Author: Tessandra PM
Ethan Dane's mother is ready for Ethan to settle down and produce several heirs to his dukedom, and if Ethan doesn't agree, well, blackmailing him into a TV show seems like a good idea. Interactive - vote off the contestants.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Chapters: 3 - Words: 12,814 - Reviews: 117 - Favs: 36 - Follows: 21 - Updated: 04-02-06 - Published: 03-17-06 - id: 2134726
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Due to spending all week working on a short story for a contest, I did not write this until yesterday. So this was written in two days. Please don't hate me.
Ethan Dane, Duke of Westland, was possibly the most beautiful specimen of manhood on this side of the Atlantic, Brianna thought as she tugged on her dress and stared at the man who had just entered the room. She should know, having spent an indecent amount of her high school years studying posters ripped from magazines of the most perfect, airbrushed males models of the world. It wasn't that he looked like he'd stepped out of a Hollister advertisement, for he didn't. Yet there was something about him, about the way he carried himself, that was half adorable and half drop dead gorgeous.
And the soft black hair and dark, soulful eyes didn't hurt either.
Yet, as he walked down the stairs, she was reminded in part of the people she worked with everyday, those who had lost a loved one to breath cancer, or who just wanted to help in any way they could - scared, but determined. Terrified, but seeing no other choice.
Except that the people who came to her generally did want to be there, and he looked like he would bolt at any second.
Not what she had been expecting from a duke, she mused, but then again, she couldn't expect her picture of Prince Charming astride his snow white horse to become reality.
Dale muttered, "wasn't expecting this," under her breath, than laughed. The other girls ignored her, unsurprisingly: no one was exactly in bonding mood, as they stared at the thing they were competing for.
Dale shifted awkwardly. It was such an uncomfortable image, all these woman competing for a man. She felt out of place, as well, for they were all looked like typical Americans, and she felt like the odd ball out, with her short, streaked hair and her tiny stature. At least the duke looked half again as awkward as she felt, which she had not expected. He was standing at the bottom of the stairs with wide, frightened eyes. Dale wanted to scoff. If this made him so unhappy, why was he here?
He cleared his throat, and Dale felt a tiny part of her go out to him. Maybe he had just wanted to try something new, and was only now realizing what a stupid idea it was.
Dale was a pro at trying new things and then realizing they didn't work out.
She had a feeling this was one of them.
Not because she didn't like being the odd one out, for she did. She liked being the only one wearing a hat, clinging to it even though the stylists had tried to rip it away. She liked being different. She just didn't think it would be fun to hang out with a bunch of uptight contestants for a month.
And Dale was all about fun.
Wow, Lyda thought, swallowing a smile as the duke cleared his throat for a second time, he's freaking nervous.
"Hello," she heard him say faintly, his hand twisting over the knob on the staircase's banister. It did not sound like part of the prepared speech they had been told he would make. It sounded like the hello of someone who had nothing else to say. The co-hosts glanced anxiously at each other, and the cameramen grimaced sympathetically. The silence seemed to stretch on.
Lyda couldn't stand it anymore.
"Hello!" she called back to him, infusing as much cheerfulness as possible in her voice. Startled, the duke glanced up, then met her eyes and smiled gratefully. He was one of those people who started out looking good, but when smiling - his entire face just bloomed. It was like the sun coming out.
Lyda grinned back.
She was aware of the other girls twisting to see who had called out, but they were all too polite - or too aware of the cameras on them - to give her an evil eye. But Lyda shook off the jealousy radiating her way. It really didn't matter. All that did was that the poor duke had his control back.
"Hello, everyone," the man's rich voice slid out, calm and compelling after his initial slip, "My name is Ethan Dale, and I would like to welcome you to Elderblossum Hall." Inwardly, Sarah laughed at the silly name, while outwardly she watched him as he moved into his prepared speech. "I look forward to meeting each one of you," he said, eyes moving over the girls. Sarah could not help but doubt the validity of this statement. She, certainly, would not be excited to meet a room full of people vying for her hand. Skeptical, yes. Excited - more like weired out.
"You've seen these shows before," he said, his smile twisting slightly. Sarah caught a surprised look cross Jodi Dagmar's face. "They have a handsome, if not very intelligent man, and a bevy of backstabbing, beautiful woman." He shrugged. "I think you can only be one or the other." His slightly off smile asked which one they would choose to be.
