The Demon Lover

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Authors: Victoria Holt
Tags: Fiction, Suspense
beautiful.”
    “And the castle?”
    “What was your description,” Bertrand asked, turning to me.
    “Impressive. Impregnable. Majestic …” ;
    “I am delighted, Mademoiselle Collison. I confess I am gratified when people admire my castle. I wish to meet your father.”
    “I will bring him to you. He is resting at the moment.”
    He shook his head.
    “No matter. I shall meet him for dinner. Will you tell him that I wish to start on the portrait tomorrow morning.”
    “Tomorrow morning. That’s rather early. My father likes to get to know his subject a little before he embarks.”
    “He will quickly sum me up, I am sure. Arrogant, overbearing, impatient and self-willed.”
    I laughed.
    “You have a poor opinion of yourself, Baron.”
    “On the contrary, it is very high. Those are the qualities necessary I believe to enjoy life fully. Tell your father to be ready to start tomorrow morning. I do not wish to waste too much time sitting.”
    I lifted my shoulders and glanced at Bertrand. I said:
    “That is not really the way in which to approach the matter. It is not simply a process of putting paint on ivory or vellum or whatever the support is to be.”
    “Oh? Then what else is involved?”
    “Getting to know the sitter. Finding out what he or she is really like.”
    “Ah, Mademoiselle Collison, I should not wish anyone to know what I was really like, particularly the lady to whom I am affianced. There are some things in life which are better hidden.”
    He was studying me intently and I was aware of my untidy hair which was escaping from under my bowler hat. I felt the colour rise to my cheeks and I thought: He is laughing at me, while all the time he is putting me in my place, reminding me that we are employed here to carry out his wishes. I disliked him immediately and I thought: Is this the sort of treatment we are to expect from the wealthy? Do they regard artists as tradesmen?
    I felt defiant and did not care if I offended him. We could go home and he could find another miniaturist to paint the sort of picture he wanted for his fiancee. I was not going to let him treat me in this way.
    I said to him: “If you want a pretty, conventional picture, Baron de Centeville, it is not necessary to call in a great artist. If you will excuse me, I will go to my room and tell my father that you are here.
    He will see you at dinner and then plans can be made for tomorrow’s sitting. “
    I felt his eyes watching me as I turned away and went upstairs.
    Then he said something to Bertrand which I did not hear.
    I dressed myself in the green velvet for dinner and attended carefully to my hair, piling it high on my head. I looked slightly older than my years and the green velvet always gave me confidence. I knew I was going to need it.
    I had warned my father that the Baron might well prove difficult.
    “Of course, I only saw him briefly in the hall. He has a great opinion of himself and is inclined to patronize. A rather obnoxious character, I’m afraid … quite different from Monsieur de Mortemer.”
    “Ah,” said my father, ‘there is the perfect gentleman. “
    I agreed.
    I said: “Father, I don’t know how we are going to deceive this Baron.
    It is going to be difficult. And if he discovers what we are doing, he will be most unpleasant I am sure. “
    “Well, let’s look at it this way,” said my father.
    “He can only send us back to England and refuse to have the miniature. If he does that it will be because he knows nothing about art. Your miniature will be every bit as expert as anything I can do. He’ll get a Collison, so he’ll have nothing to complain about. Don’t worry. If he sends us back . then we shall have to think what we are going to do in the future.”
    When we were ready, Bertrand arrived. He said he had come to take us down.
    That was very thoughtful of him. He must have guessed that my first encounter with the Baron had been disturbing.
    “The Baron is so used to everyone agreeing

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