A/N - So, this is my first story on this site. I hope you like it. Just a little one shot I thought up...out of the blue really, now that I think about it. So, enjoy! -xbitemark

PS. This little one shot is set in Italy a couple centuries ago. The 1700s is the time period I think.

Catherina's Masquerade

I stepped into where Fiora was holding open the dress and pulled it up. She stepped around me and laced it up the back, then set the mask down on my face and I turned to look into my mirror. I gasped, the dress was absolutely gorgeous.

Mother had wanted me to wear it, it was her grandmother's hand made masquerade dress. It was red and black with lace extending from under the bust to my waist, and floating away from my body into a hoop skirt. The sleeves at my shoulder puffed, but then cut closely to my arms, ending in a point in the center of the palms of my hands. The neck line was square, dipping almost dangerously low. The back was open and a black ribbon laced it together like a corset.

The mask was black, with a point covering my nose and red feathers fanning out of the top. There were red sequins around the eyes, and where it arched over my eyebrows. They glittered as I turned my head to see my hair like little rubies embedded in the shiny silk fabric.

My bangs were pulled to the side and pinned with a barrette with red rhinestones in it. Two sections of my hair were pulled back, and pinned with Mother's clips. They fell, delicately blending into the rest of my hair, my natural ringlets falling softly over my shoulders.

My eyes, outlined in smudged coal black eye pencil and accented with red powder stared back at me wide-eyed. I spun, my skirt flaring out around me. I turned back to the mirror for one last look.

The ruby around my neck hung onto my chest, breathtakingly red, glittering as if under a thousand bright beams as I turned it back and forth in the dim candlelight. I dropped it and it fell back onto my chest heavily and stayed there.

My attention turned to my hand, the delicate ring that my father had given me earlier today. I never dreamed that he was hinting at my dress, but it matched perfectly. There was an onyx set in the middle, surrounded by beautifully cut red garnets.

"Oh mistress, you look beautiful," Fiora sighed blissfully.

"Thank you Fiora," I smiled, dismissing her. She scurried out of the room and down the steps where a dinner party of my parents was waiting. I walked across the room to my amour, where a painting of my late beloved was propped up. My eyes began to water, but I quickly blinked them back as not to mess up my eye pencil.

The door banged open and I jumped, my heart racing. I turned around quickly, though it was just Fiora. I took a deep breath and smiled.

"Oh, I'm so sorry mistress. You're parents and their guests are ready," she said breathlessly.

I smiled, "That's okay Fiora, and thank you." I walked out the door, and as I passed, she curtsied. I walked down the hall and to the top of the stair case, still hidden from view. I rested my hand on the rail, and started down the steps. The table came into view, then shoulders, and heads, all turned towards me. My face grew hot, turning pink. I put on my prettiest smile and stood at the base of the stairs.

"Oh Catherina! You look so lovely!" My mother laid a hand on her cheek. She smiled, gazing at my dress.

"Very lovely indeed," the Duke's wife agreed.

"There won't be a man in the entire ball that won't be courting you!" The Duke said, everyone nodded.

"Thank you," I said quietly and curtsied, leaving my parents with their company.

"Mistress Catherina," Fiora hurried over, "Stella and Lisabetta are here with a coach for you!" I thanked her and walked into the foyer.

"Catherina! You look absolutely stunning!" Stella and Lisabetta sang when I was in their sight.

"Thank you! And the same to both of you!" We walked out to the stage coat.

Stella had an emerald green gown with a deep v neck, and a buttoned high back. It clung close to her, the skirt flaring at the very bottom. Her sleeves were fitted, falling away at her wrists and almost dragging the ground. She had on a emerald locket, which inside, no doubt, was a note from Antonio. Her mask was white with peacock feathers, and a birds beak over her nose. Her hair was in a simple bun, with white flowers woven in.

Lisabetta was wearing a sapphire blue gown with a sheen layer of black lace covering every part of the dress. Her sleeves came barely past her elbow, then into tight pleats that fell halfway it her wrist. Her dress also buttoned, but only midway up her back. Her skirt fell off her hips and pulled into a short train that had something glittery on it. Her hair was left down, and it fell strait down her back. It had sapphire's clipped throughout it, sparkling every time she turned her head, that matched her sparkling blue mask.

The driver hopped down and helped Stella, then Lisabetta into the coach. I gathered my skirt in my hands as the stage coach driver took my hand and I stepped into the carriage. The ride there was wonderful, we looked out of the back, and giggled as men with women on their arms turned to stare. We pulled up to the castle's ballroom, and walked to the door.

"Welcome to the masquerade," A man in a black suit said, and handed me a long stemmed red rose. I smiled and curtsied, taking the rose.

