Even though she no longer loved him, she still didn’t want him hurt because of her. She tried to tell herself it would be for his own good, so he’d realize they had no future. But she couldn’t bear the thought of what was about to happen.
All too soon, the limo arrived. Looking out at the crowds and red carpet and paparazzi, Letty couldn’t breathe. Collins got out and opened their door.
Darius went first. There was a low roar from the crowds, watching from behind the cordons of the red carpet, at seeing Darius Kyrillos, the host of the evening and currently New York’s most famous billionaire bachelor, get out of the limo, gorgeous in his tuxedo. As cameras flashed in the darkening twilight, he gave a brusque wave.
Looking at the photographers, Letty felt so weak she wasn’t sure she could get out of the limo.
Turning back, Darius held out his hand to where she sat quivering in the backseat. He lifted a challenging eyebrow.
Shaking, Letty put her hand in his.
As she exited the limo, a low murmur started amid the photographers and press waiting outside the red carpet as someone recognized Letty.
Then it spread.
There was a gasp of recognition traveling among the photographers and crowd like a rumble of thunder rolling across the ground. The camera flashes went crazy as journalists and celebrity bloggers started screaming at her.
“Where have you been for the last ten years?”
“How does it feel now that your father’s out of prison?”
“Do you feel guilty for your father’s victims as you’re coming to a ball in diamonds?”
“Are you two together?”
“Mr. Kyrillos, with all the city at your feet, why would you date a jailbird’s daughter?”
Darius responded only with a glower as he arrogantly walked past them, Letty gripping his hand tightly. He led her past the reporters and inside the magnificent beaux-arts-style granite building. Only after she’d walked up the steps and past the imposing columns through the oversize door, and he’d shut it behind them, did she exhale. Immediately, he pulled her close. Letty closed her eyes, still shaking as she breathed in his strength, his warmth, his comfort.
“It’s over,” he said softly as he finally drew back, tucking back a dark tendril of her hair behind her ear. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“You think it’s over?” She gave him a trembling smile. “It’s only just begun.”
Darius’s expression darkened, but they were interrupted as a famous white-haired society matron covered in jewels entered the foyer behind them. Her face brightened when she saw Darius. She immediately left her much younger date to come forward and give him air-kisses.
“Darius, how lovely to see you! Thank you again for hosting this important event.” She simpered. “Though I think there will be many broken hearts when they see you brought a date—”
But as the matron turned to Letty, her smile froze. Her expression changed to shock, then outrage.
“Hello, Mrs. Alexander,” Letty said bashfully. “I don’t know if you remember, but I used to go to school with your daughter, Poppy. We were both debutantes at the—”
“Stop.” The woman’s eyes blazed. “Don’t you dare speak to me.” Looking back at Darius, she hissed, “Do you know who this girl is? What she’s done?”
He looked at her coldly. “Of course I know who Letty is. We’ve been friends since childhood. And as for what she’s done—I think you have her confused with her father.”
The woman turned to Letty with narrowed eyes. “You have some nerve coming here. Your father stole money from nearly every person attending tonight.” She looked at Darius incredulously. “And you are insane to bring her. Take my advice. Send Letitia Spencer straight out the door. Or you might find that you suddenly have no guests, and your charity will suffer. For what? So you can get that little tart in your bed?” She looked pointedly at Letty’s belly. “Or perhaps you did that already?”
Letty’s cheeks went hot. She suddenly felt like a tart, too, wearing this low-cut, formfitting pink dress that showed off every curve. Beneath the society matron’s scrutiny, even her beautiful sparkly shoes lost their gleam, and suddenly just pinched her feet.
“It’s only out of respect for those poor foster children that I’m not leaving here right now.” The woman glared between them, then flounced away in her jewels and fluttering silk sleeves.
Letty was left paralyzed from the ambush.
“Don’t listen to her,” Darius said, putting his hand on her shoulder. “She’s a witch.”
“I don’t blame her for being mad,” Letty said in a low voice. “Her family lost a lot of money. Tens of millions.”