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The last note of the violins faded into the idle chatter of what were surely hundreds of guests, signaling the end of the last dance before the midnight supper. Alexander Norton quickened his step and weaved through the crowd. He tipped his chin up and stretched his spine, trying but failing to see over the clusters of people in front of him. Had all of London arrived while he had been in the card room? The press of bodies certainly contradicted the notion that a fair amount of the ton spent the Christmas Season in the country.
He sidestepped around an elderly matron and then came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the parquet dance floor. He did not need to cast even the most cursory of glances over the couples. His gaze somehow knew exactly where to go, landing with unerring accuracy on the most handsome man to ever grace a ball.
His pulse simultaneously settled and picked up a gait. He didn't know how it could be possible, but that was how it felt whenever he looked upon Thomas Bennett. A distinct sense of calm mixed with a brilliant spark of true, pure need. A spark that held so much more than mere empty lust or infatuation.
With a tip of his chestnut-brown head, Thomas executed a smart bow, bringing the lady's white-gloved hand up while not coming close to the vicinity of his lips. His mouth moved, but given the din of voices and the distance of more than a few paces, Alexander could not make out his words. Likely a thank you for the dance.
So polite and well-mannered. A smile curved Alexander's lips as pride swelled within him. And he's mine. Taller than most every other gentleman in the room and with a strength to his frame that belied his nineteen years, Thomas was not only handsome but a dutiful young man who understood his function at such affairs. The type mothers coveted to partner their unmarried daughters. Not that they ignored Alexander. He had been on that floor twice since arriving a couple of hours ago with Thomas. His family's fortune alone made him a suitable candidate, never mind that his uncle was an earl. But when given the choice, the ladies always chose Thomas over himself.
He did not blame them in the slightest. He was of the same age as Thomas and they were both from good solid families, but the similarities ended there. At barely five-feet-seven and with features that more than approached feminine, he wasn't the sort ladies swooned over. No bother, though. It wasn't their attention he sought.
The girl gave Thomas a curtsey. He placed her hand on his arm and escorted her across the dance floor.
Alexander turned on his heel and plunged back into the crowd. As if drawn by an invisible cord, he made his way around the room, toward the direction Thomas had gone with the girl, and was only held up once. Couldn't very well pretend as if the elbow he clipped with his own did not belong to his aunt. He extended his apologies, answered her inquiries about Oxfordthough he did not elaborate on why exactly he enjoyed his studies so immenselyand offered his own inquiries into the health of his uncle. Thankfully she spotted an acquaintance, saving him from a detailed description of his uncle's gout-ridden foot, and bid him good evening before his impatience could show itself.