Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Hello! It's Margaret Tanner day here at the blog. I know you're going to love her work. Enjoy her excerpt and be sure to come back on April 30. I'm participating in Blogmania and have some great prizes to share. Now, here's Margaret.
WILD OATS – The Wild Rose Press
Phillip Ashfield uncrossed his cramped legs and stood up to reach into the overhead luggage compartment. What an imposition, having to manhandle his own luggage.
“Good God, man, when you’re in the colonies you have to look after yourself.” He remembered the advice he’d received from Tony, one of his friends from Eton. How true. Godforsaken bloody backwater.
If his father hadn’t been so ill, he would have refused point blank to come out to Australia. Had his mother not been so distraught about the old man, he would have ignored her entreaties to visit relatives at the back of beyond.
God, it was hot. The temptation to loosen his collar became almost unendurable. He wore the latest summer fashion for 1914, a three-piece suit with a shaped coat that had a vent down the back. His linen, as always, was the finest money could buy. Neither one helped keep him cool in these temperatures.
The door leading from the carriage slid open and, even with the swaying of the train, he started moving down the narrow passageway, glancing out the window as he did so. They would reach Dixon’s Siding in ten minutes. The conductor had assured him of this a few moments ago, but he was taking no chances of being carried on. If he missed his stop, God alone knew where he might end up.
“Damnation.” The train shuddered and slammed him against a window. As he straightened up, he watched without much interest as two horsemen broke out of the forest. No, it was called bush in Australia, he reminded himself. One must get the colloquialisms right. More advice from Tony. Young fools were racing the train.
“What the hell!” He almost went sprawling over a small battered suitcase dumped in the middle of the corridor.
Steadying himself with one hand against the wall, he gazed into a pair of the clearest blue eyes he had ever seen.
“I’m sorry, but you should have watched where you were going,” the girl said with a humorous lilt to her voice.
She looked about seventeen or so. Her hair, the colour of ripe corn, rippled about her shoulders in a tangled mass of wayward curls.
“Now look here, Miss...”
But she wasn’t listening. “Come on, Tommy! Come on,” she urged, her head and shoulders poked through the open window. She waved and jigged about so much Phillip feared she might fall out of the train altogether.
The two horsemen raced neck and neck for a moment or two until one started drawing away.
“Come on, Tommy, faster.”
Suddenly the riders veered to the right and disappeared behind some trees, and the girl drew back inside the carriage.
Ruffled hair, rosy lips parted in a sunny smile, and deep forget-me-not blue eyes, she surveyed him with an almost childlike candour.
“Sorry about the case. I was making for the door when I saw the boys. Are you getting off at the siding too? Well of course you are.” She answered her own question with a breathy little laugh.
His experienced male eye assessed the
simple home-sewn dress and serviceable black lace-up boots. A young farm girl returning from holidays?
“I’ve been staying with my Aunt in Benalla. It’s my first holiday in ages.”
“I hope you enjoyed the experience.” It sounded stilted and patronising, but he couldn’t help it. For the first time in his life he felt uneasy in the company of a woman.
“I’ll be getting off soon.” A small, suntanned hand reached for the battered case.
“Let me carry it for you, Miss, Miss...”
“No.” Her laughter bubbled up once more, “Waverley, Allison Waverley.”
“Pleased to meet you, Miss Waverley. I’m Phillip Ashfield.”
“I’m pleased to meet you too, Phillip.”
The casual familiarity surprised him, yet strangely it pleased him, also.
The sudden almost nervous movement of her hand, alert teasing eyes dancing with laughter, gave him a feeling of wellbeing.
“Are you being met?” she asked.
“I hope so.” He reached out for the case and his fingers came in contact with the warm flesh of her hand. A blush stained her cheeks when he hesitated, a fraction too long, before pulling away.
“You won’t be able to carry both our cases, Phillip, the corridor is too narrow. I’m used to lugging things about. Jim says I’m as strong as an ox.”
“Jim?” he queried, wondering why he bothered to ask.
“Oh, was he one of the boys racing the train?”
“And Tommy? The one you cheered for.” He felt a sudden inexplicable surge of anger. “He your brother also?”
“No, Tommy is my…my best friend.” She gave a sweet, tender smile that somehow turned mere prettiness into an exquisite beauty.
Phillip felt a stab of annoyance and, for the first time in years, jealousy. How preposterous. He shook his head to clear it of such nonsense. Phillip Ashfield, only son of Lord and Lady Ashfield, who could trace their lineage back five hundred years, suffering the pangs of jealousy over a young colonial farm girl he had only just met.