last dance

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She was as though a shooting star fallen from the night sky, for she was bathed in a golden hue that demanded the attention of every wandering eye. A breathless vision, a wonder that glided across the ballroom with ease, as a trail of gold beaded lace brushed behind her heels. Her presence was like that of a well kept secret. For she found peace in silence, making her way through the bustle of the ton without so much as a single murmur slipping from her tight lipped smile and yet, everyone couldn't help but pine for the chance to converse with her. A curiosity following her as though a trail her footsteps left behind on the glittering ballroom floor, gentlemen left to daydream of the mysteries this magical woman might be carrying upon her elegant shoulders. But as Simon Basset watched her with a keen eye from across the room, feeling the shadow of a smirk beginning to hover above the edges of his stilled lips, he felt an odd sensation of pride bubbling in the core of his chest, from the undisputable knowledge that he was the only soul in the room that knew every last secret she kept locked inside of herself.

Bringing the smooth gold rim of the champagne flute to the edge of his lips, Simon tore his sight away from her glimmering presence. Forcing his attention anywhere but the path that had seemed to part, allowing a breathless beauty through the vibrant and vivacious mass of couples dancing and decked out debutants searching for any eligible man to sweep them off their feet. Feeling the bubbling rush of liquid streaming down his throat, as he sipped from his third refill in the last hour, Simon had rather hoped he'd manage to fade into the background.

For the music was in full swing, not a single corner or crevice left unscathed by the boisterous hum of soft melodies and energetic rhythms. He'd been bombarded by pestering mothers parading their less than desirable daughters in front of him, for what he could no longer count as the umpteenth time this season as the final ball came inching towards a close. He'd been chatted up by acquittances he couldn't honestly admit he'd miss when he departed London later in the week. Although he did rather enjoy a few moments of light banter with Anthony Bridgerton and his brothers before they became swept into the activities, more or less dragged by their endearing mother as a last ditch effort on her part this season to play matchmaker. Everything he'd expected and had suffered through for more balls than he wanted to admit, had presented themselves right on cue, leaving Simon to feel as though he could simply fade into the background until the ball came to an end.

But as his fingers gently placed his now empty champagne glass down against the table to his right, Simon felt it. Her presence, an overwhelming, unequivocal void that settled over his flesh, like that of a cool wind in the middle of summer when a rainstorm began to roll in. For the finest hairs on the back of his neck stood at alert as his nerve endings burned with the knowledge that she was a mere foot or two behind him now. If his body hadn't possessed a twisted sixth sense when she grew to be in his close proximity, the intoxicating sweetness that emanated from her skin would have been enough to tell him she was near. For the lightest floral notes of delicate rose petals melded with the clean scent of soap, a faint aroma to most only noticed in a close embrace or blow of the wind against her exposed flesh. But to Simon, it was a scent that burned his lungs and made his chest expand in a greedy inhale all in the very same breath. He knew as she made her way towards him, that the invisibility he had craved from the evening was now completely lost. But there was something within the notion that it was her seeking him out, that filled his chest with an unnerving sensation. It replaced the exasperation with a feeling he couldn't quite describe and he feared to even begin to name.

Sweeping his tongue along the suddenly dry feel of his lips, Simon swallowed a deep breath before turning slowly on his heel to face her. He knew, as his eyes landed upon her seemingly glowing face in the surrounding reflecting glint of light, that she knew full well she didn't need to call out to him. She didn't need to murmur his name, address him clearly to attain his attention, she knew something within him would be alerted to her presence the second she approached him. She did not play coy to the action, nor did she find an arrogant pride in the notion, rather she regarded it as a simple fact of life. He would always know when she was near, just as she always seemed to know the moment his eyes found her from across a crowded room.

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