Authors: L A Morgan
|Mardi Gras Masquerade|
|L A Morgan|
|L. A. Morgan (2011)|
In this Cinderella story, a shy librarian pretends to be her friend, a glamorous model. Swept away by the romance she finds in New Orleans, her masquerade brings her more happiness and more regrets than she has ever known. The old saying is true: Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.
Maria Jones, a shy librarian, shares an apartment with her best friend from high school, Maria Fontaine, a successful fashion model. After a clerical error in their school days, she refers to her friend as “Marla.” Maria lives vicariously through Marla’s adventures up to the time the model becomes engaged to Tienne DuPont, a wealthy shellfish exporter from New Orleans. After a two month separation, Marla decides to call off her long-distance engagement, so she wheedles Maria into meeting with Tienne to tell him the bad news. Mardi Gras has begun, and Maria had always dreamed of going there, so she takes on the challenge.
Taking the hotel suite that was reserved for Marla, Maria assumes her identity until she can meet her roommate’s formidable fiancé. Unfortunately, Tienne is too tied up with business to see her at this time, so Maria goes out to enjoy the festivities. She ends up on the levee after dark, where she is accosted by a sleazy man. At that point, a masked and caped man steps out of the darkness to save her, but at what cost? He implies she is safe with him, but only for now. What does that mean?
Daring to be as bold as her model roommate, she agrees to meet with this man the next day. He is pleasant and charming when he shows her the sights and takes her out to lunch. Just as the relationship starts to bloom, a startling disclosure occurs.
This leads Maria into a world of romance and intrigue beyond her wildest imaginings. Time and time again, she is drawn to tell this man about her deception, but her feelings for him prevent her from doing so. Her inexperience with men is her downfall. This leaves her with growing regrets, as her web of deceit continues to grow denser.
In the meantime, she tries to call her roommate, who promised to be there for her as a strong ally. Marla, in fact, left the country with her new boyfriend to go to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. This leaves Maria well out of her depth with the man that has claimed her as his own.
Maria becomes a captive, not merely to the lies she has been compelled to tell, but to her love for this man that has become her captor. In spite of all of her efforts, her masquerade becomes more involved. At the same time, the romance that she finds goes beyond anything she has ever known. The clock ticks away as she passes the point of no return. In all probability, her dreams will come crashing down around her if she cannot stop this relentless charade.
MARDI GRAS MASQUERADE
By L. A. Morgan
The Café Du Monde was very crowded, but that was to be expected.
had begun, and the streets of the French Quarter of New Orleans were filled with throngs of revelers.
Maria Jones sipped her café au lait as she watched the multifaceted party unwind around her.
It was exotic and exciting, but there was a certain element of danger, very much like the situation in which Maria had placed herself.
As she took a small bite of a beignet, she thought about the strange circumstances that had brought her to this place at this time.
It had always been Maria’s dream to go to Mardi
As a librarian in a small town on the outskirts of
, she had never been able to afford such a costly vacation.
When her roommate, Maria Fontaine, had first suggested that she should go there in her place, she had adamantly refused.
She had never traveled so far away alone before, and besides, there were other factors to consider.
It was a complicated story.
In high school, Maria had felt drawn in friendship to the only other girl in school who shared her first name.
In spite of their basic differences, the girls became close.
Classmates would refer to them as “the Maria twins,” even though they looked nothing alike.
was a tall, willowy, blue-eyed blonde.
Her extraordinarily stunning looks and dynamic personality had propelled her into a modeling career directly out of high school.
Although Maria Jones was pretty, it was in a more subdued way.
She was of medium height and had long, wavy auburn hair that accented the green in her hazel eyes.
She did not wear much make-up and preferred more conventional clothing.
Her friend was outgoing and flirtatious, while Maria was rather shy and dated infrequently.
She found her enjoyment through reading and sewing.
The girls kept in touch when Maria Jones went to college to get her degree in Library Science.
To some the friendship might have seemed strange, but the girls did not consider their differences to be a limiting factor.
It was those very differences that drew them together.
Maria Fontaine felt the need for the stability and homey attributes that her friend provided; Maria Jones lived vicariously through the model’s exciting career and social life.
Shortly after Maria Jones got a job in the local library, they decided to share an apartment.
Neither of them had sisters, so they provided a family atmosphere for each other.
Maria Fontaine had never found such comfortable compatibility with any of her previous roommates.
There had always been clashes, some created by personality and lifestyle differences, others based on ego.
Maria Jones did not mind doing the cooking and cleaning.
In this respect, she took after her mother, a rather old-fashioned woman.
There was only one thing about her friend that bothered her, and that was Maria Fontaine’s phobia about cell phones.
She believed they caused cancer.
Not only did she refuse to use one, but she’d made Maria Jones get rid of hers before she moved into the apartment.
Whenever the model came home from her high-powered parties and business trips, Maria was always eager to hear the details of her friend’s escapades.
In fact, it was one of these very escapades that brought Maria into her present predicament.
It all started when Maria Fontaine came back from
two months earlier.
