Getting the girls ready for the ball at the Grimmesey’s mansion took long enough that Matt and I had to rush getting ourselves ready so we could get there before things were in full swing. Janice wasn’t back yet, but expected to arrive either during the ball or shortly after it. Izzy and Rosie were wearing Matt and I out so bad that I had no idea how families that normally only had two parents managed.
The ball had already started when we got there, but things were still pretty calm, and we weren’t quite the last people to show. I greeted Leoni with a hug and kiss and then headed straight for the refreshments. We’d eaten at home, of course, but it’d been so rushed that I hadn’t gotten enough. After a few saenead, Courtney and Marcello came over. I was just about to greet them when Courtney said, in tones of long-suffering despair, “It’s called a kilt. Richie insists it’s not a skirt; it’s an ‘unbifurcated male garment’. I think he just doesn’t want to admit he’s wearing a skirt.”
I stuck my tongue out at my darling little sister while I carefully didn’t think about how I wanted to respond to her while I thought about how to respond to her. Errr . . . it’s a telepath thing that this language kind of sucks for describing. Basically, the part of my mind she could read I kept carefully blank while I reviewed my options for what to say to her with another part. That’s not quite right, but it’s close enough to give you a decent idea.
It didn’t matter though. Before I got any words out of my mouth a familiar voice with the slightest hint of a Ruvellian accent said from behind me, “Richie, are you behaving?”
I spun around and wrapped my arms around my wife, pulling her tight for a passionate kiss. I’d been thinking so hard about what to say and concentrating so hard on keeping Courtney from knowing what I was thinking that I’d completely not noticed Jan coming up behind me. “Janice! I missed you, babe. Didn’t expect to see you here tonight,” I said once I managed to break the kiss.
A smile lit up that beautiful face I’ve so long been enamored with. “I decided to come straight to the ball once I got back. It seemed like a better idea than going to bed early. I trust you know where the girls are?”
“Approximately.” If I’d been a stronger telepath I probably could’ve pinpointed them in a much bigger crowd, but as weak as my telepathy is the best I could do was tell they were still happy and pretty close by. “Matt was dancing with them both a bit ago, and as far as I can tell they’re still on or near the dance floor. Just look for a group of people laughing and Izzy’s probably at the center of it.”
Janice laughed. “True. Just like her daddy she has to be the center of attention all the time.”
“Rosie’s dancing with Daddy Rur, and Izzy’s dancing with Kaelee and Dejah,” Courtney said. Through some weird quirk of genetics, she was a better telepath than our biofather even, but totally not empathic. “And you are drooling,” she added, looking pointedly at Marcello.
He wasn’t quite drooling, but I wouldn’t have blamed him if he had been. Janice is always gorgeous; she can’t help it. The spirits/gods/ancestors/whatever blessed her with loose blonde curls that she wore long and barely tamed, small but perfectly shaped breasts, a tiny waist, and an ass that was sure to get your attention if the rest of her somehow didn’t. Add to this green eyes and a beautiful smile on an equally beautiful face, and it was no wonder half the people I knew who were attracted to women would’ve gladly traded places with me and Matt. That night, she made what she usually looks like seem downright ordinary and boring. Her gown was pretty simple, light purple and flowy with glitter on the top of the bodice but no other decoration, but the way it fit her and the way it moved when she did made her go from merely gorgeous to breathtakingly incredible. “You are amazing looking tonight,” I whispered.
Now you’re drooling, Courtney thought irritably, putting some extra “volume” behind it so I’d be sure to hear it.
Go dance with your boyfriend, brat, I thought back at her.
“He is not my boyfriend!” she said grumpily.
Janice smoothly defused the situation by taking Marcello’s hand, bowing, and saying, “Janice Esmeralda Fine. You must be the boy Richie told me about, the one Lance took in.”
I felt a flash of embarrassment from him, and started to lead Jan away to dance before the kid could start feeling too awkward.
“You’re the one who digs up dead people for a living?” he asked, looking and sounding a bit nervous. I nearly choked on the drink I took as I tried desperately not to laugh.
Janice sighed deeply and glared at me. I put on my most innocent smile. “Not quite. I study dead people and especially what they’ve left behind for a living so as to gain a greater understanding of past cultures.”
“Still sounds creepy,” the boy said.
“It’s not. It’s really fascinating.” I could tell she was about to launch into her usual explanation of how archaeology is not creepy in the slightest and is in fact one of the most useful scientific disciplines ever and decided to save the kid, and myself, from it.
“It is a bit creepy,” I mock whispered to him before saying, in a more normal volume, “and your date seems to have wandered off.”
The kid blushed a bit as he said, “She’s not my date!” He and Courtney were protesting this so much that they must’ve been attracted to each other. It was cute.
Janice smacked me lightly in the head and told me to behave. I laughed and hugged her tightly again. It was great to have her back. One of the worst things about both of our jobs is how much time we spend apart. A fast tempo song started, and I turned to my wife, bowed deeply and said, faking the most high class Ruvellian accent I could manage — I couldn’t quite get Quinn’s, but I could at least get something pretty close — “Would you care to have this dance, bellmarevé?”
She smiled as she said, “Of course, bellmaraçé.”