How Long Can You Resist Ch. 01byoohsexypenguin©
Author's Note: This is a slowly developing story, and one that does not "get to the sex" for quite a while. If that is what you're interested in, you'll be disappointed here. But if you enjoy getting wrapped up in characters and their stories, then I hope you enjoy what I have to offer.
Syresham, south Northamptonshire, England, 1809
The sun rose in the window overlooking Elizabeth Winshaw's bed, and it woke her from a rather pleasant dream. The chickens could be heard in the yard below, as well as the early morning rustlings from the kitchen. Elizabeth sat up and stretched, making a quite striking picture. Her brown hair fell in smooth waves to her waist, and the sunlight lit it in such a way as to make it look like it was on fire. Her back arched as her arms raised above her head, highlighting her delicate shape and causing her young but full breasts to press against the thin material of her nightshift. She wiped the sleep from her blue eyes, eyes she had inherited from her mother. Her pale skin looked dewy from sleep.
She got up and opened her window, then proceeded to the wash basin to freshen up. After putting on a clean green dress and tucking her unruly hair into a modest bun, Elizabeth made her way downstairs. In the rustic kitchen she saw her mother, Martha Winshaw, plucking the feathers from a chicken, already preparing for lunch.
"Good morning, dear," Mrs. Winshaw said, barely raising her eyes from the task at hand. "Eat you something, girl, then get to the market. You and your brother need to sell lots of wool today." The Winshaw family raised sheep, and every weekend Elizabeth and her younger brother Theodore made the day's trip to Brackley to sell the wool at the market there.
Elizabeth took an apple from a bowl on the handmade wooden table and leaned against the doorway leading to the yard. "Where's Papa?" she asked, taking a bite and letting the juices run down her chin.
"He's mending the sheep's pen," Mrs. Winshaw answered. She blew a curl of hair that looked exactly like her daughter's out of her face, watching Elizabeth eat her meager breakfast. "You know, dear," she said, "it would not hurt you to be a little more ladylike. It might help you wrangle a husband."
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "Mama," she said, chucking the core into the dirt behind her, "we both know that I will not marry until I can find someone who wants me faults and all." She smiled charmingly, dropping a curtsy. "I'll go get the wagon ready." With that she ran outside, leaving her mother shaking her head.
"That girl," she muttered, tossing the last of the feathers on top of the pile. "She just doesn't know her place."
"Teddy, dear, please move a little quicker with that wool," Elizabeth called, seating herself on the small wooden stool later that day behind the table they had already set up. Going to market and trying to sell her family's only means of income was not her favorite task; often the weather was disagreeable, and there were days where they hardly sold any wool at all. She looked around at the other tables at the market, piled with produce and housewares, materials for dressmaking and yards of lace. Then she watched as her brother set more wool down on their table, and she sighed.
She was well aware of the pressures her parents placed upon her. It was Elizabeth's duty, as the eldest, to watch over her brother as they made the trips to market every weekend. It was Elizabeth's duty to sell as much wool as she could, since this was how the Winshaws made their money. It was Elizabeth's duty to marry well, in the hopes of providing a better life not only for herself, but for her family. Thinking about these things kept her awake most nights. She was no longer a young girl; at the age of twenty-one, she should have been married already. But much to her parents' chagrin, that time had not yet come.
Elizabeth, one of the prettiest girls in Syresham, had trouble keeping men interested in her. Perhaps it was because she had a mind of her own and knew how to use it. Perhaps it was because she had educated herself to the best of her abilities by reading whatever books had been laying around her family's home. Or perhaps it was because she was simply not the kind of woman men wanted to marry. Elizabeth did not know, and while it puzzled her, it did not bother her. That is, until her parents brought it up.
"Lizzie, stop your daydreaming," Theodore teased, prodding her with his elbow. Elizabeth shook her head, blinking away her serious thoughts. Smiling, she nudged him back, and they watched the crowd and settled into the waiting game.
"Sir, I can hardly keep up with you," Henry said, slightly out of breath. The older man who was bent from age quickened his pace to keep up with his young master.
Gerard St. Claire turned to look over his shoulder at his attendant, and immediately slowed his gait. "Sorry, Henry," he said in a sincere and richly deep voice. "I just wish to be done with this errand."
Gerard faced forward and scanned the bustling market, straightening his lapel and squinting against the sunlight. The St. Claire family, from London, was visiting Great Aunt Maybelle in Brackley for the week, and Gerard's mother had found it necessary to send her only son to the market to fetch her a few items. He had acquiesced, but only just barely; he longed to take one of his horses and ride through the hills and valleys, if only to get away from it all for just a short time.
