A rough draft of the first chapter:
Joseph risked a quick glance over his shoulder and flashed Elizabeth a smile, “You’ll never catch up riding side saddle anyway!”
Elizabeth slowed her mare, “Joseph Hopwood! A lady always rides this way!”
Joseph leaned back in his saddle and the stallion responded at once, slowing his gait and allowing his master to bring him to a halt.
Elizabeth brought her mare to a halt beside the bigger stallion. “Why have you stopped?”
Joseph laughed and gazed into her beautiful brown eyes, “To let you catch up of course!”
To hide her confusion, Elizabeth looked back to where the rest of the horses and riders were still two fields away. The sounds of the hunting horns came closer while the baying of the hounds faded into the distance.
“We’re losing the hounds.”
“There are far more interesting things here than a pack of hounds.” .Joseph suddenly dismounted. With two strides he was beside Elizabeth’s mare. “Come here. I want to show you something.” He reached for her.
With a stifled gasp, Elizabeth slid off the horse and into Joseph’s arms. “What do you want to show me?”
Placing her carefully on the ground, he offered her his arm. “This way. Be careful of your shoes the ground is a trifle soft.”
Together they walked to the top of a small hill, leading the horses behind them. At the summit, Joseph pointed into the distance, “One day all this will be mine.”
Elizabeth held her breath.
“This is one of my favourite places in the world because from here I can see my whole world. Is it not perfect?”
“Yes, it is perfect.”
“I like to ride up here quite often. It reminds me of my place in the world.”
Elizabeth gazed at the countryside and waited expectantly. The last three months had been leading up to this point and she had already decided to accept his proposal.
The marriage would be a good match. Her connections and his wealth, not to mention their well bred good looks, would make them a formidable couple.
Elizabeth had been brought up to play the role of lady of the manor and now at last, it seemed her parents’ wishes would come true. All those hours learning how to speak, act and dress correctly for every occasion were finally going to come to fruition.
She turned to look at him.
Joseph found himself drowning in those soft brown eyes. Was that a fleck of green in her left iris? He felt that he could stare into her eyes for ever and lose himself. He tore his eyes from hers and was immediately mesmerized by the curve of her ruby lips. He reached out and tenderly tucked a stray strand of her hair back behind her ear. His fingers tingled as he brushed her flushed cheeks.
Just then a fox burst through the fence at the bottom of the hill and within seconds a loud baying heralded the arrival of the hounds in full cry.
With a laugh, Joseph turned to Elizabeth, “Come on! I’ll help you mount!” and so saying, he grabbed her around the waist and lifted her quickly into the saddle. His stallion was already moving as he swung himself astride and with a loud bellow, he kicked the animal in the ribs and set off at a gallop with Elizabeth not far behind.
“Tally-ho, tally-ho!” Joseph’s stallion needed no urging. The fox scaled a ditch quickly followed by the hounds. Joseph set his horse at the ditch, with a massive leap the magnificent stallion cleared the ditch with room to spare. Glancing back, Joseph noted that Elizabeth had turned her smaller horse towards an easier place to jump.
Soon the rest of the hunt had caught up and together, hoses and dogs thundered across the land, flying over fences and streaking across meadows in pursuit of the wily fox.
Suddenly the hounds became quiet and began to mill around aimlessly. “The fox has gone to ground!” The cry echoed around the countryside. Spectators on nearby hills pointed to where they had seen the fox vanish into a covert.
An hour later the Master of Foxhounds called off the hunt and the group reluctantly returned home.