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Fantasy Fiction Romance

Adrienne stepped onto the veranda. It was an unseasonably warm evening in February, and she needed to catch the breeze that came off the water. She had not yet danced, but her face behind the mask was still finely misted with perspiration, and she could feel small rivulets of the same running down between her breasts beneath the heavy eighteenth century costume dress she’d chosen to wear this evening.


The masquerade ball was hosted by her eccentric but good friend, Angelique, tonight in honor of Fat Tuesday or the conclusion of Mardi Gras. Adrienne knew it would continue long into the wee hours of the morning, leaving many a drunk and weary individual in its wake. She had been happy to escape both the heat and the drunken revelry housed inside by seeking the seclusion of the veranda, enjoying both the quiet and the crisp coolness of the river’s breeze floating in over the veranda.


Her arranged first date with Jean-Luc, someone with whom Angelique had set her up, had not yet manifested into a reality, so she would enjoy these few moments alone. In her playful way, and since it was a masquerade ball and everyone would be wearing a mask, Angelique had insisted that Jean-Luc must seek her out and ask if she’d like another glass of Merlot to both reveal himself and discover her identity. However, chances were slim that the man would find her. She’d had a streak of nearly twelve hopeless, failed first dates in the past year, so what difference would one more make at this point? Adrienne sighed at her thoughts and glanced at the nearly empty street that ran in front of the house.


Of a sudden, the hairs on the nape of her neck rose, and she quickly realized she was not alone. Turning sharply and glancing about the darkened area, Adrienne nearly gasped as a tall, lone figure slowly emerged from the shadows behind her on the veranda.


“Excuse me, madam. I did not mean to interrupt,” a deep voice issued forth across the night air. Despite the fact the man wore a mask, Adrienne could not help but notice the semblance of a smile beneath it; it was one of irony if she was not mistaken. How strange, she thought to herself. What could this stranger possibly find amusing or ironic?


“It’s fine. I'm afraid you just caught me off guard,” she said a bit nervously. “I was merely attempting to catch the breeze from the river.” While also avoiding the crowd of drunk people inside, she mentally added.


The stranger casually drew nearer, emerging more clearly from the shadows as he stood only a few steps away beside her and along the wrought iron fencing that ran the length of the veranda. “Yes, me, as well,” he said, quietly adding, “But alas, I also longed to escape so many unfortunate and drunken souls.” He smiled that same smile of irony as he turned his head toward the open French doors and the noisy, rowdy crowd inside..


She nodded her agreement, aware that his presence seemed to permeate the entire space. And had he just read her mind? It would be impossible for him to do that, would it not? Surely a room full of drunken souls was an easy observation to make on this night of celebratory endeavors during Mardi Gras.


Taking a large sip from the glass of Merlot that she held., she inadvertently took note that the stranger who had emerged from the shadows had also chosen to wear the requested costume attire of the eighteenth century to the masquerade ball. However, his had surely cost a small fortune it was so splendid and believable. Nervously, she tugged at and smoothed the skirt of her own costume, very self-conscious that what she wore was not nearly as authentic or attractive.


“You look as though you've stepped from the pages of a French novel,” the stranger said, his deep voice melodic and playful, as if he were teasing her.


She glanced up, surprise etched across her brow. That was twice now he’d easily discerned that about which she’d been thinking. Was this stranger real or was the Merlot she was drinking wreaking havoc with her thought process this evening?


“You can’t be serious,” Adrienne lightly scoffed. “At least, not while you're dressed like an aristocrat straight out of King Louis’ court. That is a very handsome costume you’re wearing. Wherever were you able to find such an attractive replica at this busy time of year?”


“I assure you I do not jest, madam. You look quite lovely and divinely French. I, on the other hand, am just wearing an old piece of fabric I pulled from my dusty attic.”


Adrienne rolled her eyes. Madam? Had this man dropped from the sky and landed on his head on the veranda? Perhaps from a time machine? Before she could consider the thought, she was distracted by a rowdy group passing by as they wandered down Laurel Street. When she glanced back up, she noticed that even though only minimally, the stranger had drawn ever closer. She could now see the intensity of blue eyes behind the mask as well as strands of dark hair tied neatly back from his face in a queue at the nape of his neck. He also held a glass of what looked to be Merlot, and when he drank, the wine momentarily stained his lips. So close, it was easy to see how handsome he was. She wondered what he’d look like if he discarded the mask.


“Are you from New Orleans?” he asked casually, taking another sip of wine, his eyes seeming to penetrate through her being.


“Yes, I’ve lived here all my life. You?”


“I’m originally from Paris,” he replied.


“Paris? But you have no accent,” Adrienne observed.


“I’ve been here for many years,” the stranger said while looking into his drink. “I fear I’ve lost my accent.”


Adrienne eyed him skeptically but decided he did very much embody a French nobleman, at least for the moment.


“How long have you been in New Orleans?” she asked, curious as to his response.


