When Genevieve walked, it was as if she were floating on clouds. As she floated down the stairs the sun shining through the window would create a halo around her golden ringlets of hair and make her blue eyes sparkle like the ocean. She was tall and slender, and her elegant gown fit her frame perfectly. And then there was Ivy, who tripped over her skirt and tumbled down the bottom half of the staircase and landed in a heap of fabric at the bottom. She groaned and rolled to the side, brushing her shorter and less perfect brunette curls out of her face.

Genevieve gasped and rushed down the rest of the staircase, hurrying to help her younger sister up off the floor. Ivy winced, putting a shoe back on that she had lost when she fell.

“Are you alright?!” Genevieve asked, quickly smoothing Ivy out.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she mumbled. “Did anyone see that?”

“No, it was just me here.”

Ivy turned so Genevieve could fix the ribbon in her hair for her, looking to the side in time to see a maid hurrying away.

“Liar,” Ivy said, glaring at her sister. “Darla definitely saw that.”

“It’s okay,” Genevive laughed. “Darla isn’t going to say anything.”

“It’s this stupid dress,” Ivy said, kicking at the fluffy skirt. “You know it fits you better than it fits me. I can hardly breathe in this thing. Some of us have ribs, you know.”

She poked Genevieve in the gut to make her point, but she just rolled her eyes.

“You look beautiful, Ivy,” she promised. “The green brings out those beautiful hazel eyes of yours.”

“I have brown eyes,” Ivy said simply. “Brown.”

“They’re hazel,” Genevieve insisted. “And they’re beautiful. Just like you.”

Ivy looked down at her feet as Genevieve fluffed her hair and gown up for her, finishing just in time as their father entered the room with a wide grin on his face. He held his hands over his heart, looking at the two of them.

“Look at my beautiful girls,” he said. “Genevieve, you were absolutely right. Those Eastern style look absolutely ravishing on you. And Ivy, my goodness.”

Ivy stood up straight, waiting for what her father had to say.

“Are you bleeding?”

Her face fell, looking down at her arm and seeing that her elbow had been scratched during her fall. Genevieve sighed, taking a handkerchief and dabbing at the scratch.

“It’s nothing, Daddy,” she said. “Look at her. Doesn’t she look wonderful?”

“Of course she does,” he said, kissing Ivy on the cheek.

They each took one of his arms, walking out with him.

“Now,” he said. “You two know how important tonight is for our family. Ever since your mother passed... Well, it’s been so difficult for us to integrate ourselves back into society after isolating ourselves in mourning. You girls receiving invites to the party at the Larner house means that society hasn’t forgotten us yet. We still have our good name. We have to let them know that the Brownwell family stands tall and strong, and we will not put our lives on hold forever. Your mother wouldn’t have wanted it this way.”

“But Daddy, just because we’re not wearing black doesn’t mean we’re no longer in mourning,” Ivy said softly.

“I know, my sweet,” he said, turning to face Ivy and cupping her face in his hands. “I know how much you miss her. And I know how difficult it has been. Especially for you, Ivy. But we can’t let our lives waste away. With your mother’s sudden passing, it has only made me realize how fragile life is. And I won’t be here to care for you girls forever. I just want to rest easy, knowing that you’re being taken care of.”

“We understand,” Genevieve said. “We promise to make Mother proud.”

“Why can’t we just take care of ourselves?” Ivy protested, ignoring Genevieve. “Isn’t that what she always taught us? To hold our own heads up?”

“Ivy, please,” he sighed. “Please just try. Finding a suitable husband is only easy when you’re still young and beautiful.”

“So my husband is only in it for my youth,” Ivy concluded. “Since Genevieve is the beautiful one.”

“Do not snap at me,” he said, giving her a warning look. “You know that everything I do, I do for your happiness. You don’t see me arranging your marriage like other families. I’m letting you choose for yourself.”

