Time to wrap up another month, which means it’s time for a short story, or in this case, a scene that I’ve been working on from a longer story. This scene came about in a rather convoluted way. I was scanning through my news-feed the other day when I came across this article: Female Dragonflies Fake Their Deaths to Avoid Annoying Males.
The article got me to thinking about what tactics a Regency heroine might employ in order to avoid an annoying male (other than faking her death, of course). After a little trial and error, I came up with a solution that just might fit the bill. As a plus, the scene fits nicely into my WIP and fills a gap that had been plaguing me for quite a while.
Hope you enjoy the scene. As always, feedback and comments are welcome.
# # #
The Incident at the House Party
Michael and Abigail arrived at Warrington Manor early in the afternoon. After they got settled Lady Hackleton introduced them to the other guests and laid out the plans for the day – outdoor games and contests in the afternoon, amateur theatrics before dinner, and music and dancing to round out the evening – before bustling off to greet the new arrivals.
Abigail started to follow the rest of the guests out the terrace doors to the garden lawn but stopped when she realized that Michael was no longer behind her. Retracing her steps to his side she asked, “Will you be joining us, my lord?”
“I’ll be there presently.” Checking to make sure no one was within earshot, he lowered his voice and added, “This is a perfect opportunity for me to do some investigating.”
“That sounds much more appealing than playing tedious outdoor games,” Abigail said with interest. “I’ll help.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Michael said quickly, remembering what happened the last time Abigail tried to help.
“Perhaps not necessary, but surely it would be much faster if we both searched for whatever it is you’re looking for.”
“Faster, but much riskier.” Michael quelled a shudder, visualizing all that could possibly go wrong. “If you really want to be of help, go keep our hosts distracted so that I am not interrupted while I search.”
Michael could tell Abigail wanted to argue the point but the return of Lady Hackleton put a sudden end to their discussion. “Come along you two,” she said, waving them toward the open French doors. “The archery contest is almost ready to begin.”
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to join you,” Michael said, turning toward the study. “I have some urgent business correspondence that requires my immediate attention.”
With no other choice, Abigail acquiesced to the inevitable. “We’ll leave you to it then,” she responded, directing a glare at Michael as Lady Hackleton deftly shepherded her through the open French doors and into the garden.
# # #
Michael watched them go and then made check of the public rooms to ensure the members of the house party were all engaged in the activities outside before turning down the hall to Lord Hackleton’s study. A quick but thorough searched turned up nothing of interest. There was no safe in the room and the one locked drawer in the desk contained only an account ledger and a variety of receipts. There were no letters or journals or anything else to tie Lord Hackleton to the treason accusation or to gambling. Making sure to remove any trace of his search, Michael quit the study and proceeded upstairs to the bedchambers.
As he passed by a window on the upper landing, he could see the archery contest was well underway. Several of the gentlemen were assisting the ladies with their bows. There’s no need for Lord Hackleton to stand that close, Michael thought as he watched him attempt to show Abigail how to hold her bow. No need for her to look quite so pleased at his attentions either.
Michael watched for a few more minutes before turning away from the window and continuing with his search. He found several interesting letters hidden in both Lady Hackleton and Lord Hackleton’s bedchambers, but none of them that had the slightest thing to do with treasonous activities.
Mentally crossing yet another suspect of his list, he returned to his own bedchamber and opened his portable writing desk. He had been telling the truth when he said he had some correspondence that required his attention. Just not the whole truth.
He had just finished sealing his letter when a yell and a series of screams erupted from the garden below. What has she done now? Quickly closing and locking his desk, he descended the stairs and exited through the terrace doors to the garden.
The scene before him momentarily stopped him in his tracks. Abigail stood off to his right, with her bow in one hand and an irritated expression on her flushed face. Off to the left stood a crowd of guests surrounding Lord Hackleton, who appeared to have an arrow protruding from his right thigh.
Michael advanced toward Abigail. I can’t wait to hear the explanation for this. Removing the bow from her hand and setting it aside, he took her arm and directed her away from the other guests.
“Would you like to tell me what happened?” he asked, fighting a smile as they walked toward the privacy of the shrubbery.
Abigail shrugged. “I seem to have accidentally let my arrow go a little prematurely.”
“Into his leg?”
“I thought you wanted me to keep everyone distracted”
“Shooting our host was not precisely what I had in mind.”
“I had no choice. He refused to keep his hands to himself.”
“Pity you didn’t aim a little higher and to the left then,” Michael said with a frown in Lord Hackleton’s direction.
“Do you think he’ll be alright?”
“Regrettably. It doesn’t look like you’ve caused any permanent damage, “Michael said, as a footman successfully removed the arrow. “He’ll probably just be a little sore.” And a little more careful around armed ladies. Married armed ladies.
“I suppose I should go back and apologize,” Abigail glared in the direction of Lord Hackleton who was being escorted to a chair on the terrace. “Though really, it was his own fault.” They walked for a few moments in silence before Abigail asked, “Did you find the letters you were looking for?”
“Letters, yes, but not the ones I was looking for.” Michael paused and shook his head before adding, “Apparently, both Lord Hackleton and Lady Hackleton are having affairs.”
“But they don’t even have an heir yet!”
“True, but it’s hardly uncommon amongst the ton. As long as they are discrete, most will turn a blind eye.
Abigail stopped and turned to face him. “I’m not the kind of wife to turn a blind eye.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” said Michael, cheered by her hint of possessiveness. “Now, I suggest you go make your sincere apologies to our host so we can extract ourselves before any further injuries occur.”
“What a disappointment,” Abigail said with a sigh. “I had such plans for this house party.”