Once again, I gazed at myself—the impostor—in the mirror. She was the picture of perfection dressed in the vintage black Chanel, a short one-piece dress with sequins and a flared skirt. The scoop-neck and floppy bow made it cute, not sensual. With my hair gathered into a simple ponytail, I gave the impression of innocence.
It wasn’t my style, but Father insisted upon it. His assistant scoured the internet for the garment, which cost more than some people made in one month of work. Honestly, it belonged in a museum or at least on some demure female wishing to appear chaste. Once again, I had no say in the matter. If Father said I had to wear it, so be it.
My bedroom door opened just as I stuck my stocking-clad foot in the T-strap stilettos—also not my choice. Notes of bergamot, vetiver, and ylang-ylang drifted into the room. It was Father’s favorite expensive cologne by Clive Christian. The luxurious fragrance was pricey at over two thousand dollars per ounce. Ignoring my father’s presence, I checked my makeup in the mirror again.
“Our guests are arriving.” He cleared his throat as he came up behind me and placed his smooth hands on my shoulders. I glanced at his reflection. A thin smile crossed his clean-shaven face. “You look lovely, my dear.”
As a child, I loved seeing my parents dressed to go out. Mom, a former French model, was always stunning in a designer dress while my father was his usual debonair self in a tuxedo or a custom-tailored suit. Sadly, Father was just as dead to me as Mom.
Standing behind me was an impeccably clothed demonic salesman peddling tickets to real estate in Hell. He might fool his constituents, but I knew the truth.
None of it mattered. As far as I was concerned, his praise was as empty as his promises. All I could muster was a sullen, “Yes, Father.”
Obviously, my dull tone redirected his demeanor. He dropped his hands, and the pleasant expression evaporated. It was quickly replaced with his usual sucked-on-a-lemon appearance. “I expect you downstairs in ten minutes, Peyton. Do not dally.”
He gave me a curt nod before pivoting on his polished dress shoes and stalking to the door. “Do not force me to send someone for you.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” I said to his reflection. Last thing I wanted was to be escorted from my room like a prisoner.
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