Excerpt From Chapter Seven…
The door slid open. The beat of shoes and hurried voices passed her lonely cart.
A porter popped his head inside and nodded to her. “Hello ma’am. You have another passenger to keep you company.” He allowed the traveler to board.
The man stepped onto the train with swift nonchalance.
Eliza’s breath caught inside her lungs. He was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen. Tall like a Greek column, his broad shoulders strained against the fabric of his tailored, charcoal gray suit. His chiseled features were bronzed by strokes of the sun and lightly weathered in a rugged, daring way. A striped fedora hat tipped over one eyebrow, partially obstructing one of his extraordinary aquamarine eyes. She swallowed. Heavens, he’s incredible.
His voice came out with smoky ease. “Hope you don’t mind me sharing this compartment with you.”
Her hands choked her gloves. She forced a light smile. “I didn’t pay for a full compartment. Only a seat.”
He pulled off his hat and revealed a perfect head of slick chocolate hair. “I suppose I’ll pick one then.”
“You have a few to choose from.” She motioned to the empty, floral-patterned cushions.
His eyes swept over the small space. With fluid, deliberate steps, he strode to the seat directly across from her.
An alluring scent of spiced musk rolled past her nose. She breathed in the rich cologne. My goodness, he smells delicious.
He paused before sitting and peered at her. A glimmer of mischief crossed his eyes. “I think I like this one. If that’s okay with you?”
Her heart fluttered. “That would be fine.”
“I hoped you’d say that.” He lowered to the seat.
She bowed her head to hide the rosiness surfacing on her cheeks. Is he flirting with me? She stole a glimpse in his direction.
He stared at her.
Her cheeks reddened more. He saw me look. Should I say something? What would I say? I suppose I could introduce myself. I should probably introduce myself. Or is that too….
He interrupted her thoughts. “Where are you heading today?”
“Eliza Brickman,” she blurted.
“New York City! I mean my name is Eliza, and I’m headed to New York.” She could taste her stupidity saturating her tongue.
“I’m pleased to meet you Eliza-headed-for-New-York. I’m Warren Moore-headed-there-too.” His mouth curved into a sultry smile.
She was sure her heart failed to take a beat.
The train’s whistle howled.
She jumped. Without a second warning, the train lurched forward offsetting her balance. Her face plunged into Warren’s chest as her hands grabbed the top of his thighs.
He grinned with shock and enjoyment. “Most ladies demand a date before embracing, but this works for me.”
She scrambled backward, her eyes bulging in horror. “I–I–I am so sorry! The train moved so quick that I lost my balance and I—”
He held up his hand. “Don’t apologize. You may sit on my lap for the duration of the trip if you’d like.”
Her mouth dropped open. She knew her eyes looked like saucers.
“I’m only teasing. But I have to say.” He leaned forward. “You are a sweet doll.”
She managed a thank you.
“Any time.” His smile was suggestive.
Her mind muddled beneath the allure of his charm. She fidgeted with the pearl buttons on her gloves. Below her lashes, she saw him tilt to the side. His eyes traveled up her legs, over her hips, and paused above her midriff. Her head snapped upright.
He met her astonished eyes and smiled. “Nice ankles.”
She released a small gasp.
He opened his hands in surrender. “I’d compliment more, but that’s all I can see.”
She gasped again.
“I mean no offense. I simply wanted to appreciate the beauty before me.”
She didn’t know if she should be angry or flattered. His boldness was entirely unsettling and, well, exciting.
He changed the topic. “Do you live in New York City?”
She inhaled. “I’m going there today for the first time. Do you?”
“I do. I was visiting a friend in Jersey.”
Eliza didn’t catch the sarcasm that accentuated the word friend.
“Are you visiting someone in Manhattan?” he asked.
“No. I’m going to pursue a career as a singer. I want to make albums and perform. I want to hear those wonderful rhythms of jazz and see New York City in all its glory.”
A throaty laugh burst from his mouth. “Are you sure? New York City has pretty rough edges. And most debs are lost as to what—”
“I may be a debutante, but I’m not incompetent!”
“I’m not trying to insult you baby, but New York is no playground. Sure it’s a land of opportunity, but you’ve got to know where to go…and where not to. Besides, you’re gonna stand out.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look at you.” He indicated with a wave. “Long dress. Gloves. Hair piled on your head, even though a ringlet has managed to sneak out.”
She brushed the curl behind her ear.
“Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the black curls. But Manhattan girls aren’t like you. They wear short skirts and smoke like chimneys. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure you can handle it.”
His words stirred her insecurity. If he thinks I can’t handle it, maybe it is too dangerous. I don’t know anyone or anything about New York. Why on earth did I let Hugh talk me into this? Her shoulders drooped. She felt defeated once again and turned despondently to the window. Maybe I should go home. Then a new thought occurred to her. If I go home, they win. Again. Her eyes darkened. I won’t let others continue to dictate my life. I can’t retreat at the first sign of opposition. I said I have what it takes. It’s time to prove it.
It didn’t matter what others thought. She wanted to live. Not for her father. Not for her mother. But for herself. She trained a pair of blazing blue eyes upon him. “How dare you judge me? You know nothing except what you see on the outside. I’ll do better than survive in Manhattan; I’ll be great in Manhattan! I will sing and perform. No one and no city can stop me.”
A subtle smirk crept to his lips. He hadn’t expected this feistiness. Maybe there’s more to this girl than meets the eye. “I did judge you, and I apologize. With that attitude, you’ll do fine.”
“I’ll do better than fine.” She crossed her arms.
His eyebrow arched. Spirited little dame. Leaning forward with a hand on his knee, he spoke in a low, husky tone. “You sure will. I think you’re going to like New York City.”
SO HOW ABOUT YOU?
Is it time to chase your dreams?
IS IT TIME TO STAND UP AND SAY: “I WILL BE GREAT!”
Tell me your thoughts and what this scene meant to you.
Picture One (Interior of Railway Carriage) – http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=38753&l=en