Why can’t I breathe, Lisbeth reflected dimly to herself as she stepped into the ballroom. No, it wasn’t a question she was asking herself because her dress was impossibly tight around her middle. The song by Liz Phair was playing in the background, and as she scanned the room, she saw a vast variety of couples dancing to it. She loved this song.
“What a gay song,” she heard Jack remark. She huffed something under her breath and turned to him so he could see her roll her eyes. He grinned wolfishly at her and clasped her arm tighter in his.
Sometimes, she was embarrassed to be around him.
And sometimes… on those rare occasions when he was so wonderful she couldn’t help but love him… she couldn’t keep away.
Although he hated the song, Jack whisked her onto the dance floor, wrapped his arms around her, and moved to the music. Lisbeth smiled to herself. Who said drunk bastards couldn’t be charming?
As the song ended, he pulled her over to the punch table, arms possessively around her waist, and smiled as he took one for himself and handed one to her.
“You do realize this punch isn’t alcoholic?” Lisbeth inquired.
“Oh, yeah, right. You told me to stay sober tonight, so I am.” Jack said as though it were no big deal. But to Lisbeth, it was. She beamed at him so widely he couldn’t help but to smile back, and then she gave him a quick kiss.
She was momentarily distracted by her friend, who came over to talk to her about something that happened at school. Jack couldn’t be bothered, hardly ever attending school himself anyway. So, he quickly reached into his pocket and pulled out his own private flask of rum, emptied it into his punch cup, and stowed it away. Lisbeth turned just as he was adjusting his coat. He smiled, gestured towards the dance floor with a raised eyebrow as if to say, ‘Would you like to dance?’ She nodded and took his hand.
He took a swig of his newly adjusted punch, and then placed it on the punch table with a warning look to the girl who was serving. “Don’t let anyone else touch this cup,” he growled. Then, he wrapped his arms once again around his girlfriend, and led her away.
Right as they were settling into the rhythm, Lisbeth froze suddenly. “Oh my god,” she mouthed, pushing Jack away to run over to where her new friend Sydney had been standing. Sydney had collapsed on the floor, suddenly. Lisbeth’s blood ran cold in fear and shock.
“She must have had a peanut butter cookie, Syd is deathly allergic to peanuts,” some petit blond girl was just saying as she approached.
Oh no! “I’m calling an ambulance!” Lisbeth said urgently. They all nodded at her. Someone grabbed her arm, however, just as she flipped open her cell phone to dial 911.
“What are you doing?” Jack hissed.
“She’s hurt, look at her!” Lisbeth exclaimed.
“Why do you care? Other people will take care of it, let’s go dance.” He started to lead her back to the dance floor, eyes glinting dangerously, daring her to oppose him. The way he was facing her, and the way the draft from the open windows was hitting her face, she caught a faint whiff of something distinctly strong and bitter. She wrenched her hand away.
“You’re drunk,” she accused. Instead of denying, Jack just shrugged. Lisbeth’s eyes filled with tears. “Go away,” she demanded. She turned away, finishing her call with the ambulance.
She was further surprised when Jack didn’t do anything further to get her to do what he wanted. He had sauntered away, towards the corner of the room where she spotted some guys from his gang. She shuddered.
She stayed with Sydney until the ambulance came to pick her up. Then she wiped her eyes quickly, and went to find her coat. She wanted out of this party.
“May I have this dance?”
The question was asked in a low, shy voice. One that she instantly recognized, and that made her breath catch in her throat. Why can’t I breathe whenever I think about you, she wondered to herself, turning with a grin.
Will stood there, in a gray suit that matched her silver dress almost impeccably, his hand outstretched. “Well?” he asked.
She gingerly took his hand and felt it clench gently around hers. “I would lo- like to. Very much.” She murmured back.
They were silent the rest of the night, dancing every dance together, not needing or wanting to say anything to break the spell that they had woven together, just by being this close to one another. His gentle caress made her reflect on whether bad boys really were her style. Maybe gentleness was more powerful than roughness. Maybe…
The only two guys she had ever felt anything for were both forbidden by her father. But for now, she could pretend, couldn’t she?
What Lisbeth didn’t know, however, was that as she was dancing with Will, she was being watched by a pair of dark eyes from the other side of the room. A sneer crept on the face of her observer as he began to plot against the boy who dared to touch his girlfriend.
Yes, Jack Keegan was a bastard, but no one could deny that he took good care of his property.