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Sacred Heart Diaries
By Ann Vremont
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2007 Ann Vremont
All right reserved.
Chapter OneApril 15, 1787
It is the morning after the masquerade and my body is sore. Not from dancing or perching at the edge of some ancient marquessa's seat while I pretended to be enthralled with some ridiculous story of her maid having burnt a stocking and the beating that followed. No, not from anything so mundane am I sore, but from an evening of thorough lovemaking! Yes, I confess as much, here, in secret.
I arrived at the masquerade in the company of Veronique and her parents. Quickly, Veronique made her way to the masked Sebastian to identify him to me as such. He looked my way once, across the room, while they talked, but then he disappeared! I felt as if I would die there on the floor. But then Veronique, after many more minutes of talking with some of the assembled lords, made her way back to me, detailing where and when I should find Sebastian waiting for me. The soul of discretion, he feared harm to my reputation should anyone realize we had arranged a private conversation!
How long the evening dragged-how many lesser men bruised my feet as I danced with them. With each new partner, I longed to see before me one dressed in the dark blue velvet and feathered half-mask Sebastian wore, to have a supple blue leather glove take my hand. Ah, did he have another dance in mind so early, or did the evening's forced separation make him long for my touch as it made me long for his?
It was after ten when I made my way to the appointed private drawing room. Some unused suite. No fire blazed despite the room's chill. Not even a candle was lit. Instead, he stood by the window's open curtains waiting for me. With a soft whisper, he bid me lock the door and sit on the couch. I trembled as I obeyed.
When I was seated, he moved across the room and sat down on the far end of the couch. My heart cried foul! I wanted him closer. I raised my hands to my mask, but he halted me.
"None know what face lies behind that mask tonight, do they, dearest Gabrielle?" he asked.
He still whispered and I squirmed in my seat, desperate for the sound of his light tenor. "No, all night Veronique and I refused to reveal ourselves-so too her parents," I assured him. My low tones matched his, but I wondered at the necessity. Surely we were far enough from the party that we could abandon our hushed tones.
"Then keep the mask on, as will I, should some unannounced guest intrude on our ... conversation."
For an instant, I was glad of the half-mask for it kept him from seeing what disappointment might show in the faint light. He must not think me petulant, or domineering, or anything less than perfect. And so I nodded my agreement although I ached to see his fine features.
"And will we talk like children in a game of hide and seek the whole time?" I asked, keeping my words as sweet as I could despite my mounting impatience.
He moved closer and, even in the faint moonlight, I could see the trace of a smile along his lips, or so I believed.
"It is best, don't you think, for what we have to discuss?"
Fear gripped me. Would we discuss it so soon-were we even thinking of the same thing? I took on an evasive air. "And what," I asked, "will we be discussing?"
Sebastian moved closer still. I could smell his perfume and deeper, more masculine scents. Had I been so close before? I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. It was not as I expected, his scent. Strong and earthy, it made me hungry-for what I couldn't guess.
Feeling his hand on my bare shoulder, I opened my eyes.
"About our eventual marriage," he answered.
A second time that night I thought I would die on the spot! I couldn't respond, only tremble beneath his touch. Such heights in a few short weeks, it seemed impossible.
"Is that not what you are here to discuss, Gabrielle?" he asked and withdrew his hand.
"It is, Sebastian," I assured him and reached out to touch his sleeve. "I just dared not hope to hear those words from your lips tonight."
Grabbing both of my shoulders, he pulled me closer, my breasts a mere inch from the frills of his coat. I longed to push forward, to press against his chest, but fear that he would find me brazen stopped me.
"What is it?" I asked, the words sounding with a quiver as I fought to contain the passion building in me.
"I would kiss you, Gabrielle, if that is not too bold of me?"
Excerpted from Sacred Heart Diaries by Ann Vremont Copyright © 2007 by Ann Vremont. Excerpted by permission.
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