Carte Blanche (Camille Anthony in Charming the Snake) – Chapter One

It’s Chastity’s 18th birthday and she’s waiting for the right moment to break up with her fiancé. Apparently, things in the last months have been going exactly like they thought they would, so there’s no need to mention them. Fortunately, we at least get a detailed description of Chastity’s dress (“silver chiffon and lace”) and how her breasts don’t need a bra. [Seriously.]

She and nameless fiancé are standing on a landing, while aristocrats aplenty queue up to meet them. And Chastity is a complete brat, thinking about how she despises all of them and now she has to let them kiss her hand, although they are against everything she stands for. [Everything she stands for is female independence.]

Her uncle may think himself her guardian, but he and his handpicked puppet [her fiancé? Her uncle’s wife? Her uncle’s consultant? Who?] would soon learn better. Only her father had ever tried to boss her around [no, obviously, her uncle tries at well], and he’d ceased that exercise in futility before her eighth birthday.
On her other side, Alicia, the marchioness of Avondale, leaned over and hissed at her to please smile. Chastity glanced around and up, a sneer curling the right corner of her mouth as Alicia’s quiet plea [That didn’t sound like a plea to me.] sounded in her ear. She felt so much older than her cousin, it was always a surprise to realize the woman towered over her own petite frame. [Arrogant much? “She’s such a child!”, says the 18-year-old.]
“I have no intention of being polite to this pushy, nosy rabble.” [Whatever have they done to you? Just because you don’t agree with a lifestyle or you don’t want to live it, doesn’t mean that you have to be an impolite bastard to everybody living it.]
“Great gad [is that supposed to mimic a posh accent?], woman! Can you never act as you are supposed to? You disgust me.” [That is the fiancé speaking. What a great man he seems to be.]

Chastity and Bernard, the not-so-nameless-anymore fiancé, start bickering while Alicia almost faints because this is not supposed to happen. She makes them stop, telling Bernard to behave himself in front of the guests, knowing that any such requests are futile with Chastity.

Chastity in turn pities Alicia for having to put up with Chastity’s behaviour, but that’s not incentive enough for her to be actually polite. [I’m not suggesting that Chastity should become a quiet little housewife, but a little respect for other people’s values, even if they’re not your own, is a good thing.] Instead, she completely embarasses the Duke of Pettibone [God, how I wish I was making these names up…], by grabbing his hand.

She smiled full in his face. The duke froze in place. His eyes widened then flared with sudden heat. [Holy motherfucking shit. A smile’s enough to make him have a wet dream or what? Are all those people pubescent?]
What? Why do men always get that look on their faces when I smile? Yuck! [Oh, look at me, I’m so irresistible, but I don’t know it.] Deciding she needed to stop smiling, Chastity shrugged off the incident and reached to shake the duchess’s hand. She, at least, looked friendly.
The pale green eyes that met her brown ones held no censure, and the generous mouth curved in a motherly smile as the dimpled woman squeezed her hand. [Dimpled, round people are always motherly. They cannot be anything else. Just like redheads are always evil, unless played by Cate Blanchett.] Unwinding a bit, Chastity gave the short woman a real smile in return. The duchess startled her by drawing her closer and furtively whispering, “My name is Lucynda. You need to come to me at the earliest opportunity, dear.”

The Pettibones go on and a little while later, “His Royal Highness the Grand Duke of Archer and Her Royal Highness the Grand Duchess of Archer” show up. Chassy is actually happy to see the king and queen (I’m a little confused. I don’t really know my way around titles, but aren’t a grand duke and a king two different things?), as they’ve always been friends of her father’s.

The king asks whether the killer of Chassy’s father has been found yet, but his wife tells him to shut up, as this is not the right occasion to discuss things like this. Then she hugs Chassy and tells her:

“It is so good to see you out of mourning, Chassy. Life must continue, but we understand how you still miss him. Feel free to call upon us for any need, darling. You are like a niece to us.” [Like a niece, huh? I guess, she just didn’t have that edge to become like a daughter to them… Poor Chassy!]

At this, Chastity almost starts to cry, but the grand duke tells her to not show her emotions like that and that she should smile instead. When Chassy does, he starts to stagger and has to grab his wife’s hand for support. Which is pretty damn sick, if you ask me. He’s always been like an uncle for Chassy, and now her smile makes him stagger? [Although Chassy assures us that there’s been no lust in his gaze.]

His wife notices his reaction and instead of having a normal reaction (like hitting him in the back of the head and saying “behave yourself!”), she tells Chassy:

“That is a mighty weapon you wield, young woman,” the grand duchess murmured, mouth curved in a wry grin. “Use it wisely.”

At least, Chassy is as confused about that as I am. There is such a thing like overestimating the effects of a smile. And taking “my smile is my weapon” too literally.

Anyhoo, she continues to greet people and bicker with her fiancé, giving us a bit of his background (uninteresting. Basically: greedy asshole who bought land by agreeing to marry Chassy), all the while waiting for the clock to strike midnight and ruining everything everybody else had planned for the party by announcing that she won’t marry Bernard.

Just as she’s about to greet the last people, there’s a commotion at the door and THE MAN enters.

