First Page: Contemporary Women’s Fiction
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"And eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart."
Saturday, December 29th
As Nicolas Siegfried expected, she was entering the party looking more prisoner than guest of honor. Two bodyguards gripped her arms while they shoved aside the frenzied crowd to force a path down the red carpet delivered just that morning. The media and gawkers had been camped for hours along the narrow entrance of the Luxembourg embassy where this circus of a debut had been thrown together.
Staring out through the recently flung open doors, Nicolas glared into the darkness filled with bright flashes from the cameras of the paparazzi. He had only seen her in photographs, but recognized her immediately despite her face being cast down. At each step she was quickly ushered up, her head bobbed side to side like her neck had been stripped of its muscles.
Reaching the top, the bodyguards reverently dropped their large hands from her thin, bare arms and stepped slowly back as if pushing a paper boat into uncertain waters. The guests, clad in tuxedos and designer gowns, seemed to turn in unison to stare up at her.
She stumbled forward onto the edge of the threshold leading immediately into the ballroom. Her hunched shoulders made her look more like a chastised child than an adult of almost twenty-five. Shouts outside from media for her turn for photos echoed loudly around the room but went ignored.
Moments burned slow while she stood frozen in the entryway staring at her feet. The voices around him fell off into curious whispers, but there was no question in his mind. She is unable to face it. His jaw tightened as he inhaled sharply at the familiar sickening rush of guilt curdling through his body. He cursed in frustration under his breath. He should have demanded they cancel this damage control guised as a celebration. It was an overestimation of her abilities to think she’d at least make it into her debut without having an emotional breakdown.
He glanced around looking for a solution to this embarrassing situation. The bodyguards and group who led her in were now hanging back looking as confused and shocked as the strangers around him. Nicolas shook his head dismissing the impulse to go help her into the ballroom. Contact with her would sabotage his near perfect plan. Not to mention putting a target on his back for the paparazzi to take aim, a predicament he’d been lucky enough to avoid so far.
His chivalrous dilemma was answered when she broke her paralyzed position by snapping upright and turning around toward the rabid camera flashes. Instead of hauling back down the stairs to run away, which was where he would have placed his wager, she raised an arm and gave a long, graceful wave to the crowd outside. The cheers elevated in reaction, and he, with the rest of the party’s onlookers, were left to stare at her back.
Following several more bows and enthusiastic flicks of the wrist, she returned from the outside stairs edge and spun to face the crowded ballroom. She took measured steps to the edge of the entrance catching the full light of the room’s chandeliers.
His eyes narrowed as he looked her up and down. It was all wrong. Her slender, bare shoulders lifted back with statuesque grace. Her dark curls no longer hid her face, but became an adornment piled wildly, almost arrogantly, atop her head held high. Diamonds in her hair and even the tiny beads swirling up her dark blue gown cast a garish confidence in camera lights still rapidly firing. What the bloody hell just happened?
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