Re: O Brave New World

..Wait, what?

Isabel looked at him with bewilderment painted plainly across her face, from the frown on her lips to the way her eyebrows furrowed so intensely, they very nearly met in the space above her nose. He.. wasn't going to bed her?

He wasn't going to bed her! Oh, thank God. Relief followed swiftly on the heels of her potent confusion, so intense that her knees trembled and threatened to buckle, enough so that she was forced to reach out and grab the back of the chair she was standing behind. It was the only thing that kept her from collapsing right onto the floor until she could regain the feeling in her legs. Slowly, her white-knuckled grip eased as she was able to stand securely again, and then she finally gathered her wits enough to look at him.

He was laughing.

Abruptly, she felt a painful stab of humiliation, and much to her surprise, hurt. He wasn't going to bed her, because, apparently, the idea was so ludicrous and unappealing, that it rendered him capable of no more than laughter so intense it brought him to tears. Honestly, she probably should've expected that. There was a reason she'd not yet been betrothed, after all.. she was mousy, plain, and entirely undesirable, it seemed. But that her future husband found her so lacking he was reduced to such powerful laughter by the very thought of sleeping with her before he absolutely had to...

Suddenly overwhelmed by a shame so intense it made her chest ache and her throat grow tight with the threat of tears, those decidedly not of an amused nature, she clasped her hands before her and lowered her head. Only when she was sure that she could speak without actually sounding like she was about to weep did she do so, her voice quiet and carefully controlled.

"Of course. Forgive me for my untoward assumption. Should you require my presence in the future, I will, naturally, be at your disposal. I bid you good evening."

Bobbing a polite but undeniably hasty curtsy, the moment she straightened she whirled away and all but ran out of the dining room. She was barely able to discern the path toward her room through the tears blurring her vision, but at least she managed to keep from making any of the pitifully distressed sounds that were struggling valiantly to escape her. She fumbled at the door, and blessedly, no tears fell until after she'd closed it behind her. She was an uncomfortable blend of embarrassed and offended, but also wearily unsurprised.

It was just her lot in life that nobody wanted her, she supposed.
word count: 451

Re: O Brave New World

Alexander knew women, women knew Alexander, but there were times that the young Captain, for all his experience, knew nothing. Girl who was to be his wife had gone from a deathly shyness which came from the fear of anything sexual happening that night, to…apologizing and fleeing from the dining room for the stairs, and perhaps the sanctuary of her room. Alexander was left standing there, a injudicious look upon his features, and feeling completely lost. No, not in the sense of lost one might suffer out in the ocean, this was much different, this was lost with no compass, no stars to guide the ship by, and not even the sun to give the basic sense of which way was East and West.

She was to be his wife, and perhaps she had begun early the mentality of keeping him unsure of himself so soon. He heard the door close on the second floor, and features seemed to sink slightly. Thank God Jack wasn’t there, the man would have waited until she was out of ears reach, and then his laughter would have dwarfed Alex’s completely. Jack was married; the man had experience, if living a thousand miles away from his wife, and preferring the company of expensive courtesans being the definition of experience in marriage. The man would hear all about it the next day, and then the teasing would begin. Not for her, she would be treated gently, as a princess by the Intelligence officer.

Moments before he had been just ready to sleep, to go from dinner to bed after some mulled wine, and thoughts of a future that was now in a way laid out. Instead, he was angry, though even that, he was not sure if he was angry at him, her, or a combination of the two. Mulled wine, right, he needed something to relax him after all this. The request was given to one of the maids before he disappeared upstairs, steps carrying him past her door, and he paused there for a brief moment, looking at it quietly. He wanted to burst in, to explain himself, to find out why she had left like that, but instead he continued on to his own room, closing the door behind. He was almost completely undressed by the time the maid brought in the cup of wine, and with a nod, she left it on the small table there before disappearing.

If this was the first indication of married life, Alexander was in trouble…no wonder Jack kept his wife so far away, but Alex didn’t want that, no, he was foolish, he wanted something better, and it seemed now that he wouldn’t get it.
word count: 456

Re: O Brave New World

Isabel remained with her back pressed against the door until her hiccuping sobs trickled off into the occasional watery sniffle. She was just about to push away from said door and venture toward her bed when she heard the heavy footsteps of a man's tread just on the other side. Steps that paused almost directly behind her. She inhaled sharply and held her breath as her heart skipped a few beats, then began hammering almost painfully. She put one hand over it as though that would prevent Alexander from hearing its maddened thumping, and clenched her eyes tightly shut. Part of her was silently begging him to go away, while another was mournfully praying that he would come inside, explain that it hadn't been what she'd thought that spurred such laughter in him.

