This is an excerpt from the start of chapter 2 for The Masque, the first in my Hellfire Club Erotique series.
The short man held a ledger and greeted her with a cordial nod and a slight bow. He held himself as if he owned these catacombs, the tilt of his head, the sharp look in his eye. Still, Olivia detected a hint of relief in his voice, as if he worried about her. Or Louise in this case. It had been hours since Olivia returned to the apartment, she’d long missed the final ball. Clearly he had expected her long before now.
“Good evening,” he said warmly. Your usual accommodations are ready for you. If you require anything else please do not hesitate to ask, Madame.”
The dichotomy of it all jarred her. One moment Olivia made her way through cold, dark alleyways and down ancient steps as the race of her heart echoed in her ears. Fear of discovery combined with the scuffling of rats and whatever other unknown creatures lurked in such places had her all but sprinting away. Then this massive door opened and the whole world changed.
Before her lay a world of the King’s court in manner and dress.
“Merci, Bernard.” Olivia’s words stumbled out as she placed him. Her aunt’s description had been most detailed, down to the mole near Bernard’s left ear.
With masque securely in place, Olivia walked by Bernard and his baroque desk, which would have been better suited in a Marquis’s estate rather than this dark and dank stone chamber. She held her head high as she sidestepped several members, wearing intricately painted masques also firmly in place, and walked through the arch of the entrance room into the main corridor.
People walked by her and nodded, some as formally dressed as if they did, indeed, attend the king’s court; others, Olivia noted, ate sumptuous pastries and meats the likes of which she hadn’t enjoyed in far too long. Tapestries covered stone walls and tall wrought iron candelabra illuminated the many passages leading in every direction.
Olivia tentatively walked down the corridor then stopped and took a moment to study the tapestries. Shocked, she blinked and leaned closer. Each beautifully weaved tapestry, well-preserved and still vibrant even in the candlelight, depicted a variety of sexual acts that left her awestruck. Heart racing anew, not with fear but with scandalous fascination, Olivia stared.
It took her several minutes to tear her eyes from the images, and even when she did they stayed with her, causing her breath to shorten.
As she made her way further down the path, careful not to look at any more tapestries, she heard unusual sounds from several antechambers. Her curiosity bade her to investigate. At a juncture, Olivia paused, glancing down the corridor she was supposed to take then in the direction of the anteroom. If she diverted from this path she might lose her way. Louise had only told her how to find her room from the entrance and had warned of the labyrinthine and endless corridors of Paris’s Hellfire Club.