Home of the Bluestocking Belles

Because history is fun and love is worth working for

Author: BellesInBlue (Page 1 of 2)

Rumours of a mad rival

Overheard in a London drawing room.
“To be fair, Lady Amelia, many females have run mad over a red coat.” Lady Fenella’s jibe—and Lady Amelia’s blush—reminded the others present of Lady Amelia’s own excesses last Season in pursuit of a certain officer of the Horse Guard.

“One officer might be a mistake,” Mrs Fullerton suggested, “but two seems a little excessive. It certainly sounds as if this poor mad sister of Braxton’s makes a habit of compromising situations with the cavalry.”

“Only one compromising situation, surely,” Lady Eustace Framley protested. “I thought she was the baronet’s widow. One can’t compromise oneself with one’s husband.”

“One can before he is her husband, darling.” Lady Fenella widened her eyes. “Or do you not remember how you came to marry Lord Eustace?”

“Is it true that this mysterious officer stole her from her bedroom in her chemise?” Lady Amelia wondered.

“It would be rather cold,” said Lady Eustace. “It was, after all, more than a month ago, and in the Spring. One would imagine the Cheshire weather would dampen the ardour.”

“Your innocence is so charming,” Lady Fenella said. “Do you practice it in front of the mirror?”

“I do not much like these Braxtons. If I lived with Mrs Braxton, I dare say I should be mad myself,” Lady Amelia declared.

“I would certainly prefer Major Alex Redepenning to Mr Braxton,” said Lady Fenella, watching Mrs Fullerton very closely.

“Anyone would,” Lady Amelia agreed. “At least one would have before he was crippled. Goodness, Fenella, you don’t mean that Alex Redepenning stole Melville’s widow away! But that’s…” Her voice trailed off and she, too, stared speculatively at Mrs Fullerton.

Lady Eustace proved her relative naivety by rushing to make the comment the other two women merely thought. “Melville’s widow? Sir Gervase Melville? Wasn’t he your particular friend once, Mrs Fullerton? Yes, and Major Redepenning, too!”

“Poor dear.” Lady Fenella took Mrs Fullerton’s hand and gave it a warm squeeze. “It can hardly be pleasant to know you are unlikely in love not once, but twice, and both times have lost to the same woman.”

Their marriage is a fiction. Their enemies are all too real.

Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him.

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.

The Teatime Tattler recommends the virtues of Prudence

rolinda-sharples-clifton-assembly-room1The Season is off to an excellent, if early, start. Lady S., daughter-in-law of the Duke of W. must be delighted with the attendance at her soirée, though perhaps less than pleased with the behaviour of some.

While this year’s crop of debutantes has not yet been served up to the marriage mart, those remaining from previous seasons were in eager attendance, every mother hoping to steal a march on all the others in attracting the attention of wealthy or titled bachelors or widowers with a mind to wed, while avoiding fortune hunters and those with more sinister intentions.

In corners of the main reception rooms, the powerful decided the disposition of whatever pawns they controlled: brokering treaties between nations, political parties, trading enterprises, families, or potential marriage partners, depending on the interests of the negotiating parties.

brummellBut the affairs of the great are far from the only business conducted at such an event, and last night was no exception.

In rooms set up for the purpose, gentlemen and ladies with a yen for such things offered up the evening to fate represented by the turn of a card.

In the ballroom, fashionable gentlemen eyed one another in the endless struggle for elevation in the eyes of those they are pleased to call friends, while those more given to energetic pursuits danced or stood in small groups discussing horses or hunting or pugilistic exploits.

Ladies spoke sweet flatteries to one another’s faces and shredded appearances and reputations behind one another’s backs. Maidens sought husbands, wives sought lovers, poor widows sought protectors, and wealthy widows amusement. Everywhere, couples—as they have since the beginning of time—bargained for affection: temporary or bound by vows before a cleric; some under the eyes of stern chaperones and others in less well-lit corners on the dance floor or the chilly terrace.

