Painting by Miranda Koerner
The lady was a vixen.
He was across the room and his eyes still ached with the glare of her glimmering gown. She flicked a strand of her long flowing locks over one tan shoulder, knowing all too well that every word from her ruby lips was being lapped up by the carpet of adoring men at her feet. It was as though she had stepped straight from a story book into the smoky club and simply forgotten to bring the beginning of the story with her. But no matter, Clive thought. He smoothed his lapels and rose. ”Do you know her name?” he asked the bartender, tossing down some singles.
“Her?” The bartender’s eyes flicked right. He snorted. ”You think you got a shot with Isa?”
“Isa,” he repeated. Even her name was enchanting. ”Does she come here often?”
“Only on Masquerade Night.” The bartender twirled his white rag. ”No one’s ever seen her without the mask.”
The mask, Clive thought, the nervous excitement starting to tingle in his fingers until he had to tuck them into his coat pocket. He knew there was something special about the mask. Isa’s gown was a simple silver mermaid that hugged every inch of her curvy hips and small waist. Any other woman would have been lovely in it. But with the pink and purple mask, a garden of flowers and tiny stones that seemed molded to her skin, she was almost other worldly. She was beyond beautiful. She was…
“Exquisite.” He whispered. Isa turned away from her admirers. Across the room, two perfect pools of lapis blue held his. Until his lungs burned and he took a hasty gulp of air, he hadn’t realized he hadn’t been breathing. In her eyes, nothing else seemed to matter.
The ruby lips curved. But as he began to thread his way through the crowd, Isa turned and melted into the shadows. He reached the groaning crowd of admirers just in time to see purple wings unfold from her delicate shoulder blades. They opened and closed only once, shimmering under the moonlight with a illuminance no machine could ever produce. Her eyes peeked over her shoulder and immediately found his.
He curled his fingers into his fist; desperation imprinting in tiny white crescents across his palm. ”When can I see you again?”
She laughed and he wished he could bottle the joy in her voice for rainy days. ”Soon,” she whispered. ”Soon.”
His smile faded as she floated away.
It would be a long wait until the next Masquerade Night. But he would wait. For Isa was worth waiting for.
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