I think this excerpt started life as a response to a challenge on Divas and never made it anywhere because I’d cheated in the challenge and used characters other than the ones Andi meant for me to use. I still liked it enough to keep it. The challenge was “Your 1800′s heroine loves a man she shouldn’t, a man her family she knows won’t approve. WHY does she love him? Show us.” So here’s part of Juliet’s story.
It’s still pretty rough and suffers from a bad case of the talking heads at the end, but I hope it does what I set out to answer above.
Another wave of dizziness threatened to overwhelm Lady Juliet Wyndham as she searched the crowded ballroom for her sister, Henrietta. Colors spun around her into a blur. The soles of her feet burned as she rose on tiptoe to find her sister among the masked dancers.
She let out a sigh and shaded her eyes from the glare of the chandeliers with one hand. Lady Avery’s annual masquerade was never underattended. A path opened before her and she darted forward through the crowd. The dancer’s masks combined with the flickering candlelight to cast stark shadows which made recognizing anyone difficult.
Where are you, Henri? Frustration would not win tonight. She was the daughter and now cousin of a Duke. She must not cry in public, but disappointment was keen. Where was the excitement? Where was the fun? Where was the magic?
A portly toga-clad Roman backed into her and she stumbled. Only a sudden, steady grip on her elbow prevented her from falling face first onto the dance floor.
“Thank you.” She straightened to face her rescuer. Light radiated behind his head, hiding even the color of his eyes. His silence left her . The insides of her gloves felt as humid as the orangery after a summer rain. She itched to rub her palms against her skirts.
He towered a good half a head above her and his domino lent a menacing air to his demeanor. His cape flared from his broad shoulders.
“Care to waltz?” His hand extended, palm up toward her, waiting for her to join him.
Excitement thrummed along her nerves as Juliet recognized Lord Estwicke’s voice.
“I would be delighted.” She cared not that her cousin and guardian, the current Duke of Bolster, discredited Estwicke’s eligibility and suitability when anyone mentioned the young lord’s name. Henri and she had been watching him all Season.
Her hand interlocked with his and he led her out among the anonymous costumed guests. Her other palm rested lightly upon his shoulder, pulling her gaze up to look into his azure eyes. He glided them effortlessly through the steps of the dance.
A grin tugged at her lips and threatened to burgeon into a full-fledged smile. Henri would be envious.
“What amuses you?” His voice and breath caressed her cheek and ear as he pulled her closer, his hand riding the seam at her waist.
“How unlike my dancing instructor you are.” Waltzing with the shriveled husk of an instructor the Duke and Duchess considered appropriate to preserve their reputations never proved this much fun.
“I trust I found favor in your comparison.”
She looked away, as much to avoid meeting his gaze as to continue her search for Henri. “Such an ego deserves no comment.”
“If you are uncomfortable with my stature, I could stoop a bit, hunch my shoulders, snarl my hands into a more familiar form.”
Her laughter drew the attention of several dancers and her cheeks warmed in response. “You must stop. People are staring.”
“Why wouldn’t they? I don’t think anyone else has such a lovely partner as I tonight.”
Between the crush of the crowd, the closeness of the waltz, and now his outrageous compliment, Juliet feared she would “You sound just like Barrington.”
“Well, that comparison bodes ill.” The corners of his mouth twisted downward.
“No, it is truly not an insult. I promise. He is a close friend of the family.”
“Be cautious of the details you let drop. Others might not be so discrete as to pretend they did not recognize you.”
“Oh. I hadn’t realized.”
Why, he behaved like a perfect gentleman. Juliet tossed her curls over her shoulder and beamed. She must convince her family of his undeserved reputation and clear up any misunderstanding.
Hope you liked it! Let me know if you think I met the challenge or what kept it from getting there.
If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy some of my other Excerpt Monday offerings.
Be sure to go read these other great excerpts too!
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