The Meet Cute
If you prefer to stay away from spoilers, don't read this post. :-) It's the Meet-Cute from Harry's story, which will be available at the end of this month!
NOTE: This is the scene as it appears now, before edits. A few small things could change.
The future hung before him like a question mark at the end of a page. He needed to move forward with his life, but how did one do that when one couldn’t decide in which direction to go?
“Stop right there, you horrid beast!”
Harry scuffled to a stop and lifted his head, looking around in shock. Had someone been addressing him?
“You know you’re too old and fat to climb any higher, and I am too old and refined to come climbing up after you,” the voice continued, feminine frustration coloring every word. “Come down this instant.”
The voice came from the other side of a hedge, where a birch grew with branches stretching over the bushes to reach toward the trees lining the road. He went that direction, without much thought, and to a narrow break between two leafy shrubs to peer through.
At the base of the tree, half out of sight, he saw a woman in a blue-gray gown. Her head was tilted as she stared up into the tree, and her hands were on her waist.
“I mean it, Jezebel. You come down this instant, or I will leave and you will absolutely starve.”
Glancing up, Harry saw a fat feline perched on a thin branch, perhaps fifteen feet above the ground. The cat was staring balefully down at the woman, tale twitching, as though calling the woman’s bluff.
The woman circled around the tree, out of sight, muttering to herself. He could barely make out the words. “Feline…stubborn…useless….”
The cat remained unimpressed.
The woman came back into view, her back to Harry, her bonnet now dangling down her back from ribbons. He could make out a head full of golden braids and twisting curls escaping above her ears and at the nape of her neck.
Appreciating her lovely hair and shapely figure from behind a bush wasn’t the act of a gentleman, however, especially when the woman he ogled obviously needed assistance. Harry stepped forward, pushing through the bush. The rustling sound brought the woman’s attention to his presence and she whirled around as he approached.
Her blue eyes were wide in surprise, and lovely, too. As was her finely sculpted face. With round cheeks and a narrower chin, her features were almost elfin. Her eyes swept over him as he struggled to emerge from the clinging branches of the hedge.
“Good afternoon, miss,” he said, giving one last lunge in order to stumble out of the bushes. “I couldn’t help but overhear—are you in need of any help?” He looked up into the trees where the fat feline still sat, its attention fixed on him. The furry beast licked its lips and narrowed its eyes.
The woman sighed, a touch dramatically. “Perhaps. But you’ve already fetched this wretched creature down from the trees for me once. It doesn’t seem fair to ask such a thing of you again.” Her eyes sparkled playfully, and then she smiled.
The whole world lit up with that smile. Harry’s heart sped up and warmth crept up the back of his neck.
“I have?” he asked, not daring to look away from her. His mind had turned into a sluggish machine, trying and failing to catch up with his need to understand what the woman meant.
Surely, he’d remember meeting her, let alone rescuing her cat. Where had he seen her before? Studying her more carefully, noting the impish upturn at the end of her nose as well as the blonde lashes framing her lovely eyes, his memory finally heeded his desperate need to know her identity.
“An Ames daughter,” he said at last, rocking back slightly on his heels as he continued to stare at her. The vicar’s children, as young girls, hadn’t exactly been in the same social circles as he, even when he came home on holiday.
Her smile widened. “But which one? My father has three, you must remember.” She turned her eyes up to the cat, finally breaking the spell he’d fallen under the moment their gazes connected. He released a breath, his lungs protesting that he’d held onto it for too long.
“The eldest is in India,” Harry said, thinking aloud. Christine had written him about that exciting happening. “She married a missionary.”
“Mm-hm,” the young woman agreed, stepping away from him to get another view of the cat.
His mind immediately protested the distance between them and he followed her, taking in the speculative tilt to her head and her lowered brows.
“Is now Mrs. Robin.”
He blinked. Was he addressing a married woman, then? If she was married that made him a cad, admiring another man’s wife in such a manner. Harry quickly looked down. Seeing the state of his coat, covered in leaves and twigs. He started brushing off his sleeves to avoid looking like a walking shrubbery.
The young woman glanced sideways at him, narrowing her eyes. “She married a naval captain, actually.”
“She did?” Harry asked, jerking his head up hopefully. “And you are not married to a naval captain?”
“I am not married to anyone,” she stated, appearing unbothered by that fact. “I am too busy taking care of that fat beast in the tree to entertain suitors.” She pointed upward, and when he looked he saw the cat had decided to move up the branch to an even more precarious seat.
“Fat and unintelligent,” she muttered to herself. “Not at all the sweet kitten she was last time you rescued her.”
“Kitten?” Harry said, and then the memory came back to him. Years ago, he could not even remember how far back in the past, he’d come upon Miss Gabriella and the younger sister. What was her name? The vicar’s younger daughters had been beside themselves, as they tried to convince their tiny new kitten to come down from a tree very similar to this one.
What had they called the youngest?
As if she knew his thoughts, the woman took pity on him at last. “I am Miss Augusta Ames.”
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