by Ann Tracy Marr
It is a ball at the royal court of Camelot. Horatio is a stone statue on a fountain. Adrian Hughes, hero, is watching Margaret, the heroine, dance with her husband, James Treadway. At the same time, Adrian is listening to a society dragon talk about Margaret and her deceased mother, Margery.
Adrian Hughes leaned against the dolphin named Horatio and absently patted its snout. The misted stone of the fountain was cool against his fingers and droplets sprayed his arm. Oblivious to water spotting, his eyes were glued on her.
Murmurs rolled around the hall, lapping at ears like wavelets on the shore. The haute ton was
intrigued by her eyes, fascinated by the fading of blue and black in mystical gypsy orbs. One rake vocally wished to dilate the black with passion. He wanted to see if black would obscure blue, the ass.
In the dowager's row, set
up in front of the dais after the dubbing ceremony, old Mrs. Silvester, in a hideous shade of puce, was having the time of her life reminding staid ladies the daughter had inherited her mother's eyes. "This one seems to have skipped the fatal flaw," she trumpeted to Mrs. Pelcher. "Hasn't a feather of perversity. The mother's fits and starts--you haven't forgotten Margery locked you in the salon with that ramshackle captain that Christmas at Castle Du Lac. What was his name?"
Mrs. Pelcher giggled. "Captain Montforte. Heavens, I haven't thought about him for years. After we
were discovered, he applied to my father for my hand. I thought Papa would have an apoplexy; the captain was a gazetted fortune hunter. Margery apologized later, you know. She was jealous because Denison Ridgemont kissed me under the mistletoe."
He itched to whisper a
spell. Mrs. S's squawking would be more amusing covered in feathers. Can't change her into a kookaburra. Ain't ethical. Haverhorn would wring my neck. He couldn't do it, though Mrs. S was maliciously reviving old gossip about the flamboyant Margery Ridgemont, nee Laycock. Alternately shocked and titillated by memories of Margery's mischievous antics a generation before, obscure grandmothers joined the doyennes of Camelot swanning memory lane. Their titters sounded like a bevy of debs ogling a Corinthian's muscular thighs.
Hughes rubbed Horatio's forehead and did what he could. Mentally he told Mrs. S to shut up. His eyes
swiveled to her, dancing with her husband. That they took no pleasure in each other's arms was evident. Tread had a pole up his arse, Margaret's head tilted away.
The nape of her neck caught his attention. With her head arched away from Tread, the line of her neck
evinced breeding. Finely molded bones sheathed in alabaster, with wisps of hair dusting the sweeping length like wisteria blooms on a sensuous vine. If Mrs. S was a bird, Margaret Treadway was a swan.
He clenched a fist. Has me mixing metaphors. Not alabaster, but something watery. A serene lake with night cascading over it. I'd be the lake and she a nightingale. He immersed the forbidden thought in efforts to produce a fitting description of the lady's attributes, but the intellectual exercise didn't block Mrs. S's remarks.
"Those eyes tell me she inherited much from her mother," Mrs. Silvester laughed, a call reminiscent of the kookaburra's maniacal call to Hughes' sensitive ears. Angry at the world, his resentment at Tread's slighting of his delightful wife coiled tighter.
© 2008 Ann Tracy Marr