Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent Calender Day 23: Fortuna & the Snowman

 A Wintry Snippet from Fortuna.

Giles had held her, overlooking the garden, for a long time the previous night, but there’d been no deeper show of affection between them. They’d eaten dinner early, and then he’d read to her for a while, something about the rights of women. How crazy we are, she’d thought, as she’d lain awake in bed, hoping he’d come to her. We want each other, and yet we’re apart. She fell asleep with her hand pressed to her puss and the memory of his touch sharp in her mind.

“Where’s Mr. Dovecote?” she asked his servant the next morning, when Giles failed to show for breakfast.

“Taking his customary turn about the park, miss. He doesn’t want no one suspecting that he’s harboring you.”

Ah! “Oh! Of course.”

When two o’ clock came and went, and Giles still hadn’t returned, Leach provided her with short boots and a woolen pelisse and ushered her into the walled garden. “You can pace out there, Miss. He’ll be back before long. Nothing will have happened to him. He’s not generally home much during the day.”

Outside the frosty air stung her cheeks. Already, the daylight had begun to fade, leaving the sky a muggy shade of gray.

Fortuna crossed the square lawn and headed beneath the archway cut into the towering rhododendron hedge. She’d been out twenty minutes and her fingers and ears were turning numb, when a voice startled her from her thoughts of home and husbands.

“Miss Allenthorpe.”

Fortuna shielded her eyes and peered back towards the house. A man, not Giles, was jogging towards her. His hat slipped off, half way across the lawn, revealing a flash of vivid-red hair. Neddy Darleston skidded onto one knee before her. He seized her hand and raised her icy fingers to his lips. “Good afternoon.”

“Mr. Darleston.” A lick of heat spread across her icy cheeks at the attention. “Have you brought me some news?”

Neddy rose and laying her arm upon his sleeve, tucked her close to his side. “Just expressing my relief at finding you so well.”

Fortuna blinked at him, finding it difficult to look at him and not imagine him sprawled before the drawing room fire, as she’d seen him last: muscled, naked and perfect.

“Why, if your mama and sisters were to be believed, you’re virtually at death’s door, having succumbed to the most terrible sore throat.” He grinned. “In short, I regret to inform you that not only has your absence gone unrecorded, your reputation is also safe.”

She didn’t want her reputation to be safe. “They are claiming I’m ill.”

Neddy squeezed her hand where it lay upon his sleeve. “I believe one or two other families have used that ploy before. A disobedient daughter doesn’t show the family in terribly good light, you know, and you do have rather a lot of sisters for your parents to auction off.”

“Yes, but I want Sir Hector to think I’m ruined.”

“I concede that is a problem. Of course, you’re family are probably expecting you to turn up again at some point as Mrs. something or other.”

There was sense in that. They probably did think she’d eloped, not just run off to save herself from Sir Hector. Her family had never been able to see that she hated him because he was vile, not because she wanted someone else. “Actually, I ran away to escape marriage, not to make one?”

Neddy patted her arm, his customary easy grin plastered across his face. “How very wise. I’ve never much fancied the matrimonial coif myself.” He squeezed her tight as they strolled on a little further, following the high boundary wall, over a lumpen rockery, to a set of trellising hung with the remnants of last years peas.

“Giles isn’t much of a gardener,” Neddy observed, as he plucked one of the blackened shriveled pods from the stalk. He balanced it above his lip like a moustache, making her laugh. “Do you know what I think this garden needs?”

“Some love?” she suggested.

Neddy tilted his head forward, and peered up at her from beneath his furrowed brows as if considering. His expression loosened into a beaming smile. “No, Miss Allenthorpe. A snowman.” He darted around her and capered away across the uneven earth, scooping snow into a ball.

Fortuna clapped her hands in delight. He reminded her of an exuberant puppy dog; nothing like the sculpted, sexual being she had previously watched copulate before the drawing room fire. Neddy, like Giles was a curious dichotomy, two seemingly opposite things at the same time.

“I saw you with Lady Darleston,” she admitted, when he caught her staring at him.

Neddy peered up at her from beneath his long fringe, from where he was bent rolling a second snowball. “I know. I saw you too. So, which was holding you back from joining us, my brother, your morals, or the fact that I’m not Giles?”

She gasped, shocked by his lack of embarrassment, and the impertinence of the question. If he’d known she was there, had he heard her describing him? Had he thought about touching her, filling her with his cock, in the same way he’d driven into Lucy?

“I know you practice free love,” she blurted.

“Has Giles given you the indoctrination speech? Wonderfully idealistic, ain’t it?” He lifted the snowman’s head into place, then faced her, his eyes slightly narrowed behind his curtain of hair. After a moment, when she hadn’t replied, he shrugged his shoulders, and started hunting about in the snow. “Say, help me find some arms and eyes, wont you? I have a carrot for a nose.” He dug in the pocket of his great coat and pulled out a brilliant orange specimen, which he jammed into the center of the head.

“You carry carrots about?” she spluttered, startled into speech. Truly, he was incredulous.

“Why yes, now that you mention it.” He thoughtfully squeezed his cleft chin. “I have had this one on me for a few days. Quite a few,” he flicked it dubiously, “given that it’s rather bendy. But, one never knows when the opportunity for these pleasures will arise, and it’s always the nose I struggle to find.”

Fortuna gave a rather un-lady-like snort of laughter, imagining him sneaking up on unsuspecting women in the park, brandishing his orange root and blithely suggesting they roll snow together. No wonder the society mamas warned their daughters to stay away from him, he was impossible not to like, easygoing, and totally charming.

“How are you doing finding those arms?” he asked.

Fortuna among the beans and found him some twigs, which he pushed into the snowman’s sides.

“You’re not really alike, are you? You and your brother.”

“We’re identical.”

“Physically, maybe, but not inside.”

He rested his elbow upon the snowman’s head, and considered. “That’s a curious way of putting it. The thing you have to remember about us is that Robert carries all the burdens. I just bear a meager allowance. And I know which of us I consider the most unfortunate.” He winked at her; then pressed two stones into the giant snowball for eyes. “Anything else you’d like to know or get off your chest, or shall we save them for a future tête-à-tête?”

“There is one thing.” She pursed her lips. “Why do they call you Neddy? Isn’t your name Alberic?”

Neddy snorted, and a tear ran down his cheek when he tried to stifle a further explosive laugh. “Miss Allenthorpe, you’ve seen me naked. Work it out for yourself. If you can’t, you’re too innocent to know, and I shall mercilessly rib Giles when he appears for comprehensively failing with your education.”

Perplexed, she crossed her arms. Nothing she’d observed of him while naked provided any clue to his nickname.” Her petulant frown lasted but a moment though, as Neddy waved and called out at two gray clad figures strolling towards them across the lawn. Finally, Giles had come home, and he had with him Neddy’s brother.

“Look at them, thick as thieves. They’re always like that you know. Watch out, Robert will get horribly jealous if you start squeezing between them.”

Fortuna glanced at the pair, who were hunched rather close, clearly deep in conversation.

“Let’s have some fun.” Neddy rolled a third, much smaller snowball, and lobbed it towards the other men.

Aim, perfect, the snowball exploded across the front of Darleston’s chest.

His lordship looked down at the frosty smear and dusted it off. He raised his gloved hand in a kind of tensed warning, before launching a retaliatory volley that hit his brother square in the face.

Neddy spluttered ice. He coughed so hard that Fortuna was obliged to pat his back. She scurried away as further missiles flew back and forth, yelping as they landed around her feet, until her borrowed footwear snagged against a freshly uncovered plant pot. Neddy put an arm out to save her, and she ploughed into him, driving him backwards onto the snowman, which collapsed beneath their combined weight.

Shock stole her breath. Disorientated, she flapped her arms and wriggled. Neddy lay warm beneath her, his body a series of sharply defined ridges and sturdy prominences that molded perfectly to her own contours. Further panicked, by how close they lay, her hands fluttered over parts of his anatomy ladies weren’t meant to touch.

Neddy just lay back and laughed. “You know, it’ll be much easier to get up if you stop wriggling.”

Gloved hands closed around her upper arms and lifted her upright. Giles pulled her close and cradled her against his shoulder. “Are you all right?”

“Fine,” she sniffed. “Uncommonly fine.”

