A Terrible Choice

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A Flash Fiction Short Story by Jessie Bennett

Genre: Regency Romance
Word Count: 999

A Terrible Choice

“I need that income. I wish I didn’t but I do.”

Gertrude Preston whispered it under her breath, miserably. Her life was a mess. Debts had piled up behind her, demanding more money than she could ever hope to earn as a governess.

“An ex-governess,” she reminded herself.

Lady Anna Dunning and her adoptive brother, Lord Stephen, were grown and had not needed a governess for many years. They maintained her in the household at a fraction of her salary, out of a sense of responsibility for her. At least, she was trying to tell herself it was only responsibility. Her only hope depended on her convincing herself of that.

“Lady Anna trusts me!” she almost shouted in the darkness of her bedchamber. She shook her head, feeling tears run down her face. She could not do it.

“I need to tell Stephen. I cannot do this,” she said decidedly, and, biting her lip, made her way down to the library to meet with her employer, to tell him so.

She wished there was someone to whom she could turn. The most likely option was Duke Shawn Worthington, the ruler of the region, whose manor house was not that far away. He was known to be just and upstanding, and he would, she was certain, help in any way he could. She almost decided, then dismissed the plan, laughing sadly.

“Why would he believe you, a servant, over a nobleman?”

It was impossible. She had only one route left to her, and that was defiance. And soon. Before she was any more involved than she was already.

She walked briskly down the stairs and to the library, where she had met the young lord earlier to discuss the plan. The door creaked as she entered, and she held her breath, feeling suddenly afraid.

“Lord Stephen?”

It was dark in the library – dark enough that she did not see Stephen until he was almost before her.

He laughed softly in the darkness. “So,” he said silkenly. “You have agreed on our terms? You will do this for me?”

Gertrude bit her lip, hard. She had to stiffen her resolve. “I came here to tell you that I cannot do it. My lord, I am sorry, but I cannot.”
Stephen blinked. She saw the rage flare in his green eyes and she shuddered inwardly. He had always been unpredictable. Then a hooded look crept across their surface, and he smiled, placidly.

“So be it,” he said lightly.

Gertrude stared at him. He was really giving up easily? That was not like him!

“As you wish, Miss Preston,” he said lightly. “But remember, your debtors will be at the door. I will not stop them.” He smiled, thinly. “What do you think will happen to you, if I decide to withdraw our patronage?”

Gertrude swallowed hard. She studied him through wide eyes, as if seeing him for the first time. How had her beautiful boy, favourite of her charges for so long, grown up this wicked? She had loved him like a son, holding him over even her beautiful Anna for a time, before his wild temper and power-hungriness had come to the fore. She could not let him make her do this, something which sickened her. She had to be strong.

“My lord…” she felt her hands clench into fists. “It is not that I am not frightened of that. I am. But I love my lady Anne and she trusts me. I cannot face the thought of doing harm to her.”

“Fine,” Stephen said lightly. “If you love her so, I cannot press you. I can only say that, if you choose this road, I will not help you. Your salary will be reduced, and you will be turned out. I cannot face your creditors for you, can I? And you are not really necessary to the estate…”

“My lord!” Gertrude was horrified. “You don’t mean..?”

“Of course I do, Miss. Would I lie?”

Gertrude stared at him. He wouldn’t, would he?

She thought of the terror awaiting her – the threat of poverty, homelessness, living on the roads…

“My lord,” she said, clearing her throat.

“Yes?” Stephen turned. With the flame light licking along his carven cheek, he was beautiful. Beautiful and horrible at once.

“I will do it.”

“I thought you would see reason,” he said, beaming. “Now. We have to plan.”

“My lady cannot find out I am involved.”

“She will not,” he assured. “How would she?”

“If anyone were to find out…”

“I will tell no-one,” he shrugged lightly. “So how would she know. I am not asking you to do anything hard. Just…something inventive.”

“I am not sure I can..?”

“Oh come!” he dismissed her. “How hard can it be?” He made a wide gesture. “My sister needs to marry within a few weeks, or she will not inherit, by royal decree. All her wealth, this house, the title…it will all pas to me!”

