I have to admit this week’s selection was difficult because I had literally half a dozen scenes/excerpts that would work. But alas, I had to pick only one.
But I couldn’t so I’m putting up two shorter excerpts that seem to be favorites.
This first one isn’t quite so wicked, but it’s still fun. It picks up a few days after the excerpt I posted on Sunday. They’ve gone to a family dinner and the tension is still extremely high between the pair. After the meal, the men all go off to talk and immediately Paul is bombarded with questions and Alex steals this show with his rather bizarre observations:
“Are things always this way between you two?” Andrew asked as soon as the door shut.
Paul smiled and leaned his shoulder against the window. “No.”
“You know you two are very fascinating to watch,” Alex said, taking a seat behind his father’s desk. He started to shuffle through some papers on the desk and smiled brightly when he found what he’d been looking for. “Almost as fascinating as a pair of hedgehogs I’ve been watching mate down by the pasture.”
“Excuse me,” Paul said, blinking.
“I said, you two are quite fascinating.”
“Yes, I heard that part, but what does that have to do with hedgehogs?”
“Not hedgehogs in general. Just when they’re mating,” Alex said to clarify.
Paul stared at him. Why on earth was this man comparing the fight he’d had with his wife to hedgehog mating patterns?
“See,” Alex started, excitedly. “When the male hedgehog wants to mate with the female he—”
“That’s quite enough, son,” Alex’s father said. “I don’t believe it’s wise to continue this vein of conversation with the young lady’s father present.” He cast a pointed look at John.
“Or me,” Andrew muttered.
Paul would have muttered the same thing if he’d been Andrew.
“In that case, forget I said anything about Paul and Liberty,” Alex said thoughtfully. “Now about the hedgehogs down by the pasture—”
“Alex,” Andrew said gently.
Alex groaned. “What’s the big deal? We’re all men here. It’s not like any of us aren’t familiar with the activity.”
“That may be, but we’re not all interested in the mating habits of hedgehogs,” Andrew said flatly.
Alex blinked at him. “Why not? They’re very interesting creatures.”
“Be that as it may, nobody has the desire to talk about their mating habits just now,” Andrew countered.
Last year, Alex had told Paul that he and Andrew had gone to Cambridge together and had been friends for the nearly ten years since. Only a true friend of Alex’s could get away with speaking to him that way. If anyone else had, it would have been perceived as cruel. That was one reason he admired Andrew, he didn’t care that Alex had some unusual tendencies, he just learned to work around them.
“But that’s why we came to the study,” Alex pointed out. “To escape Aunt Carolina making us play charades and to talk about science.”
“Exactly, we’re going to speak about science,” Andrew agreed. “chemistry to be exact, specifically the combustible elements of Paul and Liberty’s marriage, not the mating habits of hedgehogs.”
“Well said,” the equally scientific-minded baron said.
“I couldn’t agree more,” John said. “Now, son, tell me how things are progressing between you and Liberty.”
“Not so well,” Paul admitted. Since when did men get together in small groups to discuss their relationship issues? This was uncomfortable. The only reason he’d even bothered to answer John’s question was because, even though they were talking about his daughter, he and John had become close and he respected him a great deal. Most of the time anyway. He still wasn’t sure he respected or admired how John manipulated him into marrying Liberty.
“John, cover your ears,” the baron said, causing panic to rise in Paul’s chest. “How are things in the bedchamber?”
“What was that you were saying about those hedgehogs, Alex?”
Now, in this next scene, Liberty and Paul have been tricked by her sister to attend a costume ball and thrown together. During their time together, Paul figures out who he’s with, but Liberty doesn’t have a clue. Paul uses this to his advantage to get her to reveal things about herself she wouldn’t have told him otherwise–some thing serious, some things fun. In this part, she’s just revealed to this costumed man that her husband is the biggest philanderer in the country and has sired 14 illegitimate children:
Tucking a tendril of stray hair behind her ear, he brushed the tears off her cheeks and waited for her to look at him. “You should look at the positive in this situation,” he said with a smile.
“You mean I should be thankful he’s proven to be so virile,” she said blandly.
“Sure; but that wasn’t what I was going to say,” he said. “I was—”
“Good,” she said, cutting him off from finishing his previous sentence. “I have no desire to go to bed with him.”
