The Christmas Salon
(Le Salon de Noël)
"...captures notions of France I would not have imagined a non-French resident would have."
Geraldine St Pern
Paris, 1814: Napoleon languishes in his Elbe island prison.
Meanwhile, Major Henry Musgrave uses his time at The Congress of Vienna to learn all he can regarding the whereabouts of his oldest friend, Miss Louisa Beresford. She seems to have disappeared. A series of paintings draws Henry to the first Salon de Noël (Christmas Salon) in Paris since the wars ended. Could the model in the paintings be Louisa?
As rumours swirl that France is not yet safe, Henry grows more determined to find the only woman he’s ever loved, and give her a Christmas to remember.
The Christmas Salon (Le Salon de Noël ) is a Regency reunion novella featuring some of the characters from Always a Princess.
Your Christmas Taster...
Henry rose to a stretch as he twisted his head from side to side. He saw Traversant’s gaze shift, following the movement of his bare torso, and did his best not to react. He did wonder what a man of Traversant’s habits wanted with Louisa as his mistress. This Frenchman was quite the puzzle.
The moment Traversant left, he was on his feet, moving around the room to learn what he could from the works in various stages of completion. He found racked canvases in a corner. Henry turned them cautiously around, examining them closely. Nudes, each and every one, of a woman with auburn curls—and the same lissom shape he remembered—turning away from the viewer. Traversant’s model faced into the canvas. As though she didn’t want anyone to see her – or he doesn’t.
Facing the last three paintings outward, Henry’s gaze wandered from one to the other. A series featuring the same model, each image intimately unique. The first showed the woman tuning three-fourths away, her breast towards the viewer, offering a plump, tight nipple, her face turned inwards.
The second foregrounded her curved thighs, one knee raised as the woman reached for herself, her breasts falling forward. The third – Henry almost blushed.
Her body arcing in orgasm as she touched herself, legs splayed, her head thrown back, a hint of wide lips, her face obscured by those fiery curls. She was undeniably arresting – and arousing – and still, the viewer could not know her.
Henry ignored the tightening of his body, studying this final image until each brush stroke imprinted on his memory – including those depicting a mark on the womanly thigh. He leaned in as close as he dared. There could be no doubt. A butterfly-shaped birthmark, the exact shade of his favourite claret.
He turned as the door opened behind him. Traversant balanced a cut-glass decanter, the wine colour matching the birthmark precisely.
Rage exploded in Henry’s gut. Crossing the room in two quick strides, he gripped the lousy French youth by the shoulders.
“What have you done with her?” he demanded.