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Frederick watched her lips as she spoke. The kiss had left them pink and inviting and it was taking all of his control not to pull her into another kiss and ignore the words that fell from her pretty little mouth. Her breathlessness from their kiss only made him want to repeat the action, however, he let her speak. This was not a woman he could lose himself in, as much as he wished he could, she was little more than another pawn in his bigger game for the evening. Somehow she had created distance between them, not enough for him to worry that she had no interest, but enough that he could no longer feel the warmth of her skin against his. Frederick drew his gaze from her mouth back to her eyes and raised an eyebrow.
“I can assure you, Miss, that I know very well how to worship a woman.” Seduction dripped from his words and he knew his meaning was clear. That was the problem with the female population, they dreamt of elaborate declarations of love and loyalty. Anything other than the perfect Prince was seen as unworthy. Frederick offered something different, one night – or morning, the time of day mattered little to him– of heated passion, and in those few hours, he worshipped the heck out of that chosen woman. This was then followed by a swift goodbye and a promise, to see her again, that both knew was never going to happen.
Frederick took a slight step towards her so that his back was no longer pressed against the wall. Fingers grazed her shoulder and made their way down her arm until he took her hand that had recently moved from his chest. He bought the hand to his mouth and kissed her wrist.
“I can promise you, kitten, that if you give me the chance, I’ll show you just how good at worshipping you I can be.”
Just beyond her pretty blonde head, Frederick could see the moon high in the sky. It flooded the room with a glow that illuminated the girl in front of him. The sound of the people moving, drinking and dancing below them was nothing more than a soft hum. It was the perfect setting and yet he could not make the most of it. His plan had now fully formed in his head and he was ready to detach himself from the irresistible thing in his arms and secure his ultimate prize.
Straightening up, he lifted his other hand and gently brushed his thumb across her lower lip before kissing her once more, quickly. Freddie would not have been a Lester if he didn’t take one more kiss from her before leaving. Though the task at hand was one that caused anxiety and still seemed impossible in the back of his mind, he would take the opportunity to get his times worth with this woman.
“Why don’t I go sneak us a bottle of champagne and you make yourself comfortable?” Freddie said. He tapped the tip of her nose and stepped around her before she could protest. “I’ll be back in just a few moments.”
It had to be, potentially, the worst of crimes – next to murder. To steal from your own kind. People who put their trust in you, foolish as they were. To top it off he was about to leave the first woman that had elicited excitement from him in what felt like forever. Freddie placed his hand on the door and looked over his shoulder, his smile did not quite reach his eyes this time but it would be enough.
“Don’t you go anywhere” He said and stepped into the hallway, closing the door behind him.
Freddie didn’t give himself time to breathe or gather his thoughts for fear of turning around, deciding to forget the whole thing and go home to tell his father about his sins. The white shirt was no longer pristinely smoothed against his chest and he pushed a hand through his dark hair, now out of place. Suddenly his feet were moving, trying to step lightly. Five, six…. ten, eleven…. Freddie placed his hand on the door and pushed gently, it didn’t move.
As foolish as his friends seemed, they were smart enough to lock a room that contained a priceless jewel. Slipping his hand into his jacket pocket he felt for the metal pins he had stored there. [I Shit. ] He had to have dropped them back in the room or maybe the bar. There was no time to go back now. Frederick hissed through his teeth at his clumsiness and pressed his palms against his eyelids in frustration as he wracked his brain for another way to get into the room.
[I The window. ] Freddie threw his head back and dropped his hands in a silent hysterical laugh. Of course, this wouldn’t be easy. Everything had gone swimmingly until this point. Taking a few steps back, he pushed the door of the room before his desired location and entered. Jacket discarded, he lifted open the heavy window and looked down before whispering a string of vulgar profanities. This would not be fun.
Although Lillian was completely focused on the diamond that sat in the room two doors down, she was able to ensure that the seductive smile that she had perfected in the last few weeks masked the task at hand. If Frederick was the playboy his reputation painted him out to be, it would be so easy to keep up her pretence with him. As her fingers played with the material of his shirt, she looked up at him from underneath her beautifully long lashes. Even though she played her part well, she was not willing to offer him more than temptation. Her virtue would not be tainted along this journey. Lillian wanted to maintain [I some] part of her old self for when this was all over.
She could feel his body react to her words in the form of a shudder and it only widened her smile, knowing that she now had the control. Her eyes locked with his as his low voice found her and she could not help but raise her eyebrow at his reply to her. There was his arrogance again and she hoped that this was something that would benefit her in the next few crucial minutes. She could only imagine what methods of entertainment he used in the past and now she was only slightly nervous that she was perhaps leading him on when she had no intention of entertaining him in that respect.
Frederick’s arm moved to her waist, pulling her close enough that she was sure he would be able to detect that the motion caused her heart beat to quicken. His words instigated a heat to rise to her cheeks, tinting them a light shade of pink before he took her chin in his hand. He was beginning to regain control of the situation and she felt her mind slipping away from the task at hand, especially when she could almost feel his breath upon her lips. Before she could even react, his mouth collided with her own, gently at first as if to test whether he had permission to kiss her. Lillian couldn’t protest even if she wanted to. For that moment, she forgot that she had decided to be careful around Frederick Lester and she was beginning to learn just how easily he could break down a woman’s walls.
As their lips became more acquainted, he moved his hands into her hair and she pressed her hand flat against his chest, feeling his heart beat underneath it. Lillian allowed herself a moment of enjoyment before she started to regain her composure. Soon their kiss would end but she would wait for him to be the one to end it. As much as she did not want to admit it, she did not mind if their kiss lasted a few moments more. Who would have thought that her alibi might have offered her a little more than [I just] an alibi? Luckily, she remembered that Lester would do nothing more than use her for his own pleasure so it was easy for her to regain her right mind.
Eventually, he pulled back from her, leaving her a little breathless from the kiss they had shared. She used the break to put a little bit of distance between them, but not enough that might make him believe that he had offended her. Now that his hand was trailing down her back she allowed her eyes to find his again as he presented her with one of his famous charming smile.
“I do not believe that the Frederick Lester I have heard about knows how to worship or adore a woman. My understanding is that you see them more as a conquest. I find it hard to believe that someone such as myself might have changed your mind about such things.” She said with a smile as she removed her hand from his chest. Lillian sighed and almost laughed at the thought. Even if she did not have other things to think about on this evening, she did not think that she would have found herself spending more than a second conversing with Frederick. Her reputation would have already been tainted, no doubt. She knew that guests would be talking of their disappearing act and what they might be getting up to. It would be worth it the moment she had that diamond in her hand and she would never have to lay eyes upon Frederick again.
It had been a long time since the use of his name caused such a reaction. Women had used it in passion, anger, hope and betrayal over the years, his father often used his full name when voicing his disappointment and his siblings used it when they wanted something. The woman pressed against him used his name with a charm that caused an excitement to stir inside him. Any man who had been with as many women as he, knew that the exhilaration and attraction soon wore off. It was a habit, a distraction from his responsibilities.
He could feel the beat of her heart beneath his hands as he brushed the jewels and as the thought of kissing each one crossed his mind, she pushed against him, backing him up against a wall. She was bold and he took her move as a further invitation to him and had he the time, he would have accepted it wholly.
Frederick let his eyes linger on her lips a moment before looking back up to her. All thoughts of carrying out his plans vanished from his head as she whispered. The combination of her breath on his ear and her words erased all sense, causing a slight shiver to work its way up his spine. He could not remember a time when a woman had caused him to lose words, he always had the upper hand. Yet he could hardly remember what she had said as her nails trailed down the front of his shirt. It took all his strength to force his thoughts back to the present moment, instead of letting them play over everything he wished he could do with her if he had the time.
“I’m not sure my methods of entertaining are for a woman's ears,” He said, his voice low. The way the necklace glittered in the moonlight, enhancing her flawless pale skin, made it impossible for him to stand still. He wanted to touch her, to trace her collarbone with his finger, just to feel the warmth of her skin along the base of her neck. Instead, he snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her to him, his body pressing against hers.
“How about I show you instead?” He said and gave her the space of a heartbeat before he captured her chin with his other hand and lowered his mouth to hers, barely touching her lips at first. He waited to see if she would push him away if she would resist but after a shallow intake of breath, he decided that she would not run from his arms. So Frederick kissed her. It was only supposed to be a kiss to test the waters, to give her enough indication that he had bought her here out of lust and not as a diversion, as an alibi, but the moment he felt the gentleness of her lips he lost all rationale. The hand that had been holding her chin gently in place moved, his fingers intertwining in her hair. Her mouth was soft and warm and he bit back a groan. He would need to move away from her before he went too far. She smelt like sunshine and something else, it would be easy to become addicted to such a woman.
Frederick wondered if she knew. If she could feel his heart beating through his chest and feel the heat that seemed to radiate from every inch of his skin. She was beautiful, more than beautiful. If he had not been so cynical he would have believed her to be a goddess. Of course, it was just his luck that he finally met a woman who made him feel again and it all be part of a plan that had no place for her much longer. He pulled back, ignoring the cool air kissing his body now she was no longer pressed against him.
A ruse indeed. That was all she was and not another conquest. Frederick scolded himself for his shameless thoughts and reminded himself that one night with her was not worth risking- … he had more important things at hand and if everything worked out, maybe he would seek her out. Take his time with her and savour the feeling of excitement that had been missing for so long. He extracted his fingers from her hair and let them trail down her back. A little longer and he would make his excuses to leave the room.
Frederick gave her a stunning smile.
“A woman as attractive as you is not just for entertaining though. You deserve to be worshipped and adored, not just with words.”
For their entire walk, she was slightly ahead of him. She used the advantage to look at those around her. For the second time that evening she noticed just how interested people seemed to be about the company that Frederick Lester was keeping. While she had experienced the stares of the guests up her entrance, this was different. Men had almost fallen over themselves to get a look at her and men did not tend to whisper amongst themselves about a pretty girl. But women; they were different. Jealous stares and judgemental whispers travelled between them, wondering what kind of woman it took to grab the attention of a Lester. If they knew anything about his reputation they would know that it was simply her sex that attracted him to her in the first place. It could have been any woman to leave the busk of the party with him, she was just lucky that she had caught his attention first.
While her positioning did not allow her to see the look of panic of Frederick’s face, she mirrored it. She had expected lots of people to be in attendance because of the cause behind the evening, but it seemed that the image of the Fox couple had drawn in far more people than intended. Where there was once a guest list that might have restricted those who could enter the party, such things had been abandoned when the couple were given an opportunity to show off to more people. Their wealth was their weakness and this might also affect her ability to pull off her crime with ease. Not that she expected it to be easy in the first place but she had hoped that she would manage to get in and out of that room without being seen.
Even though they had left the main room for some privacy, she soon realised that they would not find that here. Lillian almost looked back to observe the look on the face of Frederick who was likely to be frustrated about the amount of people that seemed to hinder their time alone. The entire time they had glided through the crowd, he had his hand pressed against the small of her back. If she was not so focused on her evening task, she might have found his closeness unnerving. After a minute, she felt his breath against her neck and her own hitched in her throat as he whispered towards her. From the reactions of those around her, people had heard his proposition towards her and if she hadn’t been so desperate for some sort of alibi she might have been embarrassed by the judgement towards her. Her short-lived reputation would be tarnished the moment she disappeared upstairs with him but she did not plan on spending time amongst these people when the evening was over. Hopefully by then she would be free to return to her life of simplicity.
Lillian nodded in reply and changed direction with him, noticing the stairs were close. As she walked up to the top of the stairs, the blueprints returned to her mind and she looked towards the room where she would expect to find the diamond. She only allowed her eyes to rest upon the door for a split second. After all, she was supposed to look as though she did not know anything about the layout up here. Lillian looked towards Frederick for a second as his hand moved from her back and tried a door. She could not have asked for a more perfect location. She could excuse herself and return within a matter of minutes without raising any suspicion. Frederick’s movement was swift as he pulled her into the empty room, gently pressing her back up against the door as he closed it.
Her heart started to quicken involuntarily and she swallowed hard as she tried to calm it. Lillian couldn’t allow anything to distract her now but her saving grace was that her obvious nerves could be construed as attraction. Lillian allowed her eyes to meet his and her lips turned up into smile as his hands found her hips.
“My apologies, Frederick.” She laced his name with seduction, hoping to allure him further. She could feel his hand resting above her chest as he found the jewels that lay neatly against her porcelain skin and her eyes followed his hand for a moment. Lillian had not been used to wearing such luxurious items and their presence against her skin did not go unnoticed for more than a second. Jewels were heavy and she found herself wondering how those in high society could stand it. When the night was over she would be glad to remove them and never have to wear them again. She pushed the nerves aside now and allowed her evening task to occupy her mind.
Lillian bit her lip slightly as she flashed up eyes towards his. It was then that she pushed him back until his back was pressed against the wall nearest to them. It wasn’t that she was stronger than him - that would have been physically impossible, especially considering his size compared to her but she had the element of surprise. Lillian pressed her body against him so that she could feel every contour of his body against hers and she began to giggle as she leant forward towards his ear, lowing her voice into a whisper. “Tell me Frederick, how do you entertain beautiful women?” She asked as she ran her hands down his torso, allowing her nails to scratch the surface of his shirt ever so slightly. Her lips remained curved in her devious smile. This was so unlike her, but then the crime she was about to commit was too. She only needed to wear her mask for a few more hours.
Before the years of debauchery, intoxication and women, Freddie had been an avid believer that his father was the wisest man alive. His words always sat true in the boy's heart and most evenings the family would spend time together, his father telling stories of his own youth. His father had made his money from knowing people, not just beneficial friendships, but really knowing people. He told his children countless times to look for the small things in people, the twitch of an eye, the hitch in a voice, the small things gave away peoples real emotions and when you knew real emotions you could manipulate them. If Freddie had listened to his father he would have seen the small look of panic that crossed across the woman's face as he sprayed her with his drink or the way her eyes glazed over for a moment. Instead, all he saw was a beautiful smiling woman who was willing to leave the party with him.
