Lily came out of the kitchen with another tray of ghoulish cupcakes, dodging the two Dracula wannabes who tried to snatch a few as she passed through the crowd. Laughing, she said over her shoulder, “Could one of you Vlads make yourself useful and help Katy? She’s got a load of bottles to refill the punch bowl.”
The two turned toward the kitchen, but a handsome pirate, head wrapped in a black bandanna, wearing an equally black eye patch and a bright gold hoop in his left ear, pulled a long, curved blade from the scabbard at his waist and barred the way forward. “Hold, mates. I’ll be takin’ care o’ the lassie.”
Protesting, one Dracula began to push the sword out of his way but it stayed flat and firm against his midsection. Lily watched the exchange, saw the pirate lean forward and whisper something in the space between the two men. Whatever was said, it was effective. The Draculas turned as one and brushed past Lily, eyes wide with alarm.
Frowning, she watched them go, then turned to speak to the pirate, but he was gone, the kitchen door swinging closed behind a flash of black. Lily stepped toward the kitchen, then remembered the cupcakes. Heading for the counter by the front door where all the candies and sweets had been arranged, she glanced across the room to the tables along the far wall where the buffet was set up, two very large punch bowls on either end. Lily stacked cupcakes on the tiered display, certain she knew the identity of the pirate. It appeared he’d said something to upset two of her guests, but having been on edge since the strange dream, maybe she was just reading too much into a harmless situation.
When the tiers were full, Lily walked through the crowd, smiling, chatting, diverted for a few minutes by the partygoers and their inventive costumes. Working her way to the buffet tables, she took note of what needed replenishing, amazed how fast the food and drink were disappearing. It seemed like all she had done so far tonight was run between the kitchen, the buffet and the counter of sweets. The price of being hostess, she thought, making her way around the outskirts of the room toward the kitchen. What was taking Katy so long to refill the punch bowls? As if conjured by the magic of her name, Katy backed out the swinging door, a large container of soda in each hand, then held it open with her hip to allow the pirate to come through with the rest of the bottles.
Ah. Judging by the look on Katy’s face, this was indeed Dominic. Lily stopped, leaning against the banister to observe the interplay between the two while they were still unaware of her. Katy looked like a tiny doll next to the large, muscular pirate, the picture enhanced by her Little Red Riding Hood costume. A thought came unbidden into her mind that Dominic would have made a better werewolf than a pirate: his eyes seemed to devour Katy with a wolfish, hungry intensity. Lily couldn’t stop the shiver that ran down her spine.
As the couple came toward the staircase, Katy spotted her and dashed forward, her energy and excitement palpable even through the noisy, boisterous party atmosphere. “He’s here! He truly came! I know he said he would, but then it was getting late and I thought maybe he wasn’t going to show, but then—”
Trying to wipe the unease off her face, Lily bent to whisper, “Katy, take a breath.” She didn’t want this man’s ego inflated more than it probably was, though looking over her friend’s shoulder, making eye contact with the pirate, she saw the amusement in his eyes, the slight smile, and knew that ship had sailed. He already knew Katy was his for the taking. Oddly, he also seemed to be assessing her, Lily, as if looking for something, searching for…what? If it was approval, that wouldn’t be happening any time soon.
Straightening, Lily faced him, knowing she wasn’t being very polite, or friendly. She had listened to Katy for days now, going on and on about this guy, this elusive and mysterious guy, and suddenly she wasn’t pleased about this whole thing. At all. He was definitely a player, no question. But just who was he really, and what did he want with her best friend?
Katy looked from Lily’s unsmiling face to Dominic’s mischievous grin, not sure what was going on, her exuberance dimming as she tried to grasp the undercurrents swirling around the three of them.
Dominic broke the awkward moment. “Let’s mix up this Devil’s Brew first, Katy love, then you can formally introduce me.” Dominic’s voice was low, deep and almost mesmerizing. Katy smiled happily and led the way toward the buffet tables. As Dominic followed, he glanced at Lily, grinning wide as he passed.
Lily stared after him. Oh this was so not good. Not good at all.