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With Pleasure by prosgal
Chapter 16 : A Marked Woman
 
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A Marked Woman


I awoke to three invaders in my bed. Well two, the third was more of a passive participant drooling all over my sheets.

“Paige has come home” Amy announced as she shimmied under the covers next to me. She fluffed at my second pillow before letting her head collapse upon it.

“I can see that” I answered her as Paige settled herself cross legged at the end of my bed with Connor in her arms.

“I’ve multiplied” Paige informed me and gestured to the baby.

I yawned and stretched out my arms. “I also see that and I remember from actually being there when the event occurred.”

Still holding baby Connor in her arms she put a finger to her face and looked thoughtful. “Really? Now I’m not the type to make her beloved niece feel guilty but I noticed a distinct lack of your presence during my stay at St. Mungo’s.”

“She finished setting up the baby room” Amy defended from beside me with her eyes still closed.

Paige considered this. “Even the clothes?”

“All folded neatly into their drawers. She baby proofed the house too.”

“Oh well all is forgiven. Nothing cheers me up more then avoidance of work.”

“I am sorry though” I added in my own defense. “I thought making the house all baby nice might make up for it.”

“Its fine, you’ll just be changing a lot more diapers then you expected.”

I looked at Connor “I find it hard to believe a being so small can make any sort of mess.”

She grinned down at him and he gurgled “Now don’t say that, I expect great things from my boy. Great messes especially.”

“You’re the type of mother who beams when her kid comes home after beating up all the others kids aren’t you?” Amy guessed in a dreamy voice, almost asleep now. “He’ll have all this extra pocket change from stolen lunch money and you’ll call it enterprising.”

“Want to hold your brother?” Paige asked me, ignoring Amy.

I looked at her oddly. “My brother?”

“Yes.”

“Wouldn’t he be more like a cousin, and not even that, I mean you aren’t biologically my Aunts.”

She rolled her eyes “We’re not biologically your sisters or your mums or your grandfathers either but when we say we are then we are. Gene logic is stupidest of all logic, now hold your brother.”

Paige was already spilling Connor into my arms before I could address her saying she was my grandfather if she said she was. As I positioned him properly I was further amazed how small he was.

“Introduce yourself” she instructed.

I starred at the pink thing and his fuzzy head with little idea how to do so. “Good morning young Connor, I’m Josephina Fraser” I finally greeted.

“A bit formal” Amy commented.

I scrutinized the baby. He drooled some more and looked at me blankly. “But you can call me Josie” I finished.

Paige crawled over and nudged me out of the way as she got under the covers with Amy. “Good, now that you two are grand old friends you can go downstairs and feed him. There’s a bottle ready on the counter.”

“While you two….?”

“Aimes and I will stay here and guard your bed” she told me and her eyes fluttered shut.

I looked down at Connor. “A trap” I informed him. “I think we are to bond.”

====

“Why is it taking Audrey so long to get ready?” Amy wondered as we hung about the living room that evening. Laine, Oliver and Duke were coming over and we were all going to apparate to Jack’s place for his family’s party together.

“Don’t know” I answered from the sofa, though I wondered if Audrey might be gussying up on behalf of Jack. I’ve heard looking good is a great revenge. It pained a little to realize that anything I might know about boys was not from experience but I put that thought out of my head soon after. What I didn’t know so far might be a good thing.

Connor made a garbling sound in my lap. All his noises seem to sound so distinct despite the fact he makes weird noises all day long. I regarded him with a small smile. Babies aren’t so bad.

“You look very zen” Amy noted with some annoyance.

I did feel very zen all cross legged and calm. I theorized that the baby responding to my casual air with his quietness. I was also enjoying the fact that Connor had yet to cry with me as he had already had with Amy various times. I’ll admit the baby not being a monster towards me has made the barriers of resistance incredibly unstable.

“You don’t even talk to him, I baby talk to him all the time. He should be all immediately bonded with me.”

“We connect at a higher level” I bragged. “Words are not needed.”

“I sense rational Ravenclaw teachings” Paige said warily as she entered the room. “I’ll take my future warrior Gryffindor back thank you very much.”

I passed him over and got up as I heard our front door open without a knock. It was most likely my friends. It felt a little odd to include Oliver in that grouping.

“EIIIIII! Is that him?” Laine was on Paige and the baby as soon as she entered the room and was already cooing over Connor.

It took me a moment to register what she was wearing. And then Oliver and Duke in succession. Duke looked right back at me and started laughing. Laine looked up at his chuckle and then over at me. She reacted with the same surprise I was feeling.

