Page 51 of Buying the Bride

“We have a car?”

“Of course,” she says. “We can’t have you showing up in Mr. Xellum’s designs walking from the subway or in a yellow cab.”

It seems almost strange, how my life has changed in less than a month. I was broke and about to be evicted, and now I’m working for one of the most famous designers in the world. “This is crazy.”

“A little,” May says, her eyes crinkling at the corners as she smiles. “But a good kind of crazy, I hope.”

“Definitely,” Fleece says, grabbing my arm and pulling me toward the door.

I twist around to wave. “See you later, May!”

We pile into the big black car waiting outside, breathless and giggling. I feel like Cinderella going to the ball, only better because I know that this won’t evaporate at midnight.

“So,” Fleece says, giving me a look. “What are you going to do tonight?”

“I’m going to drink and dance, but I’m assuming from that look that’s not what you’re talking about?”

She shakes her head. “No. I mean about Andrew.” She mouths the last two words.

I shrug, swimming in my own imagined fantasies and trying to resist the sting of disappointment that they won’t become real. “What can I do? He doesn’t want me that way.”

Fleece snorts. “My ass. He dressed you like that.”

“I have to be dressed well,” I say, “he knows people will be watching me because of the shows.” I lower my breath so that the driver can’t hear. “I practically threw myself at him during the last show, and afterwards he avoided me. So clearly, that is going to be that.”

The look on her face says that she still doesn’t believe me, but she doesn’t argue. The car pulls up to a gorgeous building in midtown, and there’s a huge crowd of people outside. Along with a real-life red carpet. “Oh shit.”

“You didn’t realize this would be part of it, did you?” Fleece is trying to hold in her laughter.

“Don’t mock me,” I say, even though I’m smiling.

She grabs my hand. “I would never. But you are adorable. Just a few poses and they’ll let you go. Come on.”

The flashes when I exit the car are blinding. Shouts of my name and questions that range from the most innocent of ‘what’s your favorite color?’ to racier things like ‘do you like to be on top?’ echo around me as I walk toward the entrance. I follow Fleece as she breezes down the carpet, and follow her lead. I stop, pose for the cameras, even though I don’t really have a clue what I’m doing. For the hundredth time in the last month, I ask myself what the hell I’m doing here. The photographers seem happy though, so I must be doing something right.

It takes longer than I expect to make it all the way down the carpet, but I do, and Fleece is waiting for me. She loops her arm through mine, and together we walk into what I think must be a wonderland.


Never in my life have I seen anything like this. There’s not one theme, there’s ten, or so it seems. The only thing that connects everything is ‘excess.’ In the main room, fabric cascades from the walls like a circus tent and aerialists swirl above our heads. Lights pulse and the bass of music thrums through my chest. Another room looks like it landed from the future, metal and chrome and what seems like a thousand computer screens playing different music videos and fashion ads. Everywhere I look there’s glitz and glitter, drinks, and people in gorgeous clothes. It’s more than overwhelming.

Fleece, however, is totally in her element. She’s chatting with people she knows, model friends and people she’s met on jobs. It’s really too bad that Andrew generally doesn’t hire models with her look because this feels like it was meant for her, not me.

A hand lands gently on my shoulder and I jump, turning to find Andrew behind me. “Mr. Xellum,” I say. Damn. He looks hot all the time, but just the sight sends a thrill through my body. He’s wearing an absolutely incredible suit, dark fabric with a sheen of color that seems to match the fiery colors in my dress, though the lights make it hard to tell. His shirt is definitely the same dark maroon, and I realize he’s the dark flame to my bright one. The shadow behind it. It’s a perfect statement for designer and muse, and I wonder who here will notice. The suit shows off his body perfectly, broad shoulders and trim waist. God, I want to see what’s underneath that fabric.