The young and powerful Marquis seeks revenge for the death of his former lover, and he uses his main target’s daughter to get it. He forced the girl into an engagement and a dirty arrangement, but things have taken new turns. Saphira is falling in love with him despite her fight to hate him, and in the last episode the passion between them broke loose from its hinges. But the Marquis is a mysterious creature, and his plans are dark, taking Saphira down perilous roads.
“Who told you?” the Marquis demands to know.
“It was . . .” I wish I could brace myself and hide. I stand naked and with my hands cuffed to the sides before the Marquis, the stockings and high heels making me feel like a prostitute. He shuffles his shirt back on, buttons up his pants and tightens his belt, his pitch black eyes striking on his ivory face. He’s taken me like a master his slave, and now he interrogates me like an inquisitor.
“It was Jeremy Simmons, wasn’t it?”
“Up in the ballroom,” I attempt a lie, but the grin crooking on his face tells me he’s not buying it. He pulls me hard to him. The chains holding my hands rattle, and my breasts crush into his chest, him being dressed and me naked making me feel vulnerable and worthless. His eyes are now close, defiant and even angrier than before.
“You were down here with him, weren’t you, Saphira? Did he give you my name along with the sob story of Catherine Lancaster and the stable boy?”
“Is that sob story not why you seek revenge?” I whisper.
He bares his white teeth in a grin that’s as threatening as the split serpent tongue that now moves between them.
“If you ever see Jeremy Simmons alone again,” he hisses, “I’ll make his head a trophy on my wall.”
I hear the jealousy in his words, and my heart flutters. I know this is sick, but I’m no less jealous of Catherine Lancaster.
“Jeremy is an Inspector. His murder would have the police all over you.”
“The police are already all over me, Saphira. But they have nothing except stories, like your ex, the Inspector boy.”
His serpent tongue slithers out of his mouth, making the finest hairs stand on my arms as it licks my cheek in a cold, wet stroke. He takes distance again, his black eyes nailing me in place. A patch of skin on his face seems to peel off like burning paper, revealing thick serpent scales the colour of ash as he lifts my chin with two fingers.
“Don’t betray me, Saphira,” he warns, his voice now deep but silvery, like a monster’s. “Or you’ll know a new measure of my wrath.”
I’m afraid of antagonizing him. He presses me harder to his body and lets out a sharp, piping sound that makes my ears buzz and my eyes scrunch, reverberating through the dungeons. In response many steps march down the catacombs.
The Marquis holds me crushed to his chest, covering my nakedness but not our intimacy as his men appear, wearing dark suits and grim attitudes. It’s clear to everyone what happened between us, and it’s especially humiliating since my arms are still spread open, and in cuffs.
“A new dress,” he orders. “A comfortable one.”
One of his men hurries to carry out the command, while the Marquis frees my hands. I fall in his arms, my legs weak and my will numb. The hard sinews beneath his shirt feel like steel on my flesh, his glinting black gaze making me all too aware of the power he has over me. I’m stripped of clothes and of options.
A mighty awkward while later the man who went away returns with a simple dark-red strap dress, which the Marquis takes from him, then dismisses the entire team. I hear them whisper and murmur at the end of the aisle while I get dressed, the Marquis watching me from the gate of the cell. For a brief moment I think I read something more than jealousy in his gaze.
His white hand covers mine in a possessive gesture as I hook it around his elbow – at his invitation. Some of his men look puzzled when they see us, one of them raising a questioning eyebrow, as if he’s never expected such display despite our engagement. I recognize him as Stone Mask, one of the Marquis’ personal bodyguards. I still wonder why he needs security; it’s not like anyone in Northville stands a chance against him, and I doubt even Jeremy with his steroid-pumped muscles would really pose a challenge. Then I think of Ivan Basarab, the Slayer. But then again, Basarab doesn’t dare take on the Marquis head-on either . . .
We ascend back to the ground floor and soon we’re in front of the ballroom. The Marquis makes a show of our entrance, the pool of men in black suits behind us, our slow walk among the crowd attracting stares and whispers. The golden locks I managed to arrange my hair in before the party are now dishevelled, and my make-up surely patched and smeared, which makes me want to crawl away from sight, but the Marquis presents me like the trophy most worthy of having.
I identify Jeremy looking hard at us from amidst a group, his eyes furious, his overdone muscles clearly tense under his suit. I glance at the Marquis and notice the two have locked glares. I realize Jeremy has been hidden in the dungeons all along, heard and maybe witnessed what happened between the Marquis and me. The challenging grin on the Marquis’ face confirms, and I wish the earth would split and swallow me.
Nevertheless, what the Marquis does as he becomes ever more aware of my embarrassment is take me on a slow round of small talk with respectable families, one possessive hand on the small of my back, and pressing his cheek to mine all too often. His displays of affection – if fake or not – make me feel halfway good, but the measuring of the men from head to toes and the envious daggers the women shoot me add to my unease. Some of the men even prove unable to refrain from remarks such as,
“Yours is sure a fiery love story,” – accompanied by lecherous ogling when they think the Marquis and I are not looking – or, “Now, here’s a couple that can’t keep their hands off each other.”
I don’t believe there’s anyone at the engagement ball that can’t tell the Marquis and I have unleashed our passion recently, and probably also picture us ravishing each other in some hidden corner behind heavy velvet curtains. Luckily for me, the Marquis soon decides he’s shown off enough and ends my mandatory attendance.
“This was necessary,” he explains, and I almost take it as an apology until he reprimands through his teeth, “because they saw you follow Simmons out earlier, which made me look bad. Real bad. But the show just now should’ve made matters right.”
He leads me up the spiralling stairs to my chamber in the tower, and my heart drums wondering if he’ll take me again.
The heavy black door that starkly resembles the door to a medieval jail opens into the tower chamber with its few and rather gothic amenities. I walk in but the Marquis doesn’t follow me inside. When I realize this I turn to see him standing in the door, hand on the knob, looking at me as if he wants to eat me alive. We stare at each other for moments until he resolves to speak.
“Change of plans,” he says. “You’re no longer required to do . . . any of the things you’ve been required to do before.”
“You’ll no longer use me in your revenge?”
“I don’t know yet. But if I do, it’ll be in a different way.”
“Does this mean the engagement is off?”
“Wouldn’t you like that? But I’m afraid the engagement is still on –” an uncertain pause “– I still need you.”
“For now all you need to know is this – I won’t hear of you being alone with a man again, or I’ll have him skinned and roasted like a rabbit.” He stares hard at me to make his point. I catch roots in the ground.
“And you will not leave this place unencumbered,” he concludes. “Anything you need, Zed and his boys are at your disposal.” He motions at Stone Mask, and for a moment there I’m actually glad the Marquis has finally attached a name to the expressionless, steely-eyed face. I don’t know what to say, my heart beating like a rock in my chest, but soon after the heavy door falls shut my wit springs to life with a shot of despair – How am I supposed to meet Jeremy tomorrow?
Enjoyed this? Check out episodes of the prequel, Saphira, here, or the whole prequel in the Christmas Story Book for Adults, available here. Stay tuned for a further episode on Tuesday and, until then, enjoy all the quizzes, stories and goodies available here especially for you.
Oh, and Big Announcement: Stay tuned for a new book presentation on Monday, elegant COMEDY, perfect for the fans of Sherlock Holmes and parodies. Especially if you’re a guy with a thing for engines, no fear of rats (no matter how giant) or dangerous sensual women (meet Vittoria Donna Gina), you’ll totally love Mr. Christopher Milner’s, “The Giant Rat of Sumatra.” Details and goodies coming up Monday 🙂
NEXT EPISODE – Dangerous Plans – Ep. 6 of The Marquis
PREQUEL – Saphira in the Christmas Story Book for Adults