Sneaking into the ball had been the fun part. I had used the chance of too many faces and a copied invite from Luca’s table to get past the entrance, and now the evening had been mine. It was a glitzy party of glamour and shining as the many aristocrats used the opportunity to try and one-up each other, as I was twirled around the dance floor by yet another masked man. I asked for no names, merely his attention for the song so I wouldn’t be thrown into any other couples.
Then Luca had apparently lined me up, my hand barely leaving the other gentleman’s before it was encased in his familiar warmth. A traditional waltz started, and his hand was on my waist to keep me close before he was leading me in the dance.
“You are in so much trouble when we leave,” his voice was low in my ear, as several sets of eyes seemed to fall on us from the edges of the room. I recognised two of them as the heads of the Bradley and Cromwell family, but a few others I didn’t.
“You wouldn’t let me attend,” I pouted in response, making sure to keep my feet swift. “I told you I wanted to come, and you should know better than to expect me not to turn up. I’ve behaved myself perfectly thank you, and I’ve been on the dance floor all night with only occasional breaks for a drink of anything nonalcoholic. I’m not here to attract attention to myself,” I quietly snorted before I was suddenly twirled away and then locked back into Luca’s arms. A sign to the other males that I was now occupied for the evening it seemed as I would see the same eyes following us around the room. “I just wanted to dance,” I laughed as our bodies were lightly pressed together. “I was unnoticed until you appeared.”
“Actually the girl with the golden laugh was attracting all the gossip again,” Luca frowned as the music drew to an end, though his arm stayed around my waist as I found that I was being escorted off the dance floor. It was becoming clear that my night was at an end for now. “Especially since you’re wearing the golden dress,” he muttered as the man tried to ensure we wouldn’t be tracked.
“Luca!” I felt the man tense up, though he didn’t let me turn around as his bright facade was plastered on his face. “I thought we’d lost you,” the voice was something of a familiarity. “Oh? Who is this lovely lady?”
I used the surprise to turn around, a soft smile on my face as I had already made sure that my mask was firmly in place. My identity was never going to be amongst the nobility and higher classes, I just enjoyed the parties before giving a small courtesy to the two men.
“She’s just going home,” Luca interjected and turned me around again, a frown on his usually serene face, my laughter attracting all the attention.
He was huffing as we were exiting through the free-flowing crowd. My hand was enclosed in his before we reached the line of carriages waiting to take everyone away back to their manors. Luca was patting his waistcoat pockets down for some money before a hand on his shoulder made him tilt his head back.
“Allow me,” the green hair of Ryan Cromwell was impossible to miss, especially since he had taken note of my dress and used it to track us down. A carriage appeared from nowhere before another gentleman was guiding me towards it with his hand on my lower back.
“Thank you kindly,” I interrupted before Luca could come up with an excuse to refuse, and allowed myself to be assisted into the carriage by the blond haired male who was escorting Mr Cromwell. “Come on Luca,” I brightly smiled, “It would be rude to refuse such kindness.”
My giggle earned me a warning look before my friend, and his acquaintance clambered on in. My mask was still secure as we set off, I had no intention of telling them my address or name, I would merely get dropped off with Luca and then melt away into the background as I usually did.
“I don’t believe we’ve met before,” Ryan was trying all sorts of charm, lifting the back of my hand in greeting before Luca could intercept us.
“I would remember meeting the infamous Ryan Cromwell,” I coyly replied, before politely retrieving my hand back and settling it on my lap.
“Would you allow me to know a name to go with the beautiful laugh that has had me curious for the night?”
Luca was actively glaring at me now.
“Maybe next time we meet, then you could do me the favour of a dance Mr Cromwell, and then I would allow you the knowledge,” I smiled. “If you would just kindly stop by Luca’s apartment then I would be the most grateful.”
“Surely you don’t-” the blond spoke sharply, and was looking at Luca with hostile intent.
“Nothing of the sort. I simply live close to him, and I do not know either of you, merely safety precautions,” I corrected as the driver pulled to a stop at a gesture from Ryan. I made every effort to not fall flat on my face leaving the carriage, though it didn’t mean I wasn’t listening to Luca agree to come over the following evening to discuss some business with the Cromwells. I made certain that appearances were deceptive at times like this before the carriage left again.
“Gia,” Luca called out as I turned to cross the square. “Would you at least stay for tonight?” His voice was low, not wishing to paint the wrong picture.
“Only if you’ll get the dress cleaned for me and keep it in your place,” I replied after a heavy pause, needing to face reality on carting about a ballgown.