Liz is a lonely woman, widowed before she was properly a bride. Ben was the only man for her. Now he's gone, and she has been left in agony, both physical and emotional.
Patrice has long-ago decided she's asexual. Though she tried to play the games to fit in, she's never found anyone sexually appealing.
When these two friends each receive an invitation to the exclusive Fantasy Club, they decide to go, just to satisfy their interfering friends...whichever of them spent the money to send them to the club. Once there, they learn about the true magic of the club. It's not called Little Olympus for kicks. But, can even the gods of Olympus make a happily ever after for two lost causes like these?
Liz stared at the card in shock. "You are hereby issued an invitation to The Fantasy Club's Valentine's Day Costume Ball. The event will take place at nine o'clock on February the thirteenth. A car will arrive promptly at eight to collect you and your escort. Please dress in the costume which will be provided for you."
She dropped into a kitchen chair woodenly. "Which one of them did this to me?" she moaned. More importantly, how do I call it off?
Liz didn't care if the person who did this got a refund for her investment or not. She shouldn't have done it in the first place! She fumed at the situation.
I don't want a fantasy man. Liz wanted Ben, but Ben was beyond her reach now.
She skated a fingertip along the scar under her hair. She had several others that were more visible and disfiguring. What man would find that appealing?
No. I won't defile Ben's memory. He was the only man for me. There will never be another.
An energetic knock dragged Liz back to the present. She headed to the door like a woman condemned.
What else would I call this "gift"?
Pat's usually glittering green eyes were hard, a sure sign that she was hacked at someone. She flounced in, her red curls bouncing. Four steps into the condo, Pat turned on her heel, waved a cream colored envelope that looked all too familiar under Liz's nose, and raised an eyebrow in challenge.
"Oh no," Liz breathed.
"Okay. Spill it. What fantasy did you tell them to give me? Or you, for that matter? Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against you having a fantasy, but me? Liz, really."
She groaned. "Tell me you did do this to me," she pleaded. "Tell me it can be called off." It wasn't something Liz would expect from Pat. In fact, Pat was the only one of their friends who respected and openly supported Liz's decision.
But, if it's not Pat, I have no hope of finding out who it is in time to end this farce before there's a public scene about it.
* * * *
Pat winced at the sight of the tears pooling in Liz's eyes. "You really didn't set this up, in some romantic push to help me find Mr. Right?"
"I'm afraid not. You know our deal." She sighed and ran a hand through her mussed hair.
Pat nodded. She knew their deal well enough. She stayed out of Liz's love life and Liz stayed out of hers.
Non-existent though they both are. But we know that's for the best.
"Which one of them do you think did this?" Liz asked, a hair off desperate, by Pat's estimation.
"I couldn't guess. You're the only one with enough money to pull this off I know. The Fantasy Club doesn't come cheap. Or so I've heard."
"And what have you heard?"
"That my spend money for the next decade wouldn't pay for one of us, let alone two."
Liz rubbed at her forehead roughly, most likely coming down with another of her headaches. "What did your invitation say?"
"That I was to escort you to the ball, so I naturally thought you arranged it." Pat realized how ridiculous that sounded, even as it emerged from her mouth.
"Oh, please, Pat. Me? Be serious for a minute." Liz went to the fridge and pulled out a Coke. She retrieved ibuprofen from the cabinet, popped open the can and the bottle of medicine, then took the pain killers down with a mouthful of soda.
"I should have known." Liz was the last person Pat should have suspected of this. She sank into one of the chairs at the kitchen table. "What fantasies do you think they asked for?"
Liz lowered herself into the chair next to Pat with a grimace. Was it her injuries, her headache, or the thought of having someone do this to her? There was no way to be sure.
"Can't they just leave us alone?" Liz moaned. Her freckled nose scrunched in distaste.
"Obviously not. It's probably Karen or Jane, you know." That particular duo had always been outspoken in their beliefs that the right men would cure all Liz and Pat's ills--make Liz forget Ben and convince Pat that sex was more than a ho-hum experience.
The defeat in her friend's tone snapped Pat's resolve. Someone was going to pay for this. "No man is going to make my toes curl," she asserted hotly. "And no man can replace Ben."
"I know it. I just wish Karen and Jane knew it."
It has to be one of them. But how could either of them afford this?
"Should we refuse to go?" Liz asked, seemingly perking up at the idea. "I mean...they can't force us to. Can they?"
"Not without committing a kidnapping or two...and possibly assault." Pat ran her finger along the edge of the invitation. "No. We'll meet these guys and turn them down gracefully and completely. Then Karen and Jane will know we tried. Or..." She sighed. "At least that we didn't chicken out and waste the invitations."
It was a solid bet nothing could come of the invitations, after all. Clearly, Karen and Jane knew nothing about either of them.
Liz went a few shades paler. "On one condition."
"Anything. Just name it." She knew asking Liz to attend was asking a lot of her best friend, but they had to get the Matchmaking Duo off their cases somehow.
"Don't you dare leave my side." She trembled a bit at that.
"Okay. Sounds like a plan." Smart dating these days pretty much demanded that anyway. You never knew what a man might do, left alone with a woman who didn't know him.
"What do you suppose our costumes will be?"
Pat shrugged. "I guess we'll find out when they arrive."