Page 40 of Buying the Bride

She gives me a once-over and looks down at her list. “You’re late.”

“Yeah, sorry.” I give her apologetic smile. “Train delays.” The one lie that everyone in New York City will believe.

She purses her lips. “Yes, well, if you’re cast, Mr. Xellum will expect you to be punctual. His time is literally money.” She waves me inside. “You’re the last one. Come on, we’ll get you in some clothes while the others are finishing up. I’m May, Mr. Xellum’s assistant.”

She leads me through the store—a bright white space filled with clothes in surprising shapes and colors. They’re all something I would buy if I weren’t broke. It’s a total New York dream: wall-to-wall windows and racks of stunning clothes. Soft club music plays in the background, and a model is walking back and forth in front of a table with several people.

May stops at the edge of the room, and we wait as the model finishes. “We’ll see what Mr. Xellum wants you to walk in before having you change.”

The table has three people behind it, and only one man. Holy. Fucking. Shit.

This is the kind of man that appears shirtless on a beach in perfume ads. He is—should be—a model, not looking for them. He’s relaxed in his chair, a lazy grace that contrasts with the look on his face. That look could take down anyone, and I’m not sure I want to be on the receiving end of it. Especially not since I was late.

The model finishes her walk, and Mr. Xellum gives her a curt nod. “Thank you for coming in. We’ll be in touch.”

She walks off towards a changing screen, and May ushers me forward. “One more, Mr. Xellum. Last one.”

Suddenly I’m pinned to the spot because his gaze has fallen on me. He hasn’t even moved, but it’s like something shifted. His eyes travel up and down my body, and I blush, because the gaze is intimate. He sees everything about me, through my clothes and down to my bones. At least that’s how it feels.

He stands, straightening his suit, and steps out from behind the table. He holds out a hand to me, a small smile on his face, which only makes me look at his jaw and damn that’s a pretty sight. “I’m Andrew Xellum,” he says. “And you are…?”

“Delia Cameron,” I manage to get out, though my voice sounds like I’ve been running for ten blocks. Get it together girl.

His stare is still so intense, and that little smile on his lips is maddening. I want to know what he’s thinking since I know in this second he’s thinking about me. Abruptly he turns, breaking our eye contact, and I feel hollow. It’s like his gaze was holding me up and now I’m ready to collapse. He takes a dress off a nearby rack of clothes. It’s pale blue and it floats lightly as he hands it to me. “Walk in this please,” he says, and nods at the changing screen.

“You haven’t even looked at my measurements.”

He raises an eyebrow, and that little smile is back, even stronger. “I do this every day. I can tell just by looking at you.” He emphasizes his words with a long, slow look from my head to my toes, and I swear I can feel it on my skin, and my knees feel wobbly. I mumble something and take the dress from him. This is insane. Why did I let Fleece talk me into this? Auditioning for a job was what I signed up for, not humiliating myself in front of the hottest man I’ve ever seen. Now I’m going to make a fool of myself because I’m not a model and I’m probably going to fall flat on my face.

The dress is layers of sheer fabric so light they seem to blend in to my pale skin, like the dress is almost growing out of me. The effect is gorgeous, like I was born in it. The downside is that I have to take off everything. Everything. Even the slightest shadow of underwear beneath this dress will ruin the effect, and for some reason I want him to see me like this. I want him to see the effect he was hoping to create even though I’m sick to my stomach with anxiety.

I step out from behind the screen and his eyes are on me instantly. For just a second, I think I see him do a double take, but then he’s smiling. “Walk, please.”

He goes back to the table, and I do my best to ignore the fact that he’s starting at me with a hunger that’s heating up my skin. Here goes nothing. I walk just like Fleece said: like I have a stick up my ass but I want to have someone look at it anyway. That’s not a hard thing to do because I desperately want him to look at me. To keep looking. It’s the most attention I’ve gotten from the opposite sex in months, and I’m surprised to realize how much I’ve missed it.