Masquerade Secrets

By: Janelle Daniels

“Secure your masks, my dears,” her mother said as they rolled to a stop in front of Lady Templeton’s home. “We have arrived.”

Placing the mask over her face, she felt something within herself break free. This night would be different than any other, and she intended to enjoy every moment of it.

Securing the mask, she felt the thick, silky ribbons kiss her neck, sending a shiver through her body.

Walking into the large home in Mayfair, Aubrey noticed that most of the guests had arrived, lingering in either the ballroom or hall. Dancing had begun, although she couldn’t see the dancers yet, the music floated to her in the hallway.

While newly arrived guests were not being announced, they were still expected to pause at the top of the stairs so others would notice their arrival. Waiting their turn, Aubrey noticed that hardly anyone was paying attention to who arrived.

At least they weren’t until she was standing atop the stairs.

Conversations seemed to stop as she walked down into the ballroom, all eyes focused on her. If it weren’t for the confidence she felt coursing through her, the knowledge that no one knew who she was, she would be worried that something was wrong, that perhaps she had forgotten an important article of clothing.

But nothing was out of place.

In fact, she felt strong, powerful. More so than she had ever felt in her life. Every man seemed to stop what he was doing to absorb her, to take her fully in as she slowly made her way to the floor.

The attention made her cheeks sting with delight, but she didn’t hesitate. She knew that it was just the beginning.


The boredom that Bradford, Lord Bromley, the Duke of Wathersby felt as he stood in the overly crowded ballroom was almost more than he could bear. Young debutants skittered by him speaking loudly, emboldened enough by their disguises to try to catch his attention. He wasn’t a fool. Everyone seemed to think that they wouldn’t be recognized, but he never understood that notion. A person with a mask on was the same person without it. Nothing changed.

Would it always be this way? The monotony of society eating at him at every social function? The smell of too many bodies, their sweet perfume and pungent cologne clogging the air? It all seemed so unbearable now. There was nothing left of the excitement he had felt as a young buck, ready to branch out into society. There was only ennui, exasperation.

Perhaps, if he had married Lady Sera…

He shook the thought right out of his head. It wouldn’t do to dwell upon the failed relationship with the new Countess of Surrant. The false scandal that had ruined her reputation, causing Quinton Devericks, the Earl of Surrant, to propose, was nothing he wanted to think about.

It was time to move on. Fortunately, he had never been in love with Lady Sera. Her beauty and wit had held his attention, and the friendship they had formed had moved him to propose. But there was never any love between them.

Now he needed to find a new duchess. Preferably one that didn’t drive him mad, he thought as another young debutant giggled by him.

If there was one thing that his father had drilled into him since a young age, it was the need to marry and beget heirs quickly. He had put it off as long as possible, but his father’s last request, that his only son marry while still young, weighed on him heavily.

While the prospect didn’t bring him any happiness, it was his duty. And Bradford believed strongly in fulfilling his duty.

He was a duke, and the power that came with his station demanded great responsibility. He could no sooner turn from those who depended on him than cut off his own arm. It was his duty to his family, servants, and the title that demanded that he marry and secure the land and their livelihood for future generations, but it wasn’t something he relished the thought of.

He wanted his marriage ceremony over with, wanted an heir even more so that he had no need to worry about it any longer. He wanted peace and quiet. He wanted the endless balls and meaningless conversations to stop. The quiet solitude of his country manor called to him in a way he was sure other aristocrats in London wouldn’t understand. But he was a long way from his serene estate.

Sighing heavily, he looked up at the painted ceiling. Roman décor was all the rage now, and clearly Lady Templeton had taken to the style with open arms. The large columns and busts of men from those ancient times lined the room in small alcoves. Soft wisps of fabric, gently blowing in the light breeze from the windows, had been hung from the ceiling, carefully shielding stone benches along the wall.

It might have all seemed so strange if half of the guests weren’t dressed in the roman fashion, the women in white togas, fabric gracefully draped over one shoulder. It was all the other costumes that felt strange in the room. The worst he had seen, by far, was the man dressed as a chicken. His feathers looked as if they had been rolled around in a chicken coop one time too many, and the smell didn’t help either.

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