Rebel Goddess (Login RebelGoddess) Forum Owner Posted Mar 16, 2003 8:41 PM
His hair was of the darkest, richest brown colour, just like his eyes, but his eyes were cold and forbidding. There was no warmth in them, and if they truly were windows to the soul, no one wanted to think what his soul was like. He was thought to be a heartbreaker, not because he wooed the women but because he didn’t. He was devastatingly good looking, obviously appreciated the female form, but never took it farther than the most innocent of flirtations. Yet there was something to him that made every woman in the room believe that, though he might not act as if it was true, a heart more full of passion and love burned there than in any man they had yet encountered. He was on fire inside, which might be why he was glacier cold outwardly.
He was also one mean son of a bitch when riled.
Harry knew he was playing with fire. He knew that he shouldn’t taunt the dark haired man who stood before him, but he couldn’t resist attempting to puncture his self importance.
"So," he drawled easily, "I heard Miss Storms will be here tonight. What happened to your date? Did she leave you for the valet?"
Miss Storms had been stormy by nature as well as by name. It was universally believed that she had once thrown a Ming vase at society’s most eligible bachelor’s head after he refused to say he loved her. It was also thought to be a sore point with him.
The smile he was given was full of teeth and had absolutely no trace of humour to it. "I didn’t intend on bringing a date. I find the company of a single woman on such an occasion as this a little… wearing. I see Miss Guylian is still here. If you’ll excuse me, I believe I’ll begin a conversation with an intellectual."
Harry felt cheated. It was a well aimed barb, but somehow it had gone astray. Perhaps there was nothing in the rumours about Mr Salvatore and Miss Storms after all. He would have to try a different tack. He longed to know what was behind Angelo’s self assurance and calm. Everyone did, only with Harry, it was an obsession. He needed to know so he could sleep at night. Before the appearance of Angelo Salvatore a few weeks back, he had been the most eligible and sought after man in New York. He had been quickly supplanted by this young upstart, and it irked him. He had expected Kirsten to show better taste, but apparently his blonde firecracker had preferred throwing Ming vases at Salvatore to kisses to him.
He watched, envious of the intimacy, as Angelo spoke with Maria Guylian, her soft chocolate coloured eyes fascinated by his movements and her hand resting lightly on his arm. Maria was beautiful, than was undeniably, but even more importantly she was heir to the Guylian fortune, and the necklace gracing her lovely neck was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"Jealous?" The tone was silken, the voice accented with the perfect modulations of an expensive education, and the girl who had spoken was young and even lovelier than Maria. Normally Harry would have been entranced, but recognising the voice as that of his cousin Nikki, he didn’t even turn around.
"As if I would be jealous of that prancing idiot," he retorted, angry at himself for being so obvious.
"Harry," Nikki laid a calming hand on his arm, but the action only infuriated him more, "you need to stop obsessing. You can’t help it if you’re not a devastatingly good looking, tall, dark stranger with a mysterious past. You’ll just have to cope with being an OK looking, medium height blond from New York that everyone’s known forever."
"Is that really what everyone thinks of me?" Harry was startled. He had thought himself very handsome, golden haired and of the perfect height. Up until the arrival of Angelo, what was more, everyone else had agreed with him.
‘Everyone’ was naturally all the rich, elegant, old money select group he belonged to. The fact that he was a millionaire playboy with stocks in his father’s internet, banking and clothing companies had only made him more desirable. It had been a severe shock to Harry’s self assured system that a mere nobody - for who had heard of the Salvatore family? - could so easily displace him from what he had always considered to be his rightful place in society: the top.
"Absolutely, darling," replied Nikki’s bosom friend Simone, in her mocking accent. She had not been born into their set, but had married a multimillionaire, and had taken to mocking the very people to whom she had once longed to belong. Her marriage had been one of love, not of mercenary greed, and it was with a wit and spirit that had entranced Gerry that she now charmed Harry. "Anyone who is anyone knows that you are the dispossessed prince. As soon as dearest Angelo," here she could not resist heaving a sigh in his direction, "returns to the place from whence he came, we will all be under your spell once more."
"Simone," Nikki began, but was interrupted by the sound of a laugh rarely heard even at one of their most prodigious parties. "Good heavens, that’s not her Ladyship, is it?"
"And look who she’s with," Simone’s beautiful brown eyes were fixed upon the elegant Lady Hamilton, the Queen of Society if there ever was one, who’s delicate and long fingered hand was not resting gently on the arm of Angelo Salvatore. He was evidently charming her as no other man had ever done, for she gave him a look less of the haughty disdain as was her usual wont and more of the casual liking she felt for her oldest and dearest friends.
"Give up now, Harry," Nikki warned from behind the blond man. "If Angelo can charm Lady Hamilton, then you’re so far out of his league that you’ll have to buy the Hubble satellite to see him."
Harry sighed, realising she was right, but continued staring at Angelo and Sarah as if his life depended on it.
"Young man, don’t lie to me," but Sarah didn’t mind the compliments that he laid at her feet. They were less obviously untrue than those that came from her more fervent admirers. He told her she was the finest looking woman over thirty he had seen in New York. She knew herself to be both further over thirty than any lady would care to admit to and more beautiful for her age than she probably had a right to expect. She accepted his praise, and found his honesty attractive. So many of the men who courted her told her she was the most beautiful creature they had ever laid eyes on. She knew that to be a lie when Maria Guylian was in the room, or even, now that age had begun to press its hands into her temples and stroke her skin to less than that perfection she was accustomed to, Kirsten Storms. She hated toad eaters. Her late husband, in one of his fits of perversity, had warned her never to believe that which she could not attribute truth to herself. She was not vain enough to believe herself the equal of even young Nikki, whose cousin Harry had so recently been a favourite of the lovely Miss Storms, but it did her good to hear that she was not quite beyond the age of grace yet.
"My lady," Angelo bowed deeply, and with more than common civility. "If a lie should ever pass my lips, bestow upon me your coldest glance, and as a liar, I will be slain by it, but you must admit the truth - you are as lovely as any man could wish you to be, and the envy of many women."
"There you go again with your ridiculous flattery," Sarah was still smiling at him. Perhaps not the best turned compliment she had ever heard, but he had delivered it with such a manner that she felt softened towards the dark haired young man before her, and he did look so very dashing.
Without meaning to, she sent a look to the carriage clock on the mantelpiece, and noticed with a slight feeling of regret that it was too late to request her butler to record her favourite TV show currently airing.
"I perceive your ladyship is also a fan of Buffy," Angelo said smoothly, and watched as Sarah turned a startled glance on him.
"How on earth…" She trailed off, remembering that ‘ladies never display emotion’.
There was a low, deep chuckle. "What else would you be thinking of at this hour when you have clearly dined, rested and are finding the conversation not without amusement. I have always preferred Cordelia to Buffy herself. She is a little too dainty for my taste."
The laugh that had so surprised Nikki and her two companions earlier resounded once more.
"You are the most unusual gentleman I have met in some time," Sarah patted the boy’s cheek, and smiled up at him. She was a tall woman, so she did not have far to look, but a man, she had found, always enjoyed the feeling of being looked up to rather that feeling of equality.
"I believe I should take that as a compliment," his white teeth shone brilliantly in the candlelit room. "Lady Sarah, I wonder if you would care to take a stroll in the moonlight out onto the balcony? I have something I would like to talk to you about."
Lady Sarah Hamilton smiled, a lady never grins, and took the proffered arm with more than her customary satisfaction. She wondered, briefly, of what he wanted to speak to her, but decided that perhaps he felt their flirtation would blossom more easily in the open air than the admittedly slightly claustrophobic room they were in.
The night air in New York was cool and pleasant. Her shimmering gown was only just warm enough, but Lady Sarah was rather more entranced by her companion than was her wont. "Dear boy," she used the words with more familiarity than their short acquaintance probably warranted, but he did not look irritated so she went on, "you wanted to ask me something, ask and if it is in my power, I will answer you."
