Welcome back, readers, to Snippet Month at The Violet Femmes. The NJRW Put Your Heart in a Book Conference is next weekend, and in tandem with the conference, we’ll be announcing an exciting new contest in celebration of our first year together. So make sure you’ve subscribed to our blog, because this contest has a great prize, and you’ll want to enter as many times as you can!
The following is a snippet from my YA work-in-progress.
Nadine is a young lady whose family is on the fringes of the Court in Renaissance France. She has just been chosen to be the companion of the new princess, Catherine de Medici, as she adjusts to her surroundings. The adjustment to palace life proves just as difficult for Nadine, who is used to helping out in the palace kitchens which her mother oversees. Added to her unease is the unexpected attraction she feels for the Prince’s right-hand-man, Gilles de Nantes.
A light knock sounded on the dressing room door. Nadine moved to answer it.
“No, Nadine, you stay. I will get it,” Maman ordered. Nadine took the opportunity of her mother’s inattention to snatch up the ribbon from the previous night, and tuck it in her bodice.
Maman opened the door to the house maid, Julée. “There is a man at the door, Madame. He says he is here to collect Mademoiselle Nadine.”
Julée followed Nadine and her mother as they made their way to the salon. Butterflies suddenly threatened to break free from Nadine’s stomach. They paused in the hall just outside the open doorway. Maman squeezed Nadine’s elbow and gave her a look of encouragement. “Breathe. And remember, I love you.”
“I love you, too, Maman.”
They rounded the corner into the salon. A man stood at the window, his back to them as they entered. As he turned, Nadine gasped.
“Monsieur de Nantes,” Maman said. She and Nadine curtseyed.
Gilles gave a slight bow in return. “Madame. I trust you are well?”
“Quite well, monsieur. Thank you.”
“And you, mademoiselle?” He cocked one eyebrow questioningly.
“Yes, thank you,” Nadine replied.
“Good! Shall we go?” Gilles motioned to the door.
“Surely you are not escorting my daughter on your own?” Maman interjected.
“She is in no danger from me, Madame,” Gilles replied. Nadine looked up at him, her eyes meeting his defiantly. So, she was not worth his time, was that it?
“Danger or no, it is not fitting,” Maman replied. “Please allow Nadine’s maid to accompany you.”
“Are you not fearful then, for the maid, Madame?” Gilles asked.
“Of course. However, I know my daughter. If you were to compromise her in any way, she would scream bloody murder. And if you were to accost the maid, well, you would have to fight my daughter off,” Maman warned.
“Ah, so that is the way of things, is it?” Gilles’ eyes twinkled in amusement. “Then let the maid come, and you have my solemn vow, no screams will be heard from the prince’s hall.”
Maman turned to Julée. “Keep an eye on this one,” she said softly. “He has the devil in him.”
“Yes, madame,” Jolée replied. “I will keep Mademoiselle Nadine safe from harm, I promise.”
“You are a good girl,” Maman said. She turned to Gilles. “I trust I will not hear of any nonsense.”
“You have my word, as the prince’s representative, that your daughter and her maid will be safe from me. Further, I will not allow anyone else to harm them, either.”
“I believe you. Now, go. Nadine, make me proud,” the comtesse said, kissing her daughter’s forehead.
Tears welled up in Nadine’s eyes. “I will, Maman.”
Gilles went to the door and turned. “Shall we? Prince Henri is waiting.”
Nadine blinked several times before looking up at him. “Of course,” she said, forcing a smile.
She fell into step slightly behind him, as was her station. Julée trailed after them, a few steps back. They made their way across the street and through the courtyard of the Louvre Palace. The black sky had turned to midnight blue. The stars winked their last as the sun began to rise on the horizon, bands of yellow to orange to green and aqua. A chaffinch, waking to the dawn, bobbed on the dried seed head of a flower in the Palace’s winter garden. Its happy song lifted Nadine’s spirits. Surely the dread she was feeling was misplaced.
“Monsieur? Can you tell me why the Prince wants to see me?” Nadine asked.
Gilles slowed so that she could draw even with him. “Mademoiselle Mystery, surely you know better than to ask that,” Gilles replied sardonically. His use of the moniker got her back up.
“Since you obviously do know my name now, I would appreciate if you would stop using that ridiculous one,” she huffed.
“Ah, but perhaps it has nothing to do with knowing your name. Perhaps I call you Mademoiselle Mystery, not because I don’t know your name, but because you are an enigma to me.”
“I can’t imagine you waste any of your precious time thinking about me, one way or the other,” Nadine replied.
“Can you not?” he asked, shooting her a sidelong glance. “Is it equally hard for you to imagine that I can reflect on anything, while performing one of my many required duties?”
“Certainly not. I only meant that I am sure there are other, more important things to occupy your thoughts than a girl of my position in the Court.”
“Well, in that you are wrong, I assure you. A girl with charms such as yours,” he looked down at her bodice, “would occupy the thoughts of any man who might be lucky enough to make your acquaintance,” Gilles replied.
Nadine turned her face away to hide the blush that burned her cheeks, and tried unsuccessfully to take offense at his bold actions. “I can see now that Maman was wise to insist on a chaperone.”
Gilles stopped short and turned, causing Nadine to stumble. He grabbed her arm to keep her from falling. “I assure you, mademoiselle,” he said softly. “You are in no danger from me. In fact, it is quite the opposite. If anything, I feel an uncommon urge to protect you.”
Nadine looked up, her eyes locking with his. “Protect me from what?” she asked.
“There are all kinds of dangers in the Court. I urge you to stay alert, know your place, and listen to what your instincts tell you,” Gilles advised.