Masquerading the Marquess(10)

By: Anne Mallory




He doffed his hat, smiled and turned. Madame Giselle followed him out. Calliope ran her fingers down the shift as if to lengthen it. She tried to cool her body and mind. He was turning her into a bawdy actress.



Madame Giselle returned, pushing Corinne in front of her. "Please excuse the intrusion, mademoiselle. I don’t know what his lordship was thinking."



The next few hours were a whirlwind of pins, fabric, designs and fittings. Calliope was forced to select eveningwear, undergarments and riding-habits as well as the requested day dresses. Madame Giselle was adamant she could only gain a sense of a woman’s style by looking at every facet of her dress. Calliope finally relaxed and allowed some of her own taste to show through by making suggestions and recommendations.



Calliope decided on a morning dress in vibrant blue and a day dress in deep green. They would suit her courtesan’s persona. A bolt of pale violet blue caught her eye.



"I would like the two in the forms we discussed. In addition I would like the violet blue in the classic style, something simple." She couldn’t resist the one indulgence for herself, not Esmerelda.



Madame Giselle gave her a measuring look. "Of course, mademoiselle."



"If you could send them to my address, I would be most appreciative. And the bill as well."



"As mademoiselle wishes."



"Thank you, Madame Giselle. Your taste is exquisite and I appreciate the time you have taken with me."



A startled look crossed Madame Giselle’s face, quickly replaced with the measuring look. "It has been a pleasure, mademoiselle. I look forward to finishing more garments for you."



There would be no chance of that, but Calliope nodded.



To her relief Stephen was waiting alone.



"Once more you have made wonderful cakes, Giselle. If you could send ten of each type, words would fail to express my gratitude, " he said.



"For you, anything. But I would have made the cakes without your sponsorship. The ingredients were enough."



Stephen nodded and kissed her hand. Calliope knew she had missed something again, but all of the poking and prodding, standing up and sifting through designs she would never be able to afford, had left her physically and mentally exhausted.



Stephen escorted Calliope from the shop and handed her into his curricle as the tiger jumped on the back. "Would you like to attend the races this weekend?"



She looked at him in surprise. "I would love to. "



"Wonderful. We will meet James and Stella there."



It was too late to back out, but she could feel her lips twist. "Wonderful," she repeated sourly.



He ignored her sarcasm and pulled into traffic. "Madame Giselle should have at least one of the gowns ready for you tomorrow. "





Calliope bounced up the steps to the plain brick townhouse. Sketching in the park was revitalizing. The door was immediately opened and she stepped into the warm, inviting interior. It was like stepping into a forest. Stephen and his plants. Who would have guessed he had a green thumb? An emerald thumb, really. Flora inhabited every section of the house. She had heard more than one maid grumble about living in a jungle.



She placed her sketchpad on the hall table and handed her pelisse to Stephen’s butler, Grimmond, currently on loan to her for a few weeks.



Stephen had inherited the small brick townhouse from an uncle. Since his primary residence was more suited to his needs, he used the smaller townhouse to store and display his numerous and assorted collections. A rudimentary staff managed the house, but - when it was decided Esmerelda needed a place of her own, the unused townhouse had been the easiest solution. Stephen had put his own butler in charge of imposing order and making a smooth transition. A new staff and inexperienced mistress of the household could be a disastrous combination.



"Miss Daly is in your room, and Mr. Chalmers is in the library. A few parcels arrived from Madame Giselle’s an hour ago," Grimmond said in his dry, haughty manner. Calliope wanted to tease the man. He was quite nice when he thought no one was looking, but the presence of two footmen necessitated a display of superiority. She had learned she would receive raised eyebrows and a flat look if she tried anything in front of others.



"Thank you, Grimmond."



Calliope ascended the stairs to see Deirdre first. Bless Madame Giselle, and for more than just the dresses. Adjusting to her new home had been difficult. Calliope had finally gotten a decent night’s sleep thanks to Madame Giselle and her army of marauding Huns. She had been so exhausted she c0uldn’t remember anything past placing her head on the still-unfamiliar pillow.



