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Thayer

My Spanx were killing me. So was being stuck in this ballroom decorated with Swarovski chandeliers and pretty lies. But all I had to do was put in a brief appearance. Shake a few hands, smile at a few faces, and then I could duck out.

I leaned against the bar, clutching a glass of 2007 Gaja Barbaresco in one hand as I scanned the crowd. Movers and shakers, the big-deal kingmakers— and the strivers clawing their way to the top. At a glance, I'd spotted handful of CEOs, the mayor, a countless socialites, three senators, and my twin sister, Quinn, with her fiancé, Paul.

None of the options were appealing.

Attending these events was squarely at the bottom of my list, right next to having laser hair removal on my bikini line and getting a root canal. Well, I'd never actually had a root canal, but I assumed it was about as pleasant as these parties.

Unfortunately, my parents cared more about keeping up appearances than about my feelings. Or at least, that was the only explanation I could think of as to why they continually guilt-tripped me into attending. Another an event, another excuse.

My attendance tonight was imperative, supposedly, because my father was trying to secure a $100-million letter of credit for his company from some European bank. As proprietor of a high-end women's lingerie and sleepwear store with my sister, my role in this matter was unclear.

Another thing I couldn't explain was why, as a fully-grown adult, I cared so much about what my parents thought. I didn't even want their life. I knew firsthand it wasn't nearly as nice as it looked from the outside.

"Thayer!" A voice called.

Every muscle in my body tensed. I'd been spotted, and not by someone I wanted to see. I took gulp of wine that my mother's finishing school would have frowned upon while Matilda 'Millie' Pruitt barreled toward me like a heatseeking missile locked onto a target.

She wrapped me in an embrace, giving me an air kiss on each cheek.

"Have you lost weight? You have, haven't you?" Millie held me out at arms' length, giving me a once-over with laser-like precision. "You look amazing. So much better."

"Thank you," I said, although I wasn't sure I should. Still, it was easier to go along with the pretend niceties than get dragged down into the weeds of what they truly meant. "Good to see you, Millie."

"Love the dress, too." She gestured to the two of us, both in black lace. My cocktail dress hit at mid-thigh, with long sleeves and a plunging back, while hers was sleeveless and hit just above the knee. Not identical, but still too similar for my comfort. I'd have chosen differently had I known. Ellie wasn't exactly someone I tried to emulate.

She giggled. "It's almost like we're the twins."

"Totally," I said.

In reality, the only thing we had in common was thinly-veiled contempt for one another. If Ellie could have straight-up assumed my life, thereby eliminating my existence, I'm sure she would have at least seriously considered it.

Quinn trailed up from behind Ellie, repeating the same fake air-kiss routine and enveloping me in a vanilla sugar-scented hug.

She squeezed me. "There's my beautiful sister."

It was an interesting compliment, given that we were identical twins. And especially given that she was arguably the prettier one of us two. Her features always seemed softer to me, more feminine. Fuller lips, bigger eyes. Other people seemed to think so too, though they'd never openly admit it.

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