Chapter THREEMature

Chapter Three



“Mi’Lady, come over by the fire so yer hair dries!” Her maid’s vexed tones reverberated throughout the room. “The Duke is furious, thinkin’ that ye caused a big scandal runnin’ about in yer unspeakables!” 

Victoria pulled her bathrobe tighter around her and bit her lip, silently panicking, staring at the orange inferno across the bedchamber. As the searing flames danced and flickered her mind was elsewhere, lost in her muddled thoughts. Who was he?! Just the mere thought of him made her body tingle and her cheeks heat. How did she allow herself to act so wanton? The worst part was that she loved every minute of it. He probably thought her a trollop of the worst sort. Ah! The dark, seductive look he gave her after he kissed her still had the power to render her breathless. Blast it. No one had the right to look the way he did, his masculine beauty rivaled legends. Adonis would be envious.

But, the mystery man did do something to her horse and that was apparent. Victoria unclenched her hands and closed her eyes, feeling again what she had before. Yes. It was a vibration, a mild disturbance in the air that didn’t want to be discovered. Something was hiding, watching… lurking. 

“Ouch! How did ye get to be naked out in the cold of the night?!” her maid continued breathlessly, outraged. “Aye, ye be lucky the Duke did na’ see ye running about like ye lost yer mind. But donna be thinkin’ the Duke will na raise his whip to ye after ye ran after yer horse. Ye outright defied him ye did!” Victoria’s maid put her hands on her generous hips and studied her intently. Sonya was Irish with a temper to match her flaming tresses. The deep wrinkles around her shining emerald eyes suggested wisdom and hard times. She had been with Victoria since she was a babe and knew of her odd feelings and gifts, revealing them to no one. Victoria had always looked upon Sonya as a mother figure, not ever having anyone else to attach to.

“Do you feel it Sonya?” Victoria whispered, closing her eyes again, holding out her trembling hands.

“Aye, I feel ye being beaten if ye donna find a husband!” She continued when Victoria said nothing, eyes still closed. “The Duke is furious with ye! You must find a mon to protect ye! You canna show yer face tonight, the Duke has forbidden you to attend the ball! Lass, that is na good,” she muttered gravely, her rapid footsteps heard as she paced the diminutive sized room.

“Shh.” A sheen of sweat glistened on Victoria’s forehead, the more she listened the stronger the tremors became. Her skin felt as though it would burst into a million pieces, the sensation of warning, the immediate danger was pounding through her body vigorously. “Sonya, this is bad,” she got out, her mouth suddenly desiccated.

The pacing stopped.

After a moment Sonya spoke next to her, “What are ye feelin’?” The seriousness was laced through her concerned tone. Sonya always took her gifts very gravely for Victoria had never been wrong in the past. Always being able to predict certain events and even odd turns in the weather.

Victoria opened her lids to gaze into Sonya’s eyes, her heart pounding. “I feel evil, like nothing I ever felt before. Something is here, in this house. It’s what’s been meddling with the animals, I can sense it,” she took a shaky breath, “and it’s suffocating me.”

Sonya was extremely superstitious as she was Catholic, being converted when she came to England long ago. She quickly made the sign of the cross in the air and kissed her necklace of the Virgin Mary, whispering a prayer. “Aye. Evil, I feel it as well. ‘Tis not just infectin’ the animals, everyone seems to be on edge, very angry. Which is why ye need to stay away from the Duke.”

Victoria nodded then hurried over to the window with a thought in mind. Her breath fogged up the glass pane, her eyes searching for any signs of irate animals harassing people. She scowled. It was just darkness, nothing seemed to be stirring for the all of the guests appeared to be already inside. Had the dogs suddenly calmed like her horse?

“The ball has started a while ago, it’s half past ten Mi’Lady.”

Victoria cursed when she thought about the ball. Rotting hell. She could never show her face again. “I bet I am the talk of the night, the Crazy White Witch at it again.” 

Sonya stirred the fire not saying anything for a moment, her back to Victoria. “Nay, ‘tis not about ye they speak of.”

Victoria whipped around to stare at Sonya, patiently waiting for her to expound. When nothing came she asked impatiently, “Who?!”

“Ye haven’t heard then? The mon who saved everyone from the wild animals, he’s a bit of a hero. Everyone is talkin’ ‘bout him, the handsome devil. I seen the mon from a distance and he is different, he dresses very... different. He must not be from ‘ere. But, the mon turned a bad situation into a good one, the Duke is thrilled at least ‘bout that. ‘Tis all the servants can talk ‘bout.”

