“A deftly, unexpectedly terrifying first novel.”
“A witty, piercingly relevant debut novel.”
Sean Benning had put in his time. He couldn’t risk being caught in another conversation about ERB percentiles and after- school activities that cost more than he made in a month. Forty- five minutes was his limit. He downed the dregs of his second gin and tonic before ditching the glass on a mirrored tabletop, all the while clutching his jacket in the other hand. He cast a longing look at the front door, which glowed like a vision through a sudden parting in the overdressed crowd. He allowed himself to be pulled toward it, his pulse slowing with the knowledge that he’d be out soon.
“There you are,” a voice growled. A tanned hand grabbed him by the arm, pulling him back. Jolted from his vision of escape, he spun around, almost slamming into a shiny white armoire that was camouflaged in the all-white room. Cheryl Eisner stood too close,her dark eyes softer, drunker, than he’d seen them. “I’ve been looking for you,” she said, her voice rising above the party chitchat.
He panicked. “The Annual Fund donations,” he said, stalling. “They’re not due yet, are they?” But he knew they’d been due last week. “I lost the form.” Not that he was planning on giving the school a cent above the thirty-eight thousand dollars his in-laws were already paying. He couldn’t fathom the income you’d need to live decently in New York, pay full freight for even one kid—though who had just one these days?—plus make a big donation to the school every year. But people did it. Lots of people.
Cheryl frowned and shooed away the topic with a graceful swat of the air. “Let’s not talk about the Annual Fund. It’s too boring.” Her son, Marcus, was in Toby’s class. Until tonight, Sean had only seen her in tight designer workout clothes at school pickup and drop-off. Now, she wore a fitted gold dress. With the heels, she must have been six-two, almost eye level. Looking a woman in the eye like this was rare, and strangely exciting. She focused on his jacket. “You’re not going, are you?” She touched the bare skin just below her clavicle and above the two scoops of cleavage being offered on the gold tray of her dress.
It was almost distracting enough to make him forget the front door.
He tried not to stare as she stroked her own skin. “I was just heading out.” Were they real? Fake? Toby’s face popped into his head like a censored bar over her breasts. “My . . . the sitter . . . I’ve got to get back,” he stumbled.
She gave him a strange smile and pulled him past the parents of Toby’s classmates, who he barely recognized in their party attire, toward a table spread with caviar and blini. “First, you’ve got to try this,” she said. Somehow he’d missed the food on his first sweep of the room. She plunged her index finger into the ornate crystal bowl and held a dripping fingerful of caviar in front of his lips. He was famished, but he pressed them closed instinctively. Marcus had always been a nervous kid. He could see why. “Go ahead,” she cooed. “Let me in.”