On the night before Wednesday rolled around along with the dancing lesson, I went to work again at Hilton. The pianist was still sick, it appeared, and so I gladly took her place. Money was money was money.
As I was piano-ing away, I felt eyes on me like the last time I’d been here. Mildly curious, I glanced sideways but saw nothing. I was already an hour into my two-hour shift, and so decided to ignore whoever caught my attention.
The dark lobby was close to empty. I could only see in the dim light two businessmen, in suit and all, sitting around a short coffee table, nursing a glass of Whiskey each, and chatting softly. I couldn’t see their features too well, but their crispy black three-piece suit with severe black tie said enough about them.
I did my best to stay away from people of wealth and reputation. I’d been taught a very important lesson after I’d been publicly dumped by my ex, Darren; rich people believed money was power, and that they held all of it, enough to do whatever they wanted. They couldn’t care less for relationships, friendships, anything but their own agenda; to earn more money and gather more power and minions and companions to share chicks with.
My ex had been the perfect example of that. My father was even more so. And they were just two out of hundreds.
That was why, no matter what happened, what Wayne and I shared, it was only for one night. I would not allow to actually put myself in a position for him to hurt me or the other way around. Famous director, Oscar winner, rich and smart, good-looking, Wayne was everything I swore not to get entangled with. The guys I’d been with after that night with him? I’d made sure they were at least average in terms of economical state.
Rosalyn could have him. Seriously. She would fit him like a glove, I was sure of it.
Once I finished playing, I rose from my seat, gave a short, curt bow, and was about to make my exit when a familiar voice said, “Not going to say hello?”
I looked up, trying to see God and failing. Then I took a deep breath and turned around. Of course Wayne was here. Why wouldn’t he be? He’d been at the engagement party out of the blue. For all I knew he could be my neighbor or something. “What?” I asked, impatient.
Wayne was not alone, and the two were the businessmen I saw. While Wayne gave me a grin that I could see was not genuine in the least, his friend was a different matter. He gave me a once-over, then let his eyes stay on a point behind my shoulder. He looked bored and he wouldn’t make an eye contact with me. Suspicious.
To my rising ire, Wayne’s lips twitched at my snappiness. “You played well. I especially loved the piece you did in B flat minor.”
My eyes narrowed. “Since when are you an expert in music theory?” And how the hell did he manage to comprehend which music scale I played? I could do it when I listened to songs and pieces, but I worked in music, so it was legit.
He stepped forward so we were inches apart, forcing me to tilt my head up. His silver eyes bore into mine. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me yet,” he murmured softly, intimately, to my ears alone. “You’re also pretty dense. You didn’t realize Liam here and I were watching you the last time you played the piano here, too.”
Pursing my lips, I glared at him. “So, what? You’re hanging out at Hilton for fun?” What was going on with Wayne? Who the hell he was and what the fuck did he want from me?
“We’re currently taking resident here until the wedding,” he said, and the looked at his wristwatch. “And now we have to go. Your future brother-in-law is waiting. See you tomorrow.”
I said nothing as I watched Wayne and his buddy leaving without saying anything more. The two talked quietly and I stood there, in the middle of the lobby, watching them like a creep.
But I was not the creep here. Wayne was.
What was his name again?
As he chuckled at something his companion said, I remembered. Holden Knight. A fitting name for him. I didn’t know if he’d realized, but his name was a cliché, and not because of the Knight part; if you said his first and last name together quickly, it would sound like “hold the night.” And I was kind of embarrassed to admit, but he did held my night. He held that one night with a fierce grip and shoved reality out of the way.
He had saved me at the same time that he broke me.
Holden Knight was extremely dangerous. He wasn’t that Wayne dude who was virtually anonymous to me. No, he was the Academy Award winning director, and I was just Raymond Sheridan’s rebellious daughter. If he refused to stay away, I would.
These were going to be two long months.
* * *
The dancing lesson took place in a studio downtown. The studio’s owner, Avery Johnson, was Emma’s friend and a professional dancer and teacher. She even participated in Dancing With Stars as the professional partner of some Hollywood actor. The two had won, and now Avery was leading a successful dance studio. She was also Emma’s maid of honor.
I was last to arrive to the studio because I couldn’t find a good parking lot for about ten minutes. Finally someone left a spot open and I snatched it before anyone could. Entering the enlarged studio, full of mirrors and bars pushed to the sides, I saw that everyone was already there; Emma and Ford, my father and Scarlet, Rosalyn and Roman, and Wayne. With Wayne was the guy from yesterday, the not-creating-eye-contact dude who, now that I got a good look at him, was actually pretty hot; short brown hair, smoldering gold eyes, tall and sturdy built with evident biceps and broad shoulders, and plump lips that should’ve looked feminine but instead made him even sexier.
