Marzio and I thought it would be fun to feature artwork we love alongside flash/short fiction. Maison de Anges was inspired by the erotic art of Umberto Brunelleschi.
The following short fiction contains some adult material.
Maison de Anges
Liviana’s Dressing Room (I)
by Narcisse Navarre & Marzio Ombra
Reynaud observed his mistress in silence. Her nervousness was charming in its purity. To an outsider, Liviana would appear as tranquil as one of Bernini’s marbles, but Reynaud knew better. In the many years since Liviana had rescued him from destitution, he had come to know the woman that Parisian society referred to L’Ange du Péché, the Angel of Sin.
Liviana was sitting at the edge of her chair and her cheeks were flushed. Her chest rose and fell with short, rapid breaths-the result of tight lacing and an unforgiving summer.
Upon her lap, her hands were clasped in prayer. She might have appeared as a penitent supplicant were it not for the low cut dress that revealed her breasts-and what breasts they were! The abundant flesh, firm with the pertness of youth, overflowed past the constraints of the corset to culminate in erect peaks that were tinged with rouge.
Reynaud broke the silence by clearing his throat. “Pardonnez-moi, Madame, may I pour you a glass of absinthe?”
Liviana made the sign of the cross before lifting her gaze to the open window. Outside, the last of the sun’s rays receded, leaving the purple strokes of twilight in their wake. Across the Rue de Cherubini, the gas lamps of the Hotel de l’Opera blazed to life. “I don’t think that is prudent, Reynaud. On a night like this, my fangs need to be sharp. Besides, I can barely breathe.”
“Shall I loosen your laces, Madame?”
“No”—Liviana picked up a golden mirror from her vanity and appraised herself—”Should I wear Du’Pray’s pearls or a satin ribbon? I cannot decide.”
Reynaud walked to the vanity and opened Liviana’s jewelry box. When he pulled the ribbon from the bottom drawer, the thin band of satin hung limply from between his fingers. Cocking his head, he wrinkled his nose as if the ribbon were some fetid weed. “The ribbon seems less a compliment to your ivory skin and more like a collar.” Reynaud placed the ribbon back in the drawer. Then, with the flair of a magician, he slowly withdrew a string of perfectly matched pearls. “Here is an adornment worthy of a powerful woman.” He turned and held the necklace out for Liviana’s inspection. “Do you not agree?”
Liviana lifted her pale blue eyes to meet his. “I agree. They are far more complementary than the collar, but Du’Pray gave them to me with very clear instructions for their intended use. If he chances a visit tonight while I am with Comte de Marnier, I’m afraid all will be lost.”
When Liviana smiled, it was as if the heavens themselves cast a glow upon the world. Her beautiful features softened and she acquired a girlish charm that was at once endearing and memorable. Reynaud suddenly found himself wishing he were not forty years her senior.
Reynaud’s eyes crinkled with a smile. “Have no fear, Madame. Monsieur Du’Pray did not send his calling card. After your last”—Reynaud searched for the right words—”torturous rendezvous, it does not surprise me.”
Liviana set the mirror down. “Was I too rough in my handling?”
Reynaud bent over his mistress as he settled the pearls around her neck. His basso voice grew low and confident as he murmured into Liviana’s ear. “At the expense of sounding like a lecherous old man, I found myself praying I could trade places with you. There was a sort of music to his pleas was there not?”
“You are not lecherous, you are downright morbid.” Liviana brought her fingers to her lips and suppressed a laugh. “I have heard pigs being slaughtered that did not squeal as loud.”
Reynaud clasped the necklace. “Pigs! You are incorrigible. There are times when I wonder if you were indeed born to a peasant family or if you hail from some other, more distant place.”
Liviana cocked her head. “And what place would that be, sweet Reynaud?”
Reynaud kissed her cheek. “You cannot conceive how fantasy takes hold of me. I tell you, that it is the last recourse left for old men.”
“Cease your teasing.”
In the distance, the bell tower tolled half past seven. Reynaud straightened, and held out his hand. When Livinia took it, he helped her to his feet. “Sometimes, Madame, I am possessed by the thought that you were not born from mortal flesh, but rather conceived by the gods; and are a creature whose true merriment comes only when surrounded by deep woods and streams.”
Liviana squeezed Reynaud’s hand. When she looked up at him, her eyes were distant. ”It would be a shame if that were so. For if what you say is true, then I shall never find happiness shutterd as I am in this dark house.”
Reynaud stroked her cheek. “These financial troubles will pass.”
Liviana shook her head. “You of all people should know the falsity of that statement.”
Reynaud sighed. Upon inheriting his father’s vineyard, he could not have foreseen the woes that would strike at the heart of every vintner in France. The blight, like a plague sent from God, had ruined thousands of families. He would be dead if Liviana had not taken pity upon him and his sons. “We must all do the best we can, Madame. The rest is up to God, and I assure you that pray nightly for your fortunes as they are also mine.”
Liviana straightened her shoulders and raised her chin. “I have heard it said that Comte de Marnier is very particular about the games he likes to play. With that in mind, I took the liberty of inviting Edouard.”
“Edouard? Seems risky.”
Liviana walked towards the door. “The Maison de Anges is worth the gamble. I rather gallop than grovel.”
Reynaud followed his mistress. “You gallop admirably, Madame.”
At the top of the stairs, Liviana paused, and turned to face Reynaud. “Please make certain that Jenie keeps the candles lit in the hall of mirrors and that Helene doesn’t overcook the goose. That would be a travesty.”
“I was down in the kitchens earlier. I promise you, Madame, Helene is preparing a meal worthy of poetry. Jenie is bathed and her uniform is neat and clean. Everything in the villa is polished and gleaming. I even took the liberty of ordering fresh roses for all the vases.” Before Livinia could protest the extravagance, Reynaud cut her off, “I paid for the roses with my own savings.”
“Thank you Reynaud. I shall not see such effort wasted.” Livinia gathered her skirts and began her descent. She was halfway down when she paused once more. “I should wait until Edouard arrives and has a chance to meet Marnier. Their repartee will be telling.”
“Oui, Madame, a lady should never seem too eager.” Reynaud took her hand in his and covered her delicate fingers with his palm. “Sophie and Manon promise to tease the young Comte until his loins boil with need, and Virginie has selected her prized accoutrements for her performance. As for Edouard, what can be said? Adonis himself would be jealous. Go and take your place behind the golden mask and be prepared to enter after the pianist’s first arabesque. The evening will unfold as planned. The only detail that requires your attention is the wine. Which vintage do you wish me to ply the Comte with?”
Liviana bit her lower lip. “Manache! What do we have left.”
“Not much, I fear. We have plenty of Rhine wines, but I wouldn’t dare serve the Comte anything other than good French wine. That leaves us with the Bordeaux and the last bottle of burgundy. After that, it is the Italian swill which is only good for cooking.”
Liviana waved her hand. “You are a good man except when you insult my country, Reynaud. Bordeaux it is.”