Authors, would you like to share approximately 100-200 words about a current work in progress on a future WIP Wednesday? If so, please e-mail the details to erinoriordan AT sbcglobal DOT net.
Erin O'Riordan: This is the beginning of one of my current works in progress - romance, not erotica, this time. I was planning on having this polished up and ready to submit by the end of January, but the deadline got moved forward to April 1st. I've also been working on one called "Sheep Shifter" this week (definitely due Feb. 1) and another (already accepted) called "Aftercare."
Eric sat on the long bench of dark wood, its seat worn smooth by heavy traffic. He sat alone, which only underscored to him that whatever the Queen had to say to him, it had to be important. Queen Jasmine rarely had the opportunity to clear her schedule.
To his left, the heavy door built of the same dark wood at the bench was flanked by two members of the palace guard, dressed in Avalonia’s traditional black and white uniforms. The baroque garments of velvet, satin, lace and hosiery surely looked rather ridiculous to an outsider, but never failed to make Eric proud of his fiercely independent nation and its ancient heritage. Besides, when two men were as tall, muscular and generally dangerous-looking as the two members of the guard currently on duty, no one would dare make fun.
The doors opened, and a prim-looking young woman with short hair, wearing a dress accented with a red satin rose, stood in the doorway. “Eric de la Fontaine, Her Majesty’s minister of finance,” she announced in the clipped, upper-class accent of the Avalonian capital, Givene. He took his briefcase from where it sat between his feet, rose and approached the woman. She turned, and Eric knew he was to follow her.
The Queen, a dignified, petite olive-skinned woman of about fifty-five with intense hazel eyes, sat in an ergonomic chair behind a long table. She wore her long, black pulled back in a tight French braid and dressed in a sensible gray wool suit with a skirt that reached just below her knees.
Eric bowed his head respectfully. “Good afternoon, Your Majesty.”
“There’s no need to be formal, Eric,” she responded. “I haven’t called you here to talk to you about the affairs of state. I’ve come to talk to you about a personal matter. Please, have a seat.” The Queen’s assistant pulled out a chair across from the Queen, nodded, and returned to her small desk beside the door. Eric placed his briefcase on the table.
“A personal matter, Your Majesty?” he asked as he sat.
An attendant, a young man with shockingly red hair, brought the queen a decanter of Scotch, a dish of ice and two glasses on a tray. The attendant added ice to each tumbler, then poured a generous portion of the amber liquid over it. He served the Queen first, then Eric. Eric nodded to indicate his thanks. As the Queen took a long sip of her drink, Eric nipped at his. It was stronger than he typically liked to imbibe this early in the afternoon. He leaned back in his chair and tried to relax, although he felt a surge of anxiety.
“As you know, Eric, my third daughter Evangeline is almost twenty-one. She’s a strong, responsible girl, and soon I’ll want to abdicate my throne to her.”
When she paused, Eric broke in, “It’s far too soon to think about abdication, Your Majesty.”
She smiled. “It’s true that I come from a line of long-lived queens, but I don’t want to be stuck in this official life forever. Honored as I am to fulfill my hereditary position, I truly cannot envision serving Avalonia from behind this desk for the rest of my days. I want to spend time with my husbands, directly involved in our favorite charities. But before my crown princess can become queen, I want to make sure she has her household in order. She needs at least one husband.”
Eric swallowed hard. “Yes, Your Majesty,” the minister agreed, taking a sip of his Scotch. “As I am sure you’re aware, Her Highness is in love with a friend of mine, the Irish banker John Gabriel.” He smiled slightly. He was a bit jealous, of course. Crown Princess Evangeline was a lovely young woman, a favorite of paparazzi the world over.
The Queen shook her head. “I’m sure Gabriel is a fine man. But he’s an Irish citizen, and out of the country half of the time on business. Traditionally, the queen’s first husband is either native-born or royalty. Gabriel will make a fine second or third husband.” She finished her drink and set the glass on the tray. “Eric, you’re not married, are you?”
Eric’s heart leapt. He answered in a trembling voice, “No, Majesty.”
“Please forgive me, Eric. I don’t mean to be so personal, but I must know: do you have a lover?”
He blushed slightly. At one time, he had been the lover of the queen’s eldest daughter Morgan. That was long before Morgan married her two husbands, and Eric had been without female companionship for longer than he cared to remember. “No, Majesty.”
“Do you have any children?”
“No, Majesty.” He felt certain he must be blushing a deep red, if not the color of a beet. It was not every day that one had one’s personal life so closely scrutinized by the head of state.
The Queen seemed a bit surprised, arching her black eyebrows slightly, but continued. “If my Evangeline agrees, will you marry her?”
He froze, considering his answer carefully. When the Queen had asked for him that morning, he was expected her to ask him to head off some minor financial crisis. Never, in his wildest flights of fancy, did he consider having to answer this particular question. He reached for his drink, drained it down to the ice cubes and made up his mind.
Anybody have an idea for a title?