Okay, she was definitely having a shallow moment, but god, English accents were sexy.
And on a slightly less-shallow note - these were definitely not the words Duke Ethan of Westland was supposed to be saying.
She sort of liked that about him.
"This is the type of thing that seems set up to be a farce," he continued, seeming to draw strength, and straightening his shoulders. "And it could be. But the fact of the matter is that there is a clause in the contract I signed that says I will marry, and remain married, to one of you for a year. That's ridiculous. But that's what's going to happen, so I am not going to treat this show like a joke."
Despite being half-stunned, Sarah surreptitiously watched everyone else involved, as that was just the way she was. Steve Taylor, the director, looked vastly amused, as though he was about to burst into laughter. The co-hosts threw wild looks at each other and Taylor, and the cameramen varied between being attached to their equipment or trying to decipher from the hosts and director if they were supposed to stop filming.
Huh, Sarah thought as Ethan Dane went on, impressed in spite of herself. This was going to be more interesting than she'd suspected.
"I am not going to jump through hoops for the sake of this program's ratings. I am honestly going to try to get to know you. And if you're here for fame or money, you might as well go home now." He nodded curtly, as though he was trying to gather confidence from those words. "Because I find nothing amusing in petty fights." Cara watched him swallow, then stare hard at the girls. "Being a duchess is not a joke. It is not a life of parties and benefits and lording a title over others. It is work, and it is hard, and you have to be prepared to be disliked a fair amount of the time. And if whomever I end up married to abuses that power, she will be gone in a moment. I don't care what legal ties that will mix me in, breaking some idiotic paper agreement that I'll have a wife for one year, for the people of Westland are worth more than that." His dark eyes glittered. Once more his mouth opened, as though for an ending comment, and then it fell closed. He looked taken aback by his own words.
Cara certainly was, watching with no small amount of astonishment as the producers stepped forwards from wherever they had been hidden and called for the cameras to stop filming. The hosts, who had clearly been longing to call cut but didn't have the authority, started talking more quickly then any sane person could follow. The director, who did have the authority, was laughing.
"Good, good!" the director - Cara couldn't remember his name - called out. "I liked that! Didn't think you had it in you, man. That's going to be a good shot."
The male co-host turned to him in horror. "We're not going to keep that, are we?" he asked. "That wasn't the speech he was supposed to give!"
The director turned to consult with the two producers, the co-hosts hanging on their words. Cara was too far away to eavesdrop properly, so she turned her attention to the duke.
He had sat down on the bottom step, and his face had gone pale. One of the techies had brought him a cup of water, which he held forgotten in one hand. Cara wasn't sure what to make of him. He'd been strangely driven while he spoke, something she hadn't expected. She'd predicted Ethan Dane would be a happy-go-lucky guy like all the other men on the shows she had faithfully watched. A party guy. A fun guy. The kind of guy she could laugh with and drink with and play around with.
Now she found herself wondering if she had jumped into something more intense then she could handle.
Maggie turned to the girl next to her. "What are they talking about?' she asked, looking again at the clump of the TV show's leaders.
"Not a clue," the tall girl responded.
"Do you think they'll keep that clip?" Maggie asked, now glancing to the duke, who was murmuring softly to one of the techies.
"I hope so," the other girl mused, a wicked note in her voice.
Maggie nodded, but she wasn't so sure. She felt uncomfortable, listening to the duke's outburst. It certainly hadn't gone how she'd expected it to go.
She glanced at the girl next to her again, trying to remember her name. Natalie, she finally remembered. The girls had been flown over to the Elderblossum estate on different flights, to prevent early interactions. They had seen the stylists separately, as well, though they were all slipped into similar black dresses. Maggie liked that - she looked best in black. At least, her sister had always said so.
The twenty of them had first met in a hotel's conference room. Steve, the director, had talked to them a bit, as had the producers and the hosts. Maggie had no idea there were so many people involved in the production. They had had the rules and regulations laid out for them, and they had all introduced themselves. Then they had been moved into another room, a fancier one, and been filmed as the practical Jodi Dagmar and elegant Myles Ferran explained the rules of the game to them. Tiaras, Maggie recalled with a smile. That was sweet.
They had been filmed as they drove here as well, and their expressions had been caught as they viewed the palatial Elderblossum for the first time. Maggie had been awed - the place was huge. She half expected to get lost in it.
Or not. After all, there was always a cameraperson lurking around to give directions.
