This is an excerpt from my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) submission for this year.


Sarah looked up from her accounts book at the tinkle from the bell above the door.  She stared in disbelief as a man with a mustache (or was it rather a mustache wearing a man) strode through the door.  He was wearing a cool gray suit, the color of clouds before a rainstorm, with a high, starched collar and a black silk cravat.  He carried a large, black, leather case with him and immediately swept the matching gray hat off of his head as soon as he stepped through the door.  Sarah watched him pick up a few items, inspect them, and then set them back down gingerly.  After a respectable amount of time, or rather as long as Sarah was going to wait, she cleared her throat and then shut the accounts book loudly.

“How can I help you today, Sir?” she asked, hoping she didn’t sound too perturbed.

A smile slowly spread underneath the mustache.  Sarah gasped as she took in the full effect of his appearance.  The man was stunning; there is no other word for it.  He had thick, chocolate brown hair that fell in great waves across his forehead and down to the nape of his neck.  His smile was dazzling, obviously well practiced to stun the viewer into going along with whatever he wished.  Pearly white teeth peeked through his lush, full lips.  However none of this compared to his eyes.  They were an icy blue that could pierce you with a stare or make you want to dive into their liquid blue depths.

After a moment that could have been an eternity, he finally broke the silence.

“Uh, yes.  Where might I find Grace?”

“Grace?” she repeated automatically.

“Grace Mills?  The owner of this store?”

“Grace?  Mills?”

Exasperation leaked into his voice.  “Yes.  Grace Mills.  Where is she?  She started this store when my father settled this town.  Old Mrs. Mills was in the caravan with him that came from Springfield.”

Sarah knew somehow that he was talking but could not understand the words he was saying.  It was like her brain had closed up shop and left her body.  At this point, all she could manage were automatic responses, like blinking and breathing.  These she did in abundance until the man suddenly dropped his hat and bag onto the wooden counter in front of her.  The loud noise seemed to have awakened her brain, however, because she noticed how he angrily rubbed his eyes with his right hand and then dragged it through his hair.

“Alright, Miss…” he made a motion with his hand for her to finish the sentence.

“Graham!” she suddenly shouted.  “Sarah Louise Graham.”

He shot her a look and then continued, “Alright, Miss Graham, I am looking for an old lady.  She is about this high,” he indicated a place in line with is shoulder, “and she goes by the name of Mrs. Grace Mills.  When I left, oh…” he waved his hand noncommittally, ”several years ago, she was still owner and proprietor of this shop.  Where has she gone?”

Sarah blinked a few times and then suddenly exclaimed, “Oh!  Yes, she did own this store but I bought it from her two years ago.  She is living with her granddaughter and her family on a farm a few miles down the river.”

“Thank you,” the man sighed loudly.  “Which way?” he asked as he picked up his hat and bag.

“South.”  Sarah pointed in a southwardly direction.  The man gave a curt nod and was gone.  Sarah tried to immerse herself back in her accounts but it was no use.  The man’s face would not leave her mind.  She had to go ask her best friend, and town gossip, Emily Houghton.

Colin pulled his horse up short.  So short, in fact, that the horse was panting and snapping his jaws at the bit.

A raven-haired beauty had just crossed his path.  She was the woman of his dreams; she wore an icy blue traveling coat over a deep, midnight blue traveling frock.  The combination picked up the blue shine of her glossy ebony curls, which were swept up on top of her head, underneath a perky crushed velvet hat.

Colin watched her saunter on down the park lane, as if the world had not just stopped spinning on its axis, time held still in its tracks, and even the birds had stopped their spring song.  After a second that felt like an eternity, she stopped and then swung her parasol, body, dress, and train all in one smooth motion.

The siren of ancient myth shot Colin a look that went through him like a bullet.  He felt the physical impact of this look and recoiled slightly under its force although at the same time he was pulled farther into the snare of her presence; his sanity coming very close to crashing against the rocks.  The beauty’s eyes were the color of wild violets in the summer time but right now they were filled with golden sparks of indignation.

“Excuse me, Sir,” she spoke with the smooth lilt of a Northerner, “Are you in need of assistance?”

“I, uh—“ he stammered, unable to form the words he wished for.

She made a “harrumph” noise deep in her throat and turned back to the road.

“What is your name?”  Colin finally spat out.

“Lady Lydia Whitehead,” she called over her shoulder and with a swish of her bustle, she was gone.