Under the glittering light of a thousand flickering candles [glittering light, flickering candles? At least one of those adjectives has to go. RIGHT NOW!], the man’s darkly tanned skin was a dramatic contrast against the pristine white of his neck linens. The tailored cut of his formal black tuxedo and skintight breeches emphasized the powerful outline of his magnificent build. The close-fitting cloth indecently hugged his body, highlighted the heft and jut of his sex. [Nobody should be wearing trousers this thight. Nobody. Apart from the total aesthetics-killer, that can’t be healthy.]
“My god!” Chastity gasped [Oh, get a hold of yourself… Although, you’re 18, maybe I should cut you some slack.], ignoring the shocked expressions of the bewigged nobleman standing before her, hand still outstretched for the acknowledgement she’d failed to make. He huffed, insulted when she absently shooed him out of her line of sight, and then literally pushed him out of the way when he didn’t move fast enough. [That was enough cutting slack. You actually push someone out of the way to see the gorgeous guy in the sperm killing pants?]

When Bernard tries to keep her from making a fool out of herself (she actually leans over the banister to keep the mysterious thight pants guy in view), she brushes him and the cooties she got from touching him [yes, we’re in primary school, didn’t you notice?] off. Then she tells him that the engagement is off and now that she’s of age, he can kiss her ass [I’m paraphrasing here] and that he should get out of the way, so she may be able to see pants guy.

She watches pants guy from afar and wonders about the big bulge [I’m pretty sure it’s swollen, because all blood circulation is cut off by the pants], estimating his erected dick’s size by what she sees [that girl is an 18 year old noble woman in a society like in the 1900s. Even if she’s such a free spirit, how much can she know about dick sizes?].

Of course, this has to be the guy she talked about with Liana. Chassy almost has an orgasm on the spot, just by watching him. [People, I’m worried. Maybe I’m frigid? I never orgasmed just from watching a guy…]

Just the sight of him energized her, made her see colors where the world had been black and white. [Maybe there was something in her drink? Shrooms? LSD?] Her nose twitched as aromas assailed her — the sweet, cloying miasma of a hundred different, battling perfumes almost overwhelmed her. Beneath it all, the scent of him, sharp and green [you’re not telling me that in a room full of people, you know exactly who smells like what? Is this the long awaited sequel to Perfume?], like new growth in a primal jungle, reached her, driving a spear of lust into her brain. [Ow? That’s pretty much what migraine feels like, minus the lust, and I can tell you: that’s not good.]

Ever since she was a child, Chassy has had visions about this guy, visions which were scary at first, but soon became erotic fantasies [anybody, who is disturbed at me mentioning child and erotic fantasies in the same sentence: Not my fault, that’s what it says. And yes, it bothers me, too]. And she knows everything about him.

Without having ever met him, she knew this man loved peas, but never touched liver. Knew he kissed divinely, liked his tea cold, and his sex hot and sweaty. [Who doesn’t like sex hot and sweaty?]

And she knows all that, but doesn’t know the guy’s name. So, she turns around to ask her cousin Alicia, who refuses to tell her, because Chassy’s already to infatuated. All the while, Alicia keeps on entertaining and greeting the guests with perfect politeness, even though she doesn’t even like hosting parties [she just does it for her husband, whom she loves very much and vice versa].

Finally, Ali gives in:

“(…) Very well, then, his name is Darian Acer, second son of the earl of Chesley . He’s since been disinherited and is now known as ‘Dare-the-devil’ Acer — ‘Dare’ for short.”
“Darian…” She tasted it on her tongue. “I like it. It’s a strong name, fit for a strong man.” [*headdesk*]

Ali warns Chassy that Dare is dangerous (in case she didn’t get the Dare-the-devil reference) and that she should stay away from him.

“It cannot be. You are the daughter and niece of dukes. He is the disgraced, disinherited son of the earl of Chesley. [Oh, we know that already…] Since his family threw him out, his behavior has been notorious, and I don’t like the way you are blatantly ogling him.”
“I shall soon do more than ogle, believe me.”
“I feel a sinking sense of impending doom here.” Ali clutched at her chest. “I’ve never seen you so bemused. Are you bewitched? Father will have an apoplexy when he catches wind of the excessive interest his wayward niece and affianced ward openly displayed for a man he holds in abhorrence.” [I think Anthony’s thesaurus had a heart attack right about now…]

When Ali adds that her father, Chassy’s uncle, would never allow such a marriage, Chassy tells her that there’s no need for marriage to enjoy such an “animal”. Yes, she actually calls him animal. I would be so offended right now, if I were him.

Anyway, Ali continues to talk like somebody bet her that she couldn’t use 500 different, more than three syllables words in two minutes of conversation. She tells Chassy that her behaviour is not tolerable in the society they’re in that she should behave herself according to the societal rules [actually, not that bad of an advice] and blablabla.

“(…) If you weren’t the daughter and niece of a duke and filthy rich in your own right, you would be a social pariah. Instead, you’ve been deemed an original, and every unattached male of any consequence was courting you before Father announced your betrothal.”
“My popularity shall be on the rise again when word spreads that I am once more available.” [Who cares about that?]
“I doubt even your unrivaled popularity could withstand the rumor of a romantic association with Darian ‘Dare-the-devil’ Acer.” Alicia cautioned. “Everyone knows he compromised his own brother’s fiancée. When she was found increasing, she drowned herself, and the brother — their father’s heir — hanged himself two days later. His father publicly accused him at the double funeral, and cast him off when he offered no defense. His poor mother died in a fire less than a week later. Some say she set the blaze herself, driven mad from the loss of her sons. His father had Darian turned away from the church. He wasn’t allowed to attend her funeral.” [Oh my goodness, this is like The Bold and the Beautiful!]

And he doesn’t have any money, he supports himself with card games winnings.

Anyway, Chassy tells Ali that she believes he’s innocent and runs off to introduce herself to him, full of joy and yay!s. Ali tries to stop her, but Chassy ignores her.

Besides, nothing [Ali] could say would stop this reckless tumble into scandal.

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