There’s a Party – 04

Suggested play: (When You Gonna) Give it Up to Me – Sean Paul

On the face of it, the ball should have been seen as merely another charity event. But no other charity event could boast a prize like this one. Unfathomable, it was.

Dr Henning Voss, still less than two years after he’d earned the title, had worked at many royal charity functions. He’d been roped into the first, and after that, he’d gained a reputation as a concierge doctor. It had stuck so firmly that he’d had to take it as his actual occupation.

He shot his cuffs for the hundredth time. This tuxedo was his own, bespoke tailoring. He’d bought it after a particular charity auction had forced him to realise that his place in the world had been decided without his input.

The caterers were out by this time, and he felt a bit more “on the job,” so to speak. But he found that even with that social wrinkle smoothed out, he just couldn’t get comfortable.

He disliked this greatly. Not the sweeping ball gowns and sea of men indistinguishable from waiters. It was the idea of auctioning a child.

Of course, at nineteen, Prince Matteus was not a child. Neither would Henning have believed that the boy was amenable to starring in a dating game.

How it really worked was not less distasteful than a loud television programme. Women donated money with the understanding that they would be paid especial attention and that the prince would be required to dance with every one of them.

That was it, as far as Henning knew. He hoped there wouldn’t be any games.

As if in reply to his fears, he saw a man ascend the stage. He was tall, darker, and handsome, in an intentionally bald sort of way. He was dressed differently than the black tie assembly: a grey suit with a red dress shirt and no tie.

Henning looked for the microphone and was grimly satisfied to see a small black thing clipped to the man’s jacket collar.

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen,” the man announced, flashing pearlescent teeth in a showman’s grin. “In just a few moments, his Highness will arrive–”

Cheers erupted about the room. Henning narrowed his eyes and wished that he had hidden against the wall. Cheering didn’t often happen at charity functions. He didn’t think he approved.

The speech went on, and he did his best to tune it out. A tray of white wine floated past on the arms of a white-clad caterer. Henning sighed. They were paying him extra to act like a guest, but he couldn’t drink on duty.

“You look pretty grumpy.”

He jumped. “I beg your pardon?”

“Or maybe you just have a personal grudge against champagne.”

There were a surprising amount of men in attendance, considering the style of the gathering. This one was obviously hired. Possibly even an android. Or maybe a model. They were equally possible options.

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