Marcello and Gwendolyn’s first encounter (cont’d)


Oh, Yes. She would be in his arms at dawn, sated and drowsy from his lovemaking.

“A dance, Signorina.”

The deep Italian-accented male voice had stirred the ringlets next to her ear, causing a tickle that she had to resist scratching at with her gloved fingers. Gwendolyn turned to face the man. Dressed in black eveningwear, he was tall with broad shoulders. His leather commedia half-mask, a la Pantalone, sported bushy white eyebrows. Strange, but she had not seen him on her tour of the room earlier that evening. Surely she would have noticed someone as tall as Weston.

Before she could react, she was being led from the balcony to the center of the dance floor.

Gingerly stepping her way through the minuet, Gwen tried to steal glances at her partner, but his mask prevented her from even a glimpse of anything above his nose, which, in her estimation, was average in size. What were above average, and quite a ways, were his full lips and cleft chin, positioned flawlessly upon his strong masculine jaw. He danced well, thank goodness, but the heat of his hand through the fabric of their gloves disturbed her. Instead of warming her, it sent shivers that shimmered all the way up her arm. He absolutely radiated power.

His gaze seemed to snap to Gwendolyn’s. He’d caught her staring at his face. She turned away, her cheeks afire beneath her mask. She heard him chuckle and she drew her lower lip between her teeth. He’d probably never had a more ill-mannered partner in all his days. It was then she realized that he was leading her out of the room, onto the balcony opposite from where Weston and Ellie were. A red flag unfurled in her mind, swishing before her eyes as if they were on a ship in a gale-force wind.

After turning a corner, Gwendolyn spoke up. “Er, Signore, I think it would be best if we—”

“Hush now, mia ciliegia.” He pulled her into his arms. “I have been watching you all evening and I must help myself to a taste of your lips.”

Gwendolyn felt her eyes widen beneath her mask. “Wha—?” She’d only got half of the word out before his mask swooped down to hers.

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