Small rebellions fueled Ewan’s life. He stood with the one partygoer in the room who looked lethally unsociable, talking while the MC made a speech. If the bearded wallflower didn’t blow a blood vessel, someone would at least shush them.
“I have no particular feelings towards champagne.”
“Then it must’ve been the white wine.” Ewan nodded sagely. “For me, it’s canapés. Vol-au-vent mugged me on a street corner.”
Behind him, he heard someone stifle a laugh, but it could have been a sneeze. Beardy stopped frowning to look so genuinely puzzled that Ewan nearly lost his game face.
“What did it hold you up with? A revolver?”
There. Ewan spluttered, and laughed. The MC went on without even a dirty look, but those closest to Ewan and the Beard looked as they would have liked to have been armed.
Ewan waved at them, giving his most disarming smile. “You’re funnier than I’d’ve credited.”
“I’m not sure why you say so.”
Thunderous clapping rocked the room, and Ewan joined in to keep from covering his ears. Under the noise, he asked, “I think we might need an introduction.”
The applause went on, but they both bucked conformity in order to shake hands.
“Dr Henning Voss.”
Eyebrows up, Ewan went back to clapping. Something was definitely going on. He glanced at the stage. “Oh, the prince.”
Beard doctor followed his gaze, muttering something in German. “What a circus.”
At last, the noise began to die down. Music took its place. Some lass peeled off a magazine page had been allowed the prince’s first dance.
While many of the guests took up the call to dance, a good number held back. At least they wouldn’t be conspicuous. Although no one was looking at them now that talking was allowed.
“A circus,” Dr Voss repeated, shaking his head.
Ewan was inclined to agree that it was a circus. For one thing, they’d hired a clown like him to play at being a guest. And he’d never seen so many people pretending to live in the ton of Regency romance. “Too bad it isn’t more of a theme park.”
Dr Voss looked horrified, then seemed to force a laugh. “Don’t speak too loudly. Someone might believe you are serious.”
This was going much better than Ewan had expected. He’d thought he would have to spend the entire week in the company of fat old women who talked only of centrepieces and their lapdogs. Even if he had been a legitimate member of this social class, this wasn’t his thing.
Which made him think. “Why are you here? Demanding wife? Daughter in need of marrying off?”
This time, Dr Voss laughed like he meant it. “Nothing like that. I’d almost rather have a wife or daughter to drag me about.”
He pressed his lips into a thin line, which had a funny effect on his beard. “There can’t be any harm in telling you. I’m working.”
“Heh, working the party?”
“No, working as a doctor.”
“That doesn’t sound as fun.” Then some lights clicked on in Ewan’s brain. He slapped his forehead. “Although it does explain why you were glaring at a drinks tray.”
A crack like wood giving way under pressure resounded about the room. Gasps followed it, and new circle formed outside the one meant for dancing.
“S’pose that’s your cue,” Ewan said to Dr Voss’s fleeing back as he reached out for a glass of champagne sweeping past.