Baby of His Revenge

By: Jennie Lucas


And oddly, as Laney stood in front of the tiny, fancy gowns—which seemed to be made solely of hooked ribbons—and steamed the wrinkles out, she did enjoy herself. She kept picturing Kassius’s dark eyes searching hers, the resonant timbre of his voice, the touch of his hand as he’d helped her out of the car.

Laney stopped, then shook her head. “You’re being ridiculous,” she told herself out loud. “At midnight, he’ll be kissing her—not me!”

She heard the doorbell of the suite ring. Setting down the garment steamer, Laney hurried to answer the door.

A young man was holding a large box. “Delivery.”

“Merci.” Giving him a tip from her own wallet—her employer was notoriously cheap where tips were concerned—Laney took the big white box, accompanied by an envelope. “Madame la Comtesse, you have—”

Then Laney looked at the name written on the envelope and nearly staggered in shock.

Mademoiselle Laney Henry.

“What is it?” Her boss was suddenly standing beside her. “A delivery for me?”

“Actually...” Laney breathed. “It’s for me.”

“What?” Her boss snatched up the envelope. “Who would send you a gift?” She ripped it open and read the message, then staggered back. She glared at Laney with shock in her thin, lovely face. “What did you do?”

“What do you mean?”

She thrust the note at Laney. She looked down at it.

I’m sure you’d look good in any uniform, but consider this instead. Be there before midnight.

Kassius

A hot glow like fire suddenly filled her heart, somewhere between triumph and joy. “He sent me a gift?”

“Open it,” Mimi ordered.

Laney wished Mimi and Araminta weren’t there so that she could just open his present alone and savor it without their glares. But setting the large white box on the table, she lifted the lid.

All three women gasped.

Inside the white box was a sparkling golden gown. It glistened in the light of the suite, strapless, with a sweetheart neckline and wide, voluminous skirts of glittery tulle. Laney lifted a long white glove from the box and suddenly felt like crying. It was a gift fit for a princess. No one had ever given her anything like this in her whole life.

She lifted the gown completely out of the box, holding it up against her body. She barely recognized her own reflection in the gilded mirror, the laughing brown eyes, the way the golden gown set off her creamy skin and dark hair.

“What did you do, throw yourself in front of his car on purpose?” Her boss glared at her. “You sneaky little gold digger, dazzling him with some poor-helpless-little-woman routine? I invented that routine! You think I’ll just let you steal him away from right under my nose?”

She stared at Mimi in shock. “No—”

Her boss looked her over sneeringly, from her plain white shirt to baggy khakis to her sensible clogs. Her lip curled. “What could any man possibly see in you?”

“I’m sure he was just trying to be nice,” she stammered.

“Trying to make you jealous, Mimi,” Araminta said.

“Maybe.” She turned back to Laney. “Fine. Wear that dress. Go to the New Year’s Eve gala tonight. And if he asks you to dance—” her eyes narrowed “—I want you to accept.”

Her? Dance with Kassius Black? In this dress? In spite of herself, Laney swayed deliriously at the thought, nearly hugging herself with happiness.

“Then—” Mimi looked down at her with her red lips curving “—you will tell him you are sick of his attentions and want him to leave you alone. You will insult him until he believes you.”

Laney’s sweet candy-pink dreams all fled. “No!”

“If you don’t, you’ll be out of a job.” The comtesse tossed her long blond hair, putting her hand on a tight white-jeans-clad hip. “Not only that, but I’ll personally make sure no one ever, ever hires you again. So what’s your choice?” Looking at Laney’s miserable face, her smile widened as she added sweetly, “I thought so.”





CHAPTER TWO

KASSIUS GRABBED A crystal flute of champagne from the tray of a passing waiter, sipped it and wrinkled his nose. Too bubbly. Too sweet. He would have preferred a martini, but then, he would have also preferred to spend the evening driving fast on a curvy road, or getting naked in bed with a beautiful woman, rather than being stuck here at some gala, wearing a tuxedo and surrounded by society revelers, many of whom were already tipsy in spite of the fact it was barely ten o’clock.

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