In small darkened rooms throughout the mansion, those desiring a tryst found a few moments of privacy. Among them, we are assured, was Lord S. himself and also his son, Lord E., who was seen to absent himself from public places on two separate occasions, each time with a different companion.

Our informants also observed Lady G., the duke’s spinster daughter, meeting with a much younger man who is believed to have been Mr. W., widely rumoured to be the unclaimed and unwanted base-born son of the Duke of H.

One can hardly imagine that a lady of such pristine reputation would be indulging in an amorous encounter, but that leaves only the possibility that she is employing Mr. W. in his capacity of thief-taker. Has her ladyship lost a valuable item, perhaps? Is she acting on behalf of Lady S. to investigate the activities of her brother or nephew? Or both? We will watch developments and keep you informed.

As if that were not enough, Mr. W. and an unidentified woman, possibly one of the army of companions in attendance on various matrons, were involved in the most shocking event of the evening. They combined to effect a rescue of a foolish damsel who allowed herself to be enviegled into one of the aforementioned private rooms.

maidenOne would expect a maiden in her second season to show more sense than to respond to a note from a man, and certainly the girl’s protectors to display more awareness of their charge’s whereabouts. Was the title ‘Earl’ a lure that caused her and her chaperone to cast discretion and rational thought to the wind?

We could have advised the young lady that this particular earl has been known to ruin and abandon foolish young women who go apart in his company. His recent ascent to the title on his father’s death has clearly not changed his character.

Fortunately for the damsel, the man (we hesitate to call him a gentleman) was interrupted in his evil pursuit, and she was delivered intact, having had a salutary scare, to Lady G., a well-known defender of the innocent. And her own family name and fortune mean that any sanctions against her from the arbiters of social standing will be mild.

As for the Earl in question, we are assured that he has been banned from ever entering the household again. And where Lady S. leads can other hostesses be slow to follow?

Yes, the Season is off to an exciting start indeed!

decorative-text-divider-1

The Sutton soirée is the scene of the first chapter in Jude’s new historical mystery, Revealed in Mist, currently available on pre-order and to be released early in December. Mr. W. and the unnamed companion appeared in The Prisoners of Wyvern Castle, a novella in Hand-Turned Tales, as the rescuers of the blind earl and his countess who were the hero and heroine of that novella. You may also have met them (as David Wakefield and his mysterious woman partner) investigating a crime for the hero of Farewell to Kindness.

Their pasts could bring them together or separate them forever

revealed-in-mist-smallPrue’s job is to uncover secrets, but she hides a few of her own. When she is framed for murder and cast into Newgate, her one-time lover comes to her rescue. Will revealing what she knows help in their hunt for blackmailers, traitors, and murderers? Or threaten all she holds dear?

Enquiry agent David solves problems for the ton, but will never be one of them. When his latest case includes his legitimate half-brothers as well as the woman who left him months ago, he finds the past and the circumstances of his birth difficult to ignore. Danger to Prue makes it impossible.

decorative-text-divider-1

Revealed in Mist is on pre-order at most eretailers. Sadly, not on Amazon, since Jude is in Amazon jail for getting the final version of Gingerbread Bride to them two days late, only eight days before release. Circumstances beyond Jude’s control doesn’t cut it with the Amazon guards, so no pre-order. But if you want the book in Kindle format, pre-order from Smashwords, iBooks, or Barnes and Noble, or follow Jude on Amazon for an email the day the book goes live.

Smashwords * iBooks * Barnes and Noble * Follow me on Amazon

About Jude Knight

Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.

Website and blog * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest * Email

Interview with the spy’s husband

park-444223_1920The newest correspondent for The Teatime Tattler is masked, but the mask cannot disguise the youth of her voice or the slenderness of her form. Still, who better to interview a viscount about his life and his love, than a lady? The predictable, thrifty, chivalrous hero from Barbara Devlin’s book My Lady, The Spy takes the seat beside her in the park, as arranged.

