Beautiful Lies

By: Gina Whitney

Chapter One

If I had known then that Lilly Amsel would set such a fierce blaze in my life, I would have taken the next elevator.

All I wanted that morning was to get a hard run on the treadmill and go to my office to put in some weekend overtime. I arrived at The Equity, the most prestigious gym not only in New York City but in the country, and was checking my work-issued Blackberry as usual. I tended to avoid such pretentious settings, but membership was one of the many perks of my employment at Wotherspoon and Associates. As a law student at Aldensburg University, I had interned at the corporate law firm and had been offered a position after I’d passed the bar five years ago. Aldensburg was not as premier a college when compared to the Ivies; in fact most people have never heard of it. But, like me, it got the job done. And professionally the job I was trying to get done now was making partner. I know it was an ambitious goal, but I had nothing but faith in my skills to make it happen.

For the moment I was there at The Equity in my sagging basketball shorts and stretched-out T-shirt, standing amid chichi air kissers. I was not there to hobnob; I actually had a serious goal. I worked out not only to maintain my body but to keep my mind sharp, focused, and ready at all times. That was what separated me from those people. I was a shark among peacocks.

The cheerless receptionist with the sucked-in cheeks eyed me as I stepped through the door. I could see her hostile nostrils widen like a bull’s as she feigned a barely polite smile. She knew who I was but played this ridiculous game with me every day. Always pretending not to know me.

“I’m sorry, sir. You must be looking for the gym down the street.”

That was her way of telling me that my choice of clothing was not up to par, and I might consider some more appropriate attire. I had known plenty of people like her growing up and knew that the best way to handle her was to be in her face every chance I got, to be the proverbial pebble in her shoe. I swiped my security pass card and told her, “See you tomorrow.”

The Equity was an “it” destination for celebrities and all manner of the rich and powerful. The entry level consisted of a wide, stark-white hallway with electric-blue tube lights lining the walls and ceiling, and filled with the ethereal melody of a string orchestra. This main hallway connected with several more, the last one ending in a spacious, low-lit lounge area. Scattered about were suede couches and glass tables; black-and-white photos of perfectly sculpted body parts hung on the walls. This was where those who came to be seen strategically posed themselves just in case an undercover paparazzo managed to sneak in. The lounge was usually empty in the morning because its denizens could not manage to roll out of bed until well into the afternoon.

I made my way across the rugs to yet another hall that led to a bank of elevators. I pushed the “up” button, eager to start my workout. Then I heard the quick click clack of feminine footsteps come up behind me. I sighed because I knew those shoes—probably high heels—were not made for running. This was just another pampered pest whose idea of working out was getting a massage. I did not even have to turn around to figure this chick out.

Her heavy perfume was layered with the fresh smell of soap and shampoo. Typical of someone who saw the gym as a social occasion rather than a place to exercise. I never had patience with lackadaisical people who were not willing to put in the effort to achieve anything. I wanted so badly to turn around and say, “Why are you even here? Shouldn’t you be having Sunday brunch over at Peacock Alley?”

However, I was not there to judge. I was there to work out. But I was curious as to who was standing behind me. I looked into the stainless-steel door of the elevator to see if I could make out the reflection. The dull surface only revealed that the grayish silhouette behind me was tall and lanky. Not as tall as me at six foot three but tall nonetheless.

Then a hoard of more click-clacking footsteps arrived, accompanied by raucously shrill voices greeting the first woman. I thought, Oh, God. Jersey girls.

“Lilly!” they all screamed in unison.

The first woman, Lilly, chirped back, “Sweetie pies, how are you?”

One nasal voice responded, “Fine if you like your nipples turning into Popsicles. It’s cold as hell out there. What’s on your agenda today?”