It was a very dull party. The music was pleasant enough, and the ballroom was beautifully decorated. Of course, that was to be expected at one of Duke Fenton’s balls. Still, he had few prospects and none of them were in attendance. He had been rejected by anyone here who may have been an appropriate match. There was nothing left but to sit at his table sipping wine and watching the room.
He could hear his father scolding him for not making the most of the occasion. Alcohol put people at ease, he would say, loosening their tongues. His father would just have to be disappointed in him. It was a common enough occurrence, after all.
“Are you still moping?” Samuel appeared and sat next to him. He was his best friend. And the Duke’s son.
“I am not moping. I am simply enjoying your father’s wine and his musicians.”
“The wine is cheap. Father refused to open the cellar for this. And the music is bland at best. As you well know.”
He shrugged. “Still.”
“Very well. Why not dance?”
“You know why. No one here would agree to take a turn with me.”
“So you are moping.”
“Not at all.”
They both fell silent and looked around the floor. A face he did not recognize caught his eye. Light colored eyes framed by brown hair. Her black dress, elegant yet simple, stood in obvious contrast to the pastel gowns celebrating the spring that were common this night.
He nudged Samuel. “Who is that?”
“In the black dress.”
Samuel peered intently. “I do not know. Which is reason enough for you to lose interest.”
“I suppose you are right,” he said, as he stood.
Samuel shook his head. “Good luck.”
Trying to appear casual as he wandered, he made his way nearer to the unknown woman. Even though he knew he should listen to Samuel, he was drawn to her in a way he had not felt before. It did not take him long to make his way across the room.
“Excuse me. I do not believe we have been introduced. I am…”
She had looked at him with some initial confusion, but before he could finish introducing himself, she grabbed his arm. She put her arms around him as she dragged him into the dance. Habit took over, and his feet moved in step to the music as they moved across the floor.
“I do not…” He started to object in spite of himself, but she stopped him.
“I apologize for being so abrupt. I really wanted to dance.”
He found himself unable to respond. She was mesmerizing. With the heels of her shoes, she stood just a couple of inches shorter than he did. Her gown was cut low in the back, and his right hand tingled where it touched her skin. He could not take his eyes away from her, but she seemed to be staring over his shoulder.
Her grip tightened as he tried to turn around. “No. Do not look away.” She smiled at him. “Just dance with me.” He could not refuse her. While she looked past him, he looked at her and enjoyed the dance.
Before the music stopped, she broke off from him. “Excuse me. Thank you.” She turned to walk away.
He stopped her. “Who are you?”
Their eyes locked for a moment. “No one important.” She hurried off, apparently looking for someone.
He began to walk back to his table when Samuel walked up to him. “Where is she?”
“She left. Why?”
“My father does not know her. He wanted to know who had come uninvited. Or at least who might have brought her.”
“Oh.” He stared at the door through which she had left. “I had hoped he would be able to tell me who she was.”
Samuel scowled. “Well, when he catches her, I will be sure to tell you.”
“Thank you,” he replied, oblivious to his friend’s irritation.