S’more to Lose
Two hours later, I found myself back in the black and nude backless Givenchy dress. I jumped into a taxi and gave the driver the name of the club.
“Your name on a list there, Miss?” he asked.
“I think so, why?”
“That’s the hottest club in South Kensington. Maybe in all of London right now.”
I pulled out my phone and searched the Red Coat Club. A few dozen articles pulled up, all of them linking the club to A-list celebrities or royalty. Victoria and Alexander were apparently regulars. The car pulled down a long alley and stopped about halfway.
“I can’t go any farther, or I won’t be able to turn the car around,” the driver said.
I rolled down the window. “Are all these people lined up to go inside?”
“All these people and those,” he said, pointing the where the line snaked around to the other side.
“What’s the big deal? It’s just a nightclub, right?” I said.
“Most of ’em won’t get in. They’re just hoping to catch a glimpse of Prince Alexander or Emma Watson going inside.”
I paid for the taxi and headed to the front of the velvet ropes. I gave my name to the bouncer, who stamped my hand with the letters RCC and let me right inside. I hated places like this in New York, the club was almost half empty but the managers liked to have people waiting outside to make it seem that much more elite. I did a quick scan of the room for Gideon and spotted him sitting at the smallest bar in the VIP area. He turned around and our eyes met. He motioned for me to join him. Security checked my hand for the stamp and let me down the stairs to the lounge.
The blood red walls, black lacquer bars, and dim lighting made the room seem more intimate than it was. The servers, most of whom I guessed were aspiring models, were dressed uniformly in short red military-style double-breasted blazers paired with even shorter black leather pleated skirts. The DJ booth was up on the second floor, so it was far quieter in this section of the club. I was glad Gideon and I wouldn’t have to shout to get to know each other.
“A VIP lounge seems a bit like overkill in this place, don’t you think?” I asked looking around.
He laughed and passed me the drink menu. “What can I get for you? Glass of champagne?”
I nodded and Gideon motioned to the bartender to get two. “You look beautiful—is the dress yours?”
I looked down. “I bought it a few days ago.”
“Oh, I thought you’d designed it?”
“No, I wish I had, but I have to give Givenchy all the credit,” I said.
The bartender handed us our flutes of champagne, and Gideon clinked his to mine and took a sip.
“Get to all the sights you wanted?” he asked.
“I spent way too much time in the Victoria and Albert Museum, so not sure I’m going to have enough time to get to much more this trip. Looks like I’ll be back in London for work a few more times this year, though, so hopefully I’ll make it through my list.”
He nodded. “And now you can check off the Red Coat Club.”
I peered around. “I guess this really is the new hot spot? The line to get in stretches around the block,” I said. “Do you know someone who works here?”
There was really no polite way to ask how he’d managed to gain VIP entrance at a club that seemed harder to get into than Fort Knox.
He put his hand on the small of my back. “Excuse me for one minute. I need to say a quick hello to someone. “Hey, Craig, two more,” he said, pointing to our glasses and throwing down his credit card.
It wasn’t just a credit card. It was an Amex black card, with the name Viscount Satterley on it. The room was starting to fill up with some familiar faces, most of which I couldn’t name, but recognized from all the cyber-sleuthing I’d been doing on paparazzi sites these last few days. I looked over to the corner of the room, where Gideon was chatting with a small group of well-dressed women. He had his arm around a gorgeous redhead, who was laughing at something he’d just said. Who was Viscount Satterley? And who was the redhead? Suddenly this decision to “have an adventure” seemed like a very bad idea.
I quickly turned back to the bar so Gideon wouldn’t see me spying on him. A few minutes later he returned, apologizing for having stepped away.
“It’s no problem. I actually think I’m gonna get going, though.”
“You just got here. What are you talking about?”
“I’m not sure this is really my scene, but you seem to know a lot of people, so stay and have a good time,” I said, picking my clutch from off the bar and pushing into the crowd that’d gathered by the stairs.
“Georgica, wait a second. Let me explain. Let’s go somewhere a little quieter.” He took my hand and led me to a small room off the bar.
“What’s this place, the VIP room within the VIP room?” I asked, looking around. “It’s the coat closet. Look, I’m sorry you don’t like the club. Let’s go somewhere else.” “The club is fine. I’m just a little confused as to what we’re doing here, and why your credit card said Viscount Satterley on it. Who is that?”
“I’m Viscount Satterley, heir apparent to my father, the Earl of Harronsby.”
I put my hand up. “This is a little too Game of Thrones for me. What does all that even mean?”
“That when my father dies, I’ll be the Earl of Harronsby and owner of Badgley Hall, our family home.”
“So, why are you working at Highclere Castle?”
“It’s one of the most successful houses in England. I have to learn the business of running an estate if it’s going to be mine one day.”
I rubbed the back of my neck. “When you said the aristocracy was still alive and well, you really meant it.”
“I’m not that guy, I promise. I took you here tonight to impress you. After you left Highclere, I googled you and read all about your fashion house and the celebrities you’ve dressed. I thought you’d like this sort of scene.”
“You Googled me?”
His green-gray eyes stared into my own. “It felt like we had a connection that day at the Blue Hen. I wanted to know more about you.” He took my hands into his. “You wanna get out of here?”
“The coat closet? Definitely,” I said, smiling.
“I meant the club. Do you want to go grab a coffee or nightcap?”
“Sure, yeah, that’d be nice.”
“Go wait by the front door. Let me close out the tab and say goodbye to my sister and her friends, and I’ll be right there.”
It all made sense. The redhead he was chatting it up with a few minutes earlier was his sister. I felt foolish for assuming the worst. I made my way to the front of the club, which was now packed wall to wall with people. Most of them were clamoring to get to the corner bar. I tapped the guy next to me on the shoulder.
“Who’s over there? Emma Watson? Daniel Craig?” I asked.
“Victoria Ellicott and Prince Alexander,” he said.
“Exciting,” I muttered. I turned back around to push my way closer to the door and felt a hard tap on my own shoulder.
“It’s Victoria Ellicott and Prince Alexander,” I shouted behind me.
“Gigi,” said a voice I would recognize anywhere.
I closed my eyes and slowly turned around. When I opened them, Perry Gillman was standing right in front of me.