Banners of each of the five great societies flutter overhead and lanterns cast a soft, warm glow across the dance floor, illuminating the hundreds of twirling couples below.
I haven’t been to a banquet this extravagant since Callum and Annalise were bound nearly three years ago. And that didn’t exactly work out well.
A waiter stops before me, and I lift a glass of champagne from his tray and finish it in two gulps. It’s my third—no fourth—glass of the night.
Kyra thinks I’m trying to drown my sorrows. Maybe she’s right. It’s not like I have much to be happy about. Not even my new green wristlet.
I lean against the wall, taking care to not slouch, and watch Maz lead Kyra across the dance floor. He’s all arms and legs, not at all elegant, and it’s amazing he hasn’t tripped over the billowing hem of Kyra’s gown.
I lazily roll my head to the side. Ryker Newbold grins at me. His shirt hangs out of the bottom of his dinner jacket and a dark flop of hair drapes over one of his almond-shaped eyes. Next to him, I look as refined as Mother.
“Ryker! How are you?” Beck, Maz, and Ryker were once inseparable. So much so, that Kyra referred to them as a ‘three-headed monster.’ And unlike with Maz, Ryker and I have always gotten along.
He holds up a bottle of champagne. “Better since I found this.”
“Nice.” I raise my glass and pretend to toast him as Kyra and Maz whirl past, lost in each other. “They look good together, don’t they?”
Ryker snickers. “You’re generous. Maz looks like an octopus next to Kyra.”
“He’s never been graceful, has he?”
“Again, you’re being too kind.” Ryker takes long sip from the bottle. When he’s done, he tops off my glass. “How are you? Kyra said you were out of it for a few days.”
“I heard the same thing.” My memories of my first days here are hazy at best.
“You don’t know?”
“Not really. But the healers say that it’s normal for someone who’s been through what I have to lose track of time.”
Someone calls my name and I whip my head in their direction, only to have the room sway around me. I stagger into Ryker and he catches me by the elbow. My bare skin burns where his clothed arm touches me.
“Careful, Lark,” he says in a gravelly voice. “You don’t want everyone to think you’re drunk.”
I rest a hand against the wall to steady myself. “I am drunk.”
He squints at me. “How much have you had?”
“A few glasses.” I point to his bottle. “And whatever you’ve poured me.”
“Fantastic.” He glances over my shoulder and his face contorts.
“What?” I ask, following his eyes. My brother, Callum, stands on the other side of a long table laden with desserts. He’s glaring at us. No. He’s glaring at me. I try my best not to look intoxicated, because really, all I need is Callum running off to tattle on me. If Mother finds out, she’ll probably confine me to my room again and slap the restraint back on.
Ryker and I reposition ourselves so that we’re standing side-by-side, not touching. I keep my eyes on the dance floor and pretend my brother isn’t shooting withering looks at me.
A white light strobes off to my left and I instinctively shield my eyes.
“Lark! Who’s your escort?” a voice booms from a camera floating over my head.
“Damn it,” I whisper. Of course, the newscasters waited until I was in an awkward situation to zero in on me.
“I’m sorry. Should have seen that.” Ryker maneuvers me so my back is to the room and I’m facing the wall. He keeps his hand around my waist, holding me up.