The Marquis's New Clothes

By: Lila DiPasqua

To the man who inspired the hero in this story—my very own wonderful husband, who, like Adam de Vey, happens to be an engineer.

Thank you for your scientific input in The Marquis’s New Clothes. And for your unwavering support and belief in me.

I love you, Carm.





Chapter One


Palace of Versailles, 1683



“My life is over!” Louise d’Arcy exclaimed the moment after she’d yanked Aimee inside her elegant private apartments and slammed the door shut.

Aimee de Miran sighed. She’d just arrived at Versailles. Her sojourn at the palace was only ten minutes long and already she was rethinking her plan to attend court and visit with her cousin.

Dear Louise was always in the midst of chaos. It seemed now was no different.

Parched from the long carriage ride, Aimee walked over to the pitcher of water and orange slices on the ebony side table and promptly filled two crystal goblets. “Louise, darling, I’m certain your life isn’t over.” She held a goblet out to her cousin. “Now why don’t you tell me what’s wrong.”

“What’s wrong? Renault is what’s wrong. He’s cast me aside!” Wringing her hands, Louise began to pace, completely oblivious to Aimee’s extended arm and the goblet of fresh water being offered.

Aimee availed herself of the refreshment instead and set the goblet down.

A lovers’ spat. Nothing new.

“I see.” That would be all she’d need to say for the next hour while Louise ranted. When she was done, her cousin would collapse in a chair, quite theatrically, and weep for at least twenty more minutes.

Aimee had been through this before. Many times. Louise was always having spats with her longtime lover, Renault de Sard.

Louise stopped dead in her tracks. “No, you don’t see. You’ve no idea what has occurred. Everything is a mess. And it’s over this time! Truly over!” Her hazel eyes filled with tears. “He’ll not have anything more to do with me. He’s said so!” She dropped her face into her palms and sobbed.

Aimee approached and put a consoling arm around her cousin. Of similar age, they’d always been close. She did adore Louise, despite her histrionics. “Louise, it will work out. You’ll see. He always comes back.”

“Not this time,” she said without lifting her head, the words muffled by her hands.

“You say that every time.”

Her cousin’s head shot up. “This time it’s true!”

“You say that every time, too.”

Louise let out a sharp breath. “Aimee, he favors another! I have been replaced. He’s with Diane de Millon. I’m no longer his mistress at all! I tell you, he is a horrible, horrible cad! He purposely misled me.”

“Oh? Misled you how?”

“I was positively thrilled when he asked me to accompany him to the palace for his regular official visit with the King. He’d been so cold and distant lately that I didn’t think he’d permit me to attend this time. In truth, his plan was to bring me here to end our affair. He thought I wouldn’t pitch a fit at the palace. And do you know what I did?’

“You pitched a fit at the palace.”

“No. Well . . . yes.” Louise waved her hand dismissively. “But that was in private. And that’s not what I’m talking about.” Her cousin began to pace and wring her hands again. “I did something. Something terrible. Something I regret.”

Trepidation was beginning to mount in Aimee. Louise always had a flare for the dramatic, but . . . Aimee couldn’t shake the disquieting feeling tightening in her stomach. There was a certain look in Louise’s eyes that made her a little anxious.

“What did you do?”

Her cousin smoothed her hands down her gown. A habit. Something Louise always did when she was nervous. Or uneasy. Or terribly guilty.

“Well, you see . . .” Louise began and smoothed her hands down her gown again. “You must understand, I was quite angry with Renault at the time, and very hurt by his cutting coldness toward me. So I . . .”

Aimee braced herself. Having no idea what she was about to hear, her instincts told her it was going to be bad. Quite bad. “You what?”

“I took something of his.”

“Took?”

“All right, I stole. There, I said it. Is that better? I stole something he holds dear.”

Good Lord. This was a new low, even for Louise. “What on earth did you steal?”

Louis threw up her hands. “The man has never given me anything, Aimee. In all these years, no lover’s trinket. No jewelry at all! I felt he owed me at least that much.”

Aimee struggled with her patience. “Louise . . . What. Did. You. Take?”