Victoria paled, her heart starting a slow thump.

“His name is Lord Stone, Ezra Stone. Aye, I believe everyone was sayin’ that.” She turned, dusting some soot off of her wool dress and spoke, ”Now, he would be a fine catch indeed. But, I fear the Duke wants him fer Lady Henrietta. The mon is wealthy, that is apparent…”

“No!” she blurted, not believing her ears.

Sonya tensed then frowned up at her.

Victoria pointed at nothing, her hand shaking. “T… that’s him!”

“Who’s him?”

She shook her head in frustration like Sonya was daft. “The man who saved me from Brat! The one who kiss…” Victoria clamped a hand over her big mouth.

Sonya narrowed her eyes at her with a glint of humor. “Eh? He kissed ye did he? Did the mon also disrobe ye?”

Moron. She could have left that one detail out. “Well… he was the one who… who calmed Brat by just placing his hand over her,” she quickly continued, “And something is not right about him, I can sense he is very dangerous. What he did was inhuman Sonya. Every bone in my body had recognized him as a threat, a danger to everyone! It’s the evil that I feel.”

“And he’s ungentlemanly.”

Victoria flushed not wanting to comment on the shiver that just rushed up her spine.

“Why did ye not bring him up until now?”

She looked away, slightly embarrassed. “I don’t know. Well, I wasn’t sure if I believed what I saw; he didn’t appear to be real at first, inhuman. This man has a certain energy emanating from him that is not natural,” she murmured then shrugged. “I am glad I am not to attend the ball, he frightens me. I don’t know what his intentions are.” She paused. “Was he invited tonight or did he just show up?”

“Nay, I think he was invited. He is the new Earl of Stone, inherited the title I believe.” Sonya frowned in thought. “But who knows where he was before his inheritance.”

 “Mayhap it is Henrietta he is after then.” Although… He did say to save him a dance. She shivered again at the thought, forcing his intoxicating image from her mind’s eye. He was just being a gentleman by offering to dance with her. She almost laughed, after what she let him do, that is.

 “If what ye say is true then it’s best you stay up here where it’s safe. Especially if the mon took liberties with ye. ‘Tis not a good sign.” Sonya kissed her Virgin Mary again. “Maybe we should go to my grandfather’s cabin, ‘tis not far from here. We should stay out of harms way, all this talk is makin’ me nervous. You know I have relatives close by.”

A rapid knock came at the door.

They both jumped. Sonya visibly swallowed then glanced at her, dread etched into her lightly freckled face. Sonya squared her shoulders and walked over to the door, slowly opening it.

Jane, Henrietta’s maid came in looking out of breath.

Jane curtsied and wiped her forehead. “Beg your pardon my Lady,” she muttered, looking past Sonya to Victoria. “But the Duke demands your presence at the ball. His Grace has changed his mind.”

Victoria shot up. “What?! Why?”

Jane glared at her. “Apparently, my Lady,” she said with vigor, “Lord Stone personally asked for your attendance and would not take no for an answer. The Duke could hardly deny this absurd demand after he gave Lady Henrietta a diamond and ruby necklace for her birthday. They say the necklace is worth a king’s ransom.”

Sonya gasped and made the sign of the cross in the air, mumbling to herself.  

Tunnel vision was starting to set in. Victoria lost her voice, not being able to come up with something intelligent to say back. He demanded my presence? She inwardly screamed, her resolve breaking. Why did she have to let him kiss her!? More importantly, why did he have this interest in her? Why would he demand her presence after giving Henrietta such a grand gift?

“You have an hour to get ready or his Grace will come up here and fetch you himself,” Jane hissed, not bothering to hide her dislike for Victoria.

Sonya glared at Jane and walked up to her. “Watch yer tongue missy for I know a mon who’d love to cut it out.”

Which was true. Sonya knew a lot of rebels from her homeland and often sought them out, many of them being distant family members.

Flushing Jane didn’t say another word, not wanting to test the claim. She turned and left, not bothering to shut the door.

“Ouch, I hate that woman. Thinkin’ she is high nobility.”

Victoria barely nodded; too stunned to comprehend anything. “Sonya,” she exhaled,  “I have an hour to come up with a plan.”