Ivy turned on her heel and went back to the parlor, crossing her arms over her chest and looking up at the portrait of her late mother hanging above the fireplace. There were few people in the world who truly understood Ivy, and her mother had been one of them. Seraphine Brownwell always listened when Ivy talked, and while she loved her father and she knew that he truly did want the best for her, he had his own idea of what that was. Genevieve showed up a few moments later, giving Ivy a stern look.

“You better go apologize to him,” she said.

“For what?” Ivy asked. “Stating facts? Facts are the only forms of evidence that lead to a successful argument.”

“For upsetting him,” Genevieve said. “You know he means well. And he’s right. He could be much stricter than he is.”

“I don’t want to go to husband hunting, Ginny.”

“Then don’t,” Genevieve said quietly. “Just come with me to the party. We’ll mingle for a little while, and then we can come home and tell him that you didn’t find anyone worth your time. Or, you could consider the possibility of doing what he hopes you will, and keep an open mind to whoever you meet there. Deal?”

Ivy hesitated, then sighed.



It had been a while since Ivy and Genevieve had been to a party. When they arrived, everyone rushed to Genevieve as if she were some kind of celebrity. They all welcomed her back and gave her their well wishes, but Ivy was pushed back from the crowd and forgotten almost as soon as she had shown up. She hovered back, seeing that Genevieve had no shortage of male admirers already offering to fetch her food and drinks.

She caught Ivy’s eyes and gave her a look, encouraging her to step forward and make herself known. Ivy gave her a slight nod, then awkwardly shuffled to a less congested part of the room, where a young man she vaguely recognized was picking a glass of champagne for himself. He hadn’t even noticed Ivy, looking over to where Genevieve was with her fans. Ivy cleared her throat, and he suddenly saw her standing by him.

“Oh, hello,” he said. “My apologies, I didn’t even notice you there.”

“Oh, um, that’s okay,” she said. “I’ve been away from parties like this for a little while.”

“Oh, that’s a shame,” he said. “Why is that?”

“My mother passed away, and we were in mourning,” she explained. “She had that illness that was plaguing town a little over a year ago. The one that causes all those blueish purple spots on your skin and make you vomit uncontrollably.”

She looked over and saw that the man had a mortified look on his face, and she quickly changed the subject.

“Uh, she’s in a better place,” she stammered. “I’m Ivy. Ivy Brownwell.”

“Right,” he said. “Hello, Ivy. I’m Jarett.”

“Jarett is a nice name,” she said. “So, um, do you like music?”

“Say, did you say Brownwell?” he said, ignoring her question. “As in Ginny Brownwell?”

Ivy’s heart sank and she felt her expression go dull.

“Only her friends call her Ginny,” she said in a flat tone. “She’s my sister.”

“Sister?” Jarett said, in awe. “You two must take after different sides of the family.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she frowned.

“Do you think you can introduce me?” he asked, ignoring her again.

Ivy pursed her lips turning and picking a plate of shrimp off a passing waiter’s tray and handing it to him.

“Here,” she said. “Genevieve loves shrimp. She also loves it when strangers call her Ginny.”

Jarett took the plate with a grin. “Thanks, kid. I owe you one.”

Ivy felt herself turn red. She hated being called ‘kid’. Almost as much as Genevieve hated shrimp, and being called ‘Ginny’ by strangers. That would show assholes like Jarett to listen when he was being spoken to.

Ivy no longer felt she had the energy to mingle, feeling more like she was ready to cry. No, she couldn’t cry. J. R. Bogues never cried, and he was the master who solved some of the most morbid crimes in Tharoux. Ivy idolized the celebrity detective a little bit too much, but she didn’t understand how more people didn’t. He was so incredibly smart... and handsome.

She shook the thoughts from her mind and went to the table of food, loading up her plate with assorted appetizers in a pile that definitely wouldn’t find her any respectable man. Not that she cared at that point. She took her mountain of food down the hall and away from the crowd, finding a quiet and empty library and plopping down in a plush chair. This would be a good hiding place until Genevieve was ready to leave.