Page 41 of Buying the Bride

Before I know it, I’ve walked back and forth across the room and stopped. I didn’t fall over, so at the very least I can walk out of here knowing that. I’m looking at Mr. Xellum, and he’s looking at me. I don’t dare break the pose I’ve ended in. He tilts his head, a curious expression on his face. “You don’t have an agent.”

It’s not a question. “No.”


“I didn’t think so. I would have remembered you.” A fierce blush rises to my cheeks. “And do you have any modeling experience?”

I press my lips together for a second before answering. “None at all.”

“Good,” he nods. “I wanted somebody who is a raw talent.” I try to smile, try to wrap my head around the fact that he thinks I have any talent in at all. “If you don’t have an agent, and you don’t model, how did you end up here? I’m just curious.”



“I have a friend,” I say. “She didn’t think the casting was right for her but she encouraged me to come. I’m recently out of work and had nothing to lose.”

He chuckles. “I like that you’re honest about it. Why didn’t your friend come?”

I raise an eyebrow and aim for honesty. “You don’t hire blondes.”

“Not often, no,” he says. “I find that dark hair contrasts with my clothes in a way I like. But regardless, encourage your friend to come to my next casting. I owe her one.”

“Why?”

“Because she sent you.” He stands again, and comes around the table. “I’d like you to be at the Flatiron building tomorrow, noon sharp.” Giving me another slow look in the dress he designed, he walks past me and out the door.

I take a breath and it feels like waking up. “What on earth does that mean?” I ask to no one in particular.

May smiles kindly at me. “It means you’re hired, dear, for at least the exhibition tomorrow. Please, don’t be late.”

“Wait though, is that just how he is? Is he always that intense?”

“Oh, yes,” she says. “Don’t worry, if you work with him, you’ll get used to it. He’s very direct and never lies. In this business, it’s refreshing.”

Handing me a paper with the official details for the next day, May ushers me back towards the changing screen. “We’ll see you in the lobby of the building tomorrow.”

And then she’s gone. I change out of the dress as quickly as I can and leave the store, trying to avoid the murderous glances of the other models milling around, maybe hoping for another glimpse of Xellum. Is it possible that they figured out that I was picked?

I pull my cell phone out of my bag as I hurry towards the subway. Fleece is never going to believe this.

3

The Flatiron building has always been one of my favorite buildings in the city. Gorgeous architecture and a great neighborhood. All benefits for me.

I made sure to leave my house earlier than I normally would, and make it in plenty of time. Fleece and I aren’t even exactly sure what the exhibition is, even though we spent more than enough time last night poring over the casting call for any details they might have slipped in. There was nothing. The only thing we know is that it will be over the top. Everything that Andrew Xellum does is over the top, which does nothing to ease the growing ball of nerves in my stomach. But at the very least, Fleece did coach me through what I would be doing with hair and make-up and what to say in case I have any problems. She’d be a good agent, if that were her thing.

Even though I’m early, May is waiting in the lobby of the building. She gives me a warm smile, and I know that at least part of it is relief that I’m not late. “Right this way.”

She sweeps me through a side door into a tiny room that’s been converted into a dressing room. There are already way too many people in here. Oh god, I can’t breathe. What if this is a mistake? I need a second to stall. I pull May to the side. “Sorry, I just want to know what it is exactly that I’m doing before I go in there.”

Her face goes blank for a second. “Oh, I’m sorry sweetie. I forgot that you don’t have an agent that would have told you. Today Mr. Xellum is having a display of his clothes in the Prow Art Space. You’ll be on a rotating platform, and every 10 minutes, the curtains drop for you to change clothes.”

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