To make up for it though, I'm going to give you a taste of my current WIP. It's an unifinished draft; raw and unedited. I give you [dramatic pause] the opening:
Chauncy DeFord kept his eyes trained on his surroundings and his back to the wall as gaily attired people floated past him. His vantage point gave him a view of most of the hall. His senses were engaged at every level for this was a most perilous situation: this was a court ball.
It was his second visit to court in his four and twenty years, and the atmosphere was far more festive than it had been on his previous visit. The celebration of the Crown Prince’s marriage, a month previous, was still ongoing in his and his new wife’s absence. While the bridal couple was on honeymoon, the noble youth of the kingdom continued to flock to the court in search of romance and adventure. Chauncy DeFord was one of the few who expected to find neither. Adventure was not something he craved and he was not looking for romance.
A touch on his arm startled him. Turning, he found his closest friend grinning. “Quinly! When did you learn to be so quiet?”
“I have always known how to avoid detection. I merely choose not to do so most of the time.”
Chauncy raised an eyebrow. “I see that becoming a knight has not changed you for the better.”
“It has not changed me at all.” He laughed. James Quinly was the closest thing to a brother that Chauncy had. They had been fostered together with Roger Boyd and had quickly formed a strong bond. It was a friendship that had endured years of testing. They knew one another as well as any two men could, yet the bonds of affection and respect had not diminished.
He would not say as much, but Chauncy was proud of James’ elevation to the knighthood. He could think of no more worthy candidate for such an honor. Whilst formulating a properly humbling response, Chauncy’s eyes were snared by a shining beauty fluttering past on the arm of an unknown courtier. The girl was truly lovely. Golden hair streamed down her back like watered sunshine, her rich brown eyes sparkled with life, and her smile fairly took his breath away. Did he know her? Had she been at court the last time he had been there?
James took note of his friend’s interest. “Have you met Betsy Brighton yet?”
“Who is Betsy Brighton?” Chauncy asked distractedly.
“Who is Betsy Brighton?” James pretended amazement. “Only the flower of the Frandian summer. Her first visit to court and she has utterly enchanted every soul present.” James noted Chauncy’s lack of attention to his words. This was a momentous occasion. Never had he seen his dearest friend look so enraptured, in fact he could not remember ever seeing Chauncy pay great attention to a lady at all. He had at times wondered if Lord DeFord’s habits and desires were not better suited to a monastery than to matrimony. “Betsy is the most beautiful maiden in the world, some say.”
Chauncy briefly removed his eyes from the angelic lady to address his counterpart. “She could not be more lovely than that lady there.” He indicated the maid he’d been observing.
James smiled. “Certainly she could not be more lovely than herself.”
“What?” Chauncy’s attention was finally restored to his friend.
“That lady there is none other than Elizabeth Brighton. And I see that she has caught you as well.”
Chauncy frowned. “I am not caught. I merely
appreciate beauty when I see it. No doubt she has the temper of a fishwife.”
“Not at all. She is reputed to be the most amiable of creatures.” James tried to hide his grin. This was such a rare occasion, and all the more enjoyable because of its uncommonness. He felt as he imagined a mother must when her child takes its first step. “Are you going to watch her all night, or might you try dancing with her?”
“She seems to have no difficulty finding partners, besides which I do not care for her brother.”
“Then do not ask her brother to dance.” James quipped.
A trio of ladies approached the two gentlemen. As they neared the men a mischievous smile appeared on the face of the tallest lady. She swept a low curtsey. “Sir James. What a pleasure to have you at court.”
It was his turn to frown. “None of that please.”
She feigned concern. “Are you not pleased at such an honor having been bestowed upon you?”
“You know I am pleased, Wini. I see no reason it should change the way I am treated by my friends.”
“You need have no fear on that account, for aside from your new title, I can see that you are the same knave I have always known.” She smiled as she said this. Winifred St. Robert was as pleased as any other about Sir James’ elevation. In addition to being a steadying influence on her brother Duncan, James was a friend to the man she considered as the older brother she lacked.
Chauncy and Winifred had spent many days playing together during the early years of their childhood. Their fathers had been the best of friends, and that combined with the proximity of the DeFords’ home of Thornhill to the St. Roberts’ keep, Kenleigh, made their children’s association inevitable. Shifting her attention, Winifred addressed Chauncy. “You must dance with me now.”
He smiled. “Rather forward of you to ask me.”
“I am not asking. I am stating a fact. Besides which if I waited for you to ask me, I’d be waiting at my graveside. You act as if you have never been to court. People are beginning to talk about you.”
“People talk about me anyway.” He countered. “Can you honestly state that my dancing with you will not cause more speculation than my not dancing at all?”
“Now my lord it is hardly my fault that you make yourself scarce and refuse to dance. Were you to engage in this pastime more often, no one would remark upon your taking any lady to the floor.”
“So you admit it?”
“Of course.” Winifred conceded that point with a smile. “Are you going to dance with me or not?”
Chauncy sighed. “Miss St. Robert, would you grant me the honor of the next dance?”
“Oh, Lord DeFord!” She pretended. “I had not expected this. I fear I shall tread upon your toes, if I accept.”
He smiled. “I fear that as well. Nevertheless…” He offered his arm, which she accepted, and led her to the floor.
“Our mothers expect us to marry, you know. Do you think they shall be terribly disappointed.”
Chauncy shrugged. “A little, I think. Rest assured that they shall recover. I could not marry you Wini. You are too much a sister to me.”
“And you too like a brother to me.” Winifred replied. “Besides which I do not think I should wished to be bothered with you every day.”
That remark caused Chauncy to laugh aloud, drawing the attention of several revelers, among them a number of young maidens.
What do you think? Am I forgiven?