I'm switching over to sharing some snippets from The Artist's Masquerade this month. Cathal is cousin to the crown prince of Tournai and son of a royal duke, and is absolutely shocked when his father tells him he has arranged a marriage for him with a relative of the emperor of Ardunn, who has for some time wanted to add Tournai to his empire. A dutiful son, Cathal goes along with the betrothal despite his misgivings, but when his bride arrives, finds himself more interested in her companion, Flavia. What he doesn't know is that Flavia is really Flavian, an artist fleeing the empire in disguise as his friend's companion. He never expected to have to keep up the charade for so long, but complications keep getting in the way. Cathal and Flavian are pulled reluctantly closer and closer, tumbling into love and trust, but the situation—Cathal's betrothal, spies infiltrating Tournai, secrets and lies—is stacked against them. In an extremely late snippet last week, I shared Cathal and Flavian's first meeting from Flavian's perspective. This week's snippet is in Cathal's point of view but still during that first meeting.
He could have let someone else help Flavia into the carriage. He could have found some reason to step away after helping Velia in. He should have let someone else help her. But Cathal didn’t want to. He wanted to know if the heat of their first touch had been an anomaly or if it would happen again.
Flavia looked at the hand he held out to her as if she wasn’t sure why he was offering it, but an instant later, she shook her head and smiled, taking his hand. The smile was charming and unexpected; the feeling when they touched was the same as earlier. Something that might have been dismay darkened her eyes. It matched what he felt himself.