Style in a Small Town Mystery #10
Paperback ISBN: 9781939197788
eBook ISBN: 9781939197771
When fashion insider Samantha Kidd lands a temporary assignment as a social media influencer two weeks before Christmas, she dives into the world of lifestyle goals. The job provides props to encourage drool-worthy posts, but when a colleague goes missing, the illusion of the perfect life fades like an out-of-date filter.
The only clues are found on his Instagram timeline, which Samantha knows has been staged. Maintaining appearances takes a back seat to finding the missing man, but when the lines between authenticity and hype are blurred, she’ll either find the truth … or drown in a sea of hashtags.
Slay Ride is the tenth charming cozy in the Style in a Small Town mystery series. If you like holiday mysteries, fashionable settings, and friendship fiction, then you’ll love Diane Vallere’s influencer mystery.
Get slayed! #SamanthaKidd #Totallyfunny #HolidayMystery #YouKnowYouWantTo :)
1: Cozy North Pole Chic
For the first time in my life, I was wearing the wrong outfit. I could have let it ruin my night. I could have left the party and bought a new outfit. I could have hidden behind a Ficus in the corner.
“Relax, Samantha,” Kyle said. “By this time tomorrow, everybody will have moved on to something new.”
Kyle Trent was a former buyer like me, though we’d met through circumstances that had nothing to do with our work experience. His fiancé had been a murder victim a few years ago, and, as expected, he’d taken it hard. When the dust cleared, he quit his job at Tradava, the local department store where we’d met, and moved out of Ribbon, and I expected never to hear from him again, which was exactly how it had played out. Until last week when he called to find out if I had any interest in a temporary position for a publicity startup.
Being between employment gigs as I sometimes found myself, I said yes. Besides, free merch? Sign me up.
In the old days, before social media, what Kyle said would have been true. The days when you misread the dress code on a party invite and stand out for all the wrong reasons. But the old days were long gone, and this was my new reality. Even if the party attendees did forget about me when they left, by this time tomorrow the facial recognition feature on Facebook will have tagged me in the background of half a dozen posts, making my fashion faux pas live on indefinitely.
“How did this happen?” I asked Kyle. “The invitation said it was Cozy North Pole Chic.”
Kyle stepped away and checked me out. “That’s your version of Cozy North Pole chic?”
“Are we really going to pretend there is such a thing?”
The outfit in question was a red cable-knit sweater with red leggings and red suede knee-hi boots. I even wore a red Santa hat. I normally shied away from head to toe color, but it was Christmas, it was a party, and I’ve been told I look good in red.
Besides, it was cozy.
Just not as cozy as everybody else. To me, “cozy” meant “comfy.” To them, “cozy” was the least important word on the invitation.
There were three women dressed in naughty Mrs. Claus outfits, at least four elves, and more sexy reindeer than I could shake a felt antler at. The men were in suits: red suits, green suits, red and white striped suits, snowflake-printed suits, and at least one Santa suit.
Santa and Mrs. Claus had been the subject of many photos.
Kyle wore a black velvet smoking jacket over a white T-shirt, black Adidas track pants with white stripes, and black leather high top sneakers.
He could have told me.
The job in question was a two-week freelance assignment with Brand Nue, a publicity firm that specialized in branding and social media campaigns. Kyle had first turned to our mutual friend Eddie Adams, who quickly said no. (I believe his exact words were, “Not on your life, dude.) (Actually, they were, “Not on your life, dude. You should ask Samantha Kidd. She’s crazy enough to say yes.”)
And I was. Even though my financial situation has greatly improved in the past few years, I have a problem turning down jobs when they make themselves available to me.
We stood amongst the other employees of Brand Nue. There were the YouTubers who arrived with tripods and livestreamed the party from the corner, the Pinterest folks who scouted trends to add to their style boards, and Facebook people who huddled off to the side chatting with their friends online and letting people in other locations feel like they were part of the crowd.
And then there those like Kyle: influencers paid to promote a lifestyle that people aspired to copy.
Kyle started working for Brand Nue two years ago and had built up a solid following. It didn’t hurt that he could, if he wanted, turn in his influencer card for a job modeling for some All-American brand like J. Crew. But Kyle had learned how to craft posts that appealed to all sexes and all ages. He was equal parts bro and babe. If he could arrange to marry a Spice Girl, he’d give David Beckham a run for his money.
Fortunately for Kyle, I was happily married to the man of my dreams and had no interest in anything more than a working relationship. It was this that made us compatible influencers. Our entire friendship was fabricated for the online community, but the rest of the world didn’t have to know that. All they knew was that Kyle was fabulous and I was fabulous and look at the fabulous events we often attended together.
Two young women walked past. One was wearing a short white faux fur jacket over a cropped tank top, shredded jeans, and white pumps. The other was in an enormous white silk shirt with billowing sleeves over black leather leggings. Red shoulder-duster earrings and matching tassel necklace coordinated with her glitter-encrusted ankle boots.
“Hi, Kyle,” the one in the fur said.
“Hi, Michelle,” he said. “Nice coat.”
She shrugged as if the choice of white faux fur worn slightly dropped over one shoulder was an afterthought. “Thanks.” She glanced at me. No compliment followed. She looked back at Kyle, tipped her head and stuck out her thumb and pinky like a phone and mouthed, “call me,” to him, and then turned around and walked away with her friend.
“How is that cozy?” I asked.
He laughed. He finished his eggnog and set the empty cup on a nearby tray. “Don’t let this group get to you. The people in this room are more competitive than the cast of Game of Thrones. You have no idea what they’ll do to look good.”
“They look pretty good now. Or do you mean filters and Photoshop?”
“I mean followers and viral posts. These people are cutthroat when it comes to getting results.” He elbowed me, and I followed his eyes to the young women who gave my outfit the cold shoulder.
They’d walked a few feet away from us. The one in the fur held up her phone and they pushed their heads together like they were taking a selfie. Only the phone was up in the air, aimed not at them, but at me.
The flash went off. The woman lowered her phone and they bent over the screen and giggled.
My inappropriate outfit would be a thing on Instagram within seconds.
“Okay, they’re not so nice,” I said. I checked the clock. “How long do I have to stay? I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”
“You need to relax. Go with the flow. This can’t be the first time you stood out in a crowd.”
“It’s not, but in the past, I stood out in a good way.”
“Tell you what. Kickin’ It is dropping a new sneaker at Pop Shop two nights from now. Did you get an invite?”
“You can be my plus one. Rumor has it they’re scouting for someone to rep their line regularly, and I’d love that gig.
Meet me in the morning and we can stage a couple of pictures early. When the party happens, you can pull the trigger on the photos and wipe out the memory of anything people post about you tonight.”
“You don’t mind?”
“I brought you into this, didn’t I? I feel partially responsible.”
“Then it’s a deal. Tomorrow morning, outside Pop Shop, dressed for tomorrow night’s launch party.” I paused for a moment. “Just so we’re on the same page, what were you thinking of wearing?”