He nodded. “I’m sure.” Offering his arm, he said, “Shall we?”
I ignored the muscular limb and turned on my heel toward the ballroom. Dark laughter followed me and then warm heat wrapped around my middle.
Shocked, I growled, matching it with a blast of cold as I looked over my shoulder. “You dare try to trap me?”
He was leaning against the wall, scratching at his smooth, square chin. “You dared to walk away from me.”
“I don’t need an escort.”
A passing server blinked at us, and I sent her tray of creamed crab flying into the wall. She cursed, then fell to her knees, scrambling to pick it all up.
And that was one of the first and only times I’d ever felt what it was like to be disappointed in myself. Not because of what I’d done. I’d done a galaxy’s worse than that.
But because of him, the prince, and the way he looked at me.
Raiden stared with an intensity that seemed to probe and dig around inside every atom of my body, feeling and searching for things long buried.
I looked away, and he strode over to assist the server, who gushed her gratitude, her plump cheeks the color of my dress. Lifting my chin, I swallowed down the slime infesting my chest and pushed open the doors to the ballroom.
Golden light swathed every patron inside, and three thrones sat upon a dais. One for my father, one for Phane, Raiden’s father, and another for his mother, Solnia.
My father was wearing his usual kaleidoscope of colors. Blue trousers, yellow cotton button-down, and a cape made of rich silvers and blacks that shimmered every time he breathed.
His midnight hair was combed back from his face, revealing dark eyes and a clean-shaven jaw.
He winked at me, and I sucked in a breath, forcing a smile before walking forward to greet him. But a hand curled around mine as I wound through the crowd, ignoring the greetings and compliments.
I sneered at Raiden, and he leaned down, murmuring in my ear as we neared the dais. “Behave, silk.”
“Silk?” I questioned. If it was his plan to dumbfound me into losing my ire, it worked.
“Your skin, your hair, and I bet…” His eyes found my lips. “Your mouth too. The finest silk known to our kind.”
“Sweet talk will get you nowhere,” I retorted, but I was all breath and heaving breasts.
His hand stayed steadfast around mine, gently squeezing, then he tugged me forward.
His parents stood, stepping down to greet us with forehead kisses and arm rubs.
“Perfect,” his mother crooned, adjusting the lapels of her son’s coat with adoring cinnamon eyes and shoulder-length curls to match. Her smile glimmered beneath the floating lights as her fingers danced through my hair, and she chattered on about what our children might look like.
The mere thought of breeding with the arrogant male who carried an alarmingly wonderful scent was the last thing I wanted floating into my rioting mind.
Still, I smiled, my cheeks aching as I kept it fastened, and then turned to my father who finally decided to grace us with his presence.
His arm was heavy around my shoulders, as well as the lager on his breath, when he lowered his head, and said, “Your bosom is catching too many eyes, daughter.”
I swallowed, not daring to look or touch my gown. Not in public. “I shall adjust it when I get a moment.”
“Do that,” he said with a tap on my shoulder. “You’re a committed female now. Act the part.” Then he moved to Raiden, wrapping him in a hug that had my stomach clenching as Raiden’s entire form stiffened. He was a head taller than my father. As I peered at him, I found his lips had flattened.
Interesting. But not interesting enough to hold my attention once I caught sight of a passing tray of wine. I snatched one, then began circling the room, searching for Berron and Truin.
I found the latter by the outer wall, standing with one of her coven friends.
Truin smiled, lifting her glass as I approached. “Stunning as always, my princess.”
“Quit with the niceties.” I took a huge swig of wine, swallowing. “Let’s start devising a plan to get out of here.”
Truin frowned. “Well, it’s your party. You can’t…” She stopped talking, and I needn’t have asked why. I felt him approach this time, inhaled that scent of his clouding the air around us.
Truin blushed, then curtsied. “Congratulations, Prince Evington.”
“Raiden,” the man himself said, stepping forward to take Truin’s hand.
My face and shoulders became granite as I watched his lips descend upon her skin. As if sensing it, Raiden didn’t let them meet and graciously released her hand.
Truin raised a brow at me, and I felt my skin begin to warm. I drained my wine and set the goblet down on a marble topped statue of a furbane.