Authors: Sloane Meyers
Trouble in a Fur Coat
The Fur Coat Society, Book 1
By Sloane Meyers
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Similarities to actual people or events are entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 by Sloane Meyers. All rights reserved.
Silver Rowe winced as she stepped off the elevator and onto the fiftieth floor of the condo building where her boyfriend’s family lived. Today’s dance practice had been intense, and her knee felt like it might explode. But missing this dinner wasn’t an option. Her boyfriend, Joe, belonged to the Astors—one of the wealthiest, most powerful families in Chicago. They expected Silver, as Joe’s girlfriend, to keep up certain appearances, and they never wanted to miss a chance to show off the fact that their son was dating the star ballerina from Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet.
Silver sighed as she wobbled down the luxe hallway toward the condo’s front door. Joe’s family expected her to wear high heels to these dinner parties, and Silver had never been a heels type of girl. She preferred flats when she wasn’t wearing ballet shoes, but she didn’t want to rock the boat with Joe’s parents. They were sweet, but eccentric. When they got an idea in their heads, it was impossible to reason with them. Mrs. Astor wouldn’t care that Silver’s knee was throbbing from dance practice. Once, Silver had shown up to dinner in a pair of flats, and Mrs. Astor had been unimpressed when Silver tried to explain that she was recovering from an ankle strain.
“Beauty is painful, sometimes. But it cannot be sacrificed,” Mrs. Astor had said.
Silver rolled her eyes just remembering the statement. Then she chuckled, despite herself. Her family back home in Alaska would never let her hear the end of it if they could see her right now, wearing strappy black heels and a glittering silver cocktail dress. Despite the glitzy tutus Silver wore for ballet performances, her own style was simple and laidback. She preferred a comfy sweatshirt and jeans to a dress of any sort. Joe also preferred laidback outfits, when he wasn’t around his parents. They had been forcing him to dress up since he was a little boy, so he was just used to it. He knew that when there was a dinner party, he better show up in his best suit and tie.
Silver paused for a moment outside the entryway to the condo and let the security camera scan the irises of her eyes. After a moment, the camera beeped and a green light flashed.
“Welcome back, Silver,” the camera chirped at her in a robotic voice. Silver shook her head. You’d think with all the money the Astors had spent on this state of the art security system, they could have sprung for a model with a more pleasant voice.
As Silver stepped into the front entryway, the sound of laughter and jazz music floated down the hallway from the formal dining room. Silver sighed again and hung her jacket up on the coat rack near the door. Hopefully, she could grab a seat on one of the couches and let her knee rest until dinner.
“Hey, babe,” came a voice from behind her. A moment later, she felt Joe’s strong arms encircling her. She turned around and found his face inches from her own. Instantly, the tension in her body melted away.
“Hey, you,” she said. “I didn’t hear you coming up behind me.”
“I’m sneaky like that,” Joe said with a wink, then gave her a quick peck on the cheek. Silver smiled, remembering the way he had startled her the first night they met. Silver had been attending a special dinner for high-level donors to Chicago’s Joffrey ballet. As usual, she had felt uncomfortable being around so many wealthy, well-dressed people. She had tried to hang around the edges of the room as much as possible during the cocktail hour. But Joe had sought her out. He had walked up behind her, placed his hands over her eyes and said. “Guess who?” Startled, Silver had been unable to place the voice. And when she turned around, she realized why—she’d had no idea who this guy was.
Joe had stretched out a hand to introduce himself, saying with a smile, “I’m Joe. That’s who. Your dinner date for tomorrow night.”
Silver hadn’t been able to resist Joe’s creative, confident introduction—or his gorgeous blonde-haired, blue-eyed features. Against her better judgment, she’d agreed to dinner. She had been pleasantly surprised at how down to earth this rich kid stock broker had turned out to be, and she’d quickly fallen into a whirlwind romance with him. Ten months later, things were going better than ever. Whispers were starting to fly around Chicago’s social scene that this beautiful ballerina from a small town in Alaska might be the one who finally got wild-child Joe to settle down. As much as Silver loved Joe, though, she wasn’t ready to toss around the word “forever.” She still had doubts over whether she could handle his parents’ flashy lifestyle in the long-term. And then there was the fact that she hadn’t quite found a time to tell him yet that she was a shifter.
