Home > Fashionably Dead (Hot Damned #1)

Fashionably Dead (Hot Damned #1)
Author: Robyn Peterman

Prologue

I drew hard on the cigarette and narrowed my eyes at the landscape before me. Graves, tombstones, crypts . . . she didn’t belong here. Hell, I didn’t belong here. My eyes were dry. I’d cried so much there was nothing left. I exhaled and watched as the blue grey smoke wafted out over the plastic flowers decorating the headstones.

Five minutes. I just needed five minutes and then I could go back . . .

“That’s really gross,” Gemma said, as she rounded the corner of the mausoleum I was hiding behind and scared the hell out of me. She fanned the smoke away and eyed me. “She wanted you to quit, maybe now would be a good time.”

“Agreed. It’s totally gross and disgusting and I’m going to quit, regardless of the fact that other than you, Marlboro Lights are my best friend . . . but today is definitely not the day,” I sighed and took another long drag.

“That’s pathetic,” she chuckled.

“Correct. Do you have perfume and gum?”

“Yep.” She dug through her purse and handed me a delicate bottle.

“I can’t use this. It’s the expensive French shit.”

“Go for it,” she grinned. “You’re gonna need it. You smell like an ashtray and your mother is inside scaring people to death.”

“Son of a . . . ” I moaned and quickly spritzed myself. “I thought she left. She didn’t want to come in the first place.”

“Could have fooled me,” Gemma said sarcastically, handing over a piece of gum and shoving me from my hiding place.

“Come on,” I muttered, as my bossy best friend pushed me back to my beloved grandmother’s funeral.

***

The hall was filled with people. Foldout tables lined the walls and groaned under the weight of casseroles, cakes and cookies. Men and women, most of whom I knew, milled around and ate while they gossiped. Southern funerals were a time to socialize and eat. A lot.

As I made my way through the crowd and accepted condolences, I got an earful of information I could have happily lived without. I learned that Donna Madden was cheating on her husband Greg, Candy Pucker had gained thirty pounds from eating Girl Scout cookies and had shoved her fat ass into a heinous sequined gown, for the funeral no less, and Sam Boomaster, the Mayor, was now a homosexual. Hell, I just wanted to leave, but I had to find my mother before she did something awful.

“I loved her.” Charlie stopped me in my tracks and grabbed my hand in his old gnarled one.

His toupee was angled to the left and his black socks and sandals peeked out from his high-water plaid pants. He was beautiful.

“Me too,” I smiled.

“You know I tried to court her back in the day, but she only had eyes for your Grandpa.” He smoothed his sweater vest and laid a wet one on my cheek . . . and if I’m not mistaken, and I’m not, he grabbed my ass.

“Charlie, if you touch my butt again, I’ll remove your hand.” I grinned and adjusted his toupee. He was a regular in the art class I taught at the senior center and his wandering hands were infamous.

“Can’t blame a guy for trying. You have a nice ass there, Astrid! You look like one of them there supermodels! Gonna make some lucky man very happy one day,” he explained seriously.

“With my ass?”

“Well now, your bosom is nothing to scoff at either and your legs . . . ” he started.

“Charlie, I’m gonna cut you off before you wax poetic about things that will get you arrested for indecency.”

“Good thinking, girlie!” he laughed. “If you ever want to hear stories about your Nana from when we were young, I’d be happy to share.”

“Thanks, Charlie, I’d like that.”

I gave him a squeeze, holding his hands firmly to his sides and made my way back into the fray.

As I scanned the crowd for my mother, my stomach clenched. After everything I had to put up with today, the evil approaching was just too much. Martha and Jane, the ancient matriarchs of the town and the nastiest gossips that ever lived were headed straight for me. Fuck.

“I suppose you’ll get an inheritance,” Jane snapped as she looked me up and down. “You’ll run through it like water.”

“Your Nana, God bless her, was blind as a bat when it came to you,” Martha added caustically. “I mean, my God, what are you? Thirty and unmarried? It’s just downright disrespectable.”

“I’m twenty-nine, happily single and getting it on a regular basis,” I said, enjoying the way their thin lips hung open in an impressive O.

“Well, I’ve never,” Jane gasped.

“Clearly. You should try it sometime. I understand Mr. Smith is so vision impaired, you might have a shot there.”

Their appalled shrieks were music to my ears and I quickly made my escape. Nana would have been a bit disappointed with my behavior, but she was gone.

Time to find the reason I came back in here for . . . I smelled her before I saw her. A waft of Chanel perfume made the lead ball in my stomach grow heavier. I took a deep breath, straightened my very vintage Prada sheath that I paid too much for, plastered a smile on my face, said a quick prayer and went in to the battle.

“Mother, is everything alright?”

She stood there mutely and stared. She was dressed to the nines. She didn’t belong here . . . in this town, in this state, in my life.

“I’m sorry, are you speaking to me?” she asked. Shit, she was perfect . . . on the outside. Gorgeous and put together to a degree I didn’t even aspire to. On the inside she was a snake.

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