separate bedrooms, separate lives. Proper to their class, but he somehow hoped for more.

Not to mention that he had a particular need for fellow-feeling and understanding in a wife. Any woman who lived with him so closely would surely discover his secret.

Movement at the far end of the garden caught his eye. A plain girl in a homespun dress and an improbable set of goggles came running out of a small ivy-obscured hut in the corner of the garden. “Cat! Come quick! It’s boiling over. I’m afraid it’s going to explode again.”

Miss Fairchild leaped to her feet and without bothering to excuse herself hiked up her skirts and dashed into the hut. The girl followed close at her heels.

Richard shifted from foot to foot. A gentleman did not follow where he was not invited, but a gentleman also did not leave the fairer sex to face apparent danger alone. The breeze changed direction, carrying the acrid smell of unknown chemicals. From the hut came crashes and bangs, a hiss like hot metal quenched in cold water, and Miss Fairchild’s voice cursing like a London hansom-cab driver cut off by some toff’s horseless carriage.

Miss Fairchild appeared a moment later, overskirt singed and soot smudged on the point of her nose. Her elaborate hair had come undone. The biggest change was in her eyes—no longer cool and uninterested, they flashed like lightening.

Suddenly she was captivating. She reminded him of a lady explorer he had met once at a reception, a woman full of ideas and fascinating tales, a woman who might have been unconventional enough not to be put off if she learned the truth about him. A woman he might have loved, had she not been married. Miss Fairchild was unattached, and he very much regretted that they had started off badly. He’d have to work hard to correct—

“Mr. Bandon, I apologize that I must cut our social engagement short.” Her words were drawing-room proper, her tone anything but. “You apologize for being unavoidably absent at the dinner party your aunt arranged so that we might meet. I accept your apology and pretend to hope another dinner will be arranged soon. Which we both know will not happen, because you have by now been in London long enough to hear about crazy Catherine, fancies herself a scientist. Shame, you would think an heiress like her would be able to snare a suitable husband and settle down into a suitable life.”

“No, I—”

“Can we just agree that all polite protestations and acknowledgments were exchanged so I can salvage what remains of my experiment? My maid will see you out. Good day!” She turned and stalked off.

He watched until she disappeared into the ivy-covered building that doubtless held her laboratory.

That had not gone well. He’d simply have to persuade his aunt to arrange another dinner party. Hopefully this time not on the night of a full moon.


Like it? Buy the whole story on Amazon!  Check out the author's other works while you're there. And then head over to her website for her blog plus a link to a free novel!


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