It seemed he was more inclined to agree with the bitter part of her, for a few moments later, she heard his steps carrying him away. The tears she'd thought dried up started in again, and she rapidly undressed, leaving pieces of clothing laying about in a haphazard manner that was very unlike her, before finally crawling into bed and burrowing beneath the bedclothes. In this manner, Isabel cried herself to sleep, drifting into a fitful slumber only after she'd exhausted herself with weeping.

This meant that when she awoke, it was with a head that felt stuffed with wool, and a mouth that was not only dry, but tasted especially foul. Not to mention the sun beaming through the gauzy drapes was making her grainy eyes ache furiously. She felt like death warmed over, in short. Grumbling to herself, she set about making herself as presentable as possible, starting with a brisk wash thanks to the pitcher of water left on her dresser the night before.

Roughly an hour later, she emerged from her room, her hair reasonably dried and pinned back away from her face in a simple yet elegant knot at the nape of her neck. Her eyes were still a little red, and she looked pale and tired, but she held herself with the poise that had been drilled into her all her life as she descended the stairs to the first floor. It was there that she paused, looking around uncertainly. She didn't want to risk going to Alexander's study again, not even to retrieve the most recent chapter of her novel -- she'd send a maid for it later. Nor did she want to go to the dining room, fearing he would be there eating -- both the thought of food, and of seeing him after she'd made such a fool of herself, turned her stomach.

After several long moments of intense deliberation, she straightened her spine and raised her chin, then made for the kitchens. She didn't want food, but she would commit heinous acts for a pot of tea. Though unfamiliar with the layout of the house, some things were generally universal, and she figured somewhere near the dining room (without actually going into said room) was a safe bet. Once she found what she believed was the correct door, Isabel hesitantly pushed it open and peered inside, to see if anyone was there.
word count: 543

Re: O Brave New World

He was getting used to the smell of blood these days. Childhood had ended when he had entered the army as a drummer, and had gotten an early start on the barbaric sights of what men could do to the other when hatred was their motive. Although in the decade which followed, he had learned that he was capable of those same acts, for country, family, friendship, and usually a good deal of money. He had been summoned by Jack the night before, or requested was the word used, and had left a rather expensive courtesan naked in his sheets barely touched in order to seek out a simple spy working for France, trying to uncover various secrets. In truth, Duncan didn’t attempt to learn everything necessary, because he knew one thing for sure, he trusted Jack, he and Alexander had changed the world he lived in, and protected him from disappearing into nothing. That and his little brother had a life, a future, and a commission in the British Army because of the money he had made at the top of a sword, or the end of a musket.

Which was why he was there, smack dab in the middle of Venice, inside a rather large house, sitting on a bench in front of the kitchen fire while his silk shirt dried just off to the side. Kilt was still wrapped around his shoulder, but from the right angle, there was no denying his life had been a bad one, from the scars which went side to side, compliments of a leather whip, and an asshole officer who no longer the world had to suffer. Blood and viscera coated that basket hilted claymore, though some of it came off easily with the wet rag he ran along it, cleaning the blood grooves on that murderous blade. The faint sound of humming would great the girl when she entered the kitchen, along with the smell of chicken which even now was roasting, basted with herb encrusted butter for his dinner, albeit a few hours late.

Duncan was not a jumpy man, so the sound of door opening caused no rush in action, which no doubt was a saving grace of his fingers working the rag against the blade. Although when cerulean hues settled upon the petite creature coming into the kitchen, she had his full attention, pulling it away from blood on his blade, and his own which thankfully no longer flowed from the last shallow cut of a dying man. Least the man didn’t have a pistol late into the fight; else he’d be cleaning quite a bit more blood, if he was still alive to clean it at all. Attention turned in full to her as the last of the sticky, sweet ichor came free from the steel blade.

“I wasn’t told there was a new girl in the house…and now I see why.”

Smile seemed to grow so easily upon those lips, that perpetually jovial young man was almost never without that trademark grin despite everything, and now it was turned upon her, in all its glory. Feet were regained, and he quickly rose to that six foot three inch height which put him a head over most, and a few inches over even Jack, and Alexander, and dwarfed most of the women he had ever met. Sword slid delicately into the sheath, and both was set on the table, as those worn, leather boots carried him over to her. Words were English, assuming she spoke it, but then again, more than one girl had fallen to his wiles without any common tongue.

