The slow beat music of the wedding swung to a halt, and I Susannah Leroux, breathlessly, sank into a satin covered couch. My partner planted himself roughly beside me.
“Idiot, you’re going to make us fall backwards,” I complained to him.
“Well, sorry,” William Castallono said, scooting closer to me.
I looked around the floor at the many couples dancing around; most of them related to me in one way or another. It was my cousin, Elizabeth Passarello’s wedding. She looked so beautiful in that flowing long white dress that my grandmother had wore in her wedding. I would be the next one to be wearing that dress.
This was when I noticed that my parents were watching me. It was pretty obvious since they both had their heads turned facing my direction. Disgusted, I glanced over at the man sitting next to me.
“Not too close; they will think we are married or something,” I stated, pushing William away.
“Since we are betrothed, I have every right to sit close to you,” he said arrogantly.
“If you ask me, I think it is absurd that my parents picked you.”
“Susannah….” For some reason, he smiled. “When we are married, I’ll teach you some respect.”
“If you live that long.”
I watched his reaction, which was an unblinking gaze at me. He quickly recovered and laughed.
“Death is not something to banter about, William,” I said with an evil smile. It was working.
William Castallono was the fourth man I had been betrothed to that year. It had been so easy to scare the other three away; this one was really annoying me. I had always wanted a passion for me, and not my money. My family was the second richest family on the coast. The men I had been betrothed to before wanted that money. They thought marrying me would get them a taste of how rich the Leroux family was. Only problem with that, is the fact that I dream of love, not fondness.
Sure, I wanted to get married, but not to someone who didn’t want…well me. The person for me just had not showed up yet.
I had to get rid of William soon or I would be stuck with him. But how? Nothing seems to be working well enough to scare him off.
The sound of my name being called brought me out of my thoughts. I looked up to find my father standing there. “Yes?” I asked, glancing past him. “What is it?”
“I was hoping to dance with my daughter,” Jonathon Leroux stated, extending a gloved hand in my direction.
I crossed the dance floor, happy to be leaving William’s side. My father and I began to dance to a slow paced song. “Are your enjoying yourself?”
He was looking down at me with a smile.
“Why is that, Susannah?”
“I am not happy with William,” I answered quietly.
“Are you angry?”
“Only a little.”
I smiled unexpectedly.
“Daddy, why are you smiling like that?”
“You are very beautiful tonight.”
I shook my head; sending dark curls in all directions.
It was then that I heard William’s voice asking, “May I cut in?”
“Of course,” Jonathon answered.
Once again, I was with my fiancé, and hating it. I wanted to chew my arm off, for he was touching it. His touch on my arm was like fire.
I was in the middle of dancing with William when the entrance doors opened. In stepped a large man with a large coat; he was wet from the rain. Either way, he was very good looking, and by the look of things, not from around here. The man was addressed by Elizabeth’s father my uncle.
I watched as he took off the coat; revealing dry clothing, and a well built body. His hair was midnight-black, and glistening green eyes serious. He looked at me as if my staring had caught his attention.
A smile was forming at the corners of his mouth as he bowed. He had a very nice smile that made my heart flutter. I wanted to dance with him so badly that it was hurting me. In fact, I just wanted to be touched by him. Thinking these thoughts, I completely forgot about the man I was dancing with.
William led me around the room dancing, but I never took my eyes off of the man with the midnight-black hair. He seemed to be always watching me too. When the song ended, my betroth pulled me by the arm to the balcony of the Passarello Manor. The only reason I allowed it was because my parents were standing not too far away watching. That was when I had lost sight of the man.
But once we were out of sight, I yanked my arm from his grasp. Startled, he said, “I have received your betroth ring.”
I looked at the ring between his thumb and index finger. It was so beautiful that I could not help but extend my hand in his direction. I had always wanted one of these rings. It was a dark green emerald surrounded by little diamonds. He slipped it on my finger. Only problem was that he had clutched my hand. There went the moment. Anger whelmed up inside of me, and I completely forgot about the ring I had just received.
“I am only going to say this once so listen carefully….” I took a deep breath, and sneered; “Release my hand before I start screaming that I am being raped.”
“Dear Susannah, do not say such things to cover up how you really feel,” he coaxed, taking a step forward. I took a step backward.
