**The admiral indulges my love of alliteration this week–lighthouse, logic, and Lords and Ladies. Enjoy!**
The historical lighthouse was open for tours during the day, but on the first Saturday night after the first Friday of every month, it was a gathering place. The men and women in tuxedos and ball gowns wore masks to obscure their identity. The masks were elaborate creations, adorned with feathers, beads, and gold and silver. Trying to guess who was behind which mask was one of my favorite parts of the evening. It wasn’t an easy task.
The Society of Lords and Ladies was all about secrets.
I’d been a member for five years, and attended meetings regularly. In the real world I was Joe Johnson, mild mannered accountant and sci fi nerd. But when I donned the tux and mask, and set foot on the small island that held the massive lighthouse, I was the suave and debonair Lord Covington.
The evenings were filled with intellectual conversation and lots of champagne. I always limited myself to one glass, but there were those members who liked to overindulge. Lady Smythwick, whose purple gowns were always a bit garish and whose mask ended up on the floor by the end of the night, often had six or seven glasses herself. But for the most part it was a gathering of fifty or so people who liked to have fun, good conversation, and a little good humored role playing.
Tonight, the main floor of the lighthouse was packed, and the buzz from the multiple conversations was loud. I’d had my glass of champagne, and several hor d’oeuvres. Though the lighthouse was a good fifty feet in circumference at the base, I was feeling the crush. Having not drawn the attention of anyone in several long minutes, I took a chance and slipped to the base of the spiral staircase. I was in fairly good shape, and it took me no time at all to climb the thirty feet to the lantern room. This particular lighthouse had been decommissioned a good twenty years ago, and the light no longer worked. But my goal was the peace and quiet, and on this balmy summer night, I slipped through the door onto the widow’s walk.
I was alone only for five or six minutes, before the door creaked open. I turned to see a large, broad shouldered man in an ivory and black harlequin half mask step through. He looked strong and capable, his skin a sunkissed bronze that made me think of him lying in the sun. He smiled when he saw me, showing off his white, even teeth in the moonlight. I couldn’t help but grin back.
“Lord Covington,” he greeted, his voice a deep rumble.
I inclined my head and stepped to the side so he would have more room. “Lord Temple.”
Lord Temple stood close enough that I could feel his body heat. I wanted to lean into him. Over the past six months, I’d found myself in conversation with him more often than not. He was fascinating, and the way his mind worked never failed to engage me. Several months ago, we’d gotten into a heated argument over the legislature’s proposed amendment, and it had taken me an embarrassingly long amount of time to realize he was simply playing the devil’s advocate. He was sharp, intelligent, and kind. I wished I knew who he was outside of the Society.
“Would you care to engage in a wager, Lord Covington?”
The man’s question caught me off guard, and for a moment I was shocked. I recovered quickly, and considered his offer. “What are the stakes?”
“If I win, you agree to an evening out with me,” Temple said.
I squinted suspiciously, tilting my head a little to see him better through the eyeholes of my mask. “And if I win?”
Temple’s grin was smug. “You won’t. But if you do, you can claim whatever prize you wish.”
I was thoroughly intrigued now. I took a fraction of a step closer. “Terms?”
Lord Temple lifted one shoulder in a careless shrug. “I will tell you about yourself and you will answer honestly if I get it right.”
“All right,” I said after a second’s hesitation. There was no way he could know who I was. One of the tenants of the Society was that everyone’s true identity remained a secret. While there were no clandestine dealings going on, it was part of the fun.
“Your name is Joe, and you are an accountant. You’ve been working for the same firm for at least ten years, and while you like it, you don’t love it.”
“Logic,” Lord Temple said with a smug superiority that really should have pissed me off.
“Bullshit,” I accused. “Someone had to have told you.”
He shook his head, and some of his arrogant demeanor vanished. “No really. You look around anytime anyone says Joe. You have a body honed from the gym, which leads me to believe that your physique is not from a physical job and therefore you most likely work in an office. Three months ago, we got into a discussion about fiscal responsibility and your head for numbers and figures lead me to believe you work with numbers on a daily basis. Accountant is the most logical profession, though there could be others.”
I was impressed and did my best not to show it. “And knowing I’ve worked ten years at the same place that I don’t love?”
He smiled then, and leaned closer like he was sharing a secret. “Last month, you complained that ten years on the job was enough to drive anyone crazy. Later in the same conversation, you said you liked your job, but that you wouldn’t be opposed to a change. I…inferred.”
I loved his brain. That he’d not only heard what I said, but pieced the information together to begin to form a picture of me. That he’d taken that kind of interest made my pulse pick up. I thought it had been one sided on my part. Now I knew it wasn’t.
I closed the distance between us, and reached up for his mask. He caught my wrists, but didn’t pull my hands away.
“If I’m going on a date with you,” I said softly. “And you know so much about me, don’t you think I should at least see your face?”
Lord Temple grinned. Then he let go of my wrists, and I pulled away the mask.
My smile was bright enough to outshine the moon.