Authors: Teal Wingate
“How do you know?” His question was brutal. “You’ve got no actual experience to base that assumption upon.”
“I just… know. Willie loved Lo with her whole heart. He loved her the same way. Trey loves Trinity, even though they are polar opposites. She idolizes him. I want that.” She tried to make him understand.
“I guess you believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy too?” He was being cold and sarcastic. And it cut her to the quick.
“I’m not a child, JD.”
“Then stop acting like one.”
She felt his rejection all the way down to her shattering heart. “I think you’d better go.”
“There’s a dinner party tonight downstairs. I want you there,” he ordered as he moved through the open door.
“I think it will be an education for you. Maybe spending an evening with a more sophisticated crowd will show you just how wrong you are with your juvenile delusions of love everlasting.”
“Or maybe, I’ll find out I’m right,” she whispered to his disappearing back.
She heard him leave the suite. And she was finally able to release the tortured breath she’d been holding ever since she’d opened the bathroom door to find him standing on the other side.
A few hours later, Sunny heard a soft knock at the door to the suite. After her bath, she’d dressed in her grubby clothes and spent a long time thinking. She was glad she’d found the strength of will to turn down JD’s offer. But she doubted she’d be able to do it again, if he continued to pursue her.
She heard another soft knock at the door to the suite. She hoped it wasn’t JD again. She was relieved when she opened the door and saw Consuelo standing there holding a garment bag and a pair of strappy high-heeled shoes.
“You rested?” the woman asked as she bustled into the gathering room of the suite.
Sunny nodded and smiled. “Yes, I did. I feel much better.”
“Good chica, we have much work to do to get you ready for tonight. The boy? He still sleeps?”
“Yes, he might sleep straight through the night. He’s had a very rough few days.”
“I will stay here tonight until you return. If he wakes, I’ll make sure he eats and bathes before I put him back to bed.”
“Thank you, really I can’t thank you enough. Is that the dress?” The girl pointed to the garment bag.
“Si, I found just the right one for you in the very back of Miss Helene’s closet. It still has the tags. She has never worn it.”
Consuelo carefully unzipped the bag. She drew out a simple black evening gown. It wasn’t skimpy, but its tailoring would make it fit very closely to Sunny’s body. The deep vee neckline was stunning, it would serve as the perfect foil for Sunny’s artistic sea glass necklace. Consuelo turned the gown and grinned at Sunny’s gasp.
“The back it is a surprise, no?” the Latina asked.
The girl thought the woman’s statement about the gown was mild in comparison to the reality of how it looked. The back plunged in another graceful vee all the way down to slightly below the waist. There was no way she’d be able to wear underclothes in this dress. A bra was out of the question. Even a thong would show. She’d never been anywhere without underwear.
“I can’t wear that?” she squeaked.
“Why, chica?” Consuelo asked, puzzlement clear on her face. “It is a good size. And the black will favor your coloring. It will look much better on you than on Miss Helene. And I have brought you shoes to match.” She picked up the ‘
sandals she’d dropped on the sofa.
Sunny’s mouth watered as she looked at them. Four inch black heels, a couple of straps, and an ankle binding all held together by rhinestones. They were the sexiest shoes she’d ever seen.
“Those can’t belong to Mrs. McIntyre,” the girl said.
Consuelo agreed. “No, these I borrowed from my niece. She sings with a Latin Pop band. She’s very popular here in Dallas. And thankfully she wears the same size shoe as you.”
Sunny felt herself wavering. If she was going to make it through the snake pit of the night ahead, she needed to feel confident. Wearing a designer gown and sexy shoes would lend her a great deal of confidence. Even if she did need to forego wearing any panties. She held out her hand.
“Let me take the dress into the bedroom and try it on,” she said.
The beaming servant transferred the dress and shoes into Sunny’s keeping. “I will wait here to see how you look,” the woman said.
