The Astral Prince

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From Charity to Chaos

Walking into the gala on Maxwell’s arm made me more than a little anxious. What made it worse is that, as soon as we walked in, all eyes seemed to be on him. Granted, he was a handsome man, but the looks and attention he was getting was not only from the women present.

As we made our way through the throngs of people in attendance, we were stopped nearly every step we took by those wanting to greet Maxwell, or even those wanting to have a conversation with him. However, when people tried to talk with him about business related topics, he would smile friendly and wave them off.

“Not tonight! Come see me on Monday if we need to talk about this. Tonight, I have a beautiful woman on my arm, and I intend to make the most of it.” He patted my hand that was tucked in his arm as he gave me a playful wink.

Now, I have to confess that I had no clue what Maxwell does within the company. I was interviewed and hired through Human Resources, and I simply knew that the suits were the executives that ran this company. Maybe I should have known, or maybe taken enough time to research who’s who in the company considering I had spent the last three years with the company, but it didn’t seem to affect me and my job one way or the other. Besides, I had heavier things on my mind when it came to my off time and my home life.

A man had ventured his way onto a stage-like platform at the front of the room, and motioned for everyone to quiet down. A waiter passed by us with a tray full of champagne, and Maxwell grabbed two glasses from the waiter. Handing me one with a smile, he kept the other as I turned my attention to the man at the front of the room.

When I felt Maxwell’s breath against my neck, I felt my body stiffen. “You look amazing this evening, Mya. I must remember to give Clark a raise,” he chuckled. “That dress could not have a better woman to wear it.”

The dress was a beautiful deep forest green that complimented my complexion and ash blonde hair well. Strands of my hair escaped a loose updo to frame my face and neck in its cascade, causing my brown eyes to stand out. Adding a little makeup to give my eyes more depth and a darker than normal appearance, I had then only added a touch of blush and gloss to finish up the look. Maybe I didn’t afford much attention to my makeup to give me a different look than when I went to work, but the floor-length, snug fitting dress with its slit clear up to my thigh definitely caused more attention to descend on me than I would have cared for.

Smirking, I tried to hide my embarrassment at his compliment. I have never been good at accepting compliments, and I tend to wave them off when someone feels compelled to give me one. This time was no different. Taking a sip of champagne from the glass he had given me, I kept my eyes trained on the man that was composing himself at the front of the room. “Have you seen her yet,” I asked quietly.

From the corner of my eye, I saw him frown as he looked confused before he finally understood my question. “Ah,” he chuckled as he placed a hand on the small of my back. “I am afraid I have been too distracted this evening to have noticed whether she has made an appearance or not.” He smiled sheepishly when I cast a wary glance at him. The man at the front of the room cleared his throat as he adjusted the glasses on his face, and that was my cue to discontinue the conversation with Maxwell.

Adjusting some cards in his hands that clearly had notes of his impending speech on it, he started to address us all. “Good evening. We are so happy that you all were able to attend this beautiful celebration here tonight.” He let his gaze encompass the entire room before he continued. “As you all know, this gala benefit was meant to gain financial support for Our Lady of Mercy Hospital Children’s Ward. With the cutbacks on federal and state funding, extending the ward and finding funding for the new equipment that would be needed has become a challenge for our facility.” For a moment, the man hesitated as a touch of sadness struck me. My hand clutched at the glass in my hand more tightly than before as I could practically feel the sadness creep over me. Breathe deep...I just had to remember that other people’s emotional baggage was not my own.

The man straightened up and let the emotion go, and it was as if a weight was lifted from me. “However, thanks to all of you who have charitably donated to this amazing cause, we are able to start construction on the children’s ward earlier than we would have ever dared to expect.” A round of applause and cheers rose up through the crowd. After more than a minute had passed, the man raised his hands to quiet the crowd. “Though most of you are not aware, there was one benefactor that made a generous donation in the full amount through both personal and commercial donations from him and his company. Out of respect, I will refrain from calling him up to speak on his and his company’s behalf, but I want to impart our deepest and most sincere gratitude to him, as well as to all of you for helping to make this need in our community come to fruition.” When his eyes moved over the crowd and lingered a little longer on Maxwell than was warranted, I gathered who he was talking about. Crap, I really didn’t know the man beside me very well at all.

