Well, she wasn’t there only officially.
“Mom, that lady’s trying to catch your eye,” Seb whispered.
When Thea looked down at him he nodded to a young woman across the room with flaming red hair and a threadbare black cardigan pulled over and ill-fitting black dress. She caught Thea’s eye and started across the room toward her.
Before Thea came up with a way to at least remove Seb from the encounter that was coming, Moira’s son stepped in front of his daughter and bodily steered her out of the room.
“What was that about?” Seb asked.
He gave her an unimpressed look.
“Nothing that concerns us,” Thea amended. Her son was getting entirely too good at realizing when he wasn’t being told the whole story.
A throat cleared next to them, and Thea turned.
“Ms. DeLuca.” The woman standing next to them now was absolutely immaculate, in that natural artless way that was guaranteed to put people off.
Thea achieved that look frequently, and knew it for the armor it was. But in reality, the woman standing in front of her had reason to be wary. “Miss LaValle.”
“Marie, please,” the other woman corrected perfectly. “And this young man must be your son, Sebastian.”
“Seb,” Seb corrected, with all the grace of any other pre-teen boy. “Please.”
“Of course.” Marie LaValle watched Thea for a moment, clearly unsure how to start whatever conversation she felt like they needed to be having. “Moira made an odd request of me, and insisted that I needed to do it now, and I’m not sure if I should or not.”
Thea blinked at her. “Professionally?”
“No.” Her perfect nose wrinkled. “Well…I believe it may have been one of those things that one says in a professional way, but are actually meant to be personal.”
Seb snorted. “That sounds like Moira.” He swallowed. “I’m not supposed to be here for business stuff. I’ll go look at the desert stuff.” He sunk his hands in his pockets like a little man and sauntered over to the buffet tables.
Marie watched him, surprised. “Are you prepared for his teen years?”
Thea laughed, shocked. “I’m not even sure I’m prepared for now.”
Marie flushed lightly. “I apologize. I was told he was a singular boy, I suppose I didn’t take it seriously enough.”
“Moira had a very high opinion of him,” Thea answered softly. “You said she made a request?”
“It was more of an order.”
“They often were.”
Marie nodded. “In regard to you, specifically.”
“Me?” Thea frowned. That didn’t bode well. She could probably have manufactured something, and slipped away. Or she could have head the other woman off at the pass and insisted all of Moira’s requests died with her.
“It is a precarious situation.”
Thea cocked a brow at her. “I hope you’re prepared to live in those.”
Marie laughed softly, nodding. “I’d realized. I’m going to power through this particular one with the understanding that everything I’ve learned of you says I won’t…find myself out in the cold if this is a mis-step.”
Thea waited, because she didn’t have anything to say about that.
“Moira insisted that I make two requests of you.” She swallowed. “The first is less…difficult. I’m to ask that you and I can get a cup of coffee or a drink where-in no official business is discussed.”
She frowned. Moira hadn’t ever been particularly quiet about what she thought of Thea’s lack of social life. “And the second?”
“That I ask that any time you are not specifically working I be allowed to call you at least Thea.” Marie swallowed. “I…do hope you understand I would never have presumed otherwise.”
Thea looked over to where her child was pretending to stare at the deserts. Thought about the number of people in the room currently she should have had a relationship with, should have spoken to and spent time with, and didn’t. Couldn’t, in some cases. “When I’m working any level of familiarity is a risk.” She watched the other woman. “Outside of that, Thea is fine. And I don’t drink much, but there’s a very nice coffee shop over on twelfth. Ten a.m.?”
“Wonderful. Ten a.m. is perfect.” Marie started to step away from her, and stopped for a second. “She didn’t just think highly of your son, I hope you understood that.”
Thea stared through the room toward the flowers and memorials set up beyond the buffet tables. “It was mutual,” she whispered.
Come back tomorrow for whatever I thought I had planned for R...