by Lord Malinov
Diana felt his stare, the forceful demand of his wild eyes, and when she met his notice, she shuddered without thinking. It was as if the stranger’s gaze peered deep into her soul, envisioned her bodily naked, uncovered in a glance the girl’s most secret, vulnerable spots. But despite this self-conscious torment, Diana felt at once drawn to the tall, dark man. While he arrogantly stole her peace, unashamed in his invasion, Diana found herself assured by his attention. The cool focused stare spoke clearly of a studied admiration. A shiver of delight tickled her aroused senses.
He moved, started to approach. Diana smoothed her skirt, teased an arrant lock of gold, fingered the pendant of her necklace as she felt each step which brought the stranger closer. She sought and found the crystal glass on the table beside her, and kissed the rim gently, wetting her lips in expectation of the words his immediate presence would demand. Diana’s heart began to race, an erratic pulsation of excited, delighted, nervous anticipation.
“I apologize,” he said. His words reveled in darkness. The sensual tones threw a blanket of mist over Diana’s thoughts. She breathed deeply. “I did not mean to be rude, staring at you that way.”
“I suppose,” she began, but blushed and furtively looked away, losing her tongue in the rampages of emotion.
“Lord Malinov,” he said, his steady gaze again catching hold of hers, expectantly searching within. “I am at your service.”
“Diana,” she replied at once, anxious to speak with some expression of her usual intellect and sense of control.
“There is something familiar about you,” Malinov said. “Yours is an enchanting beauty. I have only seen such . . .” his voice faded as his stare fixed on some new detail.
“You flatter me,” she replied.
“No,” he said at once, “I mean, sometimes the truth is flattering, but I’m not seeking to lure your confidence. It’s just that . . .” Again, Malinov failed to continue. Diana felt her spirit roused. The sky blue of her eyes darkened with discontent at his self-indulgence.
“Lord Malinov, please. If you are going to continue looking at me that way,” she said, “I must ask you for a better explanation. I appreciate a compliment as much as the next woman, but I cannot permit this inspection without some good cause.”
Malinov’s eyes dimmed slightly, distracted by a fleeting thought. The gentle rhythm of a waltz took life in a distant corner of the great hall, and a flow of people began to press toward the center. Bending his tall frame slightly, Malinov bowed to Diana.
“I apologize, again. I shall restrain myself. You have a quality which sparks memories in me, sad cherished spectres of the past which really do not suit this festive occasion. May I be so bold as to suggest we partake of the night’s pleasures? May I have this dance?”
“I would be delighted,” said Diana in response. She circled her small hand around his arm, and he lead her through the crowd to find their place upon the floor. Malinov’s hand took Diana’s waist and at his touch, she felt and as quickly repressed a sudden ripple of ecstasy.
The melody of Strauss teased them into motion, his hand clasping hers, the fragrant exhilaration of intimate proximity, the flowing twirl of a graceful triad. Diana wondered as they danced at the sense of delight with which she held onto this mysterious Lord, following and anticipating in every breath his lead. The fibre of her unconscious fought with her usual cautious sensibility. With each step, Diana yearned to hold him closer, a feeling that grew stronger as they danced each turn around the joy-filled room. She kept her distance only from fear that she would lose the moment in being too bold. Diana wondered if he would accept her surrender.
“You dance divinely,” Malinov whispered. Diana melted in the dark timbre of his praise. She felt herself fall closer to him.
“Did you love her so much?” A little closer yet.
“Yes.” He said finally. They danced without another word.
When the music ended, Malinov bowed deeply and with a murmur of regret, vanished into the crowd behind him. Diana felt a mad rush of delight bubbling in a froth of pity and rejection. A flush of color bit her cheeks and she instinctively sought a path calculated to avoid the query of any familiar face. She wanted to escape, to find some way she could let the tempest in her heart pour forth unseen.
A wide doorway led out onto a terrace and she stepped into the darkness, breathing heavily the cool night air. Her thoughts raced nowhere, drowning with each turn in the storms of her emotions. Diana began to walk alongside the terrace wall, raising and spending her longings in the weltering shadows. Walking beyond a final pillar, Diana found him. Malinov bowed slightly in recognition.
“I apologize,” he said. “I did not mean to behave so rudely in there.”
“No,” said Diana, looking into the black fury of his sorrow-filled eyes. “I’m only sorry I could not be a comfort.”
“You are . . . . I have not let myself remember. This pain is a sweet agony to me. I have no call to impose such a personal burden on you. Your beauty is your own. No ghost should haunt your image.”
“No,” said Diana softly. “but I could love you, too.” She kissed the tall stranger, pressing her lips to his unyielding mouth. He accepted her affection coldly, afraid, and as she parted from his stony kiss, Diana whispered an imperceptible “sorry.”
With a sudden gust of chilling wind, he wrapped her suddenly in his arms and kissed her hard, fierce, intent, hungry. “Diana,” he said in a moment’s pause, “what a lovely name.”
“Thank you,” she said dreamily. A brash burst of light struck from behind, and another couple, drunk with wine and their own brand of love, stepped noisily onto the terrace. Escaping the intrusion, Malinov and Diana walked into the dark gardens, setting free their own tales with each step, whispering honest words devotedly.
Diana never paused to think as the night time passed them by. The more she spoke to Malinov, the more she felt familiar with him, a sense of having known him longer than was true. Each word he spoke seemed to mirror words she had perhaps once dreamed to speak. He listened to her tales attentively, enraptured by the details of her days, eagerly asking for more, encouraging her in each confidence to reveal yet even more. They paused to kiss and paused again.
Their kisses drifted intimately and soon found delight in every piece of clothing lost, discovering some new excuses for delight in supple curves of flesh and tender lines of taut muscles. Bared in the bright moonlight, Malinov suckled Diana’s full naked breasts hungrily, lost in revelry. He pulled her luscious body close, piercing her softness with his hard staff, filling her with desire and sweltering insistence. She melted under his touch and words, wanting him to possess and have her, wanting to excite and soothe him. Diana gave herself completely to Malinov, and he gave all that he took, taking her body and soul.
The tremors of excitement welled within her as he locked them in animal rhythm, engulfing her with strength while embraced inside her fertile, loving heat. The fire of their union blushed across her chest, her dark nipples ached with every brush, the noise within her howled. She reached a height which could stand no more and as the flood waters crushed the ancient dam, Lord Malinov spoke low.
“My love, Ligeia. Love me.”
The words rolled through her as she came. Diana faded in her ecstasy, overpowered in madness, in anger, in love and she shuddered in perfect surrender.
“I do,” she said, her voice charged in passion, forever changed, at once alive, and Ligeia held him close again.