Mardi Gras Masquerade

Free Mardi Gras Masquerade by L A Morgan

Book: Mardi Gras Masquerade by L A Morgan Read Free Book Online
Authors: L A Morgan
Steve asked, “Was the food too hot for you?”
    “It was good, but I’m not used to that much spice,” Maria replied.
    After Steve instructed the maid to bring her a glass of milk, he said, “You have to get used to Creole cuisine.   The milk should soothe your stomach.”
    “Thank you.”
    Maria felt surprised by his keen observation and consideration for her comfort.   Steve’s moods changed so frequently that she never knew what to expect.
    “Would you like to go back to town and join in the festivities?” he asked.
    “Not tonight.   I feel rather tired.”
    It had occurred to Maria that she would have a better chance of getting away from the man in the crowds, but she knew that he would never leave her side.   Besides, all of the emotional turmoil she had experienced that day had left her in a state of mental exhaustion.   It would be best to rest now, so she could face whatever new situations arose the next day with greater self-composure.   
    When Steve invited her to join him on the veranda, she had politely refused.   He only nodded when she excused herself and went to her room.
    Darkness had fallen, but it was still relatively early.   Maria considered the possibility of looking for a telephone, and then put if off it for another time.   She had had enough intrigue for one day.   After changing into her nightgown, she stepped out onto the balcony to take a final peak at the Mississippi in the moonlight.   It was chilly outside, so she had been forced to put on the satin robe which Marla had given her for Christmas.
    The stars in the clear, crystal sky joined their light with that of the waning moon to cast sparkles on the water.   There were a few dim solar-powered lights in the garden beneath her, but the huge, old Southern oaks and willows near the river’s edge were silhouetted in darkness.
    Maria looked out at the enchanting scene and her emotions were conflicted.   On one hand, she was sorry she had ever given in to Marla’s manipulation and then undertaken this foolish masquerade.   On the other, Maria knew that she would never have been able to come to this land of dreams if she had not done so now.   The cold winters of Illinois had never set her heart on fire as this place had.
    And then, there was the man . . . Steve.   He had stepped right out of the pages of her imagination, the tall, dark stranger, compelling in his strength.   From the first time he had come to her rescue, she had felt drawn to him.     She had also feared him, but that had only lent strength to the fantasies she had created in her mind.
    It was a sad trick of fate that he had turned out to be Tienne DuPont’s brother.   Just as she had started to like him, all of the amiability between them had been shattered.   And it was all needless, ridiculous really.   It was her own fault for pretending to be someone she wasnot.
    It was useless to think about things that could never be.   Maria focused again on the river.   A chill went down her spine when she saw a figure detach itself from the somber darkness of the willows.
    Maria’s heart beat faster as she watched the featureless silhouette continue to move along the riverbank.   It was a man, and he hunched forward as he walked, as though he was deep in thought.
    It was Steve.   There could be no mistaking his tall, broad frame and imposing build.   Unconsciously, Maria let his name slip softly off of her lips.   There was no danger of him hearing her; he was too far away.
    She continued to watch him until he was lost from sight.   Maria shivered involuntarily, and then went back inside.   She would seek release from her troubles in slumber.
     
    * * *    * * *    * * *
     
    When Maria awakened the next morning, she was told at breakfast that Mr. DuPont had already left for work.   He would join her later in the day for dinner.   Maria felt that she could use this time to her advantage if either Tienne or Marla called.   Steve DuPont would

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