I've always been somewhat dissatisfied with the way the movie didn't give any background to Rose and Cal's relationship and how they met and just why she was marrying him when she 'apparently' hated him. I also didn't like the way it tried to completely demonize Cal's character. Rarely is anyone completely good or bad. Therefore, I have set out to explore that which was just left kind of hanging. Hence the following story. If you think it has possiblities or if you think it's worth continuing, please let me know.
"My God, Chester, she's exquisite. Who is she," Caledon Hockley stared, entranced, glass of wine forgotten in his hand, at the flame-haired vision that stood framed in the entrance to the ballroom.
Nigel, Viscount Chesterfield, followed the direction of his friend's eyes and saw the woman, now joined by an older woman, who stood in the doorway. He gave a sharp, humorless laugh and turned back to Cal.
"That, my dear fellow, is the Ice Queen of Hampshire Court. One Miss Rose Dewitt Bukater and her dragon of a mama, Ruth. It's rumored that since Mr. DB popped off; dear maman has been trying to marry Rose off to the highest bidder." Nigel laughed and took a sip of his drink then leaned in to whisper conspiratorially in his still mesmerized friend's ear, "If you ask me, it's not likely to happen. If she's not freezing you out with that ice queen stare, she's espousing the most shocking opinions and ideas. No," Nigel said, shaking his head, "no, good breeding and beauty aside, she is hardly likely to win a husband, much less a rich one, like that."
Nigel looked over to his friend to gauge the effect of his words and sighed. From the glazed look in Cal's eyes, it was obvious that he was already smitten. Oh well, let him get the ice treatment a time or two and he'll come back to his senses quick enough.
Nigel tossed back the rest of his drink and looked up to find the Ice Queen staring directly at him. No, not him…Cal. He looked quickly over to Cal just as she turned away to greet their hosts and noticed the spell had apparently been broken. Cal took a sip of his drink and then set it on a passing waiter's tray then turned to his friend.
"I must meet her. Nigel, can you get me an introduction?"
Nigel considered trying to lie to him but, noticing the glint in his eye, decided it would hardly be worth his time. He knew that look in Cal's eyes. It meant his friend was determined…and whenever Cal was determined to do something, come hell or high water, he would do it. Sighing in a very put upon manner, he clapped his friend on the back and turned him into the crowd. It was time to play Cupid.
Rose hated these parties her mother insisted on dragging her to. Once upon a time, she had enjoyed them quite a bit, but that seemed forever ago, before her father had died and her world had collapsed. Now, they were simply another hunting ground for her mother to try and find her a husband. Mind already wandering, she unconsciously handed her wrap to the waiting footman and let her unhappy gaze wander over the assembled crowd. People she knew, some she didn't. A sea of faces, nothing more, nothing less.
It was then she felt the fine hair on her nape begin to prickle in the vague, uncomfortable feeling you get when someone is watching you. She looked back over the crowd. Then she saw him. A tall, dark-haired gentleman, quite good-looking as well, was blatantly staring at her from across the room. While mildly intrigued, she found his overt attention rather rude and pointedly turned away. No use encouraging such persons; after all, she did have a reputation to upkeep.
Cal followed his friend Nigel as he wended his way through the crush of people in the ballroom. As usual, Cal felt slightly claustrophobic when pressed about by so many people. However, he had a goal tonight and found that as long as he focused his mind on that, it was much easier to ignore the disorienting sensation. He saw Nigel stop by a plump, rather comfortable-looking woman. She turned and Cal saw that it was Lady Roxley, Nigel's mother.
"Nigel, you naughty boy! I was wondering where you had gotten off to," she leaned forward and accepted his kiss upon her plump, powdered cheek. She looked up and caught sight of Cal.
"Caledon! My dear, it's been too long, Where have you been keeping yourself?" she beamed up at him as he took her proffered hand and kissed it. He smiled down at the diminutive woman. He'd always been prodigiously fond of Nigel's mother. Her ebullient, kind-hearted personality had always put him in mind of his own, long-deceased mother.
"Lady Roxley, a pleasure as always. You're in fine looks tonight. I do hope you plan on giving me the favor of your hand for a turn around the floor tonight."