Natalie moved her attention from the short, dark girl who had questioned her to the drama unfolding in the center of the room. It looked like the director had won out in keeping the shot, for which she was glad. Someone needed to jolt America out of its television-induced stupor into realizing that there were more important things then watching people being humiliated and dumped on TV. And if he'd talked the girls out of backstabbing, she would be relieved by that, too.
To be perfectly honest, and Natalie generally was, she wasn't opposed to gossip. She would have joined in. But all the shows had always been so cruel, reducing people to tears, and that was taking it too far. Fighting over a man they hardly knew - she shook her head. She could hardly fathom being so stupid.
"All right, everyone, calm down," Steve was yelling, gesturing wildly with his arms. Jodi looked displeased, and Myles was frowning, but the producers, whose money controlled the show, seemed happy enough as they faded into the background. "We're going to move on now. Ethan, go back to the stairs and we'll film you climbing them and exiting. Girls, you're going to leave to, and get back into the cars you came in. Feel free to talk.
And by "feel free" Natalie thought wryly, you mean gossip expansively so that ratings will boom.
She expected they would. Audiences were tired of the same-old, same-old: she was enough of an audience member herself and had studied enough film to know that. They would enjoy a blunt man, even more so as he was a duke, and the fact that he would have to stay married for a year - that would really get them.
Yet, as Natalie climbed into the sleek black limo that would carry them back to the hotel, she couldn't help respecting him for valuing his responsibilities to Westland more then the legalities. She even found it a little attractive.
She arched her brows thoughtfully, for she had not expected an attraction at all.
"Dear God," Jenna sighed, as the car moved away from the estate. "That man is gorgeous."
Her car, which contained four other girls, murmured in agreement. "Yeah, he is," one of them said fervently - Danielle, if Jenna recalled correctly. She fanned herself. "Did you see his eyes?"
"And his accent," Emily said. "Whoo! Did you hear the man talk?"
Jenna nodded agreement. There was something incredibly sexy about a British accent. Come to think of it, she thought, amused, there was something incredibly sexy about the duke of Westland himself.
She hadn't known what to think when she sent in an audition tape. All they'd told her was the winner would marry a young duke, and as a joke she and some friends had thrown together a video of her. She hadn't expected anything to come of it, though all her friends had assured her it would. Now here she was.
It was over-the-top, and excessive, but at the same time - it felt really good to be pampered like this. Her world was one of sports and parties, not of moonlight walks and champagne. Yet, she supposed, every girl wants to be treated like a princess at some point - why else would prom exist?
"Though that one girl - Lyda, right?" Emily was saying as Jenna looked back at the other girls, "What was she thinking? They told us not to talk."
"Oh my god, yes," Jenna agreed, twisting so she could look at Emily. "And now she has a total edge over us. You could totally see him smile at her."
"Yeah," Emily said, "And it's not like one of us couldn't say 'hello' if we wanted to. We were just following the rules."
"But whatever," Jenna said with a frown. "I'm sure he'll forget it."
Actually, she wasn't, but that didn't mean she couldn't do something that would have Ethan Dane smiling blissfully at her.
Kelly sucked in a deep breath as she climbed out of the car. Listening to Jenna and Emily on the ride had killed more brain cells then she would have thought possible. On the other hand, she thought with mock-perkiness, she now knew their opinions on hair, fashion, and English men.
As for Kelly's opinion on English men - she loved 'em. Loved the accents. As for her position on noblemen of any nationality - not so much.
And by "not so much" she meant that she hated titles with a passion.
She pushed that away as she followed the crowd back into the hotel. That was neither here nor there. What was was getting ready for the ball tonight.
Holy shit. This was insane. A ball? What, was she Cinderella, now?
She shook her head, sitting down next to one of the other girls - Jessica, maybe? - as one of the stylists came out to talk to them. She couldn't help being a little amused - come on, personal stylists? Did she really need help putting on clothes? - and was glad when the other girl caught her amused look and returned it.
"In four hours, you will return to Elderblossum for the ball," the woman in front of them said, who had already introduced herself as M. Durand. "This is very little time for me and my women to get all twenty of you ready," she continued, sounding disapproving, "but it will have to do. You must bathe first, and then you will find your dresses in the rooms you stayed in last night. We will then help you with your hair and fittings and make-up." She clapped her hands. "Go."
Kelly felt a little bit like she was back in preschool, what with the clapping hands and simple directions, but she followed through anyways.
