But, I'm pleased to say, the Muse is back. Some of the external stress factors have been resolved, and the ideas are back. I haven't actually written anything yet, but Sebastian is rattling his cage in my mind, bombarding me with what he wants me to let him do.
To get back into the flow of the manuscript, I've been reading back over the chapters I wrote. And, forgive my moment of arrogance/self-confidence:
This book is good.
Really. Aside from an apparent love affair with adverbs in chapter 2, I keep impressing myself with both the story and the writing. Ideas spark from the oddest things. It could be the flash of an image in a movie (which led to Svetkavista), a dream with a bit of dialog and a snippet of a scene (Leading Her to Heaven), a what if question (Unspeakable). Reckless Liaisons started with one line: Sebastian never expected to see an unconscious woman slung across a horse running through his garden. It evolved, became something a bit more sophisticated, but the premise stands. And thus we meet our hero, and our story begins to take shape.
Here's an excerpt from Reckless Liaisons. Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!
Sebastian Cade had seen many things in his two and thirty years. A massive black stallion trotting across the gardens of his estate with an unconscious figure slung across its back was not something he’d ever expected to witness.
Sitting behind the large oak desk in his study, sipping brandy and attempting to chase away the headache that had formed after a seemingly endless day of reviewing accounts and answering correspondence, he had glanced up at the rush of movement in his peripheral vision, highlighted by the light pouring from the kitchen on the opposite side of the manor. He shook his head and looked a second time, expecting the strange vision to have disappeared. But no, there it was again; the horse slowed, lowering his head, and began to nibble with enthusiasm on the perfectly manicured bushes hedging the northernmost garden path. The rider, who had been slumped against the animal’s wide neck, slid forward at the loss of support and toppled, face first, unceremoniously to the ground. Though dressed as a man, he deduced the rider was female from the tangled mass of long black hair, blended almost seamlessly with the nighttime darkness. Her mount seemed unconcerned – after a brief shake of its head in her direction, he returned to his grazing.
“Bloody hell,” Sebastian muttered, rising to his feet and moving to the door of his study. He supposed the situation required investigation. He was exhausted, and in a rather foul mood after seeing how much money his younger brother had spent on gambling last month, but he couldn’t very well leave a comatose girl sprawled in the midst of his roses.
“Milord.” One of the maids met him in the hall. She was new, had only been in his employ a week, and he had yet to learn her name. “Yer not going to believe this,” she said.
“There’s a girl in my garden.”
“Aye, milord. Did ye see ‘er too, then? I’d stepped out o’ the kitchen t’ fetch some wood an’ there she was. We couldn’t find William, so Mrs. Holland said to fetch ye post haste.”
“Tell Mrs. Holland not to fret, I’m going to investigate.”
“She also said to tell ye to be careful, Yer Grace.” The young girl handed him her lantern with a coy smile.
He grinned in spite of himself, rubbed a hand across his face, and took the lantern. His scar throbbed, as it often did when he was frustrated. “Do tell Mrs. Holland that I can take care of a small slip of a girl perfectly fine, especially one that is unconscious.” The older woman who served as his head of household had been his nurse maid as a child, and was the closest he’d had to a mother growing up, his own having died giving birth to Sebastian’s brother. She’d been wildly protective of him in his youth and little had changed now about her opinion of his ability to care for himself.
With a final nod to the serving girl, he turned and headed for the back door of the manor, then out into the gardens and towards the crumpled heap that was barely visible in the milky blackness. The large black stallion lifted its head and snorted at his approach. It was an impressive animal – ridiculously large for such a small girl, clearly bred for racing. He’d have it cared for, as soon as he saw to its rider.
“Well,” Sebastian murmured, crouching down to brush thick black hair from the girl’s – no, woman’s – face, “this makes things interesting.”
She was indeed a woman, he realized as he set down the lantern. Gripping her shoulders, he gently turned her onto her back and a pair of deliciously full breasts swayed into view beneath the torn fragments of her shirt, snared by the rose bush’s thorns. The rest of her figure was slender and girlish but the swell of enticing porcelain flesh which rose and fell with each ragged unsteady breath proved his damsel in distress was certainly not a child. Her clothing was crude, simple tan breeches and the now soiled, torn shirt, but on her feet were dainty women’s slippers embroidered with green and gold. It was almost humorous and had the circumstances been different he surely would have laughed. Her skin was pale and flawless, not the tone or texture of a servant or peasant girl. What the devil was a woman such as her doing face down in his garden dressed as a stable hand, let alone riding unaccompanied across the English countryside?
His eyes came to rest on her face, tilted to the side and resting against one slender shoulder. Fine, sculpted brows arched above eyes protected by lashes so long and full they brushed the apples of her cheeks in a graceful fan. He wondered what color her eyes were, and hoped, irrationally, they would be blue. High cheekbones and a tiny button nose gave way to a full pouty mouth and small chin which lent her face a heart-like shape. Turning her chin, he surveyed the left side of her face, and discovered the source of her unconsciousness. A vivid, purple bruise marred her pale skin, just above her left temple, and a jagged cut had leaked blood down her cheek, now crusted to a dull brown.
Skimming his hands along her form, Sebastian performed a cursory check for broken bones and was relieved to find none. He stood and lifted her into his arms, surprised at how light she felt cradled against his chest.
Mrs. Holland waited for him at the door, worrying her bottom lip and wringing her hands together.
“I need water and bandages,” he ordered. “And clothes. I believe my sister has some night gowns in her old room. Someone locate my wayward valet and have him tend to the horse.”
“Shall I send for the doctor, your Grace?”
“Not yet.” With a shake of his head he started for the back staircase. “Help me tend to the wound, and then we’ll decide how bad it is.”
“Who is she?”
Sebastian paused and again shook his head, glancing down at the bundle in his arms. In the warm light of the kitchen she looked even more beautiful than his initial assessment had deduced, lips slightly parted, the ugly mess on the left side of her face the only indication something was out of sorts. Her chest rose and fell in a gentle rhythm, drawing his attention lower, back to her breasts once more. An angel? He bit back a laugh. Where had such an absurd thought come from? It reminded him of the things he’d once said to… Don’t. “I’ve no idea.”