He made a rather striking demon; his hair, left natural and untamed, blended so seamlessly with the costume that it was a wonder he hadn’t been born for the role.
One darkness, the other light.
“Procrastinating, if she’s wise.” Charles drawled. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were nervous, Afonsine.”
Vaughn shot him a disparaging glance.
“She’ll be here. You know she will. And then you can bedazzle her until the cows come home.”
“I fear the cows have already arrived.”
“And so it begins.”
A flash of deep blue.
A glimpse of delectable, ivory skin.
Before he knew it, Vaughn was rooted to the spot.
She was masked, but although the elaborate domino concealed her identity, it could not obscure her reticent confidence, nor the striking elegance with which she moved. He could tell in an instant that she was no mere debutante.
Had to speak to her, know her, touch her.
She was everything he dreamed of, everything and more.
Without wasting another second, he pushed his way through the crush, wondering whether he’d met her before. He doubted it, considering the fact that, if he had met her before, he certainly would have remembered.
Which begged the question: where had she come from?
Just how he wanted her.
Willing his thudding heart to slow, he approached her. He watched the hairs whisper over her nape, and had to quell the sudden urge to place his lips there. His senses reeled. Unconsciously, he steadied himself with a deep breath.
She heard it.
He’d know those eyes anywhere.
Vaughn felt as if he’d been punched in the stomach.
The Viscount simply stared, entranced, enraptured. She was…
Inwardly, he cursed his inability to come up with anything more suave.
“Did you require something?”
Vaughn blinked at her coldness, but recovered easily. “Only your delightful company.”
The only engagement that is pressing me is the one you must consent to.
He smiled, tightly. “Not at all.”
“If that is the case, Lord Afonsine, then why is every eye in the room fixed upon you so intently?”
“They’re not looking at me. They are staring at you, Miss Murphy, debating whether you are likely to have a chaperone.”
“Or perhaps a sizeable dowry.”
“How lucky for me then, my Lord, that this is a masquerade, and nobody will discover that I have neither.”
I need to charm her. Charm her, damn it, not infuriate her.
Vaughn smiled, finding himself rather amused.
He heard her say, as he neared.
“But I must decline your… generous invitations.”
His voice carried over the others’ easily.
“Would you do me the honour of joining me for the next waltz?”
“Very well, my Lord.”
Only then did he realise that he had been holding his breath with the rest of them.
“In that case,” he replied, “it is entirely my pleasure to assist in your escape.”
Vaughn’s lips twitched. “Not exactly.”
“And you’re not simply going to tell me, I suppose.” She muttered.
“Mystery, Miss Murphy, is the heart of La Mascarade.”
All the while Vaughn tried to ignore the heat of her hand on his arm. How easy it would be to close the distance between them, to stroke her neck, kiss her—
His façade of charm, so practiced, was effortless to assume.
“Indeed, how could I not? I’m dancing with one of the most beautiful women in the room.”
Ached to touch, to taste.
He found himself taken aback at his own passionate reaction to the usually outspoken governess. Yet he could not ignore what sang through his veins, what pulled and pulled at the reins of his control.
Every muscle in his body tightened, reacting to her damnably innocent words. His head was suddenly overrun with images, noises… positions—
… would make you blush…
“—is to prove to you, somehow, that I am not simply some brainless, witless, skirt-chasing rogue.”
“I am. Utterly.”
The lightness of her tone did not wholly cover the steel rippling beneath her words.
Vaughn slowed their movements as the waltz drew to a close. He felt her try to move away, but before the icy governess could even think of shaking him off with a brusque adieu, he pulled her against him.
“… a second chance to do what exactly?”
He smiled, sensing victory. “To make a first impression.”
A/N: Sooooooooo, part one of the ball is done! Next, I’m updating my legacy. DEFINITELY.
Thanks for reading, as always x