Quiet lady’s companion Anastasia Quintin understands her place in society and wishes for no more than the life she has undertaken…until a fateful house party for the Earl of Huntingdon gives her one night, one dance, one chance at all of her discarded hopes and dreams.
ONE NIGHT, ONE DANCE, ONE CHANCE
At twenty-five, Anastasia Quintin has resigned herself to live in quiet seclusion as companion to Miss Albryght, but one lost wager by her headstrong bookworm of a mistress soon requires Anastasia’s return to the society from which she hides. Her first event in eight years is to be a house party in honor of the recently entitled Earl of Huntingdon, hosted by his haughty old grandmother.
Having come to his title by tragedy, the handsome Huntingdon is new to the ton, but he is not new to Anastasia. Dante St. Clair is the very man who long ago stole her heart and thereafter dashed all her hopes and dreams. He is the man she must never let discover her identity, but whom she can no more avoid than a moth can a flame. One waltz will destroy her, and for it, Anastasia will risk everything…and win.
This was insane. She was insane.
She shouldn’t be here. What did she hope to achieve by dressing up and attending the masquerade? One night to be free. One night to pretend.
It had been so long since she gave into such diversions. Perhaps one night was possible. One night to lose herself in everything that she had wanted and could not have. She leaned over the marble balustrade and watched the dancing couples below. Fanciful plumes glided over elegant ladies. Pinks, blues, and greens mingled in the sea of costumes. An intoxicated black and white domino whisked through the crowd bumping into several ladies, causing a ruckus. A beautiful young woman clad all in white waltzed through the vibrant colors, reminding Anastasia of sea foam brushing the shore.
“Oh, how I wish I could have had just one more dance with him,” she murmured under her breath. “I know we could have been happy together.”
Anastasia blinked away the tears. She had the rest of her life to dwell on what could have been, what she hoped her future would have been like. Tonight was for giving into her folly, her desire, one night to forget the past and live in the present.
Before she changed her mind, Anastasia pushed away from the banister and hurried toward the grand ballroom. At any moment, she suspected the guards would interrupt her flight of fancy and take her away to Bedlam.
A lively tune greeted her as she neared the ballroom. There was a lightness in her step and a sway in her soul. Anastasia could not remember the last time she danced.
An image flashed through her mind of a young couple waltzing endlessly through a shady copse. Laughter filled the air followed by a sweet first kiss. Despite everything that had happened, she longed for his kiss and the way he made her insides flutter.
So lost in her own musings, Anastasia had not realized that the music had stopped, nor that all eyes were upon her. Thankful for the mask that hid her features, she glided down the steps into the warm room hoping to disappear without further attention into the sea of costumes.
Lavender, lilac, rose, vanilla, and several other unknown odors assaulted her senses. She edged her way from the crowded area, hoping to find a quiet spot to recover whenout of the corner of her eye, she saw Lady Huntingdon push her way through the crush of people.
Anastasia’s first thought was to run. Lady Huntingdon could not discover that she and Isabel had switched places. The excited butterflies had turned into treacherous locusts threatening to destroy her. She had to leave. Anastasia turned, and bumped into a man dressed all in black, including his mask which covered most of his face. Warm brown eyes glistened in the candlelight, inviting her into his world.
“May I have this dance?”
Anastasia’s mouth went dry. She knew that voice. The heartache that had been lingering for years burst into flames.
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Alanna Lucas grew up in Southern California, but always dreamed of distant lands and bygone eras. From an early age she took interest in art, history, and travel, and enjoys incorporating those diversions into her writing. However, she believes that true love is the greatest source of inspiration and is always an adventure.
Alanna makes her home in California where she spends her time writing historical romances, dreaming of her next travel destination, spending time with family, and staying up too late indulging in her favorite past time, reading.