Cliffhanger

The room was decorated in shades of pale ivory, cream and beige with strategic splashes of gold. As Lara walked in she felt her heart begin to beat faster, her instincts telling her to turn around but her pride telling her to keep walking. She took a flute of champagne off the silver platter carried by a passing waiter and lifted it to her crimson tinged lips, sipping slowly, appreciating the dry, crisp liquid on her tongue. Knowing her hosts, it had to be the finest vintage, likely imported. The haute cuisine on the menu she recognized from the top caterer in the city. It all seemed a bit ostentatious for her taste. Then again, she had not only divorced her cheating husband, but divorced herself from the high society of the city.

Lara had only returned at the request of her one remaining friend at the top, Candace Livingston. They had been college roommates and Candace had begged her to attend this gala fundraiser. She’d reluctantly agreed; she had to buy a new dress for the occasion because she no longer owned anything acceptable for something of this scale. When she left Peter, she vowed to change her life and she had followed through, completely overhauling, simplifying, throwing out the old and ushering in a new, improved Lara.

Her golden blonde hair was pulled back into a simple chignon, accentuating her thin neck. The scoop neckline of her black satin dress left her flawless skin on display and, with no jewelry to distract, any eyes would be drawn to the creamy soft expanse of her collarbone. The sweeping floor-length gown hid the plain black satin heels bought at the discount shoe store, which would surely stand out in a room full of Jimmy Choo’s and Louboutin’s. Not that she cared, but she didn’t want the attention. The more she could blend in the easier this night would be.

With her heart rate returning to a normal pace, she scanned the room for Candace. She’d only gotten the one phone call with a hand-delivered invitation so it felt like she was in a spy novel. Happy for the low light in the room, she had yet to be recognized by any of her old acquaintances; although it had been five years since she had left the circuit. Finally, she spotted the signature reddish-brown hair of her friend, fashioned into an elegant crown braid for the night. When Candace caught sight of Lara she discreetly motioned for her to join their table.

As she approached Candace pulled her into a tight hug and whispered, “I promise you don’t have to stay long.” They moved away from one another and Candace began introductions all around, as Lara had never met anyone sitting at the table. After fifteen minutes of polite conversation, Candace and Lara casually walked away. Keeping her voice low, Candace finally confessed why she had asked Lara to attend. “Peter is here.” Lara looked up in surprise, eyes wide open, then made a move as if to leave. Candace put her arm out in a blocking motion. “Before you decide to leave, there’s something you should know about him.”

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