Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Lady Valentine Part 9

 Louise M. Gouge

Although the poser strutted into the Great Hall with the same gait, the same posture, and even the same arrogant smirk on his identical face, Drake knew straightaway that this was not Viscount Nicolas, the man with whom he had dueled, the man whom he had undeniably killed.

With his own eyes, Drake had observed the writhing death throes of Nicolas. He’d watched as the lifeblood flowed from the man’s chest and neck, his corpse turning pale in death, and his eyes staring lifelessly into the blazing sky. Drake had sufficient experience in battle to know death when he saw it. This imposter did not even bear a scar from the deep wound to his cheek that Drake had inflicted.

Further, when the man scanned the occupants of the hall, briefly stopping to gaze at Drake, his eyes didn’t flicker with recognition, much less the hatred with which Nicolas had ever viewed Drake. Nor did he settle a knowing gaze upon his supposed betrothed, Lady Elizabeth, who stood beside Drake. Who was this man? A twin brother? A cousin? Some village wench’s by-blow whom his father sired and then trained to be Nicolas’s double in case of an emergency?

That thought shocked Drake more than he wished to admit. Had he killed the double instead of the actual viscount? After all, the duel had been precipitated upon an insult to Drake’s sister, not the behavior of a gentleman to a lady of noble birth. Drake had acted immediately, not bothering to check his opponent’s breeding. Challenge made, challenge accepted, swords drawn and Lydia’s honor avenged, all within the space of a half hour. Drake’s adversary had exhibited great cunning with his weapon sufficient to warrant his claim to the title. But even a village brat could be trained to the sword. Was this, then, the real viscount? Surely not.

The sycophant at the man’s elbow tugged upon the viscount’s sleeve, and the imposter leaned in his direction all too willingly, perhaps even familiarly. Drake held a certain affection for his closest servants, but none of them expected to be treated with like regard in such exalted company as a Valentine Ball for nobles and aristocracy. The sycophant whispered to Nicolas and nodded toward Drake and Lady Elizabeth. The two then made their way across the crowded hall, the viscount shoving important people aside as he strutted toward them.

Drake eyed his comely companion. Only moments ago, she’d taken his arm and accepted his escort into the Great Hall, albeit somewhat dejectedly, and he’d vowed to make her grant him one of her glorious smiles. Yet now she clutched that arm almost in desperation. A soft gasp, followed by a soft sigh escaped her, and Drake’s heart swelled with emotion, even as his hand went to his sword. He would protect Lady Elizabeth just as he’d protected his sister. She had but to indicate her displeasure with her supposed fiancé. For his part, Drake saw no affection in the viscount’s eyes as he looked at the fair lady, only the vilest and most improper attraction, which alone deserved nothing less than a duel for her honor.

They stopped in front of Lady Elizabeth, and the interloper took her hand, raising it to his lips for an elaborate kiss. “My dear betrothed bride, at long last we meet. You are nothing short of ravishing, just as I was promised by your good father.” He touched her ivory cheek with one finger, running the crooked appendage down the length of it to her chin. Drake clutched the hilt of his sword.

“Hmm,” the rake continued. “We must hasten our wedding, poppet, for I am eager to beget an heir. Are you of the same sentiment?”

Lady Elizabeth started at his improper address. “How dare you…?”

Drake inched his sword from its scabbard.

“Ah.” Nicolas, or whoever he was, stared now at Drake. “There you are. Now, tell me sir, what does a man say to the villain who has killed him?” He chuckled in an evil way. “Indeed, what does a man say to the man he believes he had killed?”

7 comments:

  1. Eeek!!! I'm LOVING this story!!! I just caught and woohooo, it's exciting! LOL
    I can't wait to see what happens next. ;-)

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  2. Oh my goodness! The plot is more than thick! I could hear the blade scraping from the scabbard!
    Well done, Louise!
    And I really do not like Nicolas.

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  3. Thanks, ladies. I had fun writing it.

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  4. Wow! This story has really taken off. Can't wait for tomorrow.

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  5. Ewwww, cool. We got corpse description and everything. I love, love, loved this installment.

    I think I'll start reading this time period.

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  6. Whoa! Talk about tension. Great job ramping things up, Louise. Can't wait for the next installment to find out what happens next.

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  7. Ahhh....this is getting intense. And I still want to know why he thinks he does not make good husband material. Oh how the plot turns.

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