Marnie found me in a corner where I’d begun to collect attention. I tossed her a smile and she shook her head. “You’re incorrigible.”
“You expected something else?”
She pursed her lips, but her eyes were laughing. “Perhaps a dash more polish.”
“I’m only polished when I’m working.” I set my empty champagne flute on a passing tray and rolled up the sleeves of my shirt to the elbow. Marnie sighed, she’d lent me the designer garment.
“You know I make this look good.”
“I know.” She slipped her arm through mine. “Reyes has been asking about you, actually. You could have a contract with him if you wanted it.” She unconsciously slicked down an errant pleat of her mint dress, one of the designers originals.
I tilted my head in false thought. “You know, I do have a wish to see my face twenty to thirty times life sized.”
The laugh I startled out of her was worth more than any score.
“It shall have to wait, I have many more capers ahead of me before I become a public figure.” Funny, I only noticed how tense I’d been now that I was relaxing. Damn it, I love this kind of party, but I’d been hiding in a corner, drinking champagne.
Marnie smiled. “You alright?”
I shrugged expressively and surveyed the room. “I don’t belong here.”
Marnie looked at me. I’d said it almost absently and half to myself. I skimmed my eyes over Armani suits and Versace dresses, cinema queens and billionaires, the wealthy and the famous, and they brought me both envy and a quiet anger. I know Marnie saw it, she reads people the way I read rooms, intuitively and extremely well.
“Do you want to go?”
I shook my head. “I don’t get to see you or this carnival often enough. It’ll pass.”
A voice spoke up, preceding the click of approaching heels. “Marnie, how are you tonight?”
I didn’t turn. She wasn’t supposed to be here tonight. Marnie replied that she was enjoying herself and I could tell there was a silent exchange where Marnie indicated that I was not bothering her and not to worry everything would be fine, when she ever so slightly faltered, so I turned around so she could introduce me. Whatever name she called me, I didn’t notice or care which man of mystery I was tonight. I gave Bell a gracious nod. I didn’t trust myself to any of the other greetings available. Her disapproval was a frigid living thing and I gave into the dare and met her eyes. It was a mistake. Unable to name the feeling, something vivid and alive, near kin to recognition, but unarticulated jumped between her mismatched eyes and my contact enhanced green ones. All I wanted to do was run, but if I ran, she would chase.
I pulled on every reserved snobbish commentary, every supercilious mannerism, and every lie turned fluid and silver on my tongue. Never has anyone fled so quickly into a defensive conversation. Marnie laid a hand on my arm and drew me away from Bell with a few murmured comments. Bell watched us go for a moment, I could physically feel when she stopped watching us. I wasn’t fooling Marnie, but she let me make my excuses and vanish into the evening.
I’ve been a very selfish thief and not distributing my spoils. This first line was stolen awhile ago, check out what the other thieves divvied up in the corner here.