My Bloody Valentine: An Invitation - EXCERPT
Bree fingered the invitation. Thick card, heavy. Expensive. Gold, embossed print and gold love hearts in elegant filigree bordering the scalloped edge. A date, time and a title for the event, the Valentine’s Weekend Gala. She flipped it over, but the back offered no more information than the front, only an image of Cupid, bow and arrow raised, an impish grin on his cherubic face. No sender details or address or even a request for an RSVP. Just the date and time that she would be picked up and conveyed…somewhere. She studied the accompanying envelope, but there were no postmarks or postdates, nothing to indicate whence it came. Just her name in elegant script—Ms. Bree Regina Lewis.
She tapped a nail on the invitation, fascination taking hold. It was madness to consider going—she couldn’t even tell anyone where she’d be. But the intrigue and mystery were a heady attraction. With yet another Valentine’s Day looming bleak and unpromising, perhaps this event was just what she needed. And did the Cupid image mean something? Was it the promise of some kind of romance? But, really, who could be behind such an invite? The host must be a bored and eccentric millionaire with too much time and money on his hands.
The training schedule she’d been working on forgotten, she sat back in her chair and stared out of her office window. She could take a friend, but the invitation didn’t specify ‘plus one’. That should raise a red flag, but she wouldn’t let a small detail like that stop her, reckless as she was by nature.
Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday and she’d be picked up on the Friday, presumably for the gala the following evening. Friday the thirteenth… The day and date were considered unlucky and the movies by the same name definitely didn’t leave her with a warm, fuzzy feeling. But she wasn’t superstitious and the host hardly had a choice in the matter of dates if it was to be a Valentine’s weekend. It was obviously just a coincidence and nothing nefarious—really, a gift that she was lucky to be included in. And she had two weeks to plan her wardrobe.
According to the limited information provided, the Valentine’s Weekend Gala would start on the evening of the thirteenth and progress through to the afternoon of the fifteenth of February. Bree had no way of knowing if different attire was required for different events, so she’d just have to pack taking all considerations into account. And, of course, an evening gown would surely be required for the Saturday night Valentine Gala that must be taking place. She’d never been to a ball, so she’d need a dress for the occasion.
She logged into her online banking to check her account balance. The number of zeros was not promising, particularly when she took rent, food and bill payments into consideration. Her credit card balance looked more encouraging. She hadn’t been putting much on credit, purely because her personal life had been unexciting of late, to say the least. If she worked additional shifts she could easily pay for a new dress and shoes and some extras. It was worth it, to add some spice to her life.
She switched over to the gym training roster she’d been working on and typed her name into the vacant slots. Instructing boxing classes and early morning boot camps meant that she would have some early starts and later evenings. At least the Australian summer kept the days warm and sunny and enjoyable for any outdoor activity. Her personal training schedule could also bring in more income for one-on-one training. She input her name next to the clients who’d requested personal sessions. Normally she’d take about three to four per week, but for the next two weeks she ensured that she’d take two sessions a day. She’d have very little free time, but the extra money would be worth it.
She grabbed her mobile and selected her best friend’s contact. “Nell, tell me you don’t have anything going on this Saturday!”
“Hello to you too.” Nell laughed. “As it happens, I only have some laundry and housework to look forward to and I’ll do anything to put that off. What do you have in mind? Tell me it’s more interesting than my current plans. Please!”
“Are you up for a shopping trip?”
“That depends. You’re not shopping for white goods, are you? If you need a new fridge, I think I’ll pass.”
Bree giggled. “No, I need a new dress—an evening dress—and I want your opinion.”
“Where are you going? Is the invite for two?”
Bree paused. How was she going to tell her best friend about the mysterious invitation? Nell would most certainly demand to go with her once she knew the details—or lack of.
“It’s a work thing,” Bree lied. “The gym’s putting on an event for our clients.”
She felt a pang of guilt about lying to her friend, but she reasoned it was for the best. Nell would just worry, and she knew her friend
well enough to know that she wouldn’t let the issue go without a myriad of questions that Bree couldn’t answer. Nell was cautious and practical while Bree was bold and impulsive. They were yin and yang and always joked that it was their opposite characters that made them work as best friends.
Nell’s sigh reached her across the connection. “Fine. You go to your work thing and I’ll help you shop for it. Perhaps you’ll meet some hot gym junkie. Then you can stop focusing on that phantom man you keep dreaming about.”
Bree started when her friend mentioned the exact thing that had been in the back of her mind. Bree too hoped she’d meet someone who could dispel the man of her dreams. She cleared her throat. “Great. I’m taking training sessions until midday on Saturday. How about I pick you up at twelve-thirty? We can have lunch then shop afterwards.”
“Sounds good. See you then, girlfriend,” Nell sang before hanging up.
Bree smiled at her friend’s uncanny knack of seeming to read her mind. Bree had told Nell about her dreams and about the man who featured in them constantly. A man whom she’d never met. She couldn’t even liken him to anyone. He was an enigma. A handsome, spellbinding enigma who preoccupied her sleep. It was getting to the point where she found herself comparing all the men she met to the man of her dreams. It was strange how his scent would stay with her for hours after she awoke, a masculine spice like no other that stimulated her senses to a distracting level. It was troublesome and irritating and she hoped fervently that this mysterious Valentine’s Day Weekend would throw a physical, flesh-and-blood male into her path.