We're doing our level best to try to report as little about expansion as possible, but sometimes the feeling hits you and it's all suddenly sexy and seductive somehow.
The rains came in from the moors. Across the heath they scattered, showering the grass with nourishing moisture.She was not accustomed to the sudden weathers of the Lake Country. One minute could be bright sunshine bleaching the pleats of your sun bonnet. The next could be passionate torrential rains sweeping in from Ireland, covering the land with the faint smell of sea brine and Irish peat drifting onto the land from parts unseen across the turgid waters. It was enough to make a lady dizzy in her home, but so far away from home the effects were positively disorienting.
Michaela Slive was not of this village. She lived here with her new husband, Lord Espin, a malevolent, paranoid, and extremely wealthy man who did well enough by her, she supposed. She had her own allowances. She was allowed to keep up a torrid correspondence with her former lover, a fiery Swede named Verne of Lundquist. She had money, and time, and favorable gossips spread about her in the village. The grounds of her home were fine, though something in her longed for more. Frontiers. The passion of exploring! Of something beyond these fences.
The rains came in and across the pickets of her life. And then, a figure in the rain emerged."Ma'am, might a weary traveler take refuge in these cursed rains in the lee of your country manor's windbreak? I have been walking miles, and fear I shall pass out from fatigue and the road's abuses."
He was tall, dark, and indeed quite fetching. His frame exuded masculine strength. Scars appeared at regular intervals on his exposed skin. This was no noble, but a working man whose passport of a body covered in the stamps of countries no duke or man of title dared cross. His rugged face dripped with rain that ran down the fine, chiseled geography of his torso like the streams over the hills surrounding them.
Lord Espin would not return for days; he was away on business in London, as he so often was.
"Aye, but what have you to offer me?" she asked, her words quivering as she said them.
The man smiled. "Absolutely nothing. Not a dime to my name, all cheated by the cattlemen and thieves of my land. I've no talents. No particular specialties. I have no titles of note, no sinecures, no allies of any note. Even my enemies are meager beggars at this point."
"Why, you make no case for yourself at all, and OH KISS ME YOU FOOL--"
She flung forward. They embraced. She pulled back, blushing and flustered.
"Why, I can't. I hardly know your name. My estate needs no expansion. I am a lady of means already, and content in it! Why must you bother me, scoundrel? And why are we even doing this?"
"Because I think you are in need of some expansion, and I have reached a certain firmness on this topic, ma'am."
She observed his firmness on the topic. "This makes no sense, but DAMMIT IF EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING THEN I SHAN'T BE A BOVARY ALONE, SHALL I?"
ps. Bonus covers because Luke thought you needed them: