It was far more comfort, more contained elegance, than she’d ever expected. No better, more inviting place could exist for reading, napping, lace-making, dreaming. It was breathtaking. Perfect.
Topaze shuddered and jerked again, sending the lanterns spinning. The sailor or steward who’d discovered her reached for Clara’s elbow then hesitated and drew back, throwing a disconcerted glance aside. The right-side door was now open — somehow she’d missed its motion — and an officer stood framed there, blond curls brushing the timbers. Indignation seethed from his erect bearing and lowered brows. Of course, he didn’t understand yet. But he looked every inch a gentleman, dark broadcloth coat tailored and silk stockings discreetly gleaming. Once she’d explained her distress, surely he’d do whatever he could to help.
“Oh, this is wonderful! It’s better than any ball!” Clara could no longer resist. She twirled, joining in Topaze’s dance, although her walking dress would never do it justice. For this she needed a ball gown of silk and crepe, a petticoat edged with ivory Irish lace, her lightest slippers. The deck rolled beneath her, handing her through a quadrille figure, chassé, glissade, jeté. Topaze made a wonderful partner. “How could my father have given this up? It’s perfect!”
In the doorway, the officer tilted his head. “Perhaps he preferred his ballrooms unmoving and out of range of enemy carronades.”
She was dancing and he was staring. Embarrassment won. Clara froze, staring back. The light from one lantern fell fully onto his face, highlighting the planes of his cheeks and forehead. His strong, winged brows and chiseled nose spoke of patrician breeding, perhaps even noble blood at one or two removes, and his baritone voice rang rich with education and culture. But patently false gaiety edged his thin-lipped smile and no humor lightened his expression, despite the ingrained, slanting grooves separating his lips and flushed cheeks. His pale eyes were angry.
The ship’s pitching and rolling didn’t disturb him, either. Although he was so tall his curls brushed the open rafters, his shoulders, broadened by gilt epaulettes, shifted above his white breeches without any visible effort on his part, as if he’d been moving with fractious vessels for so long that even the worst couldn’t surprise him now. Such long-taught grace would make him as delightful on a dance floor as his ship, surely?
The officer glowering at her, by the way, is the handsome captain…
Here's the link back to #SweetSat, and don't forget to check out the other authors' samples. Who knows, you might stumble across a book that keeps you reading all night long.