His Mistress with Two Secrets(4)

By: Dani Collins

“I daresay you’ll find a better class of suitor than your usual struggling students and apron clingers,” her mother added snobbishly.

All they needed was one man with deep pockets.

Or, as Cinnia had said countless times, they could all get proper jobs like normal people.

Her two middle sisters decried that as blasphemy.

Priscilla, her first younger sister, was a model. Genuinely pretty, but not in high demand. Two years out of school and she had barely worked at all. She just needed a better head shot or a new outfit or a change of hairstyle and her career would take off, she kept assuring them. Completing a course in hairstyling or something useful like that would only hold her back.

Nell, their stunning little party girl, didn’t need a job. Boys already bought her things and she was the one who would land them the Big Fish when the time came. If Cinnia could somehow keep her in school long enough to complete her A levels without getting pregnant, she’d be thrilled.

Thankfully Dorry had a brain and ten times anyone’s ambition to use it. Their youngest sister had been babysitting from the moment she was old enough to wipe a nose and currently had a job in a fish-and-chip truck, much to their mother’s repulsion. Dorry squirreled her money before anyone saw it and kept her head down, usually bent over a book. If something happened to Cinnia, she had every confidence her baby sister would keep the rest of them fed and sheltered.

She was trying not to put that on poor Dorry. After trying to help her mother win a fight against owing back taxes and other debts associated with her father’s estate, Cinnia had taken an interest in wills and estate planning. As careers went, it paid well enough, was stable and flexible and she found it intellectually challenging.

Her mother said she might as well be an undertaker.

Vera said, “No matter what, do not tell any men we chat up what you do for a living. Not unless we’re trying to get away from them.”

Cinnia didn’t have Vera’s interest in meeting men. Her mother’s lack of a career to fall back on had been their downfall. All Milly was qualified to do was take in university students as boarders because she had a big house, which was how she paid the bills, much to her everlasting embarrassment. She spun it as a lark when people asked about it. She liked to be surrounded by young people, she said, playing eccentric.

Cinnia was determined never to have her back against the wall like that. She was already self-supporting and, even though she knew running her own agency came with risk, she had hit the ceiling where she was. The next step was to become her own boss.

Thus, she was thinking about how to build her client list as she stood with Vera, chatting to an unassuming musician and a nerdy social-media magnate. The men were ridiculously wealthy and equally shy, which was why bubbly women like Vera had been called in, Cinnia supposed, letting her gaze stray to take in an evening beyond any she would experience again in this lifetime.

The nightclub was in a reclaimed industrial building, tricked out with steel and glass and modern art. Top-shelf liquor was served in cut-crystal glasses by uniformed bartenders. The main room was open to the upper floor, making the place feel airy despite the crush of people in the low-slung chairs and standing in groups around the full dance floor.

Tonight, the tables had been covered with velvet tablecloths and the place was littered with feather boas and faux furs. The typical nightclub black light had been replaced with a sultry red. It threw sexy shadows into every corner and gave faces a warm glow. The DJ was mashing old jazz and modern hits with delightful results while a bouncer guarded stairs that rose to a walk-around gallery on the upper level. When they’d arrived, they’d been given a peek into the ultraposh, private entertainment rooms reserved for the most exclusive guests.

Judging by the movie stars and the other celebrities not gaining access, those rooms would be used by a very rich and exalted personality indeed.

Cinnia wasn’t impressed with money and fame, but she would love to take on any of these pocketbooks as clients. Sadly, people with this much money to throw around were not interested in a boutique agency still smelling of builder’s dust. She had known from the outset that nothing would come of this evening beyond a few lost hours and a cute entry in the logbook of appearances made by her great-granny’s tiara. C’est la vie.

Then she saw him.

Them, really. The Sauveterre twins. The male pair. The same gorgeous man in duplicate arrived at the top of the short flight of entrance stairs, where they overlooked the sunken area of the main lounge.

Her pulse stumbled.

She was startled to see them in person. And curious, of course. She’d been eleven when their sister had been kidnapped, old enough to follow the story as intently as the rest of the world. It had had a profound impact on her. To this day it made her heart feel stretched and tense just thinking about it.

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