Without further ado, I give you :
Launch Date: October 12th, 2012
And, since you’re all such lovely ladies and gents, here’s an excerpt from the first chapter to get you excited:
1: The Midnight Ball
The clock was about to strike midnight as I stood beside a potted bamboo plant, nursing a stolen glass of wine and praying no one would see me. My red dress chafed. My high-heels were killing me. The noise level in the gallery was almost deafening. And if I had to listen to one more person talk about the weather, I was going to scream.
And speak of the devil…
Phil, my father’s literary agent, had spotted me. I tried to pretend I hadn’t heard him but it was too late. He was already motioning for me to join him. I smothered my groan, both at the thought of the conversation and the pain in my feet, and walked over to where he stood with a few other people.
“Hey, Kat,” he said eagerly. “We were just discussing all the weird weather we’ve been having. Did you feel the earthquake last week? An earthquake in New York City. Still can’t believe it.”
A blond woman cut in before I could answer. “I heard it was solar flares. That’s what caused the tsunami in Japan, you know. Terrible stuff. All those deaths.”
“Nonsense,” said a young man. I’d forgotten his name, but I was pretty sure he worked for NPR. His face was flushed and he slurred his speech a bit. “It’s Global Warming. Those goddamned Republicans have been ignoring us for decades and now they’re getting their proof. Tsunamis in Japan, earthquakes in New York City, tornadoes in Alaska. Alaska! And they gave us crap for the electric car!”
The young man suddenly turned to me, an expectant look on his face.
“Well?” he blustered. “Don’t you agree?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Phil cut in. “Her father is Jonathan Finnegan. Of course she agrees. All this nonsense about the Mayans, on the other hand…”
Thus began a heated debate in which I had little interest. Fortunately I spotted my uncle, Hank, standing beside the buffet table with a plate of fruit.
“I think I see my uncle,” I muttered and made my escape. I weaved my way through the crowd of polished literati, avoiding anyone who might recognize me as my father’s daughter. Waiters in black suits and glittering masks mingled with the crowd. They carried trays of drinks and the small finger foods partygoers like to admire but not eat. One stopped in my path. He was slighter than most men and had on a silver mask that extended into the air like wings beside his face.
There was something almost familiar about him. It might have been his thin lips, or the sharp, aristocratic slope of his nose. He didn’t speak, just held up a tray filled with a dozen glasses of red wine.
“I’m good, thanks,” I spluttered, holding up my half-full glass.
The waiter smiled and inclined his head, leaving before I could figure out who he looked like. The whole interaction had taken ten seconds, but it was disorienting. I wrote it off to the wine and hurried over to Hank.
He looked distinguished, as always, with his grey hair and closely cropped beard. The vintage Pink Floyd tee shirt he wore under his suit gave him an edge of cool that fit well with his New York art gallery. Hank was not his original name. He’d changed it before we were born, when he came to America and found people unable to pronounce his Russian name. He also wasn’t my uncle by blood. But he and my father had been friends for longer than I’d been alive, and they might as well have been brothers. He’d helped to raise me, and in some ways, was closer to Roger and I than our father.
“Save me,” I pleaded as I stopped at his side.
Hank chuckled under his breath and reached out to pluck the wine glass from my hand.
“Good try, Kat,” he said.
“I was drinking that!”
“So you see the problem.”
I huffed in annoyance and stole a chocolate covered apricot off his plate.
“The gallery looks really nice,” I said around my mouthful of fruit.
Hank’s gallery, Crossroads, took up the first floor of what had once been a bank. The original tin plate ceiling had been restored, so it reflected the soft lights that hung in a dozen chandeliers around the room. The walls were unevenly plastered, exposing red brick in some places and leaving others a pure, shock white. It made a lovely backdrop for the mixture of paintings and sculptures Hank featured. Right now he had a collection of paintings from artists in Brooklyn.
Hank had gone the extra mile for tonight. Tables were set up around the room, holding exotic foods and tall glasses of champagne and red wine. Polished men and women in shimmering clothes flitted from table to table, group to group, networking and generally enjoying their status as beautiful people.
“Your father made the New York Times,” Hank said softly. “What else could I do?” He gestured towards the table behind him. In the center was a tastefully framed copy of the article about my father’s newest book. His face grinned charmingly back at us from behind the glass. Every table bore a similar frame.
Hank leaned towards me and wagged his eyebrows. “Besides, it is good advertisement. I already sold three paintings, including the Borgious.”
