I wanted to share a few more of the scenes I’m writing in preparation for NaNoWriMo. Again, these are fairly rough (just drafted, a very quick copy edit, and with placeholders and inconsistencies intact) but I hope that won’t detract from them too much. I’ve really enjoyed writing about all my characters for the last several weeks and I hope you enjoy meeting them and getting a sneak peek at the novel I’m writing for November 2020.
Meet Prince Dominique
[Dominique is 15 in this scene. It’s summer, several months before he goes to the Royal Academy.]
Dominique was bored. He was always bored. He was so far down the line that no one really cared what he did as long as he looked good, behaved well, and showed up.
He couldn’t even remember what today’s event was supposed to be.
His brothers walked into the room first. They generally proceeded in age order behind their father and sister. Dominique had been given the option to stay behind since he was still only fourteen, but he’d have been even more bored there alone. At least with Father’s events there was important discussion going on so people left him alone.
When they walked into the hall it was more sparsely populated that Dominique was expecting. Only about a dozen others standing around the long table. It wasn’t until he saw the Vizier that Dominique remembered what event this was. His father was being social for once. He’d invited the Vizier and his top four clerks to bring their families for dinner at the palace.
“Archibald, it’s good to see you tonight,” Dominique’s father greeted the Vizier.
“It is always a pleasure, your majesty,” the Vizier replied formally.
“Come now,” the king said with a laugh, “no need to be so formal tonight. “It is Josselin for tonight.”
The Vizier just smiled and nodded. He was far too smart a man to allow himself to use such informality with the king, even when invited. He was only a commoner after all, even if his family had been serving as clerks and Viziers for hundreds of years.
Dominique followed his brothers down along the table to take their seats. He was at the end, as per usual. But that meant he would be sitting next to someone other than his brother, so there was a chance of a conversation, even if they were usually boring at these events.
The Vizier and his wife were seated beside the king, across from his sister and eldest brother, and the four clerks and their wives sat on that side, he assumed in rank order, which put Dominique across from the second clerk.
Dominique glanced sideways when someone pulled out the chair two down from his. It was the Vizier’s eldest, Benjamin, who was pulling out a chair for his sister, Catherine. After seeing his sister seated, Benjamin took the seat beside Dominique. He was a little more than two years older than Dominique, and very rarely had much to say on the few occasions they’d met.
He’d known he was going to be bored.
As soon as everyone was seated the servants began bringing out the first course. Dinner conversation was almost always boring. Today was no exception. Dominique tried not to sigh and ate his food quietly. There was no reason to be talkative if no one addressed him.
There were seven courses, which was a little excruciating, and by the end all Dominique wanted to do was get up and stretch after sitting for so long. He knew better though.
As the food was finished and the servants began to clear away dishes real conversations began. The clerk across from Dominique actually got into a fairly complicated discussion about fiscal policy with Benjamin. Dominique only understood about half of it, so once others began to get up from the table, he quietly excused himself and walked away toward the far end of the room. He stepped over to the window that looked out over the garden.
“Were you as tired of sitting as I?”
Dominique only just kept himself from jumping at her soft words. He turned his head slightly to find Catherine already standing at the window. She was standing at the far corner, partially in shadow.
“I am glad for the chance to stretch my legs,” Dominique replied. Never complain, that was one of the rules of etiquette his mother had drilled into them all.
Catherine laughed softly. “It is always a pleasure to get to see your gardens,” she said, her attention still on the window.
“They are lovely,” he replied.
“Do you ever go exploring in them?” Catherine asked.
“We don’t often have the opportunity.” Which was a shame. They were lovely, and he’d always like wandering the gardens at the summer palace. He had more freedom there, and his father tolerated him talking with the garners and occasionally designing a new planting.
“Do you think they’d let us tonight?” she asked. “Maybe if your escorting a guest no one will mind you taking time in the garden.”
Dominique actually turned to look at Catherine. She was nearly a year older than him. Surely she knew how inappropriate her suggestion was. She was an unattached female, and a commoner at that, it would be scandalous.
“What’s that look for?” she asked, smiling again. “I’m sure someone would insist on accompanying us, or sending a servant along or something.”
“You’re very forward,” Dominique said. She was. She was asking a prince to take a walk in the garden, and she wasn’t even a noble.
“I just know that this evening is much more about casual conversation of official things than it is anything else. It’s also a reward that I’m sure everyone appreciates, but for us children it’s just another boring dinner. Why can’t we go explore the gardens?”
Dominique met sparkling hazel eyes and found himself nodding. He turned slightly and offered her his arm, as was appropriate when escorting a woman, even if they were still both under age.
Catherine beamed at him and placed her hand gently on his arm, allowing him to walk her back into the room.
“Try Mistress [clerk 4],” Catherine whispered. “I know she loves gardens.”
Dominique duly walked over to where the indicated clerk’s wife was standing near her husband. She looked horribly awkward.
The woman dipped a curtsey when she saw them approaching.