“So lass, does a pretty thing like you come with a name, or shall Aphrodite be your name upon my lips, before they seek out yours?”
word count: 637

Re: O Brave New World

Never in her life would Isabel have anticipated setting foot in the kitchen of her future husband's household, to the sight of a bare-chested man cleaning blood from a sword. She wasn't sure what shocked her more -- all that, or the network of scars marring his broad, muscular back. Something inside her twisted, and her stomach turned in a queasy manner, filling her mouth with a terrible taste that did nothing to help the dryness that still plagued it. As sheltered as she was, any idiot should have known whip marks when they saw them, even her. That brought to mind a few questions that seemed terribly important to her, in the moment: Who was this man? Why had he been whipped? And why was he shirtless and cleaning a sword in her betrothed's kitchen?

She only just managed to drag her wide-eyed gaze away from the lines that criss-crossed his flesh before he turned to look at her, and a shocked earthen gaze collided with that of brilliant blue, so pale and crystalline clear that they evoked images of a pure mountain spring. At least, until the blonde brute opened his mouth, his Scottish brogue and the words it carried driving out all such pleasant mental pictures. If that hadn't done it, him standing up would have. Isabel couldn't help herself -- her jaw dropped. The monster of a man had to be nearly a full foot taller than her!

His hulking stature was so intimidating, it was enough to keep her rooted in place just inside the door. That was, until he began advancing on her. Panic bubbled in her belly, sending her heart surging up into her throat as she backed away instinctively.. up until she could go no further. Her body hitting the door behind her made her jump, and she breathed a frightened squeak. Only to inhale so sharply that the breath strangled in her chest, resulting in a garbled whimper, while she stared up at him with the round, frightened eyes of a doe who'd been trapped unawares. She was a smart woman, even when she was half-stupefied by terror, and there had been no mistaking his words. She hastened to try and ward him off, licking her lips anxiously before she began to babble in a voice made breathless by fear.

"Wh-what? There shall be no.. any of that! Not with me, at least. I'm sure there are any number of girls who would be flattered and even appreciative of your.. ah.. interest, but I'm most certainly not one of them, and I'll kindly ask you to keep your lips to yourself, thank you very much!"

By the end of her little speech, she realized her cheeks were flushed. She'd never been kissed, and she absolutely did not want her first kiss to be taken from her unwillingly by some Scottish rogue in her fiancé's kitchen! The thought of Alexander struck her abruptly, along with the fervent wish that he would suddenly appear to rescue her from this frightening stranger, and that was perhaps even more surprising than what she blurted out next.

"I don't think the Captain would be at all happy if you were to kiss me! Not that he wants to do it himself, mind, but he does have a reputation to uphold now and the last thing either of us needs is rumors had of me being.. despoiled by.. by... Oh who are you anyway, and what are you doing in here? And shirtless, no less! It's.. it's positively uncivilized!"

Maybe she should scream. Yes. That was a wonderful idea. Now if she could just manage to stop hyperventilating long enough to get a nice, deep breath...
word count: 636

Re: O Brave New World

Scots were often known to be the predators, the fierce creatures from the North who could make the world tremble, and with her retreat away from him, perhaps it triggered the impulse within him to play with his prey. The little squeak from her lips actually widened that smile more, and to those with a trained eye, the much tanned Scotsman actually blushed slightly from the sound. Beneath that hulking frame, behind those soft, yet knowing eyes lay a mischievous little boy who had never quite grown up despite his agonizing past. In strange fashion, those brown eyes of hers seemed much older than the rest of her, even while afraid, and forgive a man for staring at the unique.

Her voice, when it reached his ears sounded special in itself, for how few opportunities off the ship he had to speak his mother’s tongue, instead of the abhorrent Italian which often filled the streets, and quite often his sheets. Yet within fearful voice, the sense of propriety almost gave away a level far beyond a typical maid, which he had assumed her to be. Brow could not help but rise, not merely at the use of such proper English, including an almost patrician ‘thanks’ at the end which meant anything but. His head could not help but loll to the side slightly, shockingly white teeth ensnaring lower lip briefly at the coloring of her cheeks, for he loved that he had such an effect on women, whether they wanted it or not.

