written by Rosa Morgan
The pavilion that Pappa was so eager to see, didn't disappoint. Situated amid a landscaped park, with croquet grounds and a bowling green, it magically twinkled with hundreds of tiny lights. “That's fine marquetry and fretwork,” Pappa said admiringly. “Did you notice the star motif carved into each panel?” My foot was already tapping to the lively rhythm as dancers glided past me. I replied absentmindedly, “Yes, Pappa, that’s very nice.”
A young man in an over-sized suit approached me. “How do, Miss Stein. Remember me, Gordon Sinclair from Tremont House.” How could I forget the enthusiastic privy builder. “I surely would enjoy to dance with you, or perhaps you’d like a cup of punch first? It is rather warm in here.” Eagerly accepting his hand, I said, “I’m quite refreshed, and would love to dance with you.” I was grateful Mister Sinclair had not been as heavy handed with his cologne as on our first meeting.
Together, we mastered the allemande and the do-si-do, though the intricate French rigadoon step was beyond us. We certainly weren't the most graceful dancers, but no one matched our youthful abandon. I felt no amorous attraction toward my partner, as I imagined happened on a real date, and due to his simple charm, I would’ve been content to dance the night away solely with him, if it hadn’t been for the unexpected turn of events.
During a feverish pirouette, I caught a glimpse of Pappa waving a farewell to me before departing the room. Nonplussed, I excused myself from my crestfallen partner, and made my way through the crowd. I approached the man Pappa had been speaking with and realized he was Pappa's fighting comrade, Henri Dubois. I cannot be faulted for not at first recognizing the Frenchman, for his appearance at the fair had been that of a buck skinned frontiersman, whereas he was now dressed as the quintessential gentleman with frockcoat and silk vest.
“Excuse me, Mr. Dubois, I believe we have met before. I’m Klaus Stein’s daughter, Mia.” Giving me the once over, he replied, “Mademoiselle Mia, I remember you well. Très beau. And please, I’m Henri to you.” He bowed, then lightly kissed both my cheeks. Flustered by his European manners, I managed, “And my father, do you know where he’s gone off to?” “To your accommodations. He was tired and ready to take you back, but seeing how much fun you were having, I convinced him you should stay. Please, don’t look so alarmed, I promised him your safe return.” I was surprised by Pappa’s decision to leave me under Henri’s care. However, considering the admiration he felt for the man, and the fact he was twice my age, no doubt he felt it proper.After an uncomfortable silence, and my rejection of Mr. Sinclair's offer of another dance, Henri said, “Would you care to take a walk along the boardwalk? It’s a lovely evening, and you’ll enjoy the breeze after your exertion.” The question was merely an empty formality, for the Frenchman had boldly linked his arm with mine, and was leading me in the direction of the door. The night was enchanting with the sound of breaking surf and the full moon lighting our way. Henri wasn't inclined to conversation, though whenever I ventured a glance toward him, I found him intensely observing me.By the time we reached the far end of the boardwalk, the dance music could no longer be heard and we were quite alone. I prattled nervously, “My mother once told me that the man in the moon was sent there as a punishment for gathering firewood on the Sabbath.” Amused, Henri’s dark eyes crinkled. “That seems severe. I’m sure I’ve committed more grievous trespasses on any given Sunday. Perhaps, the man gathered the firewood when the moon was at the full. If so, it’s the very fault of that celestial body for his bold behavior.” “Do you mean he was a lunatic?” “Someone doesn't have to be mad as a hatter to be affected by the beauty of a full moon. I think it simply encourages you to do what you already want to do. We are after all animals with primal urges.” With no warning and certainly without my permission, Henri picked me up and carried me down the embankment to the beach. Holding me firmly against his body, I felt the strength of his arms and his breath warm upon my cheek.
Gentle Reader, if you enjoy this excerpt, I encourage you to buy the novel, so you may enjoy its entirety.