                              *                  *               * 


Victoria took a deep breath as she gazed into her full-body mirror. Her royal blue gown glittered in the low lighting; the velvet’s brilliance rivaled the purest of silks. Sonya had made this gown for her eighteenth birthday, wanting Victoria to have the luck of the Irish. The fabric had come from Ireland, one of the only riches Victoria possessed besides her choker. The hoopskirt flowed graciously around her, the shimmering velvet matching flawlessly with her pale looks. The neckline was square-cut giving her ample cleavage, which was in high fashion in her defense. The off-the-shoulder, pillow sleeves were trimmed in delicate black lace as well as the intricate neckline. Deep sapphire ribbons adorned the long, slim waistline and continued down into the folds of the hoopskirt.

It was stunning.   

Her silver hair was pulled back with the same ribbons that adorned her dress with ringlets softening around her heart-shaped face. Her porcelain skin and rose-colored lips had a light dusting of rouge for the final touch. The brilliance of her eyes reflected the sapphire ribbons perfectly. Yes, she was a vision. That was her plan. She desperately wanted to appear vain, snobbish, and rude even. Victoria would portray an utterly boring individual, loving to talk about fashion and the gloomy weather.   

She couldn’t just leave or he may try and track her down and she couldn’t have that. Victoria had no idea what kind of man he was. So, tonight she was just a typical highborn Lady of the ton — London’s elite. Victoria hoped, prayed even, that he would lose his interest in her. The beauty on the outside was not on the inside and she would bore him to death. Yes, he would be running the other way by the time she got done with him. Once he lost his interest she would leave with Sonya, for her life in England was no more.

If she dared to stay the Duke would show no mercy after the earlier incidents. She would travel to Ireland with Sonya and live a life of peace and hopefully a little adventure! 

“‘Tis been an hour Mi’Lady, ye best go now. I will be waitin’ outside with two horses. Here is yer black mask, put it on now.” She paused, “Are ye sure ‘tis is the best plan? The mon is sure to fall over his feet when he sees ye. He might not mind that ye are borin’,” she pointed out and eyed Victoria’s appearance warily.

“I have to appear groomed Sonya, like I actually matter in high society. If I don’t he will catch on, thinking I’m just common whore,” she whispered then flushed. Giving what happened earlier that wouldn’t be hard to deduce. Victoria put on the mask with a deep breath. “Wish me luck, I will need it.”

Sonya stared after her, kissing her necklace and uttering a prayer. 


                                     *                         *                       *


The saunter to the ballroom was a long one, every bone in her body trembled with uncertainty. On the outside she appeared to be enjoying herself, fanning her face flirtatiously like she was thrilled. Yes, she is boring and vain. The weather is her favorite topic. Victoria wanted to get into the part before she entered the ballroom, eager to get this over and done with.

Victoria was delighted this was a masquerade for it hid her identity from the gossiping mouths of nobility. Not that they couldn’t tell who she was if they looked closely, but it was not as obvious. She hoped that no one told Lord Stone about her being the alleged White Witch for that would surely ruin her plan. No doubt it would spark his interest and he’d see right past her silly talk about the weather. She needed to be typical, despite what he saw earlier in the storm. Her level gaze was wide and searching, eyeing everyone she passed.  Victoria was afraid she would see him waiting for her on every turn, but he wasn’t there. She shivered, finally making her way to the Hall entrance and took in the gothic beauty of the Masquerade.

The low lighting of the chandeliers helped hide everyone’s appearance giving it a manifestation of something quite mysterious, intoxicating, and dangerous. The two-storey room had vaulted ceilings making it look considerable with the giant spiral staircase gracing the back corner.

Her heart started to pound.

Dear God, he was somewhere in this room. 

Taking a deep breath she darted into the crowded ballroom without being announced, sneaking in was more like it. Well, it was far too late to be publicized she supposed. Everyone already appeared to be drunk with their obnoxious laughter ringing over the music. The air felt thick, taking an effort to breath properly. Maybe her corset was too tight again? The instant thought of him ripping it open made her nervously giggle. She closed her eyes, reprimanding herself. It was just her nerves. With that thought Victoria snatched a glass of champagne from a passing waiter, spilling it a bit. Liquid confidence. She slowly looked around and when no one appeared to be watching she drank whole thing and discarded the glass on a near by table completely out of breath. 

There. That will help, as unladylike as that was.