She chuckled merrily at his blatant flirtation. Ah, if only I was a little younger! Caledon was her favorite among her son's many friends. He always made her feel as if she were a young girl in her first Season again. She whacked him playfully on the sleeve with her fan as she answered, "Outrageous boy! You know a matron such as myself doesn't dance, especially in a crush like this. I'll leave that to you and my son and all the lovely young ladies in the room. I'm quite sure there is a lady out there who would make you a much better partner than myself."
Before either could utter another word, Nigel elbowed his way into the conversation. "As a matter of fact, there is, and I'm hoping you'll be able to make the introductions for this mooncalf. He's been smitten by Miss DeWitt Bukater. Do say you know her, mum, for I doubt I'll be able to get a good game of cards out of him till he's met her."
Lady Roxley eyed her son with light disapproval. She'd have to have a word with him about interrupting others conversations. She glanced at Cal and noted the slight flush on his high cheeks and the diffident look that came and went like a flash in his eyes. Ah, so THAT'S the way of it, hmm?
She took the young man's arm and began to walk with him around the edge of the crowded dance floor, "You know, I am acquainted with Mrs. DeWitt Bukater. I would be most happy to introduce you. I have heard that the daughter is somewhat difficult to get to know, however, I have found her to be all that is polite and genteel."
Caledon strolled along at Lady Roxley's side, trying to look as nonchalant as possible. They were close enough now that he could see the object of his quest, glowing like a flame with her Titan hair and gold and white gown. She was smiling at some gray-haired dowager and sipping intermittently at something. As if sensing someone observing her, she paused in her discourse. And then she turned and he found himself caught in a gaze as blue as the sky above. His breath caught and he felt an absurd urge to tug at his neckcloth. Then, before he knew it, he was standing in front of her.
Rose was beginning to relax slightly. Whether it was the glass and a half of champagne she had consumed or the amiable company of Mrs. Fairfax-Brown, she didn't know but she wasn't inclined to question her luck. She was chatting rather happily with that kind lady when she felt that sensation of someone watching her begin to creep over her again. She paused mid-sentence and turned to look behind her.
There he was.
The same gentleman that had been staring so openly at her as she came in was now standing in front of her, a small, plump woman on his arm whom she somehow remembered in her shock as being one Lady Roxley. That same lady was now addressing her mother and her.
"Mrs. DeWitt Bukater, Miss DeWitt Bukater, such a pleasure to see you once again! I vow, it has been too long! How do you do?"
Rose heard her mother reply something, what she wasn't sure, but she knew it would be very proper and just the right thing to say. Mother had that way about her.
And then she noticed everyone looking at her and, with a start, realized Lady Roxley must have spoken to her while she was woolgathering. She felt her face grow slightly hotter.
"I'm terribly sorry, Lady Roxley," she said, raising a hand to her head and putting on her most affected air, "I didn't quite hear what you said. Tis quite loud…"
While her mother gave her a rather frosty glare, Lady Roxley simply beamed and leaned forward and spoke as though to one deaf, "I said, I should like to introduce you to my son's friend, Mr. Caledon Hockley of Pittsburgh."
Rose looked the man in question and thought she saw a brief flash of laughter cross his face before it fell into a perfectly polite mask.
The proper introductions having been made, Mr. Hockley bowed and quite properly asked if he might have the next dance. Rose, having no name on her dance card there and thus no polite way to refuse, accepted his offer and extended her hand to be led to the floor.
Rose couldn't quite explain why she felt so reluctant to dance with Mr. Hockley. Perhaps it was the intense way he looked at her, or the slight frission she felt as he took her hand to lead her to the floor. All in all, she felt that it could be quite dangerous to her to stay in his presence for very long. As he took her in his arms and swept her out onto the floor with the other couples waltzing round the room, she couldn't help noticing that, for once, her partner was actually quite a bit taller than she.
She looked up and found herself caught in his dark-eyed gaze. She suddenly became acutely aware of the strong arm around her and his hand holding hers, as well as the lean and quite muscular physique of her partner. However did he manage to keep in such good shape?
