And here’s one of my favorite scenes from Hope in Defiance:
“Hope, I pray you’ll forgive me the wine choice.” Carefully, Edward poured a shimmering red stream into Hope’s glass. She bit her lip, and leaned forward, eyes wide with anticipation. She reminded Lane of a kid peering at candy in the mercantile’s window.
“It looks lovely,” she said, reaching for it.
“I so wanted a merlot from Château de Goulaine, but it was impossible.” He poured Lane’s glass, then his own and sat down. “I remembered your fondness for pinot noir from Dopff-Au-Moulin, and, lo and behold, I was able to get a crate shipped in time. Very exciting.”
“Very,” Lane muttered, sniffing the wine. He thought it smelled a little like peat moss. He sniffed again. Nah. Peat moss soaked in an oak barrel stuffed with raspberries.
Edward raised his glass and swirled the liquid around and around, staring into it like he expected to find something. “No doubt, Mr. Chandler, it will taste quite foreign to you, since you’re used to stale—”
“Have you ever had wine?” Hope cut in. “I find it is either something you love or hate.”
Lane glanced up from the glass, to Edward’s slightly quirked eyebrow, to Hope’s warm expression. She wouldn’t let Edward embarrass him if she could help it. He appreciated the effort.
“Only what I had in a little church in El Paso once,” he told her. “I think I was about five, so I don’t remember it.”
She raised her glass and swirled the burgundy-colored liquid. “Wine is complex and there is a great deal of effort that goes into creating the flavor.”
“Not just the flavor.” Edward took a sip, swallowed, and savored it with his eyes closed. “Wine is an experience. An explosion of subtle flavors. Oak and cherry.” He thought for a moment. “Hint of vanilla. Possibly a touch of cumin. Velvety. And it finishes off gently.”
Lane had to force himself to keep from slapping his forehead. These two sure took their wines seriously.
Hope had a sip and considered it for a moment as well. “Oh, yes, that’s lovely. A little buttery.” She paused. “Yes, there’s the vanilla, and possibly a touch of mushroom.”
Both of them turned to Lane, expectantly. He was pondering the mushroom observation when Hope dipped her chin, nudging him.
“Well,” Lane picked up his glass, “here goes.” He took a tentative sip. Fought to control a grimace. He nearly burst out with, ‘People enjoy this?’ But managed to cut off the comment.
“Before you say anything,” Hope raised her hand in a pleading gesture, “try to think about what you tasted.”
Lane focused on all the odd flavors in his mouth, but couldn’t settle on anything. A little flustered, he took another sip. Since he knew what to expect, this one wasn’t as jarring. After a moment, he nodded, almost amazed. “Yeah. Oak.” There was a sweetness, too. “There’s the grape. And vanilla.” He set down the glass and nodded, but it wasn’t something he’d be inclined to make a habit of. They were still staring at him. Edward’s subtly raised brow was an expression of triumph. Did he think Lane was too much of a Texas hayseed to appreciate wine? Did Lane care what Edward thought? “It’s a fine drink, I suppose, but I’ll stick to my whiskey.”
“Yes, I understand,” Hope looked down at her napkin quickly. “Wine is an acquired taste.”
“And not everyone will do so,” Edward raised his glass to Lane and smiled. “Pity. At least you tried.”
* * *
Lane fumbled his way through dinner, allowing Hope to point out which fork to use for the salad and so on and so forth. At least by dessert, he knew which spoon to grab, and was no stranger to coffee. The conversation of theater, literature, and politics, however, highlighted his ignorance and he didn’t say much. At least watching Hope light up at the discussions of W.S. Gilbert’s new play made the beating worth it. Even if, suddenly, Lane’s world felt very small.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” Hope rose, and Lane and Edward followed. “I’m going to powder my nose.”
She left the table and Lane poked at his chocolate mousse. He had no doubt Edward was going to take the opportunity to say what was on his mind and waited patiently. This whole dinner was a charade, a plan, aimed at making Lane look stupid. Or at least ignorant. And not worthy of Hope.
“I don’t mean to be rude, old man,” Edward began, “but do you seriously think you should pursue a relationship with Hope?”
Well, ’least he doesn’t beat around the bush. Lane leaned back in his chair and eyed Edward with the same stare he’d give to a growling dog about to get a good, swift kick. “What I seriously think about anything is no concern of yours.”
Edward huffed. “Right there is an example of my meaning. You don’t care about Hope. What makes her happy. She’s called to greater things. What can you offer her here, in this grubby little town?” Edward snatched his napkin from his lap and tossed it on the table. “I would bet you’ve never even read Shakespeare.”
Lane didn’t deign to answer. Just held Edward’s gaze.
The man’s pretty-boy face took on a hard edge and he leaned forward a little. “You may be some sort of excellent marksman and rugged frontiersman, but let me tell you what I see. You’re a low-born, uneducated, uncouth, poorly paid cowboy.”
Cowboy. Edward said the word as if Lane was a worm. Scum floating on stagnant water. Lane’s jaw tightened and his pulse ticked up. Well, if the man wanted a fight…
“And what’s more, I’ll make sure Hope sees you in the proper light. When she does, she’ll be done with this nonsense of being a doctor in this filthy, hardscrabble town.”
“And go back to Philadelphia with you? As a nurse? As your wife?”
Edward grinned, showing perfect, pearly white teeth. “Yes.”
Lane had no time for a reply as Hope approached the table but didn’t take her seat. “Edward, I have enjoyed our dinner. Very much actually, but I need to get home. Thank you for going to all this trouble.”
Slowly, Lane rose to his feet, shadowed by Edward. “Yeah, it was one interesting meal.” Lane grinned as well, though it was as fake as Edward’s icy smile.
“No trouble at all.” He then shifted to Hope, and his expression warmed considerably. “My dear, we’ll do this again.” He kissed her on the cheek. “Now that we’re all friends, I’ll plan more festive dinners.”
“Please tell Lucy the duck was magnificent.”
“I certainly will.”
Lane lightly clutched Hope’s arm and walked away with her, but stopped just shy of the restaurant entrance. “You know, I didn’t thank Edward properly. Give me just a second.”
Without waiting for Hope to reply, Lane pivoted and walked back to Edward, who was still standing at the table, watching them. Lane offered his hand and as Edward took it, said, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny…but in ourselves. Julius Caesar, Act One, Scene Two.” He winked at Edward. “Thanks for dinner, pard.”
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