Nightingale - (Bigtime #4)

Jennifer Estep - (Bigtime #4) Nightingale

Chapter One

Sometimes, I really hate parties.

Especially engagement parties.

I hate the nose-watering flowers. The over-priced food. The endless champagne toasts. The hours-long parade of pomp, circumstance, and well wishes. The mushy exchanges of I love you that fail to last through the night, when the bride-to-be catches her fiancé in the broom closet with her best friend.

Most of all, I hate the unending crises surrounding any party—especially those of the rich and socially elite in Bigtime, New York.

Too bad I make my living planning such events.

A ragged breath cut through my dark reverie. I stood in a small antechamber deep inside the Bigtime Convention Center and Orchestra Hall.

A woman dressed in a sequined, scarlet gown slouched in a chair in front of me, her head almost to her knees.

“This … is … wrong … Abby,” Olivia O’Hara wheezed. “This … is a … mistake. We’re doing this … for … all … the wrong … reasons.” Another night, another debutante, another cosmic meltdown ten minutes before the party starts. This scenario had played itself out so many times before I could have calculated it down to the second, although most folks waited until their actual wedding day before panicking.

Debutantes. They were even more temperamental than the superheroes and ubervillains who populated the sprawling city of Bigtime.

“It’s not a terrible mistake.” I raised my green eyes heavenward, asking for patience. I’d given this pep talk more than once, too. “You care about Paul, don’t you?”

Olivia hesitated. Her eyes dropped to the teardrop-shaped diamond on her left hand. She nodded again, stronger this time.

“As long as you care about him, it’s not a terrible mistake. And if it is, well, that’s what divorce lawyers are for. Just ask Joanne James. I’m sure she knows some good ones. Now, breathe into the bag before you start hyperventilating again.”

She stuck her nose and mouth back into the brown paper bag I’d given her two minutes earlier. Olivia might be having a nervous breakdown, but she took care not to smear her perfect makeup. That alone told me she was going to walk into the party right on schedule.

Of course, Olivia O’Hara wouldn’t smear her makeup anyway. Her family owned Oomph, one of the biggest makeup companies in the city.

She was born with a mascara wand in one hand and lip liner in the other.

Still, if Olivia wasn’t being so careful of her face, or worse, started pulling the diamond-studded clips from her hair, well, then I’d be worried.

Soft jazz music drifted in from the main auditorium. I checked my watch and nodded in approval. The band started right on time. Olivia couldn’t hear the music. Nobody could have from this distance, unless they had superhearing—like me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a superhero.

Not like the Fearless Five, Debonair, Swifte, or any of the other dozens of heroes who call Bigtime home. I don’t dress up in form-fitting spandex. Don’t wear a mask. Don’t call myself by another name. And I definitely don’t go around fighting crime. I have enough trouble handling the crises at my events.

A couple of years ago, though, I just happened to have acquired supersenses, thanks to a spilled amaretto sour and an over-electrified amp at a karaoke bar. Enhanced eyesight. Supersharp hearing. A heightened sense of touch.

Souped-up taste buds. A nose that can smell cheeseburgers a mile away. I got the whole she-bang, thanks to a couple thousand volts of electricity surging through my body.

Olivia kept wheezing, shooting looks at the closed door in front of us. I checked my watch again. Seven minutes and thirteen seconds until Olivia was supposed to make her grand entrance with Paul. Time to bring out the big guns.

I unzipped a pocket on the vest covering my upper body. The khaki mesh didn’t quite go with the black pants, silk camisole, and jacket I wore, but I didn’t care. My vest was better than the fanciest gown because the multiple pockets, zippers, and hidey holes contained my supplies.

Today, I’d stocked it with my party gear. Bobby pins, glue, extra panty hose, clear nail polish, bandages, antacid, smelling salts, and a little pharmaceutical help—all of which were perfect for dealing with anxious, drunken, and unruly partygoers.

“Here.” I shoved my brown hair off my shoulder and pulled a white pill out of one of the upper pockets. “Take this.”

“What is it?” Olivia asked, staring at the tablet with suspicion.

“Something to help you relax. You want to relax, don’t you? After all, this is