"What are you wearing?" she asked.

"I was about to ask the same thing."

I was wearing what I felt were some very nice trousers and blue blouse. The others however appeared slightly more formal. As in dress robes. As in the supremely fancy kind.

She put her hands on her hips. "You do know Jack's family is like, mega elite."

"They’re just rich aren’t they?” I asked, “I mean Petrie isn’t really a name you hear a lot."

Laine rolled her eyes. "He uses his mother maiden name; she remarried when he was six."

"To who?"

"Into a little family known the freaking DeMontage’s"

I reacted with my jaw dropping before anything else. “Jack’s a DeMontage!”

“Oh I hate that family” Amy sighed “And yes, you are quite under dressed.”

"Don't you guys have any ball type gowns?" Laine asked all of us. My Aunts looked at each other and this actually caused me to stop freaking and laugh slightly. I already knew the answer to that one.

"We have slutty cocktail dresses" Paige offered.

"Erm.."

Amy shrugged. "Sorry, but we're not actually the high bred pureblood society type, if we haven't made it very obvious."

“But you’re rich! I’m surprised you weren’t even invited yourselves” Laine exclaimed. This got a big laugh, Laine should know by now.

Paige finished chuckling and shook her head. "We are the type of people who throw white trash barbecues during holiday season; nobody wants us tainting their ballrooms."

"I remember when Davidson when a name of class and mum dragged me to those things, I have to say, I'm not sorry to have tarnished it” Amy reminisced.

"Well I’m not going to have anything good enough it seems" I glanced down, I have a few skirts but they definitely don’t fall into the real formal category.

“Well then it seems we have a problem” Duke summarized “We could pretend you’re part of the staff?”

“We could go back to Laine’s” Oliver suggested.

To Duke’s idea I made a face and I shook my head at Oliver's more helpful suggestion, Laine was wearing her only set of dress robes.

"No wait, I have The Best Idea!" Paige exclaimed. She took out her wand and pointed at the room’s curtain. In one slashing motion of her wrist, it fell to the ground.

"Ta da! Just wrap this around you and vohla, fancy party dress."

"Paige that's...." Amy trailed off.

"Our living room curtain" I finished.

"But its pretty, look at the shiny material and we can use the ribbon that keeps it open to tie around her waist."

We all starred at the crumpled fabric.

“Well…” Laine trailed off.

I coughed. "I can’t believe this is really my only option."

The girls picked it up and started trying to work this insane solution into a proper dress.

“Duke, Oliver, kitchen” Laine ordered.

Paige looked up. “Oliver’s here?” she asked and caught sight of him “I’ve been meaning to say sorry I almost had a baby on your feet.”

He cleared his throat awkwardly. “Uh..no worries.”

“Okay bye boys” Laine tapped her foot impatiently and they hustled into the kitchen.

Five minutes later the curtain was very literally just wrapped around me and tied up.

“I feel like you can totally tell” Amy said looking me up and down.

Laine was more desperate for this to work. “Well that’s only because we know it’s a curtain, no one at the party will.”

"Guys maybe it’s be fine" I stammered. "It's not my cotillion, I'll most likely be hiding with Laine and Duke near the buffet all night."

Amy shrugged. “Well it’s your fancy funeral.”

“Guys you can come back now” Audrey yelled out.

The five of us girls watched them silently as the entered the room and we waited for their opinion of the contraption I currently wore. They both looked very relieved to return to our company but stopped short when they saw me.

Duke fiddled with his sleeves “Looks great Josie.”

“Err yeah” Oliver agreed “It looks nothing like a curtain.”

I rolled my eyes and crossed the room at a quick pace. “If I move quickly enough I can’t rethink this” I announced without turning around. “See you in the new year!” I called and grabbed a chunk of floo powder of the fire place ledge.

Tossing it into the fire, I clearly stated “Jack DeMontage residence” and stepped inside. I heard Paige and Amy call 'Bye' as I left.

I tripped over the hem slightly and stumbled into a large empty room. The floor looked to be tiled with some very expensive rock I’m sure I’ve never heard of. Jack was lounging in an armchair nearby looking incredibly bored.

“Finally” he greeted me and gave me a once over. “I’d like to make a critique but I don’t know how attached you are to that outfit.”

“I decided to floo before I had a chance to really think it over, now it’s too late.”

“Alright then you won’t mind me saying you look bulgy.”

I put a hand over my heart dramatically. “And you implied you’d be critiquing.”

