Chapter 29

Asking someone to dance had been surprisingly easy. Whether it was the alcohol or the adrenaline Camille was uncertain, but the whole event had flown by in a series of pointed looks and a single question which yielded an immediate response. Initiating the dance had been easy; it was actually completing the act that was proving difficult.

The first hurdle was the height difference, which had her reasonably tall partner slouching as gracefully as he could to somewhat close the gap between them. The second was the dance-style itself. Camille did have rhythm and grace; her mother had forced her to take ballet as one of many ultimately failed attempts at getting her to open up socially. What she didn’t have was any practice two-stepping. Even that hurdle might have been surmountable if not for the fact that her partner had no experience either, and unlike her he lacked both inborn talent and training. The combined result of these issues was a duet of blundering across the dance floor and trying in vain to avoid running into other dancers.

None of this helped Camille’s growing sense of embarrassment, nor did the sight of Vince watching from their table. She loathed every minute of this, however, she refused to yield. If she ran away from this moment, who knew when she might gather up the courage to try again.

“Do you go to Lander?”

The voice took her so much by surprise that she nearly tripped on her next step, recovering only thanks to reflexes honed by years of training. After a moment she realized the question had come from her dance partner who was looking down at her quizzically, clearly awaiting a response. Inwardly she cursed the fact that this place kept the music low enough to allow conversation, dearly wishing she could feign not hearing and continue their bumbling silence.

“Yes,” she said eventually, more to get him to focus on dancing and stop staring than anything else.

“Me too! I’m a Communications major. My name is Ross.”

“Camille,” Camille replied softly. Despite her love of not talking, etiquette compelled her to respond.

“What’s your major, Camille?”

For the barest of moments she almost blurted out that she was in the HCP, but at the last moment she remembered the major written on her transcript and kept her secret preserved.


“Nice, you want to be a doctor or something?”

“Or something. I haven’t really picked a field yet.”

“Not me, I’m going to be a television reporter and work my way up to anchor,” Ross informed her, flashing a cheesy grin that likely would have looked in place on a man with tightly gelled hair sitting behind a news desk.”

At that moment several other couples danced by, forcing them to maneuver and cutting the conversation short. Camille breathed a momentary sigh of relief, the fleeting hope that the interruption of verbal momentum would finish off their talk. That hope was quickly extinguished once the last of the dancers went by.

“So, Camille, what year are you?”

“Junior,” she said, slightly louder than usual because the only thing worse than talking was having to repeat herself.

“Get out of town. I’m a senior myself, though I’d have pegged you as a sophomore.”

“Thank you?”

“Sorry, didn’t mean that in an unkind way. Heck most women I know are always fretting about looking older than they are, so I guess I meant it as a compliment.”

“I appreciate it,” Camille said. As she spoke, the song finally came to an end and a slower one began to play. Ross showed no signs of letting go, but she took a few steps back and broke their embrace. Three regular songs had pushed her limits; a slow one was well beyond what she could currently handle.

“Thank you for the dance,” she said hurriedly, then rushed off the dance floor and back to her table. Only after arriving did she remember that he would be sitting only a few feet away, but there was nothing she could do about it without making everyone move, an act which would be unnecessarily hurtful.

“Hey there,” Vince said as she sat down. “How was your dance?”

“Lovely,” Camille lied. It wasn’t untrue that the music had been nice and her company had been cordial, merely that it had been terrible because of her own shyness. That, and the fact that Ross, while sweet, wasn’t Vince.

“Are you still feeling okay?” Mary asked.

It took Camille a minute to remember that she’d been moving toward drunkenness before she left. The indications she’d been seeing were suppressed by the tremendous amount of fear induced adrenaline surging through her veins while on the dance floor. As she sat still and her heart rate slowed, she did notice a light sensation of relaxation beginning to fill her head.

“I think I’m okay,” Camille said. “Probably best that I stopped when I did.”

“No kidding,” Vince said. “The last thing you want to do is pull a me at Thomas’s party and get sick. Thank goodness I had you there to help.” At those words he patted her shoulder, and the mellow calm in Camille’s head took a noticeable turn toward her usual embarrassment. Somewhere along the way it got lost though, and no creeping blush ran across her cheeks. That was strange. She wondered if perhaps she was underestimating the impact of Alice’s shots, then dismissed the worry. It was hard to stay worried about anything, at the moment.

 *              *              *

“Those two are strange, don’t you think,” Roy said, busting several now empty boxes and jamming them to the back of the bar until they could be disposed of.

“What two?” Chad asked.

“Camille and Vince. That girl couldn’t be any more into him without literally burrowing into his chest, and he seems to be giving her some glances too.”

“Attraction is not strange among two people of similar personalities and attractiveness,” Chad said.

“No, I mean it’s strange that they like each other, yet neither seems to be making a move. It seems like if you want something, you should go after it, don’t you agree?” Roy knew he was sticking his nose in where it didn’t belong, and that his advice was unlikely to yield results, but all the same he couldn’t help himself. He liked Chad, and obviously Angela did too, in a much different way. There probably weren’t many women who would look past his weird detached mental state, it seemed a shame for him to miss his shot with a hottie that clearly fit that criteria.

“Sometimes things are more complicated than mere desire,” Chad replied.

“People say that, but in my experience all those complications are usually just people making excuses because they’re afraid. They might be scared of different things: commitment, rejection, betrayal, but in the end it just means they’re always too afraid to swing at a ball they want to hit.”

“She’s my best friend’s sister,” Chad pointed out.

“Seems like it would be really easy to bring it up with him then,” Roy countered. “All I’m saying is this: At the end of their lives, I don’t imagine many people lay in their deathbeds and say ‘Damn, I wish I had gone for less things I genuinely wanted.’ Just think about it.”

Chad gave a non-committal nod, which Roy chose to interpret as agreement, then went back to work.