Danielle Steel: Zoya

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Zoya: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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The girls both laughed as Marie followed her downstairs and helped her on with her coat, as she held the puppy in the blanket in place. She pulled the sable hat back over her red hair, and the two girls embraced.

“Take care of yourself, and don't get sick!”

“I have no intention of it!” She handed her the bottle of perfume as well, and Zoya took it in a gloved hand, as the maid told her that Feodor was ready.

“I'll come back in a day or two … I promise … and thank you!” Zoya gave her a quick hug and hurried back outside to the troika where Feodor was waiting. His cheeks and nose were bright red and she knew he had been drinking with his friends in the stables, but it didn't matter. He would need it to keep warm as they sped home to St. Petersburg. He helped her into her seat and she was relieved to see that it had stopped snowing.

“We must hurry, Feodor … Mama is going to be very cross at me if I'm late.” But she already knew that there was no way she would arrive in time for dinner. They would already be sitting down when she arrived … and the dog! … she laughed out loud to herself, as the whip cracked in the chill night air, and the troika leapt to life behind the three prancing black horses. It was only an instant later when they sped through the gates, and the Cossacks on their horses were a blur behind them, as they sped through the village of Tsarskoe Selo.



As Feodor raced the troika down the Nevsky Prospekt, Zoya sat clutching the tiny puppy to her, trying to compose herself and desperately inventing excuses to tender her mother. She knew that with Feodor driving her, they would not be afraid for her safety, but her mother would surely be outraged at her coming home so late, and bringing the tiny puppy with her. But the puppy would have to be introduced later. At Fontanka, they turned sharply left, and the horses plunged ahead, knowing full well that they were almost home, and anxious to return to their own stable. But knowing the terrain well, Feodor gave them their head, and within moments, he was handing her down, and in sudden inspiration, she pulled the blanket-wrapped puppy from her coat and thrust her into his hands with an imploring look.

“Please, Feodor … the Empress gave her to me … her name is Sava. Take her to the kitchen and give her to Gallina. I will come downstairs for her later.” Her eyes were those of a terrified child as he laughed out loud at her and shook his head.

“The Countess will have my head for this, mademoiselle! And perhaps yours as well”

“I know … perhaps Papa …” Papa, who always interceded for her, who was always so kind, and so gentle to her mother. He was a wonderful man and his only daughter adored him. “Quickly, Feodor … I must hurry.” It was after seven o'clock, and she still had to change her dress before she could appear in the dining room. He took the puppy from her, and she hurried up the marble steps of their small but very beautiful palace. It seemed to be both Russian and French, and had been built by her grandfather for his bride. Her grandmother lived in a pavilion across the garden now, with a little park of its own, but Zoya had no time to think of her now. She was in a great hurry. She slipped quickly inside, pulled off her hat, and handed her coat to a maid standing nearby, and flew up the main staircase toward her bedroom, but as she did so, she heard a familiar voice boom out behind her.

“Halt! Who goes there?”

“Be quiet!” She turned toward her brother standing at the foot of the stairs with a furious whisper. “What are you doing here?” He was tall and handsome in his uniform and she knew that most of her friends at the Smolny swooned at the sight of him. He wore the insignia of the famed Preobrajensky Guard, but she was not impressed by it now.

“Where's Mama?” But she already knew without asking.

“In the dining room, where would you expect? Where have you been?”

“Out I have to hurry….” She still had to change, and he was delaying her even more. “I'm late.”

He laughed and the green eyes so like her own flashed in amusement. “You'd best go in like that. Mama will be furious if you're any later.”

Zoya hesitated for an instant as she looked down at him. “Did she say anything? … Have you seen her?”

“Not yet. I just arrived. I wanted to see Papa after dinner. Go and change. I'll distract them.” He was fonder of her than she knew, she was the little sister he bragged about to all his friends, all of whom had had an eye on her for years. But he would have killed them if they'd touched her. She was a little beauty, but she didn't know it yet, and she was far too young to dally with his cronies. She would marry a prince one day, or at least someone as important as their father. He was a count and a colonel, and a man who inspired the respect and admiration of all who knew him. “Go on, you little beast,” he called after her. “Hurry!”

She flew on toward her room, and ten minutes later she was downstairs in a navy blue silk dress with a lace collar. It was a dress she detested, but she knew her mother always liked her in it. It was very proper and very young, and she didn't want to upset her even further. It was impossible to appear in the doorway of the dining room without attracting attention, and as she walked sedately into the room looking subdued and chaste, her brother grinned at her mischievously from where he sat between their grandmother and their mother. The Countess was looking unusually pale in a gray satin dress with a beautiful necklace of black pearls and diamonds. Her eyes seemed almost the same color as the dress as she lifted her face slowly and looked unhappily at her only daughter.

“Zoya!” Her voice was never raised, but her displeasure was easy to read as she looked at her. Zoya's eyes met hers honestly, and she hurried to kiss her cool cheek, and then glanced nervously at her father and grandmother.

“I'm terribly sorry, Mama … I was delayed … at ballet class today … had to stop and see a friend … I'm terribly sorry … I'm …”

Her mother's voice was chill as the rest of the family watched. “Just exactly where were you?”

“I … I had to go … I'm …”

Natalya looked her straight in the eye, as Zoya tried to smooth her hair into place. It still looked as though she had combed it in great haste, which of course she had. “I want to know the truth. Did you go to Tsarskoe Selo?”

“I …” It was no use. Her mother was too cool, too beautiful, too frightening, and too much in control. “Yes, Mama,” she said, feeling seven years old again instead of a decade older. “I'm sorry.”

“You're a fool.” Natalya's icy eyes flashed and she glanced unhappily at her husband. “Konstantin, I specifically told her not to. All the children there have the measles, and now she's been exposed to them. That was a wanton act of disobedience.” Zoya glanced nervously at her father, but his eyes were filled with the same dancing emerald fire as her own, and he could barely repress a smile. Just as he loved his wife, he also adored his daughter. And this time Nicolai interceded for her, which was unusual, but she looked so uncomfortable, he felt sorry for her.

“Perhaps they asked her to come, Mama, and Zoya felt awkward refusing.”

But with her other qualities, she was honest, and Zoya faced her mother squarely now as she sat quietly in her seat, waiting for the maids to bring her dinner. “I wanted to go, Mama. It was my fault, not theirs. Marie has been so very lonely.”

“It was very foolish of you, Zoya. We will discuss it again after dinner.”

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