The plan was for me to stay as close to Faolon as possible throughout the night, with the odd escape to seemingly gossip with Rachel. At some point Caleb would appear, but other than a pleasant, hello, I was to ignore him. And we did just that, all night long.
The evening was, in the eyes of those in attendance, a success. They danced with just the right amount of flourish, they ate and drank within the confines of polite society, everyone appeared to be civil to one another. It even became clear that my reputation had improved and Peiter’s painting had all been forgotten, or at least ignored.
I managed to tolerate my husband’s company, to smile and nod when needed and to do my best not to look Caleb’s way too often, though he always seemed to be somewhere nearby, just out of sight. I often felt him breathing on the back of my exposed neck, sending shivers down my spine and igniting a need to be close to him. Each time I turned he was impossibly out of reach, chatting with one of his many admirers. To survive the evening I counted each minute until I would be released from these last moments of hell.
As the guests began to leave and the orchestra put away their instruments I allowed myself a moment alone to gain composure. My excitement was growing and I was afraid I would spill over and tip off Faolon. I took several deep breaths on the balcony overlooking the stables. I watched the busy stable hands preparing horses and carriages for their waiting occupants. Very shortly, that would be me.
“I think its time we retire.” I heard a familiar voice in the doorway behind me. I grew rigid. Faolon and I each had rooms here for the night and were set to leave in the morning. It was a great honour and Faolon, of course, used every opportunity to mention it as we chatted with the other guests. Of course this made my departure risky, but there was no way around it.
“Yes, I’ve had enough.” I said before turning around to face him. His face was alarmingly still, his eyes bore into mine. I walked to him, taking his arm and walked back into the ballroom, tension deepening with each step.
After saying goodnight to Rachel and Caleb, who were seeing guests off, a servant quietly walked my husband and I upstairs. He took us to Faolon’s room first. The kind man graciously opened the door and pointed out all the necessary amenities.
“And, shall I walk you back to your room Madam?” I began to say, yes, but Faolon cut me off. With a sly look he told the man, “My wife will not need her room right away.” Trying not to show my panic, I closed the door, quietly as the servant left. I was slow to turn around. I took my time, hoping to collect myself, hoping that when I did turn around I would be greeted by a smile. I was close.
Turning around I found Faolon, smiling, maliciously.
“That’s a beautiful dress.” I nodded.
“Thank you.” I didn’t dare say more.
“Take it off.” I paused trying to read his face. I took only a second to realize he was serious. I turned away from him to begin the difficult process of taking off this piece of work on my own. I felt his eyes on me. The room filled with his loathing and his desires. I worked as quickly as I could to do as he asked, but could feel his agitation growing. As the layers fell away, leaving me in my shift, I lowered my head waiting for the next command.
“Turn to me.” And I did.
“Come here.” And I did.
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Note: All characters in this story are fictional. They are not based on any person living or otherwise.