I plodded round to the changing area. The dress looked as if it were about two sizes too small for me. I stripped off and squeezed into it. Make that three sizes too small. It was a strange combination of something Snow White would wear coupled with a dominatrix’s favourite costume.
I stared down at my cleavage. Enchantment was supposed to be a family show. Not only did I look as if my breasts were about to fall out at any moment but I also had a built-in leather corset contraption to contend with. The bottom section only reached mid-thigh, but if I hiked it down to cover some of my wobbly flesh all I succeeded in doing was displaying more skin up top. The billowy sleeves were sort of pretty, I supposed, but they were made from sheer material. We were in the Highlands! How was I going to get any protection from the notoriously wet Scottish weather while wearing this?
‘Are you ready?’ Wardrobe Lady called out.
I grimaced and drew back my shoulders. I wasn’t going to let her break me. I’d flaunt this ridiculous garb to the very best of my ability. With my head held high, I strutted out.
Even Barry appeared shocked. He didn’t know where to look: his eyes drifted from my face to my chest and back again. He eventually fixed his gaze on a midpoint around my collarbone. ‘That’s, uh, that’s pretty.’
Wardrobe Lady tapped her mouth. ‘Something’s missing.’
Several yards of fabric?
She squinted and then her expression cleared. ‘I know!’ She bent down, reached into a chest and drew out a pair of knee-high boots. With stiletto heels.
‘No.’ I folded my arms across my chest. Even I had limits. I wouldn’t be able to walk three feet in those things without toppling over.
Wardrobe Lady smiled. ‘Yes. I’m in charge here, darling.’
I shook my head. ‘This show needs me more than I need it. No heels. If you’re that desperate to get your revenge on me by making me wear this, fine. I’ll let you have your moment. But I won’t put on those shoes.’
Her mouth tightened fractionally. Whether it was because I’d called her out on her petty plan or because I was refusing to tramp around muddy Scottish moors in those boots, I wasn’t sure. She’d be sorry if she ended up getting her face eaten off because I couldn’t get to her in my heels in time for a rescue.
Seeming to realise that she’d gone too far, she relented. ‘Fine,’ she snapped. She reached into the chest again and took out some ballet pumps. ‘Will these do her highness?’
Nah. Too flimsy. I glanced over her shoulder and spotted a heavy, scuffed pair of Doc Martens. ‘I’ll take those.’
Wardrobe Lady opened her mouth to refuse so I forestalled her. ‘You’ve seen a tiny amount of what I’m capable of,’ I said softly. ‘But changing a few seams isn’t what I’m really good at. My magic skills are far beyond anything you can imagine. You might think you know magic from working on Enchantment. The truth is that you don’t have a clue.’ To emphasise my point and make sure she didn’t mistake my meaning, I added a close-mouthed smile. It didn’t reach my eyes.
Wardrobe Lady swallowed. ‘I think those will look good,’ she said eventually.
I clapped her on the shoulder. ‘Great minds think alike!’ I bent down and put them on. A perfect fit.
Gazing in the mirror I decided that, despite her best efforts, I looked rather cool. The Doc Martens made me seem more like a grunge princess than a showy hooker. At least that’s what I was going to tell myself.
When I finally left the trailer, with Barry still firmly by my side, a gust of cold air immediately gave me a serious bout of goose pimples. And it was clear from my producer’s embarrassed cough that the flimsy material was doing little to hide my reaction to the cold in other areas as well.
I spotted Winter on the far side of the set. He glanced over and beckoned me. It took him a moment but, when he finally realised what I was wearing, his mouth slowly dropped open.
‘We need to get to make-up,’ Barry told me.
‘Just give me a minute. Stay here.’
I ignored his protests and set off. When I reached Winter, he was trying hard not to stare. I twirled for full effect, almost losing my balance in the process. Winter reached out and grabbed me before I fell over. Slightly breathless, I grinned at him. ‘Whaddya think?’
Winter’s jaw worked. ‘What…?’ For once he was lost for words.
‘I’ve been press-ganged into becoming a contestant,’ I informed him. ‘I think I’m to play the role of evil slut.’ I grinned at him. ‘Of course, I’m sure you know where the word slut comes from.’
‘Huh?’ He blinked rapidly.
‘Slut,’ I said, rather enjoying myself. ‘What’s the etymology of the word?’
Winter shook his head in disbelief. ‘I have no idea. It’s not something I’ve ever thought about.’
‘Well,’ I informed him airily, ‘technically it’s of dubious origin and possibly generates from the German word schlutt meaning slovenly woman. But there’s also an argument to be made for the Swedish term slata which translates as idle woman.’ I beamed triumphantly. ‘It’s like these people see right through me.’
Winter’s mouth flattened into a grim line. ‘I can see right through you! Right through that dress anyway. You can’t wear that!’
‘Wardrobe Lady made me put it on. She doesn’t like me very much.’
Winter looked even more annoyed. ‘Every man on set will be leering at you!’
I shrugged. ‘That’s their problem. Not mine.’
‘It’s…’ He suddenly halted. ‘Hang on,’ he said slowly. ‘What did you say? You’re a contestant?
‘It was either that or be thrown off set.’ I tried to look apologetic. ‘Sorry.’
‘No, this is brilliant. Well done, Ivy.’
I smiled again. ‘Thank you.’ Then I hesitated. ‘Why is it brilliant?’
‘We’ve not been able to get close to any of the contestants. After Alberts was killed, I’m sure the police interviewed them all but the Order hasn’t been given access. Considering it was a contestant who was murdered, and that the contestants are all here ostensibly because they can use at least some magic, it’s quite possible that one or more of them is involved.’ He rubbed his chin. ‘Even if they’re not, they might still be targeted by our would-be necromancer. If you’re one of them, you’ll be able to investigate them and protect them at the same time.’
I hate multi-tasking. ‘Or I could make them all my bitches and have them running at my beck and call.’
Winter frowned in exasperation. ‘Did you see the papers this morning? Someone has been talking to the press. Not to mention allegedly buying cigarettes for some children. You should take some time before this afternoon to find out who. Anyone who would stoop that low is bound to have sneakier plans. Perhaps not necromancy, but it’s a slippery slope to evil, Ivy.’
‘Mmm.’ I started to fidget. I needed to change the subject. ‘Do we have any information on who our zombie was?’
Winter muttered something under his breath at the z word. ‘He was a local man who died just over two years ago in a farming accident. I have spoken to his family and there’s no magical connection with them and no reason to believe he was specifically targeted. The Order will keep looking into it but I don’t think we’re going to draw any leads that way.’ He shrugged. ‘All indications suggest his rising was due to chance and perhaps opportunity. There is nothing to suggest he was chosen for a reason.’
For some reason that disturbed me more than if his body had been specifically selected. Lack of clear motive meant that the person behind this could have much grander designs for bringing the dead back to life. Grander designs that I doubted would be warm or fluffy for the rest of us. I tugged at the bodice of my dress, irritated by the scratchy material, and sighed.
‘Do you really have to wear that?’ Winter enquired.
‘It’s not that bad.’
He harrumphed. ‘You look like you’re serving yourself up on a platter.’