Keeping his hand pressed against the small of her back, Freddie gently guided the woman from the busy room into an equally busy entrance hall. The party was overflowing from the main ballroom and now the foyer and the room opposite were filled with people. The voices only enhanced and echoed by the high ceilings. Drinks flowed and though the music could barely be heard people still danced. Freddie felt his heart rate increase, the heat creeping up his back. The guest list had not been this long, meaning the auction was not as exclusive as he had believed it to be. How could be have been so stupid? [I Of course ] the Hosts would want as many people present to witness their generosity. He pressed his teeth together, his jaw tensing. With more people, there was a higher risk of someone finding their way upstairs. Though many were not as bold as Freddie, inhibitions were often forgotten after a few glasses of champagne. Thankfully the woman was a step in front of him so she could not see the anxiety that clouded his face. Was he stupid for doing this? Surely there was no way he could pull this off. Maybe if he just spoke to his employer, maybe if he explained how the party had gotten out of control…
Freddie knew it would be no use. There was one way out of this mess and it was up the stairs to the right and nine doors down.
Drawing in a deep breath, he allowed himself a single moment to wallow in the fear of what he was doing before closing all his panic out, like a heavy door being shut. Leaning forward he spoke into the woman’s ear, a whisper that was loud enough for the people stood next to them to hear but still intimate enough to seem like it was just for her.
“It seems we won’t be finding privacy here, Robert has some very nice guest rooms. Let’s find one.”
His words had done the trick, the people beside them rolled their eyes and whispered to each other. Alibi, check. Now he had to get the woman upstairs and somehow excuse himself, grab the diamond and get the heck out of there.
Something felt off, as he steered the woman upstairs he realised he had been trying to convince every one of their attraction but the actual object of his apparent interest. Moving his hand from her back, he pushed open the door of one of the guest rooms – conveniently the one two doors down from the location of the diamond. Thankfully it was empty. He pulled the woman in and in a single motion pushed her up against the door closing it softly. If she were to tell people that nothing happened, that he had simply taken her upstairs and disappeared then it would cause suspicion. He needed to make it believable and he needed to make a good excuse to leave.
It wouldn’t be hard. He didn’t need to pretend he was attracted to her, after all, she was stunning. He moved his hands to rest on her hips and gave her his best charming Freddie smile.
“Though I loved the way you called me Mr Lester, I want you to call me Frederick.” He kept his voice low, knowing that there was no one else he needed to convince but her. He locked his gaze with her own bright eyes and bringing one hand up, lightly brushed a finger across the small green jewels that hung around her neck.
“If I was not so sober, I would have thought you were a dream.” He whispered, leaning in closer to her. “You are truly the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on.” And as he felt the heat of her skin under his hands, and looked into her glittering eyes, Freddie knew that his words were true. It was only a shame that he would not have time to properly get to know her. She was a tool in his plan and nothing more, he reminded himself. He had a job to do, a debt to pay and someone that was relying on him.
Lillian used the short silence between them to drink in his appearance properly. It was not something she did out of a genuine need to look the man over, but it would help with her pretence if it looked as though she was falling over his looks. His perfectly positioned dark hair seemed to complement his face well and she was sure that a lot of women would have loved the fact that his face was only tarnished with the slightest of facial hair. It was just enough to enhance the strong jawline that he presented. It did well to draw attention to the right places and she wondered if it was a look that he went for purposely to get a specific reaction from women. Even now, there were plenty of women swooning over him from a distance, blushing and giggling to their friends in a corner as well those who were with their husbands who clearly needed to work on hiding their wandering eyes better. She might have showed her distain for such things if she was not attempting to uphold an image with a Lester man.
She watched as he drank from his glass with an equal amount of self-worth that he injected into his words. Frederick Lester had a high opinion of himself, that much she was sure of. Lillian allowed the flattery of his words to fall upon her and reacted in a way that she would expect any naive woman to react to such a compliment. Rare diamonds certainly did stand out but she did not consider herself to be one. Her image may show her in such a light, but under a microscope anyone would be able to see that her worth was not equivalent to that of a real diamond. If only he knew that a rare diamond was exactly the reason why she was in attendance at such a party in the first place. Lillian allowed her eyes to move down to her glass, feigning embarrassment from his flattery and played with the glass in her hand to distract herself slightly. She only looked up again when she noticed how he moved towards her, only to find his attempt at perusing her had been halted when he knocked the glass with his elbow, soaking himself in alcohol.
Lillian permitted herself to laugh as he cursed and she found herself genuinely amused by the fact that the playboy had involuntarily made a fool out of himself in front of a woman. As he shook his arm some of the liquid that soaked him managed to find her. She let out a sound that hinted at shock, although it was simply because she had not expected to be doused in alcohol herself. Luckily, it was just her arm and the expensive dress, which she needed to return, had been narrowly missed. Lillian looked down at the dress quickly to assess the damage and when she found none she let out a sigh of relief. The last thing she needed was to owe her employer for an expensive dress too. Lillian fully intended to rid herself of any debt she had with him by the end of the night.
