Page 47 of Buying the Bride

The same make-up artist from last time comes over smiling. Andrew points to my cheekbones. “Masque make-up, heavy blues and greens, think mermaid. Lips need to match. Hair loose and as smooth as you can possibly get it.”

I look up at him. “A ‘hello’ would be nice.”

He stops for a second, “Hello. Find me as soon as you’re finished. We have a lot to do.”

“Wow,” I say quietly as he hurries away.

Trish laughs softly, “Don’t take it personally. That’s just how he is, especially on show days. He’s got a lot on his mind and he knows what he wants.”

We fall into conversation while she does my make-up, and I find myself relaxing. Trish has a very musical voice and it’s nice to hear her speak. It’s also nice to get a little more insight into the mysterious Mr. Xellum. I like hearing stories about him, like the time he got drunk and thought that lime green disco pants were a good idea, or how he made sure that a sick seamstress got all the rest she needed even though it was fashion week. Sure, she tells me, he’s a hard ass, and he errs on the cold side, but he’s a good guy.

When she’s finished and I look in the mirror, I don’t even recognize myself. I’m a sea creature come to life, my face patterned with gentle ripples and a blend of colors so seamless you would never know it’s not my skin. My hair is shiny, and seems darker than normal as it catches the light. “I think you’re a miracle worker.”

Trish laughs, “If I were a miracle worker I’d be able to make everyone’s wrinkles and grays go away.”

“Okay, temporary miracle worker then.”

“That, I’ll take. But you may not think I’m such a miracle worker when you have to wash it off later.”

I give her a wink. “I’ll be sure to curse your name plenty.”

Hopping out of the chair, I go to find Andrew. I find him at another model’s station, directing what he wants her look to be. I wait until he’s finished and sees me. He gives me a once-over and nods, gesturing for me to follow. I do, and he pulls a swimsuit off the rack. It looks complicated and gorgeous even on the hanger. With it is a sheer robe in colors that match my make-up. “This is yours for tonight. Let me see it, I want to make sure it’s perfect.” Then he leans in suddenly, and I’m overwhelmed by his sudden closeness. “You’re the centerpiece.”

And then he’s backed away like nothing’s happened. My heart is thundering, and I scold it. I can’t get worked up every time he pays me any kind of attention. But he is paying attention. Even though he’s professional, I can see the way he’s looking at me. My body reacts to it in a way it never has with anyone else.

“Hurry,” he says, “I still need to show you your choreography.”


He smirks. “Something like that.”

I duck behind the screen and pull on the bathing suit. It’s a one-piece, but it’s so scandalous that it might as well be two. The fabric is woven in tight knots that form patterns over my skin. Some places are webbed with lace and sheer gauze, others are open to my skin. One strap is intentionally off the shoulder, and the colors are the same deep blue and teal that seem to be the theme. I put the robe on over the bathing suit, and I have to admit, it really works. I look like some sort of wanton mermaid or siren, ready to call to sailors and wreck their ships. With my make-up and hair, I look like someone who would do it with delight.

Coming out from behind the screen, I see that Andrew has walked a little ways away and is consulting with someone dressed in black who has a headset in his ear. They’re looking at a clipboard, and the headset guy seems really animated. Again, I wait. Trish was right, Andrew has about a million things to deal with at the moment.

But then he turns and looks at me, and he freezes. The air between us goes tight, and I can feel the magnetic pull between us like it’s a physical thing. I do feel like a siren, and I will him to come to me. He does.

“You look absolutely perfect,” he says.

“Thank you,” I say softly, grateful that my face is covered in paint and he can’t see the fiery blush now gracing my cheeks. I have to look away from him. “That’s nice of you.”