Okay, okay, this story was based on a prompt from nearly 2 weeks ago, but I couldn’t come up with any ideas by the deadline. Then I sat down to do some writing today, and  this happened. Raise your hand if you can tell I’ve been watching a fair amount of Gossip Girl lately. Raise your other hand if you can also tell I haven’t been smooching anyone in a while. (BTW, the awesome picture in the header is from my buddy Kat. She makes great art. Check it here: http://klancashire.com)

Miranda slipped into the ballroom through a secret door, hidden behind an ornate tapestry depicting a foxhunt. Her distinctive auburn hair was tucked underneath a powdered wig; her blue gown, while flattering and flowy and lovely, was not the thing she was usually allowed to wear. She could practically hear her mother declare it too clingy, too immodest, too…unseemly for her to wear to such an event. As she made her way through the crowd, she glanced up at the dias, where her maid, Colette, sat, dressed as Miranda in the high-collared, ornate gown her mother had chosen. They made eye contact and Miranda winked, evoking the merest hint of a smile from her doppelgänger.

This wasn’t the first time Miranda switched places with Colette to evade her parents, but it was the riskiest, with so many present, and the threat of recognition only made it more thrilling. She weaved through the crowd of minor nobles, watching the dancers with their bright finery whirling and spinning like so many tropical birds, hoping to attract a mate. Her own betrothed, Prince Harold, should be at Colette’s side, but the seat beside her was empty. He always seemed so bored at these balls; perhaps he didn’t bother attending this one at all.

She had just reached the far wall when a strong hand gripped her arm, pulling her over and onto a balcony overlooking the royal gardens.

“I waited an eternity for you,” a man’s voice murmured in her ear, before soft, full lips pressed against the hollow of her neck. She whirled around, ready to strike, before locking eyes with Harold. She blinked, trying to quash the surprise and betrayal that must have flashed across her face. Although she was not particularly in love with him, the knowledge that he desired Colette more than her stung. Well, then, let him suffer.

“My love.” She stepped into him, twining her bare arms around his neck, bringing her face millimeters from his own. Did he really not recognize the difference between Colette’s brown eyes and her own green ones? But men did not notice such things with other features to distract them, perhaps. “It has been too long. My mistress is very demanding of my time,” she said, her gaze roaming along his face, taking in his high forehead, his finely carved cheekbones, the dark line of stubble lining his jaw. She always knew he was handsome, but that jaw always seemed to be clenched, his features a stony mask of distain. But now, as he gazed down at her, his icy blue eyes warmed by desire, he was more than just handsome, more than just a bauble that she was obliged to wear on her arm. He was a living, breathing, vibrant being, and she was drawn to him as she had never been to anyone.

She pulled herself infinitesimally closer, breathing him in—he smelled like cedarwood and the ocean—her eyes closing of their own accord. She waited for several moments, which felt like forever, for his lips to meet hers. When they didn’t, she slowly re-opened her eyes. He was only a hair’s breath away from her.

“Not quite yet,” he whispered, and the raw desire in his eyes nearly brought her to her knees. She whimpered, closing her eyes again, shutting out vision and letting the rest of her senses take over. She felt him shift, then a soft brush of his lips against her neck once again. He left a trail of soft kisses along her collarbone, making her moan involuntarily, his hands spanning her hips before roaming to her back, gradually pulling her against him. He ran his nails lightly up her spine, the kisses turning into small nips as he made his way back up her neck. Her knees sagged and she clung to him, the full weight of her body now supported by his.

Finally, he kissed her full on her mouth, soft as butterfly wings at first, then with slightly more pressure. She parted her lips, tasting his with the tip of her tongue, making him moan and pull her even tighter against him. He tasted like wine, and chocolate, and like every sweet and delicious thing she’d ever had before. She surrendered her last shred of rational thought as she bit his lower lip and crushed her now heavy and full breasts against his chest. He reached up, pulling off her wig, twining his hands through her hair. He grabbed a fistful and gently pried her head away, as her eyes flew open in sudden realization and panic, her deception revealed. She took a couple steps backward, her whole body going numb.

She expected him to be angry, his face hardening into its usual stone mask. Instead, his eyes twinkled with the last vestiges of desire and mirth, his full lips curved in a smirk.

“Not Colette,” she said, feeling a wave of shame and nausea, even her cheeks remained flushed, and her still-swollen lips pulsed.

“Indeed.” He raised one eyebrow as he lifted the wig in his hand.

“Why aren’t you furious—you knew!” Her eyes widened, as a million thoughts ran through her head. Was he even in love with Colette? Did he know every time, or just this time? And what about when they were together when she was herself?

“I knew.” He took a step towards her, looking suddenly nervous. “I knew that you did not love me. That you thought your life, and your future, was boring as stuffy, like me. I knew that you needed to escape that life, and I…I hoped that you could maybe see me differently, too.”

“And Colette?”

“She is loyal to you in every way.” He smiled. “Well, except for keeping your secret. She told me what she would be wearing tonight.” He took a deep breath as he took another step forward. “I’m not expecting love, not yet. But you can’t deny you feel…something.” He smirked again, and Miranda moved towards him, like metal drawn to a magnet. “Just give me a chance. That’s all I ask.”

She stepped into his arms, breathing in the scent of him. “Kiss me again, and I’ll consider it.