Silver furrowed her brow. She hated herself for being afraid to talk to Joe about her shifter side. She knew his parents would freak out if they knew, but there was really no reason they had to know. And Joe wasn’t the type to care if she was half-bear. Actually, he’d probably think having a shifter girlfriend was cool. He always wanted to outdo everyone by having something no one else had.
Now, Joe’s face grew concerned as he pulled back to look at Silver’s expression. “What’s wrong?” he asked, his deep voice booming in the hallway. “You’re frowning.”
Silver shrugged. “It’s just my shoes,” she lied. “I hurt my knee at practice today, so wearing heels is killing me right now.”
Joe sighed. “Why don’t you get a pair of those new Intelli-heels? You know, the ones that switch from heels to flats based on stress readouts from your heel? They’re all the rage in Hollywood right now.”
Silver laughed. “I can’t afford those. And before you offer to buy them for me, you already know the answer is no. I don’t want you to finance my life. Besides, I only wear heels when I’m at these silly parties, so buying a pair of Intelli-heels would be a waste of money.”
Joe grinned sheepishly at Silver. “Sorry. I know my parents are a little crazy with the dress code at their parties. But you have to admit that the food is good.”
“I won’t argue with that,” Silver said. “Let’s go to the living room and see what hors d’oeuvres we can snatch up.”
Joe smiled as he nodded and offered his arm to Silver. She hobbled toward the living room with him, thankful to be able to lean on his strong physique and take some of the pressure off her feet and knees. The party was already in full swing, with servers in stiff uniforms carrying trays of bacon wrapped shrimp, mini-meatballs in teriyaki sauce, and crackers adorned with goat cheese. A bartender stood behind a fully stocked bar and made drinks to order. The specialty cocktail of the night was gin-based, and Silver couldn’t keep from wrinkling her nose a bit. She wasn’t much of a gin girl, so she opted for a glass of rosé. Thankfully, one of the male guests vacated a spot for her on one of the plush couches. Silver smiled gratefully and sat down. Sometimes the guests at these parties were unbearably stuffy, but she had to admit that their social etiquette was always impeccable. Silver settled in and half-listened to the conversations around her. Most of the guests primarily spoke with Joe, who eventually wandered off to be introduced to a man who was supposedly going to run for a state senator position in the next election. By this point, almost everyone in the room knew who Silver was. When she first began attending these dinner parties, she had been something of a novelty. Everyone had wanted to meet Joe’s ballet star girlfriend. Now, she was old news, and more or less blended into the scenery. Silver smiled as she sipped her rosé. She liked it that way.
She was no stranger to being in big crowds of important people. Back home, her dad worked closely with the Alpha of her clan, and her mom was a famous ballerina. As a little girl, Silver had often found herself at big parties, rubbing shoulders with the local celebrities. But big parties back in Alaska were a lot more laidback than this. People didn’t feel the need to put on as much of a front as they did here. Joe had once told Silver that she was oversensitive, and that New York City was much worse. Silver had already heard enough horror stories about New York City from her mom, who had danced in the New York City ballet before moving to Alaska. Silver preferred to keep things at least somewhat low-key, so she’d decided to stay in Chicago instead of taking offers to dance in New York. Besides, she had family and friends in Chicago, even if she hardly saw them with their busy schedules. Her brother, Bash lived on the North side of Chicago. And there were several other shifters from Alaska in the city. Silver liked to grab drinks with them to commiserate over life as a shifter in a city of humans, but she hadn’t seen them much lately. Her latest show at the Joffrey had been in full swing, and,between rehearsals and performances, keeping up with friends had fallen to the bottom of Silver’s to-do list. She frowned and made a mental note to change that. She didn’t want to become one of those people who was too caught up with work to spend time with the people closest to her.
