An excerpt from what I’m currently working on.
Lord Somerville stepped back from the window. He had been staring out at the newcomers with a mixture of excitement and dread. He needed them. He really needed the money they represented. As the 9th Earl of Somerville, he carried the weight of his forefathers on his 28-year-old shoulders. He knew that to be the landed aristocracy in the 21st century meant creativity. Thinking outside the box. Inspired by the success that Downton Abbey had given to Highclere Castle, he had sought out the movie and television industry to help boost the income of the estate. With that and his organic farming efforts, he hoped to stay afloat and even to make the repairs to the house and grounds that were so desperately needed.
But having a television show on his property was not exactly convenient. He had agreed, for a price, to allow the main cast and crew to stay on the property, a decision he was quickly regretting as he had stared down at them standing together on the circle drive. They looked like vultures that had come to rest on the lawn, sensing the imminent death of the estate and willing to wait for its demise so they could take their fill. He resented their presence and wished he didn’t need them. But he did.
Lord Somerville’s plan was to stay out of the way and allow Mr. Barnaby to handle all issues of hospitality. Maybe he would have dinner with them once and awhile and give them the thrill of fraternizing with the upper class. But mainly he wanted to stay unobtrusively out of the way. Invisible, so to speak. Unfortunately, he knew he had to live in the house with them; he didn’t have the funds to go away on holiday while the filming took over his home. He dreaded the noise and the cameras and the people crawling all over his privacy. But then he thought of losing Hempstead Hall, and knew it was worth the trouble.
He had been watching the line of vultures entering the wicket and decided to give the scene one last look before retiring to his rooms to hide. That’s when he saw an unusual face looking up into his, a face that seemed at the same time familiar and yet new. Like a new beginning. Her dark auburn hair blowing gently in the autumn breeze, and her hazel eyes staring up into his inexplicably startled him, and he caught his breath. He stepped back from view and had to steady himself for a moment.
He wasn’t sure why, but Lord Somerville suddenly decided to go downstairs and join the tour. He waved the idea out of his mind that this sudden inclination to listen in on Mr. Barnaby’s history lesson about the estate had anything to do with the woman he had seen below. It was his property, wasn’t it? And he had every right to to join the tour of his own house.
He bounded down the oak staircase, built in the early 1600’s, lovingly rubbing his hand over the intricately-carved newel that topped the post at the bottom of the handrail. It was a habit of his; he had always rubbed the newel, almost like a talisman, since he had first been able to reach it as a young man. It was carved to resemble a king’s crown, and Lord Somerville always assumed it was because the house had originally been one of King Henry VIII’s hunting lodges.
He arrived in the hall as Mr. Barnaby was about to begin the tour. Lord Somerville had intended to discreetly join the party, but he had forgotten himself on the way down the stairs, and he hurtled into the room like he owned the place, which of course he did.