His heart raced in his chest, beating wildly as she looked at him from behind her mask. The stain that she wore on her lips only enhanced the red tones of her hair. One thing that he could not argue was how breathtakingly beautiful she was. He could taste the champagne, still on his lips, and listened to the click of her shoes as she sped away from him quickly. Valentine swallowed something hard in his throat and wore the sly smirk on his lips proudly.
He would not chase after her. He certainly would not give Jocelyn Fairchild that satisfaction.
Valentine was not among the last to trickle into the dining hall. He had seen Stephen Herondale and Céline Bellefleur continue to flirt with one another when he had left to find his seat. Slinking in, his eyes scanned the table for his name card. He found himself looking at the others in the room. He wondered where Hodge Starkweather was this evening. He had not seen the other boy all night. They often spoke to each other at events like these — otherwise, the events tended to go on much longer than they should.
He sighed and upon finding his seat, he promptly took his place. Only to discover a second later that the seat beside him was already occupied.
“Oh, not you,” he sighed.
Jocelyn nearly choked on her champagne at the sound of Valentine’s voice, a fit of coughs racking her entire body. Her eyes widened and her fingers curled into tight fists, her blood red nails, swathed in lacy fabric, dug into the palms of her hands. She put down her glass, coughing one last time, before turning to face him.
Valentine looked somehow different, transformed from the last time they had been face to face. There was a kind of strain in the muscle of his jaw, like he was doing everything he could to hold himself as still as a feather because if he stopped, he would simply pull out a dagger and slit her throat on the spot. It scared her as much as it intrigued her. Emotion, even one so subtle, was rare in his face. But most of it was concealed by a pluming mask of grey and black, with a curved beak and slits for his black, glittering eyes. Maybe she was just imagining things. Her mind tended to do that.
With a sick flip of her stomach, she realized they were matching. Fucking hell, she thought violently to herself. All she wanted was for Lucian to show up and sweep her off her feet. But alas, he wasn’t coming until the dancing began because there would be no place set for him in the banquet hall. The longing for his familiar laugh, his warm presence, his unguarded affection was almost becoming overwhelming as she stared angrily into Valentine’s eyes.
“Trust me, sweetheart,” she said venomously, invigorated by the alcohol rushing through her system and loosening her tongue, “I don’t want to be here anymore than you do.”