We have two more awesome flash fictions, today, from two more returning Featured Authors at Coastal Magic. Terry Spear writes stories that are always among readers’ favorites, and I’m sure this short will be no different.
Don’t forget to comment below her story with a question or comment for her (or for us), to be entered to win a prize pack of books & swag from many of our authors this week! (And be sure to check back on our “kickoff post” for the full schedule of participating authors. So many great stories, and each day you can enter to win!)
Here’s the image that inspired her story…
The Halloween Masquerade Ball
A medley of lyres, mandolins and lutes intertwined in a pleasing melody as Elizabeth Wheeler stepped into the ballroom, wishing she hadn’t agreed to going to the Halloween masquerade ball and watched something on television at home instead. She could have run around the suburbs as a cougar instead, being really scary. She tugged at the bodice of her brocade gown, the cut appropriate for the century it represented, but totally too revealing as far as she was concerned. Her fingers touched the diamond necklace dangling like a strip of sparkling lace at her throat.
She wrinkled her brow in annoyance. Why had she agreed to help Armand sell his creation, tonight of all nights?
At least everyone in here was a cougar, and that helped put her at ease a bit. A couple of shifters were even dressed in their cougar coats, one wearing a bowtie, another a diamond collar.
Though when others attended high-priced Halloween balls just for the fun of it, what did she do? Attempted to sell a piece of high-priced jewelry.
She straightened her already stiff back knowing that many of the attendees at the masquerade party had tons of ready cash. Any one of them surely would be interested in buying the necklace for his ladylove. At least that’s what Armand told her. And so where was he tonight of all nights?
Perusing the crowded room where women flaunted floor-length gowns of taffeta, brocades and velvet, she noticed a few eyes that focused on her necklace. Good. Maybe a buyer would approach soon. Still, Armand was supposed to introduce her to the men who’d be willing to purchase such an item. No way was she going to waltz across the floor and hawk his wares without an introduction.
Then from across the room, she noticed a man watching her whose mouth curved up considerably when she met his gaze. His intense stare dropped lower. Was he interested in the necklace? Or just the dip in her bodice? Her face grew flushed with embarrassment. Where in the world was Armand?
She needed a drink.
Though she waved at a waiter, she missed catching his eye. She tapped her foot on the floor. The fluted glasses of golden champagne wobbled slightly on the waiter’s silver tray as he moved farther and farther away from her, deeper into the jungle of elegantly-dressed bodies.
She wasn’t much of a drinker, but tonight, she needed a drink.
Lifting her long skirts slightly to avoid stepping on the hem, she made her way for the waiter and the bubbly nectar he carried on his tray. Winding her way through the crowd, she concentrated on the glasses of champagne dwindling in number as thirsty guests served themselves.
The waiter was nearly across the room when a man suddenly stepped in front of her, causing her to run into his chest…to her annoyance. Without looking up at him, she attempted to sidestep around him, but he maneuvered in front of her again.
More frustrated than a cat watching a bird through a window, Elizabeth looked up at the man and scowled.
The man with the dark eyes, a deep brown, his hair the same rich color curling in waves behind his ears, stared back at her as she looked up at him.
“Excuse me,” she said with an edge to her voice, fully intent on pursuing the waiter further.
The light of the chandeliers dripping with crystals high above reflected in the man’s eyes making them appear to sparkle with mischief.
“You wished a drink, no?” He clicked his fingers in the air and immediately a waiter appeared with more champagne.
“Thank you.” She couldn’t curb the frustration in her voice. She didn’t need a man…any man, to help her out…even as hot as this one looked. His woodsy scent permeated her breathing space as his body rested so close to hers, he warmed her to the pit of her stomach. With no room to maneuver, she couldn’t take a step in any direction, without crunching on someone’s toes with the spikes of her heels.
The smile returned to his lips.
He must have thought her a lush the way she raced after the waiter like some kind of alcohol-craved maniac.
“Someone as attractive as you are should have a gentleman companion to fetch your drinks, Madam.”
Drinks. Now she knew he thought she was a binge drinker.
She sipped her champagne, the bubbly tickling her nose. Stifling the urge to sneeze and make a complete fool of herself, she shook her head. “He hasn’t arrived yet.”
“No? I would have thought he should have escorted you here, Miss–”
“Elizabeth.” She switched the glass to her left hand and offered her right for a handshake.
Dimples appeared in his cheeks as the tanned skin beneath his eyes crinkled with laughter. But he didn’t shake her hand as she expected. Instead, he lifted her fingers to his lips and kissed them, his gaze remaining on hers as if he wanted to see the affect he had on her.
She nearly swooned. That’s how he affected her. Or maybe it was the champagne. She couldn’t be sure. Her head grew light, her stomach fluttered unsteadily, and she leaned further into his chest.
“Damon Deveroux,” he said, still holding her hand hostage. His deep voice and firm touch brought her back to reality.
Damon Deveroux? The multimillionaire philanthropist who owned several art galleries in the city? Was he interested in purchasing the necklace?
When a tipsy partygoer bumped into her, Damon released Elizabeth’s hand and wrapped his arm around her waist pulling her against his body, nearly making her spill the remainder of her champagne. She wanted to rest her head against his chest, to have him embrace her warmly, and kiss her passionately when the clock chimed midnight. Was she nuts? She didn’t even know him, and she was certain she’d given him the wrong impression. Instead of sharing the special evening with a man on her arm, she’d been unaccompanied and chasing the waiter down for a drink.
