Page 52 of Buying the Bride

The lights highlight the planes of his face, making him more angular. Striking. I’m suddenly finding it hard to breathe, and realize that I’m just standing there staring.

He smiles, and it’s not that little one that he seems to always be wearing. This one is genuine. “You can call me Andrew,” he says. “We’re going to be working together enough. Besides, Mr. Xellum feels too formal.”

I smile back at him, “Okay, Andrew.” At least now I don’t have to keep biting my tongue before saying his name. “Thank you for the dress.”

“You don’t have to thank me. Dressing you is a pleasure.” I blush, and look away, but he reaches out to stop me. “That embarrasses you?”

“Not really…I’m just not used to people saying things like that to me.”

Andrew grabs a drink off a passing waiter’s tray and presses it into my hand. “You should be. You’re beautiful, and more than that you’re smart and talented. People should be making a big deal out of you.”

“Thank you,” I say, blushing. “For what it’s worth, I’ve really enjoyed working with you. It’s strange, and I’m not sure how good I am at yet, but it’s better than I ever expected.”

“Well,” Andrew says, “I’m glad. It’s been awhile since working with someone has felt this…natural, so I know what you mean.”

“Tell me something about you,” I say spontaneously. “Something that has nothing to do with fashion.”

His voice is deadpan. “I’m allergic to peanuts.”

“I’m serious,” I say. “I feel like you know everything about me, but you’re still this mysterious handsome fashion mogul.”

A raised eyebrow. “Handsome.”

“Of course that’s what you would pick up on,” I roll my eyes.

“Something that has nothing to do with fashion,” he says, like he’s rolling the question over in his mind. “I love to travel.” His voice is as soft as it can be in this party and still have me hear him. “And not the kind of ‘let’s fly on a first class jet and go on red carpets’ travel that people probably think of when they think of me. I like to walk. Take trains. Find hidden little places off the beaten path that make for a good story later. I never get to do that now.”

A small smile creeps up on my face, “That was perfect. But why don’t you get to go? If you want to, do it.”

“Honestly, it just seems like I never have the time. There’s one opportunity and then the next and everyone is asking for more. Before you know it, a year goes by.”

I reach out and touch his hand on instinct, and I get a jolt of electricity from his skin. “If you want to go, you should make the time.”

“You’re right,” he says. “I should.”

He’s leans closer, and I know it’s so that we can hear each other in the crowded room, but my heart rate speeds up, and my body remembers the pleasure I’ve given it while imagining him. Muscle memory is a thing. Is pleasure memory a thing, because the way I’m wet between my legs seems to say that it is.

“And for the record,” he says, “I don’t know everything about you, but I’m very excited to learn.” My breath catches as he continues. “Your turn to tell me something.”

“I don’t have anything glamorous like that.”

Andrew chuckles. “It doesn’t have to be glamorous.”

I shake my head, words barely coming.

“I just never thought this would be me,” I say. “I never wanted to be a model. A month ago I worked in a department store.”

His mouth curls up into a half-smile. “What did you want to be, then?”

“I hadn’t really figured it out yet.”

Andrew puts a finger under my chin and lifts it so that our eyes meet. “When we first met I told you I liked honesty. But what you just told me isn’t the truth. What’s the truth?”

A flash of pain and memory go through me, but I plaster on a smile. “It’s not a story for a party like this. And I’m sure you’ll hear it some day since we’re going to be working together.”