Viola Gardener is tired of living in the shadow of her vivacious twin. When her parents host a Twelfth Night masquerade, she decides to dress up as the one thing sure to catch the attention of the man of her dreams: her sister!
What You Will by Lily White LeFevre
Miss Viola Alexis Gardener carefully examined her appearance in the cheval mirror.
She looked…daring. Almost scandalous, even. Last century’s styles had been much more revealing than the current mode even in England, and her silk and lace concoction was based on a French design. The full skirts were heavy and awkward for a girl used to the relative freedom empire gowns offered, but their flare made her waist look ridiculously narrow. And the top…good heavens, the top. Her bosom threatened to overspill the rim of the bodice when she breathed, even with the two inches of lace her mother had insisted the dressmaker add to attempt a reclamation of modesty.
Viola reached up and tied her matching mask into place, then put her hands back down and reconsidered her appearance.
She looked…mischievous. The mask covered only her eyes and half of one cheek, where the dyed leather curved down in a fanciful curlicue, while a pair of peacock feathers flared in opposite directions over her temple on the same side. Through the eyeholes her irises gleamed back, greener than their usual hazy mix of green and blue thanks to the surrounding color. She looked mysterious and playful at once, although considering how easily identifiable she would be in such a brief mask, Viola wasn’t sure how she could also look mysterious. It wasn’t like anyone was going to mistake her for someone else.
At least, not someone besides Olivia.
Viola tilted her head and smiled flirtatiously. She looked…like her sister. It was undeniable. This was a dress that people would expect to see Olivia wearing, not Viola.
Her mind stuck on the thought. Perhaps it was just the tightly drawn hairstyle, pulling at her scalp and making her lightheaded. Perhaps it was the excitement that accompanied a masquerade ball, and Twelfth Night, and her birthday, making her giddy. Perhaps it was simply that she was tired of being good. But for any of those reasons, or none of them, Viola suddenly felt reckless.
She felt like acting like her sister, to go along with the costume. She knew exactly what she wanted to do, too: get Leighton’s attention.
Leighton, she sighed to herself. Leighton Fortesque, Lord Carrick.
His name had used to make her smile, eight months ago when she had first met him, golden and laughing and touched by the devil. Back when he had been merely Francis’s best friend. Before he had become one of Olivia’s admirers.
If Viola were an ounce more sociable, she might have taken his interest in her sister as a sure sign he would be interested in her, as well—after all, she and Olivia were identical. But Viola was not her sister, was nothing like her sister, in fact, and so she could not believe that his partiality for the elder Miss Gardener would extend to the younger. She had no hope of pulling his attention off of her vivacious sister and onto her own silence. She did not know how to do it, and had too little hope of success to even try, and so she had let her come-out Season pass by in a wave of commonplace greetings and sightings across the ballroom that gradually went from exciting to painful as her own obsession with him deepened and his indifference to her grew more marked. He was one of the men who gravitated to her sister at any social function and, like all the others who did so, ignored Viola. For all that she looked exactly like Olivia, and was therefore imbued with the beauty they all claimed Olivia had, Viola was in essence a wallflower. Ignorable, and, therefore, ignored.
But tonight…tonight, she looked like her sister.
Tonight she could claim his attention for herself. If she did, perhaps she would be able to keep it. If she couldn’t win him even as Olivia, she would know there was no hope for Viola and banish his image from behind her eyelids at night.
Viola gave her reflection a wicked smile, and Olivia smiled back. She was ready for the masquerade.
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