Letti knelt and twitched the heavy velvet material into place. Once she was satisfied she stood and took a step back. "You are finished miss. Every man will line up to dance with you tonight." She smiled at me, her green eyes sparkled with obvious pride at the results of our afternoon together. She placed her small hands on my shoulders and turned me towards the mirror.
Letti was a genius! The intricate braids she had woven into my hair were beautiful. They crossed and recrossed over each other and bound the rest of my long tresses. The dress that she had chosen was a gorgeous sapphire blue, that complemented my eyes. The squared neckline was trimmed in lace and little pearl buttons, and the velvet sleeves that ended just above my elbows were edged in lace. The ensemble was completed with black ankle boots with small black buttons up the sides. "Thank you Letti. You have outdone yourself." I gave a little spin and the dress spun out from my hips. A small giggle escaped me.
"Your transport will arrive soon. Is there anything else you need?"
I couldn't think of anything. "No Letti. You have done enough. Thank you again." She curtsied and left the room, her gray skirt disappearing around the corner. I went in search of my father, and found him in his office looking over some papers he had brought home from some senate meeting. He must have just gotten home as he was still wearing his thick golden cloak. "Hi Papa." I broke into a wide smile.
He looked up at me with a large smile of his own. His brown eyes widened as he took in the sight before him. His eyes softened and he held a hand out to me. "You look just like your mother, child." He stood and embraced me, resting his chin on my head as I snuggled into his warm chest. "I still miss her every day." His deep voice rumbled. He gently pushed me away so he could see my face. "She would be proud of the woman you have become." He kissed my forehead. "I know I am."
Letti appeared in the doorway. "Miss, your transport is here." She gave a quick curtsy and disappeared down the hall.
I kissed my father on the cheek and said goodbye. Then I gathered my skirt and skipped down the hall and out into the cool evening air. I settled myself in the back of the transport and we drove off into the night. I looked out at the snowy peaks of the Juran mountains as we sped passed. I felt the vehicle slow as we neared the kilik hives. I was never brave enough to play here as a child. A fact my older sister Emmelia never let me forget. She wasn't scared of the kiliks, or really anything for that matter. She had gone off and joined Imperial Intelligence, leaving me and Pappa alone. I missed her, but I understood her reasons for leaving. Being a nobleman's daughter wasn't enough for her. And diplomacy was never her strong suit.
We picked up speed again once we cleared the hives and soon we were stopping at House Cortess. I took in the spectacle before me. All the lights, twinkling from every nearby tree or post. No matter how many parties I attended I was always taken in by the finery. All the girls dressed in gowns in every hue of the rainbow! The men dressed in smart jackets and tight leggings. Looking ever so much like princes. The feeling in the air that tonight magic could be real, this could be the night that I would dance with the man that would be the other half of my soul. Ha! That was worth a laugh. I knew everyone at this party. The girls were vapid and useless. Nothing more in their heads than plans on how to snare a rich nobleman. The men weren't any better. Full of themselves, preening for all the young women. Trying to find one they could take to bed, but never looking for one to be tied down to.
Letti asked me once why I went to these parties if I found the company less than desirable. I didn't have a great answer for her. Only that I loved that feeling of possibility that hung in the air. And I loved to dance. The feeling of floating as I glided around a room. Everyone watching me. It was intoxicating. So I went. Tonight was no different. I descended the steps into the hall on the arm of a young man whose job it was to make sure that all the ladies saw their way safely to the ballroom floor. I thanked him as he turned me loose.
I greeted a small group of girls that I knew. Daughters of noblemen and diplomats, like myself. We made small talk, mostly complimenting each others dresses and hair. A few girls pointing out the men they were hoping to get dances with. I gravitated towards the banquet table, laden with all kinds of exotic foods. In the center were crystal flutes filled with Alderaanian Wine. I picked up a glass and returned to the small knot of girls. They were discussing a scandal in one of the other noble houses.
"I heard that she seduced him." Meri said imperiously as she tossed her long blonde hair over her shoulder.
"I heard that she was blackmailing him." Bemere added.
"I heard they had been in love since they were children and he finally worked up the courage to run away with her." Cyriniti said dreamily.
"No, he wouldn't have run off with a servant. His parents would never allow it." Meri sneered.
"And yet he did." Replied Cyriniti.
I could feel eyes on me. I sipped my wine while pretending to be engaged in their conversation, and scanned the crowded hall, looking for whoever was watching me. No one on the dance floor was openly staring at me. I lifted my eyes to the balcony and saw a man I didn't know. Taller than myself, shortly cropped brown hair, his clothing suggested he was from some far flung outpost. His green eyes met mine for the briefest moment and then he was gone. Melting into the crowd. I couldn't explain the rush of adrenaline I felt, or the sudden undercurrent of danger I felt tingling in the air.
"Lady Dusant, would you do me the honor of dancing with me?" Duke Lintz asked, startling me from my thoughts. His blue eyes looked at me expectantly. He took the flute from me and placed it on the tray of a passing serving droid. Then he extended his hand and gave me a slight bow. I forced a slight smile as I took his hand and let him lead me to the floor. As we swirled across the floor to a waltz I scanned the faces, looking for those green eyes. Duke Lintz bowed at the end of our dance and Duke Byzar stepped in to claim a dance. As we made our third pass by the stair case I saw him again. But Duke Byzar spun me in the opposite direction and I lost sight of him in the crowd. So it went for the rest of the night. Dukes and Lords took their turns to dance with me. And all night I looked for this mysterious man, hoping he would come to claim me. Fearing if he did what that might mean for me.
The ballroom started clearing as the night wore on. And I begged for a minute to catch my breath. I found a servant and asked for them to prepare a transport to take me home and then I gathered my skirt and swept out to the balcony. The cool air felt wonderful after the warmth of the hall. I placed my hands on the cement railing and looked out over the gardens below me. Clearly it was too late for any magic tonight. Ah, but where had that man with those piercing green eyes gone? Why had he captured my attention when no one other man had? Why had he not come to dance with me? I looked out into the night, wondering what else was out there for me. If I stayed here I would become a diplomat like my father. But was there something else out there waiting for me to be bold enough to reach for it?
I felt someone join me on the balcony. Without turning I knew it was him. The man that had been watching me all night. Again, I felt the threat, the danger. He didn't say a word, but he placed a hand on my waist, his lips barely brushing my neck. In his other hand he held an arallute, the beautiful trumpet shaped petals of my favorite flower. I took the flower from him, my fingers brushing the back of his hand. I felt a tingle of electricity when our skin touched. I closed my eyes and stepped backwards into him. His warmth inviting. His left hand tightened on my waist and he pressed himself closer to me. He twined his right hand in my hair and he skimmed his nose along my neck. All of a sudden the evening was hot. My body surged with desire. I wanted him, more than I had wanted anything in my life. I heard him growl and all of a sudden he was gone. Taking his warmth with him. I shivered as the chill of the evening settled back around me.
I heard footsteps coming towards me, I turned around as the servant from House Cortess joined me on the balcony. "Lady Dusant. Your transport awaits you."