SOME LIKE IT HAUTE
Style in a Small Town Mystery #4
Paperback ISBN: 9781939197108
eBook ISBN: 9781939197115
She agreed to work for her boyfriend’s ex. A break-up made her an ex, too. Can she trust the woman at the center of her love life crisis?
Samantha Kidd’s love life is lukewarm. After agreeing to help her ex-boyfriend’s maybe-former girlfriend with a runway show, she hides her broken heart behind her reputation. But when an unexpected attack brings on accusations of attention-seeking, she loses her cool.
Determined to find her attacker, she seeks help from a hot new guy. When a fire breaks out on the catwalk and destroys the designer’s collection, Samantha suspects her attack was linked to the show. If she ever wants to feel safe again, she has to find the person behind the crimes.
Can Samantha expose an angry arsonist before getting burned?
Some Like It Haute is the fourth sizzling mystery in the Style in a Small Town cozy mystery series. If you like strong-willed characters, romantic entanglements, and feel-good fiction, you’ll love Diane Vallere’s funny, no-murder mystery.
Buy Some Like it Haute and warm up to wacky fashion drama today!
1: Paper Pajamas
The smell told me I wasn’t at home. Before I opened my eyes and saw the two concerned faces staring at me, before I heard the sounds of the monitors and medical equipment that sat close by, before I felt the scratchy sheets on the bed, I was assaulted by the scent of antiseptic cherry cleanser.
The faces were familiar. There was Eddie Adams, my close friend and confidant. And behind him, diverting her eyes, was Amanda Ries.
Not a confidant. Not even a sometimes friend.
She was my ex-boyfriend’s maybe-former girlfriend.
Eddie and Amanda looked at me with a mixture of concern, fear, and embarrassment.
“She’s awake,” Eddie said when my eyes focused on him. “Dude, are you okay?”
I scanned the room, taking in the medical equipment, heart-rate monitor machines, and curtain that had been pulled back so I could see my visitors. I glanced down at my outfit.
“Is this a hospital room?” I asked.
“Yes,” Eddie said.
“Am I the patient?”
“Did I come here in an ambulance?”
“Then I don’t think I’m okay.”
Amanda burst into tears.
Twenty-Four Hours Earlier…
Ridiculously tall and thin girls surrounded me. Ridiculously tall and thin women. Ridiculously tall and thin something. They were so unlike the people I usually spent time with that I didn’t know what to call them.
They were models.
They pranced around in stick-on bras and barely-there panties, waiting to be pinned and taped and glued and tied into the fashions that they would wear at the upcoming Amanda Ries runway show. Tonight was the dress rehearsal to check fittings, practice walking the runway, and generally make sure nothing had been left to chance. It was Fashion Week—or the closest thing that existed outside of New York City. Thanks to its proximity to the Big Apple, our little town of Ribbon, Pennsylvania, hosted its own version of Fashion Week, often convincing buyers to make the two-hour trek and check out the talent. It didn’t matter that we weren’t in the fashion capital of the country but rather about 150 miles west. Fashion Week adjacent, if you will.
“Miss Kidd, where do we go after we’re done with our fittings?” one of the waifish models asked. A flashbulb popped in my face. I blinked several times, trying to restore my eyesight. “Miss Kidd?” she asked again.
“It’s Samantha, not Miss Kidd,” I lectured. I wasn’t that much older than they were. Well, maybe I was, but admitting your age at a fashion show wasn’t unlike telling your herd of cattle that you were the weak one. I pointed down a narrow hallway with walls covered in bulletin boards. “Last room on the right.”
I felt a tug on my sleeve. “Excuse me, ma’am?” said a little-girl voice. “I think there’s been a mistake with my second look.”
Ma’am? She couldn’t be talking to me. I looked at the model. Wide blue eyes, long blond hair, and a body of angles and bones. Sixteen years old was my best guess, only because anything younger would have been illegal.
I climbed up on a small step stool. “Can I have everyone’s attention?” I hollered. Someone shushed, and the crowd quieted down. “I am Samantha. Not Miss Kidd, not ma’am. If you have a question for me, and you expect me to answer, you need to call me Samantha.”
I hopped down from the step stool and pushed it under the nearest table.
“She’s turning this place into a circus,” said a voice next to me. An attractive man in an unstructured black-and-white tweed jacket and a porkpie hat stood next to me. His thick gray hair seemed out of place against his youthful olive skin. “Warehouse Five used to be an artists’ studio. Now it’s a joke.”
