Monday, February 11, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 36 - Excerpt From My Scottish Gamekeeper Story

In honor of Valentine's Day this week, my offering for the Poetry Train is an excerpt from the very first manuscript I wrote. I figured some romantic tension might be just the thing.

To introduce you to the characters, this is the story of Guthrie Carmichael, a gamekeeper on a Scottish castle estate in 1822. Because I cast all my characters, which makes it easier for me to write them, Guthrie looks like English actor Sean Bean, whom you may know from the Richard Sharpe series or as Boromir from The Lord of the Rings films.

Guthrie is employed by Jocelyne, Lady Moncrieffe who recently lost her husband the earl and is trying to sort out who legally inherits the earldom. Jocelyne looks like actress Neve Campbell from Party of Five and Scream.

Jocelyne's nephew has arrived and seems rather eager to take over the reins, but a new development suddenly puts her life in danger. She flees to Guthrie's modest highland home until another innocent's life hangs in the balance. As we pick up the story, the two of them stay at the home of the Duke and Duchess of Knoxworth as they travel south to stop her nephew.

Jocelyne lived with the family of her servant in the highlands, and now Guthrie must pretend to be her cousin and act the gentleman to stay with the Knoxworths. Accompanying them is Guthrie's best friend Ronald Lundy, the coachman back at the castle, the one who sent word that they must return. Lundy poses as Guthrie's servant, which makes for awkwardness between the two friends.

Excerpt from my Scottish Gamekeeper Story

Lundy woke him in time to dress for dinner. Guthrie shaved at the mirrored wash stand in his room, then freshened up before climbing into his fancy new rigging.

He reddened in discomfort that his friend should shine his shoes even as he plunged his limbs into this foreign territory. There were fawn-colored trousers, a white linen shirt with tiny pearl buttons that took an age to do up. Then a striped satin waistcoat, gold and tan, and a chocolate brown cravat. Lundy struggled to tie it at his friend’s throat amidst more snickering. Overtop of all this, a burgundy evening jacket ending smartly at the waist in front, and sporting medium-length tails behind.

Then Lundy fussed over his hair like a maid. Splashing hair tonic onto his palms, Lundy ran his hands through Guthrie’s wayward hair, smoothing it down, parting it to the side with a comb, and arranged it till he was bang up.

“How do they get it to go all in curls?” Lundy muttered.

Launched off to the dining hall, Lundy gave him instructions on how to address the servants in the event that he should get lost.

Dinner was nearly enjoyable. He knew by now to encourage the duchess to begin a story as a means of buying time, so he’d not be at risk of exposing his own inadequacies of manner. He remembered to lag behind everyone else, never to be the first to reach for a utensil or a glass, so he could copy their movements without showing too much of a delay about it.

He took pains to ignore the meal itself - no matter how mysterious the dish was, whether or not he could identify the substance as meat, fish or fowl. All of it hid beneath equally curious sauces and jellies. He transformed any shock that came over his face into an unexpected delight at the talents of their cook. And though he’d rather have washed everything down with a great jar of ale, the wine was an acceptable alternative.

It seemed no time at all before Lady Moncrieffe had slipped her arm through his, and they were bidding their goodnights to the Duke and Duchess of Knoxworth. Turning from the dining hall, they strolled down the corridor and headed up the staircase, under the playful gaze of the cherubim tumbling from the gallery ceiling.

“Indeed, Mr. Carmichael,” his mistress said. “I’ve never seen the duchess so taken with anyone, aside from the duke himself, that is.”

Guthrie chuckled, embarrassed.

“You’re doing a remarkable turn,” she continued. “Even I’m beginning to think we’re related.”

“Lundy must have known best, after all,” said Guthrie.

“I’ve learned my lesson,” she said. “Never underestimate a man from Moray.”

Guthrie looked at her. She walked beside him, sparkling in colored gemstones at her throat, her wrist, within the loops of her dark hair. She’d flashed him such a smile, those lips sliding back down to hide her teeth. Those lips -

He took a deep breath.

“Ye slept well last night, then?” he stammered.

They were nearing her door. “Yes, thank you. I knew that I would.”

She stopped, and they lingered, their arms still entwined.

