Page 43 of Buying the Bride

“Okay,” I nod. “I can do that.”

Andrew checks his watch. “Curtains go up in fifteen minutes,” he says with a little smile. “I’ll be watching.”

A shiver goes through me as he turns to leave, and my mouth opens before I can stop it. “Why me?” He turns back at the door. “You could have had so many models with more experience. Not someone who’s never modeled before. So why?”

Just like with my earlier question, I can see him consider his words carefully. “Most people in fashion are looking for something brand new. A look or a combination of features that they’ve never seen before. That’s not what I look for in a model. I want someone who makes me feel. When she walks down a runway or you see her in a photograph, she has a spark that connects with you.”

“So you’re saying you think that I have that spark?”

He smiles. “No. You don’t have the spark. You have the whole damn fire.”

And then he leaves me there gaping after him, my entire body tingling with his words.

One of the crew comes to get me, and while they dress me I’m in a daze. I don’t think I’ve ever made that kind of impression on anyone before. And the way he looks at me gives me shivers down my body that make me imagine darker, more intimate moments with just the two of us between a set of sheets.

I lock those thoughts down because this is a job, and he’s my boss and I can’t afford to think like that when I’m about to be stared at for four hours. I’m dressed in a pair of long bolero pants and a coral dress shirt, and my face and hair get tweaks as I’m guided down the narrow hallway again.

God, I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’ve never been afraid of getting up in front of people, but this feels entirely different. New. Nerve-wracking. I’m helped up onto the platform, and I wobble in my heels. They arrange my pants around the shoes and I nearly lose my footing again as the rotating platform starts to move. Suddenly there’s music, and I know that the music will play outside as well. The curtain starts to go up and I try to control my breathing as I pick a pose. This is real. This is real. This is real.

There’s a crowd of people gathered outside the windows. Of course there is. If what May said is true, then Andrew Xellum is famous for works of fashion bordering on performance art. Anyone like that is going to have fans that show up to see his next piece of work. Oh god, I might throw up. Don’t look at them. Don’t look at them. I don’t focus on the faces; I focus beyond them as I’m turned around slowly. I pick a point and stare at it for as long as I can, and it helps me keep my balance. If I’m going to be rotating for four hours I can’t afford to be dizzy.

I’m on my second rotation when I see Andrew. He’s standing further back from the crowd, watching just like he said he would be. All those thoughts I tried to lock down come flooding back and my focus narrows to just him. I don’t feel dizzy or overwhelmed or panicked. Instead I feel a new kind of focus, that crippling nervousness I felt moments ago melting away. I slowly change my pose, aware that his eyes are on me, and the movement is slow, sensual, and right. I suppose if you have the right audience you can always find what feels right.

There’s not enough time to think about what Andrew Xellum being the right audience means because the crew is here and they’re changing the look. A few clever hooks in hidden places and the bolero pants separate and are folded up into a sexy short skirt. Openings in the sleeves of the blouse appear to show a little more skin, and suddenly it feels like I’m ready to go dancing.

I let a smile appear on my face as I change my pose and rotate. I see Andrew nod. He likes this. I like it too. It’s not nearly as hard as I thought it would be, especially when I can feel his eyes on me. It feels like no time at all until the curtains drop and I’m whirled into the next outfit, and then the next. There’s a theme to the clothes, each look starting out tame, and becoming sexier and sexier with each transition. I feel sexy too, knowing that wherever he is, he’s watching. He’s been moving around outside the window, and every time I find him again I get a burst of energy.