Claiming Cinderella(6)

By: Amy Brent

I gave the twins a wilting glance, and they snickered until Nola scolded them. You’d think we were twelve and sitting in class. “Ahem,” she said, and then she cleared her throat. “I have a little surprise for you girls.” I knew better than to think she was including me, so I continued eating as the Twins seemed reluctant to give her their attention.

She held up an envelope and waved it. “This came in the mail earlier.” Opening the card, it became quite clear that it was a formal invitation. I got a look at the thing as she opened it and the impressive, thick cardstock with embossed gold lettering bore a crown and the letter P.

“It’s from the Prince family. They’re hosting their yearly gala. I also have it on good authority through the club, that Patricia Prince is hoping to use the party as a way to land Aiden a bride. It seems she’s ready for her son to settle down.”

Scott cleared his throat. “Good luck with that. You can’t herd in people like cattle and hope a miracle happens. She’d do better to let him be a man and find his bride the old-fashioned way.”

“And what way is that, darling?” Nola seemed amused, but Scott shrugged and took a sip of his wine before stuffing his face.

Millie cleared her throat. “Not everyone has groupies, son.”

I swallowed a lump of lasagna and averted my gaze as I took some wine to wash it down.

“Mom was a groupie?” Halle gave her father an amused grin, but Nola wasn’t having it.

“I’d hardly call myself a groupie. I was a big fan, but I only met him through Layla.” I looked up as Nola mentioned my mother’s name. “Now, I guess you could call Layla a groupie, isn’t that right, dear? You met her backstage at one of your concerts, right?”

Scott gave me an apologetic look and then clarified. “Actually, no. I met her at a café early one morning after our tour bus broke down on the edge of town.”

“I’m sure it’s a charming story, dear.” She cut him off and leaned across the table. “Let’s not make our guest uncomfortable.” I had a feeling she was much more uncomfortable with the subject of my mother than Scott was.

“It’s okay. I had no idea you had known my mother before you knew Nola. I’d love to hear about it, but perhaps some other time.” Nola shot daggers across the table to me and then to Millie who seemed rather pleased with herself.

“Yes, some other time. We girls have a gala to discuss. I’m sure you’ll both want to go. Aiden Prince is quite the catch since his father’s passing. I hear that their entire estate is worth well over three billion dollars at present, and growing daily.”

Scott whistled. “That’s a lot of money for a young man.” Then he turned to me. “You should go along, Ella. You could use a little fun too.” The twin’s heads snapped in their father’s direction, and Nola glared at me as if I were to immediately refuse.

“I’m sure the invitation wasn’t extended to me.” I folded my hands in my lap, sweat breaking out across the back of my neck as Nola threw her daggers in her husband’s direction.

“Well, it was specifically addressed to the twins.”

“Nonsense, it’s a party. The more, the merrier, and I’m sure there’s a plus one on the RSVP.” He took the card from Nola’s hands and nodded pointing out something on the card. “Yes, here it is, I’m sure it’s okay. Besides, it’s why we hired her, isn’t it? With the girls constantly finding themselves in the most precarious situations, I’m sure it would do them some good to have Ella there to watch out for them everywhere they go, not just the business trips.”

“Are you serious, Daddy? It’s not like we need a babysitter. We’re over twenty-one now.” Sadie’s eyes were narrowed, but that curl of her lip made her appear like a wild dog, ready to bite.

“I don’t think it will be so bad. Ella would love the party, and it’s good for her to meet people.” Halle glanced toward her sister, and I could only guess what kind of sly look the two of them were exchanging. “Thank you, daddy, for the suggestion.” She pulled her wine to her lips and then met me with a slow spreading smile that ended with a flash of teeth.

I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I turned and gave him a warm smile. “Yes, thank you. It does sound like fun.” I glanced down the table at Millie who stared at the twins as if she could read their minds and as she met my stare, her look was apologetic.

I was going to the gala whether I liked it or not.