Henry interrupted his thoughts, saying "Sir, what is it exactly your mother wished for us to purchase?" Gerard straightened and smiled crookedly. My, thought Henry, he looks just like his father, God rest his soul. Gerard was indeed a striking young man. He was tall and broad shouldered, with curly black hair that hung to his nape. His eyes were a stormy gray, and his face was angular in an attractively masculine way.
"I believe," Gerard said, "that she wished for a leg of lamb. She wants Cook to prepare it with... something... or another." He shrugged. "Maybe I should have written everything down." Henry chuckled, reminded even more now of the late Mr. St. Claire. "Let us just look around then, sir," Henry said, clapping Gerard on the shoulder. "Perhaps that will jog your memory."
Gerard nodded his assent. "Yes, perhaps," he said, though his attention had already started to wander. He thought back to last evening, when after dinner he had been confronted by his mother and his Great Aunt, chiding him for having yet to find a suitable wife.
"My darling," his mother had said, looking stricken, "it is time for you to marry. It is time for you to produce an heir!" Gerard was irritated by this. He was a grown man, was he not? Shouldn't it be up to him to decide when he was ready to take a wife? He was only twenty-seven. As far as he was concerned he had plenty of time.
"Wool! Get some freshly sheared wool!" The words caught his ear and thus tore him from his remembrance. He looked to the right and saw a young boy of maybe twelve standing in front of table piled with wool. He might have moved on if his eye hadn't also caught sight of a beautiful but sullen looking young woman, sitting behind the table, staring off into the distance.
"Come, Henry," Gerard said. "Let us examine the wool. I hear the wool is the best in these parts." The two men wandered over to the table.
"Wool, sirs?" the young boy asked, hope evident in his brown eyes. Gerard chuckled. "Perhaps, boy," he said, ruffling the boy's hair. "You say it's freshly sheared?"
"Yes, sir," the boy answered. "Papa got up early this morning." Gerard nodded, but his attention was held by the girl, who still appeared to be lost in thought. She's stunning, he thought, a small smile coming to his face. Her cheeks were rosy from the warm morning, and the green of her dress offset her features to perfection. The low neckline revealed an ample bosom, and the cut flattered her thin figure. A few dark brown tendrils framed her face, having escaped from her bun. Her eyes were a gorgeous shade of blue, and he stared until she became aware of it and looked at the ground. Gerard felt something strange in his chest; there was something special about this one, he knew it.
Elizabeth felt the man's eyes on her, and tried to prevent the blush she could feel come from her toes. There was no question that this man was good looking, but the way he was staring at her made her feel naked. Uncomfortable beyond belief, she stood up and crossed her arms across her chest, ignoring the smirk of amusement that crossed the man's face. "You are interested in the wool, yes, sir?" she asked, making sure her tone did not belie the butterflies she could feel in her stomach.
"Perhaps, miss," Gerard answered, smiling at her wholeheartedly. The effect was immediate: Elizabeth felt her face flush, and she became slightly lightheaded. What is this man doing to me?, she wondered. Taking a deep breath, she narrowed her eyes at him and said, "Well then, sir, I suggest you make up your mind this minute. If you would like some wool, please purchase it. If not, please move along your way." She noticed her brother look at her, confused. It was not often that he saw her this rude to a customer, especially one that appeared to be quite harmless.
Gerard chuckled, motioning to Henry to prepare to hand over some money. "How much?" he asked, picking up a bundle. He directed the question at the boy, but his eyes never left the girl. He didn't wait for the answer. Thrusting what he was sure was more than enough money into the boy's hand, Gerard took the bundle and handed it to a startled looking Henry.
"Thank you," Gerard said, bowing politely and smiling at the girl. She gave a curt nod, but did not return his smile. "Will you be here tomorrow?" he asked the boy, who nodded, still confused by the situation. "Ah, that is fortuitous," Gerard said. "I shall return tomorrow. I am Gerard St. Claire, by the way," he said, turning to the young woman. "May I have the pleasure of your name?"
Elizabeth paused, uncertain what it was this man wanted from her and why she was so eager to give it. "Um," she said, then blushed at inarticulate choice of words. "Elizabeth Winshaw," she finally stammered. "And this is my brother Theodore." She then sat back down on the stool, refusing to look at the man again.
"Alright, Elizabeth and Theodore Winshaw," Gerard said, bowing again and smiling once more. "I shall see you again tomorrow." With that he and the older man turned to walk away, disappearing into the crowd of people. Elizabeth had heard the words addressed to both her and her brother, but knew that he meant them solely for her.