She entered her room. Clothing littered every surface.



"Where did all of this come from? Dee, did you raid the costumes?"



"One of the girls from Madame Giselle’s brought them. There are ten dresses here. It’s a good thing we are similar in size, because I plan on borrowing quite a few of these."



"There must be some mistake. I ordered three gowns."



"The girl said they were paid in full and the other dresses would be arriving within the week. She wouldn’t even accept money for delivering them."



"But who?

"

Deirdre wasn’t paying any attention. She held up garments for inspection. "Did you order these on two different days? The styles are nearly opposite. "



Calliope looked at the two dresses she held aloft. One had obviously been made for Esmerelda, the other for Calliope. A well-executed plan.



"And look at this riding habit. Is Stephen going to teach you to ride?"



"Excuse me for a moment, Dee. "



Calliope headed down to the library, her favorite room in her new home. Stephen reclined in front of the fireplace reading. A potted fern sat next to him on the floor. The leaves were oddly shaped, which labeled the plant as one of his experiments.



He looked up from the book. "I heard some of your new garments arrived. How do they look?"



"I can’t believe you did this."



"You don’t like them?"



"They’re lovely. That’s not the point. I only needed the three gowns." She could only afford the three gowns.



"You will need more than just those three. If we are to put the proper face on this charade, you must be outfitted in the style I am able to afford. The same argument for you moving into this house applies. Appearances count."



"I will pay you back."



His expression turned serious. "No, you absolutely will not. I can’t explain my reasons to you, but if you refuse the gowns it will be one of the greatest blows to my honor anyone could make."



"I don’t understand."



"I know, but please trust me."



Calliope nodded for his benefit but resolved to pay him back for the fortune in garments lying in her new bedroom.



She would definitely arrive in Newmarket in style.





"And they’re off!"



Shouts and cries greeted the announcement as the gate went up. Prime horseflesh rounded the track. The crowd urged the riders on and the riders drove the beasts forth.



" Come on, Devil’s Own!"



" Get in there, Cypress Tale! "



"Knock it loose, Credinburgh’s Bane!"



The stands were full of people actively engaged in betting and cheering, seeing and being seen. It was a gorgeous spring day with a crisp breeze and no clouds in the sky. The day reflected the crowd’s mood.



Calliope lapped up the excitement. She wished Deirdre had been able to join them, but rehearsals were in full swing for the new show set to open next month, and the weekend trip to Newmarket had been out of the question. Robert was in the crowd somewhere, but was keeping his distance in public.



"Let’s look at the horses in the next race," Stephen suggested.



Calliope put her hand on his arm and they joined the crowd of onlookers. The horses fascinated her. She had never learned to ride, and the powerful beasts were captivating on the track.



They didn’t look nearly so primal when they were being danced in the park with delicate ladies perched side-saddle.



A gorgeous, spirited black stallion caught her attention.



"I like number five."



Stephen smiled and rolled up the sheet of statistics. "Excellent choice. I believe I will also choose five."



Stephen escorted her back to their seats and left to place their bets. He usually read all of the statistics aloud. Odd he hadn’t this time.



"Esmerelda, a pleasure to see you."



Calliope turned in her seat and smiled at Marcus Stewart, who always managed to appear somewhat of a fallen angel with his dark hair and golden eyes. "Good afternoon, Lord Roth. I haven’t seen you since the Campton party last week. Are you enjoying the afternoon at the Heath?"



Marcus unrepentantly sank into Stephen’s chair. "I am. And how have you fared? Are you winning or will Chalmers be required to pawn his new townhouse?"



Calliope grinned. "I am up twenty pounds."



"Good to hear. Where is the boy, anyway?"



The "boy" was only a few years younger than Marcus.



"He is placing our bets."

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