“It could be a bit chilly that time of the year, so we’ll want to at least consider long sleeves. You don’t want to be standing at the altar shivering. Let me go pull some options from the samples, and we’ll start trying things on.”
He crosses the room, opening the door and disappearing into the hallway.
“Is Chris wearing a tux?” Chantal asks as I sit down next to her.
“We haven’t talked about it, but I’d like him in his leather jacket and me in a wedding dress. That sounds really sexy to me.”
She laughs. “It does to me too, though I bet he dresses up hot.”
“Very.” I warm all over just remembering the night in Los Angeles when he’d stripped away his tux and told me he’d own me if I stayed with him; that he’d protect me from everything and everyone but him. He thought that was bad. I thought it was perfect. And finally, it’s true. He’s not protecting me from himself anymore.
Chantal waves a hand in front of my face. “Hello? You still with me?”
“Oh. Yes. Sorry. Thinking about Chris.” I give her a quick inspection, wondering what it is that Tristan makes her feel, and I can’t help but notice that she looks good, her skin glowing, her eyes shining. “I’m really glad you’re here.”
“I am, too.”
“The only thing better would be if it were you and Ella,” I say, repeating what I’d said to Chris earlier this morning.
“Anything new on her?”
“No news is better than bad news,” she offers.
She’s right, of course, but the not knowing is killing me. “I just want you to know that it’s the fear of losing her that makes me more protective of you.”
“I understand. I’d be the same way, and honestly, I’m glad you care.”
I hesitate, but dare to push my luck. “Just answer one question, and then I’ll leave it alone?”
“Yes, I’m still seeing Tristan.”
“As friends or more?”
“That’s two questions.” She sighs. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but he’s kind of perfect for me. A bad boy who’s really messed up and needs a good girl to ground him. And I’m a good girl who needs a bad boy to make me feel alive.”
I recall all too clearly her calling Chris a “bad boy” with stars in her eyes, and me warning her that sometimes bad boys really are bad. She hadn’t believed me then, and she sure won’t now.
“I don’t know if you’ll understand,” she continues, “but I know that this relationship isn’t forever. And that knowledge is a freedom I’ve never allowed myself before.”
“I do understand, more than you might think,” I say, remembering how I felt that first night, when I thought Chris and I were both too damaged to be anything but sex to each other. “And I don’t think Tristan is a bad guy. Even Chris says Tristan is a good guy, but one who’s in a bad place. I just don’t want you to get hurt.”
The door opens and two racks of dresses are rolled in, as well as a gigantic mirror and some sort of changing panel. Several more gowns, so large they take two people to carry them in, arrive, and Chantal gets off the bed so they can be laid on top of it.
As Andre joins us again I tell him, “If they’re that big, they’re too much for me. I want simple and elegant.”
He snaps his fingers and his assistants remove the dresses. “Simple and elegant it is.”
The next two hours are a whirlwind of one dress after another, including several more racks of new styles. With each dress Chantal and Andre seem to hold their breath, waiting for my opinion before offering their own. Finally I try on a dress in pale pink with a fitted bodice and chiffon bottom. It reminds me of the contrast of me and Chris. Actually, it reminds me of the moment I told him I was pink paddles and butterfly clamps, and he was leather and darkness. It will remind Chris, as well. I know it will.
“It’s stunning on you,” Andre says, his finger resting on his jaw as he gives me a once-over. “I don’t see the light in your eyes I wish to see. What isn’t selling you?”
“I really don’t know. I do like it.”
He studies the dress a moment and suggests, “What if we did a straight bottom that’s form-fitting instead of the chiffon, so it’s not quite so ballerina?”
“What do you mean by a fitted bottom?” I ask Andre, the idea sounding a bit less girly and more womanly, more appealing. “Have I tried on a dress that has a similar fit?”
“Hmmmm,” he murmurs, thinking. Then he walks to the rack and pulls out a garment bag. “This one is special,” he says, unzipping the bag. “No one has even seen this dress before.” He lifts it out and carries it to the bed, laying it down as I step to his side. “As you can see, it has a silk fitted bottom, rather than the chiffon flare, and the top is absolutely elegant. Of course it’s white, but we can custom-design a similar gown in the pale pink if you prefer that. Try it for style and fit.”
I nod in reply as he exits the room, unable to tear my eyes off the stunning gown. From the waist up, the long-sleeved dress is sheer, made with some sort of mesh perhaps, except for the well-placed, gorgeously etched roses forming the bodice, the perfect complement for the rose ring that Chris designed for me. It’s a flower that reminds him of his mother, and reminds me of Rebecca, who I credit for giving me the courage to find myself and be who I am today with Chris.