Lyta waited until the coachman had fallen asleep, then pulled on her cloak and ducked into the night. She slipped away from the carriages and revelers at the palace gates, the dancing fires and liveried guards, into the snow-clad gardens. Tonight was the eve of the Grand Masquerade, and she would not miss the whole affair just because Father insisted that fifteen was much too young to attend.
Music drifted from the balconies above her, accompanied by the rustle of voluminous petticoats, the patter of snappy shoes, the whispered affections of new lovers. She peered through the great glass windows at the twirling guests in their sparkling gowns.
The snow crunched behind her. Lyta startled and spun away from the window.
A masked stranger stood in the shadows beneath an elm, barely visible, watching her. "You've lost your disguise." His voice was young and reedy, his accent nearly French.
Lyta retreated toward the lamplight. "I'm not here -- I mean, I'm not at the masque. I'm just waiting for my sisters to come out so we can leave." Father had granted that one concession, that she might accompany the carriage when it came to fetch her family.
The corner of his mouth crooked into a smile, and despite her better judgment, Lyta smiled back.
--A Midwinter Night's Revolution, chapter one.