Mr. Bishop and the Actress

Since I’m fiendishly on deadline I thought I’d give you a sneak peak of Mr. Bishop and the Actress (March 2011) which is in the works and available for early order with free shipping worldwide at bookdepository.com.

The actress of the title, Sophie Wallace, auditions for lecherous Jake Sloven:

His lips descend to my face. He has had onions for dinner, it seems.

“Goodness!” I drop my reticule and duck, a major mistake as he assists me to an upright position. “Why, certainly I’ll read for you. What would you like to hear?”

By this time, in a ballet of gropes and evasion, we have reached the stage.

“In my office,” he says, breathing heavily.

“Oh, no. Here, surely. There will be more room for me to dance.” I swish my skirts and he breathes heavily at the sight of my ankles and licks his lips as I remove my bonnet.

Foolishly I let him choose the play and he thrusts a playbook of Othello at me.

“Fair Desdemona.” He removes the napkin from his waistcoat and dabs his thick lips. “And I shall play Othello.”

There is a sofa on the stage. Well, of course there would be. The noble Moor hitches at his breeches and gestures to me to recline.

“Should I not be praying?” I’m not sure I want to be on my knees in front of Jake Sloven—at least, I had not intended to assume the position so early—and it crosses my mind that I should run out screaming. But I am an actress! There is no reason why Sloven should not hire me (and doubtless he has dozens of prettier women in his employ).

I outwit him by standing with my palms together, eyes raised heavenward. Of course this way I cannot see what he is about—for a large man, he moves quietly (from long practice)—and I shriek as pudgy hands land on my hips and I drop my playbook.

“Down, strumpet!” he trumpets in my ear.

I fall to my knees and scrabble for the playbook, bringing myself on a level with the fall of his breeches, and it is not a pleasant sight, gravy stains and straining buttons. Having found my place again, I respond with throbbing pathos, “Kill me tomorrow: let me live tonight!”

“Nay if you strive—” Othello strives to get his hand into my bosom.

“But half an hour!” I must be the only Desdemona who wishes the scene to last but half a minute.

Sloven hauls me to my feet, a firm grip on bosom and thigh. “Being done, there is no pause.”

And there certainly is not. I scramble to my feet and run around the couch. “But while I say one prayer!”

Sloven lumbers after me, breathing heavily with the effort. I grab a pedestal, a good two-foot length of sturdy wood painted to look like marble, and thrust it in his direction.

“It is too late!” Sloven says with gusto, but not as Shakespeare intended, tossing his playbook aside and bearing me onto the couch, hoisting my skirts.

I swing the pedestal and it meets the side of his head with a loud thud.

He drops like a stone onto the couch that cracks beneath his weight and slowly subsides to the floor in a ruin of gilt wood and velvet. Blood spreads in a dark pool on the floorboards.

And don’t forget to enter the LOLRegencies 2010 contest! You can also visit My Jane Austen Book Club where I’m chatting today and giving away a copy each of Jane and the Damned and Bespelling Jane Austen.

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