A/N: Hello. This is the first piece of original fiction I've ever posted on fictionpress. Please let me know what you think. It's only the beginning and it's probably a little rough around the edges.
This was not the path Catherine Ridgemont would have chosen for her life. Given the choice she would have spent the rest of her time on this earth in the security of her childhood home, walking through the great halls, the warmth of late afternoon sunshine filtering through the giant floor to ceiling windows. She would have spent as much time as possible with the only two people she truly loved. Her father, and the closest thing to a mother she'd ever had, Cecily.
She most certainly would not be married to a virtual stranger, a man who by all accounts was hard and unyielding. A man who, at this very moment, was completely immersed in whatever book he was reading, ignoring his new wife's obvious discomfort. How could he read like that anyway? The carriage springs did little to buffer the horribly bumpy ride, every five minutes, a jolt sent her hand flying out for support against the silken interior.
Perhaps it wasn't as bad for him, dressed as he was in what looked to be comfortable clothes. His trousers tailored to fit him exactly, a sensible shirt and an even more sensible woolen coat. He looked warm, shifting only slightly with each bone jarring bump.
Catherine on the other hand was laced into an impossibly tight girdle, pushing and pinching in the most painful of ways, the stylish cape draped over her bare shoulders surely far too thin for this time of year. She felt her irritation rising with each passing moment, and finally it was all a bit too much. "Is this the kind of society I'm to expect from here on out? A stony silence from an unfeeling cad who doesn't even care that his new wife is freezing to death not two feet from him?"
She cringed inwardly, recalling all the instances that Cecily had scolded her for what she called her shrewlike tongue. How often had her father sighed grandiosely when she'd replied sharply to presumptuous young men? Here she was again, doing the very thing that had lead her to this place. She couldn't help it though, her discomfort had pushed her even closer to the precipice she'd hovered so close to all week. By the time they'd climbed into the carriage she'd been a raw ball of nerves, the butterflies fluttering in her stomach.
He looked at her, an almost imperceptible flash of surprise widening his eyes for the briefest of moments before the shutters closed once again. Wordlessly he reached beneath his seat and withdrew a neatly folded blanket, holding it in front of him like a peace offering.
She snatched it from his grasp, hating that her nerves were making her behave so childishly. Years of ingrained manners forced out a small thank you before she wrapped the itchy woolen thing around her shoulders.
"You're welcome." He looked at her thoughtfully, his brow knitted in thought. Rather than return to his reading, he tucked his index finger between the pages, resting the book in his lap. "I apologize if my company is lacking, but it's something you'll have to get used to. I've spent little time in frivolous discourse in recent years." He eyed her carefully while stating this fact, attempting to gage her reaction. "However, there are plenty of people at my estate you can turn to for gossip. I employ a fair number of socially inclined young women."
She pursed her lips and looked out the tiny window, suddenly afflicted with an overwhelming urge to cry. She couldn't respond to his offhand comment, her vocal chords constricted in such as to make her mute. Unblinking she focused all of her attention on a streak of dirt arring the glass, counting carefully in her head in an attempt to breathe at regular intervals. She would not be afflicted with one of her more embarrassing quirks at this moment. No, an attack of panic would not do here and now.
He took her silence for irritation and continued. "Miss Ridgemont, this arrangement is mutually beneficial for both of us. I know you see that. It's really not important if we enjoy the infrequent time we spend together."
His comment finally broke her out of her anxiety induced paralysis. "Mrs. Blackpool, if you will, I am your wife now. And yes, I understand ours is an arrangement of convenience. It was a mantra drilled into my head by dear Cecily many times this week." She shifted uncomfortably, suddenly feeling like a child enveloped by the large blanket. "Lord knows there are few bachelors who would take on a spinster with a paltry dowry."
She knew there was a sour expression on her face, her lips simultaneously pursing and frowning. An unattractive picture no doubt, but there was little she could do to change it at the moment. She hoped he would have the manners to not comment on it.
"Twenty-five is hardly spinsterhood." And that, to him, appeared to be the end of the conversation. He returned to his book, turning the page slowly. Without looking up he said, "Your countenance would be far more pleasing if you didn't look like you'd just been forced to drink vinegar, Miss Ridgemont."
She huffed out an indignant snort. "Mrs. Blackpool. Seeing as how I've already snared a husband, whether or not my countenance is pleasing is of no concern to me."
Now she was intentionally being acerbic. How dare he comment on her appearance? This was the longest conversation they'd had since their first meeting, and he felt the need to be rude. She opened her mouth to continue, but was stopped cold by slightly upturned corner of his mouth. A smile? Surely not. He still didn't look at her, so she couldn't be sure.
Clearing his throat, he turned the page again. "Touché, Miss Ridgemont."