“Not to worry. The dress is fine.” She said as she watched him brush at the liquid upon her arm. Another woman’s breath might have hitched at his touch but Lillian simply kept the smile upon her face so that he did not think he had offended her. The way he looked over the length of her body would normal make her put a man in his place but on this occasion she let it slide. After all, she was using him for an alibi, she could at least let him believe that she enjoyed his advances. “Well then it seems we have very similar priorities Mr Lester.” She made sure that the way she said his name was laced with seduction but she could see that he was slightly distracted by those around them. Perhaps he was simply enjoying the amount of people who seemed to be observing the pair together and she was happy about that fact. The more people that saw them together, the more witnesses she had that would place her with him when the time came for her disappearance.
Lillian allowed her mind to wonder for a moment. The image of the diamond target flashed in her mind and she recalled the blue prints of the house as though she had the entire property memorised. While she might have to tarnish her short lived reputation to get the diamond, disappearing upstairs with a Lester would be perfect. All she would need to do would be to excuse herself for a moment. She could say that she needed to freshen up and he would not know that her time had been spent stealing a prized possession of the Fox family. Once the diamond was in her hand she could make up so kind of excuse to leave. She could act drunk and maybe suggest that she might find herself ill. That would work well to put a man off wanting to continue with his advances.
Her thoughts seemed to have occupied her mind for quite some time and by the time she had managed to shake them Frederick was talking of husbands and taking the glass from her hand so that her could lead her into another room. Lillian could only hope that enough people had seen them for her to be placed with him should she need to be. “You are a rather bold man aren’t you Mr Lester? If I were to tell you that I did have a husband waiting for me that would not affect your decision to lead me off somewhere more private at all would it? A man with no morals I see.” Lillian laughed and walked with him. “As luck would have it, there is no husband or lover, so at least that is one less scandal to worry about this evening.” If there was one thing she had learnt about the high society, there were plenty of scandals wherever one looked.
Frederick had never struggled with women. He prided himself on his smooth talking and quick wit, but as the lady spoke he found his eyes drawn to her mouth, her words like a river soothing his nerves, there were a thousand things he could have said and yet he just gave the slightest of smiles and kept his words to himself a little longer. His father had always warned him that pretty girls had ugly agendas, they were for pleasure and pride and never to be trusted. A hundred girls had giggled and twirled for his attention and he had not given the smallest space in his heart to any of them. She, however, was a wonderful alibi, a perfect distraction and he knew the two looked good together. Where her eyes were the green of spring, his were the dark green and brown of a forest. Her hair glittered like spun gold, a stark contrast to his warm brown. Any who glanced at the pair that night would have agreed they were a genetic match.
He could have laughed as she commented on the ladies he had been wrapped up in, it would have been inappropriate to tell her that the words were not lies. When she lifted the glass to her lips, Freddie mirrored her movement, letting the liquid pass across his tongue for a split second before placing it down.
"I could have all the ladies in the world to choose from and you would still stand out. A rare diamond like yourself is not overlooked often, miss." His words were flattery, aimed at the beautiful lady beside him, but his smile was his own.
He pushed himself off the bar that had been holding his weight, his movement similar to that of a predatory cat, slow, fluid and what should have been effortless, however, it resulted in his elbow knocking his glass over, the liquid spilling across the wooden bar top. Frederick cursed under his breath and shook his arm that was now covered in alcohol, a few droplets spraying over the women.
“Shoot, sorry kitten I didn’t mean to get it on you.” He said, reaching his hand over to lightly brush the water off her arm. “I hope I didn’t get any on your dress, I could never forgive myself for ruining something so beautiful.”
Freddie was not enjoying the party. The nagging voice in the back of his head was not letting him relax. If the evening continued as planned, he would let a few more drinks pass between guests, a few more people notice lady by his side and then he would excuse himself, retrieve the diamond and leave. Only when he was finally back in Long Island, the diamond safely in the hands of his employer, that he would enjoy himself. "Getting to know you better is my only priority for this evening." Freddie said, his eyes travelling down the length of her body once before connecting with her own gaze.
Glancing back to the hosts, Freddie could see they were talking with their accountant, a man who was a stereotype if he had ever seen one. His thick rim glasses and outdated tweed jacket made him easy to spot and Freddie knew that if the accountant was present then they would be announcing the auction winner soon. There were two points in the night where people would be distracted, the auction was the first and the second was when Lady Fox announced the total amount raised for the night. He had no intention of hanging around for the second opportunity. Moving his gaze a few feet over, Freddie caught the eye of one of the high society reporters, the large woman shook her head disapprovingly at him and he knew, her column would read ‘Rich playboy monopolising women at the Fox fundraiser.’