Her smile was as beautiful as a rainbow, but it left Angelo cold. He felt no pleasure in women’s company, or anyone’s company, and the slight gifts of beauty, wit and intelligence were of only superficial importance to him. The coating of ice that glazed him could not be broken so easily, but he smiled back artificially and said, "Lady Sarah, you have lived in New York for a long time, but there was a time when you lived in England."
Her smile widened. "How else do you imagine I became Lady Sarah Hamilton?"
If she had known how coldly he felt towards her, she would have been astonished. It was with the warmest tone and the most heavenly smile that he answered, "Quite. While you were living in England, you met, I think, a man who called himself Comte de la Fere? You were quite intimate with him, I believe."
A strong blush covered Lady Sarah’s usually pale rose cheeks. Even with her breeding, she could not ignore the beating of her heart at the sound of the once treasured name. "How do you know la Comte?"
"I met him in Paris last year." Again that treacherously warm smile. "He spoke of you highly."
"Truly?" Her breath was coming in quick pants now, and she fought to keep control of herself. Le Comte de la Fere had been handsome, witty, and so charming when she had met him all those years ago. She had been young, very, young and foolish, as she knew now, but she had also been madly in love with him. Their affair had been kept a secret so her husband would never discover it and it had ended when he came too close once too often, but even now the remembrance of her lover made the blood beat in her cheeks and her mind become dizzy with the fantasies of her youth.
"Yes," Angelo took a little breath and walked further into the darkness with his companion hanging on his every word. "He says your child is quite well, grown beautiful too."
Lady Sarah turned from blushing to palest white. Her secret sorrow, the child she had given up for adoption all those years ago, had come back. She knew it could not be this handsome young man, for he seemed too old, but perhaps he knew where her baby was.
"You know where she is?" Her breath caught in her throat. She would not believe it until he gave her proof. His single nod of the head told her more than volumes of words. Lady Sarah threw back her shoulders and looked straight at him, calling on all the good breeding, manners, courtesy and above all strength of her ancestors. "You return my daughter to me, Angelo Salvatore, and anything you want will be yours."
His brown eyes seemed to burn through her. "I may name my price?"
"I will give anything for my daughter." Lady Hamilton resembled a Queen of old, majestic, regal, beautiful and dignified. Her child was to her more than life itself. Angelo, perhaps, knew that, and he had touched her at her weakest spot, possibly her only weak spot since her husband had died.
"Meet me tomorrow at the top of the Empire State Building at five o’clock." His eyes were searching her face for something. She did not know whether he found it because he simply looked past her. "Children are very important, aren’t they?"
She wasn’t sure if it was a rhetorical question, but answered it anyway. "They are our future, our hope, she was my everything."
He didn’t answer her then, but stared past her as if seeing into another world. "I will return your daughter to you, but when I ask my price, it must be paid."
Lady Sarah closed her eyes, and laid a gentle hand to her forehead. "I’ve told you," she opened them again and stopped speaking. He was gone, like a ghost into the night.
"Lady Sarah, is Angelo out there with you?" It was young Nikki, with Harry and the ever lovely Simone with her. Lady Sarah turned slowly, and smiled the smile that had left Angelo cold as all shows of emotion left him.
"Not Angelo," she let a little sigh escape her lips, a rare show of emotion, "but an angel may still linger here."
"Lady Sarah," Simone laid a gentle hand on the older woman’s slender arm, "are you all right?"
"Darling girl," and for once Lady Sarah’s manner was neither rigidly cold nor condescending, "I may be just fine for the first time in years."
Harry twirled a finger by his temple to indicate that he believe her Ladyship was a little unbalanced, but his cousin hushed him. It would not do to appear to believe that anyone of her Ladyship’s status was crazy. At worst, she was merely eccentric.
"Lady Hamilton, are you sure nothing’s wrong?" Simone was looking at her and thought she could see the signs of some recent emotional upheaval.
