The sun's last rays cast over the city, reflecting from windows and creating a dazzling display. Paris appeared as though she had never seen a war carried out on her own streets. Citizens went about their daily business. Some took a stroll in the evening air, others bustled off to the theatre or to a party.
Lucienne kept her face hidden underneath her hood and cursed the heeled shoes Annette had decided would look best with the dress. They had been Maman's, and Maman's feet had been slightly smaller than Lucie's. Already she could feel blisters forming on her heels. She supposed it did not much matter, as she did not plan to do much dancing.
In the week since she received the mysterious invitation, Lucie had devoted plenty of time to think about this evening. She had her walk to and from the Bourreau residence, and long sleepless nights.
There still remained a question in her mind of how she had come to be invited. Who knew of her existence? In all the chaos of la Terreur, who would remember that Baron Reneault had two daughters?
If only there had been some name attached to the invitation, some clue. Lucie had only vague recollections of most of the nobles who had once called her parents friends. Other names, however, had been burned into her memory.
Nicholas Lamoignon was one.
Justine Rouergue was another.
She could plunge her dagger into either of them and feel nothing but the sweet release of vengeance. There were others, as well, those whose given names she did not know, but whose surnames would give them away. For should the children not pay for the crimes of their parents? Does the sin not carry through the blood?
Lucienne and Annette had both had to pay for their parents' crimes, Annette more so. Annette did not deserve her fate, to be scarred and unmarriageable, and destined to be alone and poor. And without Lucienne...
Now that Lucie was a sheathed weapon moving through the streets, she had a giddy thought that perhaps she could return to Annette tonight. Perhaps she had the blessing of whatever god there was left, for the Republic had taken even that from its citizens. The goddess of Reason was who they were meant to worship. Lucie did not know if this invented Goddess would forgive Lucie her forthcoming sins. Perhaps she would not even see the sins committed. Perhaps Lucie would remain as she was now: invisible, a shadow.
She could enter the party through a side or back door, since she did not have a carriage. She could move through the crowd like a wraith, leaving a trail of blood behind her.
These thoughts lifted her chin and curved her mouth into a grim smile.
The idea of strolling through the front door, unannounced – she vaguely recalled being announced at her first ball, albeit as "Monseuir et Madame Reneault, with their daughter, Mademoiselle Lucienne Antoinette de Reneault" – also had some appeal, however. Perhaps a few heads might turn and notice the girl they had all forgotten existed until this night.
For the past two years, Lucienne had been living quietly, hiding, hoping the angry mobs would not discover a noble in their midst. For two long years, Lucienne had been forced be a silent witness to the atrocities around her.
Her parents had raised her to believe she came from a great house. They were meant to live above others, destined to preside over the peasants and the bourgeoisie. All in an instant that life had been cut off. Yet, for having a noble name, the Reneault family found itself alone. No friends to take them in.
Only enemies who had whispered evil words into the ears of the rebels and condemned her parents to death and she and her sister to this damned existence.
The grand arch that marked the entrance of the Hôtel Thellusson told her it was time to make a decision.
Carriages drawn by matched pairs of horses clopped through the archway, passing through English gardens. Beyond, she could see the columns of the portico and the bright lights spilling out across the lawn.
Who would dare sneer at her for arriving on foot? She pressed one hand to the front of her corset, feeling the steel blade there. She drew herself up to her full height.
Whoever would sneer at her would die.
Armed with this thought, she stepped under the stone arch.
Author's Note: I am currently just over 20K in this novel! I'm also grossly behind in posting chapters...
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The Victim's BallHistorical Fiction
HER REIGN OF TERROR HAS JUST BEGUN... When Lucienne Reneault receives an invitation to a Victim's Ball in honor of those aristocrats who have been guillotined, she believes it must have been a mistake. Of two things she is certain, however: she wil...