This painting is called Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Sir Fredrick Burton.
Not too long ago, I took a workshop taught by Vonda Sinclair. You can check out her books on Amazon from this link. She's an excellent teacher and writer. As one of the exercises in sensuality, she had us write a story about this painting. Below is what I wrote.
Meeting on the Turret Stairs
The scent of burning wood blew across the battlements from the East. Sir Simon de Gray turned to gaze in that direction. Like a gray mist smoke slithered along the ground around the sparse brush outside the castle walls. The discordant notes of metal meeting metal carried on the wind, disturbing and seductive.
The possibility of their joining the battle had whipped the younger soldiers into an anticipatory fray. Their restless pacing along the wooden walkway added an uneven beat to the distant battle. Had he ever been so young and blood thirsty? His finger found the scar that cut across his cheekbone to his ear. Perhaps so.
“Simon.” Adam spoke from beside him. “There is someone waiting for you on the turret stairs below.”
He turned to lend his attention to the man. Adam leaned closer, his voice dropping to a whisper. “’Tis Lady Julianna.”
Simon’s heart thundered against his ribs. With an effort he controlled his expression. Had she received news of Cayle?
Reading Adam’s speculative gaze he snapped. “See the men maintain their posts. I will not be long.”
He strode to the arched doorway leading to the stairs. As he descended the turret steps, he jerked the metal casque from his head and secured it and his gloves to the leather girdle fastened about his waist.
The stairs spiraled downward. The jingle of his chain mail garments echoed within the narrow space. He kept his pace measured though the desire to hurry tightened his muscles.
He rounded a bend and came upon her. Light shown through the arrowloop she stood near casting a golden glow over her fair skin. Her pale blue eyes rose to his face as he leapt the last few steps to her side. He grasped her arm above the elbow and drew her to one side of the opening. “You must be more careful, Julianna. Should a lucky shot find you--” The idea twisted his gut with pain.
She brushed aside his warning with a movement of her hand stirring the sweet scent of roses that clung to her skin and hair. The pleasant smell underlined the odors of smoke and sweat emanating from his red cyclas. He took a step back lest the smell offend her.
Her features looked frozen, devoid of all emotion. “Cayle is dead.” Her lips barely moved.
Her words struck him with the force of a broadsword and he braced his hand against the stone wall to steady himself.
“His body was returned with the last wagon of injured.”
He clinched his eyes closed to shut out the instant stream of memories and the pain. But still it came, rolling over him in a crushing wave.
The pressure of her hand upon his arm brought him back. He focused on Julianna’s face, white and still. He reached for her for the first time in an eon. Pain and guilt blended inside him, a torment he had born for too long.
A sob shook her. Her control broke. She clung to him as her grief spilled forth.
“I’ve loved you both, since the first time I saw you,” she said, her voice hoarse as the tears eased. She delicately removed a kerchief from her pocket to wipe her face and blow her nose.
“I know.” His hand found her braid and he allowed his fingers to trace the heavy weight of it, and explore its texture. After four years of wanting her, needing her, the desire to touch her overwhelmed his resistance. Surely Cayle would not begrudge him this one comfort.
She drew back to look up at him. Her face, even ravaged by her grief, remained more precious than any other.
“I can not lose you both, Simon.”
The openness of her words, of her expression, eased some of the pain. How long had it been since she had looked at him without guarding every expression, lest it be misinterpreted by others? “I will not allow that to happen. My skill and experience will keep me safe.”
“You can not promise me that.” Her fingers clinched his stained cyclas.
“I have to keep you safe. It is what Cayle would want.” He drew a deep breath. “What I want.”
For countless moments she struggle with her composure. “I do not think I can bear watching you ride out as he did.” Her voice shook.
“Then you will only watch my return.”
“Your return.” She drew a deep breath. Her hand shook as she raised it to his cheek and traced the shape of the scar there with her fingertip.
That brief, gentle touch fed his need, his hunger. Cayle had had her for four years. Could he have just one kiss?
“There is so little time.” Her eyes traced his face, a hint of desperate longing in her gaze.
Simon bent his head his lips seeking hers. Jullianna’s arms tightened around him. The chain mail kept her body from his as surely as a shield had been thrust between them. But his hands lingered on her waist, the slender line of her back and hips. His mouth molded to hers, touching, tasting her response before his tongue sought hers. The sweet, aching heat of the kiss went on and on, a moment, a lifetime.
At the sound of leather shod feet on the stairs above them, he dragged himself away from her. Jullianna, her cheeks alive with color, turned away to lean against the wall.
Adam appeared. His gaze settled on first Julianna then him. “’Tis time.”
Simon nodded. “Our Lord has fallen.”
Pain flickered across the man’s face and he touched Julianna’s sleeve. “’Tis sorry I am, m’Lady.”
She nodded, her face still averted. “Thank you.”
“My brother Cayle said you would be joining the forces east, Simon.”
“Aye, possibly.” He nodded.
Adam raced up the turret stairs back to the battlements.
Jullianna bit her crescent shaped bottom lip. And her gaze probed his features. “Is it he who will decided now to send you?” She nodded toward the shuffle of Adam’s retreating steps.
“’Tis a sound decision. I have more battle experience than he.”
Her throat worked as she swallowed. She stepped forward to rest a hand upon his arm. The chain mail shielded all but the weight of her touch. His fingers covered hers.
“Should the Vikings gain the castle he will use me and everyone here to bargain for his life. This is my home. These are my people. I will not see them abused because of his cowardice.”
Never before had he seen such passion or determination in her face and eyes. The urge to touch her flushed cheeks and test the texture of her skin taunted him.
“What would you have me do, m’Lady?”
What would you have the characters do?
I thought I'd post stories like this now and then.
Hope you enjoyed the excerpt.