A crackle, like the sound of coarse sand beneath a well-shod foot caused Gwendolyn to freeze and hold her breath. Surely she was the only one out at this time of night. It was in Piazza San Marco that the revelers were drawn, not this sleepy little isle. She listened for a few moments and when no other noise could be heard over her own beating heart and the gentle sloshing of the water below, she continued over the bridge to the other side.
More aware of her surroundings than before, she slipped through a squeaky iron gate and took a path that led around a corner. Suddenly, she found herself in the center of a lovely wooded garden surrounded by three very high walls. She turned back and tracked the path to the entrance of the garden , but stopped short as a tall-cloaked figure occupied her escape route. Her breath caught in her throat.
The white Bauta mask and silk lace cravat glowed brightly in the moonlight in contrast to the menacing black of the rest of the outfit. What unnerved her further was the expanse of his shoulders brushing the gate and its latch on the opposite side.
Gwendolyn’s already irregular breath stuttered as the intruder murmured something in Italian.
“Er, excuse me, I need to pass through that gate,” she indicated the space behind the figure who blocked her path.
“You should not have wandered so far from the ballo, Signorina.”
Gwendolyn swallowed. The mask he wore made it difficult to ascertain whether or not it was that same rake whose path she’d been repeatedly crossing. His accent solid, as was the deep tone of his voice, but the sound rang different—hollow, otherworldly.
Her mind rushed for a topic that would cover her rapidly unraveling nerves. “I would have your name, Signore. I am Miss Rawleigh.”
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