Jessie nodded a goodbye to the girl who'd sat next to her, then headed up for her room. She fell in next to Nicole, who was rooming nearby her her. "Sort of unreal, isn't it?" Jessie said conversationally, pushing back a strand of dirty-blond hair. "I'm still weired out by the fact that I'm here."
Nicole nodded. "Because it's not real, you know? It's this - this other reality, that's going to be created all around us, even though it doesn't actually exist. Because in real life, people don't wear fine gowns and have stylists and compete for a duke's attention. That simply doesn't happen." She frowned, still thinking as they headed into their separate rooms.
Jessie smiled politely at the other girls in the hallways, laughed at a few jests, and still grinning, entered her room and closed the door. It was only at that point that she allowed the grin to slide off her face. Very carefully, she lowered herself to the ground, leaned her head against the door and pulling her legs towards her. She sucked in a deep breath as she stared at the ceiling.
Why was she here? She hated traveling, she knew that; hated planes, and hated being away from her family. And yet, here she was, alone in a hotel room, stuck for God-only-knew how long with a group of girls whom she had to be polite to, and laugh with, and act like they were the closest friends. Oh, sure, she could become one of those vindictive girls that always ended up on these shows, but she wasn't like that. If she were to gossip, it would be with the closest of friends, not when there was a camera in her face.
And she missed her home. She didn't think she was supposed to, not on her first night, but she did. She missed her students, and her dog, and her loud, obnoxious grandparents who lived at the other end of town. But, she forced herself to realize, standing up and moving to the bathroom, this wasn't the time for that. Now she ought to be focusing.
She turned on the facets was watched the tub fill.
Emily loved baths.
"This is the life," she said, splashing some water about and laughing. Here she was, an hour's drive from London, wearing free designer gowns. Not to mention that she was currently in a bubble bath, and about to go down stairs and have her hair and make-up done by professionals who were too expensive for any normal human being to hire.
All for the low, low, price of being on TV.
And really, that wasn't a price at all. Especially not with someone as hot as Mr. Broody Duke.
Wouldn't her friends be jealous?
That was it: she couldn't stand it any longer. It didn't matter that she had signed a confidentiality clause - it wasn't like they'd care if she told a single person. She pulled her camera-phone from her purse. Impulsively, she smiled widely at it and took a picture of herself covered in bubbles. She sent the picture to eight friends, captioning it with, "Guess where I am right now?"
And, okay, she'd already told them a hundred times, but it didn't hurt to rub it in.
Nicole climbed out of the water, pulled on the hotel's complimentary robe, and padded over to the window. It had taken her several minutes to open when she first came in, involving several hairpins and hand lotion. But she'd managed, and she'd left it open. In the summer, with days as nice as these, the windows should always be open. All in all, it was small compensation for not actually being outdoors.
Now she laid her arms on the windowsill and leaned outside. It was late afternoon, and the sun was still up, beating lovingly on those walking the town's streets. Across the road she watched three children play outside of a restaurant, their laughter floating up to her. She smiled. If there was anything better than laughter outdoors, she hadn't found it yet.
Reluctantly, she pulled herself inside. She hadn't thought it would be so bad, having a maintained order for everything, having an hour to shower and a moment to dress, the minutes allotted out every moment of the day - but it was. She wanted to steal outside, to soak up the sun, to eat a cup of fruit as she watched the passerbys. This - being controlled, being told what to do - it was not for her.
Would it be better, she wondered, at Elderblossum? Would she be able to sit outside and walk through the forests? She hoped so - the duke would be on individual dates, or small group ones, and the rest of the time would be her own. Then she would walk through the lands, which were beautiful, or climb down to the ocean -
Please, she thought wistfully, let me be picked, if only so I can see the ocean.
"Breath in," the tape said, "breathe out. Smell the ocean, hear the waves . . ."
A knock sounded at Katherine's door.
"Go away!" she yelled, opening her eye a slit so that she could glare at the offending door. "I'm busy."
"It's Madame Durand," she heard, and Katherine reconsidered. She'd heard of Durand even before she joined this stupid show. The woman was someone to be respected.
"Come in," she called, throwing the headphones down on the bed. Stupid things. She had paid forty dollars for that "calming" tape, and it hadn't done a thing.
The French woman entered, closing the door behind her. "Mrs. Rollins," she said with a half smile, "I wanted to come speak with you, and offer my condolences."
