“Of course I do,” I replied, swinging away from her. “I see all of them.”
Tonight, I didn’t care about them.
I cared about me.
My fun, my happiness, my freedom.
Talking with one of them meant slinking off the dance floor, pretending to care when they told me how wondeful they were or what a perfect match we would make. The same words I heard time and time again.
Charlotte always fell for them. She was the wildest girl in the bunch. Always claiming “he is the one” until she gives in to their desires and loses their respect, only to find “the one” the very next night.
Little did she know I had yet to give into anyone’s desires, nor would I. I see no need of ruining a good thing and I knew I had an excellent thing going. My life was charmed, and I intended to keep it that way.
When I felt a pull on my arm again, I rolled my eyes, expecting to see Charlotte, only it wasn’t. My breath caught, stopped even.
My eyes followed the black tuxedo up the pressed white shirt and matching bow tie to the olive skin and chiseled jaw of the remarkable man holding me. His thin pink lips twisted into a smirk under a strong, defined nose and brown eyes the color of dark chocolate. His ink black hair was swept back, and his chin lifted, casting those piercing eyes down at me while tightening his hold.
My skin tingled under his touch. I couldn’t decide if it was due to the instant draw I felt towards him or the increasing pressure of his grip on my delicate flesh.
“Dance with me.”
It was a command, not a question.
His grip loosened to slide down my sensitive skin and over my gloved hand, trapping it in his before capturing the other. He locked my body against his, causing my neck to crane at the height difference between the two of us.
The tingles that circled my hand were radiating out from our shared touch points, making me dizzy.
It was him.
His presence intoxicated me. His commanding demeanor, piercing stare and unrelenting arms encircling my small waist were equally powerful and frightening.
“I must catch my breath,” I wheeze.
I expected to slip out of his arms like most sophisticated gentlemen would allow when I spoke those timely words. They would apologize, half bow and extend their arm outward, allowing my exit.
Most gentlemen, but he was no gentleman. His gloved hand tightened over mine. The other suffocated my ribs, eliminating the remaining air in my lungs and dashing any hope of escaping.
“I wasn’t asking.”
His head dropped to mine when he whispered the words in my ear, eliciting a sharp inhale from my tight throat. My head snapped up to glare into his eyes, seeing a look that confused me. A sneer? Anger? Contempt? Why?
It scared me.
I attempted to yank myself out of his arms, not caring if I made a scene in the ballroom. He mustn’t know who I am. If he did, he would know this wasn’t acceptable, even in the most uncouth social circles. After tonight, I would ensure he paid greatly for his mistake.
“No love, you’re mine until I decide to let you go.”
The delivery of his words and the weight of the threat they carried frightened me even more than his death grip on my ribs. I wanted to scream, but the words were stuck in my brain, not connecting to my throat.
I was paralyzed by his behavior, his face and his grip. Paralyzed by everything he was doing to me amongst the curious onlookers.
The music began. Couples swirled past us until we were one of them, swept up in the most beautiful tango I have ever danced.
It stretched into eternity, all the while I was unable to hide from his piercing eyes that rarely left mine. His arms loosened a fraction, knowing I was thoroughly entranced under some spell placed upon me by this mysterious man in long tails.
His sneer flattened into a line, that left me breathless and curious. My chest heaved from the continuous dancing and startling effect he was having on me.
I dared my eyes to break away from his penetrating stare to look for help. I scanned the darkened room for Charlotte, Ruth or Gertrude, anyone to send a pleading look to when I noticed, we were the only couple twirling across the floor. The rest moved aside to form a polite circle to watch with pleasing eyes.
“This is what you wanted.” The contempt in his voice was palpable. “To be the center of attention.”
It was a statement.
My eyes snapped to his dark pools of disgust, seeing the sneer return and my pulse quickened in response. I tried to pull out of his steely hold, but he bore down on me, twisting sharper and twirling faster.
I feel lightheaded. My breath exited my lungs when he yanked me closer to his solid frame and it was contributing to the nausea rising in my throat.
“Please, let me go.”
“Take your curtsey.”
His body leaves mine, stepping back to join the crowd in their applause of our dance. It was then that I realized he only stopped when the music ended, not when I begged.
Tears clouded my vision. My glistening green eyes drifted over the sea of happy faces, eagerly clapping at our performance when I turned to him. He bowed deeply before me, causing the crowd to roar louder and my tears to form faster.
My face flushed with embarrassment and my stomach ached with humiliation. I raise my gloved hands to my heated cheeks, catching the tears of shame on my covered fingertips.
For a moment, I think his expression softened before I turned away and pushed past the circle of people to escape him, escape this place and forget this night ever happened.
I didn’t wait for the girls. I rushed to the coat check with my face buried in my hands and my shoulders trembling from the sobs pouring out of me.
“Are you alright, miss?” The attendant asked, and I nod long enough to hand him my claim slip. I hurriedly wiped of m y gloves down my face, abandoning all cares of smearing my rouge to wait for my mink coat. It was my favorite one to wear in the harsh Chicago winters.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish