Chapter Fourteen

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Benjamin spent the rest of dinner in silence

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Benjamin spent the rest of dinner in silence. Clara's Aunt was giving him the cold shoulder and he did not care to converse with anyone else. After they had dined, it was on to the dance. 

Benjamin purposely picked the first and last set as it gave him the advantage over Banks, but also because they were both a waltz. The only dance he knew and mastered. Court dances would have found him tied up with two left feet. A Cotillion or Reel would be even worse. 

He sought her out. "Lady, Bentley," he bowed before her, "I believe this is my dance."

She positively beamed at him as he took her hand and led her out to the dance floor. Limbs intertwined and the distance between them became non-existent. He expertly glided with her across the floor. As a couple they were quite spectacular. Several of the matrons sitting on the side began to whisper and suppose.

"I thought you did not dance, Mr. McAllister," Clara said, quite impressed by how he easily led them around the dance floor.

"You misunderstood. I can dance. I just prefer not too, Lady Bentley." At this moment however, he was quite grateful for dancing. Relishing the feel of her in his arms.

"You know we are causing quite the stir." Clara giggled. Benjamin had noticed. Always being aware of his surrounding, it was hard not to.

"Not surprising," Benjamin said, "the waltz is still considered quite wicked by most of your Aunt's generation."

"Is that why you chose this dance, Mr. McAllister? Are you planning on being wicked? Need I be concerned for my virtue? Perhaps, Mr. Banks and his warnings of you are correct."

"Banks!" He stiffened beneath her touch at his name.

"Yes, he spent most of dinner warning me that you were declaring that you'd have me. That my virtue was not safe and that I should allow him to stay close to me throughout the evening to be certain I am safe-guarded."

Clara meant the words to be teasing but seeing the hard set to Benjamin's features she regretted saying them. "I know you would never..."

He held on to her a little tighter. "Clara, it is not me but Banks, you need to fear. He is determined to have you. He will make any promise, but ultimately he will not be satisfied until he beds you."

Clara found herself actually shrugging in response. "Tell me, Mr. McAllister. If not you, what does it matter?"

Her words struck him like a knife through the heart. She sounded despondent, older, resigned to her fate. He wished he could offer her more. She deserved, so much more.

The dance had all too quickly come to an end. She pulled away from him, curtsied and walked away. Leaving him there miserable, wanting and alone. 

He continued to observe her from the around the room as he paced, finding it difficult to remain still. She and Beau were now dancing a Reel and she was lit up from within. Laughing at whatever it was that Beau had said. Her face was flushed pink from the exhaustion of the dance.

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