Rock Chick 07 RegretBy: Kristen Ashley
Loads of Practice
The elevator pinged and I looked out into the plushly carpeted hall.
I took a deep breath.
As I let it out, I stepped one perfectly high, slingback, stiletto heel shod foot soundlessly on the carpet. I turned right and walked the ten steps (I counted) to the door.
There was a brass plaque on the door, it said, “Nightingale Investigations.”
Before I could chicken out, I turned the sleek knob and pushed the door open.
I knew there would be no balloons falling or streamers streaming, heralding my happily anticipated arrival but I didn’t expect the intensity of the welcoming committee.
Or, one could say, unwelcoming committee.
Shirleen Jackson was sitting behind the gleaming, polished, blond-wood reception desk. Standing in front of it was Stella Gunn and Kai Mason.
I knew Shirleen and I knew she knew my father and furthermore I suspected she did a happy dance when he was handed a fifteen year sentence. Therefore, I expected her face to turn to stone when she saw me (and it did).
I knew Stella Gunn and Kai Mason because they were famous. Their romance had played out in the papers and on local news and I’d watched it with avid fascination along with the rest of Denver.
All of them looked at me, none of them smiled.
I walked through the door and it fell closed behind me so I could see the rest of the room.
Luke Stark was leaning against the desk and his head came up from studying a manila folder. When he saw me, his face went blank and his eyes went cold.
I stopped myself from swallowing and, as per normal (as I’d had loads of practice), I walked, back ramrod straight, chin up, one foot in front of the other (like I learned in deportment classes) to the desk.
“Hello, I’m Sadie Townsend. I have an appointment with Liam Nightingale,” I said to Shirleen.
Shirleen looked me from top-to-toe, her tawny eyes frozen and I knew her thoughts. I’d had twenty-nine years of people looking at me like Shirleen did and coming to one of three conclusions.
First, I was a spoiled rotten, rich, Daddy’s girl and not worth the time.
Or second, I was the daughter of a dangerous drug lord and by association scum of the earth.
Or third, I was the daughter of a dangerous yet powerful and wealthy man and there might be some way to use me to get what they wanted.
I figured Shirleen was in the first category.
My eyes slid to Luke Stark and I knew from his continued arctic stare that he was a mixture of both one and two.
I didn’t even look at Stella Gunn and Kai Mason.
“Sit your fancy-ass down. Lee’ll be with you in a minute,” Shirleen said and my eyes moved back to her.
I was a little surprised that she would be obviously rude but I let it deflect off me like I was wearing armor. It hurt, like it always hurt, but I was damned if I’d let it show.
So I didn’t.
I was good at this. I’d had loads of practice at this too.
I turned on my heel, back still straight, chin still up, giving the impression that I was dismissing her and everyone in the room as beneath my notice.
This was another defense mechanism with which I had loads of practice.
I sat down on a leather couch and crossed my legs, relaying the appearance that I hadn’t a care in the world. I magnified this by casually pulling my cream skirt up my knee and surveying my manicure like it was utterly fascinating.
I was wearing the palest of pale pink on my nails, the manicure was perfect, as it should be; it had only been finished two hours ago.
I was wearing designer from head-to-toe.
My hair was not dyed, it was naturally an ultra-light, golden-cream-strawberry blonde and also had this weird mix of natural soft ringlets combined liberally with waves. I wore it long and down my back. Today I had the front pulled back in an expensive clip and it tumbled down to my shoulders and back. Although not dyed, the cut cost three hundred dollars.
I had on a cream, pencil-slim skirt that skimmed the knees and had a pleated kick pleat in the back. I also had on a little, short-sleeved top, pale pink (to match my nails) with dozens upon dozens of pink pleats at the sleeves, capped with cream, satin ribbon. The top had a square neckline and fit like it was made for me. My slingbacks were to-die-for with a slim, four-inch heel, they were uber-elegant. I set my pale pink clutch on my knee and moved my eyes to a studied fascination of my shoe.
The door opened and I looked from my toe to the door.
Indy Nightingale and her sister-in-law, Ally Nightingale, walked in. I’d seen India Savage and Liam Nightingale’s picture in the wedding column. She was a gorgeous redhead; he was an extremely handsome, dark-haired man. They were a beautiful couple and, if their photo was anything to go by, very happy.
I knew Ally from my not so happy run-in with Daisy a few months ago.
Daisy Sloan was friends with the Nightingale clan and she had been my friend once.
Well, she’d almost been one.
The run-in hadn’t been a run-in, exactly. I saw Daisy, Daisy’s eyes turned to polar icecaps when she saw me, she whispered something in Ally’s ear, Ally’s eyes cut to me and they went hard.
That was it. Not a run-in but not pleasant either.
Now Indy and Ally were laughing at something but when their eyes moved in the direction of Shirleen, they saw something in her expression then they moved to me and their laughter died.