Duke came in after me, strolling in as if coming through a door. Even though he didn’t see me stumble I still felt the urge to glare.

“Mr. Chase, a delight” Jack greeted him.

Audrey, Laine and Oliver followed and soon we were all standing together and things seemed awkward.

Jack nodded to Audrey but she glared at him and looked away. He shrugged and turned to Laine.

“Lo’ Laine” Jack said to her, eyes appreciating her light green off the shoulder dress robes. Oliver gave him a hard look.

“Oliver bud, go to see you.”

“You too Petrie” he said stiffly.

Jack led us outside and I think we all drew our breaths.

This put the barbecue to shame. Waiters, a band, champagne floats, you name it and the DeMontage backyard had it. Fairy lights twinkled in the air, not attached to anything. The dome that covered the back yard even looked glossier than the ones we had.

I was also seeing a lot of medieval wear.

"Suddenly I don’t feel so odd, half the people here are dressed centuries in the past."

Jack linked his arm into mine. "Well it’s not exactly a Springer Davidson barbecue but we'll try to hold to your standards."

I let him steer me away from the others. "If I don't see a pair of daisy dukes on someone soon then you might not make it."

We traveled along silently as I gazed in wonder at the yard.

“Aren’t you wondering where we’re going?” he asked.

“A little.”

“I’m going to introduce you to my mother.”

I looked up at him and raised a brow “What an honour.”

“She likes that I’m friends with the Head Girl, like it makes me Head Boy by association or something when she tells her friends.”

“Hmm.”

“Yeah yeah rich people are snobs and try to outdo one another; society never really left the Versailles mindset blah blah.”

“Us unrefined shlubs need something to complain about.”

Jack led me over to a pretty looking older witch whose robes were more elaborate than any, as a host’s outfit should be I suppose. Easier to find them. He introduced me and my esteemed title and she beamed at her son. Then she gave my outfit a real once over. Uh oh.

"It's a Nichei mum" Jack explained. A lie unless that was the company that made this curtain.

"Ohh" she seemed to think that explained it all, she turned to her friends and said “A Nichei, what wonderful taste young people have.”

I could tell I’d finished my obligatory intro when Jack led me away. "Nichei an Avant garde witch's robes designer, it’s not that popular among the older witches but still appropriate, your dress is now respected as a quality overpriced brand name" he explained.

"You should see how it darkens a room. And it also doubles as décor.”

“Hardest working dress in Europe.”

We stood around and a waiter appeared out of nowhere to hand us champagne. I obliged and decided to make it last the night. I’ve heard about too many drunken stories that always start with efficient waiters replacing an empty glass in a jiffy.

Audrey sidled up to us and I thought she might be over her anger at Jack but I was wrong. “Oliver and Laine seem to be having a wonderful time already” she pointed out loudly with both her mouth and finger. She smirked at Jack and walked off. Hell hath no fury…

He raised his brows and looked where she pointed. “Well that comment certainly felt directed with cruel intentions.”

“In her defense she’s clouded by the used and tossed assessment she’s made about your snogging session with her.”

“So you’re on me too.”

“No” I said linking my arm back into his and steering him away from Laine and Oliver, whom his eyes hadn’t left. “I am you support.”

“As I would be yours if you ever admitted to needing any” he let me know.

“A wonderful partnership we make.”

“I still can’t get used to you being so concerned about me.”

“We’re friends remember? I worry about your welfare now”

“And before…?”

“I would have laughed if you’d fell in a ditch.”

“Good to know.”

“Not that it still wouldn’t be worth a chuckle, I mean if you were mostly unharmed.”

Jack was still looking back at Laine and Oliver and didn’t hear the last part. I crossed my arms and allowed myself the tiniest sip on my drink. I felt bad because I was in a terrific mood. I enjoy getting a seal of approval from my elders, I don’t look like a complete idiot and I have small side scheme that I expected to go well tonight. Plus my whole Rebirth in the New Year as a Josie one shouldn’t mess with seemed to be on the right track.

And I knew I wasn’t going to have my fulfilling night of my positive and enlightened New Year Josie transformation if I didn’t have a happier Jack at my side. He was my friend, a good one at that and I needed to cheer him up so we could both enjoy ourselves.

I reached out and took his arm, turning him to face me. "Alright I give in, I’m all yours tonight" I told him with a funny smile. It is difficult to platonically come on to someone.

Even more so when signals remain unread. "Give into what?" he asked. Is he serious, I thought a lady’s man picked up on this kind of thing right away?