“I was just offering to show my companion the gardens,” Dominique said. “She suggested you might enjoy the chance to see them as well.” Even though it was all Catherine’s idea, he had to take credit for it as a proper gentleman.
“I would love to see the royal gardens,” Mistress [clerk 4] said in a soft voice. “I thank Miss Verity for thinking of me.”
“Not at all,” Catherine replied, smiling at the woman.
“Please, lead on,” Miss [clerk 4] said motioning them toward the door.
Dominique escorted Catherine with Mistress [clerk4] following behind. When the servant opened the door, Dominique informed the man of his plan and continued down the hall.
They didn’t talk as they paced down long corridors to the formal parlor that let out into the gardens. If he were alone, he’d have used a back staircase and a servant exit, much to the family’s dismay, but he knew better than to take a short cut with guests.
“These are truly beautiful,” Mistress [clerk 4] said as they walked down the steps into the rose garden.
“The family takes pride in its gardens,” Dominique replied. He more than most. They had skilled gardeners and highly educated herbalists. He’d learned a great deal from them over the years despite his mother’s disapproval of his interest in plants and being out of doors when he was younger.
“I’ve never seen roses so large,” Catherine said softly.
“They’re a special variety,” Dominique replied.
“Oh, in what way?” Catherine asked, with far more interest than anyone in his family ever had.
So Dominique told her.
Catherine asked questions, and so did Mistress [clerk 4] and somehow Dominique found himself giving them a complete tour and talking almost the entire time. It wasn’t until a servant came up to let them know that Master [clerk 4] was intending to depart soon, that Dominique realized how late it had become. It was almost sunset.
Dominique escorted his two companions back to the hall where the meal had been served, seeing Catherine into the care of her brother almost as soon as they walked into the door. He moved over to stand with his brothers, hoping he hadn’t overstepped by taking the two women away for so long.
When the last of the guests had departed Dominique sighed softly. That was the least boring social dinner he’d ever been to.
“You did well tonight,” Josephine said softly as she stopped beside him.
He looked up, not having expected a comment, let alone praise.
“It’s important to entertain one’s guests,” Josephine said, smiling down at him. “The two ladies obviously enjoyed their time with you. Where on earth did you take them?”
“They wanted to see the gardens,” Dominique replied.
“Ah, that makes sense,” she said. “It explains why you looked so much happier too.” She patted him on the shoulder, laughing softly as she moved away.
She didn’t see his interest in plants as unseemly like their mother had.
Dominique sighed again as he followed his brothers out of the room and back toward their own suites. It would be another boring evening studying subjects he wasn’t as interested in. It had been nice to not be bored for once.
[Catherine is 12 at this point.]
Catherine enjoyed the chance to go to a party with her brother. No one seemed to like letting her go by herself, so she only got to accept invitations that included Benjamin. Today’s was being hosted by the family on the estate just north of theirs. They were a noble family, but didn’t have much standing or much wealth. She heard father say that they were jealous of the Verity family’s success and a little resentful because they were only commoners, but for some reason she and Benjamin were always invited to the parties they had.
Benjamin helped her into the carriage in her pretty dress. It was the simplest of her party dresses. She knew better than to show off by wearing something that would be fancier than her hosts could afford. She’d seen the daughter of the family in a very similar style dress at the last party, so this might even be seen as a complement or copying her style. Catherine hoped so. Olivia was nice. Catherine wished they could be friends, but whenever she tried to talk to Olivia their brothers seemed to get in the way. Olivia’s first usually. He was always wanting to talk to her.
When they arrived at the house, the family was there to welcome them, and Catherine made sure to smile when Olivia greeted her and be properly polite to everyone before Benjamin escorted her into the parlor to mingle with the other guests.
Thankfully they already knew everyone here, so they didn’t have to do any of the awkward introductions. Catherine hated introductions. Especially with nobles. They were always polite to start with, but by the time Catherine and her brother had finished saying their names they would often turn subtly insulting. The Verity family was invited to a lot of functions hosted by the nobility, but they were also often looked down upon because they weren’t nobility themselves.
They talked briefly with a few of the other young people and answered all the inquiries from the adults about their parents’ health and the family and all that. Catherine used the answers mother taught her. She’d tried being honest once and mother had been furious, so she wasn’t going to do that again.
Catherine tried hard not to show her relief and excitement when everyone had arrived and they were led from the parlor out into the yard where tables had been set up with delicious treats and awnings had been strung between trees to create a cool and shady spot for the adults to sit and talk over their food.
Benjamin let Catherine out of his sight for a little while which was a bit of a relief. Catherine made a modest plate of small bites, again like mother had taught her, and milled about slowly, trying to see where Olivia had gone. When she saw the other girl surrounded by the other noble girls at the party, Catherine decided today wasn’t the day to try to become friends. She didn’t want to look pushy and rude, and at least one of the noble girls was from a family that very much disliked Catherine’s and none of the family members where shy about it.
