With the help of my friends in the critique group I've finally hit on a title for my story about Daisy - wait for it - THE CRAIGSMUIR AFFAIR.
Here's the first page to hopefully whet your appetite:
Setting and period: Clennell Castle, Northumberland, 1893
Daisy Charlton swept the sheaf of papers into her arms, cast a final glance around the small room that had been her work place for the last week and then closed the door behind her. She hurried along the gallery toward the stairs, swung one-handed around the newel post and scampered down the first steps to the main body of the library.
Someone below snapped a newspaper straight.
Diverted, she looked down. Sun-browned hands held the newspaper open in such a way that she could see nothing of him but legs clad in riding breeches and knee-high brown leather boots. Her feet tangled in the folds of her long skirt. Her stomach lurched, she stumbled, missed the shallow tread of the stair and turned her ankle on the edge of the next.
She grabbed for the banister, missed and pitched forward. Her precious papers sprang into the air and fluttered around her like a cloud of newly released doves. As her hip and shoulder collided with the shallow tread of the stairs, Daisy yelped, bounced and rolled down the stairs.
‘Good God!’ The sound of crushed newspaper followed the exclamation.
Daisy struck hard, was caught and held. Dazed, she inhaled the mixed scents of smoky sandalwood, starched linen and something spicy like black pepper. A steady, rhythmic thud sounded in her ear. When she opened her eyes, the pin tucks of her white blouse pressed against the fawn moleskin of a gentleman’s waistcoat. Her right hand clutched the rough tweed of his sleeve. Her left, trapped behind her, trailed on the parquet floor.
She drew a deep, shivery breath. The pressure of his hand on her ribcage increased and his upraised knee held her spine at an awkward angle. Uncomfortable and embarrassed, Daisy nudged the pale silk of his cravat with her head. ‘I cannot move.’
‘I beg your pardon.’ His voice was deep and warm. ‘But if I let go, you will fall to the floor.’
She tilted her head and frowned at the lean, handsome face above her. To struggle free would be undignified. ‘I do not know you, sir. What if someone were to come into the library and find us like this?’
‘I suppose I should have to marry you.’ His smile held mischief. ‘Are you sure you have no injuries?’
‘Until you release me I cannot tell.’ The words came out more snappishly than she intended. Heat rose in her cheeks; she bit her lip. For Heaven’s sake! He would think her an idiot, probably laughed at her, but was too kind to show it.
He raised both hands in the air.
As he had predicted, Daisy slid from his upraised knee to the floor. She landed with an undignified grunt.