Any other time the music would have lifted her spirits. The animated conversations going on about
her would have been fascinating. But tonight the champagne seemed less bubbly, the air stuffier.
Dominique wondered why she had agreed to come to the party with Joel. He certainly didn’t seem
interested in remaining by her side for any given length of time. Why had he even bothered asking her?
It had been nearly two weeks between Joel’s inebriated appearance at her home and his recent
invitation to go out. And that only through a written missive asking Dominique to accompany him to a
party that weekend. His servant had waited for Dominique’s reply as instructed.
The night finally arrived and Joel showed up at the appointed time. Though courteous and friendly
enough, he didn’t seem quite himself. Dominique assumed Joel was embarrassed at their previous
encounter, so she didn’t bring up the subject. It was over and done with, and Dominique simply wanted
to enjoy an evening out with Joel as friends. He always knew how to make her feel better.
As the evening progressed, however, Joel grew a bit churlish, which was highly unlike him. He took
any opportunity to leave Dominique’s side, although to Joel’s credit he was never gone overly long. His
attitude could mean only one thing, and that was his disappointment in stumbling upon her and Derek
together. Allison’s words must have planted a seed of doubt in his head, and it hurt Dominique to think
Joel thought less of her because of that hateful shrew.
During one of Joel’s absences, Dominique chatted with the usual bunch of young men that tended
to attach themselves to her side whenever she was alone. But after several minutes she excused herself
to go powder her nose. Instead of going to the ladies’ room, however, she went in search of Joel. There
was no point in remaining at the party any longer, and Dominique planned to ask Joel to take her home.
She kept her steps casual as she looked about for her date, not wishing to appear rattled to anyone that
might be watching.
She forced a smile to anyone passing by, amazed at how adept she’d become at looking so
splendidly happy when inside she felt bereft. She still ached for Derek. Every day she hoped that
perhaps he might visit her––preposterous thought that––or that he might send a note asking of her
welfare. Any sign that he might give the slightest damn about her. But day after day passed with no
word from Derek. Dominique could only assume that his words of affection and implied feelings of love
had only been spoken during a moment of weakness or drunkenness, whichever the case might be.
Dominique would never be forward enough to just appear at his home and question his intentions
toward her. Derek’s intentions, if in fact he had any, were nothing more than they had been the first
night she’d ever met him. To bed her and be done with her until the next time the urge struck. Now that
Derek and Allison were finished, he was no doubt plying uncountable other females with his amorous
talents. Of course he wouldn’t spare Dominique another thought. He was probably too busy gracing the
same women he’d cursed for who he was, with the momentary attentions of a practiced lover. They