She walked past where all the adults were sitting at little tables under the awning looking for her brother when Olivia’s brother found her.
She didn’t dislike Pascal, but she didn’t particularly like him either.
“You’re looking scrumptious today,” Pascal greeted her.
“Thank you,” Catherine said, holding her plate in one hand so she could lift one side of her skirt as she dipped a curtsy. She was to always be polite and respectful of the nobility. It was the proper way for the family to behave.
“Why don’t I show you around,” Pascal said, brushing the back of his fingertips down her arm.
“I do enjoy your family’s lovely gardens,” Catherine replied. She didn’t need to be shown around. She’d seen the place often enough since her first invitation when she was eight. It was rude to say that though, so complementing something she already knew was a good strategy.
“Then I will have to take you to see them,” Pascal said, actually taking Catherine’s hand to place it on his arm so he could escort her.
That was very forward, but Catherine didn’t want to be rude, so she went along, still holding her plate with one bite-sized morsel left on it.
Pascal walked them sedately across the lawn to the entrance to the garden path that wound through a variety of decorative plants from small delicate flowers to large hedges.
The sound of the music and talking of the party faded as he led her down one of the paths lined with hedges. It wasn’t as pretty as some of the others this time of year. In the fall when it was just warm enough to have outdoor parties they would be covered in brightly colored berries, and Catherine found them quite pleasing then, but now they were just a large wall of green.
“You are enjoying the party?” Pascal asked.
“It’s been delightful so far,” Catherine replied. Even if she was slightly bored and no one was paying her much attention, she must never say that. Her mother would be furious.
“Why don’t we sit for a moment and you can finish your morsel,” Pascal said, guiding her toward a bench between two hedges.
Catherine let him lead her over and she sat carefully when he released her hand. She had been saving this bite for last because it was a tiny berry tart and those were her favorite. She glanced sideways at Pascal as he sat beside her. His sleeve brushed her arm and she could feel the heat of his leg through her skirts.
Not wanting to comment on his closeness, Catherine ate her tiny tart, setting the plate on the bench beside her temporarily. She didn’t want to leave it, because that would be unkind to the servants who would have to hunt for it later, but it was nice not to be holding it for a moment.
The tart was just as delicious as she’d hoped. The berries were bright and tart and the cream was smooth and rich and the crust was buttery and gave substance to the bite.
“Perhaps I can have a morsel now,” Pascal said softly.
“We’d have to go back,” Catherine replied. “But they are quite good.”
Pascal just laughed, reaching over to brush the back of his hand down her arm again.
Catherine faced forward, not turning to look at him. She wasn’t used to being touched by other people. Her parents, while loving and supporting, weren’t terribly demonstrative, and her brother always seemed to be trying to play the perfect model of their father, so he didn’t hug her like he used to when they were children. Only Emma touched her much.
She did keep an eye on Pascal in her peripheral vision, so she saw him lean in closer for a moment.
Catherine remained very still. People didn’t get close. She had no idea what to do when she felt her hair move as Pascal leaned very close to her. His face was practically in her hair and she just couldn’t seem to move.
“I was wondering where you’d wondered off to,” Benjamin said as he walked up.
Pascal moved away very quickly, sliding further down on the bench too.
“I wasn’t hiding,” Catherine protested. Benjamin was always accusing her of hiding these days.
“Just enjoying the gardens?” Benjamin asked.
“You know I like flowers.”
“Then you should see the other path,” Benjamin said, his smile sharper than usual as he glanced at Pascal. “There are more flowers there this time of year.”
“I’d love to,” Catherine said, smiling at her brother.
“Will you escort us?” Benjamin asked, staring hard at Pascal.
“Don’t let me impede your enjoyment,” Pascal said, getting to his feet and walking off.
Benjamin watched him go.
Catherine picked up her plate from the bench beside her and got to her feet.
“You need to be more careful,” Benjamin said as he held his arm out to her.
Catherine took his arm, her hand resting lightly just above his elbow. “About what?” She’d been very polite and she wasn’t leaving the dish for the servants to miss.
“About being alone with a man,” Benjamin said.
“Pascal isn’t a man yet,” Catherine replied. He was only just fifteen.
“He’s not sixteen, but you shouldn’t be alone with a boy over twelve either,” Benjamin said, leading her down the path toward the flowers. “It’s not safe.”
“What do you mean?” Catherine asked. “We’re at an estate. How is that not safe?”
Benjamin sighed. “How about this,” he said. “Promise me you won’t be alone with any males for the duration of the party and Emma and I will explain it all when we’re home.”
“Why would Emma need to be there?” Catherine asked, frowning.
“Because she’ll be able to explain it in a way you’ll understand without anyone being embarrassed,” Benjamin replied.
“Alright, I promise,” Catherine said. She knew her brother hated being embarrassed and wouldn’t dream of embarrassing her if he didn’t have to.
Benjamin patted her hand on his arm and they had a nice little walk before returning to the other guests. Catherine was able to get one last tiny berry tart before they left too.