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BHM Cravats and Coat Tails - by Xyantha (~BHM, ~~WG, Romance)

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Well-Known Member
Dec 13, 2010
~BHM, ~~WG, Romance - Period romance

Author’s Note: Historians please bear with my attempt at a period romance.

Cravats and Coat Tails
By Xyantha

Katherine squealed as her uncle Edward swept her off her feet. Roaring, he threw her into the air before catching her and turning her around in circles until the sky whirled. He lifted her into the saddle in front of him. He grinned down at her, blue eyes twinkling, and winked. “How is my favorite girl?” His deep voice vibrated through his chest against her, his beard tickling her cheek. Her cheek nestled against the fabric of his chest, she closed her eyes, feeling the warm summer air caress her cheeks, teasing her hair.

Pain lanced through her eyes as the sun fell on her. She nestled her face deeper into her pillow. Kitty groaned, propping herself up on her forearms. A dark curtain of hair slipped between her and the early morning light. Slowly blinking, she tried to ease into wakefulness. She braced her hands on the edge of her bed, sitting up slowly. Sighing, she rose, gazing into her looking glass. She smiled half heartedly at her reflection. A wane young woman smiled back at her, pretty enough but hardly a beauty.

Dressing herself had become easier over the years, but the laces at her back always defeated her. She knocked on Fanny’s door before entering. Smiling at her “maid” - an old family friend who had been old when she was born - who was still abed, she pulled the covers down. “Come Fanny, lace me up. I have a husband to catch.”


Katherine glanced over her shoulder as she entered the ballroom, her satin and lace gloved hand hovering lightly in the crook of her father’s elbow. Smiling softly, she dipped her head as she curtseyed.

“My Grace, thank you for having us,” She murmured. The opulent splendor of his house was obvious, from the marble entranceway to the exquisite wood banisters. Her father looked like he was out of his element, caught between a business demeanor and grateful for the condescension of the invitation. The fool could hardly draw more attention to their being out of place than shouting it from the rooftop.

The Duke smiled down at her, patting her free hand. “It is a pleasure to have you and your family to our little assemblies. My dear Emily would be distraught without you.” Eyes sliding past her he greeted his next guest, releasing her hand and dismissing her. Grateful not to be singled out, she tugged her father after her. He was unsteady on his feet, but not overly so. She only prayed he would not become so drunk she was unable to leave with him.

Gliding smoothly into the room she glanced about subtly for Emily. Her father laid his right hand on hers, drawing her attention from her search. His face wore its usual stoic expression but the lines around his eyes were creased deeper than usual. Leaning down, bathing her in the smell of liquor, he murmured, “You must take advantage of this opportunity to acquaint yourselves with the gentlemen in this room. You are nearly five and twenty. This is your fourth Season-”

Smiling at a passing couple she tilted her face slightly to his “I am aware, Father. I have no prospects and am bound to be a spinster and be a burden if I do not find a Lord.” She touched the hand of a passing matron who she had met previously. “Mrs. Jenkins, a pleasure to see you again.” The woman paused briefly, introducing her companions, before breezing to the side of the floor where they could gossip in peace.

Her father’s eyes tightened. “Do not take that tone. Your mother was an excellent woman and it is only through her connections that you have moved into this circle. Do not think for a moment that I can secure your fortune. Your dowry is sufficient but hardly abundant.”

Anger flared, and words sprang to her lips unbidden. “Perhaps then you should have avoided drinking the money for this season, so we could have hired a chaperone for me to –“

“Dearest Kitty!” Emily gasped, swirling to a stop in front of her, eyes alight with mischief. She curtseyed to Katherine’s father before gently – but firmly – tugging her away. “We shall stay in plain sight, my Lord!” she called. Tittering lightly she weaved their way through the crowd. “Oh dearest Kitty, I have the most wonderful gossip!”

Mentally closing her eyes to brace herself for the sea of inane gossip and useless prattle, Katherine gave no outward sign of her irritation. Emily was not only the daughter of the host; she was also the daughter of her Mother’s oldest friend, and in many ways her only hope for marrying well. Instead, she opened her eyes wide, parting her lips in excitement, and grasped both of her friend’s hands. “Emmy - You simply must tell me!”