Victoria shivered as she felt the liquid pool in her belly, warming it. Fanning her face she searched the dimly lit room, wondering where he was. Maybe he left? Or, better yet, he could have lost interest in her and found another. Right then she spotted the Duke in a group with Henrietta. He was peering down a Lady’s dress and definitely wasn’t being secretive about it. Hmm, the Lady didn’t seem to notice for she was drunk, laughing like a bloody donkey. Victoria scrunched up her nose.

Still, there was no sign of Lord Stone.

The eerie, oddly enchanting sound of the violin and piano penetrated through her mind sending gooseflesh down her body. There seemed to be an unnatural chill coursing through the air. It felt like she were outside in the cold instead of being in an over populated ballroom.

The room tilted then righted itself.

Victoria placed her hand on her forehead and walked over to the far wall next to the doors that led outside into the gardens, being sure to stay out of the Duke’s sight. Some fresh air would be nice. She decided to stay here only a little while longer then leave. Victoria grinned; it wasn’t her fault that Lord Stone was not here when she was, and the Duke was too drunk to comprehend anything…

Something peculiar just washed over her, a sensation, a feeling…

“I was tempted to come and see what was taking you so long,” A deep voice whispered into her ear making her whip around and gasp.

“L-lord Stone,” she breathed, her heart pounding madly. Victoria had to bite her lip as she gazed at him, not wanting to say anything foolish.

He was bravura, striking.

His pale eyes were heavy lidded, seductive, alluring. He regarded her with an intensity that left her breathless, like he was trying to see straight through to her soul. Victoria tried to stop the shiver that slithered its way down her spine but couldn’t. He didn’t grin at her obvious quiver but his eyes held hilarity, amusement, like he was inwardly laughing at her. She blushed; embarrassed that he saw how much he affected her with such little effort. How could one man have such an impact with just one look?! It was baffling.

“Call me Ezra,” His quiet tone tingled her skin.

Oh God. This was not part of her plan.

She was supposed to act cruel, snobbish and boring. Not like a cat in heat!  Victoria sniffed, trying to reclaim her sanity. “I do not know you well enough my Lord, that would be unseemly,” she said breathlessly. She managed to talk, good for her. But, more importantly, why did she sound out of breath?!

Her eyes secretly took in the rest of him as he causally leaned against the wall next to her, grinning at her flustered state no doubt. Getting past her muddled thoughts she could sense a certain darkness surrounding him, something quite dangerous, almost wicked. Though it was hard to pick up on, almost like he was actually trying to hide it from her. Which was ridiculous.  

As she coolly smiled back at him she noticed his dress coat was a scandalous deep maroon. That’s a very bold move indeed. The coat was accented with a black and scarlet striped waistcoat giving him a rather daunting appearance. Lord Stone’s collared shirt and cravat were crisp white highlighting his pale, ghostly skin. He wore black pants that matched his top hat and beautiful, glossy hair. His hair was slightly wavy due from being wet earlier for some pieces still were damp that hung out of his hat. He obviously just came from outside for he hadn’t taken off his it yet.

Victoria looked up at him, his silver eyes shining down at her suggestively. His sensual appeal was disturbing. Yes. Dear heavens above he was the most attractive, seductive man she had ever laid eyes on and she’d bet money that any other woman would happily agree.

She fanned herself. 

“I think we know each other well enough love,” he pointed out, his eyes lowering to scan over her body making her instantly flush. His gaze was shameless as they rested on the upper curve of her breasts then locked eyes with her. “One would think you’d be smart enough not to wear a corset so tight again, givin’ the earlier happenings,” he reprimanded softly. 

His accent was so different, enchanting. He had the type of voice that one just wanted to listen to, not caring what they were actually saying. She gave her head a shake, what did he just say!? “Pardon?” She barely got out, trying to focus on what he was saying and not how he was saying it.

He leaned in closer to her, his breath fanning her temple enticing her senses, wiping out her thoughts. He smelt so good, something uncivilized, wild. Dear God if he kissed me right now I’d blatantly let him. “I said,” he continued as his hand lightly smoothed her waist, “that you should not wear your corset so tight, givin’ the earlier happenings. No matter how,” he paused as his finger swirled on her waist, “no matter how tantalizing it makes your assets appear.”

Her heart started to hammer with alarm and excitement. She felt his hand slowly lower, smoothing around to her backside. Her mind was foggy wanting to give in to whatever he was doing but her thoughts screamed, her warning signals sounding the alarm. Victoria inhaled, instantly looking around to see if anyone was watching his bold movements. She shook her head and hissed under her breath, “L-lord Stone, take your hand from me this instant.”     

