• Greta has her man, but paradise isn’t all she hoped for.

    His frat-boy friends aren’t exactly welcoming her with open arms. Everyone still thinks she killed Amber. Especially the police. The detectives hound her constantly about what really happened that night.

    But her lips have been sealed with Blake’s kisses.

    She adores spending all her time with him. She adores having such an amazing man to call her own. But her once-wild stallion is having a much harder time adjusting to life as a couple. He balks every time they’re seen in public together, and can’t resist the lure of wicked temptresses like Jessica James.

    If Greta wants to keep him, she’ll have to find a way to fit in with his crowd. Luckily, Blake has plenty to teach her about being popular. His lessons are vile, hateful things that make her stomach turn. But she’s willing to do anything to have the life she wants—even if it means teaching Blake a lesson or two of her own.

    He’ll learn. Eventually.

    PARTY DRESS is the second book in a trilogy of dark psychological thrillers perfect for fans of THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY or GONE GIRL. Scroll down to read the first two chapters.

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READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS…

 


 

 

Chapter 1

I wish Amber were here.

She always knew so much about clothes—which ones would look good on me and which ones weren’t worth the hanger they were hung on. She would have walked right into this department store and known just what to get. She would have picked the perfect outfit to wear to Blake’s fall formal.

But Amber isn’t here to help. And I don’t know what to wear.

It’s been two weeks since she died, since Blake did what he did so we could be together. Eight days ago they shipped her body back to South Carolina for the funeral. Blake didn’t think it was a good idea for us to go, but we watched it on TV. Everyone watched it on TV—the perfect southern belle laid to rest before her time, her parents holding each other as they cried over her casket, her sorority sisters clutching their pearls. And seven hundred miles north, a college campus clamoring for answers.

But I’m the only one with answers, and I’m not telling.

I paw through racks of dresses, searching for the perfect one. But I don’t know what it looks like. Everything in the store, in every store up until now, just feels off.

“How about this one?” Blake sighs, holding up a short cocktail dress with sapphire sequins. I want to laugh the sight is so sweet. He’s trying to be patient, I can tell, but we’ve been at this all morning, and even the most patient man has his limits. His face is stony, his jaw set. There’s a crease between his brows that grows deeper by the minute.

I shake my head and smile. “No. It has to be perfect,” I say.

“At least try something on,” he says. “We don’t have all day. The bus leaves at four.”

“Relax, baby,” I say, leaning in to kiss him. “Don’t you want me to look perfect for you?”

“It’s not brain surgery, Greta. It’s a dress. Just pick something for Christ’s sake.”

His face has gone red as cherries, the blue dress crumpled in his fist.

“I will,” I say. “I’ll know it when I see it.” But I’m not sure if that’s true.

I wander farther down the aisle, looking to see if anything will catch my attention. There are miles of lace and satin and tulle and chiffon. A year ago, I would have been happy with any of them, ecstatic to even be going to an event like this, but now I have higher standards. Tonight is the first time we’ll be in public, truly in public, as a couple. The dress has to shine. It has to show everyone why Blake chose me. And nothing, nothing at all, seems right.

“You don’t have to go if you don’t want to, you know. These things can be really boring. I mean, I have to because I’m chapter president, but there’s no reason you have to subject yourself to that.”

“Don’t be silly,” I say. “Of course I’m coming. I couldn’t make you go to something like this by yourself. People will expect me to be there.”

“Have it your way,” he says.

Then, nestled between two black frocks on the discount rack, I spot something. It is frosty blue tulle and sparkles with glittery silver sprinkled on the skirt like sugar. I pull it out to look closer and my heart races. The only thing missing is the bow.

It’s a sign. It must be a sign.

“This one,” I say to Blake, my eyes shining. “This is the one.”

“Finally,” he says.

I bring the dress to the checkout desk.

“Can I help you?” the saleswoman asks.

“Yes. Do you have a seamstress on staff who could make a slight alteration? I need it today.”

*****

The saleswoman calls in the seamstress and they work on my dress while I go to the salon to have my hair done. Once you find the dress, the rest is so much easier: shoes, necklace, earrings, tiara, and gloves. Everything else came together in an instant. Blake, being the generous boyfriend he is, paid for everything of course.

