Authors: Christine Demaio-Rice
Copyright © 2013 by Christine DeMaio-Rice
Published by Lolo Productions, Inc.
All rights reserved.
This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or other unauthorized use of the material or artwork herein is prohibited.
This novel is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events; to real people, living or dead; or to real locales are intended only to give the fiction a sense of reality and authenticity. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and their resemblance, if any, to real-life counterparts is entirely coincidental.
Cover art: Flip City Books
“Stop fidgeting. You look gorgeous,” Jeremy said into her ear.
“I have a ton of stuff on my desk.” Laura felt exposed under the flashing lights. She certainly wasn’t smiling half as much as she should, and she was sure most of the pictures would be published with her mouth half open or one eye drooping. Jeremy and Ruby would look perfect, naturally.
“It’ll still be there tomorrow,” he said. “Now, you’re with me.” He smiled, his right front tooth overlapping the left by two millimeters, that tiny flaw highlighting the perfection of the rest of him.
“Always, JJ,” she said before turning around. She’d started calling him JJ weeks ago to tease him for naming his bridge line Saint JJ, and it made him crazy, which made her continue to use it until its edges were worn down into a smooth, soft affection.
Laura’s sister stood a few feet away at the top of the steps to the Metropolitan Museum. Ruby was flanked by an heiress, whose name Laura couldn’t recall, and the CEO of Bankflower.com, who liked to think she was still a Williamsburg hipster. Ruby wore a silk mandarin collar dress that was a shade of pink so light it looked nearly white. The event had drawn a good crowd, and the exhibit of royal and political dresses would put the names of the fashion designers who sponsored it, Jeremy St. James and Barry Tilden, at the front of the museum for a full season.
Dressed for Infamy
brought out the best and worst in the fashion industry. Every dress had a story, and most were not as attractive as the outfits.
“Can we go inside?” Laura asked, smiling that fake smile and willing herself ten pounds lighter. “I’d like to die now.”
“We’re waiting for Barry.”
waiting for Barry.”
She knew from the way he looked at her that he was thinking of kissing her right there in front of everyone. “You’re being a jerk,” Laura whispered.
He’d smiled a lot in the past three months. She refused to believe her love had anything to do with it, despite what he said. She was convinced it was due to the fact that she shared his workload, giving him time to breathe and be creative.
Barry ran up the stairs, the crowd parting for him, his longish brown hair flying in the December wind, blue eyes cutting through the flashing lights. He shook hands with Jeremy. They were the stars of the show, two clothing designers in direct competition yet each willing to lend a hand to the other. Though the hand up was usually from the older, more experienced Tilden, Jeremy often ended up talking Barry through production nightmares.
Laura stepped back from them and the attention they drew. Of course, the cameras loved them because if one rumor outsold the ones about Laura’s ambition, her greed, her calculating, cunning, gold-digging nature, it was the one about Barry and Jeremy’s nonexistent affair. The rumors were fed by the partnership on the seven-figure fashion exhibition, the fact that they were both so damn good-looking, and mostly the warmth between them. Jeremy had a true friend for the first time in the seven years she’d known him.
Barry put his arm around her and kissed her cheek, saying quietly, “When are you coming to work for me, darling?”
Jeremy pretended the running joke between her and Barry didn’t piss him off. For her lover and business partner, the question was the equivalent of asking when she was going to cheat on him.
Laura had never learned how to let a cruel joke go unanswered. “What were you paying me again?”
Barry indicated the night sky and said, “Count the stars, darling. Count the stars.”
It was quieter inside. The few photographers were hired by the museum, making them far friendlier and generally less click-happy. Laura was sure her face would crack, but she kept smiling—in front of Jackie O’s assassination suit, in front of Corazine Aquino’s revolution yellow, beside a long blond wig on a clear polyurethane mannequin marked Lady Godiva, next to Hillary Clinton’s Syrian apology jacket, and to the left of a blue Tollridge & Cherry dress that may or may not have presidential DNA on it.
Mom wore a custom-made suit from the 40th Street factory, painstakingly tailored for maximum social comfort. She looked six inches taller and held her wine glass as if it grew from her palm. She walked with a reporter from
Two of the exhibits had crossed her mother’s hands in the Scaasi sewing room, and Laura was stunned by how incredible Mom was at talking to strangers about her work. Ruby’s social skills had apparently been inherited.
“This one,” Mom said, pointing to a suit Jackie O had worn toward the end of her life. “The princess sent us the fabric and a sketch. Well, we ran out of fabric and—”
Laura saw Ruby in a corner far from the cameras and joined her.