Okay maybe I needed to be Josie direct for this. I crossed my arms "You’re acting pathetic enough to make me feel bad for you, so plant one on me and cement your legend as the Ravenclaw ravisher."

His eyes lit up in surprise. "For real? Awesome!”

Awesome? Is that a good reaction word to the idea of kissing me?

"Yes, but don't expect anything spectacular on my side though."

He grabbed my arm and steered my over to some chairs laughing. “I knew you’d give in” he pumped his fist in the air.

I was already having my doubts. “So how are we doing this?”

He looked thoughtful “I guess we just lean in and do it, sure you don’t won’t to wait until midnight?”

I shook my head “Might as well do it now or I’ll probably change my mind.” Jack can get rather cocky; it wouldn’t be unfeasible that I might back down to teach him a lesson. He seemed to realize this too because he didn’t push it.

"Nervous?" he asked and wiggled his brows. Of course he was completely comfortable, but then again I realized that I was feeling pretty at ease myself.

"Kind of excited actually, we're making important history here, I'm your final seventh year Ravenclaw and you're my first."

"Planning on attempting a record yourself?"

"I don't think I could quite handle it like you." He leaned forward on his seat; I held the edge of mine and did the same.

"Last chance to back out" he teased.

"You know I never back down" I told him.

And he lifted his hand to the side of my face and pulled me in. I closed my eyes like I knew I probably should and waited for his lips to hit mine.

When they did, they pressed lightly against mine, parting my own lip slightly and moving so I had to turn my head to the side. His fingers twirled in my hair before sliding down to my chin and tilting up slightly so he could leave a slightly nibble on my bottom lip before we both moved our heads back.

Not bad Petrie. Thankfully it seemed there hadn't been a meddlesome charge on either side as Jack lifted both his hands behind his head triumphantly and whooped. Definitely didn't stun the boy.

"So what you think Fraser?"

I smiled mischievously.

"Come on; tell me, have I ruined you? Will not other man be able to touch your heart as I have just now?"

I laughed; happy things were still the same. "It was nice" I admitted.

"NICE? Oh this new year is starting off great" he responded sarcastically. Great, with one word I completely soured his mood.

"That was a compliment!"

"No guy would ever take it that way."

"Well I liked it, is that not good enough?"

Jack stood up and shoved his hands in his pocket dejectedly but I think he was joking.

"Fine, it’s good enough" he gave in. "Pft, nice"

“This was supposed to cheer you up.”

“Petrie dude!” Some guy strolled up and held up his hand, nodding at Jack and me crudely “Nice!”

Jack gave him a high-five. “Dude, last girl on the list.”

I watched the random guy leave where he was probably going to hit on some poor unsuspecting girl. “Did you just frat boy our kiss?”

Jack was looking pretty proud of himself now “Depends on what frat boy means.”

I tried to hold back a smile but couldn’t “Well I’m glad another man’s approval gave you the self esteem you needed.”

He tossed and arm over my shoulders and steered me towards the buffet tables. “It’s all an act with them baby, you know I treasure our time together, but we just want different things.”

I sighed “"I suppose, and I just want you to know that I really value our friendship."

"Thanks and I just wanted to say, its not you, its me."

"I love your dearly Jack, but I'm not in love with you"

"I just have a lot going on in my life right now"

We chortled all the way to the table.

“I’m having a revelation Josie”

“Hmm about what?”

“I’m an attractive witty male who’s snogged every girl in school that I planned to.”

“This is a revelation?” Sounds like he already knew about this. At least my plan to fix Jack worked. Nothing makes a guy feel better than inflating his ego.

“No, I’ve realized that I have too much to be happy about to worry over some girl. If anything I should be spreading my happiness around.”

“And what does that mean?”

“I’m taking myself out of the running and entering the supporting campaign. Just because I can’t be with Laine doesn’t mean she can’t be happy with someone else.”

“With who? And I still don’t know what you are talking about.”

“It’s a secret for the moment.”

“Tell me.”

“I’m a saint now Josie and a saint doesn’t reveal his secrets.”

“You can’t appoint yourself a saint, there’s a lot papal input with this type of thing.” I regarded my odd friend with new interest. Just what was he up to?

He picked at some fancy chicken looking thing and glanced across the lawn. “One more thing Jo?”

“Yes?”

“Why did you owl me to make sure I invited the Sheens?” I followed his gaze and spotted Selma at a distance.

I turned back to him and smiled wickedly. “Because I just couldn’t wait any longer.”