I have the beautician curl and pile my hair into a high updo, the tiara nestled in a twist of silky red curls at my crown. She glosses my lips and pinks my cheeks and shimmers my eyes. She paints my fingers and my toes and sends me out the door looking better than Amber was ever able to make me look.

I’m so excited as I head back toward the department store for my dress that I almost don’t notice him. He comes right up beside me. How could he have known to find me here?

“Hi there, Greta.” It’s the detective, the one with the mustache. Jim Drummond.

I scowl at him, “What do you want?”

“Just thought we could discuss a few things.”

“I don’t have to talk to you. I have a lawyer. I know my rights.”

“What do you have to be worried about? You had nothing to do with Amber’s death, right?”

“Of course not. I was with Blake the whole night.”

“Well, not the whole night, right?”

“He wasn’t at the party for very long. You know that.”

“I’m not so sure, Greta. I’m really not.”

“Well, I’m sure.”

“Just seems curious, don’t you think? You thought you spent the whole night with him, but we have pictures—lots of pictures—of him at that party.”

“Like I said, he had to make an appearance. He was downstairs until people got drunk enough not to notice anymore. You probably couldn’t get into a fraternity when you were in college, so you can’t know what those parties are like, but getting that drunk doesn’t exactly take very long. Plus, he had to get Jessica. That took a little time.”

“Okay, so that first time we talked? Why were you so sure he’d been with you all night?”

“You mean while you were accusing me of murdering my best friend? Is that the time you’re talking about?”

“What made you think he’d been with you all night, Greta? Did you pass out? Did he give you something? Is that why you thought you’d been together the whole time?”

“Are you accusing my boyfriend of—? This is ridiculous.”

“Here’s the thing, Greta. We got in touch with a girl, doesn’t go to this school anymore. She says Blake put something in one of her drinks one night. She woke up the next morning in his room, didn’t remember how she got there.”

“Lots of girls want to be with Blake. And lots of girls are upset when they don’t stay together forever.”

“But he’s with you now, right?”

“That’s right.”

“That was mighty fast.”

“True love has no time for doubts.”

“I guess if I were you, I’d be a little concerned about being with a guy like that. Seems like there’s a real good reason to have some doubts.”

“I don’t have to listen to this.” I turn back to the sidewalk and pick up my pace, but his legs are longer than mine—thin and fast as a spider’s. He doesn’t even have to try to keep up.

“Just one more question, Greta.”

“I told you, I’m done with your questions.”

“Why is it no one on campus seems to think you two were dating until after Amber died?”

“We kept it quiet for the first week. Amber was my roommate. She had just been dating Blake. We didn’t want to upset her.”

“Didn’t want to upset her or didn’t want it to look like you’d been going together behind her back?”

“So are you saying we weren’t dating or are you saying we planned to kill Amber together? Which is it?”

“Whoa, now. Settle down. I didn’t say anything like that. But I sure am curious why you jumped to that conclusion.”

“I didn’t—I wasn’t—”

“Is there anything you need to tell me, Greta?”

“No.”

“People are talking, you know. A lot of people. They think there’s something off about the two of you. They think it’s real strange how a girl like you and a guy like him end up together.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It’s just, well, you were never really very popular, were you? You don’t fit in with Blake’s crowd.”

“Shut up,” I say. “I don’t have to talk to you. I want my lawyer.”

“Hey, there’s no need for—”

“I said I want my lawyer. If you want to keep talking to me, then I want my lawyer.”

“Okay, all right. Have it your way.” He hands me his business card. “But here’s my number if you want to talk.”

I rip it up into tiny pieces and throw them at his feet.

“I don’t.”

 

 


 

Chapter 2

It takes me a moment to catch my breath.

You don’t fit in.

You don’t fit in.

You don’t fit in.

What if Detective Drummond was right? What if I don’t fit in with Blake’s crowd? Tonight is the first time we’ll really be spending time with his friends. What if they don’t like me? I couldn’t stand it.

Just in time, I catch a glimpse of my reflection in a shop window. I almost don’t recognize myself. I look stunning. Regal. Like a princess. And Blake is my prince.

I am a princess.

I am a princess.

I am a princess.

I shouldn’t have spoken to the detective. Blake warned me not to. His lawyer warned me not to. I should have known they would put lies into my mind. Stupid, useless lies.

