My novella, tentatively called the Repentant Marquis, is about an arrogant marquis who has always had everything he wants handed to him. When he is seventeen he visits (under protest) the eight-year old who has been his betrothed since she was born and then publically rejects the scrawny child. He has the clout to withstand the scandal, but the effect on her is disastrous. When she'd grown and he sees her at a London ball he thinks he might have made a mistake. Her public refusal to even speak to him naturally intrigues him all the more. He really is a spoiled brat.
So that sets you up for this excerpt:
Bettina, completely disarmed, nodded approval. She been so against him before tonight, but he seemed sincere. Still he’d made life hell on earth for her beloved sister.
“I will walk with you if the Baron comes too. I have some things to say to you too, my lord.”
Jad stifled his grin. So, the pretty kitten had claws. Good for her.
Both he and the Baron offered her their arm, and she took the Baron’s. No surprise there. The three of them walked casually off the dance floor and onto the large balcony that surrounded this entire side of the estate. As they walked out he could see it was more a porch than a balcony, since wide steps led down from into a garden now gleaming with myriad lanterns that held fat candles. The lanterns were quite large, probably to be sure the flame did not touch the sides. Still a little risky, Jad thought, but the garden was a lovely sight.
Jad turned to the two before him. Bettina still clung to the Baron’s arm, and he’d put his other hand protectively over hers. It seemed to Jad these two were already committed. He wished them well, although he thought her over-proud father would not be pleased with a mere Baron.
“I want only to tell you, my lady, that I am serious about pursuing your sister. I made a dreadful mistake. She is the right woman for me, and I will propose marriage as soon as I think she will listen to me.”
“You have no chance at all with my sister, and I advise you to leave her alone. Do you want her punished by my father again? Is that your game? If so, you are cruel beyond belief.”
Jad paled. “Will you please explain what you mean, my lady? Please. I know nothing of this.”
Bettina exploded. “Do you pretend you never thought she might be punished? Our father was furious with her, saying she must have done something to disgust you, that you were too honorable to break the engagement unless she’d forced you. He whipped her, my lord, whipped her with his riding whip. Whipped her three days in a row. Her vows that she’d done nothing, that she never saw you to have a chance to do anything, finally penetrated his fury. He banished her to her room, saying he never wanted to see her again.
“I visited her openly and constantly, and he knew the only way to stop me was to send her away. He was too proud to do that, he needed Abby to pretend when the occasional company came that everything was all right. He didn’t want to have a reputation of a cruel man, and in truth he’s really not. He let her out of her room after a few weeks, although he’d subdued her bright spirit. Or rather, you had.
She seldom came downstairs. She did, however, realize her freedom lay in the outdoors. Papa wanted to forbid her to ride, but I faced up to him and told him she must have her horse or I would run away. That shocked him, and Amy had the one thing she’d always adored. She is the most expert rider I’ve ever seen.”
By now Jad had turned white. He wheeled away from Bettina and the Baron.
“Dear God above. I never knew.”
“Did you think at all of what it was like for her, milord?”
She’d let the distaste she felt for him show in that last word, uttered in a tone of sheer dislike.
His back still to the Baron and Bettina, he uttered his reply.
“No. I never thought of her at all.”
Of course I'm having one heck of a time getting our hero and heroine together. Couldn't be farther apart. Let's hope I can figure it all out.