It’s party season and I’m looking forward to getting out on Friday night for a dance with my colleagues so I thought I’d share some of the scenes from my books involving dancing. I love dancing and don’t get to do it often enough so I make sure my couples get the chance. Learning how to dance properly is on my to-do list when I eventually have the time (and a willing partner).
First from Falling for Her Captor
Stephen slammed his goblet onto the table. ‘We should dance!’ he shouted, and applause filled the room.
He reached out his hand to Aline, his jaw set and his eyes narrowed. Reluctantly she took his hand and walked to the centre of the room, her eyes cast down. A hush descended over the hall.
‘A quadrille for Lady Aline,’ Stephen announced.
The musicians took up their instruments once more and began to play a simple melody. Stephen took Aline’s hands and together they began to circle the room, the familiar steps of the dance coming back to her as they moved together. She caught a glimpse of Hugh again, deep in conversation with a young woman dressed in scarlet. The woman put her hand to his arm and dipped her head coyly. Hugh smiled. Aline frowned, then caught herself in the act. What was it to her who he talked to?
Hugh gave no indication of noticing her, though she thought she saw him glance in her direction as Stephen lifted and spun her. Stephen didn’t look away from her face, however, and she dared not stare too obviously.
The musicians increased their tempo and other couples joined Aline and Stephen on the floor. The dance became more intricate now: the pairs were weaving between each other, now in one circle, now in two, now in lines, the men lifting the women in sweeping arcs before moving speedily on to a new partner. After her long confinement Aline leapt high and swung wildly, laughing and lost in the dance—until she looked into the face of her newest partner.
A half-smile played upon Hugh’s lips as he bowed to her. His blue eyes met her own. Familiar arms encircled her waist and lifted her off her feet, spun her. They passed shoulder to shoulder, their hands brushing fleetingly as they circled round, their eyes never breaking away.
Then he was gone.
Next one from the midwinter feast which Will has staked his savings on in A Wager for the Widow (the dress in the excerpt is the one Eleanor wears on the cover).
Eleanor walked through the doorway and Will forgot everything.
She wore green. Pale silk under a mantle of heavy, emerald velvet laced with gold braid from beneath her high breasts to her slender waist. Her hair had been twisted atop her head and encased in a net of gold so that her braids flamed between the metal. The gown left her shoulders bare and the elegant expanse of creamy flesh sent Will’s heart thudding into his stomach.
Half-a-dozen men leapt to their feet as they saw Eleanor, but Will was quicker. He tore his gaze from the curve of her throat and collarbone and strode to her. He bowed before her, then lifted his head. His eyes travelled slowly up her body until he met her gaze, determined to leave her in no doubt of the effect she was having upon him. She looked uncertain until Will gave her a discreet wink. She smiled back and the world brightened, as though a hundred more candles had begun to burn.
‘Let me escort you to your seat, Lady Peyton,’ Will said formally. As she took his outstretched arm he whispered in an undertone, ‘You’re the most beautiful woman in the room. It was worth the hailstorm to see you in that dress.’
Eleanor said nothing, but a blush crept across her cheeks and her fingers tightened on his arm. Will led her to her seat, reluctantly relinquishing her to the company of the Sheriff of Tawstott. He could barely keep his eyes from her for the rest of the feast.
When the final dishes had been removed the tables were cleared for the dancing to begin. The musicians tuned their instruments and an expectant hush fell over the hall.
Allencote began to thread his way through the crowd towards her and Will crossed the room to her side. The two men reached her at the same time. Eleanor looked from one to the other apprehensively.
‘Will you dance the first measure with me, Lady Peyton?’ Allencote asked, a shade before Will could ask the same question.
Eleanor’s eyes flickered briefly to Will’s. He held her gaze boldly though his stomach curled with anxiety. It was out of his hands now. If she chose Allencote, he had lost everything.
Next Hal and Joanna’s wedding reception from The Blacksmith’s Wife
‘We should dance,’ Hal said, pushing his chair back and helping Joanna to her feet. He was quick on his feet and graceful. Under any other circumstance dancing with him would have been a delight, but as he led her through the steps Joanna’s thoughts were on his last words. When the day ended they would return to Hal’s lodgings with all that must happen between a husband and wife. The thought made her feel nauseous and she stumbled her footing through the next steps of the reel. Hal’s arm came about her waist, leading her back into the rhythm.
‘Are you ill?’ he asked, concern clear in his voice.
‘Just a little tired,’ Joanna answered.
As she passed down the line one of Simon’s associates overheard her words. He grasped her round the waist and lifted her high. ‘The bride wishes to sleep,’ he cried. ‘We shall have the bedding ere long!’
Joanna’s blood froze in her veins. That part of the wedding night had kept her awake night after night. She had steeled herself to bear whatever her husband bade her do, but to be disrobed in front of the guests would be unendurable. Cheers soared around the room, echoing his words. Joanna felt herself passed from guest to guest through the steps of the dance. Her protestations were ignored as hands gripped her skirts, pulling at the cloth as if they would begin undressing her right there. Laughing faces leered at her as for one terrible moment she became the centre of a circle of dancers before a pair of strong arms gripped her and she was clasped against someone’s chest. She tried to pull free but a soothing voice hushed her, brushing her hair from her face.
‘I’m sorry to disappoint you, gentlemen and ladies, but there will be no bedding,’ Hal said.
Joanna gave a gasp of relief. He smiled down at her with eyes full of intent that caused a shiver to race along her spine.
‘My wife is my own tonight,’ he said quiet enough for only her to hear.
And finally the book where no one dances but which contains one nevertheless, The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge
The second time they met it had been spring, not many weeks later than it was today. A time after they had settled in Hamestan, but before the thegns rose against her people. A market day filled with rare laughter and music where Constance had believed they were becoming accepted, that they could live in peace alongside each other.
There had been dancing and she’d watched enviously as the girls spun about the circle with their skirts flying, trying to ignore the stares and whispers.
Aelric had been at the centre of the knot, a set of pipes to his lips and his red-blond hair falling into his eyes. He had paused his tune as he spotted her watching and threaded his way through the circle towards her and held out his hand. When she indicated the stick she leaned on his expression hadn’t been one of pity or ridicule like she was used to, but regret. Instead of turning immediately back to the dance he’d taken her hand and bowed, then walked with her through the marketplace, leaving his friends behind.
She’d fallen a little bit in love with him at that moment.
I doubt I’ll be lucky enough to dance with anyone like one of my heroes (lovely though my colleagues are) and even if I did I’d probably trip over my heels and end up in the pudding plates but I’m going to enjoy myself anyway. Have fun if you’re out and about this Christmas.
Which of my heroes would you take for a spin under the glitter ball? I’d love to know.