Royal Seduction (Royal Series #1)by Jennifer Blake
He will tempt more than the truth from her lips...
Since publishing her first book at age twenty-seven, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Blake has gone on to write over sixty historical and contemporary romances. She brings the seductive passion of the South to her stories, reflecting her seventh/strong>/em>/b>/i>… See more details below
He will tempt more than the truth from her lips...
Since publishing her first book at age twenty-seven, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Blake has gone on to write over sixty historical and contemporary romances. She brings the seductive passion of the South to her stories, reflecting her seventh-generation Louisiana heritage. Jennifer lives with her husband in northern Louisiana.
Read an Excerpt
From Chapter One
Madame Delacroix's soirée was a success. Despite the chill winter wind that whipped around the galleried mansion, the crème de la crème of St. Martinville had honored the invitations delivered by her groom. Dressed in their velvets and brocades, their satins and sarcenets, the guests had bundled into their carriages and driven to her house along the muddy tracks overhung with moss-draped trees.
It was not the beaux yeux of their hostess that brought them, Madame well knew, but the prospect of news. Though more than seventeen years had passed since the French men and women of Louisiana had become Americans, and though they had basked for as long as it lasted in the glory of republican France, there was among them a fascination with royalty. Was their fine town not known even now as La Petite Paris? And were not many of them aristocratic emigrés, or the children of such, who had fled the Terror thirty-odd years before? Quite a few could remember the rumble of the tumbrils and the flashing blade of Madame Guillotine.
To be sure, the prince lately come among them was from some Balkan kingdom one had scarcely heard of. Nonetheless, royalty was royalty. It was highly unlikely, of course, that he would put in an appearance this evening. Mon Dieu, but Madame Delacroix would have sent out criers to tell the world if such a thing were expected! Still, one could dance and eat and drink-Madame was famous for her suppers. And perhaps there would be someone present who had seen the royal personage passing through the town, or had a servant who knew the Negro slaves at Petite Versailles, the plantation of M'sieur de la Chaise where he was staying.
The music of violin, French horn, and pianoforte was gay, the dancing sprightly, and the conversation, consisting of gossip and matters of mutual interest to the area's closely interrelated families, mild through caution, since one must be careful not to offend. The long, silk-hung room, contrived by throwing wide the doors between the grande salle and the petite salle, was warmed by a brightly burning fire at each end. The air was scented with the faint tang of wood smoke, the medley of perfumes worn by the ladies, and the woodsy fragrance of the shining green streamers of smilax that had been used to decorate the mantels and doorways. The polished floor gleamed, reflecting the radiance of chandeliers overhead and the soft-colored gowns of the ladies. Dancers moved in and out, voices rose and fell, women smiled and men bowed.
There was one person who could not share in the pleasurable excitement. Angeline Fortin circled the floor, her finely molded lips curved in a mechanical smile. The candle glow caught the russet silk of her hair, dressed high in loose curls à la Belle, shimmered over her flawless skin, and touched the copper flecks in the depths of her gray-green eyes with mysterious, almost secretive gleams. The effect she made in her virginal white gown in the Grecian mode did not concern her. She wished fervently that she could have stayed away from this soirée.
Her attitude was stupid, her aunt, Madame de Buys, had declared. Nothing could have looked more odd or caused more comment than their absence. In addition, an appearance at Helene Delacroix's evening party was an opportunity to learn what they could of this prince before he sought them out. It was well to know your enemy.
Her aunt was right, of course, and there seemed nothing in the chatter and easy laughter around her to arouse concern. Still, Angeline could not be easy. "You are quiet tonight, ma chère."
She glanced up with a smile in her eyes for her partner. A serious, dark-haired young man with the clipped line of a mustache above his full lips, he was the son of her hostess. "I know. You must forgive me, André. I-I have a touch of the headache."
"Why did you not say so? We could have forgone our dance. I would have been happy just to sit with you. I am not one who must be forever entertained." As he gazed down at her, the expression in his eyes was warm with concern and there was a flush tinting his olive features.
Angeline shook her head. "I know you better," she teased. "You are so wild and dissolute, I'm sure you would think sitting out a dance the greatest bore!"
"And I am sure if I were so dissipated, you would never dance with me at all. Such a character must disgust any female of sensitivity."
"How little you know us!" she returned.
"I know you well enough, I think, or should since I have watched you from your cradle." When she did not reply beyond a smile, he went on. "Does your aunt plan to travel to New Orleans for the saison des visites this year?"
"I'm not certain. No arrangements have been made."
"It will be dull without you, even though she keeps you close. If you do not come I would rather remain at the plantation myself."
"Yes," she declared, "and watch your precious sugarcane sprout!"
"Cane is the crop of the future, mark my words. Indigo is dead, killed off by blight and-"
"Listen!" She interrupted him without compunction.
"I don't hear anything."
"I thought there were horses on the drive."
"Who would come this late? It's nearly time for the supper dance." André glanced at the windows that lined the room. There was nothing to be seen except the reflection of the dancers in the candlelight.
"I must have been mistaken," Angeline said, relaxing. She was not. Moments later came the sound of booted feet on the gallery. The flames of two hundred candles fluttered in the draft as the door swung open. The lustre of the chandeliers that held them tinkled with crystal coolness. Heads turned. Young women drew in their breath, faltering for an instant in the steps of the quadrille before recovering. Men glanced at each other, their faces stiff. The dowagers and spinsters ranged against the wall in lace caps stopped speaking and stared. A quiet descended in which the shuffle of feet and the thin trill of music was loud.
The candlelight gleamed across Angeline's shoulders as she turned to fling a look of alarm at her aunt. Madame de Buys did not notice. The stout, dark-haired older woman sat upright, her hands clenching the delicate ivory sticks of her fan. With her prominent nose and sharp upper lip, she seemed to be perpetually sneering. Now her black gaze was fixed on the man who stood in the doorway.
Madame Delacroix's liveried majordomo stood to one side, his chest swelling with the announcement he was about to make. "His Royal Highness, Prince Rolfe of Ruthenia, Grand Duke of Auchenstein, Count Faulken, the Marquis de Villiot, Baron-"
The prince lifted a hand gloved in white doeskin and the recitation of his titles was cut short. It was a natural gesture, made with an unconscious but supreme confidence in instant obedience. He moved forward, a commanding figure with the soft gold waves of his hair sculpted to his head, wearing a uniform of shimmering white with gold-fringed epaulettes, looped and tasseled cord over one shoulder, and gold buttons securing the gilt-lace-edged cerulean bars that slashed across the broad width of his chest. The enameled jeweled cross of some order winked above his heart, and precious stones sent prism fire from the hilt of the sword that swung gently against the gold stripe of his pantaloons. Of greater than average height, he surveyed the room with detachment, though the bright turquoise of his eyes, glinting from behind thick, gold-tipped lashes, missed nothing.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >