Authors: Alisa Easton
By Alisa Easton
Copyright © 2015 Alisa Easton
All rights reserved.
: This story contains explicit sexual content and is intended for mature audiences only.
Clara Castinette had been accused of being many things but daring had never been one of them. But now she stood in front of a full length mirror admiring the cascade of deep blue dress surrounding her entranced by the person in the mirror looking back at her. She turned slowly and the dress flowed around her. She was already getting used to the fabric which clutched her curves and filled the space around her. Jenna had offered to sweep her hair into a tight bun leaving just enough strands to outline the oval shape of her face but she shooed her away, already too nervous as it was to put on this dress and accept that for once, she was forsaking the safety of the world that she knew and walking into a dream.
"This isn't me," she mumbled, finally turning away from the mirror to face Jenna full on. Her petite blonde friend stood in a similar style gown of a deep green color that brought out the green in her eyes. Despite her earlier excitement, all Clara could feel was the anxiety gnawing at her insides as she faced the reality that she would never do justice to any dress quite the way that Jenna did. Mask or not, she would be the one to turn heads when she walked into the room.
"Don't be such a prude, Clara. It's going to be fun," and with a slight upturn of her mouth Jenna added, "and you just never know who you might meet."
"I have no intentions of meeting anyone."
Jenna wasn't easily fooled by the tough exterior that Clara tried to portray. She knew more than anyone how much Clara longed to meet that
man who would change everything.
"The right person for me would never attend one of these silly parties. This is a waste of time."
"We'll never know, will we?" Jenna teased. She took Clara's hand and pulled her out of the bedroom, down the steps, and into the cool crispness of autumn air.
The masquerade ball was being held at the home of someone Clara had never met. The old Victorian mansion sat on the outskirts of town with at least four wooded acres surrounding it. Clara stood in awe looking at the immense mansion wondering of the extravagance of lifestyle of the person who lived inside.
They could already hear the thunder of the bass as they approached the entrance. She panicked, wishing to turn and run but Jenna caught her arm.
"You're forgetting something."
In her hands, she held out the deep blue mask adorned with sequins designed to match the beautiful gown that she wore and hide her identity for the evening.
"Everyone will be wearing one of these," Jenna reminded her, "and you're not to remove it or reveal yourself under any circumstances. For once Clara, don't spoil the fun."
Clara watched Jenna put on her mask before doing the same.
"I'm not going to spoil your fun," Clara mumbled under her breath as she followed her friend into the large entryway. They were immediately greeted by other masked strangers and escorted into the ballroom area. If Clara thought the mansion was impressive from the outside, she was now stricken with a sense of awe at the elaborate ballroom with enormous glass chandelier. A live band perched in the far corner playing music while a sea of masked faces swarmed the place already. Some were dancing while others huddled in groups lost in conversation. Clara held back as Jenna pushed forward into the crowd, always ready to engage in any social activity. Clara was more than happy to sit on the sidelines and watch. All around her, the lights dazzled and distracted, making the dresses shimmer with movement.
Tonight, it was true that the only other person that she could be absolutely certain she knew was Jenna and after a few drinks, that may even prove difficult, she decided. There were just too many people around her and it wasn't very long before she was left standing alone amongst them, wandering aimlessly, wishing away the time so that she could forget the Cinderella gown and go back to her normal life. She glanced down at her feet and simultaneously brushed into a strong shoulder of a man moving in the opposite direction.
"I'm sorry," he said steadying her on her feet after knocking her slightly off balance, "You wouldn't happen to know where the restrooms are by any chance, would you?"
"No, I don't."
She looked into his eyes and felt as though she recognized something there but was certain that even without the mask, she wouldn't be able to identity him.
"That's okay. Thanks."
He disappeared again, swallowed into the sea of masked faces and Clara heaved a sigh and turned to find herself a drink to help make the evening just a little less painful. Despite the fact that she would have rather been anywhere else, she caught herself swaying slightly with the music and looking out longingly at the dance floor as she sipped her drink. She leaned against the wall in the far corner hoping that she wasn't obvious as she scanned the others for signs of a familiar face.
"Damn mask," she cursed under her breath. Could Jenna have come up with anything more ludicrous and uncomfortable than a masquerade ball? Next time Jenna would have to find someone else because Clara would not let her friend talk her into doing this a second time.
With a second drink in hand, Clara watched the mesmerizing sway of dancers as they floated effortlessly across the dance floor. A couple of times, she thought she caught a glimpse of Jenna but each time she tried to wave, the woman turned and focused her attention on her partner. Clara grumbled, glanced at the clock on the wall, and decided in ten minutes, she would call a taxi and find her own way home. A deep voice interrupted her daydreams.
"Want to dance?"
She turned toward the voice and instantly recognized him as the man that had asked her where to find the restroom but still with the mask in place, she could discern no real details about him. A shudder of chills filled her. She let her gaze move downward to a pair of broad shoulders and lean abdomen.
"You've been standing here a long time," he mused.
"I'm not much of a dancer."
"A little unusual to come to a masquerade ball if you never have any intentions of dancing, isn't it?"
"Yes, I suppose it is," she said feeling her cheeks heat with embarrassment, "but it wasn't my idea."
"No, my friend. She insisted that I come because she didn't want to come on her own. It's not really my thing."
"She seems to have occupied herself well enough."
"Isn't that the truth."
"Well, if you don't want to dance, would you like another drink?"
Clara contemplated for a moment. She'd already had more than her usual limit and she could feel her head swimming with the sensation but there was something so alluring about the stranger that she wasn't quite ready to say goodnight just yet.
"Yes, I would love one," she said.
The alluring stranger wrapped her arm into his and led her to the bar where he ordered them both a drink by a name she'd never heard before. He handed her the glass and took a sip from his own. She did the same, surprised by the fresh fruity flavor that seemed to go down so easily.
"What is your name?" she asked.
"No identity revealed, remember? Tonight you are free of your inhibitions to live your wildest fantasies."
"I don't have any wild fantasies," she said and then immediately wished that she hadn't actually said the words out loud. He looked at her for a long time as though he were trying to judge what thoughts were going through her mind and then he was distracted by movement in the far corner of the room. She followed his gaze back to the dance floor.
"My name is Adam," he said.
"Clara," she said, taking the hand that he offered, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't hold you back. You should go dance with your friends."
"I thought you would never ask."
He took her drink and set both glasses on a nearby table, took her by the wrist holding so tightly that she squealed lightly from the pressure and since her feet had no choice but to follow, she allowed him to guide her to the dance floor breathless and dizzy. It wasn't just the fact that he'd given her no choice, there was something about his commanding touch and the way his stare penetrated her when he looked down into her eyes. She shivered as he pulled her close and inhaled his scent deeply. He smelled like the ocean.
"I don't know how to dance," she mumbled as he attempted to lead her into a waltz.
"Then I shall teach you."
He spun her around making her feel giddy and then brought her back to him so that her chest pressed into his and her breath caught in her throat. All of her prior thoughts of leaving were erased in that one simple motion. Her new companion captivated and entranced her so that she could hardly take her eyes off him.
Maybe it's the drinks, she thought, as the music paused and she tried to catch her breath. He caught her just as she swayed off balance. She thanked him, and made her escape to the restroom where she could try to put logic and reason ahead of whatever strange curse had afflicted her. The moment that she pushed open the door to the small enclosed space was the moment she couldn't seem to catch her breath unless she knew that she could see him again. She hurried out of the bathroom and panicked when he was nowhere to be found. All she saw around her was the sea of masked faces.
Just as she'd given up on her mystery man and was getting ready to leave, someone grabbed her around the waist and spun her around, dropping her back to her feet again as she squealed in delight. She spun around and pushed him playfully.
"Don't do that."
He laughed and she wanted to get lost in the sound of it. It was as though no one else in the ballroom existed except for the two of them.
"I didn't get a chance to thank you for the dance," he said, "Would you do me the honors of another?"
"I ... I'm not a very good dancer."
"I disagree. I believe we moved in perfect sync."
She took the arm that he held in offer and followed him onto the dance floor knowing that secretly, she wanted nothing more than the excuse to be held so close in his arms again. She cursed the gloves that kept her from feeling him under her fingertips as they moved across the floor. One dance became two and two became more until Clara had lost count of the minutes that punctuated the evening, like the pursuit of a love that can never be captured.
The dancing would have continued longer into the evening if she hadn't ungracefully stepped back and tripped over something unseen, landing squarely on her behind. Although she wasn't truly hurt in the process, her face flushed in embarrassment and she worried that her companion would no longer look at her with the same reverence.
"We should rest," he said trying to encourage her to move toward the steps.
"No, I'm fine really," she insisted but as she tried to turn back to the dance floor, she tripped again and sank gratefully into Adam's arms as he caught her. "Maybe you were right."
A little rest certainly couldn't hurt, especially if it meant getting some time alone with her new friend. She moved toward the steps, parting the crowd as she went, and took the stairs two at a time in search of a retreat with Adam close behind her. The alcohol made her head swim with the quickness of her steps and once again, she stumbled as she neared the top of the steps and would have taken a turn for the worse if Adam hadn't been right behind her.
He took her hand as they walked the length of a long hallway.
"Do you know the person who owns this house?" she asked.
"It's a huge house for one person."
"Maybe that's why he likes to have these parties," he said with a shrug.
Adam pushed open a partially closed door and allowed Clara to enter before him. He closed the door behind them and reached over to switch on a small bedside lamp giving just enough light so that she could see the curiosity in his eyes as they reflected the light. She sat down on the edge of the bed with her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands to try to keep the world from spinning.
"You need water," he said moving to the adjoining bathroom and reappearing with a small glass of water, "Here, drink this."
"Thank you. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to pull you away from the party. I just needed to get away and sit for a moment."
"It's no problem. I could use the rest myself."
He smiled at her as he sat down on the edge of the bed next to her and took the empty water glass. He leaned forward slightly so that his lips nearly touched hers but even though she longed to feel his lips settle against hers, she panicked and pulled away.
"I should get back downstairs to the party. My friend will be looking for me and she'll worry if I'm not around."
"Wait, please, just a moment." He took her hand in his and she felt the jolt of electricity travel up the length of her arm and through her core. Even without seeing his face, there was some magnetic attraction between them that she couldn't deny. Perhaps it was only a product of the masks and a few too many drinks, but she didn't think so. She wanted him to kiss her but she was too afraid to let him.
Just as she felt his body shift again and their lips begin to touch, there was a rattling at the door. Without another thought, he was on his feet and pulling her toward the closet. They disappeared just in time for a couple to enter the bedroom.