Page 10 of Claiming Cinderella

My mother had wanted that for me, she’d taught me everything and had promised to get me into the right circles, and though I had a few connections still up my sleeve. I wanted to be ready for them. Ready with my own studio.

“I’m sick of wearing blue,” snapped Sadie, tossing the silk scrap of fabric to the floor. The designer, Perry Morgan, rolled his eyes and stepped away.

“Then what color would you like?” He seemed to be losing patience, and I couldn’t blame him. He’d brought several swatches of fabrics and a few dresses for them to try.

“Green. Purple. Red.” Sadie ticked off the colors on her fingers and then walked over to the sofa where she plopped her ass and glared up at the man. “Anything but fucking blue.”

Halle tilted her head and cupped her breasts, turning and checking out her bought rack. “Fine, I’m wearing blue anyway, and I don’t want to match like a couple of losers.”

“I thought you chose the black gown.” Sadie put her hands on her hips and turned to face Perry. “I want to wear black, then.”

“Brilliant. I know the fabric.” He flipped through his swatches, and he and Sadie were hugging a moment later, her face barely registering a smile, but his lit with pure joy.

“You better make sure whatever scrap you wear is waterproof.” I turned to see that Halle was talking to me. “And I’ll warn you now not to embarrass us.”

“Or things will get real ugly when we get home. Worse than last night,” Sadie added.

Millie stalked into the room, and Halle stood down, returning to her mirror as if the two hadn’t been bullying me the moment before. She hadn’t cared if Perry overheard her bitter comments, but she didn’t want her grandmother to.

The man gave me a sympathetic glance. “You are going to the gala? Shall I make a gown for you?” His accent was as thick as syrup like he had something hung in the back of his throat, and he lifted a brow and his nose and peered down at me.

“No, thank you. I have something in mind already.” There was a pretty, bright blue silk dress, which matched my eyes perfectly in my mother’s things that I was hoping to wear with my favorite set from my personal collection. It was a much prettier shade than the blue that Halle was wearing which clashed with her hair.

Halle rolled her eyes and Sadie shook her head, but Millie, she smiled brightly. “I’ll bet whatever you choose will be beautiful. Your mother was always a beauty at the gala. She had a lovely sense of style and was simply elegant and an example of true classic beauty—just like yourself.”

“My mother went to the gala?” I hadn’t ever known she’d been.

“We both did,” said Nola as she sauntered into the room. I hadn’t heard her make her entrance, but she stood behind Halle in the mirror and fingered the hem of the dress as if checking it for quality. “You were only a little girl, then, but we went almost every year for a while. Your mother’s designs opened many doors for her, as did being my friend.” She turned her head to slide her sideward gaze in my direction. “It was a different generation then, and now the gala belongs to our children.” Her children, she meant.

Sadie stepped up next to her mother in the sample dress of the one Perry would make for her in black and passed her mother the scrap of fabric that was to be its color.

“These dresses will look lovely, but they’ll need the proper icing.” Her eyes met mine through the mirror’s reflection. “Ella, darling, I’m sure you have something in your mother’s collection that would finish these dresses off right.”

My face paled as I was put on the spot. “I’m sorry, Nola, I don’t think I could bear to loan out my mother’s collection.” I’d vowed not to part with it, and it was my most cherished possessions. Everything else had been taken away from me, my home, my mother’s money that was to be my inheritance, and the very thought of loaning them, where anything could happen to them, much less the thought of them draped across the vile twins—my stomach turned.

“Excuse me? I hardly think it’s too much to ask, considering.” Nola’s eyes hardened with her expression. Here was a woman who’d been like family, who’d done everything to help me. How could I tell her no?