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Prisoner of Desire

Prisoner of Desire

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Published by: kiss99909 on Aug 05, 2010
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Prisoner of Desire by JenniferBlakeChapter OneIt was a glittering andfantastic spectacle. The StCharles Theater blazed withgaslight from the great Gothicchandeliers of wrought ironwith their milk-glass globes. The wooden floor that hadbeen laid over the parquetarea had been waxed to ahigh gloss that reflected notonly the warm pools of light,but also the white plasteredpillars with their gildeddecorations of acanthusleaves, the crimson velvet of the stage curtain, the urn-shaped balustrades of theboxes, and the lyre designs inthe domed ceiling. Silkenstreamers of red and greenand gold had been loopedfrom the dome down to the upper tier of boxes. They swayed gently inthe rising heat given off by the burning gaslights, as if moving in timeto the measured lilt of the waltz being played by the orchestra.Dancers whirled around the floor clad in silk and velvet and lace, andwith their eyes gleaming with pleasure through the slits of the maskscovering their faces. Here a girl garbed as Medieval Lady with pointed,veil-draped headpiece was partnered by a Bedouin in flowing robes. There a Monk with a cross swinging about his knees was paired with alady in the guise of a Vestal Virgin. Promenading on the arm of one of Iberville’s Dragoons was a lady with a powdered coiffure and a redribbon about her neck denoting an aristocrat of the French Revolution.Cloth of gold shimmered. Feathers floated and drifted fromheaddresses. Stones of paste vied in sparkle with the restrained glintof real jewels. The air smelled of perfume, with also a faint hint of camphor in which many of the costumes had been packed away untilthis Mardi Gras season. There was the subdued roar of merriment andconversation in voices lifted to carry above the music. Over thegathering hung a faint air of daring, a sense of risque pleasure, as
 
discreet flirtations were conducted behind the anonymity of concealing disguises.Anya Hamilton, watching the crowd from where she stood against oneof the great columns that supported the dress circle boxes, smothereda yawn. She allowed her dark lashes with their auburn tips to close. The smoke and the smell of partially burned gas from the lights weregiving her a headache, or perhaps it was the tightness of the tie of herecru satin demi-mask. The music was too loud, though the hollowshuffle of feet on the temporary wood floor, combined with thechattering of voices, nearly drowned it out. It was still early in theevening, but there had been too many late nights for Anya in the pastweeks. This was her fifth bal masqué since coming to New Orleansshortly after Christmas, and she did not care if it was her last, thoughshe well knew there were nearly two weeks more of them to go beforethe blessed respite of Ash Wednesday.Mardi Gras had once been a pagan festival celebrating fertility and therites of spring. Named in those early days the Lupercalia for the cavewhere had been held the celebrations surrounding the worship of thegod Pan, deity of the land of lovers called Arcadia, it had evolved intoan excuse for debauchery and licentious conduct during the time of the Romans. The early Christian fathers had tried to stamp it out but,failing abysmally, had incorporated it into the rituals of theResurrection. Mardi Gras then was decreed to be the last day of feasting before the arrival of Ash Wednesday, which heralded the fortydays of Lenten fasting preceding Easter. The priests had called theirfestival in Latin carnelevare, a word that could be loosely translated tomean farewell to the flesh. It was the French who had named it MardiGras, literally Fat Tuesday, for their practice of parading a boeufgras,or enormous bull, through the streets as a symbol of the day. It wasalso the French, under Louis XV, who had popularized the weeks of opulent festivities in advance of the final holiday, and the tradition of the bal masquéAnya had a grudge against the Gallic race for the last. It wasn’t thatshe disliked the masked balls, not at all. She always enjoyed the firstone or two of the winter season, the saison des visites as it was knownin New Orleans. But she saw no reason why Madame Rosa andCelestine had to go to every such affair to which they received aninvitation. It must have I been her Anglo-Saxon heritage that deploredsuch prolonged merriment; to her it was expensive, it was boring, butmost of all, it was exhausting.Anya, wake up! People are staring!
 
Anya lifted her lashes with irony behind the warmth in her eyes thatwere the ink blue of northern seas, turned her head to look at her half sister Celestine. I thought they had already been staring all night atmy ankles, at least according to you.So they have been and still are! How you can stand there with everyman that passes ogling your lower limbs, I don’t understand.Anya flicked a glance over the other girl, dressed as a deliciouslyvoluptuous shepherdess with a great deal of her softly rounded bosomshowing, then looked down at her form that was completely coveredexcept for her bare ankles that were a scant two inches below thehem of the doeskin costume that turned her into an Indian Princess.She picked up one of her thick braids that had the rich golden russetbrown hue and patina of polished rosewood. Flipping the end in aderisive gesture, she said, Scandalous, isn’t it?It is indeed. I wonder Maman allows it.I am masked.Celestine gave a ladylike sniff. A demi-mask, scant disguise orprotection.An Indian woman with her skirt down to the floor would be ridiculous,and well you know it. Since I had to wear a costume, I prefer it to beauthentic. As for Madame Rosa, she is much too good-natured to tryto constrain me.What you mean is you haven’t the least regard for her wishes, or forthose of anyone else!Anya smiled at her half sister, her manner coaxing. Dear Celestine, I’mhere, aren’t I? Don’t be cross, it will give you wrinkles.Instantly the younger girl’s frown smoothed. She went on, however.I’m only concerned for what the old ladies will say about you.It’s sweet of you, chére, Anya said, giving the other girl theendearment heard a thousand times a day among the Creoles, but Ifear it’s too late. They have been exercising the ends of their tongueson me for so long, it would be a pity to deprive them of the diversion.Celestine looked at her elder half sister, at the smooth oval of herface, the sparkle of her eyes through her mask, her straight nose, andthe warmth of the smile that curved her perfectly molded mouth. With

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