Realized I’ve never posted an excerpt of Trials of Artemis before! This is a scene where a lot of the basis of their conflict is illuminated for the first time. And hints that they might have the fortitude to resolve said conflict.
Stopping in front of the bench Gideon took both of her hands in his own. Not the easiest thing since she seemed disinclined to surrender them or to turn to look at him. Frustrated by her obstinance Gideon did something he hadn’t expected to and dropped to one knee in front of her. “Miss Walters, would you give me the pleasure of being my wife?”
She began tugging to get him to release her hands. “No.”
At her flat denial Gideon did release her hands and rose back to his feet. “No?”
Miss Walters brushed some dead leaves off the bench before seating herself and carefully arranging her skirts. “No, I don’t think we need to marry at all. I understand that a public engagement may be necessary, but after a suitable period I can beg off.”
Gideon remained standing since her voluminous skirts left little room for a companion on the bench. “That is not acceptable. Honor dictates we marry, otherwise your reputation, and most likely that of your family, will be ruined.”
She raised her chin to address him directly. “No.”
She seemed absorbed in smoothing her skirts again. “Simply that. No.”
Gideon held his breath for a moment. It wouldn’t do to lose his temper. Just because neither of them wanted this match didn’t mean that either of them was to blame. Miss Walters turned her head away from him to look at the arbor, her chin tilted at a defiant angle.
“What do you expect me to do? Propriety demands –”
She whipped her gaze back to him, her green eyes like chips of emerald. “To hell with propriety! I wasn’t planning to marry at all, much less…” she waved her hand at him, from his Hessian boots to his barely tamed hair, “you. Life as a spinster due to my ‘reputation’ would be a far happier life than one where I am married to you.”
He stepped closer, crowding her with his height and bulk. “As though I would be getting the superior end of the bargain?”
She huffed. “Undoubtedly! At least you won’t have to worry about me planning assignations at social events.”
“Bloody hell, woman! Not just stubborn, but a harpy as well?” Gideon threw his arms out in exasperation. “This marriage is getting better by leaps and bounds.”
“Stating facts makes me a harpy?”
“Facts? You do not know me madam. If you were a man and questioned my honor thus-”
She poked a finger toward him. “You don’t know me and-”
“Zounds, woman!” he exploded out. “Will I ever be able to finish a sentence in your presence?”
Miss Walters opened her mouth to reply and then shut it closed again. She went back to staring at the arbor as though the vine-wrapped structure were the ultimate source of their problems.
Gideon straightened his cuffs. “If we are to get on you cannot constantly contradict me.”
This time she looked at him as though he had sprouted another head but her lips remained firmly sealed.
“It wouldn’t do to have a countess who cannot conduct herself appropriately,” he added.
That seemed to unglue her lips. “No one is asking you to!”
“This is not a negotiation! We are getting married and you need to resign yourself to that!”
This caused her to surge from the bench. She placed her fists on her hips and narrowed her eyes again. “Even if I do agree to marry you I will not become a simpering mouse and you will need to resign yourself to that!”
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