"So tell me, should I be expecting a husband or a lover to arrive anytime soon?" Freddie motioned with his hand to the door. It would not be the first time he had been called out publicly over flirting with a man’s wife. He had to be careful not to draw more attention than needed tonight and though the lady was beautiful, she would not solve his problems like the diamond would. “If your husband is due may I suggest we take this somewhere a little more private?” A bold move but he accompanied the words with another of his charming smiles and as if to guide the woman into the next room he brushed his hand against her lower back, his other hand taking her glass from her hand to settle on the bar.
Lillian smiled towards the bartender who had clearly ignored another to take her order. It seemed that the benefit of being an attractive woman at an event like this meant that those who serviced them would often make sure they were looked after. She was sure that he had fixed her drink a little stronger than the normal measurement and that certainly helped her on her way to feeling a little more confident about her task for the evening. Although, if this drink was the same she would have to make it her last because intoxication would certainly hinder her impending theft.
For a moment she remained locked in the gaze of the man who had taken her order only to realise that he was not actually fixing her drink at all, instead he was drinking in her beauty. While it was flattering to have a man look at her in the way that he was, she really needed that drink. Lillian parted her lips, intending to encourage him along with her drink but it seemed that she had no need to do so, as a man who had been stood next to her decided to snap at him. While her approach would have been much gentler, it seemed that he was successful in encouraging the man to make their drinks. She did not even need to turn her head to look at the man to know what kind of person he was. He was clearly a member of a wealthy family and had likely spoken to plenty of people inferior to him with such a tone. If they had met a few months ago, he might have spoken to her in a very similar way.
While she would have liked to put the man in his place, she had an image to retain and if anyone was to believe that she came from money herself, she must uphold a similar attitude, especially around the wealthiest men and women of America. Lillian swallowed her nerves and dressed her lips with a feigned smile; one that would ensure she could control the conversation if she wished it. As she turned to the man beside her she took in his appearance. He looked like every other man at this party; a well-groomed, entitled rich man who thought that he could have anything or anyone he wanted. At least she could use this situation to her advantage. If she could make him believe that she was like every other empty-headed, gold-digging woman here, she might just have the perfect alibi. Perhaps she could even allow a pretence of intoxication to help the situation. Surely no one would be able to pin a theft on her if she was flirting with a handsome man for most of the night. He was smooth too. Good. That would make this a lot easier for her.
A couple of party goers greeted her as they walked passed her and she smiled politely, tilting her head to acknowledge them before she turned her attention back to the man who was introducing himself to her. Lester. She had heard that name before and the moment he mentioned his family, her smile grew wider. To him or any other outsider it might have been construed as admiration for the name and the wealth that came with it. Her smile was simply because his name would mean that a lot of people would be watching him and that would mean that people would be watching her too. Perhaps an alibi would be a lot easier to come by than she had expected. Frederick had quite the reputation when it came to women and she was more than willing to let him think that he could play with her if it gave her an excuse to attend to the upper levels of the Fox home.
When she was about to introduce herself, the bartender out the drinks in front of them and she showed her gratitude before taking the glass in her hand and turning back to Frederick. She took a sip from her glass, making sure that her eyes were speaking to his seductively. “I’m not sure I know the answer to that question. Perhaps you have been so wrapped up in other pretty ladies that you simply have not had to time to stop and look around at all the choice you have.” She smiled and took another sip of her drink, steadily so that the alcohol did not affect her in the way that she intended to portray its affects. Lillian placed the glass on the bar, running her fingers around the rim as she pulled her eyes away from his for a second. It was all a game from this point on; one that she knew she could win so easily after spending weeks observing how women threw themselves at men like this.
“So, tell me Frederick, are you enjoying the party?” She asked as she gestured towards the sea of people around them. “I do believe that I was finding myself rather bored until now. I’m sure a man such as yourself would not mind keeping me company for a while?” Lillian bit her lip as she spoke before taking another sip from her glass. She already knew the answer if his reputation had any truth to it.
As the music stopped the nerves kicked in. Frederick was not a criminal. Despite his agenda, the betrayal of his own kind, he was not a criminal. These were the words he had told himself over and over again, in months of preparation he had held strong to his morals. He had no other choice tonight. Turning to face the elevated stage as the musicians let out a final few stray notes, his green eyes surveyed the murmuring crowd. Each face held a name, a guest list he had poured over each night, ensuring that there would be no surprises in store for him. The high members of law enforcement were not present tonight, neither was the Mayor, both parties invited but both declined. The hostess opened her mouth, a smile as bright as the jewels that lay across her neck. Her words flowed through the crowd with effortless confidence. She had captivated her audience and when her bold remark filled the ears of the crowd, Freddie knew she meant it. He had studied the assets of the hosting couple months in advance, he knew that if their cash didn’t stretch, they had enough money in property and antiques to cover the extra and still live their lavish lifestyle.
