The party is surprisingly nice. Since you work with most of the people who came on the daily basis, the conversations are easy. And since you’re wearing a boring dress, and your hair’s pulled up in a neat bun, you don’t get much attention from men in there, even after copious amounts of champagne. Which in your books these days is a bloody plus. You sip your water and listen to one of the interns droning about next year’s Student Council election.
Dr. Claufield comes up to you and leads you away from the company of your peers. You tense. She’s wearing a red dress, her back bare. It’s both very classy and steamy. She places her hand on your waist and pushes you towards a small group of men in suits.
“This is future Dr. Wren Leary, our prodigy.” She then unnecessarily introduces the men in her lilting voice. Most of them are big shots in pharmaceutical companies and biochem funds. You shake hands and smile. They are not very interested, getting back to their previous conversation rather quickly.
One of them, standing nearest to you, is Elliot Thrandon, his elegant upper-class profile familiar to you from all the Forbes publications. He’s so tall that if you screw your eyes at him – even though you are wearing high heels for once – you’ll be looking at the top button of his waistcoat.
“Don’t mind them.” His low enticing voice is suddenly pouring into your ear. “All they care about is their money, and the ulcers they gained chasing their millions.” You look at him startled, and he smiles to you. The teeth are white, and the blue irises are enhanced by thick black lashes.
He’s mesmerizing: blonde, almost white hair, cold blue eyes and striking dark eyebrows. Everything about him looks as if etched in a stone surface. Long thin nose, with an elegant bridge and delicate nostrils, curved, well defined lips, his body long and lithe. He has the longest legs you’ve ever seen. Not that you’ve been looking. At least not now. You remember how you and Thea were discussing him couple years ago. His photo in a tuxedo with loosened bow tie was in every magazine and newspaper. Some sort of a sex scandal. ‘If that is how all the big shots on your field look like, I’m switching my degree,’ Thea purred then, and shook her head.
You’re probably staring. He smiles even wider.
“No wonder that so many pharmaceutical funds finance the antacid research then,” you whisper in return. He guffaws and leans closer.
An alarm goes off in your head. A weird chill clenches in your chest, you’ve never felt like that before, and you literally take a step back.
You are almost running.
You pretend to go back to the table with drinks. You’re pouring yourself more water, and your hands are shaking. What’s wrong with you, Wren? He was flirting, you answered… why are your palms clammy? Fuck, fuck, fuck… You take a deep breath. It’s a new strange fear, after five months of being isolated, the thought of getting close to anyone, of anything slightly reminding of intimacy is terrifying. You got a vibe from him that he found you attractive, his pupils dilated; when he leaned closer he breathed in, his tall body towering over you; and you fucking panicked. Is this how you are going to react to any male from now on?!
You jump up from John’s low voice behind you. You spill your water and grab a napkin to pat the table. Fucking fuck, that was intense! You throw the cloth on the puddle and turn around. He looks good in a black three-piece suit.
“Good evening,” you mutter. Seriously, Wren, that is not how elegant well-mannered young ladies speak. They also probably do not have two painful flaming spots on their cheekbones either. The water is dripping on the floor.
He hikes up his brows.
“I’m sorry, I’ve startled you.” His tone is soft, cautious. Right… The last time he saw you, you were yelling, crying, treating him like a potential rapist. No wonder that he’s talking to you like you are bloody mental.
“It’s quite alright. I was just lost in my thoughts. Excuse me.” You are fleeing again. It’s getting repetitive.
Balcony, balcony is always good. Fresh air, starry night, no attractive men in suits. You’re bending on the rails and look down. You can see the halls from here. There’s a wild party in one of the buildings. You can bet a hundred quid that Thea is there now. Maybe you should go too. Leave this stuffy place, no one will notice anyways, and have some fun.
“Miss Leary, what a pleasant happenstance!”
Thrandon has a very, very sexy voice. Whatever he says sounds like dirty talk. You spin and stare at him. You realize what it looks like. Like you are an inexperienced blushing virgin, cornered by a tall dangerous stranger, her bosom – well, whatever you have there instead – heaving, and eyes widened. Is that what you are these days, Wren?
Or are you the smart, confident woman that you once thought you were? You straighten up.
“Mr. Thrandon, since this is the only balcony in the hall everyone is destined to meet here. Especially if they indulge in this nasty habit.” You point at a fag in his hand with your eyes. He gives you a lopsided smirk.
“Want one?” That sounds so fucking indecent.
“No, thank you.” He comes closer and leans on the railing near you.
“You are very talented, Wren…” Oh, we are on first name basis now, aren’t we? Thorington waited for two sessions of heavy petting for that. Not the point now, Wren. He throws the cigarette over the railing and suddenly picks up your hand. “I think you should come work for me, Wren. We can become wonderful collaborators.” He presses his lips to your knuckles.
The kiss doesn’t feel like anything. All his seductive talk, and all you do is chuckle.
“Really?” Your tone makes him lift his eyes at you. “Does anyone ever fall for that? I’m sorry, it just sounded so bodged up, like you really didn’t put any effort into it. Do I look so easy?”
He straightens in all his immense height.
“Perhaps I misjudged.”
“Most likely.” You turn to return inside.
“You definitely don’t look easy, Wren dearest. If anything you look very demure. More interesting it would be to unwrap you.” Make a move, and a kick in the bollocks will follow, you wanker. You turn around, clenching your teeth. “You are a discovery waiting for the daring, Miss Leary.”
“I thought you hire others to discover, Elliot. Perhaps you should limit your efforts to writing checks.” John’s menacing voice behind you makes you jerk.
Fuck no, he is not sauntering in here like a fucking knight in shining armour! You were managing it. Condescending, chauvinistic, cantankerous prick…
“John, my dear!” Thrandon lights up another cigarette. “Came to check up on your pet? Maya told me how territorial you get about your little ginger in here.”
What the actual fuck?
You stare at John’s face. His jaws are clenched, eyes dark, and you can feel rage radiating from him. He fists his right hand and starts moving towards the blonde. You step in front of him and place your hand on his chest. He blinks, and looks at you in shock. His heart is beating frantically under your palm.
“Let’s go inside, John. The slug is not worth it.”