With no small amount of trepidation, the girl disappeared into her room. She carefully laid the gown on the bed. It looked stark against the pale neutral bedspread. She trailed a finger along the plunging back. Did she honestly have enough self-possession to wear such clothing?
Stripping out of her own meager sun dress, Sunny began the process of donning another persona. Slipping the cool silk of the evening gown over her head, she let it fall in a graceful drape to her bare toes. There was no zipper or fastener. The sleek dress was held up by two tiny straps and fitted tailoring. It clung to her breasts and hips like a rapacious lover.
Sunny took an experimental step towards the bathroom with its bank of mirrors. She loved the way the material swished against her skin. It felt decadent and erotic. Flicking on the light in the bathroom, she was shocked at the woman she saw reflected in the many mirrors.
This was an intriguing, mysterious woman. One who knew full well her own worth. One who was bold. Even sexually adventurous. Sunny straightened her spine. She held her breath as she turned to view herself from the back. With her head cocked over her shoulder, she gasped at how revealing the back of the gown was. Even without the killer heels, the dress exposed the dimpled creamy base of her spine. The delicate and sensual arch of her bare back called out to be explored by some man’s hot searching hands. Her honey-colored hair spilled in lavish waves. They teased and swayed as she moved, exposing yet more of the pearl-smooth skin of her back.
Consuelo was right. The thin black silk was the perfect foil for the exotic sea glass necklace. Her eyes took on a deep, smoldering quality. For once in her life, she wished she had some cosmetics at her disposal. This night called for more than a last-minute swipe of chapstick.
Going back into the bedroom, Sunny sat on the bed to put on her heels. She stood up carefully, once they were fastened to her ankles and feet. Looking down, she smiled as the rhinestones caught the light and sparkled back up at her. It was like wearing the starry night sky. That’s when she truly made up her mind to wear the gown and shoes, to attend the dinner party, and to let herself truly shine for one magical evening. Maybe Consuelo was right. Maybe this was Sunny’s night to be Cinderella. The girl felt like she was in the middle of a fairy tale.
She held her head high and her shoulders back as she walked into the gathering room. She knew she had not mistaken the effect of the clothing when she saw the housekeeper’s eyes widen.
“Oh chica, you are so very bella,” the woman said in hushed accents.
“It is a lovely dress,” Sunny said with a great amount of humility.
“No chica, it is the woman in the dress who is bella,”Consuelo corrected. Then her dark head tilted one side. “You need some makeup.”
Sunny grimaced. “I thought so myself. But I don’t have any.”
“I remember the plastic Punta brought a new cosmetics bag with her when she was preparing for the wedding. She left it in a guest room. But the makeup artist brought his own cosmetics. The stuff in the kit has never been opened. Maybe some of it would work. I will go fetch the bag.” She left the suite.
Sunny couldn’t believe what was happening to her. Maybe tonight, when she joined the dinner party, JD would look at her in a different light. Maybe he’d see she could fit into his social circle. Maybe he’d want her for more than one night. If that was the case, she would surely have a chance of winning his love.
Later, she would stand poised at the door to the suite wondering if she’d deceived herself once again. But she’d come too far to back off. She made her way, with no small amount of trepidation down the wide curving staircase. A maid showed her to the huge dining room at the back of the main house.
The interior was set with many small, intimate tables. Soft flickering candlelight illuminated the center of each table set for six. The heady scent of flowers and burning wax, the soft strains of a string quartet, the sharp bite of artificially cooled air, they all edged over every one of Sunny’s senses.
Looking around the room full of expensively dressed people, the girl saw JD. He stood holding court in one corner of the hall. He was dark and devastating in his severe black tux. He held a glass of something in his hand. He nodded and shot her a pirate’s practiced smile across the distance separating them.
She knew. She knew his watchful stare must have been focused on her ever since she’d stepped into the muted light of the crowded room. And yet, he made no move to join her. To save her. A waiter with a silver tray full of champagne flutes distracted Sunny for a moment. She took a drink and sipped it nervously.