“And you want me,” Gertrude confirmed slowly, “to stop her marriage. How?”

“Oh, don’t ask me!” Stephen said expansively. “I thought your female wiles would contrive all that. Tell them she has boils, that she is an awful harridan…I care not! Only,” he added, “ensure that she does not marry before her birthday. If you can do this, then…I shall be indebted.”

Gertrude sighed. She swallowed hard. It was a plan most diabolical, but she could not refuse. How could she? It was life or death for her.

“Very well, my lord,” she sighed. “I agree to do this.”

“Thank you, Miss Preston. I will have cause to be grateful in a matter of weeks.”

He was grinning, and Gertrude swallowed hard, trying not to be sick.

He was silent a moment, then turned to her, waving airily. “You are free to go.”

“Very good sir.”

Gertrude bowed her head and walked from the room, feeling like she left her heart behind her.

“What,” she said under her breath, “have I done?”

*****

Author Notes

I came up with this little tale about Ms Gertrude Preston and her plot against Lady Anna, so that she will not marry on time for her inheritance. If you enjoy this story… please tell your friends. It would be great to get the book, “MORE FOR A DUKE” to know if Lady Anna will marry the man of her dreams.

Interview with Lady Elizabeth Dowling

Character Interview – Lady Elizabeth Dowling

by Jessie Bennett

 

I am in a light, airy parlour which smells fragrantly of rosewater and lavender. I lean back on the embroidered cushion behind me and contemplate the view of the well-kept garden beyond the windows. I feel peaceful and anticipatory at once: I think it is because I am awaiting the arrival of the beautiful Lady Elizabeth, heroine of my latest book.

I hear a light footfall in the corridor, and breathe in, noticing that the rosewater and lavender scents are stronger. Her ladyship must be nearby.

The door is held open by a footman, and a lady floats in. I stand, and stare at her. I cannot help it. Tall and exquisitely proportioned, with a long neck and bright blue eyes, she takes all of my attention at once. She is wearing a white muslin dress decorated with a design of tiny flowers. She has small, scented flowers in her blonde hair, which is styled in a loose but elegant updo. I breathe in the floral scent of her and try and find my voice.

“My lady…” I begin hesitantly.

“Good afternoon!” she says, smiling. “Please, sit down.” She gestures to the ample seating and I settle on an upholstered couch. She sits on the chaise-lounge opposite, tucking her skirt under her becomingly.

“I wanted to ask you some questions,” I begin, “and I think your marriage would be a good place to start?”

“Well,” she smiles, “first we must allow Mrs Alec to furnish us with tea and refreshments, and then we can get down to the business of discussing wedding plans?”

I smile. She is so beautiful, but so welcoming. It would be impossible not to like her.

The maid appears with a tray of tea and biscuits, and I wait for her Ladyship to pour before I hesitantly sample the tea. It smells exquisite, and I sip it slowly.

“Well,” she says, licking her tongue across her full pink lips, “that tea is certainly hot!”

I draw in a breath, amazed by the pull her unconscious sexiness has even on me. I begin to understand why a duke would decide on her as a match at once.

“My lady,” I say, deciding to ask her about that, “I understand your upcoming marriage was settled on at once?”

“Oh, no!” her ladyship laughs, a sound like pealing bells. “I was ever so undecided, actually. It took me ages to follow my heart in this.”

“You did?”

“I didn’t believe the duke could love me!” she observes, and laughs her tinkling laugh again. “It was so silly, I think now. But I just couldn’t see it. And there were enough people sour about our instant attraction to try and poison it if they could,” she adds, and her beautiful face clouds over.

I am interested in that, but I do not like to see her sad. I choose to ask another question.

“You hesitated to marry him. But you decided to. Why?”

“It was because he made his feelings clear. And he was so clearly honourable. When he fought that duel for me…”

“He fought a duel about you?” My eyes are wide. “Though I am not surprised men would fight for your hand, my lady.”

She laughs mischievously, and I am reminded that she is the eldest of four sisters. There is something sisterly about her, and I find myself liking her even more.