Anonymous interviewer for The Teatime Tattler: What is your full name?

Viscount Wainsbrough: Dirk Henry Archibald Randolph, Viscount Wainsbrough.

TTT: Do you have a nickname?

VW: My brother calls me His Dullship of Wainsbrough, though I take issue with his characterization.  What Rebecca calls me is between my wife and I.

TTT: What is one word that best describes you?

VW: Honorable.

TTT: You don’t elaborate much, do you?

VW: I exercise economy in all things.

TTT: Describe what you are wearing now to our readers.

VW: Buckskin breeches, a white shirt sans cravat, a dark green hacking jacket, and highly polished Hessians.

TTT: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

VW: I do not believe I am as stodgy as Ms. Devlin thinks, and I suspect my wife would agree with my assessment.

TTT: What makes you laugh out loud?

VW: I am not one to engage in frivolous jollity.

TTT: What is your favorite dessert?

VW: Rebecca, my wife.

TTT: What is your favorite drink?

VW: Brandy.

TTT: What is your greatest fear?

VW: That Rebecca might be recalled into service for the Counterintelligence Corps.

TTT: What is your favorite color?

VW: In truth, I have no such partiality, but Rebecca believes I favor burgundy, which was my father’s preference.  It is a longstanding joke in my family.

TTT: What do you wear when you go to sleep?

VW: That is between my wife and I.

TTT: What is the perfect romantic date?

VW: Ah, Ms. Devlin explained that a date refers to a private event, of sorts, with a lady, and that is an easy answer.  Anything involving my wife.  Beyond that, my needs are simple.

TTT: How ticklish are you? Where are you ticklish?

VW: I am immune to such childish antics.

TTT: What’s your favourite smell?

VW: I adore Rebecca’s lavender water.

TTT: What does it remind you of?

VW: Why, my wife, of course.

TTT: When you look at a woman what catches your interest?

VW: The only woman who holds my attention is Rebecca, and I love her brown eyes.  She is the only woman I have any interest in touching or having touch me.

TTT: Do you have somebody in your life now?

VW: Rebecca is my life.

TTT: What is one word that best describes her?

VW: Incomparable.

TTT: Is your book part of a series?

VW: It is the second in the Brethren of the Coast series.

TTT: What does the future hold for the readers of the series?

VW: Each member of the Brethren has a story, and some have yet to be told.  I believe Damian’s story, The Duke Wears Nada, debuts in January 2017, and I am anxiously awaiting that one, as he is long overdue for his comeuppance.

Barbara says: It’s truly an honor to join the Bluestocking Belles, and I’ve enjoyed introducing one of my favorite characters, the hero from my second book, My Lady, The Spy, which draws heavily on my previous career as a police officer, as well as my personal experiences with undercover work.  Enjoy!

barbara-devlin-brethren-series

Excerpt of My Lady, The Spy, Brethren of the Coast book II

barabra-devlin-book-coverThe Descendants
France
April, 1811

Death came in a matter of seconds, and it chose a beautiful, star-filled night.  In the silver glow of moonlight, the blood staining the front of her peach silk gown, and oozing between her fingers, appeared black as soot from a chimney.

“Oh, Colin.  I am so sorry.”  Voices echoed in the distance, and L’araignee peered into the darkness to check the vicinity.  “I never should have left you alone.”

Amid the blooming rose bushes heralding the advent of spring, the renewal of life, another life had ended.  The head cradled in her lap had once sported a boyish expression that melted many a female heart.  Now, with his face eerily devoid of emotion, she bent and kissed the only spot on Colin’s forehead not covered with blood.

“I will avenge you, my sweet angel.”  Despair was a bitter pill, and L’araignee clenched a fist and swallowed a sob.  “I swear it on the graves of my parents.”

A search party drew nigh, and she had to depart or risk a similar fate.

