Chapter 10: Comfort and Joy – part 3
Addison and Daniel entered the ballroom more than fashionably late: before dinner was served, but after the band had begun playing. Spotlights found them as they descended the curved staircase, with Addison’s hand tucked in the crook of Daniel’s arm. Even if smugness hadn’t been rolling off her date, Addison knew that Daniel had planned the spectacle. When he elected to mingle with his underlings, he did it with style.
“You’re quite the cad, Daniel.” She kept her voice low, but said the words with a smile. His ability to play the masses was impressive.
Daniel patted her hand, sending a pulse of affection up her arm as he nodded and smiled at his subjects. “You say that like you’re surprised.” He leaned close to whisper, “You’ve known me for years. I’m a man of many talents.”
”So you’ve said.”
The crowd parted as they moved across the ballroom. The social climbers and the true Triptych blue blood swirled around them. Those less skilled in the social game puffed up when Daniel greeted them by name and inquired about trivialities in their lives.
Addison played along, enjoying the charade. She basked in the attention, which ranged from admiring to envious to bitter. Years ago she’d devised a way to handle the jealous ones: give his or her date an extra-warm smile or handshake. That annoyed them to no end.
A glimpse of a familiar tall figure brought the frivolity to a halt. Myers, in a well-tailored, dark gray suit that added bulk to his thin frame, somehow stood out from the crowd. He was part of a small knot of people, one of whom was a leggy blonde with her arm looped through his.
Addison didn’t remember grabbing a flute of champagne from a passing tray, and barely registered the bubbly liquid tickling her throat. She drank in the sight of her former lover, hating how much she enjoyed it. At least he hadn’t noticed her. But the familiar way the woman leaned into Shane conjured bitterness, ending the moment.
Cursing her weakness, Addison turned her attention to the heavyset couple Daniel was addressing. Her face flamed as she smiled and nodded. She hadn’t laid eyes on Myers for months, but her traitorous body still wanted him. No. She wouldn’t allow herself to be vulnerable with that man again. With her vow renewed, Addison downed the rest of her champagne in a few long swallows.
”You may want to slow down,” Daniel teased. His breath caressed her ear. “The night is young.”
In her peripheral vision she caught Myers staring. Mustering her willpower, Addison kept her eyes on Daniel, giving him a bright smile. She leaned into him, wrapping one arm around his neck. “There’ll be plenty of time to slow down later, right then?”
Either the champagne had gone to her head or she was desperate to avoid Myers, because Daniel suddenly looked very, very good.
Thanks to Ingrid Shane was almost enjoying the party. She was as extroverted as he was introverted, making him wonder not for the first time why Ingrid cared about him at all.
The over-the-top spotlights changed direction, drawing everyone’s attention toward the main entrance of the ballroom. Gibson and Harris were making their grand entrance as king and queen of the prom. Shane looked away immediately. Staring at Gibson was always a bad idea. Merely looking at Harris typically led to an argument, and often sent him in search of a lover.
”Honey, what–” Ingrid looped her arm through his. Her concern poured into Shane. “Oh,” she said, presumably spotting Harris and Gibson. She tilted his head to meet her eyes. “I think I can keep you distracted.”
Shane couldn’t help but smile. “You if no one else. Thanks.” He kissed her lightly on the lips.
Ingrid returned it, then swept her gaze around the room. “Oh, there’s Daisy! I haven’t seen her in forever!” Shane followed her line of sight to find another lithe blonde speaking animatedly to several men. “C’mon!” Ingrid took his hand and led him in Daisy’s direction. With Ingrid’s enthusiasm buoying his spirits, Shane followed.
Feeling eyes on him, Shane glanced in that direction. Too late he realized it was in the general direction of the main entrance. Harris looked away, gulping down a flute of champagne. Even from this distance he could see her throat work as she swallowed, and how the tendons in her neck melted into the curve of her shoulders. The woman’s dark red dress clung to every curve, and slits up the sides exposed her toned legs.
His body betrayed him with a surge of hormones. Tearing his eyes away, Shane embraced his alien side so he didn’t march over to Harris and have her on the ballroom floor.
By the time they joined Daisy and her knot of admirers Shane was back in control. “…meet Dr. Shane Myers,” Ingrid introduced with her usual grace.
Releasing the void, Shane smiled politely at the group. “A pleasure.” It was a lie, like so much at Triptych. With Ingrid truly enjoying the charade it was at least bearable.