The assembly hall’s packed, bodies separated by mere inches. Fan working in overdrive, I move closer to an open door overlooking a balcony. Trying unsuccessfully to adjust my corset, I try to control my breathing. The fresh night air lightly caresses my dampened skin, the hairs on my neck standing on end. I sense his presence before I see him. A glance into the darkness of the balcony, a figure steps into view. Reddish-brown hair, blue eyes, roguishly handsome, he towers above most of the men in the room. Butterflies in my stomach, my heart does a quick flutter. He has my full attention, a beguiling smirk tugging at the sides of his mouth.
Apparently, I’m not the only one to notice this fine specimen of a man. My Aunt and her horrible daughter are at his side, hand in his. Kissing her paw, his gaze never leaves mine and the intensity of his stare causes me to look away. Introductions are made, a dance offer extended before my aunt notices the sly looks cast in my direction. Her pale face turning a slight scarlet color, she regards me through narrowed eyes. My young cousin follows his gaze to me, and there’s instant venom in her green eyes.
Dark of skin, it’s not hard to find me in the sea of white faces in the room, so I have no clue as to how my companion always seems to lose me. Scanning the room for her, i’m in dire need of being rescued. My evil aunt and her harpy are in attack mode. I’m invited to gatherings due to my family’s connections, wealth and power, but I know where I stand in this family and it’s at the lowest position. So I keep my voice lowered, and my temper controlled as to not cause anymore undue embarrassment to my family. They try to tempt me to outbursts of anger while in the company of the peerage, but although my dance card stays empty and I only get a slight nod or smile in recognition, I enjoy these outings and will do nothing to jeopardize it.
The black aristocracy is more accepting of me, it goes without saying, that we have more in common. There are a few scattered around the room, and they to are of the same mind. So, I have no one to save me. I’m not usually nervous when we happen upon each other at gatherings, but they have the stranger with them. Watching his confident stride, i’m sure that i’ve never seen him before, I wouldn’t have forgotten his face or the solid frame straining against his trousers. No man has been able to seduce me as this one has without uttering a word. Twenty and seven i’m to old for the marriage mart and have yet to take a lover, but I want him and so I will have him.
“Mr. Lane may I introduce my brother’s daughter, Dahlia Grey. I don’t care to acknowledge her as kin either, but the faux pas in front of him gives way to slight embarrassment on my end. Bowing to me, I’m jealous that I can not offer my hand to be kissed, as did my cousin. “A pleasure to meet you Miss. Grey.” His solicitous wink, has me confused. Must he think me a lady of the night? My smile drops at the thought, I may want him in my bed but i’m no whore.
The fluttering in my belly has stopped and the warming of my skin has turned ice cold. “Excuse me.” I say abruptly. He seems taken aback at my change in mood, and appears puzzled. “She’s prone to bouts of uncontrollable emotions, gets that from her mother’s side I assure you.“′ I hear in parting, from my aunt. Locating the nearest exit, I make my way outside into the night. A giggle bubbles forth from the hedge maze on my right, and I enter it. A lover’s meeting place, which could have been Mr. Lane’s and I’s but damn me for being inadvertently forward. The first man to capture my attention, and he thinks me a whore.
Berating myself for openly staring at him awestruck, I must have given him the wrong idea. My silent chiding’s interrupted by a movement in the nearby bushes, some infernal nocturnal creature. My pace increasing, I follow the giggle which seems farther off than I first realized. Heavy breathing causes my heart rate to increase, and the low growl from behind me, sends me into a run. No sound of footsteps following me, I slow down to a walk and break out into a fit of laughter. “What is wrong with me?” The response is a low guttural growl and a huge hairy beast on all fours appears in front of me. Frozen with fear, my mind screams run but my body refuses to obey.
By the light of the moon, I watch in horror as it slowly stalks me. A loud rustle from the bushes, and another beast pounces on the one hunting me. Disappearing into the hedges, a loud scuffle ensues. Taking flight, I run right into someone. Catching me, I look up into the bluest eyes that i’ve ever seen, they seem unnatural. “There’s a creature, well.. two creatures... animals.. I say, trying to disengage myself from his embrace. He has a tight hold of me, and struggling against his grasp is futile. “What are you doing?” I say, alarmed before I feel a sharp pain in my neck. A hand muffles my screams for help, before the night goes completely black.