Humbling The Proud

I realized that I have a few decent stories that I haven’t bothered finishing.  Humbling The Proud and Whisker Burn are two.  I’ve decided to devote time to completing and editing both.  So, I’m hoping that reposting some of the stories will help motivate me. Another unedited section for you. 

“Tessa.”

Her name was a whisper in her ear and she rolled away from the intruding voice. She fought to hold on to the dream that made her body warm. Just as she sank back into the thick of it, the blanket disappeared.

“Up, Tessa. The day is wasting away while you sleep.” Gaston threw open the curtain, letting in the weak light.

“What time is it?” She felt like she’d just fallen asleep while Gaston stood over her look fresh as a daisy and happy to be alive. Morning people made her ill.

The smile on his face would’ve made her heart flutter if it wasn’t for the next words out of his mouth. “It’s 5 am and I want you to come hunting with me.”

He couldn’t be serious. The man had to have a head injury to believe she’d get her ass out of bed at 5am let alone go hunting with him. Tessa stared at him for a long moment before rolling back over and pulling the blanket back up over her head.

Quiet descended upon the room and she let herself relax in increments until she was on the edge of drifting off.  Her peace was short-lived as the blanket was stripped from her body and the cold chill of water splashed down on her.

Tessa sat up, sputtering and spewing words her mother would have washed her mouth out with soap over. She was now awake, wet, cold, and thoroughly pissed off. Taking in his amused expression made her really want to speed up the timetable for his death to today, at this very moment.

Pushing her wet hair out of her face, she leveled him with a look that would’ve melted the skin for him bones. “Bastard.”

“Tsk, tsk, Tessa. Such language is not befitting a lady.” His eyes grew playful and he tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Though we haven’t quite established whether you’re a lady or not.”

She launched herself out of the bed at him ready to end his life. “Son of a bitch!”

Gaston caught her mid leap and slung her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. “Oh good! Since you’re up, we can leave now.” He carried her out of her room kicking and screaming.

Tessa didn’t have words for the rage bubbling inside of her. He was kidnapping her to go hunting. Hunting?! Who in their right mind would willingly get up early to go hunting? More accurately, who in their right mind would willingly get up early. As far as she was concerned, this was another sign of his obvious mental instability. His cheerful whistling as her carried her out of the lodge only confirmed that truth.

“I hate you.” She was pouting, there was no other way to describe her behavior.

He patted her on the bottom and chuckled. “We’ll be together all day, your opinion will change.”

“Not bloody likely,” she grumped.

She was about to launch into another tantrum when two things occurred to her. They had just stepped out into the crisp May morning, drawing Tessa’s attention to the beautiful French countryside. Even from her upside down position, the landscape took her breath away. The sun was climbing into the sky, washing the new day in colors of gold and orange. The tall grass was an inviting green that begged for bare feet and frolicking. She was awe-inspired by how quaint and lovely it was. But all that loveliness was forgotten when the second thing became apparent to her. Her only coverage was a thin shift that she knew was practically see-through in the light.

“Let me down. I’m nearly naked, you idiot.” Her breath left in white puffs as she gasped.

“No one is about, Tessa. Only I can enjoy your loveliness this morning.” He caressed her bottom before giving it a pat.

She smacked him soundly on his oh so firm behind. “I’m not spending the entire day with you dressed like this. I’ve seen your face, I know you won’t get any hunting done.”

“I’ll get plenty of hunting done, ma beauté douce, don’t you worry.”

She almost smacked him when he caressed her bottom again, but he sat her back on her feet. Ready to give him a piece of her mind again, the sound of soft nickering stopped her short. Tessa almost didn’t want to turn, but on wooden legs  pivoted to find a black stallion tied to a tree. While one part of her mind was able to recognize the majestic beauty of the animal with his midnight colored skin and mane, the other part was replaying the last time she’d come in contact with a horse. One innocent ride in elementary school had ended with bloody nose and a serious fear of horses. Outside of seeing one on tv, she hadn’t seen a real horse in ten years.

Tessa took an involuntary step back into Gaston. He wrapped an arm about her waist and held her tight against him.

“What is the matter?” Concern laced his voice, his body tense with suppressed energy.

All she could do was point, speech having abandoned her.

She felt the tension drain from  his body as he realized where she pointed. His laughter was husky with relief. “Yes, that’s Magnus. He’s very gentle.”

As gentle as a thing with teeth and a will could be, she mused as Gaston propelled them forward.  No amount of feet braking on her part stopped their progress, and before Tessa knew it he’d brought them close to the tethered horse’s head. He grasped her hand, but she pulled it away just as fast.

“Please… I can’t.” The tremor in her voice mortified her, but she was ready to fall to pieces.

“Don’t be scared, ma beauté douce, I’m here.” He laced his fingers with hers, squeezing her hand as his arm stayed firmly around her waist. “Come, we’ll meet Magnus together.”

The tenderness in Gaston’s voice took her by surprise. Tessa glanced back to see him smiling at the big horse, gentleness reflected in his eyes. It unsettled her enough that she wasn’t aware of their joined hands stroking along its flank until the softness registered. The horse was still as their hands moved over his neck. His muscles twitched and danced, his skin butter soft as he neighed at them.

Gaston’s obvious ease and warmth seeped into her body until she relaxed into his embrace. His whispered endearments in French that settled both her and the horse. Tessa wasn’t sure who he meant the words for, but they filled her with peace.

When Magnus lipped at her hair, Gaston laughed. “Just as I expected, he adores you. Perhaps we may start our journey now?”

Suddenly, Tessa wanted to spend the day hunting with this man. Suddenly being woken up at 5am was the best thing that might have happened to her. Maybe she was the one with the head injury.

“I would like that, yes.”

“The lady is amiable to our adventure, Magnus. Let us be off before she changes her mind.”

The horse pranced with excitement, obviously ready to be off. Tessa squealed when he lifted her into the saddle, clinging to the bridle while Gaston untied the horse from the tree  led them a little ways along the trail. He vaulted easily in behind her and then pulled her back against his body as the horse trotted into the forest. When she shivered, his arms tightened around her.

“It’ll warm up soon, Tessa. Let me hold you and keep you warm until then.” He leaned around to place a kiss on her jaw, his lips brushing her ear as he whispered, “Je vais profiter de notre temps ensemble, mon doux amour.”

Her French was a little rusty, but if she wasn’t mistaken he just said something about enjoying the day with her. And what about love? A tendril of something uncurled in her belly at the thought of being his love. How had he made it so easy for her to even think such thoughts?

The gentle rock of the horse lulled her after so many miles, his body solid behind her. Gaston’s warmth and strength comforted and warmed her in so many levels, making it impossible not to give into the pull to relax and fall asleep in his embrace.

12 comments

  1. I liked it too, though the mention of TV caught me off guard. When I hear Gaston (B&B) and Magnus (Tangled) i think of a far different time. But i liked the tenderness between the two of them. Of course, as one who rode horses as a kid, being on the back of one without good pants will be torture after just a few minutes.

    1. The TV reference is because she’s not from the period, but in the book (Beauty and The Beast). I wrote this forever ago so I can’t remember if Tangled was out when I wrote this. I’ll keep the riding reference in mind. Probably will have her ride sidesaddle when I edit.

      1. Just have her grab a pair of pants as they walk out the door, no panties, of course, but wet skin on sweaty horseflesh makes me cringe. 🙂 I like where it seems to be going.

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