He tilted his head at her. “No one is watching love.”

“I don’t care,” she said too huskily and cursed.

“Call me Ezra, please.”


Ezra grinned down at her, his smile devastating. “Who do you care that will see you? A lover perhaps?”

“Absolutely not! You are being scandalous my Lord and I will be ruined if you keep this up,” she whispered as she grabbed his gloved hand and threw it from her and turned to leave, completely outraged by his audacity. And by hers.

He grabbed her upper arm and jerked her around to where she was mere inches from him. Lord Stone whispered, “I don’t think the White Witch’s reputation will matter.”

Victoria gasped. She went to slap him but he caught her arm in mid air.

His laugh was breathy. “I gave your cousin a lovely birthday gift to be able to talk with you and you, my dear, want to leave?” he asked, his eyes going round with his obvious theatrics.

“That is your fault my Lord,” she spat.

“Indeed.” He grinned dangerously at her making her pause. “Well, if you must, go then.” Lord Stone let go of her arm almost forcefully.

Victoria backed up, eyeing him warily, not trusting his sudden mood change. Or the strange glint in his gaze.

He eyed her intently. “I guess at least I got a priceless choker out of it,” he sighed as he looked at her, his pale eyes seeming too intelligent. “I have a thing for old trinkets, I am a collector.”

“Choker?” Victoria took a deep breath.

Ezra studied her for a moment. “Yes. I traded the diamond necklace for it,” he continued. ”To me a choker like this,” he pulled out her choker making her sharply inhale, ”and it has much more value than a room full of diamonds.” 

Victoria didn’t say anything, she couldn’t.

“Wouldn’t you say?”

“No. I find old things repulsive,” she whispered, her heart jumping. Henrietta couldn’t have traded her choker! It wasn’t hers to trade! And why wasn’t she admitting that it was hers and not Henrietta’s?! Maybe it was the chilling light in his eyes, like he was waiting for Victoria to say it was hers. Like he already knew. It seemed ridiculous, but all the same her intuition was pleading with her to lie.

“Repulsive?” he inquired as he raised a dark brow. His mood was darkening, his humor shifting.

Victoria swallowed. “Quite,” she said lightly, like nothing was amiss even though her pulse was hammering. “N-now, if you will excuse me,” Victoria stammered then turned and darted away expecting him to grab her once again.

But he didn’t.

She timidly turned to glance back and found him glaring at her in that distressing way, still leaning up against the wall holding her choker in his now clenched fist. A cold shiver raced down her spine.

That was it. She was done.

Victoria turned and dashed out of the ballroom wanting frantically to leave this place. Sonya already had her luggage so all she needed to do was to get her cloak and make it to the stables. Victoria raced to her room and retrieved her black cloak, putting it on hurriedly, her fingers fumbling.

She paused before she left her room, her mind in a hundred different places. Her choker… what’s she going to do?! She’d have to survive without it. That thought terrified her but there was no way she was going to face Lord Stone again. He might not leave her alone this time, and God knows she is absolute mush in his hands. What female could resist someone of his caliber? The man looked like a God, cast down from the heavens. And, more importantly, he definitely didn’t look happy when she left. Maybe she could form a plan with Sonya’s relatives to get her choker back… she’d muse on that later.

Right now she had to get going before anything else happened, with all of her rotten luck tonight.

Victoria hid behind this and that, dodging everyone she saw. Closing her eyes she counted to ten and sprinted to the next door that led out to the main entrance. Victoria faltered when she walked through the door. The main corridor was surprisingly empty, when thirty minutes ago it was blustering with guests coming and going. She dared a glance down the long hallway towards the ballroom only to see the great doors shut. Music was still echoing through the corridors but something felt wrong. The little hairs on her neck were standing to attention. Her breathing escalated as she surveyed the empty foyer.

Where were the footmen? Or the servants to see the guests out? This room should never be empty; the Duke would have a fit. Victoria swallowed wondering if she should go peek inside the ballroom to confirm that everything was normal. She desperately wanted to see the drunken slurring, dancing, drinks being spilled out of careless laughter.

But as she stood in the dark foyer, she could hear no sounds of life, only the renaissance of the symphony. There were no muted voices or muffled laughter to drone out the sound of the music. She shivered, knowing she should just leave, now.

She turned to make a run for it but a breathy laugh stopped her in her tracks. Victoria whipped around and inhaled.

