dissatisfied with their lives. They wanted an exotic experience with a mysterious man, and no one did mysterious better than Sean.
John Jaslow, the host, smiled at Rue, and she took his hand and led him to the dance floor. He was a pleasant, balding man, who didnât seem to want anything but a dance.
Men were much easier to please, Rue thought cynically. Most men were happy if you smiled, appeared to enjoy dancing with them, flirted very mildly. Every now and then, she danced with one who was under the impression she was for sale. But sheâd met hundreds of men like that while she was going through the pageant circuit, and she was experienced in handling them, though her distaste never ebbed. With a smile and a soothing phrase, she was usually able to divert them and send them away pacified.
Rue and John Jaslow were dancing next to Megan and her partner, whoâd introduced himself as Charles Brody. Brody was a big man in his fifties. From the moment heâd taken Meganâs hand, heâd been insinuating loudly that he would be delighted if she went to a hotel with him after the party.
âAfter all, you work for Sylvia Dayton, right?â Brody asked. His hand was stroking Meganâs ribs, not resting on them. Rue looked up at her partner anxiously. John Jaslow looked concerned, but he wasnât ready to intervene.
âI work for Blue Moon, not Black Moon,â Megan said, quietly but emphatically.
âAnd youâre saying you just go home after one of these affairs, put on your jammies and go to bed by yourself?â
âMr. Brody, thatâs exactly what Iâm saying,â Megan said.
He was quiet for a moment, and Rue and Mr. Jaslow gave each other relieved smiles.
âThen Iâll find another woman to dance with, one whoâll give a little,â Brody said. Abruptly, he let go of Megan, but before he turned to stalk off the terrace, he gave the small dancer a hard shove.
The push was so unexpected, so vicious, that Megan didnât have time to catch herself. She was staggering backward and couldnât catch her balance. Moving faster than sheâd thought she was able to move, Rue got behind Megan in time to keep her from hitting the ground.
In a second, Megan was back on her feet, and Mr. Jaslow and Sean were there.
The gasp that had arisen from the few people whoâd watched the little episode with Brody gave way to a smattering of applause as Megan and bald Mr. Jaslow glided across the terrace in a graceful swoop.
âSmile,â Rue said. Sean had gotten everything right but that. As he two-stepped away with her, his lips were stiff with fury.
âIf this were a hundred years ago, Iâd kill him,â Sean said.
He smiled then, and it wasnât a nice smile. She saw his fangs.
She should have been horrified.
She should have been scandalized.
She should have been mortified.
âYouâre so sweet,â she murmured, as she had to a thousand people during her life. This time, she meant it. Though Sean had defused the situation, she had no doubt he would rather have punched Brody, and she liked both reactions.
In five more minutes, their hour was up, and the six dancers eased themselves out of the throng of party guests. Wearily, they folded and bagged the costumes for cleaning and pulled on their street clothes. They were just too tired to be modest. Rue saw a pretty butterfly tattoo on Meganâs bottom, and learned that Thompson had an appendectomy scar. But there was nothing salacious about knowing one another like this; they were comrades. Something about this evening had bonded them as no other event ever had.
It had been years since Rue had had friends.
Denny was waiting at the side entrance. The van doors were open, and when Rue scrambled into the back seat, Sean climbed in after her. There was a moment when all the others stared at Sean in surprise, since he always sat in front with Denny, then Megan climbed in after