“Do I know you? You look familiar.” Betsey looked Vera up and down.
“Probably because I could be your daughter,” Vera said with a chuckle and a shrug.
Betsey’s face sobered.
“I mean,” said Vera, “look at our hair. Both red.”
“Right,” said Betsey, masking her discomfort with the topic by donning a weak smile. Vera knew at that moment this woman had to be her mother. She had obviously hit a sore subject with this joke.
“Mother,” said Owen, to Betsey. “This is the woman I’ve been seeing. Denise.” Owen put his arm around Vera.
Mother! That meant that Vera would be on a date with her possible brother! Vera slyly wiggled herself out of Owen’s shoulder hold.
“Oh,” said Betsey. “How did you two meet again?”
“Vegas. And let’s just leave it at that.” Owen elbowed his mother, in a “wink, wink” gesture.
Betsey pulled Owen off to the side, and audibly whispered, “Is she an escort? Did you bring an escort to your brother’s wedding?”
“Blackjack,” said Vera. “I was a blackjack dealer.”
Owen looked askance at Vera, his jaw unhinged in disapproval.
“Is that what they’re calling what you do now?” said Owen. “Blackjack?”
Boy, he really is an asshole, thought Vera.
“So who’s this?” said Betsey, pointing at Cole, who was standing off to the side, checking his phone, hoping to go unnoticed.
“This is Denise’s brother, Kevin,” said Owen. “He’s doing some business out here, while the wedding’s going on, so they came out here together.”
“How nice,” said Betsey, with a tone of indifference. “Well, Denise, you and Owen should get settled at your hotel. Look forward to having you with us this week.”
Betsey went back into the mansion, presumably to finalize wedding arrangements.
As soon as she was no longer visible, Owen laid into Vera.
“Don’t you ever cross me again,” he said. “That blackjack story? Your mine this week, and don’t you forget it. Into the limo.”
Vera had no idea what to say. Technically, she was working for him, so she willfully obeyed, meeting Cole’s eyes as she got back into the limo.
“Hey, there’s no need to talk like that,” said Cole.
“Get in,” said Owen. “We’ll drop you off at your hotel.”
In the limo, it wasn’t the cozy fun atmosphere it was on the way to Newport. It was now stiff and intense, as Owen’s attitude had killed any sense of relaxation.
“This week has to go according to plan,” he said.
“And what would that plan be?” said Cole.
Owen shook his head, putting his hand to his forehead.
“I’m in love with my brother’s fiancé. So I’m hoping to break up the wedding.”
“By insinuating you’re dating a Vegas escort?” said Vera.
“That was just to piss off my mom. But I’m hoping to make Catherine realize she’s making a huge mistake. If she sees me with someone else, she’s going to freak. But—” He made eye contact with Vera. “You have to let me lead with the story.”
“Okay. Got it.”
They dropped Cole off at the Cliffside Inn.
“Call me when you get settled,” he said to Vera, as he got out of the limo.
The next stop was their hotel, a fancy schmancy one that had to cost a thousand dollars for just a night’s stay.
After Vera and Owen walked through the hotel’s turnstile doors, Vera was awestruck by the hotel’s beautiful architecture, with her head in the clouds, not looking where she was going. When she finally brought her head back down to earth, she encountered an angry blond woman, who came face to face with her.
“Catherine,” said Owen. “This is Denise.”
What is her reaction to Vera?
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