When it was pressed into her hand, between lowered eyes, stilled breath and startled hearts, she had never meant for it to be put on display. Four hundred years ago, this portrait of her lover, this tiny illustration of intrigue and furtive desire, was her secret. Hanging from a chain like an icon, she wore it devoutly - hidden beneath her corset of chaste bone, leaving an imprint of his passion on her flesh, a blush where the flames had burned.
Her secret seethed with fervor – trapped against a wall of flames, a gilded and scarlet metaphor that threatened to engulf his dainty courtier's body. He was exquisite and disheveled; with a skin as white as any woman's. His face was composed of soft angles and elegant structures. A tiny cross of sapphire stones hung from his ear – he wore a ring. But the only jewel she cared about was the one he held: a closed locket, bearing an image. Her image.
From his circular cage he gazed at her: with irony, with mockery, with only one question simmering in his black eyes: would she have him?
She had never considered his ardor, his beauty, to be works of art. She did not care if she could trace the paintbrush's journey through the passionate inferno which hung from her neck. She only cared about the heat against her skin, about the message that lay against her heart.
She had never thought that her secret – along with the secrets of other lovers – would ever be on display, inside a glass case…a museum's possession. His message was no longer just for her, but for thousands more, who would imagine and wonder, but could still only envy her secret.