Katherine smiled, feeling a little bit pained. "Yes, thank you," she murmured. She wished Stanley had left her with less condolences and a bit more money. Once, she would never have thought twice about hiring M. Durand's services. Now, she wasn't sure she could afford it.
M. Durand obviously did not know about this change in events, for she was smiling and flattering Katherine and much as any of Stanley's cronies had. Katherine only half listened, instead watching the woman's motions. They could help each other, she thought. She would be the best dressed of all the contestants, and M. Durand would get someone who appreciated her.
"Good," she said, interrupting the woman's chatter. "Why don't you help me fit my dress?"
Alexandra stared at her dress and sighed.
It wasn't that it wasn't a pretty dress, for it was; it was a dark red-purple, with a Spanish-styled hem. She liked it. A lot.
She just didn't want to wear it.
She dropped onto the bed, wiggling around as though that would make it more comfortable. It didn't, and she knew that, but she tried anyways.
She was glad she was here. Really. She had jumped up and down, giddy with joy, when she received the letter saying she had been chosen. It brought such opportunities . . .
And to gain those opportunities, she had to put the dress on.
So, with another sigh, she did.
Or, at least, that was what was supposed to happen, in the reality of Alexandra-Land. In the world she was actually in, she got trapped with her arms pinned in the air as she tried to slide the dress over her head.
Great, Alexandra thought sarcastically as she tried to squish her way out of the dress, this is just perfect. A new fashion.
Then she tripped, and toppled over to the floor.
I new anything involving dresses was a bad idea, she thought mournfully, and waited for help to come.
Tina looked at herself in the mirror, tried to decide if she really cared about her appearance, and then headed downstairs. Her timing coincided with some of the other girls, and they walked companionably together. Tina felt a little out of place with the others, as they compared nails and petted each other's dresses. It was a strange sensation, of not quite belonging, of objectively watching the others interact. She wondered if they all felt like they were playacting, like this wasn't really happening.
You're being too morose, she told herself, and forced her attention to the other girls' conversation.
"I just love that color on you," Misty was saying to Katherine as they walked down the stairs. Katherine smile was brittle, and she turned to Dale. "Where did you get those earrings?"
"A friend made them," Dale said, fingering the jewelry as though to remind her what they were.
"Because I think they're copies," Katherine continued on.
Tina wondered if the blond had actually heard what Dale said, and decided keeping up with their conversation really wasn't going to be that rewarding after all.
"You look beautiful," Misty said, leaning forward from her chair to peer at Brianna. "Wow, I wish I had your hair."
"Thanks ," Brianna said, reaching up to touch her hair, which had been curled and pinned to the top of her head by an efficient stylist. "It's usually a complete mess."
"No, I bet it's great," Misty said, leaning back and letting the woman behind her finish with Misty's own hair. She had arranged the thick black curls in a waterfall that Misty could not help grinning at, and she was actually astounded by the deftness of the make-up artist. Once they had finished, Misty admired herself in the mirror for a moment and then thanked the women prettily. The smile still on her face, she headed out towards the cars. These would carry them back to Elderblossum, which she was extremely excited for. This was so unlike anything that Misty usually did - it was like a dream, sweeping her up and carrying her along, with a castle and a duke and pretty dresses and hair - and she didn't even have to pay for any of them!
It was definitely better, she thought, a frown marring her generally blithe expression, then home. Home had Daddy, and that was something she wanted to avoid at all costs.
Marie paused as they walked towards the cars. The stars were out tonight, and she could not help but stop and stare at them. It was only for a moment, and then she was hustled into her respective car. She maneuvered her way into a window seat, hastily apologizing to brightly colored Natalie and the conservative Cara as she climbed over them. "Oh. I wish the windows rolled down," she said in disappointment.
Jessie, from the seat in front of her, nodded. "I agree," she said. "It's really stuffy in here."
"True," Marie said, but she really had just wanted to breathe the night air.
Instead, she contented herself with studying everyone. The concept of what they were walking into was so bizarre; she could not help wondering about all the participants. Herself, even. She smiled slightly. It was like when you drove down the road and wondered, "what are all these other people doing out so late?" in absolute bewilderment, because you knew they couldn't all be returning a movie.
Well, probably not.
She was happy to be here, though. It was definitely an experience, and there were some girls she genuinely wanted to be friends with. Some of them - well, some would not be her first choice as companions. There were those who looked like they wouldn't care for the night sky if a meteor shot from it and landed at their feet. Or they would, but only because it could be sold on eBay for large amounts of money.