The two were talking with Avery and two other girls, who I knew as Deborah and Sylvia, Emma’s bridesmaids. Deborah and Sylvia were identical twins who looked like a lesser replica of Emma, both with blonde hair and blue eyes. They were pretty, obviously, since the two were models, but everyone paled when either Emma or Rosalyn was in the vicinity. The two of them were also had the combined brain of a brick wall.
Avery, on the other hand, was exotically beautiful. Not beautiful in the normal sense of the word, but something about her was intriguing, attractive in a way no one could explain. Maybe it was her shoulder-length smooth red hair, or the green-gray eyes, or maybe even her dancer’s body, all tall and graceful and taut with long-built muscles, but it didn’t matter. She was stunning. And I could see the gold-eyed friend of Wayne checking her out discretely when she turned to laugh at something Wayne said.
Emma was the first one to notice I’d arrived. She nudged at Ford when she spotted me entering the room, and Ford turned to look. “Blair’s here,” he announced, drawing all attention to me. “We can begin.”
I scowled at my sister, who purposefully didn’t look in my direction, her chin held high. She was still angry with me for what I’d done in the engagement party. Stupid, silly, coward sister. Thank God I couldn’t care less.
As I tried to understand what was about to happen, Avery went to the middle of the room. “We have enough girls and boys to pair up,” she said, smiling radiantly, “I’m going to simply teach you, so I wouldn’t need a partner. Now, please pair up.”
Emma and Ford grinned at each other, while my father and Scarlet and Ford’s parents paired up. Then all who were left were the appendixes. Roman, sending a brief glance toward Deborah and Sylvia, decided on Sylvia, who accepted him with a million-dollar smile. Rosalyn grinned like the snake she was and went up to Wayne, taking his arm and basically clinging onto it with her boobs, purring, “Our bodies will be perfect for each other.”
Wayne didn’t seem very keen on letting her pull him away, and I caught him glancing at me. I arched an eyebrow, and then turned to see that Wayne’s friend – Liam, I think? - accepted Deborah’s inviting wink begrudgingly. Something didn’t add up to me, then. Avery said there were enough men and women to pair up. Where was another man?
A tap on my shoulder made me spin around, and I found myself facing an extremely good-looking man around Wayne and his friend’s age of late twenties. “It seems we’re stuck together,” he said, grinning, which made two dimples appear on each side of his mouth. He had dark hair, even darker than Wayne’s black, which made it seem almost blueish. It was also tousled wildly. His eyes were a deep shade of midnight blue and he was tall and lean, with pale skin that could almost compete with my own alabaster one.
I didn’t grin back as I asked, “And you are?”
Chuckling, he put his arms around my waist. I tensed, but then realized Avery had just instructed everyone to do that. “I’m Heath. Heath Galloway,” he winked. “You should know me, or at least of me. I co-starred with Ford in a few movies.”
Of course he was famous. Everyone in this room but me were famous. I’d be even this Liam, Wayne’s friend, was some actor or something. “Sorry,” I said dryly as I place my hands on his shoulders, “I’m not interested in the glamour world.”
“It’s a shame, though,” he gave me another wink. Did he have Tourette’s Syndrome or something? “You could’ve been a celeb, with how pretty you are.”
“Good genes don’t make one a star,” I told him, then started to move to the music Avery put. It was Waltz of the Flowers. I mean, dancing lesson to learn some basic moves was fine, explainable even, but waltz? It wasn’t the eighteenth century anymore. But Emma liked classical shit and so what she says goes. Fuck me.
Holding my right hand while maintaining a strong grip on my waist, Heath and I moved according to Avery’s directions. I was not a bad dancer, but I wasn’t good either. I was stiff and awkward, and to my relief, Heath seemed no better than me. Avery corrected us more than once, and I caught Rosalyn sending me a triumphant, condescending look as she and Wayne waltzed together, looking like a postcard picture for ballroom dance. They danced flawlessly, and it seemed Wayne was really good at it, since he led Rosalyn, making her almost as good as he was.
Scowling, I returned to my own winking partner.