I walked into the ball room and looked around. Immediately to my right, there was an orchestra playing some of the most beautiful music I had ever heard. To the left, there was a long table with foods and drinks of all sort, and a few couples standing around with drinks in their hands. In front of me all the way across the room was the throne, with the king and queen sitting, watching the ball. In front of me, there was a space where people where twirling around, their skirts and coat tails flying around them.

Stella and Lisabetta walked up behind me, sighing and mumbling. I turned around, Antonio and Venerio magically appearing on their arms.

"Antonio, Venerio," I nodded at them, and turned back around, wishing more than ever that Girardino were here. But he would never be here again. My eyes swept across the room, surveying everyone there. My eyes skipped over brightly colored dresses and suits, some very wild. I giggled at those. As I was almost done, my eyes connected with a pair of crystal gray eyes. I froze. My gaze locked in the mesmerizing color of this mans eyes. He turned towards me, and I saw the corner of his mouth pulling up into a grin.

I curtsied. He was wearing a coal black suit, with coat tails hanging down to the backs of his knees. His undercoat was red, with another white shirt underneath. He had a blood red rose in his coat pocket, and a simple red mask. I giggled, we matched.

I spotted Lisabetta and Stella swirling on the dance floor, then looked over to where I had seen the man with the stunning gray eyes.

"Hello," I jumped as a deep musical voice rang in my ear. I turned around and was again staring into the gray eyes.

"Oh, hello," I said, putting a hand over my chest. My heart was racing, I could hear it in my ears.

"I'm so sorry if I startled you," he said, a slight smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.

"Oh, it's quite alright. I'm a little jumpy this evening," I said. Twilight was falling outside, and there was a certain chill to the air.

"Would you like to dance?" He asked and bowed, sticking out his hand. I laid my hand in his, and he led me out to the dance floor.

We started twirling around and around, faster and faster as the music swelled. My skirt was flying, his coat tails parallel to the ground. My hair was swaying around my face, but my eyes never left his. His stare was so intense that I felt as if he was staring into my very soul, he had such an air of authority. Goose bumps rose on my arms. I don't know how many songs we danced to, but it seemed endless. We eventually stopped dancing, and he led me off the floor, both of our chests rising and falling heavily.

We walked up a flight of stairs, I wasn't sure where we were going or if we were allowed, but I followed. He led me out into a balcony overlooking the gardens, then to the rail, and I leaned against it. My arm was still in his, and he laid a hand over mine. He looked at me and grinned.

"It's a beautiful night tonight," He turned to look back out onto the garden, but my gaze stayed on him. "Except for the chill in the air."

I turned to look at the moon. It was a full moon, and bright, out shining all of the stars around it. I tilted my head further back, looking at all the stars, and the band where they all clumped together, it looked like a fog of stars.

"The moon is beautiful. I've always been fascinated with it," I said. I went back to staring at it. I glanced at the man beside me, and he was staring at me. I turned to face him.

"What's your name?" He looked back out over the garden. Then back at me.

"The moon isn't as beautiful as you are tonight," he murmured. "Are you cold? Here's my jacket," he draped his jacket over my shoulders. I looked at the twinkling stars again.

"What's your name?" I repeated. He sighed. He looked back out at the garden, then back at me.

"Niccolo," he answered. My eyes widened.

"You're the prince?" I asked.

"Yes." He took off his mask, and I held back a gasp. I composed my face and took off my mask as well. I held it in my hands and stared at my feet, then looking up at him.

"This is exactly what we're not supposed to do," I said and giggled. He grinned and took my hand and squeezed it gently.

"I'm sure it's okay," he said. I smiled. I looked out into the garden. "What's your name?"

"Catherina," I answered, and blushed. I wasn't anything extraordinary.

"What a lovely name, Catherina," My name out of his mouth sounded so wonderful. I looked back out onto the gardens, smiling to myself.

"Why were you wearing a mask?" I asked. I couldn't figure out why the prince had chosen me of all of the girls in there to dance with. "Why weren't you with your mother and father?"

"Sometimes it's easier to not be known," he answered, looking up at the stars. "When everyone wants to be your friend just because who your parents are, it's difficult. For once, I just wanted to be normal. Thank you, for giving that to me, somewhat," he smiled at my most recent question. I smiled and curtsied. I looked back out onto the gardens.

There were rows and rows of plants, some taller than the others. There was ivy growing all over the walls, twisting this way and that, creating patterns all over the rich brick wall. I looked back at Niccolo. He took my mask out of my hand, and put it over his head. Then he gently put his mask over my head, being careful of my hair.

I touched the mask and his jacket, and he smiled.

"Keep them," he said. He leaned down, and pressed his lips softly to mine. "Well, I guess the ball's almost over. Thank you for a wonderful night."

He started to walk away. I was absolutely stunned, my lips tingling. I put a hand to my mouth, lightly touching my lips with my finger tips.

"Wait!" He turned around. "Will I ever see you again?" He smiled.

"If fate allows, Catherina."