Page 55 of What Lies Beneath

It took her days. She even worked through Thanksgiving without realizing it because her aunt never called to invite her over. When it was done, she had a stunning thirty-piece collection ready and waiting for her to bring it to life on the dress form. A mountain of fabric dominated the floor of her living room in anticipation of weeks of construction.

In time, Adrienne had fairly successfully buried her grief in her work. The pain of losing Will had faded to a dull ache she’d learned to ignore until she lay alone and cold in her bed each night.

When the phone rang one afternoon, she was busy at the sewing machine. She wasn’t prone to get many calls, so she ran to the cordless and answered, breathless. “Hello?”

“Hello. Am I speaking with Adrienne Lockhart?”

“Yes,” Adrienne sighed. The woman’s voice sounded familiar, but the odds were that it was a reporter who’d been in touch calling back for more details to add to her feature. While most of her family and society had ignored her since she came home, she got the occasional phone call from reporters in New York who were writing about the mixup and the untimely demise of society darling Cynthia Dempsey. Adrienne usually had very little to say and told them she couldn’t remember the weeks she’d lived as Cynthia. It was easier that way. She didn’t want to say or do anything that might cause the Dempseys or Will any additional pain.

“Adrienne, this is Darlene Winters with Trend Now magazine. I don’t know if you remember speaking to me at the party or not.”

“I do, yes. It’s so nice to speak with you again.” Nice was an understatement. Her heart was pounding in her chest so loudly she almost couldn’t hear the woman on the other end of the line. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to keep our appointment.”

“Completely understandable, although it’s the first time I’ve been stood up by someone who miraculously recovered from amnesia. I have to say it’s a fascinating story. I’ve been following it in the papers.”

Adrienne felt a touch of elation slip away. Was she just calling to use their acquaintance to get the inside scoop? “It isn’t as interesting as it sounds.”

“Honey, I saw you and Will Taylor dancing. You can tell the papers whatever you like, but I know a juicy story when I see one. But that’s not why I’m calling.”

Spying a nearby chair, Adrienne slumped down into it. If Darlene had good news for her, she wanted to be sitting down. Likewise if it was bad news.

“I know you probably think I was only interested in your work because of who I thought you were. I have a lot of young designers clamoring for my attention, so—true—it did make me take notice when I otherwise might not have. But I’ve found myself thinking about your designs since you’ve left. I never got to see the rest, and I’m quite disappointed.”

Adrienne wasn’t sure what to say. She’d FedEx Darlene whatever she wanted. All she had to do was ask. “I appreciate the interest. It’s a huge compliment.”

“You deserve it. Listen, are you aware of the charity work we do here at Trend Now?”

She was ashamed to admit she wasn’t. “No, but I’d love to hear more about it.”

“Well, every year around this time we put together a charity fashion show. All the proceeds go to support art and design education in our local public schools. It’s called the Trend Next show to help us grow the next generation of fashion designers. In the show, we feature four up-and-coming designers. It’s a smaller collection, ten looks from each one, but it’s great exposure for them. After the show, we also select one designer to be featured in a five-page spread in Trend Now.”

It was a good thing she was sitting down. The pounding of her heart had stopped along with her breathing. She was frozen stone-still, waiting for Darlene to say the magic words. She had to say them. There was no other reason for her to call, right? That would just be cruel.

“We usually make our selections months in advance to give the designers time to work. But this year, one of our designers has fallen seriously ill and had to drop out of the show. I know it’s short notice, but I wanted to offer you the chance to take his place.”

“Yes,” she said without hesitation.

Darlene stumbled for a moment over her sudden response. “Are you sure? It’s in two we—”

“Yes,” she interrupted. “It could be tomorrow and I’d say yes.”

“Well, all right, then. I’ll have my office overnight you all the show’s information and paperwork you need to sign. The show will be Saturday the fifteenth, so I’ll see you there with your ten fiercest looks.”