“Seriously?” I gasped. The painting was worth enough to cover the tuition at my private school for two years. Hank had been trying to sell it for ages. “Congratulations, Hank!”
Hank grinned, looking supremely pleased with himself.
Another masked waiter, a girl with a metallic blue facemask, stopped and offered us crab cakes. I wrinkled my nose as Hank took one.
“The waiters are a little creepy,” I said when she had gone. “It’s the masks.”
“I thought they were festive,” Hank murmured. “You father liked them.”
“Where is dad, anyways?” I asked. I shifted my weight to my left foot as the right started to scream at me.
In response, Hank pointed to the corner of the room where dad was holding court. I saw a small crowd. My father’s animated gestures could be seen over the tops of their heads. I smiled as the group exploded with bright laughter. Jonathan Finnegan had that effect on people. He was the kind of person that, in an argument, would tell you exactly why you were wrong and get you to buy him a drink as he explained. His charm was infectious.
Somewhere, a clock struck midnight. The soft chimes filtered through the noisy room, reminding me how much my feet hurt and how tired I was going to be at school the next day. I decided I’d stayed long enough.
Turning back to Hank, I said, “I think I’m going to head home. Will you let him know I left?”
“Of course,” Hank agreed. “Did you finish your homework before the party?”
“It was easy,” I said, grabbing another apricot. “Nothing for Pre-calculus because we had a sub, I’ve already read Pride and Prejudice about a hundred times, and I did French at lunch. No problem.”
“You’re going home with Roger?” he added.
“Not that I need the chaperone, but yes.”
Hank, perhaps wisely, didn’t say anything. Instead, he held out his arm and hugged me around the shoulders.
“Text me when you get home. And I will make sure Jonathan returns in one piece,” he added, correctly reading my expression.
“Thanks, Hank.” I hugged him back and then ducked out to find my twin.
A door at the back of the gallery took me into a quiet hallway. I shut it behind me, blocking off the sounds of the party. The quiet was a welcome relief, and I took a moment to enjoy it before walking over to Hank’s small office and pushing open the door. Predictably, Roger was hiding from the scary intellectuals. I found him asleep on Hank’s couch, his feet crossed at the ankles, arms folded across his chest. He was using his suit jacket as a pillow.
I leaned over to shake him awake and wrinkled my nose at the smell of his breath. He’d been more successful at sneaking booze than me.
“Come on, Roger. Get up,” I said.
“Time to go?” he muttered as he stood and stretched. Though we were the same height, Roger always seemed much bigger than me. It was an illusion that sprang from all the muscles lacrosse had put on him. “Thank Christ. I hate these things.”
“It’s a big deal. Have you ever been in the New York Times?” I said, walking over to the rack in the corner where I’d left my leather jacket and purse. Rummaging inside my bag, I pulled out a pair of flats and slid the heels off with a sigh.
“It’s always the Times, or the Post, or the Hawaii Literary Review,” Roger complained.
“Why did you even come, then?”
“Hank made me,” he said with a shrug. I bit back a sigh. Hank was becoming the only person Roger would listen to. They had always been close. Stocky, stubborn Roger was more like Hank than he was our father. But part of me was a little bit sad that Roger and our father were so distant. It wasn’t even that they disliked each other. They were just very different people.
“It wouldn’t kill you to show a little support now and then,” I said anyways as I pulled on the flats.
Roger rolled his eyes. “Yeah, okay. You heard from Jim at all?”
Jim, our best friend, should have been at the party, but he was home sick with the flu. I knew for a fact that he was feeling better—I’d texted him earlier. That didn’t mean I had to share my information. Lately, Roger had been acting strangely around Jim and I was getting sick of it.
I raised an eyebrow. “You’ve got a cell phone. Why don’t you call him?”
“Too late now,” Roger muttered, tucking his fists into his pockets.
I had to suppress a sigh. Boys. So clueless.
I threw the heels in my bag and pulled on my jacket, then checked my cell phone. No texts or missed calls. We had about twenty minutes before the subway closed for the night.
“We better hurry.”
I punched him in the shoulder and he laughed at me.
We snuck out the back to avoid the rest of the party, grabbed the subway back into Greenwich Village, and were home just before one. As soon as I stepped into my bedroom, I stripped off the uncomfortable dress and let it fall onto the floor. Stuffy and dizzy from the wine, I cracked open my window before falling into bed in just my underwear. I managed to shoot Hank a text, letting him know we got home safe, and then I was out.