Before Jack could say anything else Laine violently body checked into him and he was pushed to the side. My eyes widened and Jack took a few wise steps back and then disappeared into a crowd. A very wise idea actually, Laine did not look pleased.

"What was that? You're snogging Petrie now? And you say I never tell you anything about my romantic life."

"It was more like a favour."

She pulled me over to an ice sculpture of a unicorn. “I mean I get it, you seem very compatible, it’s just risky.”

“Whoa whoa, let’s get one thing straight Laine, that kiss was a one time thing.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

“Okay good.” She crossed her arms and looked around the party. Things certainly didn’t seem good.

I touched her shoulder “Laine, everything cool?”

She put her hands to her face. “Crap, I might as well just tell you that I’m jealous.”

“What? Say that again?” Holy hell’s bells, does Laine fancy Jack? Was I wrong all this time? Damn my romantic sleuth skills.

“I’m jealous okay.”

“You fancy Jack?” Great just when I got used to Oliver too. Now I’m going to have to feel bad for him. This really would have been a useful realization for her to have months ago.

“Jack?” she answered with surprise “Of course not.”

“Oh.” Never mind then.

“It’s just, well the compatibility thing.”

So maybe there will be Oliver pitying in my future.

“I dunno, maybe I’m just still feeling crazy and looking for an excuse.”

“Maybe.” I didn’t really know what else to say, I’m kind of the worst comforter when it comes to guys. So I surprised myself by actually saying something again a moment later. “You guys seem good together to me, uh just have a talk or something. Talk works doesn’t it?”

She scrapped the ice sculpture with her fingernails “I can’t believe you snogged Jack” she giggled, effectively changing the topic.

“I have a feeling this favour is going to be one I regret.”

“Everyone at school is going to know”

“Yeah..that might be a little strange.” I saw a shadow appear over my shoulder.

“Men snogging you Fraser, it’s not so much strange as it is disgusting.”

I’d recognize that husky tone anywhere. “Selma you made it!”

“Of course I’d be here” she said. “I’m more surprised to see you at a pureblood affair, there should be a special roped off area for mudbloods.”

“And their guests?” I added innocently.

“Yes..what?”

“Well I don’t know if I’d like to spend an evening roped off with you Selma, seeing as I invited your family.”

Her face went pale. As far as ideas go, this was incredibly simple. But if I knew my hard core purebloods like I thought I did, they didn’t like favours from people like me.

She stormed off, most likely to find out the truth. Her mother would admit it was a last minute invite and she'd know it was me who arranged it.

Laine looked at my questioningly. “So you invited her here, just to tell her she was invited here because of you?”

“It was a simple plan but effective.”

“She does look pretty pissed off, but really, no Carrie bucket drop?”

“I’m easing back into the game, and I don’t really want to spend this whole party having to be clever and conniving.”

We watched Selma argue with her mum, demanding to leave immediately. Her mum started talking back to her and Selma crossed her arms and glared daggers over at me when she’d finished.

“I take it back; you are one real evil niece of an Aunt.” We waved to her with large smiles plastered over our faces. We spotted Duke near the dance floor chatting up two older women and waved at him as well.

Laine scoffed after. “Well someone has to go rescue socialites from Duke, don’t go snogging the whole party while I’m gone.”

I saluted. “Inner harlot is in check.”

I watched her drag Duke away from the women and on to the dance floor. She was most likely scolding him now.

I glanced around me. Since no one was looking I slipped out of my shoes and kicked them behind the ice sculpture. Walking barefoot across the grass made everything feel lovely, a little light even. No it wasn’t the champagne; I was still holding my first glass. And it wasn’t the kiss. It was a feeling that I wasn’t trying anymore tonight, and I wasn’t worried, I would just be enjoying myself for the rest of the evening. And with that I steered myself to the dessert table.

I was sampling something that resembled a rice crispy treat (only decorated much fancier) when Oliver approached me.

“Jack, of all the blokes, Jack?”

“What’s wrong with Jack?” I smiled, munching on the corner of the treat and deciding it was worth eating. I popped the rest of it in my mouth.

“You can do better” he stated firmly. “I mean Marlow thinks you’re cute.”

“Marlow?” The dude that called me a…., maybe I shouldn’t repeat it.

“Actually, don’t fancy Marlow, he’s a bastard.”

I sipped my champagne instead of answering. So Oliver is now trying to set me up. I guess the New Year wants me to get some action.

“Oliver” I said, interrupting him.

“Yeah?”

I nudged a plate towards him “Have a cherry tart.”

He looked down at it and then back at me. “Why are you acting so normal?”

