I clamped down on my jaw, lest it drop open in astonishment.

"Hi," said Seth, looking back and forth between Warren and me. "I didn't mean to interrupt."

"No, no, you aren't," Warren assured him, clicking into public relations mode. "We were just having a quick meeting."

"Not a very important one," I added. Warren gave me a droll look.

"Oh," said Seth, still appearing like he wanted to bolt. "I just came by to see if maybe... you wanted lunch. I... e-mailed you about what happened."

"Yeah, I read it. Thanks."

I smiled at him, hoping to silently communicate that all was forgiven. The worried look on his face was so heart-wrenching that I felt certain his conscience had suffered more than my ego last night.

"Excellent idea," boomed Warren. "Let's all go get some lunch, shall we? Georgina and I can meet again later."

"I can't."

I reminded him about how short-staffed we were and how I was needed for coverage. He scowled when I finished.

"Why haven't we hired anyone?"

"I'm working on it."

Warren ended up just taking Seth out - something the writer seemed highly uneasy about - and I was left alone, feeling abandoned. I would have half liked to hear what else Seth had to say about writing taking over his life. I might have even liked getting laid. Neither was to be. Ah, the injustices of the universe.

I apparently had one karmic favor left, however. Around four, Tammi  - the red-haired girl from Krystal Starz  -  showed up to solve my staffing problem. As suggested, she brought a friend. After a quick interview, I felt satisfied by their competency. I hired them on the spot, pleased to have one task taken off my list.

When the store finally closed later, those few hours of sleep were catching up with me more fiercely. I felt in no mood to teach a dance lesson.

Realizing I needed to change, I closed the office door and shape-shifted my outfit for the second time that day. It felt like cheating, as always. For dancing I selected a sleeveless dress, clingy through the bodice and flowing through the skirt - just right for twirls. Colored in blending hues of peach and orange, I hoped the dress would warm my mood up. I also hoped no one had noticed I hadn't carried a change of clothes in with me this morning.

On the overhead speakers, I heard one of the cashiers make the announcement that the store had closed, just as another knock sounded on my door. I called an entry, wondering if it might be Seth again, but Cody appeared this time.

"Hey," I said, forcing a smile. "Are you ready for this?"

I had taught Cody to swing dance a year or so ago, and he had picked it up remarkably well, probably half due to vampire reflexes. As a result, I had - against his better judgment - recruited him to be my coteacher in these impromptu lessons for the staff. He kept claiming he was no good, but in both lessons so far, he'd proven remarkably efficient.

"What? Dancing? Yeah. No problem."

I glanced around, ascertaining we were alone. "Any more weird occurrences?"

Cody shook his head, blond hair framing it like a lion's mane. "No. It's been pretty quiet. Maybe I was overreacting."

"Better safe than sorry," I advised, feeling like somebody's cliched grandmother. "What are you doing after this?"

"Meeting Peter at a bar downtown. You want to come with us?"

"Sure." We'd all be safer as a group.

The door pushed open, and Seth stuck his head inside. "Hey, I - oh, I'm sorry," he stammered, catching sight of Cody. "I didn't mean to interrupt."

"No, no," I said, waving him inside. "We were just talking." I gave Seth a curious look. "What are you still doing here? Are you staying for the lesson?"

"Er, well I, that is, Warren invited me to... but I don't think I'll actually dance. If that's okay."

"Not dance? What are you going to do then, watch?" I demanded. "Be like a voyeur or something?"

Seth gave me a sage look, appearing for the first time in a while like the guy who had written the comic observations about real estate agents and old girlfriends. The guy I'd once engaged in a stumbling flirtation with.

"I'm not that desperate. Not yet, anyway. But it's really safer if I don't dance. For those around me."

"That's what I used to say until she made me try it," remarked Cody, clapping me on the shoulder. "Just wait until you've been in Georgina's capable hands. You'll never be the same."

Before any of us could acknowledge that suggestive comment, Doug appeared behind Seth, outfitted as his grunge band self rather than assistant manager self.

"Hey, are we getting this party started or what? I came back here today just for this lesson, Kincaid. You better make the trip worth my while. Hey, Cody."

"Hey, Doug."

"Hey, Seth."

"Hey, Doug."

I groaned. "All right. Let's do this."

We left en masse for the cafe, where tables were being moved to give us space. I introduced Cody and Seth along the way. They shook hands briefly, the young vampire looking at me meaningfully when he realized just which Seth this must be.

"You sure you aren't going to dance?" I asked the writer, still puzzled by his obstinacy.

"Nope. Just doesn't feel right."

"Yeah, well, after the shitty day I've had, running this shindig doesn't feel right to me either, but we all endure. Put on the happy face and go, you know?"

Seth looked like he didn't know, only giving me a small, bemused smile. A moment later, that smile dimmed slightly. "You said you got the e-mail... did it... do you..."

"It's fine. Forget about it." His bizarre social habits might not mesh with mine, but I couldn't stand seeing him worry anymore about last night. "Honestly." I patted his arm, gave him my Helen of Troy smile, then turned my attention to the scene upstairs.

Most of the staff who'd worked today milled around, along with a few others who, like Doug, had come back. Warren and his wife waited with them, and so did Roman.

He approached with a smile when he saw me, and I felt a faint wave of lust sweep me, independent of any succubus feeding. As good-looking as ever, he wore black slacks and a teal shirt that gleamed like his eyes.

"Group date, huh?"

"For my safety. I've always found it best to keep a few dozen chaperones on hand."

"You'll need a few dozen more in that dress," he warned in a low voice, those eyes molesting me from head to toe.

I flushed, taking a few steps away from him. "You'll have to wait your turn, like everyone else."

Turning away from him, I inadvertently made eye contact with Seth. He had obviously overheard the brief exchange. My blush deepening, I fled both of them for the center of the floor, Cody in tow.

Putting on the so-called "happy face," I pushed my long day out of my mind and grinned at my coworkers' whoops and cheers. "All right, gang, let's get going. Doug's in kind of a hurry and wants to finish this up as quickly as possible. I understand that's pretty standard for him in a lot of matters - especially romantic ones." This elicited both positive and negative catcalls from the crowd, as well as an obscene gesture from Doug.

I reintroduced Cody, who was less comfortable with the attention than I was, and began sizing up the group. We had more women than men, per usual, and a wide range of skill levels. I split couples up accordingly, putting especially adept women with other women since I felt confident they could dance the male part for this practice and switch effortlessly later. I didn't have such faith in everybody; some of them still struggled to follow a beat.

Consequently, I started the lesson by reviewing from last time, turning on the music and making everyone practice basic steps. Cody and I monitored, making minor adjustments and suggestions. My tension from the long day eased slightly as I worked the crowd. I loved swing dancing, had loved it when it first emerged in the early twentieth century, and had been thrilled when its revival came around recently. I knew it was going out of style again, which was part of the reason I wanted to pass on the knowledge to others.

Not knowing Roman's level of expertise, I'd placed him with Paige, a pretty skilled dancer. After watching them a minute or so, I shook my head and approached.

"You hustler," I chastised. "You acted all nervous about dancing, but in reality, you're a pro."

"I've done it a few times," he admitted modestly, taking her into a turn I hadn't taught them yet.

Tags: Richelle Mead Georgina Kincaid Fantasy
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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