Summer is here! Time for sun, sand, and romance. Grab your sunblock and join your favourite Austen characters on their seaside adventures.
The seaside village of Woods Hole on Cape Cod is the setting for my two modern books. This excerpt is from The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice (also published as Pemberley by the Sea), a modern version of Pride & Prejudice starring marine biologist Cassie Boulton and political scion S. Calder Westing III. It’s a very special book to me, and this scene is particularly special. I’ll be interested to hear what you think!
From The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice, a night-time scene where Cassie (Elizabeth) takes an uninvited Calder (Darcy) to a beach by the salt marsh to swim in the bioluminescent waters. If you’ve never done it, it’s an unforgettable experience!
After a period of silence, Calder asked, “How’s your research going?”
He certainly had a knack for saying the wrong thing to her, even when he managed to be polite. “It’s a little frustrating at the moment.” She stared out the window into the darkness, hoping he wouldn’t follow up on it.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” He was quiet for a moment, guiding the car past a series of blind curves. “The work itself, or what you’re finding?”
“The results aren’t what I’d hoped for.” Why was she telling him this, rather than a polite lie? Calder Westing would be the last person of her acquaintance to understand her dilemma. He never had to worry where the next dollar was coming from.
“That must be disappointing.”
“Yes.” She risked a glance over at him. His eyes were on the road, and his profile showed nothing. Perhaps that was why she was telling him. He was a long way from academia, and he wouldn’t understand the implications for her.
“Will it be a problem for you?”
“It could be. I need good results. There aren’t a lot of jobs out there for marine biologists who don’t get tenure. At least not jobs I could take. I couldn’t work for the fishing industry.”
“No, I suppose not. There’s still time, though, isn’t there?”
“Yes.” She was silent for a moment. It was too easy to feel close to him, too easy to forget who he was when they talked like this. She forced cheerfulness into her voice. “Anyway, that’s why I wanted distraction tonight. The bioluminescence is something special, you’ll see.”
“I’m looking forward to it.”
“This is where you turn in, right up here.” She indicated where he should park and made her escape from the car as quickly as she could. She was embarrassed to have confided her troubles to him. What did he care whether she got results or even whether she got tenure? It was a million miles from his world.
She took her towel from the back seat. Scott’s car was already there. “It looks like they’ve gone ahead without us. We have to walk from here.”
She unclipped a small flashlight from her belt and led the way to the path through the woods. The silence of the nighttime descended on her, bringing its own peace, and she relaxed, letting go of her worries for a few minutes.
At least Calder knew when to be quiet. A few minutes’ walk brought them into the marsh. Cassie stopped by a stand of bushes, plucking a leaf and crushing it between her fingers, then raising it to her face to breathe in the fragrant scent.
She could sense Calder’ s questioning look. “Bayberry,” she said in a hushed voice, as if too much noise might chase away the magic of the moment. “The leaves have a beautiful scent when you rub them.” She held out the leaf to him.
Instead of taking the leaf from her, he took her hand in his and brought it to his face, inhaling deeply. A shock of awareness ran down Cassie’s arm, and the sensation of his warm breath against her hand almost made her shiver. Her hand was intimately poised no more than an inch from his lips.
“Beautiful.” He released her hand.
Discomposed by her reaction to him, she turned back to the path and began walking a little faster than was prudent in the darkness. She chastised herself for responding to a meaningless touch, reminding herself that women were a dime a dozen for Calder Westing. Besides, half the time she didn’t even like the man.
They finally emerged from the rustling marsh grass onto the beach. It was deserted, as she expected. At the far north end of the marsh, several houses stood along the water, but they were across the river. To the south there was nothing but more marsh and sand. Cassie could barely make out two figures far down the beach. It was fine for Erin to want to be alone with Scott, but she wished her friend would consider the position it left her in with Calder. Still, she wouldn’t let his presence interfere with her enjoyment. She put down her towel and kicked off her shoes.
“Where do we change?” asked Calder.
Cassie smiled to herself. Culture shock again. Well, he was the one who invited himself along on this adventure. “You’re welcome to change anywhere you like, and I promise not to look. However, personally I think it’s a waste of a moonless night to bother with a swimsuit, and I wasn’t expecting company, so I didn’t bring one.” Before she lost her nerve, she stripped off her T-shirt with what she hoped was a casual air. Her shorts and underclothes quickly followed, and she walked to the water’s edge before casting an impish glance over her shoulder at the still fully-clad man behind her.
Calder made no effort to disguise that he was watching her. No, if Cassie Boulton was going to voluntarily take off her clothing in front of him, he was damned if he wasn’t going to enjoy the view. After all, she hadn’t said anything about not looking at her.