“Well,” Emily preened. “I suppose I simply must. It is far too juicy to keep to myself, I daresay!” Leaning in and linking arms, she began to take a turn about the room. “He is here,” she nearly hissed, eyes darting about. “Mama and Papa simply had to extend him an invitation, but it was only out of courtesy. Who would have thought that he would have accepted? It is the first time in years that he has been out in respectable society!”

“Who?” Katherine asked. Her pale lavender dress swirled about her legs. It had taken her two weeks to make this dress. She was very proud of her work. She was getting practiced enough that only the closest inspection would reveal that this was not the result of a professional tailor. Luckily, she had managed to steal the dress money back from her father’s purse before he spent it all last month.

“Lord Nottingham!” When she looked uncomprehending her friend actually rolled her eyes. “Really Kitty, at times you are downright provincial. He is the most infamous Earl around, my dear! The stories that one hears…!” She shivered artfully, lowering her dark lashes. Her blond hair, wrapped in a complicated hairstyle caught the light, making Kitty sigh with envy. She acknowledged a certain lack of style and too much practicality in herself – but blond was so much more beautiful than plain old brown.

Ignoring the slight, she looked around. “Truly? Is he here to find a wife?”

“Well, he is five and thirty.” In the prime of her Season, and also the daughter of one of the most influential Dukes, Emily knew that at some point she would accept an offer this year. Ever the obedient child, she did not buck the expectations her family had for her. There was gain to be made by fantasizing about a wayward letch. Katherine’s interest, however, was piqued. A lord was a lord, after all.

“Do you know him? Could you point him out?”

Her friend hit her with her fan, tittering. “Kitty! You are the naughtiest thing!”

Damnation. She was not that obvious, was she? “How shall I be able to avoid him and keep my reputation if he tries to seduce me and I do not know who he is?”

Featherbrain that she was, the chit believed her. “Oh. Well, I have not been introduced yet, but I expect to at some point this evening. I doubt you will be, but I shall be sure to point him out later if you remind me.”

Just barely succeeding at not looking skyward in exasperation, Kitty lowered her head – ostensibly in appreciation, in actuality to hide her expression. “You are too good to me.” She murmured, the words scathing her tongue. “I see your card is full – go, I will be fine here.” Her friend hugged her and swirled off, mind already elsewhere.

Puffing a breath through her lips she glanced around. Unsociable naturally, at least in large groups, she detested these rounds of silly chatter. Every time she had to remind herself that she was here to accomplish a purpose – to secure herself a husband. As soon as she did that she could leave this behind except on those occasions as she chose. Glancing about the room she saw Geoffrey Telford. Her first true smile of the evening blossomed across her face. It felt so good to just smile because she was happy. Gliding towards him she touched his thick arm.

Looking to his side he spotted her, grinning. “Kitty,” he cried delightedly, kissing her knuckles through the cloth. His chubby cheeks bunched, giving him an irresistible cherubic look. “You look stunning tonight. My compliments on your seamstress,” he winked.

Rolling her eyes fondly she hooked her arm through his, letting the outside of her arm press into his straining waistcoat. “I missed you, you horrible wretch. You know how I hate being in these dresses.” Her stomach flipflopped as his thick side gave in to her touch.

“You should have been born a man, then you would have the freedom you so crave. You always were one for adventures. Running after squirrels….playing in ponds….” His eyes sparkled mischievously as she looked around to make sure no one was close.

“I was young!” she hissed, giggling in spite of herself.

Shaking his head ruefully Geoffrey patted her arm. “I know. I love teasing you, my dear.” His face grew sly. “Though I do believe you had quite the hero worship for me for a time.”

“Maybe. A little. A very little.” Her lips quirked against her will. “I did have a strapping young man dive into the pond after me and carry me home.”

“Strapping? More like straps bursting!” Geoffrey laughed so loud his stomach jiggled, and a few people cast glances their way. He was the most unabashed, happy man she knew. It was funny that he brought up that instance. It was permanently branded onto her brain.