“I am pleased to hear it!” she adds, still giggling. “But I must say, it distressed me terribly. Two men fighting. What if one had been killed? It was silly of him,” she says fondly. “Though it was his dealings with his opponent afterwards, the way he handled it, that won my heart.”

“It was because he fought honourably?”

“It was because he is honourable,” Lady Elizabeth said strongly. “He is a fine man – upstanding, supportive, serious in his role as duke. It was that which finally swayed my heart, I think.”

I smile. “So you look for goodness of heart in a man, my lady?”

“That,” she agrees readily, “and a sensible head. What the head looks like does, I must admit, have the power to sway me. Especially the eyes.”

“You notice a man’s eyes first?”

“Mm,” Lady Elizabeth agreed, delicately selecting a biscuit and biting into it. She swallowed and continued. “His eyes, and his posture.”

“His posture?” I blink at her, surprised.

“Mm,” she agrees again. “You should always notice the way a man stands. If he walks bent over or cautiously, you can see he is not confident, or maybe even hiding something. A man who has the confidence to walk tall is a man who has the strength to be his own person. And I like that.”

“You like confident men?”

“I like men who have personality. Even if they are hesitant men, I like that they own themselves unashamedly. If they feel uncertain, or ashamed of themselves, they will always seek that assurance from you. Which can be burdensome.” She smiles.

I nod. “That is wise, lady Elizabeth.”

She blushes prettily, and I notice again how lovely she is. Delicate and beautiful, like a flower.

“Thank you,” she says modestly. “I am pleased to share my views on marriage.”

I regard her quizzically. “You and your affianced are both looked to as examples, I think?”

She laughs lightly, raising a shoulder in an elegant shrug. “I do not know. I hope so! There are so many younger people in our circle, for whom we feel great affection. I hope that we could help them find equal happiness to ourselves.”

I smile at her, impressed. “I am sure you can, my lady. Your desire to share your happiness is a credit to you.”

“Oh, thank you,” she says and blushes again. “It is natural, I think.”

“To share happiness?”

“Yes,” she adds. “Lord Byron tells us that happiness is a twin. And, since I have two younger sisters who are twins, I could agree on both counts.”

I smile. “They must be an example of a loving relationship?”

She grins. “When they aren’t fighting, yes! They sometimes squabble, but I have never seen two souls who love each other more.”

“That must be inspiring. I find you and your betrothed inspiring.”

She smiles. “We would both be pleased to hear that, I think.”

I sigh. The sun has sunk a little lower since I have been here, and I do not wish to tire this beautiful lady.

“I should go, my lady,” I say hesitantly. “Though I would like to ask you if you have a message to share? Something you have learned?”

“Yes,” she says after a moment’s thinking, “I would say that, if you feel something, you should trust it. Trust your heart. No matter what other people suggest to you, or what you assume, trust your heart. It is never wrong.”

I feel moved by her beautiful words. “Thank you, my lady, for that wonderful message of love, and for this interview.”

She smiles. “Not at all,” she says gently. “I have enjoyed each moment.”

She stands, and I stand. We curtsey, and then she is drifting lightly through the door leaving the scent of roses behind her.

Here you go… is my character interview with Lady Elizabeth Dowling. This is a rare opportunity to speak with her, and be sure to read my book, “More For A Duke” to know more of her. Until then… take care.

Happy reading!

Jessie

Did you enjoy this article? I hope you do.

CLICK HERE to get your copy now – FREE for KU subscribers or buy for only $0.99!

Interview with Duke Shawn Worthington of Fairbanks

Character Interview – Duke Shawn Worthington, Duke of Fairbanks

by Jessie Bennett

 

He smiles ironically. “Actually, no! It was rather harder than I would have expected, and involved a rather scandalous move on my part – fighting a duel.”

“You did?” I am smiling and shocked.

“Yes,” he says, smoothing a hand down the folds of his trousers-leg. “I did. Against a former suitor of hers, I will admit.”

“Why?”

“The fellow was…too persistent for my liking.”

I grin. “You duelled him for her hand?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes. Though I must admit she almost left me for it. I would not have guessed what an upstanding woman she is. Upstanding, and beautiful…” his voice trails off and the look in his eyes softens, making it clear how much he loves her.

“You noticed her at once?” I ask, intrigued. I would love to know what a compelling, powerful man like him had noticed about a woman.

“Yes,” he agrees, sipping his drink lightly. “She was by far the most beautiful lady there, and she had something – that is, a wisdom – that made her stand out. She is very wise, is my Lizzie. Just one look in those blue eyes makes it obvious.”

“So,” I smile, “wisdom and eyes do it, do they?”

He smiles and drinks some more brandy. “Well,” he affirms, “there are other aspects of a woman that are enticing, I won’t lie!” He laughs warmly, and I feel that laughter brush across my skin like fingers, making my breath catch.

“Other aspects?”

He shoots me a boyish grin that makes my whole body heat. “You know whereof we speak, I am certain. The…outward aspects. A female body, curvaceous and soft, is so much more enticing than a male, would you not agree?”

Not right now I wouldn’t! I smile inwardly, and try to frame an arch reply. His wife Elizabeth is known for her intelligence, so he clearly likes that too.

“I would not wish to disagree with a duke on anything,” I observe, “though I must admit to being somewhat biased at present towards the men.”

The duke set his glass down and looked out of the window for a moment. I hope I have not pushed him too far – he is a faithful husband and would not approve of too much flirtation – so I change the subject. He turns to me with an easy smile when I clear my throat, so I know I have not upset him.

“You and your wife are known for your matchmaking, is that not so?”

He laughs. “Well,” he observes, “it seems we have a succession of wayward young relatives, each seeking each other without knowing it.”

“You believe strongly in a good partnership?”

“Yes,” the duke’s reply is immediate. “I have a strong belief that everyone is at their most happy, their most productive, when they have a partner whom they love and who loves them.”

I smile. “I have to agree with that. Your wife does too, I am sure?”

He chuckles. “I think so!” he smiles. “We have certainly both had our fair share of matchmaking for the more wayward of our neighbours!”

I smile. “So your life is full of scandalous characters?”

He shrugs. “Not scandalous, exactly – at least, not often. I have some scandalous neighbours, but luckily no-one has done any lasting damage.”

I nod. “You have favourite neighbours also?”

“I do,” he smiles. “Lady Anna and my cousin, Jonathan, are great favourites. They took some time to find each other, I can say that!” He chuckles, making the slight crow’s feet appear at the corners of his eyes. Somehow they add to the air of command that makes him so sexy.

“Any other favourite things?” I ask lightly, interested to find out as much as I can about this man.

“Yes, actually,” he says lightly, looking up at the ceiling. “Brandy, for one!” We both laugh. “Sunshine, riding…and I will admit a fondness for cranberry tarts, though I hope you shan’t make it too well-known.”

I laugh. “That all sounds wonderful,” I say, noticing I am gushing but not being able to help it. He is magnetic and charming.

“Thank you,” he says, smiling easily. “I am pleased to hear my taste approved of.”

I grin.

“I think I have bothered you with enough questions for one day, my lord,” I say gravely.

He puts his head on one side, regarding me. “Not at all,” he disagrees, “it was a pleasure.”

He stands, and we shake hands. He wishes me a good day and then he leaves the room, leaving behind him a scent of musk and pine-wood and leaving me feeling strangely bereft.

Here you go… is my character interview with Duke Shawn Worthington. This is a rare opportunity to speak with him, and be sure to read my book, “More For A Duke” to know more of him. Until then… take care.

Happy reading!

Jessie

Did you enjoy this article? I hope you do.

CLICK HERE to get your copy now – FREE for KU subscribers or buy for only $0.99!

Marquess in Peril

Your Weekly Freebie!

A Flash Fiction Short Story by Jessie Bennett

Genre: Regency Romance
Word Count: 994

Marquess in Peril

As he sat with her, images of their meeting ran through his mind. Belle, on the deck, where he had met her laughing at some shared joke. At dinner, licking a pink tongue across her lips as they ate pastries. Belle, blue eyes wide and looking into his as she shared some deep and soulful thought.

“Belle,” he said softly, “I know you can hear me. I want you to know that I cannot let you die. You are the light of the world. You cannot leave it.”

The sleeping angel breathed out, rosebud pout parting gently, and William stiffened. He hardly dared to breathe – what if she was about to wake?

“Belle?”

She sighed, and turned towards him, but she did not stir and her eyelids did not flicker. William bent closer, listening for her breath.

A voice disturbed him, coming from the doorway. “My lord?”

William looked up. A tall woman with elegantly-piled red hair and a pretty, earnest face stood there.

“Lady Annette?” William asked.

The British lady cleared her throat, wringing her hands in the dark velvet of her skirt. She could get no words out, but simply looked at him, stricken. She had been weeping, clearly, and William’s heart clenched.

“My lady? What is the matter?”

“It’s my husband. He has it too.”

“What?” William stared at her.

“My husband – Patrick – this malaise has got him, too. He’s sleeping just like her. I cannot wake him!” She burst into tears, and William ran to her, taking her cold hand in his.

“Oh, my lady,” he said gently. “I know it is hard. But we must be strong. We can do something to fight this, you and I…”

He trailed off, and she shook her head, vigorously.

“I cannot help them, William. I cannot help you, or anyone…” she started crying once again, heaving sobs that made her shoulders heave.

“But why, my lady?” William asked gently.

“They think I did it,” Lady Annette said flatly. “Because of my knowledge of plants. They think I did it.”

There was nothing William could say to that. As the woman collapsed, sobbing in his arms, he could think of no comfort to offer. He did not know, yet, what was happening; who was doing this. All he knew was he had to stop it. Fast. Before the woman he loved died.

*****

Author Notes

I came up with this little tale about Lord William self doubt that he is the cursed one and whoever woman he loved, they will die. If you enjoy this story… please tell your friends. It would be better to get the book, ‘THE MARQUESS’ CURSE” to find out if they can be together.

Interview with Lord William Montgomery, Marquess of Devon

Character Interview – Lord William Montgomery, Marquess of Devon

by Jessie Bennett

I am in a grand drawing-room, sitting on a velvet-covered chair. It is warm, in contrast with the wintry forest beyond the windows. There is an impressive set of pistols displayed above the fireplace, and a deer looks down at me from across the room – a hunting trophy from a trip to the North. I am awaiting the arrival of Lord William Montgomery, Marquess of Devon.

I can smell the scents of pine wood, burning, and somewhere a faint smell of gunpowder and damp earth, mixed with imported musk-oil makes me think that his Lordship is nearby.

I hear a light footfall and a soft laugh, and my stomach clenches. I might have written him, but this man is so charismatic that I can’t resist him.

“Good afternoon,” a wry drawl warms the air in the doorway.

I turn to face the door, and there he is. At six foot four, with a tall, broad-shouldered figure and dark hair, the Marquess of Devon is magnetic. I may have written him, but his presence makes my heart beat faster and my whole body tingle. He walks lightly across the thick carpet and bows to me politely. He is wearing a red velvet jacket and tight beige riding-trousers. Both are firm on his muscled body, and I swallow hard and try not to stare.

“My lord William,” I say, knowing my voice is trembling along with the rest of me, “it is an honour.”

“I am pleased to meet you,” he says in a low voice. It makes my hands sweat.

“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me today,” I reply. He smiles.

“Not at all. We should get down to it at once, I think?” He gestures lightly to the chairs, and I select one. He sits opposite me, with a grace that suggests a reined-in strength. “You will have to excuse my haste,” he adds smoothly, “but I have an important engagement – the embassy ball – to attend later today.”

“Of course,” I agree. I cannot resist teasing him a little, so I ask: “The Dutch Embassy?”

“Indeed,” he agrees, arching an eyebrow. “So you have heard about the – association – of myself and the Princess Belle?”

“Yes,” I acknowledge. He smiles.