If she were any other woman, he would have interpreted her playful smile as an invitation, but he had the strong suspicion that if Cassie wanted something from him, she wouldn’t bother with subtlety. That look was a dare. He watched her gently swaying body as she walked out into the water, his eyes lingering on her graceful curves, appreciating even her pronounced shiver when the water level reached her breasts. She didn’t look back at him again, but instead seemed to become fascinated with the movements of her hands, running them through the dark water surrounding her.
Regardless of what his intellect said, his body insisted on responding to a situation it clearly felt should be acted upon. He fiercely damned the fact that she was precisely the sort of woman he shouldn’t become involved with. He hated the thought that in two weeks he would leave and never again see that look of challenge flashing in her eyes. Why did the one woman he wanted in his life and in his bed have to be one his family would never accept?
If he couldn’t have her, at least he could go out to her and look his fill. Stripping off his clothes with no more caution than she, he waded out into the water, grateful it would hide his arousal by the time he reached her.
Once the water was deep enough, he could see the bioluminescence. It wasn’t the bright glow he’d expected, but rather sparks of light that appeared where the water contacted his body. Normally he would have watched it with interest, but now his thoughts were fixed on Cassie, who wore a look of enchanting happiness. She twirled around in front of him, her arms outstretched, tiny sparkles of light outlining her limbs as she moved. “It’s magical, isn’t it?”
He smiled slightly. “I thought it was science.”
She laughed and deliberately splashed water at him. It flickered as it left her fingers and again as it ran down his chest, and he began to understand her delight in it. “It’s dinoflagellates. I can explain it step by step, but it’s more fun if you think it’s magic.”
“Ah, so it’s science and magic,” he replied loftily, just to see her smile.
“Here.” She took his wrist in her hand. “Move your arm back and forth like this, and wiggle your fingers, and you’ll get a light show. It’s nice in long hair, too.” She dunked her head underwater and swirled it around, creating a glittering net of tiny diamonds in her hair. She reemerged, smiling and looking like a naiad as the glittering water drained off her.
He was entranced by the visual spectacle of the lights outlining the curves of her body as she spun around once more. Stopping, she looked up at him and splashed him again. “Didn’t anyone ever teach you how to play?” she asked with amused exasperation.
No, he thought, no one ever did. “I like watching you play.”
His deep voice made Cassie suddenly aware of his physical presence. She looked out to sea, newly conscious of the sensuousness of the water moving along her bare skin and the mildly arousing sensation of it caressing her breasts, so different from when she wore a swimsuit. She hoped he couldn’t tell what she was feeling. “Well, you’re going to have to amuse yourself somehow, because I’m going to swim out to deeper water.”
She began to swim, glad to be putting a little distance between them, but had only gone a few strokes when a hand on her arm brought her to an abrupt halt. Startled, she stopped and looked up into Calder’s face.
“Don’t, Cassie.” He held her arm tightly. “It’s not safe.”
She was about to tell him she could do whatever she pleased when she saw the genuine anxiety in his face. More gently, she said, “I’m a very good swimmer. You don’t need to worry about me. Honestly.” With his greater height he was still able to stand, but she now needed to tread water to stay afloat. Fortunately, that wasn’t hard in Buzzard Bay’s buoyant water.
“It’s dark, and you could get disoriented.” He didn’t loosen his grip on her.
Perplexed by his uncharacteristic doggedness, she paused. Her awareness that their unclothed bodies were only inches apart was increasing by the second, and she found herself admiring the breadth of his shoulders. To her chagrin, her body was beginning to ache to be touched. No doubt just a normal reaction to the proximity of an attractive male body. It didn’t mean anything, except perhaps that she’d been celibate too long.
“Please, Cassie,” he said, his voice surprisingly entreating.
She recalled suddenly that his uncle, the family patriarch, had died in a well-publicized boating accident. Had it been at night, too? Perhaps it had. She didn’t remember the story well, since it happened when she was a girl. Although reluctant to give in, she understood his feelings. “All right, I won’t.”
“Thank you.” His fingers tucked a stray lock of her wet hair behind her ear.
The scene doesn’t end here, but the family-friendly part does. If you want to read the rest, The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice/Pemberley by the Sea is available at most online retailers.
A modern love story with a Jane Austen twist…
Marine biologist Cassie Boulton has no patience when a modern-day Mr. Darcy appears in her lab on Cape Cod. Proud, aloof Calder Westing III is the scion of a famous political family, while Cassie’s success is hard-won in spite of a shameful family history.
When their budding romance is brutally thwarted, both by his family and by hers, Calder tries to set things right by rewriting the two of them in the roles of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice…but will Cassie be willing to supply the happy ending?
I’ll be back next week with a seaside scene from Morning Light, the sequel to The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice! In the meantime, anybody ready for a swim with the biolumes?
Vintage image for banner courtesy of The Graphics Fairy