Page 14 of Claiming Cinderella

She cleared her throat and leaned in closer. “Please don’t take this wrong way, but perhaps you’d do best not to let Nola be so mixed up in your affairs.”

She said it was as if I couldn’t trust Nola, or that maybe her own reputation was ruining my chances, but I couldn’t imagine that being so. Nola was connected, the wife of Scott Blue, and mother/agent to the girls. I thought about that last thing and decided that perhaps she had a point.

“Thanks, Millie. I’ll keep that in mind.” I wondered why the woman hadn’t gone to see her granddaughters get ready. Instead, she’d chosen to sit with me, and I’d enjoyed her company. I felt too alone in the world now that mother had passed away and Millie eased that pain for me, much the same way Nola and Scott had.

After a bit, I was ready to go down and meet the girls. They’d asked me to be punctual, and when I got downstairs in the sitting room, where they wanted to meet, I realized why. “They’ve left without me,” I said, turning to Millie.

“Are you sure? It’s a big house. Perhaps they’re here somewhere. Maybe they’re late?” It was sweet that she wanted to think the best of her awful grandchildren, but I knew better. I glanced out the window seeing that the limo was gone too.

“Oh look, they have to still be here,” said Millie. She held up a pair of masks that had to be theirs for the party. Both were intricately decorated with braided rope and feathers and like the girls, both matched.

Nola walked in, and all the color drained from her face upon seeing me. Then she turned her nose up. “You’re late. The girls left twenty minutes ago.”

“She’s right on time. They left early. They’ve even forgotten their masks.” Millie was speaking through clenched teeth as if she wanted to reach over and bite Nola’s head off for not controlling the girls better.

“It’s fine. I can call a cab.” I reached into my handbag for my phone, but Millie stopped me. “Nonsense, I have a private car. I’ll call my driver, and he’ll take you.”

“I couldn’t put you out, really.”

“Well, you can’t show up in a cab. Not to a gala.” Nola snorted like I should know better.

“I’d think that’s precisely the option your daughters had hoped to leave her with,” snapped Millie.

Nola tilted her head and placed her hand on her heart. “Mama Blue, surely you don’t think—

“I don’t think. I know. I was willing to give those little monsters the benefit of the doubt, but now I see how cruel they can be.”

My phone went off in the awkward silence that followed that remark. “It’s them.” I answered the phone and Nola and Millie exchanged daggers. “Hello and thanks for waiting.”

Halle’s voice came through the phone. “We couldn’t possibly wait any longer for you. You were going to ruin our grand entrance. But we seemed to have forgotten our masks, so be a dear and bring those to us, would you? Even if you have to go back for them.”

“I don’t have to go back for them. I’ve got them already.” I glanced over to Millie who shook her head. “I’ll see you at the party.”

I hung up, and Millie was already on Nola again. “Those two hoped to make her go back for those masks. That’s why they left them.”

“I won’t stand around letting you insult my children.” Nola stormed away, and before she made it out the door, she took her phone out of her pocket. I had a feeling the girls were about to get a call.

“They are going to try and ruin your night, but don’t let them. Your mother loved the gala and you will too. Maybe you’ll even dance with a handsome man and fall in love.”

I laughed at the thought. “I’ll be lucky to find someone who loves my jewelry, much less me, but it’s worth a shot.” I shrugged and picked up the mask as she called her driver.

Three minutes later, the old man pulled the car out front and Millie sent me along with him telling him just to wait until the gala was over to return. I’d need a chauffeur home.

“I can get a cab home, honest, Millie. You’re going to spoil me.”