His jaw clamped together, “Why not?” he asked, tightly. If he had it his way, he’d reveal his identity, explain about Sam and be hauling her off to the nearest bed in the next fifteen minutes.
“Why?” she echoed. “You cannot seriously think after he’s been with so many women that I’d actually let him touch me with his…his…” she trailed off, waving her hand wildly.
“Wedding tackle,” he supplied with a roguish grin.
“What?” she asked with a shaky laugh.
“Wedding tackle,” he repeated with a shrug. “It’s just one of the many names for a man’s privates.”
“Men name their body parts?” she asked, perturbed.
He chuckled at her naivety. “No, well, maybe, I don’t know.” He shook his head to clear the thought. “What I meant was, there is the scientific name and then there are…er…less than scientific names.”
“Less than scientific?” she said dubiously.
“Right,” he agreed. “Most men call it their rod, tool, pole, unit, piece, member or something along those lines,” he didn’t want to get too graphic with her, and wisely chose to leave off some of the coarser terms, “but some, myself included, use different terms when in mixed company.” He winked at her blushing face. “Wedding tackle, privates, package, equipment, pizzle, t—,”
“Pizzle?” she repeated, a slight giggle bubbling from her lips.
“Yes, pizzle,” he said in mock irritation. “It’s an older word with German origins.”
“Oh, well, I’d never heard it before, that’s all.”
“And do you typically spend time trying to learn slang terms for a man’s genitals?” he asked, trying not to laugh. He knew the answer to that as well as she did.
“No,” she blustered. “Actually, I’ve heard more from you than anyone else.”
“Even your husband?” he asked casually.
She looked up at him again with that sad, dull look in her eyes that ate at his heart. “Yes. The night before I married, my sister and mother tried to explain what would happen. And for as much as they fought over who would get the honor, neither of them were very informative. The only thing I learned was that he was going to touch me with it. They didn’t say exactly where, nor what the thing was called. The only term I’d ever heard for it was earlier that night when my other sister called it a ‘love musket’. When I asked my husband if he planned to touch me with his ‘love musket’, I thought he was going to die of laughter while I died of mortification.”
He tried not to laugh again. “I’m sure he didn’t mean to embarrass you,” he assured her unevenly, then turned his head to hide his grin.
“Oh, you can laugh,” she said lightly, flashing him a smile. “But if you want a real laugh at my expense, I must tell you another story. But first, you must promise not to tell anyone. Ever. I’m serious. This is far worse than anything I’ve told you so far.”
“All right,” he agreed, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her closer to his chest.
She looked up at him with questions in her eyes, but still didn’t make a move to get off of his lap. “When I first married, I joined a few charitable organizations. One of which was to help both children and adults learn to read. I thought it was odd that the meeting was located above the local tavern but didn’t let that stop me. Anyway, every Tuesday I went to the meeting, walking right by the sign, mind you. Every Tuesday, I’d stay later than everyone else because there was this little boy whose mother was always late to collect him, and we’d play all sorts of wild games while we waited for her.
“Then, one day when she came to get him, she praised how nice it was that my husband allowed me to help the illegitimate learn to read. Thinking she had her terms confused, I tried to correct her and explain the difference between illegitimate and illiterate.
“After five minutes of arguing with her, I ran down the stairs to grab the sign and show her. I swooned when I read that sign. The sign itself did indeed advertise for volunteers to help the illegitimate learn to read.”
Paul couldn’t stop his laughter as he thought what her face must have looked like when she reread that sign. “It seems you might not be as literate as you thought,” he teased when his laughter ceased.
“Indeed not,” she agreed, with a wide smile.
“Do you plan to go back?” he asked.
She shrugged. “I honestly don’t know. It will depend on how my husband handles it. I haven’t told him yet, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to screw up the courage to do so. It wouldn’t be very advantageous for his work if I continue,” she explained.
“I see. Can I ask you something personal?”
“Sir, we’ve discussed my husband’s affairs, names for men’s private parts and the fact that I was unknowingly tutoring illegitimate illiterates, what could possibly be more personal?” she said, resting her head against his heart.
His heart would have squeezed at her gesture if he hadn’t been so jealous of himself. She’d never talked so freely or acted so tenderly with him, but with a stranger, all restraints were down.