Chapter Five -
I step into the hotel’s ballroom with Pam at my side. The dress she showed me at the shop fits her to perfection, but she still seems nervous. Her hand flutters where it rests on my forearm. We stroll across the room like we’re in a Victorian novel. Everything glitters, from the crystal platters holding tiny appetizers to the sparkling dresses nearly every woman wears.
None of them can hold a candle to Pam. She glows from the inside out with her caring heart and generous smile.
The band takes their place on a raised platform opposite the opulently decorated tables draped in white cloths with candles in the center. The battery-operated flames look real, but there’s no way the hotel would allow open flames like this. Especially not with so many flammable skirts swishing around.
I draw Pam into my arms and wink. “Would you like to dance?”
She nibbles on her lip and swallows hard. “Is it necessary?”
“Absolutely.” I manage to keep a straight face. We could get away with a turn around the room to speak to the other benefactors before retiring to a table for the night. But there’s no way I’m giving up my best chance at holding Pam in my arms.
She made the rules clear before we started this charade. I can’t help but hope that things take a more romantic turn.
Mother stalks into the ballroom and makes a beeline for me.
Pam sees, and her button nose scrunches.
I spin her in the opposite direction, shielding her from the death glare. How do women do that? My shoulders tense as I feel Mother’s gaze pierce the back of my neck. She’s a woman on a mission, and even though she won’t dare make a scene in front of all these people, she’s certain to let me have it later.
Pam takes a step back and bumps into another couple. The woman shoots daggers in Pam’s direction. The look changes in a snap when she notices me. A coy smile appears, and she drops her arms away from her partner. “Dalton Jefferies.” She holds out a hand.
We might not be in a historical novel, but this is still a breach of etiquette. I dip my head and paste on a smile. “Apologies for the disruption.” I slide us sideways. “Please don’t let us ruin your dance. You seemed to be having a marvelous time.” I offer my best impression of what an Austen man might sound like.
Pam stifles a giggle in my shoulder and refuses to look at me until we’re well away from the pair.
A waltz begins. Pam tenses in my arms.
“Follow my lead.” I try to encourage her, but she’s focusing on her feet. I place a finger under her chin and lift her head until our eyes meet. “It’s okay.”
We start well as I gently press her shoulder blade toward where she needs to go. But then, out of the blue, Pam’s foot crashes on my toes. “Sorry,” she hisses around a tight smile.
I hide a grimace. “No problem.” I keep my body and voice relaxed. There’s no need to make her feel worse.
Her cheeks flush, and she stiffens again after stomping my toes a second and third time in rapid succession.
People are noticing. Murmurs and quiet laughter drift our way. Pam turns rigid. “I can’t do this.”
She must be nervous or somehow forgot all the moves we practiced. She glances at me, and I can’t read the sudden change in her expression. My heart trips and then speeds up. What if she’s nervous because she feels something for me too?
I haven’t made my feelings crystal clear, but I know she saw how I looked at her in the dress shop. She must know I’m interested.
Maybe if I put the words out there, just tell her outright, it will ease her mind.
Mother catches my eye, and a new thought intrudes. Maybe Pam is simply worried over the looks she’s getting from Mother. Her glare is rather intimidating. Time to jump ship. Abort mission. I imagine a siren blipping in my head and cast a quick look around the room. Dancers have closed in and almost filled the dance floor. Several couples sit at the tables and appear in deep discussion. I recognize many of them from other charities we all support.
Pam manages to step on my toes and elbow me at the same time. I’ve no idea how she pulled that off. Her grunt sounds like exasperation, and she tugs back, trying to leave.
I keep hold of her hand but lead us off the dance floor. Curious stares follow us, but no one interrupts.
“Where are we going?” Pam hurries along beside me. Her dress catches the light and sends glittering sparkles across the floor.
I’m fascinated by the curve of her jaw revealed by her upswept hair. She always wears it down, and seeing it piled in delicate curls does all sorts of things to me. I lead us toward one of the few balconies. Thick drapes hide the doors, but I’ve been here enough to know exactly where to duck between the pleats. I twist the knob and push the glass door open. Warm ocean air teases through my hair and brings a sense of peace.
Pam eases to the edge of the balcony and closes her eyes.
I lift a hand, intending to brush a curl away from her cheek but hesitate. “Are you okay?”
Her shoulders lift, then fall in a hapless shrug. “I’m embarrassing you.” Her sigh catches on the wind, and she turns to face me. “I’m sorry. I thought I’d at least be able to dance without messing up. Instead, I ruined your shoes and probably broke one of your toes.”
“My shoes and toes are fine.” I dare to put my hands on her waist and bring her closer. “I’m not embarrassed. There’s nothing you could do that would bother me.” Without meaning to, I start to sway. I closed the doors behind us, cutting off the music. It’s just us and the sound of the ocean in the distance. The quiet shushing is a melody all its own.
Pam sways along with me and rests her forehead on my shoulder.
“Why don’t we practice a bit out here? Get your confidence up. Then, when you’re ready, we’ll go back inside.” I don’t want to go back inside. I want to stand here and dance with her all night. It’s impossible. But I want it anyway.
Pam shifts closer, and her hands lock behind my back. Mine stay on her hips, and we barely move our feet as Nantucket pours out its magic and draws us together.
I hum a tuneless melody that matches the crashing waves and risk sliding my hands up her back. I tug one of the curls and wrap it around my finger.
Pam looks up. Moonlight sparkles in her eyes, and I know then I’m not falling. I’m already gone. I lower my lips to hers, giving her time to stop me. If this isn’t what she wants, she needs to tell me.
Our lips meet, and she melts in my embrace. This is what I’ve been missing. I cup the back of her neck and think of nothing but Pam. I could spend the rest of my life right here with her and never regret a second.
Pam breaks the kiss with a gasp and covers her mouth with the back of her hand. “Was that practice too?”
I tug the curl again. “Yes, it was. And we should practice more. Don’t you think?”
Her answer comes not in words but with her lips touching mine, and the world disappears around us. This balcony, this kiss, it’s all that matters. We’ll work everything else out. That’s what I’m good at. I take problems, and I churn out solutions. Pam and Rex are not a problem. I will need to consider the logistics of our relationship, but Pam is worth it.