Rock Chick 07 RegretBy: Kristen Ashley
Rock Chick Regret
A long time ago, at a scary time in my life, when I was alone, I tried to go it alone and, after having surgery to remove a benign lump from my breast, I attempted to redress my wound and shower by myself.
I nearly passed out. Crawling to the phone, I called my friend, Cris, who was a nurse. He dropped everything and came to my house. He helped me shower and redress my wound. I was mortified and told him so.
“I’m gay and a nurse, I wipe people’s asses for a living. Do you think this fazes me?” he’d said to me. Then he lectured me on going it alone when I had friends.
I never did it again.
And this, my loyal readers, is exactly what the entire series of Rock Chick is about, as Sadie learns in the story you are about to read. You are never alone, not when you have friends. Learn from my stories and, through thick and thin, remember, if you have friends you are never alone.
Loads of Practice
The elevator pinged and I looked out into the plushly carpeted hall.
I took a deep breath.
As I let it out, I stepped one perfectly high, slingback, stiletto heel shod foot soundlessly on the carpet. I turned right and walked the ten steps (I counted) to the door.
There was a brass plaque on the door, it said, “Nightingale Investigations.”
Before I could chicken out, I turned the sleek knob and pushed the door open.
I knew there would be no balloons falling or streamers streaming, heralding my happily anticipated arrival but I didn’t expect the intensity of the welcoming committee.
Or, one could say, unwelcoming committee.
Shirleen Jackson was sitting behind the gleaming, polished, blond-wood reception desk. Standing in front of it was Stella Gunn and Kai Mason.
I knew Shirleen and I knew she knew my father and furthermore I suspected she did a happy dance when he was handed a fifteen year sentence. Therefore, I expected her face to turn to stone when she saw me (and it did).
I knew Stella Gunn and Kai Mason because they were famous. Their romance had played out in the papers and on local news and I’d watched it with avid fascination along with the rest of Denver.
All of them looked at me, none of them smiled.
I walked through the door and it fell closed behind me so I could see the rest of the room.
Luke Stark was leaning against the desk and his head came up from studying a manila folder. When he saw me, his face went blank and his eyes went cold.
I stopped myself from swallowing and, as per normal (as I’d had loads of practice), I walked, back ramrod straight, chin up, one foot in front of the other (like I learned in deportment classes) to the desk.
“Hello, I’m Sadie Townsend. I have an appointment with Liam Nightingale,” I said to Shirleen.
Shirleen looked me from top-to-toe, her tawny eyes frozen and I knew her thoughts. I’d had twenty-nine years of people looking at me like Shirleen did and coming to one of three conclusions.
First, I was a spoiled rotten, rich, Daddy’s girl and not worth the time.
Or second, I was the daughter of a dangerous drug lord and by association scum of the earth.
Or third, I was the daughter of a dangerous yet powerful and wealthy man and there might be some way to use me to get what they wanted.
I figured Shirleen was in the first category.
My eyes slid to Luke Stark and I knew from his continued arctic stare that he was a mixture of both one and two.
I didn’t even look at Stella Gunn and Kai Mason.
“Sit your fancy-ass down. Lee’ll be with you in a minute,” Shirleen said and my eyes moved back to her.
I was a little surprised that she would be obviously rude but I let it deflect off me like I was wearing armor. It hurt, like it always hurt, but I was damned if I’d let it show.
So I didn’t.
I was good at this. I’d had loads of practice at this too.
I turned on my heel, back still straight, chin still up, giving the impression that I was dismissing her and everyone in the room as beneath my notice.
This was another defense mechanism with which I had loads of practice.
I sat down on a leather couch and crossed my legs, relaying the appearance that I hadn’t a care in the world. I magnified this by casually pulling my cream skirt up my knee and surveying my manicure like it was utterly fascinating.
I was wearing the palest of pale pink on my nails, the manicure was perfect, as it should be; it had only been finished two hours ago.
I was wearing designer from head-to-toe.
My hair was not dyed, it was naturally an ultra-light, golden-cream-strawberry blonde and also had this weird mix of natural soft ringlets combined liberally with waves. I wore it long and down my back. Today I had the front pulled back in an expensive clip and it tumbled down to my shoulders and back. Although not dyed, the cut cost three hundred dollars.