“Ye looked so peaceful,” he whispered. “I couldna think what might drive ye from that peace.”

Her gaze took him in. Those brown eyes seemed to grow larger and larger, till there was nothing but her eyes, nothing but himself looking into them.

“Ye’ve got a maid to see to ye?” His voice was throaty with the need of her.

“I’m to ring for her - ”

Don’t.” He lurched forward, jerked the doorhandle and pushed wide the door. With a sure hand, he grasped her forearm, tugging her into the room with him.

“Secure that,” he said, nodding his head toward the door even as he strode across the room for the one that led into his own.

His mistress, startled into silence, walked to the door and locked it. Guthrie swiftly made his way through the connecting doors and burst in on Lundy, who sat lounging by the fire. Before Lundy could open his mouth, Guthrie said, “I’m with her ladyship. Got everything ye need?”

Lundy raised a dish of clean-picked bones with one hand, hidden till now by his chair. His other hand nursed a steaming cup of tea.

Guthrie grinned and nodded. His friend raised the tea cup in salute, settling back in the chair. Turning, Guthrie looked at the door that led to his mistress.

What was he doing? He should tell Lundy.

Lundy would talk him out of it. ‘Ye daft ignoramus,’ he’d say. ‘Those sparkish clothes aren’t yers and don’t be gettin’ used to them. Ye’re lucky for a position at Kinnoull. Even if the new laird’s a murderin’ bastard...’

Guthrie stood at the threshold of his lady’s chamber. He spied her, sitting on the edge of the bed, head bent, her hands in her lap.


But his hand pushed open the door. She turned to look at him, her face a confusion of relief and uncertainty. Guthrie crossed the floor to stand before his mistress – until the scent of her, the warmth of her pushed him to his knees. He sank willingly to the floor before he lost himself to the force of her.

“Mr. Carmichael,” she said, alarmed.

“Ye have no maid to help ye. So I shall do it.” His fingers wrapped around the heel of one slipper, easing it from her foot. Her breath drew sharply. The other slipper, gone. He held those silky feet in his hands, that gossamer feel of the stockings as he slid his palms along her calves, along the pale whiteness of her thighs beneath those rustling skirts. She trembled.

The tips of his fingers found the garters holding them in place. With a mere tug, they gave in to him. He slid the silk loose, her skin even softer. She made sounds that stirred him with furious intention.

He looked up past the tumble of her petticoats, her evening frock cascading every which way. Her eyes closed, her mouth open in a suspended oh. When he stopped, her lashes fluttered open. Her gaze travelled drunkenly downwards, till she found him looking at her. A surge of power coursed through him.

She was his. Whatever he desired, she would give it to him.

“Milady,” he said, “when we get ourselves back to the castle, whatever happens with it, wherever ye may end up, I shall serve ye. Not because ye’re my mistress. Because I love ye.”

She looked at him as though he’d struck her. Every nerve in his body prickled with that admission. He loved her. It was simple.

The great, divine comedy of it made him want to roar - with laughter, with sobbing, with rage that it should be so. He would risk everything, every ridiculous dream of a life where he would be his own man. He would be nothing if he was asked to trade his lady for that.

“God help me,” he said. “But I must have ye.” And he bent his head, touching his lips to the inside of her knee, his forehead brushing the tousled creamy satin of her gown.

Her fingers found their way into his hair, squeezing rough handfulls of it. Suddenly she tugged at him, so he was forced to look at her.

“You shall not have me.” Her brown eyes were blazing, daring him to contest her.

“I must.” He brought his hands up to cover hers, pulling them free, turning the palms so that he buried his face in her grasp.

“You don’t want me,” she persisted, her breathing growing heavier.

“I do want ye,” he said, pressing her palms to his lips, grasping her wrists and pulling her face closer to his.

Lady Moncrieffe’s expression darkened, her anger swift, so that she yanked her arms free of him. “You can’t even see me, for this!” She held the glittering bracelet poised between them like an accusation.

Guthrie grabbed at her arm and held her fast. He could see that it was a little too tight, that she bit back a comment. He unfastened the clasp and freed the bracelet from her wrist.

