Small talk became more animated as the wine had a chance to loosen tongues and ties. He stood behind me and slightly off to the side, adding a few sporadic comments to the conversation but mostly observing those around him.
My glass was never empty, basking in the persistent attention of multiple conversationalists. The men grew more aggressive despite the quiet man at my side. I reveled in the challenge of juggling them all, and fending off the more zealous of the lot.
And then I felt it, his hand against the small of my back. I understood his action. He was unsure of his place, but that did not make it acceptable.
With a smile, I handed my glass to the current suitor and turned to give him my full attention, his fingers falling away with my movement. As the conversation around us ebbed, I said simply one word to him, “Down.”
Eyes widened as his lips parted on a protest, quelled by the simple lift of my brow. I held his gaze, mine hard with the ice they liked to talk about when I wasn’t around, those oh-so-attentive flirts staring rapt behind me.
In that moment he recognized his place as he sank gracefully to the floor, cheeks blazing and posture perfectly bowed on his knees at my feet. His hands clasped tight behind his back, the skin around his knuckles molted white in perfect harmony with the echoing gasp of polite society rippling throughout the crowd.
The tips of my shoes filled his vision as I silently observed his display of submission, seconds ticking by as nervous laughter and forced coughs revived the party with a buzz of small talk. Ignoring the sting of uneducated suppositions, I turned to survey the remainder of my entourage.
A brazen few stood before me, curiosity filling their eyes.
The boys easily distinguished themselves from the grown men, flinging snide comments at the shaking form behind me. I dismissed them just as easily, my hand settling on the crown of his head, threading soothing fingers through his hair.
They quickly thinned as I directed my attention to the single standing suitor, the only one to act the gentleman. We resumed polite conversation and the agitation beneath my hand quieted as my pet turned invisible.
Suddenly tired of the game, I addressed the curiously courteous man before me, “Would you like to come home with us for a private drink?” His gazed moved to my side and back again clearly considering the implications. After only that brief moment he nodded.
Without a single word for my chastised pet, I grabbed the back of his hidden leather collar and pulled him to his feet. Linking arms with our guest, I proceeded to the exit listening to the sound of familiar footsteps trailing behind me.