Freddie soon realised that he had zoned out, his thoughts ticking over the intelligence he had received from his employer. The music started to play, a single wave of the Conductor's hand and all at once, like the winter blizzard outside, the upbeat song packed the room. It was one of the benefits of living at such a time, wealthy or poor, you could always find somewhere to dance from dinner till dawn. Any other night, Frederick would have joined them but tonight he had a schedule to stick to and his attention could not falter. The crystal glass in his hand was once again empty and he turned back to the bartender. Before he could get the attention of the man a voice like honey interjected over his own words. The woman stood beside him radiated elegance. He watched, taken aback for just a moment as she ordered her drink, her smile stunning the bartender into a stupor. Frederick could not blame the man for his vacant stare, the women had sparkling eyes and was dressed in what could only be described as the highest quality silk, the kind of material that made a man want to carelessly rip it to strips.
“The lady said she’ll have a gin, I’ll have a whiskey.” Frederick snapped at the man. “I do not believe Lady Fox is paying you to gawk all night.” It was a tone often used by people of status when talking down on the help, and though the man flinched at his words, Freddie did not think anything of it. Shifting his body to face the lady beside him, Frederick flashed one of his charming smiles that had won him many ladies since a young age. She was more beautiful now he could see her properly, out the corner of his eye she had been just as beautiful as any other lady with the right clothes and money, but now he could see the woman and her real worth shined through. She would be the perfect entertainment till it was show time. People would see him talking to a beautiful lady and not notice his lack of dancing, or the way his shoulders were tense. They would see her smile and her body and elegance and believe it was the normal flirtation that was expected of a Lester child. No one would see a man about to commit a crime.
“Please excuse him, miss. You cannot blame the poor chap for being stunned by someone as beautiful as you.” His words were smooth. A practised flirt. A woman watched him as she passed on her way to the garden. Good, he thought, the more people who saw the two together the better alibi he had. His initial plan had been to stay by Robert all night, because who better to provide an alibi than the man he was stealing from. However, people would notice him with a woman like this, he was a notorious ladies man and when he disappeared upstairs, no one would think twice. A much more believable plan.
“The names Frederick Lester, you may have heard of my family.” It was a cheap line, for those that knew about the Lester family they would be impressed to meet a top investors son, back in Long Island the line had worked in most clubs. Freddie ran a hand through his dark hair, just as the barman put their drinks in front of them.
“Why don’t you tell me how a lady as pretty as you has escaped my notice? It’s not often I miss a pretty face.” He said, picking up his glass.
Everybody wears a mask. Some people decorated it with the success of their business while others decorated it with the pretence of a happy family. No-one knew what was really under their masks but that was the whole point. Everyone knew of the fake personas that people portrayed but no-one dared to look under the mask out of fear of someone trying to look under their own. People learned to mind their own business because in the high society reputation meant everything. It was tied to their money and sometimes a reputation was only assigned [I because] of their money, so losing one meant losing both.
The same applied to Lillian Rogers. Her mask was one that never slipped and very rarely revealed anything to raise suspicion to those she socialised with. On this evening, she was required to put on her mask once more. As much as she despised socialising with these people, her current situation meant that she had no choice but to continue her pretence. She chose a dress that only emphasised the pure beauty of her own skin, allowing the specks of green emerald jewellery to highlight the green of her eyes. They stood out the most and that is why she chose such a simple outfit for the evening because she wanted to highlight her own beauty, not over-shadow it with jewels. One of her biggest assets was her beauty and she had it all: beauty, money, success. At least that was the image she needed to portray right now. Even now, as she glided through the sea of people swarming the lavish home that she had been invited to, she exude success, as false as it may be. For a moment, the attention was solely on her as she moved through the crowd and it was not simply because of the pure silk dress that hung to her figure as though it was made just for her. Those who spoke to her stumbled over their words, especially the men. Nothing could hide the obvious and instant attraction.
Trini was not interested in men, at least not for relationships or anything of that nature. She only cared about completing the task she had been set so that she could finally free herself from the situation she found herself in. Hopefully tonight, it would all be over. As she made her way towards the bar, she bore a smile that ran with seduction and her voice was as smooth as velvet as she spoke to those who greeted her. As she arrived at the bar she ordered herself a drink and when it found its way into her hand, she turned towards the raised section of the room, decorated by the elegant swags that fell between the podiums either side of the stage. The venue was the perfect place to hold such a benefit. What better way to make a statement about wealth than to invite those who belonged to the high society to gaze upon such a rich home.
