Page 59 of What Lies Beneath

At last the finale dress was up. The blue-gray fit-and-flare organza gown was her crowning glory, a piece even more fabulous than the green dress she wore to her party. It was one-shouldered and gathered and draped tightly around the torso, exploding into a full, sweeping skirt that started just below the swell of the model’s hips. She’d deliberately selected a fuller-figured model for this dress because breasts and hips were an absolute must for it to fit correctly.

Adrienne held her breath as the dress disappeared around the corner and all the other models lined back up for the final walk.

“Clapping and smiling, ladies,” the production manager said as they started back down the catwalk. “That goes for you, too,” he reminded Adrienne.

Pasting on a bright smile, she followed behind the ball gown, waving as the roar of applause nearly knocked her backward. She could still barely see the crowd with the bright lights, flashing cameras and the dark seating areas, but the sound they made as she came out was stunning.

This was her moment. Tears formed in her eyes as she took it all in, stopping at the end of the runway to give a short bow and blow a kiss to the audience. As she turned to follow the models backstage, she thought she caught a glimpse of someone familiar sitting in the front row.

It was just wishful thinking—her mind adding his face to another man’s body because she wanted so badly to share this moment with him. Or maybe just tears mixing with spotlights to obscure her vision. There was no way Will Taylor was sitting in the front row of her fashion show holding a bundle of pale pink roses in his lap like the petal-colored fabric in her collection.

With a shake of her head to put the thought aside, she headed backstage and tried to focus on the joy. She wasn’t about to let a mistaken Will sighting cause her to start moping and ruin this beautiful moment.

Fortunately, the chaos backstage pushed any remaining thoughts from her head. Models and designers were running around, and journalists and spectators were coming backstage to talk to people about the show. It made Adrienne wish she had someone here with her. Gwen had to work, and she hadn’t felt comfortable inviting the Dempseys so soon after Cynthia’s funeral. Unsure of what else to do, she returned to her staging area and started helping her models out of their outfits, hanging them back up neatly.

She was interrupted a few times by journalists asking questions. A couple wanted pictures, so she posed alone or with one or two of the models still wearing her designs.

“What was your inspiration for that beautiful blue gown?” one of them asked.

“That was the color of my lover’s eyes,” she said with a rueful smile. She’d searched through five fabric stores trying to find the perfect shade. Milwaukee didn’t have anything as comprehensive as the shops in the Garment District.

The journalist wrote feverishly, took a few pictures and then disappeared to talk to someone else.

Before long the noise quieted, the models and journalists left and the designers and production workers began breaking down. Adrienne zipped up the side of the rolling garment armoire and scooped the last of the accessories into a drawstring bag she tied to the rack.

It was done. She’d nearly killed herself doing it, but she’d created a collection and had shown it on the catwalks of a Manhattan fashion show. If nothing else ever came of this night, she would be happy for this chance.

“Adrienne?” a woman’s voice called, and she turned to see who was still hanging around. It was Darlene.

Adrienne didn’t hesitate to give the woman a hug as she approached. “Thank you so much for this opportunity.”

“Honey, thank you. When our fourth designer cancelled, I didn’t know what I was going to do. You saved me, and you certainly didn’t disappoint. Everyone is buzzing about your work. I think it was the best of the four.”

“Really?” Adrienne had wanted to do a great job but figured that against designers with months to prepare, she’d do well just to not embarrass herself in front of the industry types.

“I was talking with Milton, the owner of Trend Now, and we both agree that your collection is the one we want to feature in the March issue. I just loved the leather, and that ball gown was divine.”

Adrienne’s mouth dropped open, appropriate words escaping her. “Are you serious?” was all she could come up with.

“Absolutely. I don’t know how you did it, but the work was just outstanding. If you can stay in Manhattan through the week, we’ll get the fashion shoot set up in a couple of days.”

“Of course.” Adrienne was staying with Gwen and had planned to hang around New York for a few days. She wanted to visit a couple friends from her pre-accident SoHo days and do some Christmas shopping. She always enjoyed the window displays and decorations that took over this time of year.