Meet you in the foyer. I have news.
Good I hope? See you there.
The crowd had grown exponentially in the time she had been gone. A few faces lit up when they saw her heading in their direction, but they turned dark as she pushed past without taking the dirty plates and used glasses they offered to her. It wasn’t her fault the hosts didn’t hire enough catering staff, even if she did accidentally crash the party dressed like a server.
She reached the foyer, slowing her speed so she wouldn’t slide on the polished marble floor. Luke stood near the imposing double doors that led to the front drive and the valet station outside. He smiled, and the bands holding her lungs captive since she first overheard Cinco started to relax.
“Excuse me.” Danica felt a hard tap on her shoulder. “You need to take this.”
Danica turned her head to see the server who had scowled at her earlier. She held out a tray laden with empty champagne flutes, dirty dishes and crumbled napkins.
“Sorry,” Danica said over her shoulder, picking up her pace again. “I’m not—”
The server followed behind her. “I have to be at the bar station. Your hands are free.”
“I—you don’t understand. I’m here as a—”
“I have to go, now. Here.” The server thrust the tray at Danica.
The tray left the server’s hands. Danica lunged to catch it. Her thin-soled shoes slid, slipping on the smooth floor. Her feet flew out from underneath her. The last thing she saw before hitting the ground was the server’s horrified face, her mouth in a perfect O.
Danica belly flopped on the marble floor. The impact knocked all her senses off-line. Black fog mired her thoughts. She concentrated on her breathing, thankful her heart beat by itself. Bells rang in the distance.
She wriggled her fingers to see if they worked. Good. Then she moved her left hand. A shard of glass sliced into her palm.
The sudden pain shocked her into full awareness. Her gaze swam back into focus, and she realized the bells were her ears ringing from the tray and its contents clattering down around her. She inhaled deeply. Then she wished she hadn’t. It smelled like a liquor store had exploded around her.
“Danica!” Luke knelt beside her. Evan and Grayson stood behind him. She struggled to sit up.
“Wait,” Luke warned. “Look at me. Did you hit your head?”
She stared into his gaze. His eyes were the color of the Pacific Ocean right before a thunderstorm. He was angry. And upset. For her? Or for the scene she’d caused?
“I’m fine.” She broke the intense contact, giving Evan her uninjured hand so he could pull her upright.
Guests and members of the catering staff crowded into the space. The server stood nearby, wringing her hands. Danica shook her head at her, to indicate it wasn’t her fault, and instantly wished she hadn’t. Voices echoed off the surrounding marble, adding to her disorientation.
“I’m sorry—” she started to say to Luke, but her lips—her whole body—started to shake despite every effort to stop it.
He grabbed her hurt hand and examined it. “You’re bleeding.”
“It’s just a scratch.” She kept her gaze focused on his shoulder. The foyer was starting to tilt and the last thing she wanted to do was fall again.
“You need a doctor.” He handed her the pocket square from his tuxedo jacket to press against her palm, and then threw an arm over her shoulder. It was comforting and solid, and she sank into his side. “We’re leaving.”
“But the auction—”
“Don’t worry about the auction,” Grayson said from her other side. “I’ll make sure all the money gets to the charity.”
Danica started to thank him, but the heavy wooden doors had opened and she was standing in the cool evening air before she knew it. The valet had Luke’s car ready and Luke opened the passenger door, guiding her in.
She slid onto the smooth leather seat and buckled in, careful to keep her injured palm from touching anything, and closed her eyes to stop the last of the spinning. The car accelerated and she opened them to see Luke, his expression grim in the glow of the car’s display.