She had grown up next to his estate and had always been fascinated by the water. One evening, just before her Mother died, she had snuck out to his Father’s estate. She couldn’t recall exactly what her little mind had been thinking, something about pretending to be a hunter like her uncle. She remembered seeing the water, still and shining in the red glow from the sun. The cool serentity of the surface called to her. She had played around in the water up to her stocking knees, enjoying the rare moment of freedom. The initial reveling in the glory of being herself quickly converted to panic as, before she knew it, she had stepped off a ledge and the water closed over her head. It seemed like it was pulling her under, squeezing in on her. No matter how hard she thrashed she couldn’t seem to get back to the surface longer than to gasp enough air and water to stay alive. What was once light fabric swirling around her turned into a morass of heavy hands grabbing at her.

She remembered the feeling of soft, yielding flesh connecting with her, strong muscles propelling them back to shore. Geoffrey had looked down at her, panic easing on his chubby face as she coughed up half the lake, her resting on his thick middle. He was the most handsome thing she had ever seen, the last rays of sunlight shining on his face, his linen shirt stuck against every roll. At twenty, he had just enough childhood left in him to cover for her incident, and just responsible enough to teach her to swim when he realized that the incident hadn’t fazed her in the slightest.

One day she had leaned over and grabbed his hand, looking at him adoringly. Startled, chubby cheeks red, Geoffrey had looked at her. “You are the most handsomest, wonderful man in the whole wide world and I want to marry you some day,” she told him solemnly.

“Handsome, not handsomest,” he had corrected her absently. He had grinned and kissed her on the forehead in a fatherly gesture. “You are the most beautifulest girl ever.” He had left it at that. The intervening years had brought the restrictions of society into their friendship, and his marriage at the age of twenty four to an heiress had crushed her heart to breaking. Coupled with her mother’s death a few years before and her father sliding deeper into the bottle, she had felt completely bereft.

Hugging his arm she sighed. “I still think you should have waited for me,” she teased.

“Me too,” Geoffrey admitted, blushing slightly. Poor man. The loveless marriage to that harpy must really be wearing on him, Kitty realized.

Pulling back slightly, she looked away. “Sorry,”

“Don’t.” His normally unflappable affability overshadowed by sadness, Geoffrey slid a thumb across her chin before letting his hand fall. His voice was husky when he continued. “You are one of a kind, my dearest. You have grown into a beautiful woman any man would be proud to marry. If there is anything that I can do…” Sighing heavily, he kissed her knuckles and turned away, ambling along on thick thighs.

Staring after him a moment, Kitty tried to collect herself, rapidly blinking tears away. It was amazing how the years changed everything and nothing. He was still married, and more handsome than ever. Every other man in the room seemed lessened by her knowing him. Feeling off balance and moved, she made her way to the refreshment table to mingle as best she could. She was woefully out of her circle. Her mother may have been the wife of a viscount but the marriage to her father had lessened her own birthright in society’s eyes. Without a proper introduction she was very much an outsider. One woman looked her up and down. Kitty took an immediate dislike to her pinched face and beady eyes. Her lips were cruel, and her smile looked more like a grimace. Without lowering her voice she sighed dramatically. “I simply shall have to speak to Geoffrey.” No wonder Geoffrey looked miserable. “There always seem to be those hangers on who just hover even though they are not welcome.”

Her fat friend nodded her head sagely without noticing Katherine. “Quite so, my dear.” Everyone around the two women glanced around subtly, and seeing only her, stared while managing to not look at her directly.

Face warming, Kitty pretended not to notice. Raising her head she stiffened her back. Geoffrey was nowhere in sight. A feeling of dread settled in her stomach. This was so embarrassing. The likelihood of making any sort of graceful recovery was all but nil. She would simply have to fill her cup and try to exit as gracefully as she could. Perhaps pretending she didn’t notice would be the best course. The stupid, ignorant woman had probably just ruined her chances of making a good match.

(Continued in post 5 of this thread)

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