Below you will find the final teaser to “Nocturne,” the upcoming novel by myself and Charles Sheehan-Miles. We have a cover, which we’ll be excited to release shortly, but first, click here to add “Nocturne” to your Goodreads TBR list if you haven’t already!
If you want to catch up on the other teasers we’ve shared, click here to find your way to Charles’s blog, where he has them all right there, waiting.
Writing this book was an incredible experience. We both learned a lot by working with each other, and we hope the final product shows you just that.
Without further ado…
One of the lovely things about attending the Bolshoi Christmas Ball is the dancers, several of whom were twirling in circles in extravagant ball gowns as I stood on the sidelines watching. I’d always been a confident dancer, but in front of these women? Hardly. I sipped my champagne and let my eyes scan the crowd.
It was a lavish setting without a hint of pretense. It was a celebration. Polished white marble columns that climbed to forty foot ceilings. Four hundred or more people were in attendance. Musicians, dancers, businessmen and women, politicians, and diplomats. A small contingent of soldiers were led in a dance by the beautifully gowned dancers of the Bolshoi.
Like many of the women in the crowd, I wore a ball gown and felt unabashedly like a princess. The dress was a soft gold, all the way from the fitted silk bodice, down to the tule-covered oversized skirt. Gold rhinestones covered the bodice and trickled down throughout the skirt, creating a dazzling effect under the lights. I chose black opera length gloves to compliment my mask. Ah, the mask. It was a deeper gold than my dress and adorned with scrolls of black music notes and black, silver, and gold feathers along the outer edge. Thick jewels circled my eyes. While it paled slightly in comparison to the rich opulence around me, I felt like I was in the middle of a fairytale. The vodka, the music, the dancing … it was choreographed to breathtaking perfection.
My evening had begun by playing for an hour with a small ensemble, but others had taken over and I had the rest of my evening to avoid the politics and infighting and enjoy my evening.
As I watched a group of dancers make coordinated turns across the room from me, Aldo approached. He wore a black mask that bore a long nose. I hated those, but his tuxedo was fore more elegant than the one he typically wore for shows.
“Good evening, Savannah,” he said, taking my gloved hand and bending over it, brushing it with his lips.
“Good evening, Al.” I couldn’t help but smile.
“You will dance with me,” he stated. I think he intended it as a question or an invitation, but his garbled English came out as an imperative.
I thought about it for just a moment and then said, “I’d be delighted.” Although I didn’t particularly want to make a fool of myself in front of the most advanced dancers in the world, I wasn’t a bad dancer. And not a single one of them was a world class musician. So I took Aldo’s hand and allowed him to lead me out to the floor.
I tried to ignore the undercurrents as we began to dance. Sergei Danshov, the ballet director, held court at one end of the hallway, surrounded by many of the younger and more aggressive dancers and cast members in a raucous circle.
At the opposite end of the room, Nikolai Timoshenko stood with his own smaller and slightly older group. Last year, when the previous director retired, probably due to the stress of all the politics and vicious infighting, Nikolai had been a candidate for ballet director. He lost out to Sergei after a vicious competition that I sometimes thought probably wasn’t over.
In between the two camps, the rest of us watched and enjoyed the spectacle of the evening. Of course, I’d spent much of my life around musicians, the symphony, the opera. But the Bolshoi operated like no other outfit, and put on balls like nothing I’d ever seen. In the dead of the Russian winter, this was a night filled with exuberance.
Aldo spun me around in a circle as we danced, and I felt lightheaded from too much vodka and champagne. After my third twir, I stopped in place at the sight of a man who had his back to me. Even among the sea of black tuxedos, I would recognize him anywhere.
Aldo stumbled and said, “Are you thriving?”
He smiled and said, “Um… are you well?”
Aldo had been studying his vocabulary, apparently. “I’m thriving,” I replied. “Excuse me.”
There was no question it was him. He didn’t see me yet, so I slowed my pace as I crossed the floor. And watched him.
He wore a simple tuxedo, and his shoulders were pulled back and tense. His head was moving fractionally back and forth, as if he were scanning the crowd. Gregory’s hair had grown enough to reveal a slight wave that I didn’t know existed. He bore a relaxed look I’d never seen before.
As I stood in what felt like the center of the room, but was far off to one side, he turned around. He was twenty feet from me, but from the emotion that passed between us, he might as well have been touching me. Unlike most of the men at the ball, he wore no mask. His eyes, startling blue in this light, arrested me.
And I froze.
Impervious to the ballerinas, their dates, and people who thought they ought to be ballerinas circling around me in vodka-sponsored jubilance, I fought to hang onto some sense of composure.
Gregory took a deep breath, his shoulders rising, then lifted his chin slightly and walked directly toward me. I felt fixated by his eyes, afraid that if I looked away even for an instant he would disappear.
“Savannah.” He reached out with a confident hand and ran the tips of his fingers along the jewels of my mask.
I nodded, then shook my head. Yes. No. Contradictory actions mirroring my emotions. “What … How … Why?”
Slowly, his other hand came to the other side of my mask and with painful deliberation, he lifted it until it rested on top of my head. He slid his hands down the sides of my face, stopping when he reached my jaw where he held them there. Held me there.