As the last notes from the musicians' instruments hovered in the air of the ballroom, Victoria grinned at her dance partners and stepped back into the crowd, weaving around groups who were conversing together and individuals who were quietly observing the festivities. She had been dancing most of the night, and she thought it was time for a short break. Her feet were aching slightly and she was a bit out of breath. She hadn't planned on joining the last dance, but when she had seen a group of women dancing together … some she knew and others with whom she was unfamiliar … she had not been able to resist one more turn about the floor.

With a tired sigh, she plucked a chalice of white wine from the tray of a passing servant and glided over to the wall on one side of the room. Sinking gracefully onto a chair, she arranged her violet silk skirts around her. This was not only the first ball she had attended in Hebron, but also the most extravagant. Victoria was enjoying herself immensely. She had seen many courtiers gazing in her direction since the moment she had arrived, and she was certain that she was making a splendid impression on everyone. Although she had yet to be introduced to the new Queen, she hoped that she had noticed her too. Perhaps she would achieve her goal of becoming a lady-in-waiting in the very near future.

The first sip of pale liquid slid smoothly down her throat and she closed her eyes and savored the taste of it. The myriad voices around her faded to a pleasant drone, punctuated every now and then by a flutter of laughter.

@Edward Fairfax