I just have to put them out of my head.

I am a princess.

I am a princess.

I am a princess.

A princess doesn’t listen to lies.

I walk the remaining three blocks to the store with my head held high.

When I put on the dress, everything is perfect. The gown is tea-length with a trim waistline and a full skirt like a movie star in the 1950s would wear. Where the waistline was once bare and boring, I’ve had them add a white satin sash, tied in the back with a large bow whose ribbons trail to the hemline.

I fasten the diamonds at my neck and slide on the white satin opera gloves.

I do look like a princess. A real, true princess.

I walk out of the dressing room to Blake like I’m walking on clouds. He’s in a slim modern suit that makes him look like a runway model.

When he sees me, his eyes grow wide. His jaw hits the floor. Maybe he didn’t know I could look so beautiful.

“How do I look?” I ask, my grin as wide as the Grand Canyon.

It takes him a moment to say anything. Then he pulls himself together and says, “Wow. That’s … um … that’s quite a dress.”

“I told you it would be worth it. Didn’t I tell you it would be worth it?”

“You did,” he says.

I take his lapels in my hands and tug myself up until my lips meet his. He’s so tall it’s like climbing the rope in gym class to reach his mouth.

“Oh, my darling. I want to be so perfect for you. Tell me how perfect I am for you?”

“You’re perfect,” he says.

“Tell me I’m your princess,” I say.

“You’re my princess.”

*****

When we walk up to the buses that will drive us into New York City, there is a crowd of other students waiting, duffel bags strewn at their feet. SigUp has chartered a yacht to sail around the New York Harbor for the dance, and then we’re all spending the night at a hotel in the city called Hotel De La Fontaine.

The crowd turns to gape. I can see us through their eyes: Him dashing, tall and strong. His sunglasses mirroring the clear blue November sky, his crisp black suit cutting a dark silhouette against it the way the cold air cuts through the otherwise sunny day. And me on his arm so ethereal and regal I must look like I was born of the blue over his head. We make a stunning picture together.

As I glance through the crowd, I can see that I am, by far, the best-dressed girl here. No one else has even made an effort compared to me. Their dresses are short, barely dressy enough to be considered formal. Their hair and makeup look no different than any other night out at a random party. This is what they wear to a formal gala? Don’t they care at all about the young men they’re supposed to be accompanying? Don’t they realize that what they wear reflects directly on SigUp? SigUp isn’t just some lower-rung fraternity. It’s a storied brotherhood with a reputation to uphold. There are standards for these boys, high ones. And the women here are a total disappointment. I may have to get Blake to let me have a chat with them.

I squeeze his arm, happy for him that he’s not with a lesser woman. I’m proud I’m the one on his arm, and proud I’ve taken on the mantle of living up to the expectations being with a man like Blake brings.

There’s a snort from somewhere, a girl in slut-red flapper fringe. The two other girls next to her—in sequined cocktail dresses so short they barely cover their nasties—roll their eyes and cross their arms over their chests. Jealousy is so unattractive.

Tucker, Blake’s frat brother and a former friend of Amber’s, ambles through the crowd toward us, his dirty-looking mop of hair rippling in the breeze, a flask in his hand. The over-confident stride on his stumpy, baby-faced body reminds me of everything I hate about him. But he lost our little battle and I won. I try to remember not to be a sore winner. Besides, now that I’m with Blake, it all seems so petty. So small.

“Well if it isn’t the prom king and queen in the flesh,” he says, his voice booming through the air.

More snorts from the crowd. Are they laughing? At what? I don’t get the joke. They’re probably just ribbing Blake, giving him a hard time because he’s so in love. But when I glance at Blake, his jaw is set firmly and his eyes are steel.

“You sure this is a good idea, man?” Tucker asks, glaring in my direction.

Blake inhales a deep breath through his nose and plants his chin high. “Don’t we call you barf boy or something? Remember who you’re speaking to, fuckface.”

“Sorry, man. Just trying to help a brother out.”

“Help? Really? Let me tell you something, brother. I’m not gonna go around acting like a fucking loser just because the police asked me some questions. I don’t give a fuck what little shits like you think. I have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Tucker glances at me, then back at Blake. “Okay. Whatever you say.”

Only his eyes aren’t saying, “Whatever you say.” They’re saying, “Fuck you.”


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