Hidden Huntress - Danielle L. Jensen



My voice faded into silence, though the memory of it seemed to haunt the theatre as I slumped gracefully, trusting that Julian would catch me, however much he might not want to. The stage was smooth and cool against my cheek, a blessed relief against the heat of hundreds of bodies packed into one place. I tried to breathe shallowly, ignoring the stench of too much perfume and far too few baths as I feigned death. Julian’s voice replaced mine, and his lament echoed across my ears and through the theatre, but I only half-listened, my attention drifting away to fix on the all too real sorrow of another. One far out of reach.

The audience erupted into cheers. “Bravo!” someone shouted, and I almost smiled when a falling flower brushed against my cheek. The curtain hit the stage floor, and I reluctantly opened my eyes, the red velvet of the curtains pulling me back into an unwelcome reality.

“You seem distracted tonight,” Julian said, hauling me unceremoniously to my feet. “And about as emotive as my left boot. She won’t be best pleased, you know.”

“I know,” I muttered, smoothing my costume into place. “I had a late night.”

“Shocking.” Julian rolled his eyes. “It’s tiring work ingratiating yourself with every rich man and woman in the city.” He took my hand again, nodded at the crew, and we both plastered smiles on our faces as the curtain rose again. “Cécile! Cécile!” the audience shouted. Waving blindly, I blew a kiss to the sea of faces before dropping into a deep curtsey. We stepped back to let the rest of the cast take their bows before coming forward again. Julian dropped to one knee and kissed my gloved fingers to the roaring approval of the crowd, and then the curtain dropped for the final time.

The moment the fabric hit the stage floor, Julian jerked his hand away from mine and rose to his feet. “Funny how even at your worst, they still scream your name,” he said, his handsome face dark with anger. “They treat me as though I am one of your stage props.”

“You know that isn’t true,” I said. “You’ve legions of admirers. All the men are jealous, and all the women wish it was them in your arms.”

“Spare me your platitudes.”

I shrugged and turned my back on him, walking offstage. It was two months to the day since I had arrived in Trianon and nearly three since my dramatic exit from Trollus, and despite arriving with a plan I had thought was good, I was still no closer to finding Anushka. Julian’s jealousy was the least of my concerns.

Backstage was its usual state of organized chaos – only now that the performance was over, the wine was pouring more liberally. Half-dressed chorus girls preened at Julian, their overlapping words barely intelligible as they rained praise upon his performance. I was glad for it – he didn’t get the credit he deserved. Me they ignored, which was fine, because all I wanted was to be done with working for the night. Eyes on my dressing room, I wove through the performers until the sound of my name stopped me in my tracks.


Slowly, I turned on my heel and watched everyone scatter as my mother strode through the room. She kissed me hard on both cheeks and then pulled me into a tight embrace, her strong fingers digging painfully into the long livid scar where Gran had cut me open to repair my injury. “That was positively dreadful,” she hissed into my ear, breath hot. “Be thankful for small mercies that there was no one of taste in the audience tonight.”

“Of course not,” I whispered back. “Because if there had been, you would have been the one onstage.”

“Something you would be grateful for if you weren’t so ignorant.” She pushed away from me. “Wasn’t she brilliant tonight!” she announced to the room. “A natural talent. The world has never known such a voice.”

Everyone murmured in agreement, a few going so far as to clap their hands. My mother beamed at them. She might criticize me until she was blue in the face, but she wouldn’t tolerate anyone else saying a thing against me.

“Yes indeed, well done, Cécile!” A man’s voice caught my attention, and looking around my mother, I saw the Marquis strolling across the room. He was a bland man, as remarkable and memorable as grey paint but for the fact he usually had my mother on his arm.

I dropped into a