“Long enough to lose my accent chérie,,” he replied. “What do you do when you’re not looking like you leapt from the pages of a French classic?” He seemed to tease before adding, “I am in the business of antiquities.”


Was it just her or was he dodging her questions by reversing the topic at hand?


“Well, I am in the business of writing,” Adrienne said with a faint laugh. “Or at least, attempting to write.”


“I am sure that what you’d write would be well worth reading,” he said.


Adrienne was about to laugh and retort that she wouldn’t be so sure, but the look in his gaze stopped her. He was serious. His blue eyes left little doubt as to his belief that what he'd said was fact. Embarrassed for some reason, she felt her cheeks warm with a blush and looked down into her drink to gather her thoughts. This stranger was making her more self-consciously aware of herself than any man had in a long while. Despite the heat of the night and for unknown reasons, she shivered.


Beneath her mask, he watched the stain of a blush creep across her cheeks and felt the shiver that ran through her body as if it ran through his. She was lovely, he thought to himself. Angelique could have paired him with any of her silly, vapid female acquaintances, but she’d obviously known that this one was quite special. And Jean-Luc was all too anxious to learn just how special. He already longed to see if she would be someone with whom he could share his darkest secrets; secrets derived from living many centuries as a vampire, created from the dark streets of Paris in the mid-eighteenth century.


Despite the shiver, Adrienne nervously fanned her face with the dainty porcelain French fan that had come with her costume. She lifted her Merlot and nearly drained the glass as the man who had emerged from the shadows stood and closely watched every move she made. She could feel the heat and warmth of the French Merlot, move through her and ease a bit of the tension she felt as he continued to peruse her like a book. She should be alarmed, but strangely enough, she was not. She was intrigued - drawn to him. He was definitely not the usual type she attracted. No, without a doubt, he was very different, and she was interested in learning what those differences might entail. She instinctively knew he had stories that could keep her interested for years.


“Are you all right? May I get you something?” he asked, knowing full well why she was suddenly so nervous.


“No, I'm fine,” Adrienne said while still gathering her thoughts. Was it her imagination or had he drawn even closer than only moments earlier? There was literally almost no distance between them now.


“I just want to be sure you’re all right,” he said, lightly touching her forearm. The response was instantaneous and moved through her like lightning, and without a doubt, he felt it, too.


“Am I so easy to read?” she asked, eyeing him with a bit of disbelief. Who was this man?


He cocked his left brow in question. “I’m not sure I know what you mean,” he feigned ignorance.


She reached up and touched his left temple lightly, feeling the thickness of his hair beneath slim fingers. His skin was decidedly cool despite the heat of the night and the heavy costume he wore. How did he manage to appear so cool, calm, and collected amidst all the revelry and on an unusually warm night? Indeed, how did he manage to exude such confidence and read her thoughts?


If Jean-Luc could have shivered at her touch, he would have done so. Instead, his eyes turned crystal blue in response to both her touch and the question. She was undeniably easy to read, he thought. It was though he’d known her all the years he’d spent on this earth.


“You seem to be able to pull my thoughts from my mind and into that handsome head of yours. Precisely how is that so? Are you real or some creature from my imagination?” Adrienne questioned, her voice only a whisper.


He watched her closely, his eyes deepening to nearly black. He was sorely tempted then and there to make known to her what kind of creature he really was, mayhap tossing caution aside and by tasting of the sweet richness of her blood. But of a sudden, his nocturnal musings were interrupted.


“Oh, Adrienne, there you are,” Angelique’s voice rippled from the doorway. “I see you’ve met Jean-Luc, my dear. You two look just as lovely together as I always knew you would.” And with those words as well as a smug look of satisfaction, she turned on her heel and disappeared back into the crowded ballroom.


Stunned, Adrienne looked at Jean-Luc, who simply stared back with continued confidence and determination in his darkened eyes.


“Jean-Luc?” she whispered, nearly afraid that he would reply in the negative. Could the universe suddenly have aligned and gotten this first date thing right?


Jean-Luc watched her with the intensity to which she was already becoming very accustomed. His lips formed a hint of a smile at the surprise in her green eyes. “Yes, madam. The night is young. Would you like another glass of Merlot?”

October 25, 2022 15:14

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3 comments

Sam Smith
20:17 Nov 03, 2022

It is an interesting and attractive story

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Delbert Griffith
17:35 Nov 03, 2022

This is really a well-written piece. The exposition is just right, and that is a difficult thing to overdo. A lot of showing, as well. My only critique is that the piece might be even stronger without the italicized parts that represent Jean-Luc's thoughts. Too much is revealed - told - by Jean-Luc. Let us suspect that he is a vampire. You've done a masterful job of showing us scenes from a New Orleans Veranda, and you had already shown us that Jean-Luc is otherworldly. At any rate, this is very good. Cheers!

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Cindy Calder
18:03 Nov 03, 2022

Thanks so much. That's definitely food for thought. Rework the mystery and intrigue.....

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