Her first impulse was to flee in terror. Consuelo had assured her, after they’d finished applying a discreet amount of cosmetics to her face, that she looked stunning. The mirrors in the suite attested to the fact that her appearance was much changed. Uncomplicated little Sunny Murphy had been replaced by an intriguing patrician beauty named Elizabeth Sumner Murphy. The girl wasn’t sure if she was completely comfortable with the transformation.
She took another meager sip of the effervescent wine. She fingered the chunky necklace at her throat. The familiar cool smoothness of the stones comforted her.
“That piece is incredible,” commented a low husky voice.
“Thank you,” Sunny responded by rote. A southern girl was always mannerly.
When she turned to engage the newcomer in polite conversation, her eyes widened in surprise. She immediately recognized the woman at her side. Consuelo called her, ‘the plastic Punta’, Sunny had always remembered her as ‘the snake’. Leanne Simmons most likely had a few more unflattering nicknames circulating through the mansions and exclusive clubs of Dallas.
“Who’s the artist? I’d love to purchase something similar for myself.” The catty woman dug for information. She took a long draw from the slender brown cigarette poised between her fingers.
Sunny flinched when she saw the length and bloody color of the nails tipping the other woman’s elegant manicure. Her own ragged nails were unpainted and gnawed to the quick. Neither she nor Consuelo had given any thought to shaping and painting them.
“She’s dead,” the younger woman whispered.
“What a pity. I’d like to own something so unique. You wouldn’t consider parting with yours, would you? My fiancé would be glad to pay you a more than fair price for the thing.” Leanne blew a stream of noxious smelling smoke directly into Sunny’s face. The older woman’s eyes hardened as she got a good look at the lovely girl. “Do I know you? I thought I knew everyone in JD’s circle, but I can’t seem to recall ever meeting you.”
“I’m Sunny Murphy,” she said, extending a friendly hand.
The girl knew at once she’d committed a serious faux pas. The gorgeous brittle woman sneered at her. Sunny refused to cower. But she did lower her offered hand. For several long seconds the two women stared at each other.
Leanne saw a fresh, artless beauty wearing priceless Versace evening wear. The girl’s heels looked more like flashy knockoffs. But the gown was the real thing. And nothing, nothing could replace the smooth, flawless skin of her face, or the faultless symmetry of her features. And her body was perfectly proportioned. The Versace’s clean lines revealed the girl’s modest up-tilted bosom, and her compact apple-shaped derriere.
The young woman looked familiar. Even her odd name stirred some kind of distant fragmented memory. But it was nothing that Leanne could quite put her finger on. So the blonde woman dismissed her unease. There was no way this young girl could be anybody in Dallas. Leanne knew all the movers and shakers. This pretty little tidbit was not among them.
The older woman took another drag from her cigarillo. The sharp sting of the imported tobacco bit her tongue. “Are you some kind of high-class hooker? Or a stripper? Yeah, you must be a stripper with shoes like that and a stupid name like Sunny,” Leanne commented in a condescending way. “Did one of these old, fat tycoons trick you out in suitable clothes and rent you for the night? I just bet you’ll be doling out lap dances to every ancient, slobbering drunk here, down by the pool before the night’s over. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care. A working girl has to make her way in the world. But you might want to steer clear of our hostess.” Leanne stopped and drank from her glass. She tittered maliciously. “I hate that old bitch. I bet Helene will throw you out, once she sees you. This is probably her last hurrah. She won’t be around here for long. Once I’m finally Mrs. McIntyre, I’m kicking her to the curb. This place will be mine. Then we’ll have some real parties.”
The woman’s low, dirty laughter made Sunny’s skin crawl. JD had said he was no longer engaged. Had he lied to her?
“I think I need some air,” the girl made an excuse to leave the woman’s awful cloying presence.
“Wait a minute,” Leanne slurred. The champagne flute in her hand was obviously not her first drink of the evening. “I want that necklace. Name your price. I’ll see you get a check for it before the night’s over.”