“Am I usually a deranged lunatic?” Actually please don’t answer that.

“I’m taking about the other day remember? You were upset and now you’re acting as if nothing happened.”

He is treading on my lovely night where I feel lovely. Stop ruining the lovely Mr. Wood. This why I don’t tell anyone anything, its like some kind of unintentional hold they have over me later on.

Deep breath, big smile. “I’m fine. Now give a mostly nice girl her New Year’s wish and tell her she’s emotionally well adjusted.”

“You only wish on birthdays you know.”

I shook my head “No you don’t, now tell me.”

“I’m not telling you that if you’re dating Petrie, that’s a sign of instability.”

I smiled “I’m not dating Jack.”

He looked bemused “You’re so damn happy tonight.”

“and?” I prodded.

“Emotionally stable and in control”

“Thank you”

We walked about in the grass and watched to couples dancing. I grinned at Duke and Laine who were twirling around out of sync with the music.

“It’s not fair that I’d be the arse if I tried to break that up.”

I looked over at him surprised, he actually looked annoyed. "I thought you and Duke got along?"

"I thought we did, until recently."

"Until what?"

"He threatened to pummel me if I ever hurt her while we were alone on the train back from the holidays."

That’s odd. "Wow, Duke is normally non-threatening."

He glanced over at the two dancing "I think he cares about her more than you realize"

I laughed "Duke? Well I doubt that"

He watched them for a moment longer before turning back to me "You have a habit of being surprised by your friends."

I smiled again and sipped some more champagne. Oh hell maybe another glass wouldn’t hurt. "Well that's certainly old news" I said, remembering Jack's words at the barbecue.

"Are you sure you haven't had too much? You're overly merry tonight."

I lifted my glass "Merry New Year Oliver, stop analyzing my mood."

He lifted his glass and it clinked with mine. His full glass swished about and splashed a little on his robes.

"Oh shut it" he said to me as I laughed loudly at him and grabbed a cocktail napkin.

Someone was yelling something about five minutes to go.

“Lover!” Jack stumbled over to me with two glasses in his hands. To my surprise he had a tipsy Audrey under his arm. She looked a lot happier than she had been earlier.

“What’s this?” I gestured to the two of them.

“It’s not my fault” Audrey defended herself. “He kept seducing me with his eyes.”

Jack nodded “It’s true, I did do that.”

They both rambled over to me as the countdown began and left sloppy kisses on both my cheeks. Then they ran off towards a hedge preemptively shouting “Happy New Year everyone.” The countdown was still a minute away.

Everyone was bunching together and we lost sight of Duke and Laine. This was a strange way to start the New Year.

“Should we clink our glasses again?” I asked Oliver as I wiped at my cheeks.

“Dunno, I’ve never rang in the New Year with a girl who’d threatened me before.”

We finally decided to do that thing where we twisted our arms around each others to take a drink. But someone bumped into Oliver and we ended up spilling the drinks all over ourselves.

As everyone shouted we tried to make due cleaning up with the single cocktail napkin I grabbed earlier. At least we were both laughing about it.

"We are classy" I declared as I was patting a stain on Oliver’s collar. He surprised me by suddenly leaned over and kissing my cheek. “Happy New Year Josie, may you find you sanity.”

Though still startled by his action I still had to respond to that less than endearing statement. “Hey I thought we had decided I already found it.”

He shrugged “I’ll go grab some more napkins.”

“Ha ha” I repeated to myself as he left. I tried to get more drying use out of the soaked napkin on my dress but it was pretty much useless now.

“You have some lipstick on your face.” I looked up to see Jack’s mother. She was glowing and I suspected some of it had to do with tonight's free flowing champagne.

She pulled a monogrammed handkerchief out of no where and took my chin in her hand, rubbing at my cheek gently. I’m guessing I had Audrey to thank for the lipstick.

“No matter what advertising says, there’s always a mark to be left” she told me with a warm smiling face. I smiled back at her “Thanks.”

“No trouble, but I’ll leave the other cheek as is” she winked at me.

It took me a moment for me to figure out what she meant and I blushed. Before I could open my mouth to explain, she was already gone and Oliver had returned.

We finished cleaning up and he went to find Laine. As soon as he was out of sight I rubbed at my left cheek at of some sense of personal duty even though I knew Oliver wasn’t wearing anything that would leave a mark. I was embarrassed that I didn’t think to do it before.

Finishing what was left in my glass I trotted through the crowd to find Duke. I'd now decided that my New Year needed to start with some dancing.


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