Richard van Alden picked up a spoon, checking quickly that nothing was stuck in his teeth. Then placing it back on the table, he grinned as he caught sight of his friend walking towards him, a dinner jacket clutched in front of her.
“Better?” he asked with a grin, as she reached him.
Cornelia slid into her seat and handed him his jacket. “I will be once it’s dried.”
Richard glanced down at her feet. “You’ve a tissue stuck to your shoe by the way,” he pointed out, under his breath.
“Oh for god’s sake.” Corney reached down and pulled it off, balling it up and putting it on the table. “Why can’t I do elegant?” she asked, with a roll of her eyes.
Richard laughed. “Well if you will constantly knock glasses of water into your lap!” Cornelia glared at him and he relented. “Anyway, you wouldn’t be you if you were, you’d be some refined society woman like all these other bores. You and Evvy are different. It’s a good thing.” He glanced out across the dancefloor where Evadne was twirling around in someone’s arms, and sighed. “She’s a real beauty, that friend of yours.”
Cornelia caught his wistful expression and grinned. “Yes I know. Bane of my life.”
Richard laughed and turned his attention back to his friend. “I’d make a move myself, but she seems a mite disinterested.”
“Yes, well she’s not exactly in the right frame of mind just now. Anyhow, playboys have never really been her type.”
“Ah well,” he replied, seemingly unperturbed, “you win some, you lose some. Plenty more fish in the sea and all that.”
Cornelia grimaced. “If you weren’t so charming, you’d be the crudest guy I’d ever met!”
“Yes, well, the Van Alden charm has to count for something, you know.”
Corney laughed and rolled her eyes. “I thought you were with Elisabeth, anyhow? She’s certainly under that impression!”
Richard frowned and turned to stare in the direction of Elisabeth Lowell, his beautiful, well-connected, ice-queen of a girlfriend, who was currently busy conversing with another man. “You think so?”
Cornelia followed his gaze and saw her throw her head back with laughter and touch the stranger flirtatiously on the arm. “Oh. Well maybe not then.”
“Yes, maybe not,” Richard replied, with a smile. “I think that one may have run its course now – neither of us have been into it for a while.”
“You’ve only been together four weeks! You met her the same night you met us!”
“Yes, well sometimes four weeks is just too long.”
Cornelia shook her head. “You’re unbelievable! I can’t believe women actually fall for you!”
Richard grinned. “Most ladies I know fall over themselves for a bit of roguish charm!” he said, with a twinkle in his eye.
“Really? Then explain to me why I get all the girls and my elder brother, who is one of the nicest men I know, rarely gets a look in.”
“Maybe he’s just holding out for the right girl?”
“Or maybe no girl will give him a chance? Believe me, you women are as shallow as us guys, whatever you may think otherwise. You’re not interested in the intelligent conversation of my kind, considerate brother. You're interested in the charming, roguish, hard-to-pin-down kind of guy like me!”
Corney rolled her eyes. “Well I’m not, not that you care. And nor’s Evvy, so don’t you even think about it!” she retorted, as she caught him staring at her friend again.
Richard grinned wryly back at her. “I had picked up on that. She really is beautiful though. I find it incredible that she’s alone.”
“There’s a reason, Richard,” she replied more soberly. “Just not one she chooses to share with you.”
“Fair enough,” he replied with a shrug. Then returning his attention to Evadne again, he watched her closely before adding, “Listen, are you two going to the benefit dinner on Friday?”
Cornelia nodded and gave him a smile. “Yes, it’s our last night out before Evvy goes back to Long Island. Why d’you ask?”
“Mike’s going to be there – my brother. He’s been working in Chicago and gets back tomorrow. I’m dragging him along whether he likes it or not.”
“I’m sure he’ll be thrilled.”
Richard grinned. “It’s for his own good. He needs to get out more. He’s always complaining he never meets any girls he likes. I think I may be able to prove him wrong.”
He was still staring at Evadne and Cornelia gave him a stern glare. “Don’t push things with her, Richard. I mean it.”
“I’m not going to. But I think we should at least all sit at the same table, give them a chance to meet, don’t you? I’ll know the chap in charge – I’ll sort it tomorrow.”
Cornelia looked doubtful and Richard decided to swiftly move the conversation on.
“Has that water dried now?” She nodded. “Excellent, ‘cause we’ve been sat here for long enough while my erstwhile other-half is busy flirting with other men. Come along, Miss Flower. Let’s show her that two can play at that game!”
“You’re not using me like that, Richard van Alden!”
Richard laughed. “Stop being so obstructive, you sourpuss! I’m asking you to dance!”