Yet it was so hard to let go.

Her partner would be buried in an unmarked grave, with no ceremony, prayer, or eulogy offered.  And no mourner would shed a tear.

Because no one grieved the death of a spy.

“Over here.  There is someone over here!

“I will cry for you, and I shall carry your memory forever,” she said in a whisper.  For the last time, she caressed his cheek and eased his head from her lap.  She pressed her fingers to her lips, and then touched his cold flesh.  “Be at peace, my darling.”

Rustling in the bushes brought her up short.

“You there, stand fast,” an unknown male ordered.

“I think not,” L’araignee stated softly below the interloper’s earshot.

In a flash, she ran behind a tall hedge to a hailstorm of protestations.  Ah, a garden was an excellent hiding place.  After eluding her pursuers and gaining a measure of safety among the topiaries, she doffed her gown, slippers, and undergarments and rolled everything into a tight ball.

Quickly, she dropped to her knees and crawled beneath the thick canopy of a thorny shrub, which opened countless tiny cuts in her flesh.  Ignoring the burning sensation, she smeared handfuls of damp earth on her skin as camouflage.  When footsteps approached, she covered her mouth, because the slightest gasp could betray her location.  Through the foliage, she counted five rows of buttons on a hussar-style waistcoat and bit her lip.  The man was a member of General Bonaparte’s la Garde imperiale.

And L’araignee was in trouble.

If Bony wanted her, she had been well and truly compromised.

Fear shivered down her spine.  She saluted the disconcerting reaction and set it aside, because now was not the time for hysterics.  She had to get to a safe house.  Had to make a run for the Belgian coast.  If her communiqué had reached London, Colin’s friend, a trusted ally, should be anchored offshore.

Dirk Randolph would take her home.

Information of utmost importance had to be delivered to the Ministry of Defense and the Counterintelligence Corps.  What she possessed was vital to national security, and she could not fail in her duty.

Colin had died for what she knew.

There was a traitor to the Crown in their ranks.

The situation was urgent, and she had to move.  With the stealth and skill of a seasoned agent, she slipped between row upon row of ornamental trees and bushes in the elegant garden.  Conversation ahead halted her flight.  With nary a sound, L’araignee shimmied on all fours and sheltered in the underside of a large holly.  The pointed leaves snagged her hair and the bundled clothing.

“I thought I saw someone come this way.”

From her vantage, several pairs of hussar boots appeared on the path.

“Well, there is no one here now.”  The guard kicked a small stone.  “Get some privates from the infantry, and have them dig a hole for the body.  I am returning to the ball.”

L’araignee sat still for several minutes.  Despite inclinations to the contrary, she remained calm and patient.  An ambitious military man could be lurking in the vicinity, in hopes of making a name for himself at her expense.  It was an old trick; one she knew well.

“You are so very sly,” she whispered to herself.  “But so am I.”

She waited a tad longer.

Muffled footsteps caught her trained ear, and she shook her head and smiled.

They would not catch L’araignee that night.

About Barbara Devlin

barbara-devlin-logoBestselling, Amazon All-Star author Barbara Devlin was born a storyteller, but it was a week long vacation to Bethany Beach, DE that forever changed her life. The little house her parents rented had a collection of books by Kathleen Woodiwiss, which exposed Barbara to the world of romance, and Shanna remains a personal favorite.

Barbara writes heartfelt historical romances that feature flawed heroes who may know how to seduce a woman but know nothing of marriage. And she prefers feisty but smart heroines who sometimes save the hero, before they find their happily ever after.

After a line-of-duty injury forced her to retire from police work, Barbara earned an MA in English and continued a course of study for a Doctorate in Literature and Rhetoric. She happily considered herself an exceedingly eccentric English professor, until success in Indie publishing lured her into writing, full-time, featuring her fictional knighthood, the Brethren of the Coast.

