An American Cinderella:A Royal Love Story(9)

By: Krista Lakes

It was time to see my stepmother about today.

It took a metro train and a bus to get to her house, but I made it there just as the sun crested the horizon. Long dark shadows filled the streets. It would be a long ride home into the city, but I knew my stepmother wasn’t going to have this conversation over the phone.

My stepmother lived in a nice neighborhood with good schools and beautiful churches. The homes regularly went for well over six million, due to the proximity to downtown DC. It was a very affluent and politically important area.

My father had never lived here. This was the house she bought with his money after he died. I knew that she did well as an information broker, especially in a information hungry area like Washington, but I didn’t think she did well enough to afford living here. Apparently, selling secrets was a lucrative business.

I walked along the comfortable sidewalks under green leafy trees and watched as kids on bicycles peddled past. It looked suburban and comfortable, but I knew that it was too close to politics and power not to have a dark underbelly.

Besides, my stepmother and stepsister lived here, so obviously it was a dark place.

Warm yellow light spilled out the windows of their house as I walked up the driveway. The garage door was open and I could only see one car inside, which was strange. The Jaguar was missing. I wondered if my stepmother had let her daughter borrow it, but that seemed strange as well.

Audrey Verna didn’t like anyone touching her things.

I took a deep breath. I’d come all this way and I wasn’t going to back down now. I knew my stepmother was going to bully me. She would spin the conversation so that losing my job was somehow my fault and it was only through her good graces that I had a new job at all.

I knew it wasn’t true, but the woman was a masterful liar and manipulator.

I marched up the stairs to the front door and rang the doorbell. Anger clenched in my fists and tried to escape through nervous taps of my feet.

I waited for what felt like an eternity before hearing footsteps. I wondered if Audrey’s housekeeper was sick. She was usually very quick to get the door, unless Audrey wanted them to wait. I sighed, figuring out the game. Audrey wanted me to wait to put me at a disadvantage.

“I wondered when you would get here,” my stepmother said, opening the door herself. “I expected you hours ago.”

“I hope I kept you waiting,” I replied, walking inside. “Where’s Anastasia?”

“She’s upstairs celebrating her new job,” Audrey replied. “My daughter is so very pleased to be working in the Senate.”

I bet she is, I thought coldly. I’d done all the hard work to get there. I frowned, wondering where the Jaguar was then. It didn’t matter, though. I wasn’t here to check up on my stepsister or my stepmother’s cars.

“What happened to your pants, dear?” Audrey asked, lifting her nose in the air like I smelled. I looked down and saw the grass stains from where I fell earlier. The thought of Henry made me heat up in my center.

“I fell,” I said, not wanting to tell Audrey any more than that. I didn’t want to share anything with her that she could use against me.

Audrey scoffed and went to close the door behind me. The stains were just one more failure in her eyes. I thought I was used to her being displeased with me, but it still stung when I failed.

I looked around, taking stock of the house. Big windows were dark against the oncoming night. The house felt emptier than usual. She was rearranging the furniture as the baby grand piano was missing, as well as one of the expensive paintings. I knew it was expensive because she took every opportunity to tell me it was.

I turned and faced my stepmother as she closed the door on the spring night behind me. For a moment, I felt like a caged animal. I was now trapped in my stepmother’s domain. She simply stood there, statuesque and perfect.

Audrey Verna was beautiful. She had beautiful porcelain skin and she kept her long dark hair pulled back into a severe bun at the nape of her neck. Silver threaded the dark locks, but instead of making her look old, it made her look powerful. She wore a black silk jumpsuit that accentuated her lean lines and delicate build. Everything about her was sharp. Her acid green eyes were piercing, her nose was knife-like, her jaw pointed, and her clavicles looked ready to cut the unwary.