I could hear people as I moved from room to room, checking to see that food was being circulated, drinks refilled and everything was clean. I don't have to do this, it's technically Caleb's job once I make the calls, but it feels like my responsibility all the same. Plus I hate mingling with people I don't know but who know me, or at least like to pretend they do.
Someone grips my elbow a little too tightly in her claws. I turn to see one of the wives of Caleb's former partners from Ontario, with garish makeup settled into the lines on her face that even a stellar plastic surgeon couldn't erase.
I hear you are the party planner? Can you tell me more about the fire juggler? I think I'd like to hire him for a night-or maybe a lifetime! She cackles as I move to the window and look out, ignoring her. Loch is in the driveway surrounded in a half-circle by Caleb's cronies. He's dispensed with the flowy flammable shirt but kept the vest on with those tight jeans (not mine) and is throwing his batons to raucous applause. He's concentrating but charming too. Smiling, and keeping up a banter with the crowd but sometimes letting the conversation fade as he does more difficult throws.
He looks damned hot.
The woman with the claws chases up behind me. Maybe you have a card for him?
I turn and try not to glare at her. That's my husband.
Oh, I didn't know. I thought you and Caleb were-
No, Caleb is my brother-in-law. I don't want to do this right now. I want to escape.
Oh, I was mistaken then. I heard through the grapevine that you were together. She looks doubtful.
Maybe you can play matchmaker for me then, if Caleb is the eligible bachelor?
Isn't your husband out there? I point toward the driveway crowd and she laughs harder and pats my arm sympathetically, because I don't get her joke. I excuse myself finally and head outside to watch Lochlan, with a bottled water for him. He gets warm, unsurprisingly, when he performs.
He sees me and wraps it up. Maybe later on I'll do a little more. Thanks for the attention, kind folks. A hat is passed. They don't realize he isn't hired entertainment. He collects some six hundred dollars and change, several business cards for people who want to hire him and far too many admiring stares from the women in the group.
He hands me the hat and shrugs. I don't know who it belongs to. And then he kisses my forehead and wraps his arm around my neck. Several people remain, watching openly as he stares at me, with that look that we exchange that apparently makes other people burst into flames on the spot.
Case in point as Caleb steps forward, putting a hand on Lochlan's back.
You're a hit, he says. Caleb is dressed (not at all ironically) as the Devil, but in a seventies cut three-piece pinstripe disco suit and he has shaved his facial stubble into a goatee. He added horns from a theatrical makeup kit and all-black contact lenses that color his entire eye surface. They're bottomless and hungry. They're frightening too. His costume seems so normal and yet out there for him. He rarely dresses up.
He is frightfully drunk as well and has forgotten Lochlan hates his guts.
You two. When Ben goes to bed, come back for a nightcap.
Not tonight, asshole, Loch tells him and picks up the torches.
Maybe. We'll see. I'd rather leave Caleb twisting in the wind then outright angry at our refusal.
Bridget- Loch's warning is predictable.
We'll see how tired I feel. I smile at Caleb. Trying to keep the peace and pull the rug out from under him at once. I bat my giant fake eyelashes at him and he grins dazzlingly back at me.
Go have a coffee and some sugar, baby. That will perk you up. He kisses my cheek and heads back into the house.