 

What is it with cats and boxes?

box3Hollystone Hall, Buckinghamshire

November 1812

Marcel Fournier sat on the bed assigned to him in the wing set aside for upper servants at Hollystone Hall and brooded on his wrongs.

The house was grand enough, the house party would serve the highest in Society, and Marcel could certainly not complain about the wages he would receive for a mere month of employment. The Duchess of Haverford was also compensating him richly for the few days needed to visit the house this month so he could advise on the construction of the kitchen he would use for the three-week event.

And that was the sticking point.

Not the kitchen itself. They were building—had almost finished building—a whole new kitchen out of some unused storage rooms. He was thrilled and flattered to have final say on the selection and placement of equipment, from the modern iron range to the last pot and spoon. No. He had no complaints about the kitchen he already regarded as his own.

Even the need for a second kitchen; he could concede the sense of that. To him would fall the important task of preparing the banquets that would thrill and impress the guests each and every night, culminating in the dinner on the night of the grand ball that would end the house party. He and the servants set to assist him would have their hands full with dish after dish after dish, each one different and each magnificent.

Let the English cook have her own kitchen to make little scones and heavy cakes, to fry eggs, bacon, and sausages, for the lesser meals of the day.

But she should answer to him. He, Marcel Fournier, was the master chef. He was a former apprentice to the great Carême himself. He should be in charge of all menus, ruler of both kitchens, deciding what would be made and how the kitchen staff were to be allocated. What was this Cissie Pearce but a country cook?

“Good English cooking,” Mademoiselle Grenford had said. “Mrs. Pearce is known for her good English cooking.”

Marcel could do good English cooking! Had he not grown up here in England after his family escaped from the Terror?

In Spitalfields, until he was apprenticed to a cook in an inn on Tottenham Court Road, then in Soho where he took charge in an earl’s kitchen, and finally, after having himself smuggled into France and attracting the man’s attention by the bold trick of sneaking into his office with a box of his own pâtisseries and menus for a year’s worth of banquets, in the kitchen and under the direct supervision of the great Marie Antoine Carême, chef to Tallyrand and through him to the diplomats of Europe.

For the past six years, Marcel had been one of the most sought-after chefs in the whole South of England. Good English cooking, indeed.

She was a little dab of a thing, Mademoiselle Grenford, with her light brown hair pulled back into one of the unloveliest coiffures he had ever seen and her thick glasses concealing rather fine eyes. He had thought her a mouse and had tried to overwhelm her with his masculine authority, honed by years as undisputed master of a kitchen. “I shall be in charge, of course, mademoiselle,” he told her. “I am a trained chef and a man. Madame Pearce shall lead in her own kitchen, but both kitchens shall answer to me.”

“The two kitchens shall operate independently, Monsieur Fournier,” the little mouse replied calmly. “Each of you shall be responsible for your own kitchen, its staff, and the food it produces.”

Whatever arguments he raised, however loudly, she just repeated the same thing. When Marcel Fournier was displeased, sous-chefs made themselves inconspicuous, apprentices cried, and kitchen maids fainted, but Mademoiselle Grenford just repeated, “The two kitchens shall operate independently,” until he ran out of ire, and came to bed.

So what now? Should he tell the duchess that he would not take the commission? Did he continue to agitate to be master below stairs? Or would he cede the field and with it the lucrative rewards of the handsome fee he was being paid and the opportunity to impress potential clients for the restaurant he would one day open when his savings grew sufficiently?

Put like that, there was little choice. The English had a saying about cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. He preferred his nose to continue in its current position. Well then. In the morning, he would concede, and he would do so with flair. Madame Pearce would be grateful for his magnanimity. Mademoiselle Grenford would be impressed at his generosity.

Since he was staying, he would inspect his kitchen again. He had some ideas for improving the layout. He would note them tonight and instruct the little mademoiselle in the morning.

