Here's a taste! Not yet edited.
Paris had become a surging crowd of inhumanity, first with the food riots and now as crowds flocked to watch the tumbrel take poor unfortunates to the guillotine. The Committee of Surveillance was weeding out the disguised aristos trying to escape Paris through the barricades. Even the king and the queen stood in very real danger. Verity shivered. What hope existed for her father, a humble academic who, motivated by his love for France dared to voice his opinions? He stood accused of being a counter-revolutionary. Over on the Ile de la Cité were the towering walls of the Palais de Justice and the Conciergerie, where the Guards had taken him, snatching him away in the night. She had not been able to discover how he was. A few days later, men had come and stripped their home of most of its valuables and she found herself out on the street with just a few sticks of furniture and very little money.
The carriage pulled up as the clock struck midnight, the wishing hour. She doubted her wish would be granted this night, but she refused to give up all hope. Pulling the hood of her cloak over her head, she stepped from the vehicle and gave instructions to the coachman to return within the hour.
Along the wall, shadows moved beyond the circle of lantern light. Verity hurried towards the ornate building overlooking Notre Dame. Badly damaged and desecrated, the Gothic cathedral stood silent across the water, stripped of its meaning. Paris was a godless city.
A yawning caretaker opened the door. He silently waved towards the staircase. Verity climbed to the next floor and knocked at the door.
Jacques opened it. “Mademoiselle.” He stepped aside for her to pass. His apartments gleamed in the light of several candelabrums. The opulent surroundings failed to match his simple country waistcoat and plaited hair, the dress of the Jacobins. Marble statues perched on pedestals, swags of silk decorated the windows, gilt mirrors and paintings filled every space on the walls. No servants appeared to attend them. Through a doorway she glimpsed a four-poster bed festooned with rose damask. She attempted to calm herself with a deep breath.
“Allow me to take your cape.”
Her mind raced. She had successfully evaded men like him since she’d become an actress, but she had no answer now. A determined rake like this man would not want to fail in his seduction. And he held a trump card. He knew she wanted something from him.
“Merci.” She didn’t want the wine, but it was a delaying tactic and would banish her nerves. She studied the crystal glass sparkling with a myriad of flickering lights. A superb vintage she felt sure, and yet the wine soured in her mouth. She took several quick sips.
Jacques steeled her wrist. “Not so fast.” He took her glass and placed it on the table. “I do not like to seduce women the worse for wine.”
“Why do you want me?” She couldn’t resist asking. “You know I’m only here because I need your help.”
He shrugged. “Ungallant of me to tell you, but you will persist. Your refusal to take a lover is the subject of much discussion, mademoiselle. A virgin actress is as rare as a benevolent aristo. I bet my compatriots that I would be the one to remove you of that burden.” Jacques pulled on the cuff at his sleeve, his dark eyes shining with egotism. “It is true, is it not? You have been seen with no man and no scandal has ever attached itself to you.”
He took her silence as agreement and flicked his tongue over his bottom lip. “The first time is seldom the best. Given time, I will introduce you to such delights you will thank me.”
He was so fatuous that a surge of dislike cut through her fear. “And I promise to thank you,” she said, “after you persuade the Committee of General Security to release my father from imprisonment. I know your word carries enormous weight, citizen.” Verity attempted a reverential smile, but suspected she failed. She had again begged her father’s jailer, Georges Danton, for leniency, to no avail. Instead, he had made a shattering announcement.
She doubted Jacques was focusing on her words. Taking her by surprise, he reached out and grabbed her, pulling her roughly against him. “You will not leave here tonight without giving me something on account I think.”
He was a short man but forceful. Feeling the strength of his arm, Verity swallowed. “I am a good actress. How can you be sure I will not act out my pleasure with you?”
He paused. “You may the first time. But only the first time.”
“There won’t be a second, Jacques.”
He raised a brow. “Non?”
Danton’s orders had sent her plummeting into a spiral of despair, but she almost enjoyed telling Jacques. “Danton sends me to London with the acting troupe. We leave on the morrow.”
He dropped his hands from her waist. “Why would he do that?”
“He wishes me to perform a seduction of my own. I must entice a man back to France.”
“Who is this man?”
He frowned in puzzlement. “An Englishman?”
“He married into French nobility. I know no other reason.”
Jacques gave a seductive smile. “Then we’d best not waste the few hours left to us.”