It was the wine that made her bold—and unsteady. Rydia wished she could attribute her newfound gumption to her own strength of spirit, but was willing to admit she might have imbibed more than just the first round of toasts. No one had warned her how powerful the burgundy liquid was, and before her brain had caught up to her body, her feet had carried her halfway across the room to demand answers from a certain ninja king.
She found Edge standing in a corner, watching the dancers with keen disinterest. What was he trying to prove, she fumed, as she wandered clumsily through small crowds and around clusters of tables to reach him. He, the man of off-color jokes and snide remarks, the one who always had something to say and an opinion to give, solicited or not, was hiding in a corner; aloof, poised, and strangest of all, silent.
All she wanted was a hello, and he hadn’t even offered her that much throughout the course of the day. Worst of all, amid dozens of friends and comrades in attendance for the ceremony that morning, he had given her nothing more than a curt dismissal. Not a word during the greeting of guests, nor during the wedding feast either. Had the world gone and flipped itself upside down in the three short months she’d been away? Where was the brash irresponsible man she’d grown to know and joke with during their travels together?
She knew the answer to that. A corner. Hiding from the festivities, hiding from her.
She stopped two arm lengths away, suddenly aware of where she was but dizzy from the wine. Why hadn’t Edward taken her cup away after three rounds?
She glared at him, swaying slightly, and tried to remind herself why she was standing where she was in the first place. Loathing coupled with hurt feelings were the first things that came to mind, but when she noticed he was actually looking back, her heart performed an involuntary somersault in her chest.
By the gods, she inwardly sighed.
She wanted to slap him in the face, shake him hard at the shoulders, and ask if he had lost his mind, but all she could do was stare back at him blankly, her mission forgotten under the scrutiny of his gray-blue eyes. A face normally half covered in cloth, obscured by hoods, and all other devices of the ninja trade, was now exposed to full view. A jaw with well defined angles, eyes that gleamed with cleverness, and silver hair somehow always in a state of organized chaos atop his head. It bothered her to even be thinking about those things. They were friends, combatants with words, and his earlier behavior left her thinking she was no longer a worthy sparring partner, that was all. All she wanted was an explanation, not a chance to admire the arrangement of his features. She blamed it on the wine.
He was still staring at her, a strange look of panic evident in the slight crease of his brow.
“Edge,” she forced out.
“Rydia,” he answered.
There was a strained silence between them that continued until the musicians changed tunes and the dancers reformed their lines.
“I think it’s your turn to say something,” she pointed out.
“Rydia,” he repeated.
How much had he had to drink, she wondered. It was time to take a different direction.
She pointed wildly in the direction of the dance floor, unable to fully control her movements.
“Look at them, don’t they make a wonderful couple?” she asked, trying to pry him out.
But he wasn’t looking at the dance floor anymore, pretending or otherwise. He was looking at her. As much as she had desired his attention earlier, now she was uncomfortable, and he still wasn’t talking.
“Rosa looks beautiful,” she tried again.
“Yes you do,” he admitted.
Had she heard him correctly? A blush crept up her neck to her cheeks. The wine, it must be the wine, she convinced herself.
But the look on his face told her he was equally stunned to have said the words. There was another pause between them.
“I—I thought you looked lonely, but I can see I’m only bothering you,” she stammered nervously, starting to move away.
He reached out and caught her arm, his fingers coming in contact with bare skin. A jolt ran up Rydia’s spine, and she looked at him, dazed.
“Wait,” he pled.
Curse the wine! He deserved a smack to the face, not her rapt attention!
Despite her better judgment, she lingered, intoxicated by the feel of his warmth on her arm, by the closeness of him. She was dizzy again, but for more reasons than the wine, reasons she didn’t understand.
“Do you dance?” he asked, far too awkwardly for his usual suave demeanor.
“Dance?” some semblance of sanity returned to her just then. She’d had too much to drink. She didn’t like the way he was making her feel. She’d come here to scold him, not dance with him, and his eyes, oh his eyes.
She pulled her arm back and swayed from the effort. It took a lot of energy to pin her gaze to the floor where the granite was starting to spin, and not accept his invitation. “I’m sorry,” she sputtered. “I—I have to go.”