“I’m starving,” Ruby said, wolfing down a hunk of brie.
“Seriously,” Laura said. “We have so much work to do, and we’re standing around smiling like a bunch of monkeys. And my feet are freaking killing me.”
“It’s Saturday.” Ruby flicked crumbs off her fingers. “I’m going out. Hey, are you checking out Mom? She’s like a... what do you call an expert tour guide?”
“A docent. You both can talk up a blue streak. You have that same thing.”
? You mean like we’re normal?”
Ruby pointed at an orange gown worn by the Princess of Brunico on the night of the Fortnight Coup. Jeremy stood in front of it with Dionne Frescan from
. Dionne wore not a stitch of makeup under her horn-rimmed glasses, and she had a bun thrown on top of her head, making her look as though she’d just rolled out of bed. She was sharp and no fan of Jeremy’s bridge line, calling it contrived in the paper and slutty at the corner table at Marlene X. Sartorial Sandwich, Laura and Ruby’s company, had been a cause of hers since the first show. She loved the clothes almost as much as she enjoyed implying that Laura was an opportunistic tramp. Laura’s idea of keeping her relationship with Jeremy a secret as long as they could wasn’t working out so well. Journalists didn’t like being lied to, apparently.
“Isn’t it great how he can just smile at her, knowing what she says about him behind his back?” Laura asked.
Ruby shook her head. “It’s business. Get over it.”
Laura looked up at the gown the princess of Brunico had worn to the three-day ball following the inauguration of her husband, Salvadore, from prince of Brunico to high prince. That night had begun the Fortnight Coup, a two-week cleanse of non-native residents followed by a two-decade closure of the island. The gown was bright orange to match the national flag. Beads and Native American-inspired floral embroidery matched its color and brightness. The skirt was huge, with its circumference held up by hoops and engineered construction, and topped by a cleavage-exposing bodice and little sleeves draping off the sides. It had come on the form, the only dress that was not to be touched or removed by anyone but the owner. A find. The garment had been lost for decades and worn by a princess beloved worldwide for her grace, femininity, and recent death in a fire.
Jeremy looked at Laura and pointed.
Laura sighed and gave Ruby her plate. “Shoot me, then. Because I want to poke her eyes out.”
But when she took a step, Jeremy held up two fingers. Both sisters were required. The “caught them at the event and asked a few questions” interview technique made Laura ill. It all made her ill, actually, but she smiled because that was her life and the cost of being Jeremy’s partner.
The quick interview with
would focus on the blistering success of Jeremy’s lower-priced line, Saint JJ, Sartorial Sandwich, and the relative ages of the three principals: Laura, twenty-five; Ruby, twenty-six; Jeremy, twenty-nine. Tentative title: Prodigy, Inc. Sickening. If they knew how much work went into doing the job of someone twice her age, they wouldn’t fetishize it.
Dionne opened with introductions for the photographer and her assistant. Laura knew she was doing that thing where she showed disdain for every word spoken, every double kiss, and every fairy tale about the excitement of their success. Jeremy glanced at her, and she plastered a big fat smile on her face and used the word “thrilled” in close proximity to “fabulous” and “amazing.” She didn’t even know what she was referring to. Jeremy grinned, and she knew he saw her panic.
“So,” Dionne said, “I just wanted to ask you about how some of these relationships are working.” She spun her pencil to indicate Laura and Ruby. “You two are sisters. Twins?”
“Irish twins,” Laura said.
“Ten months apart,” Ruby finished. “I was first.”
“Creatively, how are you involved in Sartorial Sandwich?” Dionne asked Jeremy. She was like a viper, asking as if she were dying to hear, again, how he had nothing to do with a line she loved.
“I don’t get in the way of the Carnegies,” he answered. “My interest is financial.”
And then would come the part Laura had been warned about. Dionne was going to ask about her and Jeremy, for the record, even though everyone knew good and well what the story was. Officially, it was all business. Unofficially, the rumor mill had buzzed like a low-flying plane after she and Jeremy had been photographed getting into a cab, looking as though they were about to kiss. That had been Tuesday night, four days ago. Already, the buzz was that Laura had worked as his patternmaker for five years and figured out a way to make him teach her everything about the business. So when his married lover had been murdered and everyone found out he wasn’t gay, she, gold-digging harpy that she was, jumped into bed with him. Using her feminine wiles, she’d convinced him to take her on as a business partner, to give financial backing to Sartorial, which was dying, and to hold her hand in public to keep the models away from him.
It had been a fantastic four days on the wrong side of the gossip mill.
“And you two…” Dionne indicated Laura and Jeremy together, as a set. “You work on the black label line together, right?”