Hi everyone. Following on from a rejection by Mills & Boon which contained some really useful advice I've gone back and changed a few things in this chapter. See what you think...
Aline of Leavingham gazed through her window, willing the heavy grey clouds to part. From her room in the high tower she could see the dark shadows rolling over the walls of the castle and casting a gloom over the countryside beyond.
“Don’t rain, please don’t rain today,” she muttered under her breath. She drummed her fingers on her lap impatiently, craning her head to get a better view of the city below as the maid moved around, brushing and twisting her hair.
“Please keep still, my lady,” Susanne scolded. “I know you are eager to leave, but if you wish your hair to stay put while you ride you have to let me finish.”
Aline forced herself to sit still, knowing Susanne would not let her young mistress leave the chamber before she was flawlessly presented, however long that might take and regretting that she had asked for the intricately twisted braids. Aline closed her eyes as the soft hands deftly carried out their task. Her chamber faded, replaced in her mind with a candlelit hall, where she circled round, losing herself in an intoxicating melody of lutes, skirts whirling, feet skipping to the beat. Strong arms slipped around her waist as some unseen companion drew her close. Lifting her eyes to meet his gaze, Aline sighed deeply, lips parting in expectation…
A sharp tug of the hairbrush pulled her back to reality, the face of the dancer melting away in the watery sunlight, replaced by the disapproving face of Susanne.
“My lady, I do not know what you are thinking but I doubt the High Lord would approve!” the older woman remarked.
Aline’s shoulders sagged at the mention of her grandfather. “You know I give him no cause for disapproval,” she said defensively. “I read all the dusty old histories and treatises on diplomacy I am tasked with learning. I sit for hours listening to his council discuss matters of the province and beyond. I am a gracious hostess and a dutiful, modest lady of court. I play every part he expects. There is nothing he has asked of me that I have not done!” Her voice tailed off as she saw Susanne’s expression soften.
“I know, my lady,” Susanne said gently, “your mother would have been proud of you, your father too. You will be a great High Lady when that time comes.”
A familiar lump formed in Aline’s throat at the mention of her parents. Even after six years she still missed them. She closed her eyes again, thinking how the winter sickness that claimed her parents and brother had changed the course of her life. Sometimes she found herself wishing the High Lord had never named his young granddaughter as heir. But then what else could he have done? To hand over the title to a lord from another province was unthinkable. She could no longer deny the fact that her carefree days were numbered. The High Lord of Leavingham seemed weaker and older every day. He could no longer hide that he needed a stick to help him walk and a scribe to assist his reading, nor the frustration this caused him.
“I carry out all my duties as my noble grandfather requires, but my thoughts are mine alone,” she whispered.
A discreet cough from Susanne brought Aline back to the present. “There my lady, all done. Now try to keep it so for at least half the day please,” she instructed with mock severity, patting Aline’s cheek affectionately.
Aline stood and examined herself in the polished bronze mirror, pleased with what she saw. A sleeveless dress of fine green linen set off her pale blonde hair and grey eyes perfectly. The bodice with black laces at the front emphasised the curves of her figure, and the full sleeves of her under-tunic rippled as she moved. The outfit was becoming, yet sufficiently modest that even her grandfather would be able to find no fault should he see her. She added to this outfit her favourite necklace; a smooth amethyst set into a distinctive filigree of silver, the legacy of the mother who had followed her husband to the grave barely a year after his death.
|Miranda Otto||as Aline|
|Charlie Cox||as Dickon|
|Tom Ellis||as Hugh|
|Arthur Darvill||as Jack|
|Scott Bakula||as Duncan|
|Henry Cavill||as Stephen|