Heath tried to make a small talk during the waltz, but I wasn’t into it. Eventually we fell into an awkward silence and simply danced. I did feel his gaze on me from time to time, though, and it seemed he truly thought I was good-looking, since he couldn’t seem to stop himself from checking me out.
Now it would sound vain but I don’t give a shit; I knew I was pretty. Of course I was pretty; with Emma as a sister, my unfortunately good-looking father and my beautiful deceased mother, I couldn’t biologically turn out ugly. However, I didn’t radiate beauty like Emma did, or my mother used to do. I didn’t remember much from my mother, but I did have on memory of her laughing and looking so beautiful, it gave my heart a squeeze. Emma definitely took after her.
I, on the other hand, outshone stubbornness, hardheadedness, and not softness at all. Just like my father.
Once the waltz ended, Avery said, “Now I want all of you to switch partners, except the bride and groom and their respective parents.”
Why was it necessary, I had no idea, but suddenly I found myself in another man’s arms. Wayne’s friend. Rosalyn got Heath, much to her annoyance, and Deborah seemed extremely delighted to have Roman while Sylvia got Wayne, seeming like she was about to faint of admiration.
The next song was another waltz and I wanted to face-plant myself on the ground. Liam, however, prevented me from doing so by putting his arms around my waist, and looking at a point behind my head again.
Deciding this time that I did want to make a small talk, I said, “You’re Liam, right?”
He didn’t even look at me when he responded tersely, “Liam Arthur.”
Ah, his name I did hear before. Another of Ford’s co-stars, who actually won an Oscar for a supporting role. I’d never imagined him to be so reserved, though.
Something awoke inside of me. He reminded me too much of Darren. The stand-offish nature, the stiffness, the calculated swirls in his light eyes, he made me suddenly want to throttle him. Prickle him. Taunt him. People like him usually made me feel this way.
“So,” I said, letting a small grin of pure evil dance at my lips as we moved to the beats of the waltz, “you’re one of these guys.”
He still refused to deign me with a look, but I felt his shoulder tense under my hand. Grinning wider, I put myself closer to him, rubbing my chest against his while tightening my hold on both his shoulder and hand. “Why don’t you look at me?”
His jaw locked.
“I see,” I purred, leaning closer, so my lips was not far away from his. This time it seemed like he was struggling not to look at me. “I’m either too ugly or too hot for you look at. A shame, though,” I licked my lip, knowing he would catch the movement from the corner of his eyes, “you’re like a candy created just for me.”
Before I was nearly satisfied by the fact his eyes snapped to mind, widening in both disbelief and anger, Avery clapped her hands and told us to switch partners. Giving him another sinister grin as I stepped back from him, I winked and said lowly, “Can’t wait to dance with you again, Mr Arthur.”
He seemed a little red in the cheeks, probably from anger, and even though I had no idea why he acted like that, I felt like I won round one. But before the triumph could lift up my mood, I was spun around by an arm around my waist and my front clashed with another chiseled one. Snapping my head up, I saw Wayne wrapping his other arm around me, his face irked. “Don’t flirt with other men when I’m in the same room,” he murmured darkly, eyes a notorious shade of quicksilver that made my spine shiver.
Swallowing hard, I glared at him. “And why is it any of your business, Mr Knight?”
His hand grabbed my ass, making me freeze. “Because you’re mine,” he said softly, to my ears alone, his voice an intense, dark rumble. He switched on his other facade, his other mask, the one I’d called him on two years ago, that beneath his lightness and easy-going nature, slumbered a beast that should not be awakened.
His words computed into my brain and I fully glowered at him. “Stop talking nonsense, Holden.”
His hold on me tightened, and his face was inches away when he muttered, “You’re mine,” he repeated these two ridiculous words, “and even if you’re not right now, you will be. I’ll make sure of it.”
“If you think this kind of chauvinistic, alpha-male claiming works on me, you’re extremely wrong,” I hissed back, letting my nails dig into his shoulders. When did they get there? “We had sex once, and it was so long ago, I forgot it already. You and I have nothing between us. If I want to seduce Liam and fuck the brains out of his head, it’s not any of your fucking business.”
“Liam is not for you,” he almost growled, “I am.”
“Fuck you,” I told him, “you’re nothing to me.”
He looked at me for a long time, and it seemed we both forgot we were in a dancing studio, with people around us. Then, after what felt like hours, his face split into a smirk. “Gotcha,” he said, leaning back from me.
My heart pounded so loud in my ears, I was sure I didn’t hear him wrong. “What?”
His smirk deepened. “Like I would ever want to return for seconds with someone like you.”