Giles had held her, overlooking the garden, for a long time the previous night, but there’d been no deeper show of affection between them. They’d eaten dinner early, and then he’d read to her for a while, something about the rights of women. How crazy we are, she’d thought, as she’d lain awake in bed, hoping he’d come to her. We want each other, and yet we’re apart. She fell asleep with her hand pressed to her puss and the memory of his touch sharp in her mind.

“Where’s Mr. Dovecote?” she asked his servant the next morning, when Giles failed to show for breakfast.

“Taking his customary turn about the park, miss. He doesn’t want no one suspecting that he’s harboring you.”

Ah! “Oh! Of course.”

When two o’ clock came and went, and Giles still hadn’t returned, Leach provided her with short boots and a woolen pelisse and ushered her into the walled garden. “You can pace out there, Miss. He’ll be back before long. Nothing will have happened to him. He’s not generally home much during the day.”

Outside the frosty air stung her cheeks. Already, the daylight had begun to fade, leaving the sky a muggy shade of gray.

Fortuna crossed the square lawn and headed beneath the archway cut into the towering rhododendron hedge. She’d been out twenty minutes and her fingers and ears were turning numb, when a voice startled her from her thoughts of home and husbands.

“Miss Allenthorpe.”

Fortuna shielded her eyes and peered back towards the house. A man, not Giles, was jogging towards her. His hat slipped off, half way across the lawn, revealing a flash of vivid-red hair. Neddy Darleston skidded onto one knee before her. He seized her hand and raised her icy fingers to his lips. “Good afternoon.”

“Mr. Darleston.” A lick of heat spread across her icy cheeks at the attention. “Have you brought me some news?”

Neddy rose and laying her arm upon his sleeve, tucked her close to his side. “Just expressing my relief at finding you so well.”

Fortuna blinked at him, finding it difficult to look at him and not imagine him sprawled before the drawing room fire, as she’d seen him last: muscled, naked and perfect.

“Why, if your mama and sisters were to be believed, you’re virtually at death’s door, having succumbed to the most terrible sore throat.” He grinned. “In short, I regret to inform you that not only has your absence gone unrecorded, your reputation is also safe.”

She didn’t want her reputation to be safe. “They are claiming I’m ill.”

Neddy squeezed her hand where it lay upon his sleeve. “I believe one or two other families have used that ploy before. A disobedient daughter doesn’t show the family in terribly good light, you know, and you do have rather a lot of sisters for your parents to auction off.”

“Yes, but I want Sir Hector to think I’m ruined.”

“I concede that is a problem. Of course, you’re family are probably expecting you to turn up again at some point as Mrs. something or other.”

There was sense in that. They probably did think she’d eloped, not just run off to save herself from Sir Hector. Her family had never been able to see that she hated him because he was vile, not because she wanted someone else. “Actually, I ran away to escape marriage, not to make one?”

Neddy patted her arm, his customary easy grin plastered across his face. “How very wise. I’ve never much fancied the matrimonial coif myself.” He squeezed her tight as they strolled on a little further, following the high boundary wall, over a lumpen rockery, to a set of trellising hung with the remnants of last years peas.

“Giles isn’t much of a gardener,” Neddy observed, as he plucked one of the blackened shriveled pods from the stalk. He balanced it above his lip like a moustache, making her laugh. “Do you know what I think this garden needs?”

“Some love?” she suggested.

Neddy tilted his head forward, and peered up at her from beneath his furrowed brows as if considering. His expression loosened into a beaming smile. “No, Miss Allenthorpe. A snowman.” He darted around her and capered away across the uneven earth, scooping snow into a ball.

Fortuna clapped her hands in delight. He reminded her of an exuberant puppy dog; nothing like the sculpted, sexual being she had previously watched copulate before the drawing room fire. Neddy, like Giles was a curious dichotomy, two seemingly opposite things at the same time.

“I saw you with Lady Darleston,” she admitted, when he caught her staring at him.

Neddy peered up at her from beneath his long fringe, from where he was bent rolling a second snowball. “I know. I saw you too. So, which was holding you back from joining us, my brother, your morals, or the fact that I’m not Giles?”