Marie looked out the window again, and wondered if Ethan Dane appreciated the night sky.
Danielle was carsick.
There was no fresh air, as the windows didn't open, and there were too many smiling, perfumed people. She hated that feeling of people crammed, and she hated being surrounded by people who were so completely fake all the time. She had come from that world, from the rich and the privileged, and she did not want to reproduce that feeling.
"Ugh," she drawled out, dropping her head back. "I wish we were there all ready."
"Yeah," one of the girls, Maggie, agreed. "But I'm sort of scared about who he'll pick. I mean, how will he know? It's not like he knows any of us."
"Inner nobility just shines through," Katherine said in a flippant voice, examining her eyes in a small mirror.
If there was one person on this trip she disliked more than anyone, Danielle had impulsively decided, in was Katherine. Some people were just too selfish and too mean to be liked by anyone, and Katherine fit that bill. It was simply impossible to stand her.
Danielle fidgeted, looking towards Maggie instead and trying to concentrate on her chatter. But really, all Danielle wanted was to get to the estate so that they could get on with the show.
Because it was one thing she was determined to win. And once she had set her mind to something, Danielle was prepared to use any means possible to get to her goal.
Courtney was helped out of the car by an attendant, who smiled at her before turning to the next girl. Shaking out the creases in her dress, Courtney took a few steps forward, than stopped. Her hands unconsciously clenched in the fabric she had just smoothed out, and her chest contracted as she stared up at Elderblossum.
What was it the pamphlet had said? she wondered bitterly. "A historic estate, maintained in whole since the 1700s," or something grand along those lines. No mention to why a television show owned it now.
Not, she told herself firmly, that she was going to think about that now. Especially as this was, in essence, her vacation. She spent most of her time managing Windslett Inn. Though small, it was one of the highest ranked inns in New England, and making sure everything ran smoothly seemed to eat up most of her time.
"Just have fun, Cour," her friends had said as they waved her off at the airport. "You'll be in England, and come on - how often to you have people buying you dresses and elaborate meals and flying you to Paris and London at the drop of a hat?"
A good point, Courtney admitted, as they entered the building, heading towards the ballroom. She was going to enjoy herself.
She held that thought in her head as Myles Ferran appeared, backed by a group of cameramen. "Hello, ladies," he said loudly. "Before you go into the ballroom, I would like you to take a few minutes to speak you thoughts."
The enjoyment level plummeted.
Oh, right, Courtney remembered unhappily, there was this part. The pour-your-guts-out-to-a-camera guy part.
This was going to be less than pleasant.
"Hi," one of the camera guys said, approaching her. He didn't look like she'd imagined a cameraman would. Probably because he looked like he should be on the other end of the camera.
This was going to be awkward.
"My name's Ted."
Ted? She bit back a smirk.
"I thought we would go out on the terrace and you could talk."
Nodding, Courtney followed him, a feeling of extreme unease spreading through her body.
Because really, how could you spill your thoughts on one attractive guy when there was another standing right in front of you?
Pamela looked disdainfully at the cameraman as she walked away from him, heading along with the other nineteen towards the ballroom. That had been easy enough, but she didn't relish having every movement of hers captured on camera. Life was hard enough, what with the inter-university politics and all - she didn't need something she said on video hear coming back to haunt her later. If that meant she had to stay unusually close mouthed, she was fine with that. In fact, she didn't really plan on showing that much emotion at all.
As with all good plans, that one was broken a moment later as she entered the ballroom, and whistled in appreciation.
It was not huge, as ballrooms went, but it was lovely. The floor was pale brown wood, waxed to a shine. Floor to ceiling windows looked out over the landscaped grounds to the sea. Two elegant chandeliers hung from the ceiling, which was largely covered by a painting of a sky. Edging the painting were elaborate engravings, which covered the walls as well. A white limestone staircase allowed the girls' entrance, and not one of them could help smiling as they walked down the dark blue carpet.
All and all, Pamela thought, it was not a bad place to end the evening.
A/N: I know, I know, we're not quite to the voting, but I thought I ought to post something. I promise voting commences in the next chapter, which is told from Ethan's point of view as he dances with the girls. And have any of you listened to Mugglecast? Because I'm finding it very amusing. It sounds like my friends chatting. Truthfully. We have these conversations.