I didn’t believe her, but didn’t want to push for information. We made a few rounds of the room, introducing ourselves and offering a bit of friendly conversation. Some of the party were rather hostile but more were just as polite as we were being.
Quite a few offered me congratulations on landing as many roles as I did, and a few even discreetly told me that I should have been Odette. I had a sneaking suspicion that Vera didn’t exactly have too many friends.
Eventually I bumped into Sutton (quite literally) and Bea disappeared, leaving me to try and think even as his scent wreathed around me.
“You here to see Gus?” I asked finally, using my fan to distract me.
“You could say that.” He replied, smirking.
Vera suddenly appeared, grinning in a very, very low-cut brown dress.
“Katnernina! Raphie!” she said in greeting, before looking at me with mock apology, “I heard you didn’t get the part you wanted, really stinks.”
I raised the fan to my face, glad I had it to hide the scowl on my lips.
“Thanks for being so considerate.” I replied flatly, “And congratulations on your casting.”
To my surprise, Raphael wasn’t even looking at her. His eyes were still meeting mine as he spoke.
“Yes, congratulations indeed. It took a lot of gall for you to do what you did.”
There was a severity in his voice and I watched in amazement as a look of hurt passed over Vera’s features.
“A girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.” She said finally, her arrogance reappearing, “Now, I have to go talk to some important people. Catch you later, Katnernina.”
She stalked off, and I almost felt bad for her. Until I remembered that she had potentially bribed the director into letting her take the role I’d worked my butt off for.
It was safe to say she had that coming.
“Kat!” I heard Bea hiss, running over, “It’s an emergency!”
Midway to us her heel snapped and I winced as she let out a noise of pain.
I ran to her, letting her lean on me as she tried to fix her shoe.
“My foot kills.” She muttered, “Listen, I think my car’s about to be towed. You have to get out there and re-park it!”
She handed me her keys and I nodded, herding her onto a couch before speedwalking to the front exit.
“Don’t just stand there!” Bea said to Sutton, “Go with her!”
He followed me, stunned, and we both emerged into the night air simultaneously. I moved to where Bea’s car was, sighing when I realized it was in no immediate danger.
“She’s just as paranoid as I am.” I explained to Raphael apologetically, turning back to the doors.
To my dismay I found that they had been locked when they closed behind us, and I couldn’t find a doorbell anywhere. I tried knocking, but there was no response.
“There’s a back exit.” Sutton suggested, and I nodded in agreement.
We walked around the villa, and I had to blink in surprise when I got a better look at the pool. It was huge, Olympic sized at least, and I stopped to watch the moonlight dance off of its surface.
“I wonder if it’s chlorinated.” I mused, studying it as best as I could.
“Only one way to find out.” I heard Sutton say, before I felt the floor giving way beneath me and plunged into the water.
I emerged, spluttering, and stared at him.
“You pushed me in!”
He looked like he was trying to hold his laughter back.
“I did not. You tripped.”
When I glared at him long enough he cleared his throat seriously and offered me a hand.
“Thanks,” I started, taking it and then promptly pulling him forward into the pool, “But no thanks.”
Sutton coughed, shaking his hair from his face as he stood up. We were in the shallow end, the water only waist-high.
“That wasn’t very nice.” He commented, his eyes laughing.
“I was just returning the favour, sunshine.”
I splashed him with water to punctuate my point, and only ended up starting a water splashing contest. Raphael hit me with a particularly large wave and I froze, waiting until he looked at me, concerned, before splashing him back.
“That wasn’t very nice either.” He commented, smirking.
His blazer had come off and was floating a few yards away, and I noticed subconsciously that his white button-down shirt was plastered to his skin. My hair had come loose, and I brushed it back out of my face, peeling off my gloves and tossing them onto the deck.
“I’m sorry. Did I take you by surprise?” I asked, smiling mischievously.
Sutton waded over, and it was hard not to lose my train of thought.
“Maybe a little.” He replied, his eyes twinkling in the moonlight.
“Really?” I asked, meeting his gaze, “That must be an accomplishment.”
I could hear some classical music playing in the villa, a song that sounded more like violins than an entire orchestra. The heels I was wearing had brought me closer to his height, almost exactly at his eye level.
We were standing close together. Like we had the day of the raining practice. Maybe even closer.
My brain wasn’t really processing anything. I wasn’t thinking. I couldn’t think.
It took a while for me to realize that he was kissing me. And that I was kissing him back.
All I could process was that I was on fire, and that he was fuelling me on. His arms were around my waist, pulling me to him, and I had lost my fingers in his soft hair.
I felt the warmth of his body against mine, his scent weaving around me like a potent, heady wine. I was beyond conscious thought – my pulse was racing in my ears and I was barely breathing, taking in ragged gasps of cool air whenever we broke apart.
My back hit the edge of the pool, jolting some sense back into me. I pushed Sutton off, breathing heavily.
“What are we doing?” I asked, surprised at how hoarse I sounded.
He had moved on to leaving a trail of fire down my neck, pausing only briefly to answer.
“We’re finding the back exit, obviously.” He replied, in a husky voice.
I blinked in shock, struggling to find words as I felt his lashes brushing against my skin.
“What? But I...thought...this...you-”
Raphael cut me off with a kiss and I felt myself respond to it, even through my confusion. I pulled back, breathless, and stared at him.
He was smiling. Not a smirk, not a shade of a smile, but a real, giddy smile. I noticed just then that he had a dimple in his cheek.
“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that.” He said, making me blush considerably.
We both looked up in amazement as snowflakes fell from the sky, drifting lazily to the ground. Before I knew what was happening I had been lifted off the ground, and had to throw my arms around Raphael’s neck as he carried me out of the pool, my heels trailing against the water’s surface.
I didn’t know what had just happened, but a symphony of emotion was playing in my head.
That and it was actually pretty cold outside.