This week I’m going to showcase everyone’s favorite book of mine: Liberty for Paul.
Let me preface this scene with the following: Liberty is a very misunderstood heroine at times. She’s obviously very attracted to Paul from the start, but doesn’t know how to deal with her feelings because he appears not to like her. Add that to the list of insecurities she already has about her appearance and she truly feels rejected and wants to build up a wall of ice around her heart toward him. If she doesn’t let him in, she can’t get hurt, right? Thus, she tries to keep him at a distance, not wanting to open herself to him–even with something as simple as the way he addresses her. She just wants them to be formal, because formal is safe–even if they’re married.
Paul, on the other hand, is quite attracted to her, too, and doesn’t want to admit it, either. At first he’s rather amused with her chattiness when she’s his dinner companion during a house party, but between her effort to keep him at bay initially and a string of events that have gone afoul during her attempts to keep her heart secure, she’s really made a poor impression on him.
What’s worse is he knows and understands her real motives for why she’s always been so…er…beastly toward him, and now that they’ve been forced to marry, there shouldn’t be any reason for her to hide herself from him–and yet she does, more now than before, in fact. She’s not even trying to drive him away, just…”be”. Not sweet nor sour, just there. And he doesn’t like this new personality of hers.
So, I write all of that to get to this particular scene where he starts of wanting to make things right between them and get their marriage off on a better foot, but ends up provoking her in a way that they each have their moment of enjoyment.
Throughout the rest of Paul’s day he couldn’t quit thinking about the events of the morning. He’d tried so hard to provoke her and had thought he’d finally broken through her barrier when she’d demanded her chemise back. But once she’d flashed him that false smile, he’d known he was no closer than when he’d started. Aggravated, he gave up the battle and went for a ride.
The ride hadn’t helped and all during his Latin lessons and home visits, thoughts of his wife kept niggling in the back of his head.
Dismounting, he decided tonight he’d apologize for his rude behavior and any future attempts he made to break down her defenses would be more tasteful. He could only imagine what a fool he’d looked like shaking her chemise and grinning like an idiot.
Dinner that night was served in the kitchen. Since he had always eaten alone, he’d seen no reason to use the dining room. Perhaps now that he was married he ought to ask Liberty where she preferred to eat.
“Good evening, my dear,” Paul drawled when Liberty walked into the kitchen. “Care to join me?”
She nodded her acceptance, but said nothing.
“Mrs. Siddons, why don’t you go home early? We’ll worry about the dishes,” Paul said to the housekeeper.
Mrs. Siddons bobbed a quick thank you and was out the door before Liberty could object.
“Why did you send her home?” Liberty asked, clearly uncomfortable being completely trapped alone with him.
“Because I wanted to talk to you,” Paul said earnestly, spearing a piece of chicken.
“You could have just asked her to leave the room.”
Paul smiled at her. “If you’re worried about being alone with me, don’t be. I have no intention of ravishing you.”
Color crept up Liberty’s face. “Good, because I’d put up the biggest fight you’ve ever seen.”
Ah, now they were getting somewhere. “Would you now?” he drawled.
She bit her lip and looked away. He could tell she had a hot retort waiting on the tip of her tongue, but for some reason she wasn’t going to put voice to it. No matter. His intention tonight was to apologize. He’d find another way to bait her tomorrow. “Liberty,” he began softly, catching sight of how she bristled when he spoke to her. “I would like to apologize for what I did this morning.”
“It’s of no account,” she said stiffly, her eyes belying her statement.
Obviously it was of some account or she wouldn’t be blinking so rapidly. “Yes, it is. I went too far when I took your—”
“Don’t say it,” she cut in, the words delivered from between clenched teeth.
“I was going to say clothing,” Paul said honestly.
“Sorry,” she muttered, picking up a dinner roll.
“Let me guess, you thought I was going to say chemise,” Paul said, ducking so she wouldn’t hit him if she threw her roll.
But the roll didn’t fly like he expected. Instead, her hands squeezed it so tightly that within three seconds it was unrecognizable. “Mr. Grimes,” she began in a brittle, if not somewhat starchy tone, “it’s highly inappropriate to speak of such things.”
“Clothing?” he asked cocking his head. “Hmm, I may not go to London that much, but I believe that many young ladies talk to gentlemen about clothing.” Paul heard a noise of vexation that would almost pass as a grunt emerge from somewhere within Liberty’s throat.
“Some do,” she said flatly, still clutching her used-to-be dinner roll.
“So then what’s the problem?” he asked, his lips twitching at the sight of her reddening face.
She glared at him.
“Oh, is it because the young ladies talk about gowns, bonnets, ribbons and the like and I was speaking of undergarments?” he asked innocently, taking delight in the way she bristled again. She wouldn’t be able to hold her resolve much longer if he kept this up. At some point those walls she’d erected were going to come down, and not only was he counting on it, he was going to enjoy watching it.
