Page 21 of Claiming Cinderella

I walked through the house going room to room where the party crowd had gathered and caught a glimpse of Zep already bringing the ladies up to my room that I kept here in the main part of the house. I hoped my mother wouldn’t see them because I knew she’d make them go back downstairs. I didn’t know where she was hiding out, but I hoped that while I pursued Ella, she’d stay out of sight.

I strolled into the room where the refreshments were kept hoping that she had gone for something to eat, but when I glanced around she wasn’t there. I went to the ballroom to see if she was in there dancing, hoping like crazy she’d not met someone else, especially any of the rich pricks that my mother had invited.

My blood turned cold at the thought, stilled in my veins as if it had frozen and my anger suddenly spiked. I didn’t want her with anyone else. I had to find her and fast. I searched around and didn’t find her. I stopped and was about to turn and go back out the foyer to see if she was leaving when a slight movement caught my eye on the veranda beyond the dancefloor.

I rushed across the floor, pushing past the other couples as they danced and made my apologies. Not one tried to argue or called me down, and a few even excused themselves as if they were to blame.

I stood in the door and watched her as she stood against the railing to look out at the stars. The moon was hanging nearly full in the sky and the night was so clear that the sky was a dark shade of navy and sprinkled with millions of tiny stars. They were nothing compared to the sparkle in her eyes which had been the bluest blue I’d ever seen. I couldn’t move as I watched her, her shoulders were square, her posture perfect as she stood inclining her head to the sky as if everything she wanted in the world was right there before her.

At that moment, I wondered, how could I compete with that?

Chapter 11

Ella

Growing up my mother had always taught me that it didn’t matter how much money people had, that everyone was worthy of love and respect. She’d taught me not to bully or belittle others and that it wasn’t important to be everyone’s best friend, but it was important to be friendly to everyone. She’d also taught me something else that I often found more challenging than anything else, and that was to look for the good in everyone because everyone had some good in them.

As I stood staring at the bright night sky, I thought of her and missed her like crazy. And I also kept thinking of her lessons and hoped they were true. I didn’t like thinking of Aiden as an asshole, but then maybe he hadn’t had anyone in his life show him how to love like I had.

“I was beginning to think you’d left.”

I turned to find Aiden across the room standing right in the doorway under a rose garland that probably cost more than my dress. “I thought about it.”

“Why? Aren’t you having a good time?” He walked over and stood next to me.

“I didn’t feel very welcome, considering I’m not rich or famous and I don’t have any blue blood running through my veins or millions in my bank account.”

“Most people here don’t either.” He lifted his shoulder and tilted his head.

“Well, I think it’s mean to invite people just to make fun of them, or to get back at your mother.” I couldn’t believe the tone I’d taken and wanted to pull the words back in as soon as I’d let them out. “I’m sorry, it’s not my business, it’s not you forced anyone to come.”

“And I didn’t invite anyone to make fun of them. I happen to like everyone I invited. They’re my friends. I think you misunderstood me. I don’t care if my mother likes them or not is all I’d meant to say. We don’t see eye to eye on who is worthy of my friendship.”

Relief washed over me. “Oh, I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions, but I’m glad you had the chance to clarify.”

“Me too. I can only imagine what you thought of me.” He let out a long breath and held onto the rail as he leaned forward into it.

“Not much, I’m afraid. Well, that’s not true.” I shrugged, but he got a curious grin on his face.

“So, tell me. What did you think of me?” He gave me a nudge, and I couldn’t help but laugh.”

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