He let her go, meeting her gaze as she gasped at his rude treatment. Dropping the bracelet on one of the stockings beside him on the carpet, he rose to his feet. He circled around the bed, climbing upon it to kneel behind her and unclasp the necklace in silence. Grasping her shoulders, he leaned forward, tossing the string of jewels past her legs, to land next to the bracelet on the silky nest.

His lips nuzzled her ear as he whispered, “I am yer servant, and there’s nothing to be done about it. I shall help ye to undress. I’m yer servant, because I love ye. I shall undress ye, to love ye. Ye’re my lady.”

Burying his face into the curve of her neck, Guthrie’s heartbeat quickened as he heard her sigh. He set to work on the colored strands of jewels entwined in her hair. As the tresses loosened, a dizzying aroma of spices wafted from the coils and braids that his fingers set free. Bending his head to plunge his face into the soft thickness of her dark hair, he groaned his pleasure as she whispered, “Guthrie.”

He slid off the bed to kneel once more before his love. For a breathless moment he stayed immobile at her feet, looking up at an image so beautiful it threatened to choke him. He swallowed against it as his hands moved of their own accord. He took hold of her foot and kissed it, rubbing his face along the curve of her instep.
His hands skimmed the elegance of her legs, his lips brushing the contours of her knee. Her hands lunged for his hair once more, holding him in place.

Guthrie slipped his hands around to her bottom, and the shock released him from her grip. He rose, swept her legs up with one arm and eased her onto the bed. Her gaze locked with his, full of the anchoring steadiness which saved him so many months ago in the Tower Room.

Her features were gravely serious.

“You are truly mine, then?” she said, her voice thick with desire.

Guthrie swallowed. “Aye,” he said.

She seemed to take in his features like a map reader, the ridge of his eyebrows telling her one thing, the slope of his cheeks another. When she was done surveying him, she looked deeply into his eyes.

“I have never had anything of my own before,” she said. Her voice was awed and delighted at once.

Guthrie didn’t know what to say to that.

He pulled her close to him, burying his face in those dark tangles. And when she sought out his lips, her kisses were the reprieve he sought. For he had never given himself to anyone before, and he didn’t know whether he would regret it when he put his feet back on the duke’s floor and made his way back to his room in the morning.

Copyright - Julia Smith - 2008


Wylie Kinson said...

Julia - that was fabulous!! And I love that you cast your characters (I do the same thing) - I LOVE Sean Bean.
I want the rest of the book!!

Wylie Kinson said...

Forgot to mention - my poetry train is over at Six Degrees of Sexy.

Anonymous said...

Julia, that is so delightful. You had me going!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Back story! I need to know these people better!!!

(and you know I like back story...)

Karina said...

Wow, Julia you are an incredible writer! More, more, more!!!

R.G. ALEXANDER said...

That was amazing! Wow

Amy Ruttan said...

That's AWESOME!!!

OMG I love Sean Bean too. OH *drool*

Akelamalu said...

Excellent Julia. I love the way you cast your characters too. :)

Jill said...

With what I've read about your writting, I do adore your male characters!!
And this one want me to read more!

myrtle beached whale said...

Wow, can you ever write!!! I feel very small.

Addicted to crafting said...

That was great Julia!!!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, wow! I thoroughly enjoyed that, Julia -- it made me breathless!

Red Garnier said...

I love the excerpt, oh god I LOVE SEAN BEAN TOO!!! WTG!!

M. said...

you chose your cast well - both not only easy to look at, but they radiate intelligence and force of character. no 'vanillla' types here!

Olga said...


I Like the turn of phrase'Bang up'- pretty descriptive of this whole piece- my my my.

Shelley Munro said...

Julia, I really enjoyed your scene. Sean Bean is a favorite of mine so you had me from the start.

Joy Renee said...

this is breathtaking. literally. well almost literally. it's doing funny things to my breathing anyway. and makes me want to hold my breath for the next sentence.

by a strange coincidence the only love scene i've ever written was the one in line for Friday Snippets this week--the day after Valentine's Day. do drop by if you can and see what you think.

i've got quite a few more such scenes in the works among my dozen or so stories but every time i get to the edge of those scenes my words choke up. twenty years ago it might have been the prudery of my fundie upbringing but i don't think that is the problem anymore.