Bedelia Bathory sat upon a red chaise on the far side of the room away from the bustling dance floor and noisy women. Many men approached her with offers of company or dance. Henri and Xavior discreetly observed as she refused them all as she nursed the wine in her glass.
Henri rubbed a hand through his unruly curls in frustration. "I must find a way to approach her or else my coming here will have been in vain."
Xavior straightened his fine suit as he rose from his seat. "Allow me. Once I have danced with her I will bring her your way. Be prepared."
Henri waved him away with a mocking gesture. "Be my guest, Xavior. Don't be surprised when she rejects you as she has the others."
Xavior strolled towards the woman with ease the others had lacked. He resembled a lion on the prowl, his deep brown eyes intense, as if he had a delectable prey within his claws. The redness within the brown like no other eyes Henri had observed in all his days. He stopped just shy of a foot from where she sat, not wanting to crowd her as the others had done.
"May I have this dance, Lady Bathory?" he asked, as he held his hand out for hers.
The woman's icy blue eyes at once met, and held, his own. Moments passed before she placed her small, gloved hand his. The ravenous beast offered a gallant bow to the splendid creature. Something in her eyes enchanted him, the warmth of her hand through the glove created heat deep within him.
"Count Xavior Romier, but please, call me Xavior."
A hint of a smile graced her luscious, inviting lips. "By all means call me Bedelia."
The other guests watched as he led her to the dance floor, her lovely dress swirling around her legs. A look of mirth entered her eyes as he twirled her around the wooden dance floor. All eyes were upon them as they danced with grace the others could only wish to have. Their movements were fluid, like silk through fingers. It was as if their minds were in sync, their bodies one. He dipped her as the song came to an end. The warmth of her body penetrated through his clothes as he pressed her body against his own.
"Bellissimo," he whispered, his lips almost touching her ear as he spoke.
An actual smile threatened to break behind his mask as he led the woman towards Henri.
He placed her hand on his arm as she spoke. "I must say you dance extremely well, most would have treaded on my toes with such moves."
The beast preened in delight at her words.
"I'm only as talented as my dance partner."
Henri rose from his seat as the pair approached.
"Bedelia," he said, noticing the sudden change as her body grew stiff, "I would like to introduce you to a dear friend of mine, Henri Maxwell." She pulled away from his side as he said the man's name left his lips.
Henri smiled at her and tilted his head in acknowledgement. "May I too have the pleasure of your company on the dance floor?"
Bedelia smiled at them both, though her smile was far from sincere.
"I would be most happy to dance with you, but I'm afraid it is time for my departure. It was a pleasure meeting you both."
Xavior grabbed her hand. "Please, allow us the pleasure your company, if only for a few more moments."
The woman hesitated for a brief second, then helped herself to a glass of wine from the tray of a nearby waiter before taking a seat at the table of the two men.
Henri gazed at her intently as he spoke. "I'm sorry for the loss of your husband, Lady Bedelia. You must be devastated."
Bedelia sipped at her wine. Her tone of voice did not change nor did it waiver. "It is painful to recall my late husband. I loved him very much, he left me far too quickly."
Henri continued to gaze upon her, disbelief present in his eyes. "His death was peculiar, wasn't it? He was far too young to have suffered heart failure. Such a dreadful accident. His death issues a warning to us all to better care for ourselves and to be prudent of the company we keep."
Bedelia placed her nearly full glass down as she stood with the grace of a feline. "Yes, you should take better care of yourselves. You never know what day might be your last. Accidents...…happen all the time. Now if you will excuse me I really must take my leave."
The men stood as she swept away from them without a backward glance.
Henri rubbed his temples as he sat plopped down in his chair. Xavior sipped at his drink, his eyes glued on Bedelia's departing figure. "I believe you were a bit too forward in your questioning."
"I agree. I unnerved her. That is a good sign."
"She was rather hasty in her departure. I don't believe she enjoyed your company."
Henri let out a heavy sigh. "No that she did not." He rubbed his face as he eyed Xavior. "But I believe she enjoyed your company. Would you be willing to help me bring her down, Xavior?"
Xavior felt torn between the two potential people. Henri was intriguing and if his gut feeling was accurate, which he always was, Henri had the makings of a wonderful companion. Bedelia was in a category all her own. The woman enchanted him to say the least, but he had doubts that he could trust the beast beneath her skin.
"I agree to help you, because you have asked me to."
Bedelia brushed her hair as she contemplated the two men she had just met. One of the men worked for the police, which would explain his interrogation-like questioning. The other was a complete mystery... Something in his eyes called out to her. She couldn't exactly pinpoint what it was that attracted her to the peculiar man, but to say the least she was intrigued. She would have been happy to spend the night in arms, but it was not meant to be. His choice of company was unfavorable and risky. The man was clearly dangerous and yet he kept the company of a hired snitch. Bedelia had felt their curious gaze upon her. So as they watched her, she had observed them far more discreetly than they had been aware.
She placed her ivory brush on her dressing table, and walked towards her bed.
Henri sought her downfall.
What did the man named Xavior seek?