Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend. A while ago, in the Mask of Night thread, Angelique asked if I ever planned to have a flashback in which we saw Charles and Mel first say “I love you” to each other. As Angelique pointed out, they don’t actually say the word in Beneath a Silent Moon. In The Mask of Night, however, Mélanie remembers Charles first saying the words. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d write a brief vignette that dramatizes at least one way it might have happened.

A bullet slammed into the rock a hair’s breadth above them. Mélanie put her hand to her cheek.

Charles tightened his arms round her. “Are you hit?” His voice was a rough whisper against her temple.

“No.” Her skin stung but she felt no welling of blood. “It was a fragment of rock.” She turned her head to look at the expanse of ground sloping below the rock overhang beneath which they had taken cover. Dry grass, scattered rocks, underbrush. One stand of oak all too far to the left. And at the base of the hill, another stand of trees behind which the unseen snipers lurked.

Another staccato volley of musket fire hit the rock above and the ground below. She felt the shudder of Charles’s breath as his arms bit into her rib cage. But she also knew he was counting, as she was herself.

“Only four of them,” she said.

“Right.” Charles’s breath was warm on her fear-chilled skin. He reached down to the hard ground and picked up a piece rock. “So we make the loudest disturbance we can to draw their fire—“

“—and run like the devil in the opposite direction.” She snatched up a rock herself. If they could reach the stand of oak to the left, they’d have a chance.

“Quite.” He grabbed another handful of stones. “We’ll have at least fifteen seconds. For once I wish the French had good British rifles.”

“They may be able to reload faster but their muskets won’t be as accurate when they start shooting.”

“That’s my Mel. I suppose it’s redundant to say I’m sorry I got you into this.”

“Charles—“

He turned his head and pressed his lips to her forehead. “I love you.”

At least that was what she thought he said, though she couldn’t be sure because at that same moment the air exploded with another hail of fire. Then they hurled their trove of rocks as far they could and raced across the open ground. Musket fire cut the air. Charles grabbed his arm as they stumbled into the trees.

It was hours later, when she was bandaging his arm by the greasy flame of a rushlight in the farmhouse where they’d taken shelter, that she realized he probably had actually said the words she thought he’d spoken. For a moment, her fingers froze cutting a strip of bandage from her chemise.

Of course, he probably had only said them because he thought there was a high probability one or both of them was about to be killed.

Even so…

What are your favorite literary “I love you” moments and scenes? What do you think makes them work? Writers, do you find it hard to have your characters say “I love you” without it feeling like a cliché? (I know that’s something I struggle with–often my characters don’t use the actual words).

This week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is a series of Valentine’s Day letters between some of the couples in Beneath a Silent Moon.