Masque of Desire-Excerpt

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An Excerpt from MASQUE OF DESIRE

Copyright (c) AMY RUTTAN 2007

All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.

“Welcome to Violet Hall. May I see your invitation please?”

Miranda startled at the sound of the doorman’s Cajun accent, before handing the liveried and powdered-wigged man her gilded invitation. He scanned it quickly in the torchlight. He smiled and bowed, adding to the old-world charm.

“Very good, Ms. Carter. Again, welcome to Violet Hall. Monsieur Valquet asks that all guests remain masked until midnight, when all will be revealed. If you will follow me up to the house.”

A shiver passed down Miranda’s spine. All will be revealed, what did that mean? She brushed it off as she followed the doorman up the gravel path toward Violet Hall.

As they neared the house, she paused briefly, feeling that someone was still watching her. She stared back and saw a marble statue of a man. A mausoleum, unmarked and lit up by floodlights. The bust of the occupant of the tomb was what intrigued her. Without a doubt, the occupant had been a handsome man. She could not tell the color of his hair, or his eyes, because he had been carved in white marble. He had a strong face, with a delectable cleft in his chin.

She just stared up at the man’s face, mesmerized by the poignant expression set deep within the stone. She felt a rush of heat flood her veins as she stared up at the cold, marble face. It seemed familiar to her, as if she had seen that stone face before.

“Ms. Carter?” the doorman asked from a few feet away.

“Do you know who this is?” she asked.

“Ah, no one knows his name but he was the original owner of Violet Hall over two hundred and fifty years ago. Have you never heard of the curse of Violet Hall before?”

“No, I haven’t,” Miranda said quickly.

“Apparently, the previous owner crossed the paths of a mad voodoo priestess. She condemned him to sleep forever until his one true love wakens him.”

Miranda snorted. “A reverse sleeping beauty, huh?”

“Sort of. The man disappeared two hundred and fifty years ago today. Myths are that the original owner appears every Halloween looking for his one true love to break the curse.” The doorman chuckled. “Of course, it’s all a romantic myth. The mausoleum was opened, there was a body that had obviously been in there for over two hundred years.”

“Hmmm,” Miranda said seductively, returning her attention to the marble bust. “Too bad it was only a myth.” As she spoke those words, the wind whipped through the trees, the flame in the torches around her snapped and sparked. She felt a chill run down her spine.

“Come, Ms. Carter, it’s much more hospitable inside.”

Miranda nodded and followed the doorman back down the path. The night was suddenly silent and all she heard was the crunching of gravel beneath her feet. She looked back at the mausoleum and thought she saw the fleeting glimpse of a figure in the shadow of the crypt.