Today’s Snippet Saturday theme is Just One Look—the first time the hero and heroine see each other. Writing the first meeting is always a fun challenge. It’s important to make it special, and set the tone for the story and relationship.
In Scoundrel, our sheltered heroine and linguistic expert London Harcourt has finally gotten to travel outside of England, just as she always dreamed. Her father takes her to Greece for what she believes is an ordinary archeological expedition. Before they set out on their expedition, London visits the marketplace in Athens, and winds up getting into an argument with one of the vendors. But she finds an unexpected—and handsome—ally…
“Save those slurs for your grandmother,” said a deep, masculine voice to the vendor. He spoke Greek with an English accent.
London turned to the voice. And nearly lost her own.
She knew she was still, in many ways, a sheltered woman. Her society in England was limited to a select few families and assorted hangers-on, her father’s business associates, their retainers and servants. At events and parties, she often saw the same people again and again. And yet, she knew with absolute clarity, that men who looked like the one standing beside her were a rare and altogether miraculous phenomenon.
There were taller men, to be sure, but it was difficult to consider this a flaw when presented with this man’s lean muscularity. He wonderfully filled out the shoulders of his English coat, not bulky, but definitively capable. She understood at once that his arms, his long legs, held a leashed strength that even his negligent pose could not disguise. He called to mind the boxers that her brother, Jonas, had admired in his youth. The stranger was bareheaded, which was odd in this heat, but it allowed her to see that his hair was dark with just the faintest curl, ever so slightly mussed, as if he’d recently come from bed. She suddenly imagined herself tangling her fingers in his hair, pulling him closer.
And if that thought didn’t make her blush all the harder, then his face was the coup de grace. What wicked promises must he have made, and made good on, with such a face. A sharp, clean jaw, a mouth of impossible sensuality. A naughty, thoroughly masculine smile tugged at the corners of that mouth. Crystalline eyes full of intelligent humor, the color intensely blue. Even the small bump on the bridge of his nose—had it been broken?—merely added to the overall impression of profound male beauty. He was clean-shaven, too, so that there could be no mistaking how outrageously handsome this stranger was.
She may as well get on the boat back to England immediately. Surely nothing she could ever see in Greece could eclipse the marvel of this man.
“Who are you?” the vendor shouted in Greek to the newcomer. “You defend this woman and her lies?”
“I don’t care what she said,” the Englishman answered calmly, also in Greek. “Keep insulting her and I’ll jam my fist into your throat.” The vendor goggled at him, but wisely kept silent. Whoever this man was, he certainly looked capable of throwing a good punch.
Yet gently, he put a hand on London’s waist and began to guide her away. Stunned by the strange turn of events, she let him steer her from the booth.
“All right?” he asked her in English. A concerned, warm smile gilded his features. “That apoplectic huckster didn’t hurt you, did he?”
London shook her head, still somewhat dazed by what had just happened, but more so by the attractiveness of the man walking at her side. She felt the warmth of his hand at her back and knew it was improper, but she couldn’t move away or even regret the impertinence. “His insults weren’t very creative.”
He chuckled at this and the sound curled like fragrant smoke low in her belly. “I’ll go back and show him how it’s done.”
“Oh, no,” she answered at once. “I think you educated him enough for one day.”
Even as he smiled at her, he sent hard warning glances at whomever stared at her. “So what had his fez in a pinch?”
She held up and unfolded her hand, which still held the shard of pottery. “We were disputing this, but, gracious, I forgot I still had it. Maybe I should give it back.”
He plucked the piece of pottery from her hand. As he did this, the tips of his fingers brushed her bare palm. A hot current sparked to life where he touched. She could not prevent the shiver of awareness that ran through her body. She met his gaze, and sank into their cool aquatic depths as he stared back. This felt stronger than attraction. Something that resounded through the innermost recesses of herself, in deep, liquid notes, like a melody or song one might sing to bring the world into being. And it seemed he felt it, too, in the slight breath he drew in, the straightening of his posture. Breaking away from his gaze, London snatched her glove from Sally, who trailed behind them with a look of severe disapproval. London tugged on the glove.
He cleared his throat, then gave her back the pottery. “Keep it. Consider it his tribute.”
She put it into her reticule, though it felt strange to take something she did not pay for.
“Thank you for coming to my aid,” she said as they continued to walk. “I admit that getting into arguments with vendors in Monastiraki wasn’t at the top of my list of Greek adventures.”
“The best part about adventures is that you can’t plan them.”
She laughed. “Spoken like a true adventurer.”
“Done my share,” he grinned. “Ambushing bandits by the Khaznah temple in the cliffs of Petra. Climbing volcanoes in the steam-shrouded interior of Iceland.”
“Sounds wonderful,” admitted London with a candor that surprised herself. She felt, oddly, that she could trust this English stranger with her most prized secrets. “Even what happened back there at that booth was marvelous, in its way. I don’t want to get into a fight, but it’s such a delight to finally be out here, in the world, truly experiencing things.”
“Including hot, dusty, crowded Athens.”
“Especially hot, dusty, crowded Athens.”
“My, my,” he murmured, looking down at her with approval. “A swashbuckling lady. Such a rare treasure.”
Wryly, she asked, “Treasure, or aberration?”
He stopped walking and gazed at her with an intensity that caught in her chest. “Treasure. Most definitely.”
Again, he left her stunned. She was nearly certain that any man would find a woman’s desire for experience and adventure to be at best ridiculous, at worst, offensive. Yet here was this stranger who not only didn’t dismiss her feelings, but actually approved and, yes, admired them. What a city of wonders was this Athens! Although, London suspected, it was not the city so much as the man standing in front of her that proved wondrous.
Oh, London, you have no idea what kind of adventure awaits…
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