The Masquerade

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“Kylie!” My sister Sarah appeared next to my elbow. Shooting the gentleman a glower, before dragging me from his grip. “Lord Durnmouth was first on your dance card tonight.”

“Was he?” I asked absentmindedly.

“Is this because of the engagement?” Sarah frowned down at me. A bit taller and far more somber, she was clearly the eldest of the two of us.

“Is what?” I asked blandly.

“That you’re dancing with random men rather then following your dance card and preparing to meet up with your affianced at the end of the night.”

Nothing I could imagine wanting to do less.

“Perhaps I’ve no desire to be crammed into the mold, you’re all setting for me.” I told her.

“You know you don’t have a choice.” Sarah cocked her hip in that disapproving way.

I blinked dully at her.

Making her suspicions grow. “What are you about?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re up to something. You’ve that look about you.”

“I know not what you speak of.” I swept away. Skirts in my hands as I determined I wouldn’t answer her.

She’ll only try and stop me.

I stood watching the other dancers from a dark corner. My arms crossed over my chest and frowning as I watched everyone dancing so gleefully.

Misery. That was the only word I could think of.

I’d had such grand plans but now I was to be married off. Like a prized sheep for a pretty bit of coin.

Thinking about it was only making me angrier. I nearly leapt from my skin when I felt a husky voice breathing along the back of my neck.

“Meet me in the Guest House?”

I knew of it. This was my aunt’s property, and I knew the Guest House was abandoned this time of year.

So, does he, apparently.

I turned slightly and peered over my shoulder. Only barely able to catch the silhouette of his white mask and the white side of his overcoat visible in the shadows.

He was leaned back. Arms crossed over his shoulders and one boot lifted so the sole rested against the wall. His knee jutting out in a leisurely stance. His dim outline was aptly concealed in the shadows.

Clearly not wanting to be seen.

“Why would I do that?” I whispered over my shoulder.

“To defy that pretty sister of yours…I heard you.” He whispered only loud enough I could hear him.

Other young women standing near me were too far away to hear him.

“Fine.” I agreed impulsively.

“Fine.” He echoed. “I’ll wait for you out there. Don’t make me come back in and get you…I’m not above dragging a woman off the dancefloor.”

I glanced over my shoulder to give him a quick look, but he was gone.

As I crept from bush to bush to get to the Guest House, I felt rising bits of excitement. What am I going to do?

Let him steal a kiss?

Steal a touch? Perhaps something quite improper?

It was tempting. It would certainly deter my would-be suitor to find out my reputation was sullied from a brief dalliance in a Guest House.

Even if it’s not all the rumor mills will make it to be. I felt momentary satisfaction at realizing the deep shock that’d deflate my parents.

They were so set on this course, despite all my objections.

Well perhaps they’ll rethink it now.

The weather seemed to mimic my dark thoughts. Clouds blocking the stars and a slight, drizzling rain beginning to patter over everything.

I reached the Guest House and saw its pretty sparkling white paint glinting invitingly in the moonlight. Window surrounded nearly three sides. Revealing the darkness within. As I rounded the shrubs, I saw the hint of a fir in the far corner and the dancing flame of a candle tossing bits of orange light over the sparse furniture in the House.

I saw the dark overcoat shrouding a man’s elbow which overhung the armrest of the chair before the fire. Was I really going to do this?

I’ll stop it before it goes too far. I reassured myself. Drawing a steadying breath before sneaking to the door in the back which was always kept unlocked.

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