“Good. Though,” he adds, “I would not have thought of it as that good in my earlier years, that a lady should consider me attached.” He lifts an eyebrow, an arch gesture. My stomach clenches.

“I believe you were rather adventurous at one time?” I say.

“I was indeed,” he agrees. “I was quite a scourge on the ladies, if I may say so.” He grins, wickedly, and his dark eyes are warm. I feel that look throb through my whole body, and I try to keep a hold on my straying mind.

He seems too flippant. Is he covering up some emotion? I try to ignore the increasing clamour of my senses and find out.

“Your name was linked with that of a serving-maid once?”

He swallows hard. “Abigail. Yes. I did not know that was so well-known. But it is true.”

“You do not still have feelings for her?”

“I forget no-one,” he says firmly. “But now, my one love is Belle. No memory compares to her presence.”

I smile. He is clearly devoted to the beautiful princess.

“I have heard you are cursed,” I begin. “Is that true? I find it hard to believe, seeing you,” I add, mischievously.

“Well,” he drawls, leaning back in the chair, “You could say too many women is a curse…” he pauses, and grins. “I didn’t mean that. I should be serious about this, because it is serious.” His face is grave, now, and I lean forward to hear what he has to say. His eyes are distant and he is clearly looking back into the past.

“Yes?” I prompt.

“I loved Lisa, my wife. When she died, and then Belle – the light of my life – was almost killed, I believed I was cursed. I thought it was my fault, that everyone I loved, died. I tried my best to save her life, to redeem myself.” The distress on his handsome face is heart-wrenching.

“You did.” I assert, trying to ease the pain he is in.

“Yes,” he says. “Not alone, but I did help to save her. And for that, I am profoundly grateful.” His voice is sincere.

“You fell in love with the princess at first sight?” I ask.

“Yes,” he agrees, “you could say that. I saw her standing there, on the deck, and I couldn’t quite believe she was real. Those eyes! And that golden hair.” He smiles, wistfully at the memory.

“You are an eyes-and-hair man?” I ask, naughtily.

“Maybe,” he agrees airily. “A woman’s eyes tell you so much about her. The way she looks at you…” He trails off, and I am left with my heart racing, curiousity aroused.

“What does it tell you?”

“It shows her spirit. Her character. If she is carefree, wild, witty – all is written in her eyes. What she is like as a person. What she would be like, as a lover.” His eyes are intense, and he steeples his fingers against his lips. I can feel my heart about to burst.

“What else do you notice?” I prompt, unable to help myself.

“Mm…” He leans back, steepling his fingers elegantly. “That is a difficult question. Her smile. And, very well…her endowments.” He is blushing, a lord caught in a misdemeanour, and I smile, revelling in it.

“Endowments?”

“Yes. All of them,” he adds, still blushing.

“Indeed,” I smile. “Well, Lord William, you have just whet my appetite. I would love to know more about you. The hidden you.”

“If you must,” he sighs, though he is smiling. I smile back.

“Very well,” I agree. “We can start with the silly stuff. What are your hobbies?”

“Riding, the races. Some hunting. Travelling.”

“You travelled extensively in your youth. What was your favourite destination?”

“The far East,” he says at once.

“It sounds wonderful,” I agree. “Did you try the cuisine?”

“I did. Though, I must confess, it was a little spicy for me.” He grins, embarrassed, and I smile back.

“What is your favourite food, then?” I ask.

“Food-wise, it is venison,” he smiles. “Though, I do confess a sin – chocolate.”

“Really?” I grin, surprised.

“Yes. As a drink – I started drinking it because it was fashionable, and it stuck. Though a good Whiskey works as well.”

“In good company, I suppose?” I ask.

“Indeed. Nothing like a fire, whiskey and a lovely woman, is there?” He asks, grinning. That smile laces through me like warm wine, and I feel my heart race. If I stay here a minute longer, I will want to sit on that couch with him, and I don’t think that would be a good idea. I clear my throat.

“I would like to ask if you have a special message? Something you learned on the voyage when you met your lady love?”

