A feast of thick leather, dark oak and ornate chandeliers, weighted down with crystal, with an open log fire, roaring at the far end.

Low to the ground, in front of the hearth, there’s a square, oversized, leather-clad ottoman, flanked on either side by two-pair of the most amazing, free-standing, ornate gilt gold framed mirrors, the fire light reflecting orange and yellow in each.

A fifth mirror stands to one side, creating the impression of an open doorway, an invitation, beckoning you through to the ottoman and fireplace beyond.

Cautious and curious, you approach the opening between the magnificent rococo baroque mirrors, while your lover carefully close the carved oak door behind you.

As it closes, he notices a heavy iron key resting inside the mortise lock and more out of idle curiosity than with any intended purpose he turns the key, feeling the lock clunk with a gratifying weight.  

Satisfied, he turns, finding you already sat on the low ottoman couch, facing the fire, your outline half in silhouette, as the flames throw their bright light, casting shadows that dance around you.

There’s no other source of light, the ornate chandeliers appear merely ornamental, hung from the high ceilings above.

And as the log fire crackles, its light reflects within the freestanding mirrors, stood tall like guardians, flanking the ottoman, giving an intimate sense of secrecy and intrigue, rich, exotic opulence and luxury.

Reaching the opening between these magnificent mirrors, your lover pauses for a moment seeing a silver ice-bucket filled and with an unopened bottle of Veuve Clicquot, set beside two crystal flutes.

“Huh” he says, gesturing to the champagne, “maybe someone else was here already?”

And you turn toward him, offering your open hand and softly volunteering: “this was on the couch when I sat down” and in your hand he sees there’s a small card, and a very unusual smooth stone.

Reaching forward, he takes the card, it reads: “Dear esteemed guests, with our sincere compliments: votre secret, est notre secret, please enjoy”

“What does it mean?” you ask.

“You’re secret, is our secret” he replies.

“And what does that mean?” you insist, looking at him quizzically, wondering if he’s somehow orchestrated this entire evening, some elaborate ruse, perhaps.

Without a word, but with a very warm and confident smile he places the card beside the ice bucket and begins peeling open the foil of the champagne, twisting away the wires until finally, with an excited “pop” he confidently pours two fresh flutes.

“Cheers” he offers, as you clink your crystal with his, sip and smile.

“And the stone?” you ask, extending your hand, palm up and proffered such that he might look more closely, seeing the unusual, intricate patterns set within its smooth polished surface.

“It’s a Petoskey stone” he explains as he takes it from your open hand, “it’s a lovely example”

“And what does it mean?” you protest, certain he’s up to something, but not yet sure what.

“Petoskey stones are fragments of coral reef that were originally deposited during the Devonian period” he begins to explain, his champagne eyes sparkling with the crinkle of a wry and mischievous smile.

continue…