Chapter One

6.2K 115 17

Here's a sigh to those who love me,
And a smile to those who hate:
And, whatever sky's above me,
Here's a heart for every fate.
Lord Byron, To Thomas Moore

A reenactment ball was the perfect setting for romance. Or not.

Isabelle Rochon fidgeted in her oddly-shaped-but-oh-so-accurate ball gown, surrounded by women who'd sacrificed historical authenticity for sex appeal. Red carpet ball gowns in the nineteenth century, really? Once again she was like the dorky kid participating in dress-up day at school when everyone else had magically decided it was lame.

"Gah. I feel like a green robot with strange battle armor." Isabelle pointed to her dark green dress, the shoulders flaring out almost to a point, exaggerating their width. "What were the fashionistas in 1834 thinking?"

"I have no bloody idea." Jocelyn squeezed the poof of fabric at her shoulder. "These huge-ass sleeves are ridiculous."

"Ah, screw it, we're having fun, right? I'm not going to self-sabotage the ball. Not after all the time I spent obsessing over my costume."

"And obsessing over the etiquette rules."

"That too." Besides, how fun was it to learn Jocelyn shared her obsession with guys in period clothes and bodice-ripper romances?

Isabelle eyed a guy strolling past in tight-fitting, buff-colored pantaloons. She pitched her voice to be heard over the string quartet. "Hmm. How about the clothes on that daring derriere?"

Jocelyn sucked on her olive and plopped the empty stir stick into her martini. "Oh, yes. Definitely a breech-ripper."

Isabelle choked on her Bellini, the champagne fizz tickling her throat and nose. This was the first opportunity they'd had to socialize outside work, so she treated this moment delicately, afraid to puncture the mood. No need to point out he sported pantaloons, not breeches.

She should ease up on the drink, though. She didn't want to get plastered at the Thirty-fourth Annual Prancing Through History Reenactment Ball. Especially since her new colleagues would be around. And her boss. She needed to impress him.

"Look lively," Jocelyn said, her voice low, with a dollop of teasing. "Here comes the office hottie."

She'd been cultivating a mild crush on Andrew since starting her new job at the British Museum six months ago. The whole situation was perfect. A guy in the same field would respect her interests, wouldn't expect her to give up her profession for a relationship. He was safe. If it worked out, great, if not, no biggie. She was happy, finally, with how her life was working out.

She'd pictured him in period clothing before, looking resplendent.

He did.

"Hi, Andrew." Her voice came out a little too high. Jeez, could she sound any more like a lovesick fool? She always did this around gorgeous men—went ga-ga as if she couldn't rub two brain cells together. She gazed around the Duke of Chelmsford's newly renovated ballroom and pretended as if her breath hadn't quickened and her body hadn't heated at the sight of Andrew.

"Hello, Isabelle. Jocelyn." Andrew nodded. His smile felt like a gift for her alone.

Her pulse throbbed. He'd sought her out. Play it cool. Say something witty. "So, uh, having fun yet?" Having fun yet?

Something, or someone, in the crowd hogged his attention. She followed his gaze until she found it. Or rather him. Their boss at the bar.

Andrew faced her and the remnants of calculation on his hot-as-heck features disappeared behind his over-bright grin.

Must Love Breeches, A Time Travel Romance (Excerpt)Read this story for FREE!