The women dancing the minuet were like pale moths in their simple white gowns, for few dared dress as lavishly as they had three years before. The attack on the Bastille had seen to that. Any connection, however tenuous, to the old aristocracy did not bode well for the future. Now, the pretty butterflies had vanished from Versailles along with their queen.
But an actress should never bow to convention, so Verity had chosen to wear a gown of heavily-ribbed, jonquil silk brocaded with roses from her last play. When the music died away her dance partner, Monsieur Picard escorted her from the floor, bowed and left her. She perched on a gilt chair beside a column and snapped open her fan, bored and longing to leave. But she was here at the invitation of Georges Danton and could not afford to insult a man as powerful as he.
Another influential man, a member of the Jacobin Club sworn to protect the revolution from the aristocrats, Jacques Rocchard, appeared at her side offering her a glass of champagne. "You look magnificent tonight, Mademoiselle Garnier." His greedy, light brown eyes perused her form.
"Merci." She tamped down a shudder, and forced a smile as she smoothed her skirts.
He leaned down, and his fingers brushed a powdered ringlet resting on her shoulder, a brief, sly action. "That is a triumph. You are like a spring bloom in a winter garden."
Resisting the urge to smack his stupid face, Verity looked around at the crowd. The women whispered behind their fans, and the men watched with raised brows. They knew what Jacques wanted. It was no secret, he desired her for his mistress. It would prove difficult to keep him on her side while using his interest for her own ends, but she determined to try. More enemies than friends were to be found in Paris in these troubled times, and she needed friends desperately now.
"My lady wife is away from home. Come to my apartment on the Rive Gauche, corner of the Rue Seguier, at midnight tomorrow night," he murmured.
"Why do you persist after I have refused you?"
He looked very sure of himself. "I like to collect beautiful things. And you are undeniably beautiful, mademoiselle."
A feeling of dread consumed her. "As you wish, monsieur."
Not wishing to upset his host, Jacques nodded and hurried away at the sight of Georges Danton making his way towards her. Verity would think of the best way to deal with this latest dilemma later. Relief at seeing Jacques leave was quickly replaced by anxiety. Eyeing the massively built and powerful man before her, she straightened her shoulders. His eyes held a victorious gleam, for he knew he held her future in his hands.
The fiacre travelled along the Seine as the homeless settled down for the night under its bridges. It was dangerous to be out alone and unescorted. As her father could no longer help her, she had to learn to adapt quickly, a woman on her own in Paris must learn to be devious. She caressed the reassuring bulk of the flintlock pistol in her reticule, but if a mob took it into their minds to rob her, the weapon would provide her little protection.
Paris had become a surging crowd of inhumanity, first with the food riots and now as crowds flocked to watch the tumbrel take poor unfortunates to the guillotine. The Committee of Surveillance was weeding out the disguised aristos trying to escape Paris through the barricades. Even the king and the queen stood in very real danger. Verity shivered. What hope existed for her father, a humble academic who, motivated by his love for France dared to voice his opinions? He stood accused of being a counter-revolutionary. Over on the Ile de la Cite were the towering walls of the Palais de Justice and the Conciergerie, where the Guards had taken him, snatching him away in the night. She had not been able to find how he was. A few days later, men had come and stripped their home of most of its valuables and she found herself out on the street with just a few sticks of furniture and very little money.
The carriage pulled up as the clock struck midnight, the wishing hour. She doubted her wish would be granted this night, but she refused to give up all hope. Pulling the hood of her cloak over her head, she stepped from the vehicle and gave instructions to the coachman to return within the hour.