“You don’t think fashion design is a form of art?” I asked.
He watched the models. “It’s a money-making machine. Look at these people. Acting like any of this is important. They’re clothes. They’ll be in style for a couple of months, and then everybody will forget about them. That’s not art.” He turned to me. “Are you part of the problem?”
“I’m here to help out, if that’s what you mean. Samantha Kidd,” I said, holding out my hand.
“You’re an artist?”
He nodded. “I do portraits and nudes. My studio is down the hall. Ever since these clowns showed up, I can barely hear myself think. It’s an insult to the rest of us that they’ve been allowed to take over.”
“The show’s tomorrow night, and then it’ll all be done.”
“For good, hopefully. I started a petition to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.” He glared at the models and then turned around and left.
One more stressor for Amanda. The last thing a designer would want in the panicked days before her first major fashion show was to learn the tenants of the building wanted her out.
The shy stick figure who’d called me ma’am was still next to me. She tugged on my sleeve again. “I’m sorry to bother you, but I think there’s been a mistake.”
The outfit in question was a silver lamé kimono. It hung open, exposing her skinny torso and flesh-colored panties. There wasn’t a high price placed on modesty backstage at a runway show, with models often parading around half clothed, but this girl didn’t have any goods to show off even if someone was interested. She held her arms out to the side, palms up, and raised her shoulders. Her hands were completely hidden by sleeves that were too long for her limbs, sleeves that hung down to the floor.
I sighed. “Let’s go ask someone.” I looked around, over, and under bust forms, mannequins, and rolling rods, until I found an imposing black man who stood head and shoulders above the (ridiculously tall) models. He had a tailor’s tape draped over his shoulders and was dressed in a vest and trousers over a pressed dress shirt and navy blue plaid tie. We headed his way.
“Can you help her? This kimono doesn’t seem to fit right,” I said.
A few of the girls laughed amongst themselves. The man asked, “Are you Harper?”
The model nodded. The man turned to me. “All of the samples have been fitted and approved. That is how it’s going down the runway. Harper was specifically requested to wear it.”
The other models snickered again. Harper’s eyes filled with tears, and she turned away from them.
I didn’t have the energy for this. If Amanda wanted Harper to wear the oversized and poorly fitting kimono, then who was I to override that decision? Just the unassuming ex-girlfriend of the designer’s maybe-former boyfriend. But I didn’t have time to think about that. I had a model in the throes of an emotional breakdown and no Twizzlers in sight.
“If you have a problem, then you have to ask Amanda,” the man said. “It’s her show.”
Again, I scanned the warehouse for the designer. The man pointed toward the back of the stage. Amanda was partially visible. She was talking to a person I couldn’t see. Amanda’s straight black hair hung in a thick, glossy sheath between her shoulder blades. She ran her hand over the top, smoothing strands that had probably never been out of place in their life.
I bet nobody called her ma’am.
I headed toward Amanda with Harper close to my heels. When we reached the designer, I saw who was on the other side of the conversation. Amanda’s financial partner, a six-foot-tall Amazonian named Tiny Anderson. Tiny, as I’d come to learn, wore some version of the same outfit everyday: white oxford shirt, gray sweater, dark-wash men’s jeans, and brogues. Both unisex and unflattering, her uniform served the dual purpose of letting her blend into the crowd while being sure that nobody mistook her for anybody else.
I waited for an appropriate pause in their conversation so I could interrupt.
“When is Nick getting here with the shoes?” Tiny asked.
“Nick isn’t bringing the shoes tonight,” Amanda said.
“We still have to do a hem check.” Tiny gestured toward the models with a hand holding several spools of metallic thread. A row of silver straight pins lined the hem of her sweater. “I thought he knew how important it was that we had everything here for the run-through.” Tiny glared down at Amanda.
“Nick didn’t want to show up today because of—” She stopped mid-sentence. The two of them turned and looked directly at me.
This had been one of the worst months of my life. And that’s counting the times when I’d happened upon dead bodies, stood face-to-face with murderers, and almost gotten killed. This was worse than all of that.
Somehow, after breaking up with my shoe-designer boyfriend Nick Taylor, I’d gotten myself in the position of helping his ex-girlfriend Amanda Ries coordinate her runway show.