“What? Her dress?”
“Yes. London wants to shoot in the rain. Will it ruin the garment?”
Ace’s brow creased. Models took orders. They didn’t give them. As for the material, Ace hadn’t a clue how it would respond. He looked over to see if Lucien was among the people surrounding her. What he saw made him forget about everything but getting the shot.
The belt had been removed. The coat was pulled off her shoulders, almost to her waist, loads of fabric pooled at her feet. Strategically placed tendrils of her hair helped maintain modesty while offering up a fantasy for anyone who saw the pic. She crouched on the ledge, her limbs positioned in that broken-doll style that couture models mastered, her head tilting back to welcome the rain. Ace thought of his mom and their recent conversation about the shot Christine had loved, the one where London rose out of the water, her face perfectly made up. She looked that way now, only better, like a nymph, a siren, some otherworldly creature come to beguile, snatch and tame men’s hearts.
The photographer swirled around her like a dancer, turning his waterproof camera from one angle to the next. Hovering over her. Lying beside her. Crouching beneath her to get the best shots. And like the perfect partner, London innately matched her pose to his flow, inspired him with her boldness, propelled his artistry with her own. A clap of thunder sounded. Lightning backlit the moment, allowed the quick-thinking photographer to exchange his flashes with those nature provided. He looked at the shot and yelled with excitement.
“I just took the shot of my lifetime. Ace, it’s a wrap!”
Ace watched the photographer run over to London. He showed her the picture. They kissed and hugged in creative bliss. A wave of jealousy and possessiveness came over Ace, slammed into him harder than the raindrops now falling. The fog of denial lifted. The truth became clear. London was more than a friend, more than a muse. She was his soul mate. Theirs was more than an attraction or sexual chemistry. They fit together so well because their union was meant to be. Ace was surer of this than he’d ever been of anything in his life. Now he needed to convince London.
Fifteen minutes later, Ace walked into London’s makeshift dressing room. She’d shed the wet clothes and sat wrapped in a large terry-cloth robe, sipping hot tea, while a stylist blow-dried the thick extensions. Ace had changed, too. The black button-down, black jeans, black leather boots and dark expression made him look as dangerous as the storm outside.
“Amazing work out there today, London.” He reached her, leaned down and kissed her forehead.
“You think so?” He nodded. “Then you should let your face know.” And then to the stylist, she said, “I’ll finish it. Thanks.”
Ace moved a stack of clothes from the chair across from her and sat down. “What do you mean?”
London studied him as she piled the damp tendrils atop her head, wound them into a topknot and secured it with a wide band. “You walked in looking like a thundercloud.”
“Sorry about that. Got a lot on my mind. Those rain shots changed the entire layout of our campaign. Mira’s on the phone now, calling in the entire PR team. You’re worth it. This line has gone to a whole other level, and it’s because of who you are.”
“Sounds like you might prefer London to Clarisse after all?”
“I’m beginning to see that both sides have their benefits. London earned her high paycheck today. We’ll be up all night, but that’s all right. I’m too excited to sleep anyway.”
“Oh, Ace. Not all night! I wanted you to go out with me and my friends.”
“Sorry, babe. Work before pleasure.” His ringtone sounded. He looked at the phone’s face and stood. “Speaking of which, this is Mira now. I’ll call you later.” He walked over and kissed her again. But it was different this time. They were alone, so he allowed himself a moment to savor the lips that had glistened in the downpour. To use his tongue and outline their fullness before swiping the crease and demanding entry inside. Then another moment to swirl his tongue with hers, to let his hand drop behind the cloth and tweak the nipple already hardening at his touch. One moment more to sear her body with memories of what they’d shared before and promises of more to come.