The Davenports: Meet Ruby!
We’re celebrating some of our favorite characters from The Davenports as we count down to the stunning historical romance debut from author Krystal Marquis! Today, we’re excited to introduce you to Ruby, Olivia’s best friend. She has her sights set on John Davenport, though she can’t seem to keep his interest . . . until family pressure has her scheming to win his heart, just as someone else wins hers.
Learn more about The Davenports here and scroll down to read a sneak peek about Ruby!
Ruby knew Harrison Barton was the key to securing a proposal from John. He was eager and sweet and wanted to belong to the close-knit circle of their set, to become one of the more influential people in Chicago. He already hung on her every word. It’ll be simple, she thought. And once John returned to her, Mr. Barton could stay in the loop or fade back into obscurity.
Ruby eyed him now, noting his athletic build and the way his knickers hugged his calves.
This may even be fun.
At that moment, Mr. Barton glanced in her direction. He stood up, facing her more directly. He reached up and tipped his cap at her. He didn’t see the pitcher pull out of his stretch and adjust his stance. He didn’t see the release that quieted the crowd as it made its way to the player at home plate. The crack of the bat striking the ball was a warning with too-short notice. Athletes and bystanders alike watched helplessly as the ball made a line drive to his position behind third base.
It was like the world stopped. The game froze like a photograph. Then every player on the field turned to the body of Harrison Barton, sprawled across the clay and fresh cut grass. Ruby was sprinting before she fully registered what had happened. She crumpled the sides of her dress in her fists, freeing her ankles for speed as she rounded the fence, ran past the dugout, and onto the field. She gasped for breath, each one sharp at the back of her throat. She didn’t want to scream. The press of bodies obstructed her vision. The crowd that formed around him increased her panic. Why were they just standing there? She had to elbow her way through. The sight of his feet, toes pointed up to the sky, nearly unraveled her composure. Still, she pushed on, holding her breath to the point of dizziness.
When she finally made it to the middle of the crowd, Mr. Barton was sitting upright. A player from each team knelt beside him. They helped him to his feet and held him steady as he tested weight on his left foot. Relief flooded Ruby’s body so quickly, she missed many of the words they exchanged. She stopped herself from reaching for him. Her parents’ party was made slightly less miserable with Mr. Barton at her side, but still. They barely knew each other.
Ruby wrinkled her nose at the mixture of perspiration and grass clippings that clung to her. Did I just run into the middle of this ball game? She shook herself and looked up in time to catch Agatha’s smirk behind the fence. Agatha, the biggest gossip she knew.
“I’m all right,” Mr. Barton said, gently untangling himself. He held his hands up to keep his teammates at bay. The palms of his hands were scraped raw and a gash on his right wrist stretched to the elbow. His first unsteady step had them reaching for him again.
“Oh!” The startled sound escaped Ruby’s lips and her hand flew to her cheek. She slipped back into the fray, making sure she was still in Agatha’s sightline. Smile, she told herself. “I’ve got it from here, gentlemen,” she said to no one in particular.
He gave her a sheepish grin. “I’m sure it looks worse than it is,” he said.
Ruby offered him a handkerchief. A stark white piece of cloth, embroidered with her initials.
“It looks plenty awful to me.” She looked around at the spectators. “Let’s get you in the shade.” He let her steer him to a nearby tree. Close enough to the others that they were easily observed, but far enough that they may speak without being overheard. He sat down abruptly, taking her with him. It was silly and awkward and she laughed.
Ruby remembered the last time she had sat under a tree with a member of the opposite sex. It had been at the peak of a crush-come-to-life, and not nearly enough to satisfy her.
“Perhaps I should be struck by more fly balls,” he said, smiling, then wincing.
She pulled her hand away. “Please! You could have been seriously injured.”
The corner of Mr. Barton’s mouth twitched, and Ruby’s shoulders relaxed. Stop, she scolded herself.
“You’re worried about me,” he said.
“No more than I would be for any other person suffering from a similar injury. You should really pay better attention.”
He smirked. “Well, someone on the sidelines stole mine.”
“Ha,” Ruby said. “Don’t pin your lack of focus on me.” Ruby turned her head away then, watching him clean himself up from the corner of her eye. “She must have been someone special,” she added.
“Very special indeed. Maybe the most beautiful girl in all of Chicago.”
Ruby’s face warmed, and she gave him a challenging look. “Maybe?”
He released a surprised bark of laughter, wincing again as he did. Ruby liked the sound. And the way he looked at her. “Miss Tremaine, as soon as I can hold my own, I’d like to take you dancing.”
Ruby smiled victoriously. “I’d love that.”