“Clarissa, Clarissa! The ice sculpture is falling!”
“Clarissa, what are we supposed to do? The caterer lost the appetizers!”
“It’s an emergency Clarissa! One of the guests is allergic to orchids and has passed out by the bar!!”
Yes, this is my life. Despite the fact that a million disasters were hurtling towards me at a breakneck speed, I was calm and collected. In my element even. What is unfolding is known only to me and my event planning crew. For everyone else, all they will see is the glamour and glitz of yet another Durant party succeed.
I’m Clarissa Durant, and I love to plan parties. If there is any kind of party in New York, than it was most likely me in the center of it. Some rich women like to delegate it all to a planner, but I find that means that ideas and plans go missing along the way. And I like to think big. Even when I was ten years old, I was planning for my own birthday party, though I didn’t have the kind of funds then that I do now. I loved organizing the details, the surprise factor of what could go wrong each time, and the triumph in pulling it all off anyways.
And at a party this big, the problems came in spades. I’d been nervous at first when Lilia Huntington first rang me up. I had only just gotten into New York Ladies for a Better Society. Because I wasn’t technically a Durant (my mother had married my stepdad when I was twelve), and the fact that I was only twenty, it had taken a long time to get accepted. Right away I was given the task of organizing their 150th anniversary. But I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge-and my weeks of sleepless nights were paying off. I was even being featured on the blog NYCnow!
After a tense few hours, we were finally in the clear. The champagne was free flowing, and all the little mistakes and disasters were smoothed over by the luxurious bubby being passed around. I know, it’s a little weird to enjoy doing work when I belonged to such a wealthy family, but I chalked it up to having grown up without. I walked out slowly into the garden, appreciating how well everything had come together. For now at least, my place at the Society was secure.
The guests mingled under a fresh summer sky, lanterns casting a golden light from the trees above us. As the lights dimmed and we were set free from the dinner table speeches, I allowed myself a moment’s reprieve. I snagged myself a flute, watching from the sidelines. The majestic columns of the banquet hall allowed me to hide myself from view. Scrolling through my phone, I was all ready to check my emails when I noticed that I wasn’t alone.
His tux was perfectly tailored to his broad shoulders and tall frame, accentuating him instead of the other way around. He had come up next to me, hands in his pockets, gazing pensively at the crowd, and yet he found no need to make conversation. His profile was patrician, the product of New York’s finest. The beat of my heart sped up, as it always did, at the sight of him. I couldn’t help it, even though I knew that there wasn’t a chance for us. He was my stepbrother after all.
“Hello,” I said politely.
“Clarissa,” he said. His voice was warm and smooth, like the whiskey he held in his hand. “You look lovely tonight.”
“Thank you,” I said softly.
Hazel eyes regarded me slowly, his gaze panning down before heading back up towards my face. For once in my life, I didn’t mind. My red dress had a deep cowl neck that swooped just above my breasts, and the mermaid tail of my gown gave me an incredible set of curves. I knew that I looked radiant tonight, and yes, secretly, I had planned it for him. Aiden liked a woman in red.
It sounded stupid, and wrong, to be in love with your own stepbrother, but sometimes the heart jumps in before the brain could tell it to stop. It didn’t matter at first, because Aiden felt the same way about me too. But then he was sent abroad to run the international arm of the Durant Corporation, and he came back a completely different man.
A man who forgot his promises. A man who was cold and arrogant, but managed somehow to get a different woman every night to sleep with him. In short, he was a man who had broken my heart.
“Aiden!!” a high pitched voice squealed, breaking into my thoughts.
Our gaze broke, and we both turned to the left, where a tall, willowy blonde was stumbling up to us. Another one of Aiden’s conquests. Though her hair was a little ruffled, it seemed to suit her, as if she’d stepped out of a high profile fashion magazine. Her black dress clung to her long legs and fake breasts. She gave Aiden a kiss on each cheek, giggling as she almost spilled all of her drink on his tux. Yet another new date.
“Aideeenn, I was looking all over for you,” she said with a pout.
I wasn’t surprised. Aiden always had one woman or another chasing after him. How to get laid seemed to be the only skill he’d picked up abroad. I didn’t believe it when the rumors made their way back to me at first. After all, the Aiden I knew was loyal and quiet, more prone to reading books than chasing tail. He had a strong personality back then too, and he was always able to convince the maids to do what we’d like. It was a shame the way he wasted it now.
“Sorry, I was just talking to my stepsister,” he replied. “How many have you had?”
“I lost count!” she replied as if that was the whole point.
“Well don’t have too much, Nikki,” he said with a big grin. “I’ve been wanting to try out-“
“Okay! That’s enough,” I said, holding up a hand. “I don’t want to hear what kind of weird, crazy things you two do in the bedroom.”
“Whoa little sis, where’s your mind at?” he said.
He raised up his eyebrow at Nikki, who fell into another fit of laughter.
“Oh gosh Aiden,” she laughed. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we did end up there… hm?”
My cheeks burned. It was always like this. One way or another, Aiden always made me feel like I was uncool and prudish. I mean, was it really any wonder that I wanted to move out so I didn’t have to deal with his endless parade of women every morning? It rubbed salt into the wound, the way he showed off his conquests, as if I hadn’t once wanted to be in their place too.
Before I could say another word though, the chairwoman of the Society glided up to my side and cleared her throat. She barely reached my shoulders, even with her cloud of white hair piled high. Dressed in a pink Chanel tweed suit, she hardly looked like the matriarch of upper crust society.
“Hello, Mrs. Huntington,” I said, leaning in for the lightest of hugs. “What do you think of tonight?”
“It’s marvellous! I just knew it was going to be wonderful!”
“Thank you,” I replied, pleased by the complime
nt. Mrs. Huntington had been vehemently opposed to me directing the party, but I guess she had conveniently forgotten that now. “I’m glad you approve.”
“My dear, I don’t just approve,” she said, “I think I’d like to make you our official hostess!”
“Official hostess? Why Clarissa that’s quite an honor,” Aiden said exaggeratedly. “I don’t think there’s ever been a hostess as young as you.”
“Quite right dear, quite right,” Mrs. Huntington said, patting Aiden’s cheek. “My, you’ve grown quite a bit since I last saw you Aiden.”
Mrs. Huntington’s sun Harrison was good friends with Aiden, until Aiden bought the biggest luxury yacht in the world from right under his nose. Harrison retaliated by purchasing Aiden’s favourite football team. The two have been fighting ever since. If you asked me, they should just whip out their junk and decide who’s the biggest, but there wouldn’t be any fun in that would there?
“I’ve been incredibly busy these past few years unfortunately. I think father is preparing for retirement, and wants to make sure that I’ll be able to do justice to the company.”
“Well dear, I’ll see you tomorrow at the charity gala at least?”