Marcel found his slate and some chalk and threaded through the dark halls. His candle threw insufficient light in the cavernous space that would, in less than a month, be a bustling centre for gastronomic excellence. He retraced his steps to Mrs. Pearce’s deserted domain and retrieved a whole box of candles.

Two hours later, his slate covered with notes and his head full of plans, he went to return the box. In the morning, he would astound the little mouse with his brilliance! But he stopped at the kitchen door. There, enveloped in a shawl over her nightrail, with her hair cascading over her shoulders, was Mademoiselle Grenford herself, her elbows on the table, a cup clasped between two hands.

Hot milk, perhaps? He could have made her hot milk, with a touch of nutmeg and perhaps a hint of honey to sweeten. Perhaps he should offer.

No. He would not disturb her.

Marcel took the image of her back to his room. She was a sweet little mouse, was Mademoiselle. Out of his orbit, of course. He hinted to clients of his elevated family, brought low by the revolution. The claims were fantasy. He had been born in a noble household, as he claimed, but his father was a valet, and his mother a dairy maid.  La Grenford really was a lady of the nobility, and from a ducal family at that.

But he could ease her way in this coming house party, and he would.

As he prepared for bed, he imagined her expressions of delight as guest after guest complimented her on the fine cuisine and the smooth running of the dinner service. The large, comfortable bed would do very well for the month he would be in residence. Yes. The decision to stay was an excellent one.

He reached over to douse the candle but stopped. What was that noise? There it was again. A squeak? Had he conjured mice with his thoughts of the little mouse lady? But no, it was not a mouse squeak. More of a…

In seconds, he was out of bed and zeroing in on his travelling trunk, from which the sounds came, and what he saw there sent him running to the kitchen.

“Mademoiselle, you must come. You must come immediately. It is an outrage.”

She looked up and blushed scarlet. “Monsieur! Your…” She turned her head away.

He looked down. He wore his shirt to bed, and nothing more, except a night cap against the cold. Coloring himself, he backed out the door. ”I will dress, Mademoiselle. But quickly, and then you must come. A minute. No more.”

Soon, with the cap shoved under a pillow and his shirt tucked into hastily donned pantaloons and covered by a banyan, he stood beside the lady looking down into the trunk, where a scrawny white cat fed a litter of newborn kittens. Inside his luggage. On his chef’s caps and aprons.

“It is an outrage,” he repeated a little helplessly. The cat was watching them through eyes slitted with the joys of motherhood and purring loudly enough to wake the household.

“This is Cristal, the housekeeper’s cat,” the mademoiselle said. “Mrs Stanley will be pleased that you found her, Monsieur Fournier. She was worried.”

“Found her? Worried? But she…” Running out of words, he scratched the cat behind one ear, and she purred more loudly.

“You keep an eye on her,” the mouse commanded, “and I shall find a box in which to move her. Do not worry, monsieur. I will see to it that your garments are laundered in the morning, and they shall be good as new.”

And she whisked out of the room, leaving him guardian of the feline and her young and in possession of the memory of an exceedingly trim pair of ankles.

decorative-text-divider 6

The excerpt above is from A Suitable Husband, the linking story in our box set for this holiday season.

Lucky kittens! By the time the duchess’s house party begins, they’ll be old enough to venture into the house, and all seven will find a home in one of our Holly and Hopeful Hearts stories. And each Saturday from next week, one of the Bluestocking Belles will be looking for a home for one of Cristal’s kittens. Find the post, read the story excerpt, and enter the rafflecopter for your own soft toy representation of these wee treasures.

Holly and Hopeful Hearts

Your proprietor, as is well known, is proof against the arrows of the mischievous son of Aphrodite, but sympathetic to those who fall subject to the god’s shafts. Especially when their love seems doomed to disappointment, for who does not like a happy ending against the odds? Today, on behalf of the proprietors, The Teatime Tattler is publishing a special edition to announce a new book from the Bluestocking Belles; one in which no fewer than eight couples are surprised by Cupid’s attentions.

