Her blue eyes practically sparkled in delight as she read the contents of the letter once more. The paper was red and smelled of roses. Camille Eddleton brought the letter closer to her face and inhaled its scent once more. A giggle escaped her lips and she rose from her seat. Finally. This is what she has been waiting for ever since she has turned eleven six years ago. An invitation addressed specifically to her, not her family. She began to twirl around her boudoir and giggled as she did so.
The letter contained an invitation to a ball which is hosted by Leonardo Michaelson, Earl of Ashworth and a man famous for his beautiful voice, to celebrate his return in London. It is rumoured that the Queen is particularly fond of him due to. . . quite a scandalous reason. But as much as she loved to gossip, she is willing to forget about that rumour just for this while. She must be on her best behaviour for the party and she must appeal to the Earl. He is said to be quite a charming and good looking man. If not, she could always charm a dashing gentleman she will encounter at the ball. How can she not? Her stunning beauty was enough to earn her at least a dozen suitors.
A knock on her door interrupted her from her twirling. She straightened her back and told the knocker to come in. The double wooden doors parted, revealing her maid, Nina.
“It’s t-time for tea, Lady Camille,” She stuttered. Her voice was quiet yet somewhat high pitched. A soprano. Her hands were shaking and so were the tray and its contents. Camille shot her a glare which only made Nina tremble more, causing a few cookies to drop.
“You wasteful wench!” She shouted at her. Tears began to form in Nina’s eyes. She began apologizing and bowed, accidentally dropping the tray while doing so. Camille grabbed a fist full of her brown hair and pulled her towards her. Nina began to sob as she felt Camille’s nails dig through her roots.
“See?” Camille asked in a voice which was just as sweet as her smile. “You really are wasteful. Are you aware that the tea cup which is now laying shattered on the floor was a present from my dearest grandmother? How about those cookies? Oh dear. The chef must be in tears right now!” She caressed Nina’s cheek with her gloved hand and whispered “Like you.” Nina trembled under her mistress’ touch but simply whimpered an apology. However, ‘Forgiving’ is not a word that can be used to properly describe her. Camille’s smile was replaced with a smirk as her hand lowered to Nina’s neck.
“Now. . . allow me to decide if you really are worth keeping or not.”
Camille examined the dress laid on her bed with a frown. They all looked awfully plain. They would not help her capture the attention of the Skylark earl. She sighed and shook her head.
“Mother, why must I wear your hand-me-downs?” She asked.
“My dear, when me and your father became acquainted with each other, I was wearing that dress. T—“
“My dear foolish mother, I care not about what you were clothed in for your first ball,” Camille said. “Earl Ashworth would barely take notice in me if I were to exhibit such a dull dress.” She did not bother in waiting for her mother’s response. She left the room without another word.
‘My goodness. Has my mother gone mad? I shall never wear such a hideous dress not even if my life depends upon it!’
As she was walking down the hall, she heard someone call her name. Turning around, she saw her sister with a letter in her hand. Her eyebrows rose in confusion.
“A letter sent from Earl Ashworth,” She said. Camille’s face lit up at the mention of the earl and she tried reaching for the letter but her sister raised her hand. She is a tall lady and Camille had no way of obtaining the letter from her unless she jumped. And she was quite sure that her sister would slap her if she were to do that. She turned around and said as she walked, “He requests your presence at his manor. There are a few things that he would like to discuss with you. You must hurry now. I had Thompson prepare the carriage for you. And I doubt the earl is known for his patience.”
Normally, she would have been enraged that her sister did read her letter first and without her permission but she did not mind it now. Camille immediately called for her maids to help her get dressed. She chose a long sleeved red dressed and hurried to her carriage. Her excitement was barely contained as she waited for her to reach her destination.
Finally, after a number of minutes, the carriage stopped. She asked Thompson if they have arrived already and he said yes. He opened the carriage and helped her down.
“Shall I escort you, Lady Camille?” He asked, offering her his hand. Camille rolled her eyes and shook her head.
“I shan’t be seen with a man such as yourself by the earl.”
She made her way to the doorstep of the manor. It is large. Much larger than her family’s. However, there was something about it which somewhat frightened her. She found it a tad bit eerie. Once she reached the doorstep, she knocked on the door. She waited for a couple seconds before a beautiful woman opened the door for her. Much to her surprise, the woman was wearing a very low cut and short dress. She wondered who she was and why she was wearing such a risqué attire.
“This way, please,” She gestured her to follow her. Camille nodded and walked a few steps behind her. No lights were turned on and thankfully, it was still afternoon. The place smelled of roses, Camille’s favourite flower. However, it also smelled of fire. Before she was able to ask where the scent was coming from, the woman stopped. She opened a door and gestured for Camille to come inside. Once she was in, the door suddenly closed and Camille almost jumped. The room was very dark. There was no source of light. And the scent of roses and fire was stronger. She felt someone push her and she fell to the ground. A scream escaped her lips and tears began to form in her eyes as someone grabbed her hair.
“Welcome to your new temporary home,” A beautiful voice which no doubt belonged to a man said.