“It must have had something to do with your politics,” Beckham said dryly.
“Oh, boo on you. My politics are perfection and you know it.”
Reyna sighed. She needed to change the conversation away from the two of them so she could get through the rest of the night. “So, is that what you study?”
“Oh yes. Politics. My father thinks it’s important for me follow in his footsteps.”
“I see. So, do you have any ambition of your own?” she quipped.
“Reyna!” Beckham cried.
She just smiled at him, and enjoyed watching Penelope squirm. At least Reyna wouldn’t be the only one.
“I’ve always loved politics, and I believe in what my father is doing,” Penelope said. “He is enacting meaningful change in the city. Something to be proud of. He has programs in place for the hungry and poor. He’s working to get citizens back on their feet. He’s partnered with Visage to decrease the unemployment rate.”
Reyna didn’t know who Penelope was trying to convince with that speech, but Reyna had lived on the streets. She had seen the city streets. Beckham had educated her as well as the rogue vampire who had almost killed her. If Penelope thought she was doing her job, her father was doing his job, then they needed to get out more.
This wasn’t even about Beckham and Penelope at this point. Reyna had actually experienced being poor and hungry, and saying some program was going to fix things was almost insulting.
“That’s a nice speech, but unrealistic,” Reyna said.
“What do you mean? I’ve lived through the administration. I’ve seen the improvements.”
“You call this an improvement?” Reyna asked, shocking even herself in her enthusiasm. “Have you actually seen the streets? Like walked around on them? Seen the people starving and dirty and poor? Seen the streets littered with filth and felt the utter despair? It’s palpable. Has your father—or have you, for that matter—actually done anything to change what’s happening out there or are you just hiding behind your words? Because I’m not sure if you’re aware, but words don’t feed the hungry or help get the poor a job or make the streets livable.”
Penelope gave her a stunned look. Everyone else around them had gone silent at Reyna’s passionate outburst.
“Of…of course we’re working to fix things. Everything doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve set up some very successful initiatives…”
“How exactly are you measuring success? More or less deaths than the day before in your wealthy districts? You probably can’t even count the number of dead in the dregs of the city.”
“I don’t know where you think you’re getting this information from,” Penelope said indignantly, “but the city cares about the poor just as much as the wealthy.”
Reyna laughed. Actually laughed. “The rich always say they care about the poor as they clean up the bodies. Whatever you think you’re doing, Penelope…it isn’t working.”
“Reyna, that’s enough,” Beckham growled.
“It always is when you say it is.”
He full on glared at her, but she didn’t shrink away.
“Will you excuse us?” he spat.
Without waiting to hear what anyone else had to say, he grabbed Reyna roughly by the arm and hauled her across the ballroom. The room quieted down as Harrington got on the small stage and started speaking into a microphone. But she couldn’t hear a word he was saying over the deafening silence between her and Beckham as he dragged her out a side panel of double doors and into a small deserted lounge.
“What the hell was that?” Beckham asked
“You forgot my champagne.”
“Forget the damn champagne. What you said was incredibly out of line.”
“What I said was the damn truth and you know it! You’re the one who showed me the city in the first place. I’m not going to let someone tell me what it’s like out there when they’ve never lived through it.”
“You know absolutely nothing about Penelope.”
Reyna scoffed. “The mayor’s daughter? I know enough. I honestly can’t believe you’re seeing her.”
“She isn’t the person you think she is.”
“I highly doubt that. And if she’s so virtuous, then how come you never mentioned her?”
“I thought you already knew.”
Reyna threw her hands. “How could I possibly know?” She turned away in disgust. “Does she even know we kissed?”
“No. That’s none of her business.”
“It’s none of her business?” she asked in disbelief. “I doubt she would agree. Why didn’t you tell me you were dating someone?”
“What I do in my spare time is my own business.”
“Obviously,” she spat. “You made that perfectly clear. I don’t even know why you brought me here.”
“All of the Permanent Subjects were supposed to be here tonight, to show off how well the program is working to the rest of the company.”
“What a load of shit!” she cried. “You brought me here for work? Did you really want to be here with Penelope? I mean…you’ve made it so fucking obvious to me. I feel like such an idiot. I should have seen it all along. I just wish you would’ve fucking told me. Then I wouldn’t be over here feeling…”