Reaching into the costume trunk, Leslie pulled out a red satin-tiered skirt, a mass of frilly petticoats and a wide collared peasant blouse. A gypsy! She tripped across to the mirror, draping herself in the blouse and holding the skirt and petticoats around her waist.
“How delightful, your Grace. Of course I’d love another pastry.” Leslie twirled before the mirror. “Not another dance, milord. Oh I say, you’re just too kind, your highness. What a charming evening.”
Abruptly Leslie stood still, her eyes widening. Charming! A gypsy charmer. What a lark!
Since Leslie couldn’t think of anyone else who might interest Pax, she would have to do it herself. She would go to the costume ball dressed as a gypsy. Once Pax saw her, he was bound to be intrigued, and then he would forget Cecily entirely.
“It won’t work,” Leslie said to her reflection. “Pax will recognize me the moment I open my mouth.”
Perhaps she might get away with it, if Pax only saw her for a minute or two, in a darkly lit room. Leslie stared glumly at the gypsy in the mirror, reluctant to give up her plan.
“The gazebo,” she whispered in a flash of inspiration.
The little wooden building stood on the edge of the lake far from the main house. It was sparsely furnished, but best of all there was a velvet covered wicker chaise lounge that would make a perfect prop for her magic play. She had read enough of those ladies novels to imagine exactly how it would be.
The gazebo would be lit by a single candle, and, far off in the distance, the orchestra music would sound a gentle accompaniment to the actors on the stage. She would be lying on the chaise as Pax entered. She closed her eyes, deep in the throes of her drama.
Pax would stand in the doorway, enthralled by the mysterious enchantress before him. His manly chest would heave with the power of his emotion. Then slowly he would cross the room, hurling himself on the floor at her feet.
“My beloved,” Pax would say, voice hoarse with undying love. “I have searched the seven seas for a woman like you. I pledge my heart to you for all eternity.”
“Non! Non! Oh ze sorrow of eet all.” Leslie would raise her arm, covering her eyes with the back of her hand. “Ah mon amor, if only ve had known each other some other time, some other place.”
“But, treasure of my life, I have you here now!” Pax would clasp his hands in supplication.
Like a queen rising from her throne, Leslie would stand, staring down into Pax’s agonized face. Her voice would be pitying but firm. “Zis meeting will have to suffice for a lifetime of pleasure,” she improvised.
Pax would grasp the hem of her skirt and touch it reverently to his forehead, his lips and his heart. Then before his dazzled eyes, Leslie would run through the door, escaping into the night. Pax would stumble to his feet, swearing he would never rest until he had claimed the gypsy for his bride.
Leslie opened her eyes, thoroughly satisfied with the scenario she had created. Now all she had to do was make it work.