Leon Whitehaven, sometimes called Lee by people who were mostly his friends, could not shake the notion he’d made a mistake. It slithered through the back of his mind leaving a trail over all other matters.
Annoyed he set the goblet down a little too hard and the dark liquid sloshed over the intricate chalk pattern he’d painstakingly outlined. It wasn’t the ritual, that execution was flawless. Each small ribbon of parchment placed along the right line with small goblets of wine placed around the chalk circles. Everything had gone to plan, imbuing a small amulet with the spell and the slightly musky aroma that came with it. The ball tonight would be a fair bit easier to navigate with the charm he’d enacted. The elusive mistake didn’t lie with his newly rediscovered art.
Leon pulled on his coat, hiding the charmed amulet under the stiff cloth. Normally the restrictive, tailored cuts that were in current fashion hampered the dancing one would normally participate in throughout these functions. It was a frustration for the men hoping to sweep ladies off their feet, both on the dance floor and otherwise. Luckily following the trends, at least for a time, would give Leon just another excuse to merely observe the festivities and to muse over the infuriating overlooked mistake.
The carriage ride bore no inspiration and Lee arrived at Lord Beller’s estate as frustrated as he had left his own. Lee slipped off from stream of courtiers entering the through the great hall. The invitation was heavy in his coat pocket but he had need to stay unnoticed for just a bit longer into the night, being fashionably late was just as important as being able to report who wasn’t . He had given up trying to ferret out whatever was niggling the back of his mind, if came back to bite him, he would discover it soon enough.
The side entrances were guarded, armed men charged with keeping the uninvited from the gilded festivities. Lee didn’t bother saying anything to them, he looked like he belonged here and the low-born men let him pass with nothing more than a look between themselves. However, the charm around his neck allowed him to catch the rather uncomplimentary slur they’d whispered once he passed.
Lee allowed the small smile his success garnered to remain as he moved through the halls and into the actual party. Out on the dance floor women twirled while the men stepped to lead them, both parties attempting to breathe in their restrictive wardrobes.
Lee was only able to watch them for a moment before the most unpleasant sensation happened upon him. It was an itch, starting in the middle of shoulder blades. It ran, making him shiver, from there to the nape of his neck and into his dark hair. Someone was watching him.
Lee turned slowly and caught the woman’s eyes. Danae of Aquitaine. The Emir’s –well he still didn’t know what she was to the foreigner. That fact alone bothered him. But she watched him for a moment more, tightness in her jaw and a scowl somewhere behind her light smile. Then she turned away, off to some other pursuit and Lee lost her slender frame amidst the guests.
It was then that Leon Whitehaven realized where he’d made a mistake.
Leon knew everyone superficially, their white lies and their petty squabbles. Lee went to the events, sat through lectures, gossip exchanges and melodramatic rants. He was everyone’s acquaintance, good company and generally looked to for the occasional snide comment but little else. The court liked him because he wasn’t important.
The young lord had made a career out of being entertaining, interesting, knowledgeable, charming and most importantly, above everything else, harmless.
Danae of Aquitaine had looked at him with a shadow of concern over her expression. He had worried someone, become important, and perhaps even threatened her or the Emir. Somewhere within his visits to their estate, his lessons with the vizier or the wit he’d exchanged with Danae, he’d slipped.
Leon was able to maintain his bored smile despite the weight settling like an anchor in his stomach.