It had been four years since Aranelle had looked into Rankin's face. His face had grown fuller, the bottom half covered with several days of tawny scruff that seemed to be worn purposefully, rather from laziness. He'd let his hair grow out and it hung shaggy around his ears and neck, falling on his face to the tops of his eyebrows. A small gold ring pierced his left earlobe.
But the rest of his face was just as she remembered. The bridge of his nose was flat and wide, as though someone had formed it from dough then smashed their palm into it, flattening it against his face. And his eyes--his eyes were the same deep-set brown eyes, turned up the corners as though they were smiling. Aranelle never understood how someone as foul as Rankin Fegstill could have been born with such beautiful eyes.
He took another step towards her, and the smell of garlic and beer rolled off his clothing. The ground squelched under his boots. Aranelle could feel the heady heat of alcohol against her skin. A few strands of loose hair twitched in the breeze of his breath. She turned to leave, but he reached out, closing his fingers around her wrist.
"It's quite rude," he began, and Aranelle could hear the drunken slur in his words now, "to ignore someone who has addressed you directly." He pulled her closer, reaching to touch the widow's peak in her hair. "Particularly," he continued, "when the person speaking is a nobleman, addressing a girl whose mother is his servant."
Aranelle yanked her wrist from his grasp and took several steps back. "My mother is no such thing. And lest I missed the latest news, the Baron is alive and well. She works for him. Not you."
Rankin lurched forward, unsteady on his feet, and grabbed her again before she could move away. "You'll take care not to speak to me like that," he said, tightening his grip.
"You're drunk," she said, trying to keep her tone calm, even though her mind had begun to jump to several conclusions at once. Truthfully, she was trespassing on the Baron's grounds. The very secluded, private grounds. At night. Without leaving any note or word with anyone where she was going or what she was doing. If Rankin were to--Aranelle swallowed and pushed the thought away, not allowing herself to remember what Rankin was capable of doing. And though he was drunk, he still weighed nearly fifty pounds more than her. She shook her head, and a curl bounced in front of her face.
Rankin reached up and brushed the hair from her face. His nails--rough and crooked from being chewed-scratched against her skin. Aranelle shivered and jerked her head away as her earlier thoughts returned.
"Do I make you quiver?" Rankin asked. His tongue slipped from between his teeth to circle the edge of his lips. "We are in quite a secluded spot." His hand lingered along her jaw, then slid down her neck. "And you are in quite a bit of trouble."
He fingered the material of her dress, then ran a finger along her collarbones. "I could just forget to mention this trespass to my father...for a price."
I hope you enjoyed it! Aranelle is the MOST obstinate main character I've ever worked with. She bounced from being super-sassy to being much gentler and family-oriented, and seems to have finally settled somewhere in between the two. The one thing that hasn't changed throughout the about 30 first chapters and 6 second chapters I'd written is that she's never, EVER wanted to marry Rankin.
So that's my sneak peek. Up next is Frankie--enjoy! You're in for a treat!