“Oh, so that’s you then wanting my lips anywhere but exploring you?”

His wink right there could have set hearts ablaze from there to America, and it had on frequent occurrences, as he looked down at her. It was then she launched into the almost breathless mention of the Captain, and it seemed invoking that word slowed his advance slightly as she bumbled through the words of reputation, and not wanting to do himself, then the mention of being despoiled, a lot to take in, before her question of his appearance there, including the lack of a shirt. A gentle laugh would pass those lips, not unkind, no, the Scot was anything but unkind to anyone.

“Dannae worry lass, it was not with intent I forced you upon me in such a state. Merely had to wash my shirt, for it would not be proper to ga home covered in another’s blood, aye? And, just wha are ya ta the Cap’n?”

Though it seemed he was willing to do his own inquiry on that, for with one large hand reaching out, he braced himself against the door, so he could lean in on her. It was not her lips he was after, which of course she would not know. Instead, as she pulled away from him, turning head to the side to deny the lips he was not after, it left him the target which he instead was allowed full access. A pretty, almost swan like neck, one of the few things which he actually enjoyed that the English women often had, would feel just briefly the movement of his nose against it, a soft intake of breath the very thing which allowed him to be sure of a nagging thought. He spoke softly, words warm against her skin a brief moment before he pulled away from her.

“What’s a virgin noble Englishwoman doing on the far side of Europe, so far from home?”

His hand still remained on the wall, but out of respect of her newly discovered lot in life, curiosity over-rode anything else. Until he heard a soft cough from behind him, for Alexander had slipped into the kitchen by another door, and was actually pulling off the leg of the very chicken Duncan had been cooking for himself.

“Well, the poor girl was sent here to marry me.”
word count: 651

Re: O Brave New World

Confusion flashed briefly through her gaze as the mountain of a man spoke, and while she immediately wanted to protest his lips being anywhere near her, she was just befuddled enough (likely due to anxiety) that she wasn't certain any response would be the right one. And so Isabel firmly pressed her lips together and pressed back all the more into the door behind her, as though wishing she could simply move through the wood itself and disappear. Unfortunately, that wasn't going to happen, and so her hand began to creep across the smooth surface behind her, fumbling for the knob.

Her fingers had just curled around the cool metal object when he spoke, and before she could muster a response to his question, all logic flew right out of her head thanks to the way he loomed over her. He was so close! Why was he so close? A strangled sound of terror got caught in her throat when he leaned in, her eyes clenching shut while head turned away, refusing to let him do something so awful as steal her first kiss! Or so she assumed he was going to do. He'd just been talking about kissing her, after all!

Imagine her surprise when he did no such thing, and instead did something that was so much more intimate and mortifying. She yelped and nearly jumped out of her skin when she felt his nose brush against the column of her neck, her eyes flying wide and turning toward him while an expression of astonished embarrassment claimed her face, paired with a painfully vivid blush. The moment he leaned away from her, Isabel was scrambling to put distance between them, her hip bumping into the nearby counter and her shin catching a stool, her hand rubbing vigorously at her neck as though that would remove the feel of him, or indeed, erase the action entirely. Of course, it only got worse when the word 'virgin' left his lips, making her inhale sharply and clutch her hands against her chest, as though he'd fondled her unwillingly.

"I-- What-- You-- How could you even know that?!"

That wasn't what she'd meant to ask. She'd meant to say something properly offended, such as, 'How dare you accost me in such a manner?' But she was too bewildered, knocked completely off-kilter, by his accurate assessment of what she was. A virgin English noblewoman, very much out of place, not only geographically but socially.

She froze when she heard Alexander's voice, and her disbelieving gaze shot over to where her betrothed now stood, feasting on the leg of a chicken. Torn between relief that her future husband was now there to protect her, embarrassment that he'd caught her in such a compromising situation, and anger that he was just standing there, Isabel huffed an exasperated sound and decided to settle for a blend of embarrassed and angry as she gestured toward him in a flustered manner.

"Yes, I'm afraid the Captain has been rather unwillingly saddled with my person as his future bride. Now that the unfortunate truth of my presence is known, I believe I'll be on my way."

All appetite had abandoned her with Alexander's arrival, and she skirted the long way around the room in an effort to bypass both men and make good her escape out the other door. She wasn't sure whether to be more upset by the cad's poor attempt at seduction, or at the fact that someone finally found her appealing, and it wasn't the man she was destined to wed.
word count: 611
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