Silver settled into her seat, occasionally discussing the latest spring fashions with one of the women around her, or answering questions about what it was like to be a ballerina. Now and then, Joe looked over at Silver to make sure she was alright. She smiled reassuringly at him, and he went back to whatever conversation he was trapped in. Silver knew that Joe didn’t particularly enjoy these parties, either, but they both made an attempt to act polite and happy since the parties were so important to his parents.
Silver realized just then that she hadn’t seen Joe’s father yet. She grinned. He was probably off showcasing one of his many collections. Guns, watches, cigars—even actual paper books, which no one made anymore and were becoming increasingly hard to find. Everything was electronic these days, but Mr. Astor had a huge library full of actual hard copies of hundreds of books. Silver estimated that the books in that room must have had a combined worth of several million dollars. Silver smiled as she thought of the library. It was her favorite room in this house. She loved the smell of actual paper, and the way it reminded her of her early childhood. She loved the peaceful quietness of the room, too. The space seemed sacred, and special. Like it held a piece of the past that had the power to soothe and heal a troubled soul.
Silver glanced up at Joe, who was taking huge swigs from his glass of whiskey and nodding enthusiastically at a gray-haired old man. It would probably be another half an hour before dinner was served, and Silver was feeling bored. She decided to sneak out of the room and go run her fingers across the aging spines of the books for a few minutes.
No one seemed to even notice her as she stood up from her spot on the couch and hobbled toward the hallway. Silver glanced back at the room as she left, and wondered for the thousandth time if she was really cut out for this life. She loved Joe, but she just couldn’t bring herself to care about these silly parties. She didn’t put much effort into the conversations, and it showed. Even though she’d been dating Joe for months, she still felt like an outsider at every one of these events.
Silver reached the library and gently pushed open the glass-paneled door, breathing in deeply as she stepped into the dim room. She instantly relaxed as the smell of worn paper hit her nose, and she started walking in a slow circle around the room, admiring the hundreds of volumes that stood proudly on the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. The books weren’t organized in any particular order, probably because Mr. Astor never bothered to read them, so he didn’t care about whether the books on similar subjects were actually located next to each other. Silver kind of liked the disorganized chaos, though. You never knew what gem of a book you might come across. She’d found old science fiction books nestled next to gardening manuals. She’d discovered books on eastern religion shelved next to cookbooks. And a generous splattering of romance novels was scattered amidst the shelves.
Silver let her eyes roam over the titles, and she pulled out a large hardcover book that turned out to be an encyclopedia of dog breeds. Silver sat in one of the armchairs near the window, thankful that the chair sensed her low body temperature and instantly began warming its fabric to heat her up. Silver snuggled in and flipped through the book for several minutes. Some of the books in this library were falling apart, but this one still seemed to be in almost new condition. The glossy photographs of canines of all shapes and sizes drew Silver in, and she ran her finger across the pages reverently. Mr. Astor didn’t like anyone touching the books, since the more they were handled the quicker they would degrade. But Silver always ignored his frustrated warnings, and read the books anyway. She didn’t see the point in having all these lovely volumes sitting here untouched and unenjoyed.
Several minutes later, Silver stood again and replaced the dog encyclopedia. She continued walking around the room, stopping behind the large wooden desk that stood near the east wall. The desk was also just for show. It was an old desk, without any features of modern desks. It couldn’t automatically adjust its height based on the user, and it didn’t even have a built in computer screen on its surface. The desk was huge, and took up a lot of space in the room. Silver thought it was a waste of space, but Mr. Astor liked to show off the relic to his guests.
Silver crouched down behind the desk to look at the books on the bottom shelf. She smiled as she noticed several travel books. It was so strange now to think about people actually needing a book to get information about vacation spots. These days, a few quick clicks on your hovercar’s built-in information system, or a few swipes on your personal electronic watch, would quickly answer any questions you could possibly have about a destination.
Silver tried to stand, but winced as she realized she shouldn’t have bent down on her knee the way she just had. She sat on the floor behind the desk and took a few deep breaths to try to breathe through the pain. Fashion rules be damned, she wished she’d brought a pair of flats with her. Walking around in these stupid heels was jeopardizing her health.