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Undercover Love(4)

By:Lucy Score



“We can’t stay long. The sitter has to leave early. She’s got SATs in the morning. Are you here for the duration?”

“It looks that way. We even came early so Steven could give Victoria a hand with the party prep. So I imagine I’m here forever.”

“Watch out for that one,” Cara said, pointing a manicured finger toward Victoria who was chatting with a small knot of people near the doorway. “She’s a monster.”

“I feel my fight or flight instincts kick in every time she talks to me,” Ashley joked.

“I’m serious, Ashley. Victoria Van Camp is a sociopath. There is nothing human about that woman.”

“Steven keeps assuring me that she’s a wonderful person who doesn’t hate my guts. I’m kind of glad to know that someone else gets the same vibe from her.”

“It’s no vibe. You listen to those instincts,” warned Cara. “Victoria has a history of setting her sights on a man, seducing him, and then discarding him. Three years ago, she started on Kevin.”

“Kevin? Your Kevin?” Kevin fit the tall, dark, and handsome bill perfectly and from all appearances was head over heels in love with Cara and their daughter.

“She underestimated him, and she certainly underestimated me. I wasn’t about to let some bored socialite turn my husband into a play toy. She didn’t take it well. She went to HR and complained that Kevin was sexually harassing her. The complaint was unfounded, obviously, but he still was suspended for a week while they investigated and the investigation stays on his record.”

Ashley’s jaw dropped and she couldn’t help but stare at Victoria.

“You look shocked.”

“I just thought she was a bitch.”

“Well, she’s definitely that, too.”

“How can you be in the same room with her? I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from smacking the martini out of her hand and punching her in the face.”

“I fantasize about that. But I comfort myself with knowing that someone that batshit crazy will end up taking herself out eventually,” Cara sighed.

“You’re a better woman than I am.” Ashley plucked two glasses of champagne off of a passing waiter’s tray. “To not being batshit crazy.”

Cara clinked her glass to Ashley’s. “Amen. So did you meet Jason?”

“You mean the sexiest man in the universe? He shook my hand and I’m pretty sure my fingerprints melted off from the heat.”

Cara laughed. “Told you!”

###

Eye-gougingly bored. That was how Ashley would describe her state as the woman next to her droned on about how she and her husband Herbert Something-or-Other bred wire fox terriers for ten years. Ashley assumed those were dogs. Cara and Kevin had made their exit earlier to relieve the babysitter, leaving Ashley to fend for herself.

The only hot spot of the evening — besides Cara’s bombshell — had been Jason’s introduction, and she hadn’t seen him since he disappeared back down the hallway, leaving her smoldering in his wake.

“And of course, you know, just because Horatio Brandenchild III was no longer a viable stud, we simply couldn’t just get rid of him.” The woman pressed a heavily jeweled hand to her heart.

“Of course not,” Ashley agreed, half-listening. She scanned the room that Victoria had called the grand salon and spotted Steven near the massive fireplace with a scotch in hand, laughing at something an older gentleman was saying.

She bit back a sigh. It wasn’t so long ago that Steven would have preferred a nice, cold beer to a glass of scotch. But beer and Friday night pizza didn’t fit in as nicely as scotch and golf. He had taken lessons all summer long and was proud of his progress. Ashley had gone with him once or twice, but her swearing and club tossing made them both decide that golf was not her game.

She was starting to think that if she didn’t decide to change her course to match Steven’s, they would completely diverge. Were his choices so much better than hers? Sure, he brought them more financial security than she had ever expected. But did it have to come at the cost of who they were? Or at least who she was?

Ashley straightened her shoulders. The mental pity party wasn’t helping anything.

Mrs. Herbert Whoever was just wrapping up her description of how they sent Horatio III to live with a cousin on a farm in Iowa where he could wile away his days under the shade of leafy maple trees and chase livestock.

Ashley smiled and made an appropriate-sounding comment, picturing a pancaked champion terrier tiptoeing out from under a very large cow. She shifted her weight from foot to foot.

Her champagne glass was empty, her bladder was full, and her feet hurt already. It was time to sneak off. She excused herself and headed out of the room.

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