“Now, we will have the finest facility within over a hundred mile radius that has the ability to handle all our community’s medical needs for our children and infants without having to airlift them away from their family and loved. Now, we will have an infant and children’s ICU and neonatal care unit that would rival that of the larger cities in our country. Now, we can bring in the finest physicians to care for our future generations as we have already been able to do with our former. Our facility, with your support, will be everything that we need to care for you and your families, as well as to continue to promote cutting edge research in order to provide the best care possible.” The man’s heart swelled, and I once again was able to feel it as if it was my own. His gratitude was real, and palpable. “Thank you,” he said as his voice trembled with emotion. “Thank each and everyone one of you. We are truly blessed.”

A wave of applause erupted in the room, and the man bowed his head towards the crowd before taking his leave of it. The applause went on for nearly another minute as the man walked through the masses to stand in front of the man beside me.

Reaching out a hand, Maxwell took it firmly in his. “Thank you, Sean. Once again, you have made our cause your own.”

Maxwell cast an uncomfortable glance at me before turning one of those charming smiles back on the man before us. “Greg, you know what it means to me to see Our Lady of Mercy flourish. I will never be able to repay my debt to you and the institution for all they have done for me.”

The man nodded his head towards Maxwell before turning away and disappearing into the throng of people. Maxwell looked at me uncomfortably as he brought up a hand to massage his neck. He opened his mouth to say something, but then closed it again. For a brief moment I thought about helping him out, but thought better of it. To see him squirm might serve him right considering I was starting to think that this other woman was nothing more than a ploy.

Music started to play, and his smile changed. “Dance with me?”

The champagne all of a sudden seemed to catch in my throat, though I am not sure why. After all, he did include dancing in his list of things he was asking from me this evening. I sputtered a minute or two as I leaned forward, and he chuckled slightly as he patted and rubbed my back.

When the champagne no longer impeded my breathing, I stood up straight once more. “I am a horrible dancer,” I continued to cough a little as I still attempted to recover from the liquid moving down a passageway it was never meant for.

He took the glass from my hand as he laughed. “Good, then I won’t be the only one out of place on the dance floor.” With a slight turn, he placed the partially empty glasses on one of the tables that were strategically placed around the room. Turning back around, he took my hand in his and started to guide me to the dance floor.

“I don’t think this is a good idea.” As we walked, people shifted easily out of our way as he practically pulled me to the area designated as the dance floor.

“Come on,” he encouraged. “It’ll be fun.”

I sighed. This is what I came for, right? Well, not exactly, but it came with the purpose. “Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you,” I smirked at him.

Grabbing one of my hands gently in his, he let his other rest at the small of my back as he pulled me towards him. Contrary to his words, his feet easily glided across the floor as he took me with him. I cast him a dubious look as he continued to move gracefully among the other dancers. “Out of place, huh?”

He threw his head back and laughed. It seemed so natural for him to be so at ease, and I envied him that. “I guess you caught me,” he chuckled.

Tilting my head to the side, I raised my brows. “Yeah, but I am guessing that is not the only untruth you have told me tonight.” I smirked as I waited for his response.

For a moment, he looked somewhere above my head before he let his gaze come back to meet mine. “Well,” he started uncomfortably. “Maybe I knew that my lady friend had decided not to come after all,” he said as his face cringed. Well, that was surprising. I was starting to think there was no female friend at all.

Smirking at him, he let his face relax as he smiled back and continued. “I knew you would bail on me if I had confided in you what I knew, and by that point,” he shrugged as he spun me around and caught me back at my waist. I laughed just before he leaned forward, finishing his thought as a whisper in my ear,“...I was already looking forward to arriving here with you on my arm.”

This man seemed too good to be true, and yet there was something I could not put my finger on. I waved off his words as I would any other time. He was once again moving me across the floor in an expert manner, and I moved the conversation in a direction that was more comfortable for me. “So, you and Our Lady of Mercy have a history?” Though I asked it as a question, it was more of a guided statement that I wanted him to elaborate on. It was certainly a conversation that kept the focus off of me.

For a fraction of a moment, I could feel him tense beneath the hand I held against his shoulder. Then, as quickly, the tension was gone. “Yeah,” his lip turned up at one side, and I could feel the nostalgia coming off of him in droves. There was a sadness there, and I nearly kicked myself for bringing it up. He inhaled deep, and then held it for more than a few seconds before he released it slowly. His eyes stayed focused on mine, and it took a minute more before he finally decided to continue. “Our Lady of Mercy was not only just a hospital back in my day,” he smirked as though he found an odd humor in what he said.

I grimaced at him. “I’m pretty sure you are not that much older than I am,” I retorted.

The chuckle he gave me seemed a little off, as if there were another secret there. “Yeah, maybe not. But, I would wager I am older than you think I am.” He turned his charming smile on me before the song ended, and he held out his arm to me to escort me off the dance floor.

As we walked towards the side of the room that had a corridor that extended from it, he continued. “It was a place where mothers could deposit their newborns, know that they would be cared for, that homes would be found for them, and no one would ask any questions.” The grimace he wore made me frown, and then he shrugged his shoulders. “If it were not for a place like Our Lady of Mercy, who knows what my birth mother might have done with me. Thankfully, there was a place like that, and I was placed in an amazing home with the best parents I could have ever asked for.” He opened his hands before him allowing them to move before him as his eyes scanned the area around us. “And here I am,” he smirked. “And I couldn’t be happier.”

For more than a minute, I watched his features. The man seemed genuine, and I felt a tug of gratitude for a place like Our Lady of Mercy. I opened my mouth to say something before a cool breeze blew heavy against my backside, the low back of the dress making my skin tingle where it brushed against.

“Well, that is one tall man,” Maxwell spoke in front of me, his face twisted with a cross between awe and expectation. Before I could turn around, he amended his statement. “No, make that two very tall men.”

There was this sensation running through me, and I felt nearly too paralyzed to turn around. The whispers in the crowd made it to my ears, and the gasps and sensual laughter from the women made my skin crawl. I lowered my head as I tried to turn it to the side to catch a glimpse of these men from my peripheral. “I wonder why they are here,” I pondered before I caught a glimpse of them. When I caught the long, white tresses of a man that looked to be taller than seven foot in height, and those silver eyes that I could still see pictured in my mind from only a few hours ago, I nearly lost my breath. It was him!

Maxwell chuckled. “I’m not sure why they are here, but it certainly looks like they are looking for something.” He turned his gaze on me, a questioning glance on his face. “Or someone,” he said. I blanched at his words, and he continued to watch me. “Mya, are you okay?”

“Y-yes,” I stammered. My breath was coming to me in ragged waves, and I had paled considerably. If he was real...I looked at my wrist. That place that I imagined held a beautiful pale blue white energy that swirled and pulsed along with my own. If he was real, then… “I think I just need some...air.” I stammered. “I don’t think...the champagne set well...with me.” The corridor was nearly empty and partially covered by a thick brocade curtain. “I’ll be...I just need to go...the ladies room.”

My legs moved with a speed I had never known they had while my heart thundered in my chest. If he was real, then...what I had experienced was not my imagination. And that meant I needed to get away from here.

The man I had thought to be my imagination was dominating, and the emotions swirling around me were too strong and immense for my psyche to be able to handle. Already, my breathing had turned ragged as I fought to contain and control my emotions. Even trying to remember that someone else's emotions were not my own had failed to give me any relief. The empath part of me was throwing these emotions at my physical self, and I was going

Moving back the drapes that attempted to conceal the corridor, I turned to look at the two men that were wandering through the crowd. As Maxwell said, they certainly looked like they were looking for something...or someone. The man with the dark hair that was pulled back in dreads scanned the crowd, and his dark eyes met mine. When he held my gaze, his eyes darkened and he smiled. There was a look on his face that made my stomach flip on itself, and he gave off the air that he knew me.

Pulling the brocade fabric between us, I prayed that I was mistaken. This couldn’t be real. Maybe the champagne really was having an effect on me. The women’s restroom was just a few paces, and I stumbled towards it to splash water on my face and collect my thoughts. First and foremost in my head: who was he and what in the hell did I get myself into?

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