Let me begin by saying the ball was an absolute disaster.
It was just a ball, you might say. It couldn't possibly have been that bad. Any ball basically consisted of milling around, eating hors d'œuvres, and making inane chatter with people you don't like. How, you may ask, could it have gotten any worse than that?
Well, let me introduce you to Kevin.
Kevin was nice enough. That didn't mean he was nice. He was loud and definitely attention-grabbing, and when provoked he could become a real bitch.
I only just managed to get on his good side, but many at the ball were not so lucky. Kevin knew how to rile people up. He knew how to push people's buttons. He was crazy, insane, unhinged.
Kevin was also a rooster.
A rooster who was set loose at said ball.
Are you starting to see what I mean? Unfortunately, Kevin wasn't even the worst part. Sure, he was the catalyst for events that ultimately plunged the night into well-dressed lunacy, but things had already started to take a turn well before he showed up.
I was standing near the refreshments table, chatting with an old geezer whose name I couldn't remember, but whom Prof had drilled into me was important to please.
Maybe you should have remembered his name, then.
That annoying internal voice of mine came to life during the worst times. Which I supposed made sense, considering I was currently pretending to be interested in how the culinary industry was being overrun by millennials.
"Oh, is that so?" I said, trying to sound engaged but no doubt failing miserably. "Yes, I'm sure your restaurant went under because of their lack of effort, not your clearly incompetent financing. What, sarcasm? Me? Never!"
Amazingly, Mr. Something-Or-Other seemed to be buying it.
I scanned the room for Rian, who I'd left to charm a few older women (and men, actually—I wasn't gonna lie, the boy dragged eyes to him wherever he went). Ignoring the idiotic drone of the grey-haired dud in front of me, I spotted the ladies he'd been chatting with.
He wasn't there.
I resisted the urge to scowl. Mr. Soo—that's what I was calling him now, for short—would probably think it was aimed at him. I mean, I'd undoubtedly end up scowling at him at some point during the night, but I figured it'd at least be behind his back.
"Would you excuse me a moment?" I asked cordially, setting down my glass of champagne. "I'll be right back."
I wouldn't be, but who cared? Mr. Soo could continue his complaining to the next unlucky person to bump into him.
I glided over to an obscure corner of the room, where I could examine everyone discreetly.
It took me a little while, but I eventually found Rian talking to a slight blond figure near the exit. I squinted, but no matter how I tried, I couldn't make out who it was.
After a couple moments of watching Rian run his hand through his hair agitatedly, I felt uncomfortable. I didn't like the idea of spying on him, so I decided to continue my circuit throughout the room.
A few minutes into another conversation, I caught Rian downing several champagnes in the corner. The mystery guest was gone, but he looked sullen and unwilling to reenter the fray. I understood that, but perhaps he shouldn't have been drinking so much. In our youth, alcohol always had . . . adverse effects on him.
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He brushed his lips against my jaw, his dark hair falling over his brow. "Open your eyes," he commanded. "Look at me." I followed his orders and looked into the raven-black depths before me. I saw my entranced gaze reflected in his glaring one. "Tel...