“Mr. Grimes,” she said in steely tones. “It’s bad enough you had your filthy hands on it; please refrain from reminding me of the tragedy my chemise suffered this morning.”
Paul grinned at her. “I do believe Joshua has just marched around the city seven times.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” she demanded, her eyes shooting daggers at him.
“Nothing, my dear; nothing at all.” He picked up his dinner roll and bit off half of it.
Shaking her head, Liberty ignored him and focused on her dinner.
“Liberty dearest,” Paul said sweetly causing her angry eyes to snap to his. “Perhaps since you’ve ruined your roll,” he gestured to the mangled piece of bread in her hand, “you should use your fork to stab the beans instead of just chasing them around the plate like that.” He watched in quiet amusement as her fingers tightened their hold on her fork until her knuckles were completely white. “You can pretend the beans are my head if you’d like,” he suggested with a lopsided smile.
For the first time in what seemed like ages, a true smile took hold of her lips. The image caused a tendril of heat and desire to coil in his stomach.
“Thank you for the suggestion. I will do just that,” she said sweetly, changing the position of the fork in her hand so that she was holding it with a fist and the tines were pointed down toward her plate. Then, with more force than necessary, she started stabbing at the beans. Loud screeching and scraping noises where her fork was hitting the plate along with the beans echoed throughout the room.
“See, sweetheart, it’s much easier to eat that way,” Paul told her while trying to keep a straight face. She was absolutely obliterating some of those beans with how much force she was using. She must truly hate him, he thought somberly, his smile rapidly fading.
“Stop that,” she said tightly, stabbing at her plate.
“Stop what?” he asked with sincere innocence. What was he doing now that was irritating her?
“Stop calling me that,” she said through clenched teeth.
“What? Sweetheart? I only called you that once, it’s not as if I’ve made a habit of it. Yet.”
“Well, stop. I don’t like it.”
“All right, you don’t like sweetheart. How about when I called you ‘my dear’ or ‘dearest’?” he asked just to tease her.
She pursed her lips. “Mr. Grimes, I feel you are deliberately trying to anger me. Let’s get one thing straight. We only got married because of my stupidity and my father’s anger. This is not a love match. Therefore, I would prefer if you did not call me any of those endearments.”
“All right.” He’d called her those things only to help fuel the fire of her vexation. Until now, he doubted they were working. Apparently they were. Good.
“Thank you,” she said semi-cordially.
“You’re welcome, Liberty,” Paul said softy.
She slammed her fork down on the table. “Do not, and I repeat do not, call me that.”
“What by your name?” Paul asked, bewildered.
Her eyes flashed fire. “You may call me Mrs. Grimes.”
One of the corners of his mouth tipped up. She would rather he call her by the name he’d given her than her own name. That was rather amusing. “Why would I do that?”
“Why wouldn’t you?” she countered.
Of course the majority of married couples addressed each other formally, he knew that. But just because he knew it, didn’t mean he agreed with it. “Because you’re my wife,” he returned simply.
Liberty rolled her eyes heavenward for a moment before meeting his again. “Just because I’m your wife does not give you the right to take such liberties,” she blustered then exhaled sharply when she realized her own blunder. “Mr. Grimes, take that smile off your face before I wipe it off for you.”
Paul raised his hands in mock innocence. “Forgive me,” he said, his voice uneven from trying not to laugh. “I did not mean to take such liberties, Liberty.”
She twisted her lips and contorted her face in such a way that she looked like she was suffering from a digestive complaint. He couldn’t hold it in any longer and let out the howls of laughter he’d been trying to keep inside.
She scowled at him. “Don’t think for one moment if you choke on your dinner that I’ll whack you on the back and save you the way Brooke did for Andrew.”
“Not to worry,” he said in between bursts of laughter, “I didn’t have any food in my mouth.”
“What a pity,” she muttered.
When Paul got his laughter under control, he stared at his wife across the table. Her face still had the pinched-up, constipated look, but she was still there, which was a good sign in his opinion. “Hmm. What was that you said last spring? Oh yes, liberty means freedom from external rule. I do believe your parents named you well. I don’t believe anyone could rule you.”
“I know,” she said pertly and smirked.
Paul got up from his spot at the table and walked to Liberty’s side. “Liberty,” he said, deliberately using her name to irritate her, “I believe I shall retire for the evening. But before I go, I would like to inform you that I am granting you the liberty to call me Paul.”
Chuckling at her angry face, he walked out the door and didn’t even stop when her crushed dinner roll hit him squarely in the back of the head.
Okay, so probably not the most endearing scene, but still, it gives a very good idea of the angst these two bring to the page!