That of course was what the charity event was really about – not raising money for the less fortunate. This was a way for the rich to prove a point and to establish themselves amongst the rest as to who had the largest bank account. It just so happened that charities benefitted from the egotistical rich.
She raised her heeled foot to elevate herself above the rest of the party and watched as Robert’s wife whispered into the ear of the musician she had hired and the swing music that many had been dancing to, began to silence itself. She had the attention of most people even before she brought the microphone up to her parted lips as she looked out to the sea of faces looking towards her. Her dazzling smile was more than enough to notify them of her upcoming speech.
“Well, it is so great to see so many of you accepting our invitation here tonight and might I say that you have exceeded my expectations with your effort. You all look absolutely ravishing. Those who have bid upon the yacht will find out soon enough which one of you lucky people were able to outbid the highest bidder. I would like to take this opportunity to show my gratitude to all of you. Tonight we will be celebrating the amount of money raised by all of you generous people. Once we have a total amount of money raised, Robert and I will be matching the amount to double the fund.”
This caused whispers to break out amongst the people. Now this had turned into a competition; one that could test their limitations. Those who were riddled with jealously saw this as a way to prove they had large bank accounts and there would be no way that the Fox couple would be able to match the total. Little did they know that they held a diamond that was worth more than any item anyone in this room owned and by the end of this evening, it would be hers. Lillian turned back towards the bar and called for another drink, she would need it if she was going to get through the evening.
The first flakes of snow flittered under the streetlights, everything felt still and calm as though time had stopped. The people walking down the sidewalk stopped to tilt their heads back and take in the white dust. Everything was forgotten for just a few moments. These people were no longer bankers, dancers, society belles or criminals, they were innocent children witnessing the first snow of the year. Hopes and dreams falling from the sky in the form of crystalized water. White and pure. Stood a few steps back from the cluster of people who had started to walk again was a man. His black coat now covered with a white dusting of snow, his earlier worries eased for a moment as he turned his eyes up to the sky. It lasted no longer than a single heartbeat before he moved, his steps slow at first but soon replaced with something more confident. The hopes and dreams of the man had been dashed a long time ago. With each step, he was moving closer to the end and after months of preparing, he was ready for it.
Frederick Lester, or Freddie as he was known to his family and friends, was now climbing the stairs of the large townhouse, its exterior nothing compared to what was inside. A single parchment handed to the man at the door and he was in. A few eyes turned to him when he entered, but it was nothing that the oldest Lester sibling wasn't used to. With his dark hair, green eyes and sharp jaw, he had caught the eye of women often enough.
Freddie walked into the house, glittering chandeliers with more crystals than he had ever seen before hung from the high ceilings, white tables lined with silver trays of champagne and hundreds of candles placed on every available surface. Each room was filled to the brim with decorations a mix of golds and blacks, pearls and feathers. The place was extravagant and the people who danced and drank around him more so. Everywhere he turned there were sequins, diamonds and emeralds. Women dressed in backless dresses that cost more than a house and shoes that clicked in time with the music as they swished their tassel skirts. It was like something from a movie and nothing less could have been expected from the hosts of the evening.
As if on cue a sparkling hand came to rest on Fredericks' shoulder. He turned, plastering a smile on his face though every nerve-ending was on fire with anxiety.
"Lady Fox," He said, greeting the smiling face that was coated in heavy makeup. Her eyes covered in a heavy black powder and lips the darkest of reds. Behind the older brunette, women stood her husband, a cigar in one hand and a look of disinterest on his face. Robert Fox, one of the wealthiest men in America, did not enjoy parties. He was overindulged and overpaid. It resulted in one of the dullest men Frederick had ever had the pleasure of meeting and the past four months had been about wooing the pair. Teeth grinding, skin itching, nail-biting four months.
"Robert, what a fantastic party. What are we celebrating?" Frederick did not need an answer nor did he listen to the one given. He knew that people like the Fox's did not need a reason to celebrate. They were rich and bored. Frederick knew the kind as though they were his own family and once upon a time he would have lapped up the excuse to drink too much and dance with tipsy women who were dying for attention. But things had changed and now the way they threw money away was fueling the fire that burned in the pit of his stomach, the fire that had forced him to renounce his past life and masquerade as the suited man stood in his shoes now.
Placing a hand on Lady Foxs' arm he excused himself from the crowd of people that had started to surround the hosts and made his way to the bar that was set up against one of the tall windows. Picking up a glass of something gold and strong, he downed the burning liquid in a single swallow. Liquid courage, isn't that what his brother had called it? Frederick needed all the courage he could get. Intel had told him, on the second floor, in a sealed room in a box locked with a key that hung around Robert Foxs' neck was the worlds most precious diamond. And if he ever wanted to be free he was going to need all the courage in the world so that he could steal it.
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