The Bride Behind the Curtain

The Bride Behind the Curtain by Darcie Wilde Read Free Book Online

Book: The Bride Behind the Curtain by Darcie Wilde Read Free Book Online
Authors: Darcie Wilde
“What a magnificent affair. The music is exquisite. We all but floated upon it.”
    â€œAnd the company is quite to your liking?” said Aunt Kearsely. “Some persons do not care for the inclusion of . . . originals”—her gaze passed coolly and dismissively over Helene and Madelene—“such as our
dear
Miss Sewell.” Aunt Kearsely waved her fan toward a mature woman in a daring gown of black and gold.
    â€œIs it Deborah Sewell you were avoiding by taking to the dance floor, Monsieur Beauclaire?” Patience inquired mischievously. “Perhaps you were afraid if she saw too much of you, she’d make you a caricature in her next book! I’m sure her writer’s eye delights in unexpected contrasts.” She smiled, not at him, but at Adele, and Helene and Madelene. “What do you think, Adele? Would you dare to go and find out which of our guests most
intrigues
Miss Sewell?”
    The moment’s lightness Adele had known waltzing with James evaporated beneath the heat of Patience’s glower. She felt herself shrinking. She felt the press of the horrid, starched ruff all around her throat and the awkward weight of her sash, and its enormous bow.
    And she was not the only one who was brought back to reality by Patience’s pointed speech. James turned away and said languidly, “Well, Lady Patience, should your sister choose to beard the lioness, she can tell us after our dance.” He bowed. “It is our dance, is it not?”
    â€œWhy yes, it is. I had quite forgotten.” Patience tossed her head, but she took his arm just the same. Aunt Kearsely watched her youngest niece be lead away. Her weary glance said to Adele that they would continue this conversation later, and she sailed away to speak with another set of guests.
    Not, Adele noticed, the notorious Miss Sewell.
    A hand touched her arm, startling her. She had forgotten Madelene Valmeyer.
    â€œD-do you really think Miss Sewell wrote
The Matchless
?” she stammered. “My stepmother says she should be sued for libel for the things she says about society.” It was an obvious effort to distract Adele from Patience and James on the dance floor, but it was just as obviously meant kindly, so Adele rallied her nerve, and her manners.
    â€œAunt Kearsely certainly thinks she wrote it. That’s why she was invited. And she really is watching us.” From her side of the ballroom, Miss Sewell might have her fan raised to half cover her face, but there was no mistaking where her searching eyes were directed.
    Pointing this out, however, was a mistake. The very last speck of color drained from Madelene’s cheeks. “Oh. Oh. I don’t think . . . I don’t think I can stand it anymore, Helene. You promised we could go if I . . .”
    â€œI did, and we will, in just a minute,” answered Helene. “Just try to breathe calmly and think of something else.”
    Adele furrowed her brow. She wanted to tell Madelene to buck up, there was nothing so terrible in being stared at, even by a suspected lady novelist, but one more look told her the girl really was on the verge of panic.
    â€œI can’t. Helene . . .”
    â€œYou can.” Helene laid a hand on the other girl’s shoulder. “Just another minute. Do you know, Lady Adele, before you joined us, Madelene and I were reordering the company? Deciding who we would invite, if we were in charge of the guest list. I actually think we might keep Miss Sewell.” She nodded toward the older woman, who had, thankfully, turned her face away from the three of them to enter into conversation with Brandon Cleft and stoop-shouldered M. Odevette. “I have decided Monsieur Beauclaire has earned a place on our private guest list. Especially as he was so good as to remove Patience for us.”
    Was that really what had happened? Adele didn’t dare believe it. She watched how

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