Without further ado, allow your humble servant, Mr. Samuel Clemens, Editor, to present:

hollyhopefulhearts

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

Read about all eight novellas, and find pre-order links, on the Bluestocking Belles Holly & Hopeful Hearts page.

In between the seven main stories in the box set, one chapter at a time, we tell the story of the duchess’s companion, and her search for a meaningful future. Can it be possible for a poor relation to find a suitable husband?

a-suitable-husband-fb

As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Perhaps among the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party, she will find a suitable husband?

Marcel Fournier has only one ambition: to save enough from his fees serving in as chef in the houses of the ton to become the proprietor of his own fine restaurant. An affair with the duchess’s dependent would be dangerous. Anything else is impossible. Isn’t it?

An extract from A Suitable Husband

Marcel had disguised himself in a costume found in the attics

Marcel had disguised himself in a costume found in the attics

Mademoiselle Grenford looked up as he approached, tipping her head a little to one side as she waited for him to speak.

“May I have the honor of this dance, fair shepherdess?” he asked.

She furrowed her brows for the briefest of seconds. “I do not dance, sir, but I will find you a partner—”

“Not dance? When your costume is made to swirl on the dance floor, and the music begs—nay, demand—for you to pay homage?” A slip there. He had pronounced homage in the French way.

Her eyes widened, but she said nothing, merely—oh joy—placed her gloved hand in his and allowed herself to be conducted through the doors to join the waltz.

They began slowly, his hands resting tentatively just above her waist, and hers placed lightly on his shoulders. He honoured the respectable distance due to a maiden, but as they began to circle one another in the dance, his legs shifted past hers and could not avoid repeated touching.

Turn, turn, and turn again. The candles of the chandeliers seemed to whirl above them, the other dancers disappeared, and he and Mademoiselle Grenford were alone in the ballroom. She swayed and dipped and twirled with him, light as a feather but far more substantial, a delight to his hands, his arms, and his legs.

Her eyes fixed on his, her face flushed, she murmured, “Monsieur Fournier, what are you doing here?”

It was a dose of cold water, jerking him back to reality. Would she rebuke him? Tell the duchess?

Only Marcel saw beyond the spectacles and the tightly controlled hair.

Only Marcel saw beyond the spectacles and the tightly controlled hair.

“One dance,” he managed, almost begged. “I promised not to importune you, mademoiselle, but I thought… In costume, no one would know if I stole one dance.”

Somehow, his feet kept moving, they kept dancing, round and round and round, their legs shifting past each other’s again and again, their eyes still locked.

She smiled, a benison beyond his deserving. “This dance is not a theft, monsieur, when I give it willingly.”

“Give?”

He was in heaven. He was no longer dancing; he was floating several inches about the ballroom floor. She knows me even in my disguise. She dances with me willingly.

His heart was too full for speech, and she said nothing more as they continued around the floor, oblivious to everything except the music and one another.

Marcel stepped back when the music ended, dropping his hands from her waist to her hands, unable to resist touching her for a moment more. “Thank you, mademoiselle. Thank you more than I can say. I will leave now, but you have given me food for many happy dreams.”

“No.” Mademoiselle Grenford folded her fingers around his and tugged him to follow her. By chance, they had stopped at the most poorly lit end of the ballroom, close to the corner where a door let on to a servant’s passage, and it was to this she marched determinedly, with Marcel bobbing after in her wake.

No. Not that door. She was opening a door onto the terrace, and in moments, they were outside.

“I do not want it to end,” she said. “Will you not consent to sit and talk with me for a little?”

Consent? Did she not know he would consent to the guillotine for her sake?

He would return to his kitchen to dream of that one perfect dance.

He would return to his kitchen to dream of that one perfect dance.

For more of our stories, see our individual blogs:

Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis

A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing

Artemis, by Jessica Cale

The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight

Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack

An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield

Dashing Through the Snow, by Amy Rose Bennett

 

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén