A Sample to Detain You
Darcy watched the door. Will wasn’t already in the room, she was sure of it, so maybe he really wasn’t coming. She couldn’t think about that. She turned her attention to the fast filling tables. She needed to find places they could sit. Right up until the official speeches there was still a chance Will might show.
She jumped when Robert touched her hand. “Over there, table thirty-two.” He was pointing towards the back of the room. “Someone’s kid’s sick, we can sit there.”
“How do you know that?”
He laughed. “My father is deaf. I lip read.”
“You could’ve told me that.”
“Like a good Lin Gui I like to keep my weapons hidden.”
“Chinese Ninja. Come on, I’m starving.”
At the table, Robert said, “Smile and nod,” and launched into introductions, explanations, who knew, but Darcy smiled and nodded, and got smiles and nods back from the others at the table.
Sitting down she felt less conspicuous, but it was also harder to scope the room out. In this crowd, maybe five hundred people, she might never see Will.
The first dishes arrived. Shark fin soup, braised abalone with vegetables, sirloin steak with broccoli. Waiters circled with wine. Peter Parker worked the other end of the room, shaking hands and laughing. Robert said he was speaking Shanghainese, talking about fundraising. More dishes arrived. Crispy whole fried chicken, stir fried lobster with ginger and scallions, steamed fish. Darcy took Robert’s glass away and two of the women at the table laughed. Husbands who drank too much were obviously a problem needing no common language.
Dessert arrived. Sweet red bean soup and dish made of ground chestnuts and whipped cream called Peking Dust. A band started playing and couples got up to dance.
Will Parker slipped into the room when Darcy had given up expecting to see him. When she’d chugged her own second glass of wine and copped an elbow in her bead covered ribs from Robert.
She was separated from Will by four rows of tables and a mass of swirling movement, but she knew he’d arrived because chills rolled up the back of her neck. He was directly in her line of sight. She grabbed Robert’s arm and sank into his side as Will’s gaze roved across the room. His unruly hair was brushed smooth. His tux was an old fashioned glamour number with satin stripes down the pants legs. He had the jacket slung carelessly over his shoulder and his bow tie was undone. He looked every bit the wily pirate and her pulse pounded at the sight of him.
He was looking for someone and for one untamed moment Darcy hoped it was her. Then she remembered.
“Babe,” said Robert and he flung an arm around her shoulders. “That him?”
“That’s him.” She kept her face averted, eyes down on her lap.
“He’s a commanding looking dude.”
“He’s a duplicitous bastard.”
“He’s er, coming this way.”
Darcy jammed her new shoes hard into the wood panel floor scrambling to push away from the table. She had to move now, get out before Will found her.
Robert was in her ear, holding her arm. “Be still, he’ll walk past.”
The older woman sitting next to Darcy leaned across and said something to Robert. He replied, then said, “I told her you had morning sickness.”
Darcy smiled weakly at the woman who nodded, smiled and patted her hand. The next contact she felt was on the top of her shoulder. She knew that touch. It stung like sunburn, it burned like deceit.
She was undone.
She didn’t need to be a lip reader to understand Robert mouthing, “Shit!”
There was nothing she could do but face her betrayer. She pushed back her chair and stood. His name weighed down her tongue, making it hard to speak. “Will.”
He might have asked why she was here, insisted she leave. He might have called security, or grabbed her by the hair and hauled her out of the room himself. He said, “Dance with me,” holding out his hand, expecting her to take it.
“Don’t mind me,” said Robert, who’d scrambled to his feet as well.
Will laughed. He appeared to notice Robert for the first time. “I’ll bring her back. Darcy?”
After pretending not to know her name, he was intent on wearing it out.
“Go away, Will.”
He stepped in behind her, surrounding her with the citrus tang of his cologne. “What are you doing here?” His hand closed around the back of her neck and her bones started to liquefy.
“I’m here with a colleague.” She tried to pull away, but one thumb rubbed small circles up the column of her neck and anchored her in place.
“I don’t care. Dance with me.”
His lips brushed her ear, “You’re divine.”
She angled her face away from him. “I hate you.” Not an adult response. He’d turned her into a sixteen year old broken hearted over Nathan Tucker all over again.
He ran his hand down her back til it rested at her waist. “No, you don’t.”
“Stop telling me what to do.” She spun to face him. “Stop telling me what to think.” His arm was around her, he yanked her to him. “Stop making me feel this way.”
The words were out before she understood they told him too much. She saw understanding in the flex of his eyebrow, in the fire in his eyes. He was going to kiss her. She was going to scream.
She pushed against his chest and he captured her wrists, moved backwards between two tables until they were on the edge of the dance floor.
“Let me go, Will.” He wrapped her close, she had nowhere to put her hands but on his shoulders.
“You came to me.” He whirled her around. “I thought you’d never want to see my ugly mug again.”
She played her joker card. “That’s ridiculous. How could I know you’d be here?”
He laughed. “You lie.”
He could see through her. “Let me go or I’ll scream.
“I thought you liked to dance with me. You did before.”
“Before I knew you as lying, cheating, bastard, scum. Let me go now. You’re not allowed anywhere near me. Peter made that perfectly clear.”
“Is Peter the problem? Fuck Peter. He works for me.”
“You’re the problem.”
They were surrounded by other couples. He stopped. Dropped his arms. “I’m sorry, Darcy. I never meant for you to get hurt.”
They were standing chest to chest, breathing each other’s air. She should’ve run from him. She closed her eyes. She detested him, but his nearness was sending her senses into hyper-drive, locking her knees and gluing her feet to the dance floor. Her heart was thumping so loudly surely he could hear it. His hand found hers, his arm stole around her waist, and she let him bring her hips to his, rock them side to side, press his cheek against her hair and trace spirals on the exposed skin of her back.
She wanted to kiss him, to bite his lip until he bleed, until he understood how much he’d hurt her. To jam her stiletto into his foot until he was impaled on it, to score his chest with her nails until he bore a mark for every tear she’d cried that day over him. She wound her arm around his neck and listened to him hum the Sinatra tune in her ear.
She was under his skin and he wasn’t going to see her coming.
When the song ended and applause broke out around them, she pulled out of his arms without a word or a glance, turned her back on him and left him in the middle of the floor.