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Page 28 of Alpha (Alpha 1)

“I can do this. I can do this.” I breathed deeply once more. I forced strength into my voice. “I can do this.”

“Now turn, so I can put this necklace on you.” I turned, and felt her rest the necklace on my breastbone. It was heavy, and cold. “Now the earrings.” She threaded the pin through my earlobe, fastened it, and then repeated the process on the other side. “Perfect. Now…let’s look at you in the mirror.”

We went together into the closet—a term that didn’t begin to describe a space that was bigger than my entire Detroit apartment—and she positioned me in front of the three-way mirror. When I caught sight of my reflection, I had to blink hard to hold back pinprick tears. I didn’t look like me. I looked like some elegant, sophisticated creature that resembled me. The way Eliza had done my hair and makeup accentuated my sky-blue eyes and the natural tan of my skin, and the dress…Jesus, the dress. It hugged every curve, made my tits look huge and round and—if I said so myself, pretty damn perfect—and made my rather generous hips into an hourglass figure. My shoulders seemed slim and sharp, my breastbone and throat a sleek curve. The necklace and earrings sparkled and blazed in the incandescent light, their color a perfect match for the dress and offsetting my skin tone as if made for me.

“You are going to take his breath away, Kyrie.” Eliza held my shoulders, and I felt oddly close and connected to this woman I barely knew.

“Thank you.”

She nodded with a small smile, and then bustled deeper into the closet, opened a drawer, and pulled out a slim black clutch. Valentino. “You’ll need this.”

There were drawers full of purses? How had I not discovered this? I needed to explore this closet more; it was a woman’s fantasy, in both design and contents. My mind spun.

I found my old purse in the armoire, retrieved my I.D., some cash, and my debit card. I doubted I’d need any of that, but it didn’t seem right to go out without it. I unplugged my cell phone, and realized in that moment that I’d never called Layla. She’d be pissed. And jealous. And worried. Shit. I’d have to call her from the car.

I closed the clutch and nodded to Eliza. “I’m ready.”

“I’ll bring you to the roof, then.”

“The roof?”

Eliza nodded, leading me from my suite of rooms at a quick pace. “Yes. Harris will be flying you directly to dinner. Mr. Roth will meet you at dinner, and you will go together from there to the Met.”

“Fly?”

“Yes. In a helicopter.”

“A helicopter. I’m being flown in a helicopter to dinner.” I felt dizzy. “While wearing an outfit that costs more than several houses.”

“Welcome to Mr. Roth’s world, Miss Kyrie. He does nothing in half-measure.”

“No shit.”

Eliza frowned at me as she gestured me through a door that led to a small elevator. “You know, Mr. Roth disapproves of cursing under most circumstances. Not from any moral or religious standpoint, but because he considers it…unnecessary, and inelegant. So, a piece of friendly advice…consider attempting to curse less frequently.”

Upward we went, exiting after a short ride onto a wide blacktop helipad where Harris was waiting, standing with his hands clasped behind his back. He stood in front of a sleek black helicopter, large enough to carry at least four people, possibly more.

“I will try. Thanks for telling me, Eliza.” I turned and hugged her again. She was stiff through it, as if unused to being hugged. “For everything.”

“My pleasure, Miss Kyrie. Now go. Have a fun evening.”

I waved at her, and then crossed the helipad toward Harris. “Hello again, Harris.”

He inclined his head to me. “Miss St. Claire.” He extended his hand toward the helicopter. “If you’re ready?”

I nodded and he opened the door, holding out his hand to help me in. I eyed the step up into the craft, and then realized that I could not make it. “Yeah, not gonna be able to get up there in this dress,” I said.

Harris didn’t say anything, merely placed his hands on my waist and lifted me in. He did so easily, as if I weighed nothing. His touch was businesslike, platonic, not lingering. As soon as I was in and settled, he closed the door, and I fished my phone from my purse. I had one phone number in the “favorites” screen of my iPhone: Layla. She was, actually, one of maybe a dozen phone numbers I had, period. I dialed her, and held the phone to my ear as Harris slid into the pilot’s seat and began warming up the engine, flipping switches and consulting a clipboard and doing all sorts of things in preparation for takeoff.

“KYRIE!” Layla’s voice was a piercing shriek, so loud I had to hold the phone away from my ear. Harris turned in the seat and gave me an amused glance. “WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN, HOOKER?”

I put the phone back to my ear and sighed into the speaker. “Layla, calm the hell down. You’re making my ears bleed.”

“You said you’d call me again, Key. It’s been, like, two days. I was about to call the cops.”

“Don’t do that, Layla. Please. For real. Don’t. I’m fine, totally fine.”

“You haven’t been, like, dismembered or tortured yet, have you?”

“Since I’m calling you, I’m gonna go with probably not.” I heard the whine of the engine getting louder. “Listen, I don’t have a lot of time, so I just wanted to call and say I’m okay.”

“What’s that noise?”

“That’s the engine of the helicopter.”

“Helicopter?”

I laughed at the concerned yet incredulous tone of her voice. “Yes, helicopter. I’m in a private helicopter, about to be flown to have dinner with…my benefactor.” For some reason, I didn’t think I should tell Layla his name, even though she was the only person in the whole world that I trusted completely. “And then we’re going to the opera.”

“The opera? Private helicopter? What the f**k is going on, Key?”

I sighed. “I don’t even know where to start.” The engine was roaring now, making conversation difficult. “Are you sitting down?”

“Why?”

“Because you should be. I’m wearing a Christian Dior gown, Layla. Matching shoes. Emerald necklace and earrings that could pay for a f**king mansion. A Valentino clutch.”

“Holy f**king Jesus toast, Kyrie.”

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