Derek noticed a rather peculiar look on his uncle’s face when he returned from the Martin estate. “You're back. How was your business with Alpha Martin?”
“The Alpha Martin is away at the moment. The Omega Martin was the one to inform me.”
Derek arched a brow. “The Omega Martin? I trust she is not without her virtue.”
Peter shot his nephew a withering look. “I am not so foolish as to bed an unmated omega of society in her own home.”
Derek gave him an unimpressed look, but dropped the subject. “We’ve been invited to the Assembly Rooms for a ball in a week’s time.”
Peter smirked, “We best avoid it, given your distaste for dance. Unless you could be persuaded otherwise by the Honorable Omega, perhaps?”
Derek rolled his eyes, but the dusting of color upon his cheeks betrayed him. “No doubt I shall find myself tethered to the Card-Room, as I do every season, waging war against Mr. Finstock and his marked Kings.”
“No matter, we shall attend. Have you heard from your mother?”
Derek shook his head. “I should not expect any letter from her nor anyone else until next week; I’m sure you have not forgotten the date.”
Pater sighed. “I have not, although I sometimes wish that I could. Laura’s passing gets more and more difficult with time.”
Derek smiled sadly. “I would give every title and coin I have just to see her crooked smile again.”
Peter, in an uncharacteristic display of affection, hugged his nephew tightly.
“As would we all.”
The Upper Rooms were filled with music and laughter, drinks and dancing, and, above all, wealthy Alpha and beautiful Omega. Lydia and Stiles danced merrily, Lydia sharing a particular dance with the charming Mr. Greenburg, while Stiles was held captive by the most revolting Mr. Harris.
“All the wealth in England could not find that man a wife,” Stiles groused. “For it would take all that fortune to find a potion that removed the grease from his hair.”
Lydia giggled, offering more frivolity than she normally did. “A dance is a dance. Look here, poor Allison affixed to the wall! If we cannot have her moved from her position, I dare say she will become a permanent fixture! And these colors do so terribly clash with her complexion.”
Stiles regarded her. “How much have you had to drink, Cousin?”
“Omega Martin, might I have this dance?”
And Lydia was off once more, twirling about with another fine suitor. Stiles chuckled, and was keen on joining the stationary Allison, when the Alpha Hale stepped in.
“Honorable Omega, may I have this dance?”
Stiles smiled at him. “I am afraid I’m rather tired for dancing at the moment, however I’d love a stroll in the fresh air.”
The two made their way to the courtyard, where several couples had convened for a quiet moment. Gas lamps cast an ethereal glow about the space, and the night air was brisk, enough so that the Omega quickly began to feel chilled.
“Perhaps I did not think this through, I shall be cast in ice before we return.”
Derek smiled at the omega’s complaining. “Shall I get you a blanket? Some furs? Stay right here, I shall chop down the nearest tree and lay a fire at your feet.”
Stiles barked out a laugh. “You dare tease me? A poor, cold Omega?”
“Of course not! I shall begin chopping immediately.”
It was rather unusual for Derek to feel so at ease with the fairest caste. Omega were treated with abnormal reverence, so much so each one was gifted a title upon presenting, and though they were given little power, they were treasured greatly. Derek was gruff, coarse, and could often be likened to the disposition of a wolf, clearly not fit for Omega company.
But Stiles, Honorable though he may be, was wild and reckless, witty and charming, and did not wither or break when faced with adversity.
Stiles grinned. “You are awfully cheeky this evening. I trust you are enjoying yourself, then?”
“I am indeed.”
“Excellent, I should hate to have your opinion of the country ruined.”
Stiles shivered as the wind picked up, and Derek, not thinking of propriety, placed his coat upon the Omega’s shoulders.
“You forget yourself, Alpha Hale. It would most improper if I wore your coat, unmated as I am.”
Stiles handed the coat back to him, and Derek had to suppress a small whine.
“Of course, my apologies.”
“Let us return inside, it is warm in the ballroom and I believe the brisk air has returned some of my vigor. We shall dance at once.”
As Lydia danced with Colonel Whittemore, whom her parents wished her to ultimately marry once she enjoyed the splendors of her first season, she noted the heated gaze of Lord Hale following her about the room. The coiling in her gut, paired with the excess of mulled wine, made her practically giddy, and she spun and twirled herself so much she became dizzy and sought the table Allison was tethered to once the dance ended.
She watched as her cousin slipped inside with the Alpha Hale and danced, the two quite wrapped up in one another.
“I do believe Colonel Parrish has some competition, quite a shame he could not attend tonight. And look at Miss Reyes! Dancing with Mr. Boyd for every song, she will have scorned every man in Bath before the night is through.”
“Oh, enough gossip, Lydia! I can barely stand sitting through my aunt’s tirades about the company we keep, I don’t wish to hear it from you as well.”
Lydia frowned. “Your aunt may be given to tirades, but even she is having fun this evening, dancing with poor Uncle John who looks as though he’d rather be out back cleaning the stables.”
The redhead paused to take a sip of wine, which she was most irritated to find had been watered down by her meddling cousin. “If you are so determined to be angry with the Alpha McCall, I suggest you subject him to it, instead of the table or me.”
Having nothing further to say, Lydia stood up at once, marching over to the Lord Hale and demanding a dance.
The man gave her a dangerous smile.
“Anything for you, dear Omega.”