Page 61 of Buying the Bride

I huff a sigh. It’s not a story that I particularly enjoy telling, but I don’t think he’s going to let it go. “I wanted to be an interior designer. I went to school for it, and I even got a job right out of college. Heidi Carson’s company.”

Andrew raises an eyebrow, and I can tell he’s impressed. Heidi runs one of the best design outfits in town.

“I was assisting her with the intent to move up to be an independent designer. I was working with her on a job, and offhand I made a suggestion, a small edit to one of her designs. The client loved it and wanted it implemented in more of the house.”

I swallow, pushing down the familiar ache in my chest. “The next day Heidi called me into her office and fired me. She said that I wasn’t ever supposed to make suggestions like that in front of a client, and that since I wasn’t a full designer yet my opinion didn’t count. That I made her look like a fool because she wasn’t the one that suggested what the client really loved. I tried to find another job after that, but no one would take me. I didn’t have a choice but to find another job. So three years and countless retail jobs later, here we are.”

I look down at the table, taking a breath. There are more details to that story, the countless interviews that I got based on my portfolio and credentials, and the pained look on the interviewers faces when they got a well-timed phone call. No one wants to cross someone that big in the business, and they had no loyalty to a twenty-something nobody. But I don’t want to relive all of that by dragging out the story longer than it needs to be. I told him the high points.

Andrew folds his hands together on the table, and he looks troubled. “So that’s why you said your opinion didn’t matter yesterday.”

Lifting my shoulders in a shrug, I carefully avoid his gaze.

“Delia, look at me.”

It takes me a second, but I do.

“Your opinion one-hundred-percent matters. Heidi was clearly threatened by what you did, and reacted very badly. But that has no bearing on whether what you say has value. It does.”

“Thanks,” I mumble. Rationally, I know what he says is true, but it’s hard to erase that ringing voice in my head that’s saying that I don’t matter.

“I’ve used Heidi and her company before. That won’t happen again.”

Our food arrives, and it’s the perfect distraction. There’s a little glowing spark in my stomach from his words and his promise not to engage Heidi again, but I don’t want to talk about Heidi or my issues, not when we’ve been having such a good time. I see my opening. “Do you have an idea for your next show?”

Andrew’s eyes light up, and he starts to speak. I don’t wonder why everyone loves him and wants to be involved with him and work with him. The passionate way he speaks about everything—especially his work—is contagious. “I have a few ideas for that fall collection. But I was thinking about doing a special show before that to advertise some of the stuff we already have, and of course, for the publicity.”

“What are you thinking?”

He tilts his head. “I want to use the gallery again, I think. It’s a great space and really flexible. As for theme, I’m thinking something royal and exotic. A good transition between summer and fall because of jewel tones.”

“That could be fun,” I say.

“Or maybe I just want to put diamonds all over your body and make you sparkle.”

Arousal sparks low in my belly, and my mouth goes dry. “How would that fit the theme of royalty?”

“You’d be the queen, of course.” The smirk on his face does things to me, and I’m suddenly squirming in my seat, ready to drag him back to his apartment and fuck him again. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that.

The rest of our meal is light and easy, trading silly ideas for the art show and flirting, each of us getting a little more turned on. No more talk of past disappointments.

It’s a perfect summer evening, and I’m enjoying the breeze as Andrew goes to get the car. The sky is a beautiful plum purple, and I can’t keep the smile off my face. I’m not sure how I got so lucky.