“Certainly,” he says graciously. “Listen to your heart. That way, you will live without regrets. If I had listened to my heart, I would not have been so cruel to Lisa. And if I had not listened to my heart, I would not have pursued my love of Belle. Trust yourself if you want to find lasting happiness.”

I swallow. That was a beautiful message. “Thank you, my lord,” I say simply.

“Not at all,” he says mildly.

“And thank you for taking this time out of your busy day. It is much appreciated.”

“Again, don’t mention it. A pleasure, dear lady. A pleasure.”

He stands, and I stand. He bows, and I manage to remember how to curtsy. He turns away, and I am left in an empty room, with the soft sounds of the fire and the scent of musk and ginger warm on the silent air.

Here you go… is my character interview with Lord William Montgomery. This is a rare opportunity to speak with him, and be sure to read my book, “The Marquess’ Curse” to know more of her. Until then… take care.

Happy reading!

Jessie

Did you enjoy this article? I hope you do.

CLICK HERE to get your copy now – FREE for KU subscribers or buy for only $0.99!

Interview with Princess Belle of the Netherlands

Character Interview – Princess Belle of the Netherlands

by Jessie Bennett

I am in a small, intimate parlour. A fire in the grate casts warm light over the green satin wallpaper.  I am sitting on a spindle-legged Chippendale seat, an original. The room is decorated with priceless porcelains, the curtains made of deep green velvet. I am waiting for Princess Belle van den Berg, princess of the Netherlands and heroine of my novel, “The Marquess’ Curse” to arrive.

I breathe in deeply, smelling traces of rosewater and lavender, and something seductive and costly, whose scent I don’t recognise. Iris oil, probably, or oil of tulips. We are, after all, at the Dutch court, awaiting a princess, who must by now be outside.

I hear a light laugh, and an attendant appears, announcing the princess.

“Her royal Highness, Princess Belle of the Netherlands.”

Then she is entering the room. Almost six foot, with blonde hair and sea-blue eyes, the princess takes my breath away. I might have written her, but her angelic smile can bring me to my knees. She glides towards me, and I swallow, hoping I remember how to curtsey. The scent of irises and dark violets is strong around her, and her beauty is overwhelming. She is wearing a long white dress of simple muslin, with a high waist and puff-sleeves made of chiffon. Her hands are in white silk gloves. Her swan-like neck is graced with a string of pearls, and more pearls are in her golden hair.

“Your highness,” I manage to say, and curtsey deeply. “I am honoured to be here to speak to you.”

The full smile she gives me nearly turns my heart over, and I begin to understand why she wins the hearts of all my characters.

“Please, be at ease,” she says graciously, and waves me to a seat. She takes the other seat and faces me. Her eyes sparkle with mischief, and I see the inner person, the free, wild spirit that I know she is.

“Princess Belle,” I begin, “it is an honour that you have taken time out of your schedule to talk to me.”

She grins  and rolls those beautiful blue eyes at me. “Schedule is a good word! Appearances in public, ambassadorial balls, and now wedding plans!”

She sighs, and leans forward earnestly. Her sheer feminine beauty would make me feel almost manly, if not for the down-to-earth character, putting me at my ease. She is like everyone’s sister when you get to know her.

“Wedding plans!” I smile at her. “To Lord William? How is that coming along?”

“We have had the dress made by Joseph Bertin, the famous French couturier!” she enthuses. “It is absolutely charming – white lace from Bruges. I am excited about it, though I don’t usually care much for that sort of thing.”

I cannot help smiling at her. She is such an engaging person. “You don’t tend to care for the traditionally “female” things, I think. You are an unusual woman. A free spirit.”

The princess laughs. “Yes,” she says, “I suppose you could say that. My favourite things are riding, and being outdoors in nature. I love horses, and wild places. All my life, all I have longed for is adventure.”

“And I suppose,” I say, “that you were looking for adventure when you met Lord William?”

“Mm,” she nods. “I was off to the Americas! I just wanted to see something new.”

I would love to know what drew her to the reserved Marquess. “Ma’am,” I say, politely, “I will have to ask you to spill the beans. What was it that attracted you to Lord William?”

She gives me a naughty smile, her cat-like blue eyes glowing. “Oh, that’s easy,” she replies, lifting a porcelain shoulder in a shrug. “It was his eyes. They are so…compelling. Those dark depths. He has a keen mind, and a ready wit. I like that. And, well…he is rather gorgeous all over.” She smiles, blushing, and I grin back.

“What do you usually notice about a man?”

“I always notice a man’s eyes, first. ” She says suggestively. “Then, the rest of him.”

An attendant has appeared with a tray of delicious-looking pastries, delicate and elegant. She selects a pastry and lifts it to her lips, a confection like a tiny croissant. She bites into it, and her pink tongue licks along those dainty lips, dabbing up the almond paste that squeezes out. I draw a sharp breath. This woman is so seductive she is half-seducing me!

“And,” I dare to ask, “the rest of a man? What do you notice about that?”

“Well,” Belle looks at me out of those warm blue eyes. “The whole rest, indeed! Shoulders, waist, legs. We cannot overlook shapely legs, now can we?” she finishes the pastry and grins, popping it between those rosy lips in a way which makes my breath catch in my throat. “We definitely cannot forget about the rest,” she concludes. “And Lord William has a rather impressive…rest.” She looks at me with such a naughty grin that I have to laugh.

“Ma’am, you are most refreshing company,” I smile. “You must be very unusual at court.”

She laughs. “I suppose I am,” she agrees. “I did always find court life stifling.”

“Stifling?” I ask, “How?”

“Well,” she sighs. “My childhood was so…restrictive. My father was never there, and Mother was always busy with Tammy – Tamilia, my sister. So it was just me, on my own. That should have been good, but it was so tedious! As a princess, you cannot talk too loudly, ride astride, explore…you just have to sit and play the pianoforte or embroider samplers!” She rolls her eyes.

“It sounds like no life for you,” I agree, smiling.

“It wasn’t!” She says vehemently.

“And now?” I ask, “What are your future plans?”

“Well,” she smiles, “I am only second-in-line to the throne, so I am free to marry my William, though he is “only” a Marquess.” She rolls her eyes, smiling. “And he will come here, to live with me at court. It will be a pleasure to have someone to share my engagements and appearances!” She sighs meaningfully. “We intend to found a park. I want to start a riding stables too, where we can breed our own horses. But that might take time. And persuasiveness.” She grins and leans back in the chair.

I notice she is looking tired, and I guess it might be because of the hardships she endured.

“You must find court life hard, after your ordeals on board the ship?” I ask.

“Sometimes,” she admits. “It hasn’t lessened my appetites, thank heavens!” she grins at me. “But yes, it is not pleasant to be the victim of a poisoning.”

I nod, eyes wide. “I am sure it is not! It is incredible a fragile lady like yourself survived.”

She laughs, lightly, and lifts a shoulder. “Fragile? Mayhap, though I do not see it myself. I would not have survived, had  William not worked so hard to save me.”

“He is to be commended,” I agree. “Though I am not surprised. I would work as hard to save you.”

She laughs, an infectious laugh, and smiles at me. “I am glad to hear it.”

She does look tired, and I am sure she is itching to get back to her work and wedding plans, so I decide to round things off.

“Ma’am,” I say politely, “I am running out of time here. In the last few minutes, would you like to share any message with me, and with anyone else who might read this account?”

Those blue eyes regard me levelly. “Have courage,” she says decidedly. “If you follow your dreams, you will find true greatness. And it might not look like what you expect. Dare to be different. Dare to love.”

I can feel a tear in the corner of my eye. “Thank you, Princess,” I say humbly, “for that amazing message, and for your time. I really appreciate it.”

“It is my pleasure,” she says silkily. Then she is standing, and the interview is over. I curtsey, and she glides out. The room is empty, except for the trace of the scent of irises and violets.

Here you go… is my character interview with Princess Belle. This is a rare opportunity to speak with her, and be sure to read my book, “The Marquess’ Curse” to know more of her. Until then… take care.

That’s my 2 cents….

Jessie

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