Then, she had another seamless transition into me.
“My fiancé here is the foremost programmer of GPS software in the States,” she said.
“Oh, really? What coding programs do you use?” Byron asked.
And off we went into a conversation that ended in yet another connection for my little black book of success.
She worked the entire room that way as we made our rounds. I found out she spoke not only French, but German and Italian as well. And she didn’t simply play piano; she also played cello. I was amazed by her, stunned by her abilities, especially with her profession. We walked around the room, and our bodies cozied up together, so close I could smell her tame perfume.
Then, we came upon someone I never wanted to see again. Someone that made anger bubble in my gut and my body tense.
“Phillip? Are you all right?” Elizabeth asked.
But I couldn’t take my eyes off him.
There, across the room, was the one man that had tried to ruin me. The one man that had no shame in the things he stole from me. Him. The boy I had grown up with. The man I had considered my best friend until my sophomore year of college.
“Phillip? You’re worrying me,” Elizabeth said.
There, across the room, smiling and schmoozing the head of the Royal Navy, was Sam.
I felt Phillip tense beside me, and I looked over at him. His eyes were trained like a hound, and his nostrils flared with his breaths. Something was wrong. After the evening we were having, that meant something was really wrong. Things had been going well, and his icy smile had quickly morphed into one of genuine pleasure. I followed his eyesight and pierced the crowd, trying to figure out what had stopped him in his tracks.
Then, I saw it.
A man approaching us.
He was tall, but not as tall as Phillip. Just under six feet, if I had to venture a guess. He was an attractive man, but completely the opposite of Phillip: dark, brooding brown eyes, thick jet-black hair, tanned skin that made it seem as if all he did was stand in the sun and sip cocktails. He walked with a swagger that was cocky instead of confident, and that had always been a turn-off for me. Men who walked with confidence didn’t feel the need to shove it in others’ faces like this man apparently felt the need to.
I cased him over with my eyes before I tightened my arm around Phillip’s, signaling that I was on his side no matter who this was.
“Phillip Chambers. It’s good to see you again.”
“Wish I could say the same, Sam.”
“And who is this beautiful enchantress on your arm?” Sam asked.
Phillip looked over at me before he slid his arm from mine. I tried to throw him a calm smile, but his face was etched with a mixture of anger and apathy. He turned on his heels and walked away, and my eyes widened with every step he took away from me.
Where in the world was he going? Did he expect me to follow him? Surely he did. But he had slid his arm away from mine like he didn’t want me to follow him. Was I supposed to entertain this man? Charm him like the rest?
I was floundering, and Sam’s chuckle didn’t make me feel any better.
Turning, I put on my best smile, just in case I was supposed to keep him entertained until Phillip returned.
“Elizabeth,” I said.
“No last name, Miss Elizabeth?”
“I prefer first names to last names. They’re more personal that way.”
“So, how do you know Phil?”
Phil. So the two of them were friendly. Or they were at one point, at least.
“I’m his fiancée,” I said.
“Fiancée. I had absolutely no idea Phil was engaged.”
“It’s a fairly recent development.”
“I didn’t even know he was dating. He sort of has a reputation for staying away from women.”
“Because he’s been with me.”
“I suppose so,” he said.
His eyes grazed down my form, and I felt uncomfortable for the first time on this entire trip. My head turned on a swivel as I scanned the room for Phillip. Where the hell had that man gone?
“How do you know Phillip? I haven’t heard him talk about you,” I said.
“That’s odd, since I’ve known him for so long. I’m an old friend,” Sam said.