\ 10:41 “Party Planning” | unlimitedi.net
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Greenwich Village – Alison’s loft

“Alison, I’ve found the most darling outfits for you!”

Alison barely had time to open the door wide enough to let her agent in before Connie had swept into the room and dumped a stack of large, glossy photos onto the coffee table.

Connie Webb was a petite woman, several inches shorter than Alison’s 5’9”, but what she lacked in size she more than made up for in presence. Having offloaded her burden, she dashed back to the entrance where Alison was still in the process of shutting her door, and grabbed Alison’s hand. Tugging her over to the couch, she grabbed the top couple of photos and waved them in front of Alison’s face.

“See? All of these are available for tomorrow night, we just have to pick one. We’ve got the entire top level of Graveyard booked for us. Have you ever been? It’s a gorgeous Victorian/Gothic place, you’ll love it. Now we just have to dress you appropriately.”

Connie dropped the photos and caught Alison in a fierce hug. “Six books, and getting stronger every time. After this weekend, Lucinda Graves will be the talk of the town. I expect we’ll be in all of the social papers, at least.”

“Okay, okay,” Alison laughed, hugging Connie back before disengaging to sit on the couch. “I knew you were excited about the nightclub booking for this launch, but I didn’t realise how much.”

“Are you kidding, Alison? This is going to be your biggest launch party yet – only to be topped by the one for number seven.” Connie grinned wickedly. “Also, I’ve arranged for a surprise for tomorrow night. I’m sure you’ll love it.”

Alison raised an eyebrow. “As long as it’s not the same sort of ‘surprise’ as the male strippers you ordered for the last party. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but I wish you’d warned me they were going the full Monty!”

Connie shrugged. “Hey, there’s a reason these things are adults only.” She patted Alison on the arm. “But never fear, my inhibited friend. It’s nothing so overt this time. I promise everyone will keep their clothes on. At least, until the party’s officially over.”

Shaking her head in mock resignation, Alison glanced at the photos. At the first one she paled visibly and stared up at Connie. “You can’t be serious.”

Connie sat on the couch beside her and peered at the photo in Alison’s hand. It showed a model wearing what could only loosely be described as clothing. A couple of leather straps crossed over her breasts, barely covering her nipples and little else, and an assortment of other straps covered her groin. It was clear that most of her bottom would be on display, though the photo didn’t show that angle.

“I might as well go naked, if you think I’d wear that,” Alison objected.

“Ah well, I had to try. You know, maybe I could…”

“No! I won’t let you turn up in something like that. Let’s keep some level of decorum.” Alison put the picture back on the coffee table, facedown, and gave Connie a sidelong glance. “I know you: you only brought that so I’d settle for something more risqué than I would normally.”

Connie laughed. “Yep, guilty as charged. Okay, let’s try the rest.”

“No black this year, please. I know it’s a Goth club we’re going to, but you’ve had me in black for the last three launches. I’m ready for a little colour.”

“Aww, not even this?” Connie held up a photo of a model wearing a gorgeous black beaded corset with a short skirt.

“It’s pretty, but no. And remember, I don’t have slender thighs like these models.”

“Tsk, such a shame. I was looking forward to seeing you in that.”

Connie put the photo away and they fished through the rest until they’d narrowed it down to a handful. She vetoed Alison’s favourite as being too demure. Eventually they settled on a blue dress with a plunging neckline, an open back and a floor-length skirt with two thigh-high slits. It was perhaps a trifle more risqué than Alison was comfortable with, but at least it wasn’t black.

“It’s a pity the model’s standing in such an awkward pose,” Alison remarked. “But I think that’ll look nice and swishy when I’m walking. I just hope my boobs don’t fall out of it.”

“Lovely choice,” Connie said. “And your boob will be fine. I’ll get that picked up for you this afternoon. Your hair stylist and makeup artist will be arriving here at your apartment at around 5pm, so be ready for them. Oh, and that surprise I mentioned earlier? It’s a surprise guest. I was thinking he could be your date.”

“Uh… I think I may already have a date for the party.”

Connie’s eyebrows shot up. “Really? Do tell. He’s not another loser like that last guy you had, I hope.”

“No, no, he’s really nice. He’s a cop. And, well, we used to go out years ago.”

“Hold on, was he the one that came to the book signing on Monday? The one you blew me off for so you could go to dinner with him instead of me?”

Alison nodded. “Yeah, that’s him.”

Connie gave a low whistle. “Nice. If it doesn’t work out between you two, let me know. I could show him a thing or two.”

“Connie, you’re impossible!” Alison laughed. “But I think we may have something. I don’t know, it’s still early days. We’ve both changed a lot since we knew each other last. And I’m not sure how well he’ll fit in with the crowd tomorrow night. He’s more Alison’s kind of guy than Lucinda’s, you know.”

“Pfft. He’ll be fine. With all that free booze? I defy anyone not to enjoy themselves tomorrow. It’ll be an event to remember, I promise.”

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