\ 20:35 Alison, Balthazar and Logan | unlimitedi.net
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Wending her way through the crowd, Alison caught up with Connie after having to stop only a couple of times to sign autographs and chat for a few moments with assorted people.

“There you are!” Connie grabbed Alison’s hand and pulled her through one more crush of people to where an older man stood with Jasmin. The two seemed to be very close, their heads together, and Alison tried to pull back.

“Connie, I’m not sure we should disturb them.”

“Nonsense, it’s a party. Besides, it’s my turn to have a chat with our lovely hostess anyway.”

As they drew closer, Jasmin carefully disengaged her arm from the man’s and cast a glance her way that looked like gratitude. Ah, and haven’t we all been in that situation? Alison mused, glad now that Connie had insisted on breaking into this tête-à-tête.

“Balthazar, you old devil,” Connie began cheerily, “I’d love to introduce you to tonight’s guest of honour. This…” She gestured, game-show girl style, over Alison from head to foot as though she were a fancy car on display. “…is Lucinda Graves. Lucinda, meet Balthazar Romano, one of New York’s most eminent entrepreneurs.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” As Alison extended her hand to Balthazar, it wasn’t lost on her how Connie took the opportunity to sweep Jasmin off to one side. Still, helping to rescue the owner of the club from the unwanted attentions of one of the guests could be considered her good deed for the day. And gaining the ear of a businessman was never a bad thing, either.

The older man took Alison’s hand and brought it to his lips. “The pleasure is all mine. I’ll confess right now, I haven’t read your series - I don’t think an old man like me is quite the right demographic,” he laughed, charmingly. “I’m being rude keeping you all to myself,” Balthazar said, taking a step to the side, to reveal his associate that was lingering in the background. “This is one of my associates, Logan.”

As if being pulled out of a daydream, Logan snapped back to attention. Mechanically, the young man‘s face turned friendly, but it quickly faded when he noticed just who his boss was introducing. The woman was dressed to the nines and looked quite different from when they first met, but there was no doubt who she was. Aw man, the nosey reporter.

“Hi again,” Logan said politely, extending his hand.

Alison blinked. Damn, but it was turning out to be a small world tonight. “Well, hello Logan,” she said, resting her hand in his for her light Lucinda version of a handshake. “You’re looking mostly recovered from the other night, thank goodness.”

She turned to Balthazar, disengaging from Logan’s grip as she did so, and smiled coquettishly at the older man, in full Lucinda mode. “I don’t know if you’re aware, but Logan here is a bit of a hero. He helped fight off a group of thugs the other night.”

Balthazar’s expression never faltered, despite the fact that his blood pressure had just risen a notch or two. Logan had recounted in detail the whole story and the wizard had not been too happy about it. Obviously it hadn’t been Logan’s fault, but still, attention like that was never a good thing.

“Yes I know. Logan here is a real life super hero,” Balthazar chuckled. “You’re just missing the spandex outfit, aren’t you?” Logan blushed slightly, praying the conversation would take a turn and quick.

“Anyways, enough about us. Tonight is all about you and your success!” Waving down a passing waiter, Balthazar grabbed three glasses of champagne which he distributed to Alison and Logan. “A toast to you, whose success in literature is only outshined by her radiant beauty.”

Alison blushed and reacted as Lucinda, lowering her head and fluttering her eyelashes a little. The male punters always seemed to expect it and who was she to disappoint? “Well, aren’t you a charmer?” she said, taking a sip of the champagne. Pablo still hadn’t turned up with her drink, so this would do nicely in the meantime.

“As for my demographic, you’d be surprised at the variety of people who read my books. I have a feeling this latest book in particular would have elements you enjoyed.” Alison’s smile never faltered for a moment, but she was definitely getting dirty old lech vibes off this guy. He’d definitely like the sex scenes, she was sure.

The thing that had her puzzled was Logan’s role with Balthazar. At first she’d assumed the shape she’d seen behind the businessman was just a bodyguard. But one didn’t introduce their bodyguard to everyone. And the fact that it was Logan, who also seemed to know Pablo… there was some weird connection here. She just didn’t know what.

“I guess you have a lot of different talents,” Logan said, cutting into the conversation. “I wouldn’t have expected a hard hitting reporter like yourself to also be a top author in supernatural fiction.”

Balthazar did not miss the hidden meaning behind the young man’s comment. You’re a clever boy, Logan. If this was the reporter that had been interrogating his bodyguard after the events at Slàinte, it was not the wisest idea to stick around. The less anyone knew of the sorcerer’s connection to that fight the better.

“Well, my dear, I know you must be very busy, and you don’t want to spend your evening talking to an old geezer like myself. Go enjoy the party - it is in your honour after all.”

“Of course. It’s been a pleasure to meet you, Balthazar.” She nodded to his ‘bodyguard’. “Logan, good to see you again.” She backed away from the pair and weaved her way slowly through the throng, deep in thought. That was an incredibly abrupt dismissal, coming suspiciously close on the heels of Logan’s revelation of her as a reporter. Something was going on there, that was for sure. And she’d be damned if she didn’t work her butt off to find out what.

“Hi, yes, lovely to meet you.” But first, she had a room full of people to schmooze.

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