Tall, Dark And Exceedingly Handsome

Virginia Mae Devereaux was in love. Her china blue eyes sparkled as brightly as the Austrian crystal brandy snifters her mother had purchased for a small fortune in Atlanta, and the blush on her cheeks owed nothing to the tiny ceramic pots of rouge she kept in her armoire.

"And what is his name, pray tell?" Suzanne demanded to know, chestnut ringlets bouncing like agitated corkscrews upon her plump and dimpled shoulders.

"Yes," Blanche insisted, "reveal the name of your new beau, Ginny. You can trust us to keep a secret."

Ginny chuckled. "You two are my best friends and Lord knows, I do love you both dearly, but you have the biggest mouths this side of the Mississippi. If I tell you, the news will have spread clear across Vermilion Parish and be halfway through Lafayette by this time tomorrow."

Ginny watched Mammie Pearl place a fresh pitcher of pink lemonade on the table. "You feelin' alright, chile?" asked the old negress. "You shore do look awful flushed."

Ginny patted the rough-skinned hand which was tenderly stroking her cheek. "I'm Just fine, Mammie," she said gently. "Now, don't you fret none. I'm just fine."

"Well," cautioned the unconvinced Mammie Pearl with a wag of her finger, "don't go stayin' out here too long now. Fair skin like yours burns somethin' fierce in this sun."

"It's Madison LeJeune, isn't it?" asked Blanche, dropping to her knees in front of Ginny's chair. "I know it is. I've seen the way he looks at you."

Defying genteel etiquette, Suzanne rested her elbows on the table and leaned forward. "Madison LeJeune?" she questioned, her eyes growing wide. "I do declare, he is the most attractive man in Abbeville. I experience a most severe bout of the vapors every time I am in his company."

Blanche snorted. Ginny stared in surprise. Such a vocal display of disgust was so uncharacteristic of the normally sophisticated, auburn-haired Blanche. "I do apologize," Blanche murmured, "but we are all well aware that anything wearing trousers and sporting a waistcoat tends to give our dear Suzanne the vapors!"

Suzanne ignored the barb and tapped Ginny lightly on the arm. "Is he going to accompany you to the Midsummer Cotillion in New Orleans?"

Ginny threw up her hands. "Stop," she laughed. "It is not Madison LeJeune and no, the beau in question will not not be escorting me to the Midsummer Cotillion. Given the circumstances, we are obliged to practice discretion."

"You mean you meet with him under a cloak of darkness?" queried Blanche with a flair for the dramatic. She took a deep breath. "Oh my...how utterly romantic!"

Ginny almost choked on her sip of iced lemonade. "Interesting turn of phrase," she muttered. If only they knew the real truth behind such a statement!

"But why?" asked Blanche. "What reason could there possibly be?" She gasped with suspected realization and Suzanne's mouth opened even wider than her eyes, as the same thought occurred to her.

"Is he married?"

Ginny decided to be mysterious about the affair. "Perhaps," she twinkled.

Blanche beckoned for Suzanne to join her on the lawn. "Has he?" she began. "Have you?"

Ginny raised an elegant eyebrow.

"You have!" they accused in unison.

"Enough," laughed Ginny. "There are some intimacies that a well-bred young lady should never be persuaded to divulge, not even to her nearest and dearest acquaintances. No more questions now, I shall refuse to answer!"

Suzanne and Blanche regarded Ginny with imploring eyes. "At least tell us what he looks like, Ginny Mae" they wheedled.

Ginny gazed over their heads toward the fields of her Papa's sugar cane. Joshua straightened up to his full height of six feet, four inches...every well-toned muscle rippling like liquid mahogany beneath the thin, cotton workshirt. His eyes, deeper and darker than the polished ebony keys of the harpsichord Ginny's Daddy had imported all the way from London, England, captured her glance and shimmered with bold admiration.

Reckless of the fact that to even be caught looking her way would mean a severe whipping, Joshua placed one strong hand over his heart and, holding the other to his forehead, staggered as though he were about to swoon. His face broke into a broad grin, teeth showing white, strong and exquisitely sharp. He licked his lips with a tongue as sweet as the sugar cane he picked and his skin glistened as smooth and delicious as molasses.

Ginny picked up a linen napkin and begin to furiously fan her crimson cheeks.

"Well," urged Blanche. "Is he tall, dark and exceedingly handsome?" She was a firm believer that opposites were sure to attract. Such a beau would be a perfect foil for the petite, wheaten-haired Ginny Mae, often referred to in their inner circle as the "Porcelain Doll."

"Oh my, indeed yes," replied Ginny, flushed and breathless. "I do declare you have taken the...shall we say...words right out of my mouth!"

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