In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d post another teaser from Vienna Waltz, a scene between Charles/Malcolm and Mélanie/Suzanne. One of those moments where dire circumstance break down their barriers and force them to reveal their feelings (it takes a lot for Charles and Mel to reveal their feelings, even–perhaps especially–to each other). This scene occurs fairly late in the book, but other than the fact that Charles is in prison, it contains no real spoilers. I’m sure many of you will recognize it as an homage to the scene in El Dorado where Marguerite visits Percy in prison and to the depiction of that scene in the Andrews/Seymour Scarlet Pimpernel.
Charles stared at the cloudy light trickling through the barred window set high in the wall of his cell. Mildew clung to the stone walls and clogged the air. A single tallow candle burned on a three-legged table beside a narrow bed covered with a gray blanket.
He’d known worse. Mud huts in Spain. Field tents that leaked like a sieve. Patches of snow-covered ground with only his greatcoat for a blanket. On more than one occasion he’d known his odds of death were more than even. Several times he’d not been sure he cared very much. But he’d never been deprived of his liberty. And he’d never had so much leisure to dwell on the sins of his past and their implications for his future.
A key rattled in the iron lock. Hinges groaned.
He turned toward the familiar voice. His wife stood just inside the open door. The wore a dark hat and spencer, but the meager light clung to the white stuff of her gown. The jailer pulled the door to behind her and slammed the bolt home.
Charles stood frozen. Less than twenty-four hours and he was parched with longing for the sight of her. And for all the reasons that had been echoing through his head since he’d been brought to the prison, she had never seemed more out of his reach.
She hesitated a moment. He could feel her gaze moving over his face. Then she rushed forward. His arms closed about her with a need stronger than any qualms. He slid his fingers into her hair, pushing her hat and half her hairpins to the floor, and sought her mouth with the hunger of one who’d feared he might never touch her again.
When he lifted his head, she took his face between her hands. Her fingers trembled against his skin. “Darling. Are you—“
“I’m treated much better than the poor bastards in Newgate.”
“I was afraid—“
He covered one of her hands with his own. “Odd the tricks one’s mind can play.”
“Frightful.” She gave a quick defensive smile, and he knew she felt as awkward as he did at their unwonted display of emotion.
Have a wonderful Valentine’s weekend! This week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is a letter Charles writes to Mel on 14 February 1813, their first Valentine’s Day together.