She gasped, shocked by his lack of embarrassment, and the impertinence of the question. If he’d known she was there, had he heard her describing him? Had he thought about touching her, filling her with his cock, in the same way he’d driven into Lucy?

“I know you practice free love,” she blurted.

“Has Giles given you the indoctrination speech? Wonderfully idealistic, ain’t it?” He lifted the snowman’s head into place, then faced her, his eyes slightly narrowed behind his curtain of hair. After a moment, when she hadn’t replied, he shrugged his shoulders, and started hunting about in the snow. “Say, help me find some arms and eyes, wont you? I have a carrot for a nose.” He dug in the pocket of his great coat and pulled out a brilliant orange specimen, which he jammed into the center of the head.

“You carry carrots about?” she spluttered, startled into speech. Truly, he was incredulous.

“Why yes, now that you mention it.” He thoughtfully squeezed his cleft chin. “I have had this one on me for a few days. Quite a few,” he flicked it dubiously, “given that it’s rather bendy. But, one never knows when the opportunity for these pleasures will arise, and it’s always the nose I struggle to find.”

Fortuna gave a rather un-lady-like snort of laughter, imagining him sneaking up on unsuspecting women in the park, brandishing his orange root and blithely suggesting they roll snow together. No wonder the society mamas warned their daughters to stay away from him, he was impossible not to like, easygoing, and totally charming.

“How are you doing finding those arms?” he asked.

Fortuna among the beans and found him some twigs, which he pushed into the snowman’s sides.

“You’re not really alike, are you? You and your brother.”

“We’re identical.”

“Physically, maybe, but not inside.”

He rested his elbow upon the snowman’s head, and considered. “That’s a curious way of putting it. The thing you have to remember about us is that Robert carries all the burdens. I just bear a meager allowance. And I know which of us I consider the most unfortunate.” He winked at her; then pressed two stones into the giant snowball for eyes. “Anything else you’d like to know or get off your chest, or shall we save them for a future tête-à-tête?”

“There is one thing.” She pursed her lips. “Why do they call you Neddy? Isn’t your name Alberic?”

Neddy snorted, and a tear ran down his cheek when he tried to stifle a further explosive laugh. “Miss Allenthorpe, you’ve seen me naked. Work it out for yourself. If you can’t, you’re too innocent to know, and I shall mercilessly rib Giles when he appears for comprehensively failing with your education.”

Perplexed, she crossed her arms. Nothing she’d observed of him while naked provided any clue to his nickname.” Her petulant frown lasted but a moment though, as Neddy waved and called out at two gray clad figures strolling towards them across the lawn. Finally, Giles had come home, and he had with him Neddy’s brother.

“Look at them, thick as thieves. They’re always like that you know. Watch out, Robert will get horribly jealous if you start squeezing between them.”

Fortuna glanced at the pair, who were hunched rather close, clearly deep in conversation.

“Let’s have some fun.” Neddy rolled a third, much smaller snowball, and lobbed it towards the other men.

Aim, perfect, the snowball exploded across the front of Darleston’s chest.

His lordship looked down at the frosty smear and dusted it off. He raised his gloved hand in a kind of tensed warning, before launching a retaliatory volley that hit his brother square in the face.

Neddy spluttered ice. He coughed so hard that Fortuna was obliged to pat his back. She scurried away as further missiles flew back and forth, yelping as they landed around her feet, until her borrowed footwear snagged against a freshly uncovered plant pot. Neddy put an arm out to save her, and she ploughed into him, driving him backwards onto the snowman, which collapsed beneath their combined weight.

Shock stole her breath. Disorientated, she flapped her arms and wriggled. Neddy lay warm beneath her, his body a series of sharply defined ridges and sturdy prominences that molded perfectly to her own contours. Further panicked, by how close they lay, her hands fluttered over parts of his anatomy ladies weren’t meant to touch.

Neddy just lay back and laughed. “You know, it’ll be much easier to get up if you stop wriggling.”

Gloved hands closed around her upper arms and lifted her upright. Giles pulled her close and cradled her against his shoulder. “Are you all right?”

“Fine,” she sniffed. “Uncommonly fine.”

Copyright 2009-10. Madelynne Ellis. All Rights Reserved.

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