She was wildly exuberant over having met “the man of her dreams” there in the City of
When she told the librarian about her whirlwind courtship with Tienne DuPont, a wealthy American exporter of shellfish who was there on business, Maria listened with rapture.
“What was he like, Marla?” Maria had asked
using the nickname she had given her friend after a typing error in high school.
“Tall, dark, and handsome, just like I always dreamed he would be,” the other girl enthusiastically replied.
“It was like a story-book romance.
I met him at this little cafe on the
after I finished a showing, and as soon as I looked into his eyes, I knew he would be the one.
You wouldn’t believe it, Maria.
He’s so strong and mature, a real man in every sense of the word.
“How did you become engaged so quickly?”
“We went everywhere together while I was there.
He was so gorgeous, I could hardly stand it.
And he bought me everything I wanted.
Could it possibly get any better than that?”
“I guess not.
Tell me how he asked you to marry him.”
Marla had to shake her head quickly to clear away the intoxicating vapors of memory that almost prevented her from being able to speak about her happiness.
“It was the last night I was there,” she finally said.
“We were having cocktails on the top of the
. . .”
,” Maria repeated with a sigh, picturing it all.
“Yes, and then he asked me.
Naturally, I said yes.”
The ramifications of these circumstances slowly began to dawn on the librarian.
“Will you be moving to
?” she asked.
“Of course not.
He owns one of those fabulous old mansions near
I can’t wait to see it.”
“Then, you’ll be living in
He’ll have to get a place up here.
I’m not going to give up my career.”
“But, what about his business, Marla?”
“If he can take the time to run around
for six weeks, then he can go wherever he likes.”
“When will I be meeting him?”
“That’s the catch.
Now, tell me if this isn’t romantic.
Tienne has to finish his business in
Then, he’s going to be involved in setting up a new line of fishing boats in
He told me that he’ll be too busy with business to give me the proper attention I need, but wait ’til you hear this.
His family has a suite at one of those lovely, old hotels in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
They keep it for friends and business associates who come to visit.
Well, he’s going to have it all ready for me so I can go down there during Mardi
Won’t that be incredible?”
Maria was surprised by this news.
“Mardi Gras?” she said.
“That must be two months away.
You won’t see him before then?”
“We’ll keep in touch, and, of course, I have my own commitments.
But, isn’t that the most romantic thing you ever heard?
Can’t you picture me staying at a luxury suite right in the middle of all that excitement?
It’s probably the biggest party in the world!”
“Is that when you plan to be married?” Maria asked, not fully understanding how her friend could bear to be separated from her fiancé for so long.
“That’s what Tienne said.
He’s a very commanding man.
I think that’s one of the reasons I was so attracted to him.
I’d never met anyone who was that forceful before.”
“I didn’t think you liked forceful men, Marla.
Are you sure this is what you want?”
“Absolutely!” the model replied, as her thoughts drifted away to a high plateau of romantic intrigue.
This confirmation did not assure Maria at all.
She knew her friend far too well to believe that she could ever enjoy being dominated by a man.
Marla liked to have her own way, and that was that.
In a hesitating voice, she asked, “Who’s making the wedding plans?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care,” the model indifferently replied.
“I’m living my dreams.
Tienne will take care of everything.”
Not long after that, Maria’s concerns began to deepen.
When Tienne DuPont had first called Marla to discuss their plans, her friend had been as enthusiastic as before.
After a few weeks, her fervor started to flag somewhat.
It seemed that her fiancé had gotten the impression that she was going to give up her career and come to live quietly with him in
Apparently their brief acquaintance had not given them enough time to truly get to know each other.
They had a horrible fight on the phone.
When the model’s anger turned to tears, her fiancé had consoled her with the idea that they would discuss the matter further when she came to
Then, there was the problem of the engagement ring.
Marla wanted a new, fabulous diamond affair, while Tienne had planned to give her an heirloom that had been passed down through his family for generations.
The model adamantly refused to wear a ring that had been worn by someone else.
The dissension grew, but there had been the hope that it all would be resolved when they met at Mardi
The model became less and less satisfied with the arrangement.
The strength she had admired in Tienne only weeks before now repulsed her.
Suddenly, he was the most hard-headed man she had ever met.
How could he possibly think she was going to give up her career to live in some old house in the swamps?
Didn’t he realize she needed excitement?
She would not put up with this treatment!
Not long after that, Marla met another man.
He was so sweet and sincere, and he liked her just the way she was.
He was not as handsome as Tienne DuPont, but he was every bit as wealthy.
Only a week remained before the time that had been set for her to meet her fiancé in
The model had always been selfish, and she did not deviate from her former patterns now.
She refused to take any calls from Tienne, and this put her roommate in the unenviable position of having to say she was not there when his secretary called for him.
Maria Jones had to marvel at the ease with which her friend tossed aside one wealthy suitor to take on another.
The situation rapidly degraded when Marla got her final communication from the man she had promised to marry.
It was a brief note that read, “Maria, in spite of our obvious differences, I still expect to meet with you as planned.
This must be dealt with face-to-face.
I’ll be waiting for you in
Marla shrieked when she read this.