There was nowhere to go now, for I was standing against the wall over looking the Passarello plantation. It would now be easy to make me fall to my death. Lucky for me, that is not the intention William Castallono was going for.
“William please,” I whispered, knowing that if I jerked my hand free from his fingers, that I would surely fall backward.
“Susannah.” He was leaning toward my face to kiss me.
Please, God, I prayed. Help me.
“Excuse me?” A masculine voice asked. William turned slightly, releasing my hand. I quickly moved away from the edge, and my fiancé.
Standing there was the man with the midnight-black hair. Even though it was dark, I could see that his glistening green eyes were serious.
“I am not a guest here, but am wondering whether I could acquire a dance with the lady,” he exclaimed smoothly. But before I could answer, William said, “We are a little busy; perhaps…never.”
It was then that the thought popped into my head. How much had he heard? Had he heard my threat to my fiancé? It was possible, but there was a chance that he had. I could not allow him to re-enter the reception if he had. There was after all, my reputation to be kept.
For many years, I had led everyone to think that I was an elegant young lady while for real I was what some might call evil. The only people who knew of the obnoxious me were the three men I had scared off. If anyone found out that I was not the sweet Susannah Leroux that I pretended to be, then all my accomplishments would be ruined.
“Well it looks,” the man exclaimed; bringing me out of my thoughts. “As, though, the lady would like to leave your presence.”
William looked at me for a moment then, turned back to face the man. He stated, “And who are you to judge so? I am her betroth so I have every right to say what she can and cannot do.”
Even though it was true, my blood began to boil with hate. What happened next was not planned. “Yes.” I answered, “I would love to dance with you.”
I began to walk towards the man, but William grabbed hold on my floor lengthen dress, and tugged while saying, “Susannah, you are wearing my betroth ring. I forbid you to dance with this man.”
That did it. I did not care whether the man with the midnight-black hair saw or not. I turned around and angrily said, “If you do not release my dress, so help me God, I will stab you in the heart on our wedding night.”
Absolutely stunned, he released my dress as if it had burned him. “Susannah, I do not understand.”
“Let me clear it up for you, William Castallono, I do not want to marry you.”
With that, I picked up my skirts, and walked over to the man waiting to dance with me. He stood there, his arm extended in my direction. I took hold of his arm as he exclaimed, “It is just one little dance.”
Ignoring looks from my parents and relatives, I crossed the room with him. We smiled at each other, dancing.
“So who are you?” I asked, gazing into his dark green eyes.
“I apologize for not introducing myself. I am Jessie Lafayette,” he answered.
“Nice to make your acquaintance, Miss Susannah.”
“You are not from around here are you?” I already knew the answer. For when I told him who I was he didn’t mention my being rich.
“No, I was on my way home when my carriage got stuck in the mud,” Jessie explained to me. I liked the way he talked, his accent. “I live on the other side of the lake.”
“I have never been past the lake. My parents will not allow me to do so.”
He nodded in what seemed to be an understanding. Then, smiling, he asked, “Would it be too bold to ask of your years?”
“No…I am eighteen. And you?”
For some unknown reason he smiled even more. What was going on in that head of his? Is he realizing that I am of the proper marriage age or something? I could not decide what it could be.
As another song began to play, as he answered, “Twenty one.” Paused. “Your betroth, you do not like him much do you?”
So Jessie had heard my first threat towards William. Alarm shot up through me so quickly that I blurted, “Please do not tell anyone.”
I felt my face and neck turning red.
He chuckled; asked, “Let me guess, you have a reputation to be kept?”
“I will take it to the grave. What did you say when he became your fiancé?”
“I told William that I hoped he would die before then,” I informed him as a matter of fact. We began to laugh. I could not help what I asked him next. “Do you have a betroth?”
This seemed to startle him a bit. At first he hesitated, but said, “She died.”
“I am sorry for bringing it up.”
“You could not have known.”
Suddenly, I heard my father’s voice asking, “May I cut in?”
“Oh, Jessie, this is my father, Jonathon Leroux.” I stated, “Daddy, this is Jessie Lafayette.”
“Very nice to meet you,” my father mumbled, pulling me away. He danced me away from Jessie, who stood there watching me. I never took my eyes off him either; at least not for the rest of the reception, anyway.