I had on a cream, pencil-slim skirt that skimmed the knees and had a pleated kick pleat in the back. I also had on a little, short-sleeved top, pale pink (to match my nails) with dozens upon dozens of pink pleats at the sleeves, capped with cream, satin ribbon. The top had a square neckline and fit like it was made for me. My slingbacks were to-die-for with a slim, four-inch heel, they were uber-elegant. I set my pale pink clutch on my knee and moved my eyes to a studied fascination of my shoe.
The door opened and I looked from my toe to the door.
Indy Nightingale and her sister-in-law, Ally Nightingale, walked in. I’d seen India Savage and Liam Nightingale’s picture in the wedding column. She was a gorgeous redhead; he was an extremely handsome, dark-haired man. They were a beautiful couple and, if their photo was anything to go by, very happy.
I knew Ally from my not so happy run-in with Daisy a few months ago.
Daisy Sloan was friends with the Nightingale clan and she had been my friend once.
Well, she’d almost been one.
The run-in hadn’t been a run-in, exactly. I saw Daisy, Daisy’s eyes turned to polar icecaps when she saw me, she whispered something in Ally’s ear, Ally’s eyes cut to me and they went hard.
That was it. Not a run-in but not pleasant either.
Now Indy and Ally were laughing at something but when their eyes moved in the direction of Shirleen, they saw something in her expression then they moved to me and their laughter died.
“Shit, I forgot, is it Wednesday?” Indy said to Ally.
Ally’s eyes went glacial as they rested on me. “Yeah,” she answered.
I didn’t know exactly why Luke, Shirleen, Indy and Ally (and I guessed Kai and Stella, although I hadn’t looked to be certain) hated me but I suspected it was either because Daisy hated me or because they suspected I hated Hector Chavez. Rumor had it they were a close-knit group. The papers had talked about what had now become the semi-famous Rock Chicks of Fortnum’s Bookstore and the Nightingale Men of Nightingale Investigations in their articles about Stella and Kai. They were known to be crazy and fun and willing to lay their lives on the line for each other.
Even though a part of me was jealous as hell, I was glad Daisy had that. Daisy was a good person, she deserved it.
As for me, I’d never had a friend, not a true, genuine friend, in twenty-nine years. I used to feel sorry for myself about this fact. But then I realized it was just my life and, as with everything else, I learned to live with it. Either people didn’t trust me, they didn’t trust my Dad, they didn’t stick around or they used me. I learned a long time ago to shut them down before they could rip out my heart, tear it to shreds, stamp on it, kick it around a bit and then spit on it.
When that happened, trust me, it was no fun, it hurt, loads, so I stopped it before it could start and didn’t let anyone get close.
That was until Daisy. But that didn’t work out.
When Daisy hit the Denver social scene, I thought she was aces. She was not brittle and fake like everyone else of my father’s (and thus my) acquaintance. She looked like Dolly Parton. She dressed like Dolly Parton. She had a voice with a country twang. She had a tremendously cool giggle that sounded like jingling Christmas bells.
And she was real. And she liked me too.
But Nanette Hardy was ripping her to shreds at Monica Henrique’s garden party a couple of years ago, really laying into Daisy like only vicious, catty Nanette could do. Monica was giggling and I was quiet and waiting for my chance to get in a good shot. My chosen topic was Nanette’s husband getting rear-ended (literally) by the pool boy which only Nanette didn’t know about, everyone else knew all about it and was laughing behind her back when Monica’s face went pale and she was looking over my shoulder.
Nanette quit talking and I looked behind me. Daisy was there.
I caught the pain in her eyes before she looked at me like I was slime.
Then she walked away.
I knew why. I’d been nice to her; I’d been hoping she’d be my friend. She thought I was talking behind her back which was worse than what Nanette and Monica were doing. Everyone knew Nanette and Monica were bitches, it was expected.
I called Daisy half a dozen times and went over to her house twice. She wouldn’t see me, or at least that was what her husband said when he turned me away from the door.
In the end, her husband Marcus had come to visit my father. My father had told me under no circumstances was I to try to communicate with Daisy Sloan again. He explained it was crucial, it was duty, it was business. Bottom line, Marcus was a powerful man, nearly as powerful as my father and my father couldn’t have Marcus as an enemy so I needed to back off.