“Leaving, love?” Lord Stone quietly inquired, leaning lazily on the wall next to the stairs, hidden by the shadows. 

Her heart was pounding. She couldn’t make words form out of her mouth for her mind scattered at the sight of him. Victoria knew she was in trouble for every bone in her body trembled.

He moved towards her, his arms folded to express power. “You weren’t going to leave without saying good-bye, were you?”

“S… stay away,” she warned, taking steps back. He reminded her of a black panther stalking its prey. It was only a matter of minutes before he would pounce, going in for the kill.

“I only want one thing from you then you may go,” he simply said, his pale eyes seeming to glow in the darkness as he came closer still.

“What the bloodly hell do you want from m-me?” she stammered, fearing he would say her soul.

“A kiss.”

Her eyes widened.

His eerie eyes lowered slightly, his movements slow and calculating as he moved even closer. He now stood a body’s length away, a dark grin spreading over his sensual lips.

“No,” she whispered, backing up, heart beating wildly. Her body was humming and her ears were ringing. She hated to admit it but he looked dangerously appealing with his cravat removed and his collared shirt unbuttoned at the neck. The deep circles under his eyes appeared much darker giving him a menacing look, chilling even. His dark hair was in disarray, unruly strands hanging in his face. It looked as though he took his hands and ruffed it up like a mad man. His brightly striped waistcoat did give the appearance of someone insane, the reds with the purples and blacks all meshed together. His overall effect was startling; she’d never seen anything like him.

He laughed and shook his head. “Your mouth says one thing and your body screams another. I want to taste you Victoria, and I will.” He sounded too confident, his eyes hungrily fastened on her, holding her arrest.

She never knew the definition of panic until now. “S… stop it, do not come any c… closer,” she screamed, trembling. Victoria looked around desperately wanting to grab something she could fling at him but saw nothing. She shrieked when he was suddenly right in front of her. “Don’t!” Victoria closed her eyes, flinching.

“Shh,” he cooed, his voice a low timbre.

She could smell the wild scent of him, could feel his body heat, he was so near. Victoria suddenly felt his hands on her cloak and in the next instant it was ripped off of her. Victoria yelped, eyes opening wide as she was suddenly pressed up against the wall. His large hands were on either side of her, his face mere inches away from her own. Up this close his eyes were menacing, they looked unnatural. His pupils were a lighter gray rather than black, almost as if he were blind. The silver seemed too pure, too radiant for normality, so it was something else entirely. She mustered up some courage and whispered, “My L… lord, what d… do you really want from me? I have nothing.”

Lord Stone smiled, revealing perfect white teeth. But, the smile was not playful — it was cold, hard. His eyes held something dark, the deep circles pronounced anger and vengeance. “I want you to say my name.”

She shuddered at the anger in his eyes. “L… lord Ston…”

“Ezra,” he hissed, his eyes narrowing on her heatedly.

“Ezra,” she whimpered.

Ezra tilted his head at her. “There now, that wasn’t so bad. I hate when you say Lord Stone,” he exhaled, “and you have such a lovely voice for using it so… formally.”

“Please,” she whispered. “What do you want?” she asked again, unable to handle the suspense. Victoria knew it was not just a kiss that he wanted; it was much deeper than that. She could feel it. 

He grinned at her; it was nothing short of disturbing. “Smart girl.” He suddenly was holding the choker in his hand, like it just materialized before her. “I want to know who is the rightful owner of this choker is.”

Victoria’s heart started to pound, knowing she was in trouble. “I… I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Lady Henrietta?” she lied, praying he would leave it at that and go elsewhere. Once he left she could escape, and once he found out from Henrietta it was hers it would be too late.  

He nodded and stared at her, his gaze exceedingly assessing, almost like he was measuring her up in his mind. And why on Earth would he think she was lying?! What made him link the choker to her in the first place?   

The silence was unnerving. “I mean, she has so much jewelry, how would I know where she acquired them all from? Maybe a suitor gave it to her as a gift? That’s very common for Lady Henrietta. I for one do not even like jewelry,” she finished lamely, blushing a little from her lies.

“Hmm, is that so?” he asked softly, his long eyelashes lowering, his body shifting.

“Yes,” she whispered, sensing where his gaze had gone. The mood suddenly altered for she felt his gaze burning into her skin where he stared. The air felt instantly charged. Victoria realized how intoxicatingly close he was to her, his body heat radiating off of him. His muscular thighs were brushing her own and his broad chest was mere breaths away.