Shocked at the direction of her own thoughts, she blurted out the first thing that came to her mind.
"So, Mr. Hockley, have you been in London long?"
"Only a few weeks. My father's company had business here and so I am here as the representative for our interests."
Rose nodded, "Yes, I believe Lady Roxley said you were from, Pittsburgh, was it?"
He grinned down at her. He had a lovely grin. "Yes, from Pittsburgh. That's in the United States."
She caught the note of teasing in his voice and couldn't help it. She grinned back, "How kind of you to clarify that for me. So are you going to tell me what it is you do in Pittsburgh?"
He shrugged, a somewhat difficult feat while holding a form and twirling round a dance floor. "Steel mills, mostly. We have a few other areas we are trying to expand into, but there still all mostly in the beginning stages. However, I don't intend to bore you, or for that matter, myself, with talk of steel mills and business deals. Tell me, you don't speak with a British accent. In fact, you sound distinctly American yourself. What are you doing in London?"
Rose smiled, a little sadly this time, "We were in Europe touring and had stopped last here in England so that my parents could visit with some old friends. It was while we were visiting there home in Buckinghamshire that my father died. They very kindly insisted we stay until we could sort everything out. When the family came to London for the Season, mother and I came with them." She mentally shook herself and smiled, a little too brightly, up at her companion, "However, you are correct. We're from Philadelphia originally, not actually all that far from Pittsburgh, really."
A light seemed to dawn in her partner's eyes, "You're those DeWitt Bukater's! But I've heard of your family all my life. In fact," he frowned thoughtfully, "I think my sister married a second or third cousin of yours."
She laughed softly, "As I seem to have a quantity of both, I couldn't even begin to tell you."
It was just then the music ended and their dance with it. Mr. Hockley took her arm and escorted her back to her mother's side. Raising her gloved hand, he smiled warmly into her eyes and said simply, "Thank you Miss DeWitt Bukater, for the dance," kissed her hand and turned to melt back into the crowd.
Rose stood, staring after him, completely nonplussed, as her mother's voice hummed a stream of questions into her ear. It never even occurred to her that not once during their dance had she felt the need to freeze him out.
Although every sense he possessed was screaming at him not to, he very properly took his leave of Rose (for such had he already begun to think of her in his mind) and headed to the card room to find Nigel. Finding his friend ensconced in a game of cards he had no wish to join, he took his leave of him and decided to make an early night of it, completely oblivious to the stir he might cause at dancing with only one lady and then leaving.
It didn't take the driver long to return him to his hotel and, gratefully shedding his tux for something more comfortable, he poured himself a drink and retreated to one of the large wing chairs in front of the fireplace. As he sipped, he let him mind play back over every moment he had spent with Miss Rose. Cal had an excellent memory and he put it to work now recalling every word, expression and movement she had made. Despite what he had been warned, he had found her to be quite engaging, and oddly enough, once he had taken her in his arms to dance, he had not felt the least awkward or uncomfortable with her, something he always seemed to feel whenever doing his duty by the ladies. They had moved together through the dance in perfect syncopation, their conversation seeming to flow as easily as their steps. He had been rather surprised to learn that she was one of the Philadelphia DeWitt Bukaters, theirs being one of the oldest and most respected names in East Coast Society. He guessed he really should have known, after all, how common a name was DeWitt Bukater?
He pictured her again in his mind's eye. Her statuesque and graceful form, her auburn hair and blue eyes. Everything about her was absolutely stunning. Even her voice. And her laugh…
He felt himself flush again at the memory. He wasn't sure why, but her laugh had caused something deep within him to clench and pulse to its music. He felt rather silly but it was true. Cal had never really had all that much to laugh about in his life and he knew he wasn't the kind of person to inspire laughter in others. That he found it so entrancing in her surprised him. What surprised him even more was the hot flush of desire he felt as he pictured her, head thrown back, laughing and twirling around an imaginary ballroom in his arms. The longing he felt at that image shook him to his very core. She was, without a doubt, the most desirable creature he had ever beheld.
And he knew, in that instant, that he had to find a way to make her his.