The night air was pleasant, cool and slightly moist against your skin,
but it brought you no peace. As you leaned out over the balcony,
surveying the reflecting pools and gardens of the estate stretching out
into the moonlight, you tried to relax, enjoy the panorama, and ignore
the sound of the music, laughter, and dancing in the ballroom down the
hall from the study whose window you had flung open. Flung open at the
end of a mad flight from the ball, trying to escape that which you most
desired and, yet, by which you were most terrified.
The party had begun pleasantly enough. You had come unescorted,
determined you have a good time regardless of who had or had not come
with you. There were enough unattached men, or just outrageous flirts,
to more than fill a casual night. Perhaps you would meet someone
interesting, or particularly attractive, you had thought, but put the
subject from your mind: no expectations except for diversion.
Then, two hours or so after the first dancing had begun, she had
entered the room. It was between dances, and the crowd was busy with
angling through the floor, looking for someone to ask for the next
dance, or making themselves obvious to the person they wished would ask
them. When the dark figured had filled the doorway, many had turned to
look. Most had given a quick, appreciative glance, and then returned
to their partners. You had not; although you were across the room, you
stopped and stared as if turned to stone.