“Would you care to dance, Elizabeth?”
Dance? Dancing was the farthest thing from her mind. She took another sip of her champagne, not ready to let go of the glass until she was done.
“After you finish your drink of course.”
Once she finished her champagne, she wasn’t sure she could dance without stepping on his toes.
“I’m really waiting for…”
Her heart stopped dead. He knew Armand? Well everyone in rich folks’ circles knew Armand, she supposed. Her blood coursed through her veins as her breathing quickened in anticipation. Was Damon willing to buy the necklace?
She parted her lips to speak. “You know Armand?”
Damon drank the rest of his champagne and handed the glass to a passing waiter. He touched her necklace. Then his fingers traced the rows of diamonds moving in a v-shape dipping toward the crevice between her breasts. She caught her breath in her throat as she watched his movements.
“He made this and wanted you to find a buyer for it, no?”
Yes, but this wasn’t the way in which she was supposed to sell it, wrapped up in Damon Deveraux’s arms like he considered buying the whole package. She laughed inwardly at herself. He wasn’t interested in buying the necklace. But maybe he figured he could convince her to share the night with him. Hmpf. Why would he want her when he had half a dozen other women chasing after him at any given time?
But if she could sell the necklace on her own… She cleared her throat. “Are you interested?” She swallowed the rest of her champagne, wanting to wash away the words that spilled from her lips. When smile returned, she quickly added, “In buying the necklace?”
He freed the empty glass from her hand. “Let’s dance.”
“But I’m waiting for Armand.”
He guided her to the dance floor where men and women circled to a waltz. “How well do you know him?”
A blush rose to her cheeks. She’d met him two years ago at a party like this one. She’d been alone then too, only because her fiancé had jilted her. But Armand had loved her looks and asked her to model his jewelry. Flattered beyond reason, she’d done as he’d bid and earned a substantial commission on every piece she’d helped him sell.
Damon smiled. “Has he never mentioned me to you?”
Elizabeth’s body heated in embarrassment. Armand’s lovers included several well-to-do men. Was Damon one of them? Sure, he was good looking enough.
“Listen, I’m just here to…”
“Sell your wares.”
Her blood boiled with anger. “Armand’s necklace.”
“A woman who looks as good as you, shouldn’t have to attend an affair such as this one, alone.”
She attempted to squirm out of his grasp. “This is a mistake.”
“He’s not coming tonight. He asked that I meet with you instead.” He rushed his words as if he feared losing her.
She ceased her struggles. “What?”
“He asked for me to look out for you tonight.”
“Can you introduce me to some of the men here who might be interested in buying the necklace for their–”
“Lovers?” He grinned. “Or wives.”
Her back stiffened again.
“Relax. Someone here tonight already wishes to purchase the necklace.”
She couldn’t relax. Every molecule of her body churned with annoyance. Damon already had a buyer for the necklace, so why the charade? Why not get on with business?
“You don’t remember me, do you?”
Damon’s words totally threw her. Remember him? As overwhelmingly handsome as he was, how could she not have recognized him if she’d ever met him before? His broad shoulders blocked her view of any other dancer that night, and he held her close, possessively close. His hands traced her spine as she touched the satin of his jacket.
“We’ve met before?” She looked up at him and was surprised to see his eyes darkened with desire.
“We attended the same college and a lot of the same dances.”
She tilted her head to the side. “No. I would have remembered anyone who looked like–” She cut her words short. He had to have been mistaken.
“You were engaged at the time. I guess you had eyes only for him.”
Her brow wrinkled and she looked down. Just remembering the hurt her fiancé had caused when he started seeing another woman behind her back filled her with anguish.
“Armand felt you should be dating again.”
Her cheeks grew hot. “Armand shouldn’t be telling others what I should be doing or not doing with my life.”
Everything she said seemed to amuse him. A smile tugged at his lips again. “Don’t be too hard on my brother. I’m the one who’s been pestering him about you.”
Damon was Armand’s brother? Her mouth dropped in astonishment.
He grinned. “I know. No family resemblance. We’re half-brothers, but we’ve been close all these years as if we’d been brothers.”
Actually, now that she studied Damon’s sturdy jaw and angular features, the color of his eyes and hair, she could see a slight family resemblance.
“So how about it?”
He couldn’t be half bad if he was Armand’s brother, and certainly he had some pretty winning moves. The way his hands caressed her back, she sure wished he’d kiss her at the summit of the bewitching hour. Still, she wasn’t certain what he had in mind. “How about what?”
Damon kissed the top of her head. “Nothing too risqué. Maybe breakfast at Jardenes. Crepes and coffee?”
Breakfast? And what in between?
She took a deep breath. What had Armand told his brother about her? Surely not that she was easy.
When she hesitated to respond, Damon picked up the slack. “I could collect you at your place whenever you were ready to go.”
Instantly relief washed over her like a warm, welcome shower. “I’d like that.”
He chuckled, the sensuous, throaty sound triggering in her deep-seated longings for comfort and companionship.
When the clock rang twelve at the top of the hour, Damon kissed her. She knew then the way his mouth kissed hers with tenderness, this night was only the beginning.
“Want to run around the neighborhood as cougars?” she asked, when he finally let her up for a breath of air. She wanted to shed her expensive gown for her fur coat and what better time to do it but with someone who might like to run with her too?
He smiled. “Exactly what I was thinking. Lead the way.”