Page 18 of Claiming Cinderella

“Yeah, pretend we don’t exist and consider this a night off.” Halle narrowed her gaze into a warning glare as if her dead eyes were staring straight through to my soul.

“Yeah, you won’t have to worry about me.” I tossed their masks onto the counter and turned and stormed out.

Who the hell did they think they were? I’d not even wanted to go to the gala to begin with, and it was only by her parent’s encouragement that I decided to attend. As for Aiden Prince, who’d actually said he wanted to talk to me later in the night, I was sure he’d already forgotten all about me.

I stormed away and left the girls in the bathroom. I could only imagine what kind of trouble they would get into through the night and I’d probably take all the blame. Those two could rob a bank, and their mother would hold me responsible.

I walked out of the hallway and into the huge front room where the party was crowded masked people. It was kind of eerie in a way, not knowing who was who, not that I knew everyone anyway. Other than the twins, not a soul.

“There you are.” The familiar male voice sounded behind me, and I turned to look over my shoulder at the gorgeous man standing there as handsome as humanly possible in his fitted tux.

“Hi.” I looked around to see if the twins were over my shoulder sharpening their knives for me talking to Aiden.

“Did you find your friends?” His eyes and warm smile were full of genuine concern, and I wanted to reach up and pull off the rest of his mask to see what else I was missing.

“I did, but they’re busy.” I lifted a shoulder casually and glanced back over my shoulder, anxious that at any minute they’d see me there with him, and worse, they’d see the smile he was giving me, one I’d be certain they’d not appreciate.

“Would you like to get busy?” His face fell the moment the words left his mouth. He held up a hand to apologize and shook his head. “God, that came out all wrong. I just mean we could do something too. Would you like to dance?”

“I’m not sure it’s a good idea.” I glanced over my shoulder and then around the other direction, but still no sign of them. Aiden took my hand and led me to the other room with him, and I let him feel more confident that we wouldn’t be caught there together by the twins the moment they stepped out of the bathroom.

“It’s a wonderful idea,” he said, stepping us through the crown and toward the dancefloor. “Besides, you can’t turn down the host for a dance. It’s considered bad manners.”

I felt the blush rise to my cheeks as he put his arm at my waist and held my hand. “You look stunning, by the way. I meant to tell you that earlier. I bet you hear that all the time.”

“No, not really. My mother always said it, but you know, she’s biased.” I was quite aware I made it seem like she was still alive, and for the moment, I liked pretending she was. That I could go home to her at the end of the night and tell her how amazing it was to catch Aiden’s eye and dance with the richest man in the city.

“I bet you look like her,” he said.

“A bit. I have her smile, but my eyes, they’re probably like my father’s.” I stiffened knowing he’d caught that.

“Don’t you know?” He spun us around, and I caught a glimpse of the twins looking through the crowd but never saw me as they continued to the next room where the refreshments were.

“No, I never knew him or who he was.” I lowered my chin, and he seemed a bit embarrassed for changing the mood of our conversation.

“My father died,” said Aiden.

“I’d heard about that. I’m sorry for your loss.” I let out a long breath and sighed. I’d always hated hearing that from other’s when my mother passed. It was such a generic thing to say, and hardly ever enough.

“Thanks.” He narrowed his eyes as if sensing my distaste for the term.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound insincere, it’s just after my mother’s death, I’d vowed I’d never say those words to another. They just don’t seem to cut it.”

“They’ll do. It’s enough just knowing someone understands you’re hurting. That’s all those words ever meant to me. And I appreciate it.” He took a deep breath and stared down into my eyes. “So, did you lose her recently?”