Time seemed to stand still, everything around them ceased to exist. He exhaled audibly while his forefinger started tracing little designs low on her hips, inflaming her cheeks instantly and causing her body to tremble with uncertainty. Her heart stopped for a minute then came back pumping with force when he pressed his finger into her hip. The small movements were bold, coming dangerously close to her womanhood with every careful caress through her thick skirts, heightening her awareness… a responsiveness she couldn’t describe. Victoria couldn’t help the moan that escaped through her parted lips as he blew lightly on her neck, sending an army of gooseflesh racing down her flushed skin. The foreign sensations were fogging up her mind and all she wanted to do was to purr, to beg him not to stop.

He was producing something dark and delicious inside of her. 

How could such a small movement play such havoc with her senses? Ezra’s breathing was loud in her ear as his thighs pressed into hers. “Sooo responsive,” he rasped, his low voice almost undoing her.

His palm flattened above her womanhood making her take a sharp intake of breath. Her vision was blurring making her neck unable to support her head anymore so she let it fall to the side, completely overcome. Then slowly, leisurely, his hand smoothed up the middle of her stomach then continued making her whimper, his palm leaving a wake of nervous tremors in the pit of her belly. Her mind was racing, wondering wildly what he was doing to her. Victoria bit her lip so she wouldn’t make another sound, her body igniting into flames from his bold touch. When his hand reached the valley between her breasts he exhaled, his eyes were dark and seductive, making direct eye contact with hers. The intense heat in his gaze immobilized her, shocked her. She’d never seen such an open display of longing before. Her heart was thumping madly under his palm, her breasts rising and falling with each rushed, hurried breath. He knowingly stared at her, his eyes hooded with something dark, primitive.

Ezra’s hand kept going up until his fingers boldly wrapped around her neck, slightly squeezing. “Such a pity… that you do not know whom the choker belongs to,” he breathed into her neck, his mouth replacing his fingers, locking on to the sensitive skin there. He sucked and swirled his tongue around her jumping pulse, nipping it with his teeth. 

She made a loud whimpering sound, too caught up in what he was doing to pay any heed to what was just said. The sound she made seemed to spur him on, like he just tasted water after years of endless thirst. His mouth fiercely kissed a trail of fire up to her jaw, breathing words into her flushed skin, then took her mouth with his savagely. The harsh contact was drugging, demanding to a shameful degree. His mouth taste of sin, the most secret of desires. His tongue plunged into her mouth making her dizzy with wanting him, needing him with an urgency she didn’t understand. His hands were on her back, then moved to her derrière, pressing her forcefully to him. As their mouths combated her own hands came up to pull on his dark hair, ruffling her hands through the raven locks with a fierceness she didn’t recognize. She heard him deeply moan into her mouth then in the next instant his arms yanked her forward, making her head fall back. His hot mouth moved over the tops of her breasts, kissing, licking, sucking…

“Ezra,” a deep voice bellowed from the shadows.  

Ezra stiffened. Their rhythmic breathing interrupted as they both fought to think clearly. Ezra brought her up slowly and their eyes clashed for one more demanding second. Ezra’s gaze was still dark with passion, his chest still pumping. Victoria couldn’t put her fragmented mind together yet, feeling overwhelmed. 

Ezra said over his shoulder, still holding her steady. “Buer, what the fuck is it?” He hissed, sounding breathless, livid.

“All is ready just as you asked. We can wait no longer my Lord.” The chilling voice said.

Victoria tilted her head to peer around Ezra and sucked in her breath, restraining a scream. A cloaked man stood there; his eyes were black pools of emptiness, reflecting something dark and malevolent. His scraggly, long blond hair and ashy skin reminded her of someone who was dead. He was horrifying, something out of a nightmare.   

Screams suddenly reverberated from the ballroom.

Ezra looked back at Victoria, an expression she couldn’t read. What was actually happening was starting to dawn on her; her mind was clearing. She was in danger. She glanced back to the other man, then to Ezra; dread seeped into every bone of her body. “Ezra…” she whimpered. 

Ezra hardened his face and ordered to Buer, “Take her and put her with the rest of them. Get the Lady named Henrietta too. I will join you shortly.”

“Yes, my Lord,” came the low response.

“No!” Victoria screamed as she was grabbed and hauled away. She turned and looked behind her to see Ezra staring but with closed eyes.  

The End

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