He thought she looked pretty. Not just pretty, but beautiful. Maybe coming to this wedding was a good idea, after all. She watched as Flynn double checked the hall and closed the door of the library. Why was he hiding? Did he not want to be seen with her? Ivy realized she was staring and looked down, smoothing out the fabric of her skirt.

Her father hadn't been overly excited to see Ivy set her relative modesty aside to try on Ginny's clothes, but he would have to deal with it. Ginny was right, and Ivy was ready to grow up. Flynn moved back to where she was, clasping his hands together. The two of them stared at each other in a tense silence for a moment, then quickly cleared their throats and looked away again.

"Uh, so did you hear anything?" he finally said. "About the girl?"

"Samantha?" Ivy asked. "Sure, everyone is talking about her. Turns out, she was a big hit back in her hometown. There's rumors that some former beauty queens were the ones to kill her, out of jealousy."

"Do you believe that?" Flynn asked, raising a brow.

"No, definitely not," Ivy said with a shake of her head. "These sorts of girls are all bark. If they bite, it's only a nibble. Not a full on chomp. Besides, she moved away. She wouldn't be a threat to those girls anymore."

"But she was popular, like Chester," he said.

"So it would seem," Ivy nodded. "Our killer is going after well-liked people. But why?"

"Maybe he envies them," Flynn suggested.

"But he must be a charmer, to get them away from everyone long enough to kill them," Ivy added. "I may not know much about 'popularity', but I know how the pretentious types are. If you're not slightly below them or high above them, they don't care. Unless..."


"Unless our killer isn't developing a relationship with them," she said. "Samantha was lured out with a note from a stranger she had met briefly. Too briefly to know whether or not they were in her league. And no one saw Chester walk out of the pub with anyone. I bet he received a note, too."

"Seems like a cowardly way to do things," Flynn said.

"Cold-blooded murderers are all pathetic cowards," she concluded. "They need someone dead at their feet to feel like they have any power over them. Mother used to say that the true hierarchy of people was the invisible pyramid of our character. People may not care if you're at the top since they care about the superficial things, but it'll come back to bite them later."

"Your mother is a wise woman."

"Was. She was a wise woman."

Ivy didn't mean for her tone to be so bitter, but Flynn had clearly caught onto it. Ivy flopped down on a couch. It would wrinkle the dress, but she'd face Ginny's wrath later.

"I didn't mean to snap," she said. "It's still tender. We act like we've moved on from mourning, but... not all of us."

"I understand," he said, sitting beside her. "You were close with your mother?"

"She believed in me more than anyone," Ivy said. "She was beautiful. Ginny is a near copy of her. But she never judged me harshly for not living up to all that. She bought me my first set of mystery books, and supported my dreams ever since. It sometimes feels like I'm on my own without her here."

"You're not," he assured her. "I believe in you."

Ivy gave him a grateful smile, reaching out and squeezing his hand lightly. He smiled back, but she noticed him glance towards the door again when she touched his hand. Her smile wavered.

"What are you so worried about?" she finally asked. "You're acting so shifty."

"It's a long story," he said. "There's just some people I'm avoiding."


"You don't know them."

She narrowed her eyes at him. She didn't pry any further, but he was acting strange. He always acted strange in events like these. Maybe he was just uncomfortable.

She looked up at the clock, sighing softly.

"I didn't realize how late it was getting," she said. "Ginny is going to be looking for me."

"She'll have a few things to say if she finds out you've been hiding from everyone all night with me," he said.

"I don't care," Ivy grinned.

She stood up and smoothed her dress out.

"Do you want to meet tomorrow afternoon?" she asked. "Secret spot?"

"I'll be there."

She nodded with a smile, then headed back out to find Ginny. She spotted her by the refreshments, looking utterly bored as Jason Derringer talked to her about something undoubtedly stupid. As Ivy approached, she expected Jason to roll his eyes and walk away. To her surprise, he smiled and eyed Ivy up and down.

"I don't believe we've met yet," he said. "I'm Jason-"

"Jason Derringer," Ivy finished, flicking her fan open to hide her annoyed frown. "I know. We had the same latin tutor for five years."

He chuckled.

"Well I'll be damned... Ivy Brownwell?" he said. "Look at you. Creeping up on Genevieve, are you?"

Ivy ignored him, turning to Ginny.

"I think we should start on our way home," she said.

"I think you're right," Ginny agreed. "It's getting late."

Ginny put a hand on Ivy's shoulder to steer her away, but that didn't stop Jason from making a nasty comment at them.

"You can curl your hair and cinch your waist, but you're garbage on the inside."

Ginny's eyes went wide and Ivy spun around, marching over and drawing a hand back, slapping him hard across the face. Everyone gasped, some people laughing and rooting for Ivy. Ginny grabbed Ivy's arm as Jason held his cheek, staring at her in shock.

"You little twerp," he snapped. "You'll hear from the authorities about this assault."

"You wanna see assault?" she warned. "I can show you assault."

"Ah, bugger off," he mumbled. "I've got someone to meet anyway."

Ivy noticed a small slip of paper in his hand. It looked suspiciously similar to the note Samantha had on the night of the pageant. Ivy realized with horror that this possibly could have been another target for murder. Jason was a piece of shit, but he was definitely popular. But did she hate him enough to possibly let him die? No, she couldn't do that.

She reached out, snatching the note from his hand.

"Forget it," she said. "I wrote the damn note. You don't need to meet anyone tonight."

She told him this quietly, so no one else would hear. She didn't need rumors floating around, and there was no doubt he would keep that "embarrassment" to himself. She turned back to Ginny and the two of them marched out of the hall.

They had a quiet ride home, and Ivy slowly took the note out of her purse.

Dearest Jason,
I can't hold my feelings in anymore. Please meet me after the wedding, just outside the garden.
-Your secret admirer

Sure enough, Ivy recognized the handwriting. It was the same "secret admirer" that had written to Samantha. Jason was a target. She folded up the note, keeping it safe. She and Flynn had a new lead to follow.