EXCERPT (U rated) from 'A Dead Man's Debt' by Grace Elliot (historical romance)
Our Heroine, Celeste, Meets her Nemesis, Lady Ursula Black.
FROM: A Dead Man's Debt by Grace Elliot.
If Celeste wanted to ignore her it was too late, curiosity got the better. Indeed Ursula fascinated her. What man could resist her with alabaster skin, golden ringlets and eyes like a summer sky? Celeste almost pitied Ranulf a man would need to be made of stone to resist this temptress. But there was something else a vulnerability an urgency to be heard. Celeste bit her lip. Ursula Black was up to something, but what?
Lady Black pushed a champagne glass into her hand. "Here. You look as if you need this more than me." Ursula inclined her head toward a window seat. "Shall we?"
Nodding acquiescence Celeste followed. She glanced to the card tables, her mother had already forgotten about her.
Once seated in the shadows Ursula slumped, rubbing her belly, her expression softened.
"I've been curious to finally meet the woman who's stolen Ranulf's heart. You see I know Ranulf better than most," a coy blush prettied her cheeks, "and to be honest you aren't his usual type."
Celeste's mouth dropped open, had her limbs not been locked with angry she might have slapped her. Ursula drew closer, the scent of patchouli tickling Celeste's throat.
"Forgive my plain speaking, Miss Armitage, but it is my duty to a sister in womanhood to alert you to Lord Charing's reputation."
With clipped curtness Celeste replied. "Madam there is no need."
Celeste sighed. "Firstly I am fully acquainted with his Lordship's activities, and secondly he is of no interest to me."
Ursula gazed at her steadily and let out a breath. "I believe you." With a slight of hand she patted her belly. "I am glad you haven't fallen into the same trap as I."
Celeste took a slug of champagne; the bubbles fizzed up her nose. "Ranulf Lord Charing made you a promise ?" She stopped breathing, aware only of the blood whistling in her ears. A crack appeared in Black's impeccable façade, a tremor on that delectable upper lip, a redness to the tip of her nose.
"I share this as a warning to you, but let it be our secret I am quite ruined soon I shall have to travel to the continent, if you take my meaning. I was hoping Ranulf would do the decent thing and marry me "
Celeste had no spittle to speak, her mouth dry as sand, the world contracting around her. Deep inside a small part of her died, smothered by disappointment and disillusionment. She so wanted to hate this woman, who had stolen her dreams, and yet she could only feel pity. Ursula patted her hand, smiling knowingly.
"I'm sorry dear. Just as well that you've no interest in him. I couldn't sit back and watch him ruin an innocent like you "
Celeste nodded blindly. His mocking words of devotion echoed round her head, killing all that was light and bright, leaving the future a barren, grey place.
Ursula stood, shaking out her skirts, brushing creases from the silk. "Seek another beau if you know what's good for you."
Taking her leave, Ursula drifted away like some shining angel. Only once she had left the room did Celeste realise she'd been holding her breath. People were watching her, whispering behind hands. Never had she felt such a fool, nor so alone. Miserably she glanced around, desperate for a friendly face.
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