Her Ladyship was in too good a mood to let her whip like tongue have full reign, but she let it bite sufficiently for Simone to feel chastised, "If there was anything wrong, I would have said so the first time you asked. No, Angelo is not here, and if you spent more time reading and less time chasing after anything in a tuxedo, perhaps you would not need to ask me where the most eligible bachelor in New York, possibly in America, has gone."
She flounced back into the party, leaving the three young rich kids stunned.
"Anyone else want a Martini?" Kirsten Storms arrived on the balcony with a glass in her hand. "Justin is making them up and they are just divine. Do you know where dear Angelo is? I swear I quite despair of him sometimes. He’s disappeared, just when I was to ask him if he wanted to dance. Have you noticed that he’s never around when you expect him to be and always when you don’t? It’s almost supernatural."
The others had to agree with her, and her next comment, though making Harry a beautiful shade of emerald with jealousy, was equally accepted as true. "It gives him the most seductive air of mystery, and there is no man with quite as much mystery to him as Angelo Salvatore. God, even his name is beautiful…"
"Even your name is beautiful," he whispered into her hair, feeling the soft strands slip between his fingers.
Her mouth, that beautiful perfect rosebud pink mouth, pouted up towards his and it was with an effort that he pulled away and looked down at her. She was more lovely than he could have imagined. Her hair, her skin, her eyes were all to female beauty what a Da Vinci was to art. She touched his jaw, tracing her way along the rough stubble with fingers delicate and soft. He trembled beneath her touch, awed by her power over him. Never had he met such a woman as this, and he knew he never would again.
"My darling," she whispered back to him, her eyes turned to his and locked, looking not at the chocolate coloured irises or the black pupils, but the soul that shone through those eyes and bathed her heart in warmth. "I love you so much, my dearest, darling…"
Angelo Salvatore, colder of heart than any man in New York, more cynical of mind and chilly of manner than any boy of his age had a right to be, awoke sweating with passion and, worse than mere bodily lust, with the memory of a love that would traverse oceans, spread to reach across continents, stay with him through death, and…
He stopped the idea before it drove him mad. He was not made for love. He was made for work, for hardship, and as the pawn of his master.
Still the dream lingered in his mind, as it had done every night for as long as he could remember. Perhaps it was a memory. He wouldn’t know. He knew nothing of his former life, before the Boss had taken him and trained him to make him an elite soldier. His first memory was only months old. What had come before that was a blank, but the occasional terrible pain in his heart made him wish it would remain that way.
She had begun to say a name, but the word was lost. He was glad. He knew, from the few flashes of memory he had that his life before had been full of pain. Heartache, that would have been familiar to him then, as well as the bodily aches he now experienced. Angelo had not seen much of life, or rather he had, but could not remember it, but he had come to the conclusion that life was another word for pain, and he didn’t want to remember more pain if that was true. The wall of his amnesia was protection from what lay in his subconscious. Perhaps he had known a girl who really was that beautiful, he would never be sure because he would never remember. He refused to remember.
Tossing aside the blanket, knowing he would sleep no more that night, Angelo reached down the side of the bed and found his book. With cold hands, he turned on the light and opened the novel to the last page he had read.
The sprawl of Thornfield filled his mind and made him forget the dream, as he had forgotten so many other things. He pushed thoughts of the morning, the night before and even the sounds of the city beneath him out of his mind. He let the cold of the English weather in any season seep into him and let go of everything but the world of Charlotte Bronte and her England. With tremulous haste, he read as Mr Rochester courted the lovely Miss Ingram and felt Jane Eyre’s jealousy pump through his own veins. He pushed away the world surrounding him, making a bubble large enough to encompass both Jane, Charlotte and himself, and did not feel the tug of pain there, nor the warm light of dawn as the sun rose high over the sky scrapers.
To this lonely individual, for lonely he was though he might not ever admit to it, few pleasures existed, and this alone untainted. He needed no human companionship, wanted none, and like the recluse Rochester was to become, he locked himself away from the world, half crippled and blind to its beauties and its pleasures equally. He was, as yet, without a Jane to rescue him but perhaps it was just a matter of time…